Monday, December 23, 2013

90s Sitcoms and the NBC Multiverse

When I was a kid back in the '90s, my father would tape a plethora of sitcoms off TV to bring to the cottage with us, on account of the fact that our TV aerial up north got us literally one channel and there's only so much Saved by the Bell and Lost In Space one family can stand. On those tapes NBC's Mad About You and Friends were staple programming.

So, when I discovered that Netflix had Mad About You I watched an episode out of nostalgia - and to my surprise, it was pretty alright! I'd always been a bigger fan of Spin City and Fraiser when I was a kid, but as a man in his late twenties who recently moved in with his girlfriend I found myself now empathizing a lot more with Paul and Jamie Buchman. So I kept watching. Mad About You doesn't have the farcical, quasi-Shakespearean heft of Fraiser or the groundbreaking neuroses of Seinfeld but it was grounded and honest in its examination of coupledom and also pretty darn funny.

Anyway, I kept watching. I get to episode seven of season one, wherein Paul reveals to Jamie that he's still subletting his old bachelor pad despite them having moved in together. After some awkward relationship comedy, Paul affirms his commitment to Jamie by getting rid of his nostalgic safety blanket and heads over to the apartment to offer to sign the place over to his subletter...

...and his subletter is COSMO GODDAMN KRAMER.

Not just Michael Richards being Michael Richards. It's actually Kramer. The hallway is the hallway set from Seinfeld. Paul calls him Kramer. Paul asks how Kramer's neighbour Jerry is doing.

Apparently this was a marketing stunt back in '92 because they were both NBC sitcoms in ajacent timeslots BUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT is that we can take from this that Mad About You and Seinfeld take place in the same universe.

Which is pretty cool. But not as cool as realizing that from this we can also deduce that Friends takes place in the same universe as Seinfeld. Whaaaaaaat?

Lisa Kudrow played a waitress named Ursula on Mad About You. After she picked up the oddly similar role of Phoebe on Friends the weirdos at NBC decided to make Ursula and Phoebe twin sisters, and even based a B-plot of an episode of Friends around Chandler and Joey going to Riff's restaurant from Mad About You and being unable to tell their waitress is Ursula, not Phoebe.

So, Friends and Seinfeld both crossed over with Mad About You - which means they all take place in the same fictional universe.


Late in Seinfeld's run there's a B-plot about George's girlfriend making him watch Mad About You and him hating it. Bu-whaaa?! But if Kramer was subletting from Paul, how is Paul also a sitcom character?

My theory is that the TV show Seinfeld is a separate universe in the NBC multiverse, where Mad About You exists as a sitcom, but that in the Mad About You/Friends universe there are also versions of Jerry, Kramer, George, and Elaine, who are presumably (due to the tone of their respective TV shows) kinder, decenter, and more relatable people - essentially making the universe of Seinfeld the "mirror universe" or "darkest timeline" of Friends and Mad About You. I presume in the Seinfeld-verse there's a version of Monica who has no arm and an eyepatch, and Ross was obviously murdered by that monkey.

Erin, on the other hand, presumes that there's only one universe and that Mad About You is reality TV in the NBC-verse.

I'm going to go do something productive now.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some Very Good Christmas Pop Songs (That Won’t Make You Want To Shoot Yourself)

A couple years ago I assumed I hated Christmas music. I was pretty sure that that one Christmas in high school working at a Second Cup at the mall ruined the entire genre for me – there’s only so much Rod Stewart and Michael Buble one man can take.

Buuuut after I was gifted Barenaked Ladies seminal Christmas album “Barenaked for the Holidays,” (home of the fabulous, envy-soaked “Green Christmas” and pro-labour anthem “Elf’s Lament”) I discovered a subsection of Christmas music I really liked – thoughtful Christmas-themed pop songs, usually with slightly dark themes, usually sung by bands I already like. So, if you’re sick of saccharine mall music here are a few festive suggestions to add to your Christmas party playlist.

Apparently the Killers put out a Christmas single every year benefitting Product Red, and they’re all pretty fantastic. The best by far is Don’t Shoot Me Santa Claus which, if I’m not mistaken, is about a killer trying to justify his crimes to a telltale heart-style hallucination of Santa Claus (who talks like Elvis and wields a .45).

It's super dark but there’s something undeniably hilarious about Colin’ Meloy’s Oregan drawl (/speak impediment?) pleading as a small child to his alcoholic father not to ruin Christmas. Also, fun fact I didn't know before writing this post is that this was originally a John Denver song. Huh. Learn something new every day.

This is a breakup/longing-to-get-back-together song that’s built around a really great and Christmas-y Chris Martin piano riff and has a lot of melancholy, snowy London imagery in the lyrics. The video is fantastic, as well.

Possibly my favourite band ever, as I may have mentioned. I think this was released solely as a bonus track on a greatest hits compilation, and isn’t really Christmas-y as it’s about New Year’s but whatever. It’s great and features John Mann singing as a disinterested (and harassed?) female partygoer. The rousing, Home for a Rest style chorus of “I could get drunk anywhere, so what am I doing here?” is awesome.

Wintertime in Ontario by Brock Zeman

Brock Zeman is a fan-freakin’-tastic alt-country artist whose been touring southern Ontario for years. I got to personally tell him he accidentally wrote one of my favourite Christmas songs (since this is more just a song about winter than Christmas) at a concert last year. It’s just a song about how ridiculous the snow is up north in Ontario in the winter (and how skating across the lake can actually get you to your booty call faster than driving the long way around).

Some honourable mentions go to the Civil Wars cover of I Heard The Bells which is considerably more foreboding than the Sinatra version (they’re reading of “God is not dead, nor does He sleep” has an oddly Lovecraftian tone), Christmas In Hell by NQ Arbuckle (similar thematically to Don’t Shoot Me Santa) and the decidedly not-dark Hurry Home by the Good Lovelies of their debut album “Under the Mistletoe” (you know you’re a tongue-in-cheek band when your first album is the Christmas album).

Speaking of albums, if anyone’s looking for a good whole Christmas album to pick up, I’d suggest If Jesus Had Been Born In Canada, He Would Have Needed More Than Swaddling Clothes” (it’s free!) which is a Christmas compilation by a whole ton of Toronto bands on the Sound Vat label. Little City’s We’re Breaking Up Again This Christmas is particularly awesome, and does my favourite version of We Three Kings.

And, lastly, it’s a classic, but my all-time favourite Christmas song is by the Pogues. Give it a listen. (Stars does a pretty good cover of it, too).

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fanboy Friday: The Personality of Peter Parker

So, if no one’s noticed by now I kinda like Spider-Man. Guy’s been my favourite super hero since I was very wee – I think there was about seven seconds when I was four that Captain America was my favourite super hero. But then Spidey showed up in the toy commercial and it didn’t matter that Cap had a sweet Cap-mobile with a battering ram. Spidey was my guy.

So, when Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man came out last year, I was pretty disappointed. Thing is, I was raised on Spidey up through the Clone Saga BS in the nineties and I’ve got every trade paperback of Brian Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. The Peter Parker portrayed by Andrew Garfield in ASM bore very little resemblance to the Pete I was used to from the comics I read. Comics Spidey was an earnestly good, kinda dopey nerd who might have a mouth when he’s beating up criminals but at home like is the pinnacle of a stand-up guy. Genuinely nice, unassuming, decidedly not bitter and while he might be angsty, he’s definitely not angry. Andrew Garfield, despite being a damn fine actor played a very different Peter – one who’s still a high school outcast, but appears to be an outcast for being counterculture rather than dorky. Garfield’s Peter has a palpable sense of anger radiating off him which I found off-putting – he was playing a teenager who is angry at the world for no good reason (which, to be fair, is quite teenagery). He was sulky even before Uncle Sheen (pitch perfect casting) gets knocked off, and snarky even when he isn’t Spider-Man – which I didn’t like because I’d always interpreted Spidey’s wisecracking as being a byproduct of the introverted dork Peter Parker only truly feeling socially confident when he’s got his identity hidden. So, suffice to say, I was unimpressed.

Until, that is, this past year when I started doing a systematic read-through of all the old Stan Lee / Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man comics from the early ‘60s. I’d picked up the first two Marvel Masterworks reprint trades of them at BMV last year because hey, history. Upon reading the original Amazing Spidey 1-24, I’ve rethought my opinion of Amazing Spidey, the movie. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is significantly more accurate to the Lee/Ditko Peter than I’d thought.

While Peter is portrayed as a huge nerd in those original comics (who wears a suit and tie to high school? Huh? I think cool people. But jocks in the ‘60s obviously didn’t) he’s significantly more angry a character, even if it’s mostly in his internal monologue. An issue doesn’t go by without a panel of Peter, having just been mocked by Flash Thompson, thinking to himself “if only they knew my true power! I’ll show ‘em! I’ll show ‘em all!” like some kind of proto-Hayden Christensen. Come to think of it, Peter’s thought balloons in a lot of the early ASM comics reads a heckuva lot like the Superior Spider-Man’s thought balloons. There was a lot more of an angry, almost mad scientist quality to Peter Parker back in the Lee/Ditko books. Oddly enough this makes the whole “Peter Parker needs to learn to look out for more than himself” arc that is set off by Peter accidentally getting Uncle Ben killed a lot more prevalent because it’s an actual character flaw he’s working on eliminating rather than something that just disappears like poof when he learns “with great power there must also come great responsibility.”  

I always liked Peter Parker the Genuinely Nice Guy, but as I keep reading the Lee/Ditko books, more and more I’m getting to like the snarky egotistical kind-of-a-bit-of-an-asshole Peter Parker who will, eventually, grow up out of being a selfish teenager and become Genuinely Nice Guy Peter.
And, thus, I’m looking a little more forward to Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Paul Giamatti in a Rhino suit.

Oh, and one more thing – anyone ever notice that, despite supposedly being an irredeemable nerd, Peter Parker is swimming in ladies all the time? Not only that, he appears to basically be Archie Andrews. Though, in Stan Lee’s defense, at least he didn’t name the blonde Betty.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Crash Course in Swashbucklery and Fisticuffs!

I started acting at a very early age, running around the forest near my family's cottage re-enacting scenes from The Princess Bride and Star Wars. Recently I decided that as a PROFESSIONAL ACTOR, I should take all steps necessary to prepare myself for the inevitable day I'm on set and someone expects me to be able to convincingly have a sword-fight.

Trying to look cool while catching my breath. PHOTO CREDIT: Erin Gerofsky
 Thus! Early in May I signed up to do a two-week intensive introduction to stage combat run by York University and taught by some of the wonderful humans from the stunt crew Riot Act. In the course, you learn the basics of sword, quarterstaff, and unarmed combat for stage and screen – and rehearse three fight scenes choreographed by the instructors. At the end of the two weeks you perform them, and if the adjudicator thinks you were convincingly badass enough, you pass, and get to put “can swordfight” on your acting resume.

The "Peking Opera" stance. PHOTO CREDIT: Erin Gerofsky
Every morning started off with a “warm-up.” It’s not a warm-up. It’s just a 45 minute workout that any other day I’d consider more than enough physical activity for one day. Ten minutes of non-stop calisthetics! Then run around the room a couple times! Now backwards! Now do a bunch of aikido rolls! Now do eleventy seven crunches! Now do some different weird crunches where you’re also doing yoga! All this and more – it was deadly but incredibly effective, and as someone who often ‘forgets’ to do core exercises it was a really great reminder how important they are.

This is a very awesome looking backwards aikido roll. Trust me. PHOTO CREDIT: Erin Gerofsky
Then, the scenes. Our unarmed fight was a scene from the Benecio Del Toro / Tommy Lee Jones movie The Hunted. I got to roundhouse a dude, choke a dude out, get tossed across the room and land in a roll – and knock a dude to the floor using my favourite move, what I like to call the “Captain Kirk Punch” – the two-fisted hammer-punch to the back, the core principle of Starfleet Martial Arts!

The quarterstaff scene was haaaaaard. I’ve had to do some unarmed stuff on screen before (I got slapped on Renegade Press, punched a couple times on Falcon Beach, etc) but I’ve never handled anything like a staff. Instead of being given dialogue for that scene our assignment was to build our own scene around the choreography and music we chose ourselves. My partner and I, of course, chose Europe’s The Final Countdown. Somehow our scene evolved into me playing an overbearing manager of a doweling factory (hence the staves) and my partner playing a lowly subordinate whose had enough of my hogging the radio in the storeroom. It was hysterical, even included several yells of “FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!” in the place of “HA-YA!”

"I cannot live in a world where you have everything and I have nothing." Loved this scene. PHOTO CREDIT: Erin Gerofsky
The sword scene was by far my favourite. We were taught basic rapier swordfighting, and the choreography was set to the dialogue from the climactic duel in The Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce do a fantastic version of that fight in the 2002 version). I got to play Fernand Mondego! I loves me a bad guy! I think my favourite move from that fight was something called “the Angelo” where I swatted the Countess’ blade aside with my off-hand and passed my own sword behind my back to bring her on point. So cool! So cool.

Thankfully I managed to pass! I can definitely put “can swordfight” on my resume – and I had a ton of fun, so hopefully soon I’ll have reason to call upon those skills! I’d recommend this course to any actor wanting to expand their special skills (and get a kick-ass two weeks of working out as a bonus!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fanboy Friday: The Old Republic Rises Again

Back when Star Wars: The Old Republic came out in the fall of last year, I was really really really excited for it. Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel are still pretty much my favourite video games of all time, and The Old Republic was being advertised as its sequel. I've never been attracted to MMORPGs because I hate people, but I was desperately itching for another KOTOR, and The Old Republic was being touted as very story-focused and amenable to curmudgeonly misanthropes like me who just wanted to play by themselves. So I tried it out.

I was very disappointed. However, not in the way I was expecting to be. I didn’t find the multiplayer aspect nearly as distracting as I’d thought, and the writing in the game was really strong – but what do you mean I have to grind through the same area for three more hours to level up enough to beat this story-end boss? But my character wouldn’t want to murder thousands more Sand People! Also I have things to do! Not cool, game. Not cool.

Also, the monthly subscription fee was insidiously making me not play other games or read books because I “wanted to get my money’s worth” - so I quit the game. I just wanted the story and to swing a lightsaber around. I’d read the Wookieepedia entry on the game’s story and be done with it.

However, The Old Republic recently went free-to-play. So I’d be able to play other games without guilt and I still reallllly wanted to have that KOTOR III experience. Also, the game sent me an email saying my R2 Unit missed me and it was emotionally manipulative and, and, and…

So I booted up the game again. Here’s what went down.


Alright, booting up the game. I’ve got a couple hours to kill so this... a gigabyte of updates are necessary? Ugh. I guess I’ll go to the gym and come back.


Okay, time to bust out that lightsa- NINE MORE GIGS TO GO!? Update five of twelve?! COME ON.


Five and a half hours to patch a game. Really. COME ON. Alright, now I’m booting up the game.

I decided to go with a dashing human Sith Warrior named Nyvaan. I wanted to call him Niven because I modeled his stellar moustache on actor David Niven, but unfortunately that name was taken and I had to Star Wars up his name with a ‘y’ and an extra ‘a’.


In my first hour I killed some space bugs and decided the fate of three Imperial prisoners – sparing two of them (the light side option) and granting the last wish of the third - honourable death by combat. I find the idea of playing a good-guy Sith Lord appealingly contrarian, so we’ll see if the game tolerates this.


Welp, I obviously like this game. Got my first lightsaber, met a weird Sith Lord in renaissance armor, chose my prestige class – awesome. Until…

“After level 10, free-to-play players begin to accrue less experience.”

Really? Really. COME ON.


Belay that last order. You only gain experience at a -25% rate by being a free-to-player. That's not that bad. Especially because every so often you get quest rewards that boost your experience gain back to normal for an hour - which is good for people like me who like to artificially set a limit on how much time they sink into a game.

Still successfully playing a light-side Sith! I'm changing the Empire from within by murdering people quickly rather than needlessly! Am I not merciful?


I'm beginning to be sold again. Not literally, I can't abide subscription-based gaming. I bought the game already! Let me play it! Thankfully, the free-to-play option gives me that right, and the restricted features for non-subscribers don't break the game and give me an irrational sense of self-satisfaction that I'm resisting them.

I'm still not a huge fan of the game's Warcraft style click-on-the-toolbar-in-the-optimal-order combat, but it's still kinda fun. At this point Nyvaan has ingratiated himself with his Sith Master enough that he can casually suggest that he try not being a total douche without fear of reprisal, and is a hero to the moderates of the Imperial military who just want to keep the peace with a semi-benevolent iron fist, rather than actively antagonize the citizenry with lightning hands. I really like that this play-style is an option.

Long-story short, it's entirely possible that I'll come up against an end-boss that my character can't handle and I'll quit out of righteous frustration, but for the moment The Old Republic is letting me have a lightsaber and pretend to be a Jedi in a very well written story without massively inconveniencing my experience by being an MMO. So I'mma keep playing. Again, until a Rancor stomps me out with one hit.

See you next week, nerds!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Shameless Plugs: My First Novel!

While many of you might be familiar with my work in the (mostly Canadian) film and television landscape, my tiny blogger bio in the top right hand corner of this page says I'm an actor and author. An author you say? Would that new button that's popped up in the sidebar in the past week have anything to do with that? You sure you betcha it does!

That button on the sidebar will link you to the iTunes bookstore, where, if you have access to any iDevice be it Pad, Phone, or Pod you can buy my debut novel, Archie Hartigan and the Frost Wolf!

The book is a tie-in novel based on the world of Seth On Survival, a web-series I starred back in ’09, created by Teri Armitage and Torin Stefanson. Since then, SOS has racked up over three million viewers and spun off a secondary, werewolf-based webseries Your Lupine Life which I wrote an episode of (and guest-starred in)! Teri, Torin and I have become good friends and collaborators over these past couple of years, and when they suggested a new attempt to monetize the SOS franchise by releasing a series of tie-in novels, I jumped at the chance to write one!

At the center of Seth On Survival is the character Seth Greening, who I portray in the series. He’s a supernatural survivologist with a web-show that teaches its viewers how to better prepare for a vampire attack and or how to zombie-proof their home. Seth (quite often) responds to viewer comments, so I figured a great way into a spin-off novel would be to have the book be the story of one of Seth’s viewers, and have Seth “transcribe, edit and annotate” the adventure. That way we were also able to take advantage of SOS’s awesome trans-media wheelhouse and “enhance” the eBook with pop-up annotation by Seth and inter-chapter video content where Seth weighs in on what he might’ve done in the place of the protagonist. Welcome to 21st century young adult fiction! Multimedia! The internet! iPods!

And so, the book is an adventure starring Seth On Survival superfan Archibald Hartigan, an amateur monster hunter who accidentally gets turned into a werewolf while investigating a number of mysterious disappearances in his sleepy and geographically nebulous Northeastern North American hometown. This, of course, leads him to finding out a bunch of his close friends were also secretly monsters, including a cyborg and a high-functioning zombie! Archie and his friends then team up to defeat the werewolf that turned Archie into a monster, and uncover the vast and ancient conspiracy said werewolf brought with him to town. Spoiler alert! There may or may not be universe destroying Lovecraftian monstrosities lurking just off-screen. Also, zombies and flying saucers.

The novel is (in my opinion) is a rollicking action-adventure-horror-comedy for kids aged nine to buys-the-adult-covers-of-the-Harry-Potter novels! The book has been out for two months, and thus far the highest praise I've received has come from my sister (who also created the beautiful cover-art). She read the whole thing in an afternoon when she was very sick. In her words, Archie is "like Harry Potter meets The Princess Bride! Insofar as it sucks you in, and is also very sarcastic." She also said it "totally made [her] forget [she] was incredibly ill!" High praise indeed.

And the book is only 1.99$ on the iTunes Bookstore! What value! Click here or the button on the sidebar to buy it now! Writing this novel has been incredibly fulfilling to me, and if you decide to check it out, I hope you like it (and tell everyone you know to buy it)!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fanboy Friday: 'Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon'

So, I had absolutely no interest in playing Far Cry 3. But then this trailer happened. An action-adventure-stealth based shooter based almost entirely on aping the conventions of a dumb late 80s action movie? Wherein you play a guy with a cybernetic eye for no good reason? And there are giant Gila monsters that shoot lasers out of their eyes? And the soundtrack is mostly synthesizers and this? Anyone who happened to catch my post on my love of the music and iconography of American cinema of the 1980s can probably guess that this not only piqued my interest but was immediately up my alley, aesthetically.

I think this is the first time I’ve wanted to (and been able to) buy downloadable content for a video game without buying the parent game first. Those inclined like me to buy a schlocky neon-drowned stealth-action romp like Blood Dragon weren’t all likely to have already bought a grim-and-gritty jungle warfare stealth-action romp like the original Far Cry 3. So, thankfully you can buy Blood Dragon without having already bought the original game. It’s a really cool and to my knowledge unprecedented move on the part of the publisher! Blood Dragon was a cool, weird idea for a game whose marketability hadn’t yet been tested, but the publisher was able to give it a chance by building it on top of an existing game. By using the existing infrastructure built for Far Cry 3, Ubisoft was able to take a calculated risk on a weird, niche game that probably didn’t have a tested target audience.  They minimized the amount of work and money the game needed to get made, and thus were able to release an affordable (15$! Cheap compared to the 50$ of the original Far Cry 3) and aesthetically unique game that probably wouldn’t have got green-lit if it needed the bloated budget of a typical triple-A title. And it’s worked out really well for them! Apparently Blood Dragon has sold five times better than expected and has already been tapped for a sequel – and it certainly got me to buy the original Far Cry 3 after the fact.

Sure, the small budget doesn’t always work in the game’s favour – the jokey 8-bit animated cutscenes are a creative way around not being able to afford new motion-capture, but since the game is a loving homage to films like Predator and Megaforce, the decidedly non-cinematic 8-bit sequences seem out of place to me. Other than that, the game is a blast. The eighties are about has far away from us now as the 50s were to when Back To The Future came out – the eighties are ‘period’ now, and not only that they’re a period that 20-and-30-somethings are beginning to remember fondly. As someone who grew up with movies like Road Warrior and The Terminator, the idea of being able to play a video game where I could shoot cyborgs with a neon laser rifle to electro-synth music was immediately appealing. Sign me up. With the popularity of retro movies and TV series like Super 8, Drive, and the BBC’s Ashes to Ashes, I’m surprised no one in video games thought of tapping into this wave of 80s nostalgia sweeping popular-and-nerd culture before.

And have I mentioned how amazing and ludicrous the game’s soundtrack is? Powerglove, the electronic band that did the Blood Dragon soundtrack, also did a remix for an indie solo artist from Greece named Kristine whose Modern Love EP is my new favourite thing. Apparently writing retro 80s pop-rock is a thing for some people? Definitely added most of that EP to my workout playlist, “Traning Montage II: The Re-Bloodening.”

You can see why I’m Blood Dragon’s target demographic.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shameless Plugs: The Rocket Scientists are the BEST OF THE FESTIVAL!

Last time we checked in with my sketch comedy troupe The Rocket Scientists (composed of myself, Brandon Hackett, Chris Small and Kevin MacNeil) we were just about to go on stage at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival! Well, just letting you know, it went well.


The Rocket Scientists were lucky enough to be the recipients of the Steamwhistle Producer’s Pick Award at SketchFest this year! There were four awards at the Festival – one chosen by the audience, one by a panel of judges, one by the performers, and one by the festival producers. The Producer’s Pick Award is obviously the one the producers took care of. It was awarded to us not only because we were pretty funny but because we were consistently going out to a myriad of SketchFest events and participating in all the extra shows around the festival like Nerd Off and Sketch-U-Bator. This was mostly on Chris’ insistence, due to my crippling inability to have fun with other people and fear of public laughter (difficult for a comedian) but I’m sure glad we got into the spirit of the Festival and participated! Technically I wasn’t actually at the event where we won the award – I was being a lame-o sitting at home on a Sunday night watching Star Wars on Blu-ray when Chris called me and said “WE WON AN AWARD! YOU’RE NOT HEEEERE!” Apparently Brandon literally yelled “WHAT?!” when they announced we’d won. It was a very pleasant surprise!

The award not only gets us a bunch of free Steamwhistle Beer swag (I’ve heard it rumored that last year’s recipients got a lot more free beer than they were expecting, which is bad for my current attempt to get abs but great for my sense of joy) but we more importantly got an automatic spot in the “Best of the Festival” encore show this Friday the 14th at Measure (formerly the Poor Alex)!

Technically the show is part of NXNE, which is pretty darn cool. I don’t know when NXNE started incorporating Comedy into their programming, but I’m pretty freakin’ excited to say I’m playing the same festival as The National. And Ludacris. I mean come one. I’m much closer to being a rock star now.

We’re incredibly excited to be sharing the stage with two incredible sketch troupes, She Said What and Deadpan Powerpoint. I saw Deadpan Powerpoint’s set at Sketchfest back in February and it was absofreakin’lutely incredimazing. Two months later and I’m still chuckling to myself occasionally over their lecture “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dogs.” It’s entirely possible that the Encore Show will be Deadpan Powerpoint’s final performance, so I’d come out just to be able to see their schtick before you can’t anymore. Seriously, they’re incredibly funny people.

The Rocket Scientists are going to be bringing back some of our very favourite bits for this Encore show – we’ve only got a fifteen minute opening act slot in the show, so we know we’ve got to make every gag count! We tested the set out at Chris and Brandon’s high school on Monday (the Grade 12 drama class just did a sketch comedy unit and we were invited to give them a short performance and give a talk-back as ‘industry professionals’ – HA. THE FOOLS) and it went over excellently. Fingers crossed this discerning Friday night audience will agree!

You can get tickets for the show RIGHT NOW! And I suggest you do!  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fanboy Friday: Why I Wander The Wastes

I’ve been watching a lot of AMC’s The Walking Dead lately and it’s got me thinking about the apocalypse. Not, like, what my zompirepocalypse action plan would be, I mean, I’ve got that dossier drawn up already (if you’re looking for the latest Apocalyptic Survival tips, check out Seth On Survival – that show is very informative, and the guy that hosts it is super dreamy.) No, I’ve been thinking about why I’m drawn to apocalyptic fiction and, by extension, why ‘the culture’ these days seems drawn to it too.

Poor T-Dog.

The Walking Dead is a pretty dour apocalypse. Zompocalypses in general are big downers. Even though TWD is a long-form series you always get a sense that the characters are living on borrowed time, that they're fighting to survive the next moment. Every time they try to build a more permanent foothold (Herschel’s farm, the Prison) it inevitable gets destroyed by a wave of the undead, asshole humans, or their own shortsightedness. While I watch The Walking Dead for the chills and superbly directed suspense (it’s rare for other modern horror to make me tense up as well as well as that series does), I also watch it because it’s a morbidly pessimistic dissection of society. A lot of season three especially has been about whether or not human decency is a detriment in the post-zombie world. The Guv’ might be a complete batpoop psychopath but Woodbury has (at least for its regular citizens) the best quality-of-life rating we’ve seen in TWD’s post-apocalypse. Rick’s descent from square-jawed, Jack Shepard-esque hero to benevolent dictator has seemed to be at least vaguely effective in keeping his group alive. The Walking Dead’s  main theme seems to be asserting that basic human compassion and decency would be detrimental to survival in ‘the wild.’ While I patently disagree (many disasters on that show could’ve been prevented with a little more good faith and open communication), watching the show’s narrative try to work out that question is super entertaining for both brain and heart.

Alternately, two of my favourite vidjagames are the two latest Fallouts (3 and New Vegas), and I play them for completely different reasons than why I watch The Walking Dead. In Fallout you wander the post-apocalyptic wasteland, righting wrongs (or just doing more wrongs and looting the bodies if that’s your thing) and shooting zombies and bandits. I play Fallout for the sense of freedom and adventure it instills – exploring a destroyed civilization, collecting loot, shooting things and occasionally (since I’m that kind of game roleplayer) helping NPCs out for good karma. In Fallout, the apocalypse is something that provides an escape – if civilization is destroyed, we are no longer bound by its rules and can therefore seek better and more exciting, bullet-filled climes. In this way, the apocalypse of the Fallout universe serves the same purpose that the frontier in a traditional western provides - it’s a blank canvas upon which we can set out on our adventurous lonesome and forge our own destiny free from the chains of society.

The Lone Wanderer and Dogmeat wander the wastes in Fallout 3. Any apocalypse that gives me a free puppy I'm probably okay with.
While the idea of a lone post-apocalyptic cowboy wandering the wastes doin’ his own thing because he damn well can is a kind of utopian libertarian fantasy wherein all our society-prevented freedom is returned to us via the apocalypse, other optimistic apocalyptic fiction can be about society rising from the ashes. The term “cozy catastrophe” was coined by British sci-fi author Brian Aldiss to describe stories like Day of the Triffids wherein modern society is destroyed, but its destruction allows for a kind of wiping the slate clean. Free from the constraints of the ‘old world’, the survivors of the apocalypse are free to rebuild society better than it was before. This is basically the opposite of what The Walking Dead seems to be trying to do since every attempt at post-zombie civilization crumbles to sobbing pieces, but the hope in the ‘cozy catastrophe’ is pretty darn appealing to my sensibilities – I mean, I’m the guy who got in an argument with a T.A. over my optimistic interpretation of the end of Dawn of the Dead (I know I’m wrong. Whatever. I’m free to read the text as I see fit, dammit)!

That being said, realistically, I’m definitely very much in favour of society. I vote NDP for pity’s sake – give me my socialized health-care and running water any day of the week over wandering an apocalyptic wasteland. But, that doesn’t mean that the wasteland can’t provide a good escapist romp.

Also, I just need to say it... poor T-Dog. I miss 'em.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shameless Plugs: The Rocket Scientists @ Toronto SketchFest!

So, it’s been a while, Blogosphere! My bad. My bad. Under five posts previous I’d apologized for a delay over Christmas, and then suddenly I go off the radar for a month and a half! Terrible! I apologize sincerely for the lack of new and vaguely interesting material from this guy – I’m back on the horse! I swear! To be fair, the horse is ornery and slightly out of shape... but I’m back on it nonetheless! Huzzah!

One of the reasons I’ve been so out-of-touch, blog-wise for the past several weeks has been that it’s been a busy month for my sketch comedy troupe, The Rocket Scientists. We had a supremely kickass first best-of revue show. We sold out the John Candy Box Theatre and many laughs abounded! Chris had to re-apply the incredibly elaborate fake tattoo Brandon scrawled on him at intermission due to the gallopin’ sweats, and I may have given Brandon permanent brain damage after smoking him in the noggin’ with our on-stage door, but other than then, show went off hitchless! We kept up that momentum in February by putting in an appearance at the very funny Moniquea Marion’s variety show The C Bomb. We did a twenty-minute set to a small but very appreciative crowd, and it was awesome to do a show for people who’d never seen our work before!

This week is a very busy week for the Scientists. We’re very proud to have been chosen to take part in the 8th annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (our name is on the festival's t-shirt! And we're in bold! WE'VE MADE IT, GUYS). We’ve got a show this Thursday at the Lower Ossington Theatre as part of the festival. We’ll be sharing the stage with some terribly funny troupes – Tony Ho, a troupe that has been called “the haunted house of sketch comedy” for their weird and dark material, and Primo, the “The Premium Brand Sketch Comedy of Toronto.” I haven’t caught a Primo show yet but I did get to see Tony Ho’s set last Friday at Comedy Bar, and it was fantastic. Super weird and twisted – I’m extremely excited to share the stage with such outstanding jokematicians. Also it turns out I went to theatre school (for 20 minutes, as I dropped out in my first week due to conflicts with my TV work) with one of Tony Ho’s members, Miguel Rivas. Cool guy! Very funny guy.
The Rocket Scientists have been trawling a bunch of Sketch Fest events this week – we took part in the Saturday night “sketchubator” where performers from the festival are invited to drink free beer and do their dumbest sketches in a safe environment of fellow performers. Comedy Gold! Chris and Kevin did the sketch that required Chris’ fake tattoo at that event – thankfully by that time we’d perfected the application process – and I did a special performance of Goldman Socks which went over pretty well too! We’ll also be competing for the “Stan Lee Cup” tonight at Comedy Bar as part of the festival’s “Nerd Off” competition.

We’re all super pumped about our set this Thursday. We’ve been rehearsing like mad all week and even got a couple notes from my dad, former Second City comedy teacher Todd Jeffrey Ellis. If you’re in the Toronto area, come on down to the Lower Ossington Theatre at 10pm, support local comedy, and laugh with us!

Also, this happened. Weird, huh?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Cheese (My Old Enemy)

So, I ate some cheese last week. This is a big deal.

I'll tell you why - ever since I can remember, I've abhorred the taste of cheese. I'd like to think I'm not a terribly picky eater, but this has always been a blind spot in my attempts to be open minded. When I was a small child I went starving at kids birthday parties. I'm the weirdo ordering veal in an Italian restaurant instead of pasta. I'm that jerknose who always wants to add an order of wings onto the bill when someone orders delivery because I literally can't bring myself to eat pizza. I don't know whether or not I choked on a piece of cheddar as a baby, or a slab of gruyere killed my sensei or something, but something must've caused me to develop this taste aversion. The mere smell of cheese turns my stomach, even in things like a really creamy ranch dressing. In first year university I'd thought someone had left a cheese pizza to rot in the front lobby of my dorm because the smell of cheese was so rank - turns out, it had just been vomit. This is how I experience cheese.

Thus, it was a big deal when I accidentally scarfed some cheddar last week and didn't immediately retch. Better yet, after the cheese-eating wasn't an unpleasant experience, the entirety of reality didn't cease to exist, meaning that my hatred of fermented milk may not actually be a universal constant that would cause the universe to implode if it ceased to be.

What happened was this. I went to a restaurant. I ordered a sandwich for lunch. I got through half of it, alternating my opinion bite-to-bite between "this is delicious!" and "what's that weird kinda gross taste?" However, I was unrelentingly starving and my scarfing kept going apace until I'd finished my meal.

Turns out my sandwich had some mostly inoffensive cheddar melted into it. Suddenly, I was filled with self-doubt. How could I like cheese? Or, since I'd alternated between feeling neutral-to-this-is-weird-and-kinda-gross during my sandwich experience, how could I even at the very least find it completely and utterly inoffensive? This is a defining part of my character. What next? If I can like cheese, what's next? I'll start wearing baseball caps with their brims unbroken? I'll start voting Conservative? I'll suddenly like clubbing? What about opium? Maybe I like that, huh? CHAOS. Up was down, left was right, dogs and cats living together - I was having a crisis.

After my worldview started crumbling, I went into denial. Some bites were gross, right? What if there just wasn't a lot of the infernal cow-paste on the sandwich, and that little bit of grossness was when the actual flavour of the cheesy anathema burst past the much better taste of roasted vegetables and chicken. Maybe the natural order still exists! Maybe there is a god!

But. Every time I go to the Pie Plate with Erin, she gets a pizza. And it looks actually good. I'm a huge fan of flatbread, and it really does look good. And if maybe I could like it, if I could get over this hatred that has burned inside my tastebuds since time immemorial... maybe. Maybe. I could do anything.

If by anything I mean maybe share a pizza sometime. I've yet to take that plunge and actively eat the stuff knowingly but it's a step in the... and I hate to say it... right direction. Hm. We shall see.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shameless Plugs: The Rocket Scientists present 'The Alright Stuff'

As the brief mention in my sidebar bio declares, when I'm not gracing your TV and movie theatre screens, I'm a proud member of a sketch comedy troupe called The Rocket Scientists. Check out some of our sketches on the Tubes! (I suggest Existential Heckler, which I wrote and am particularly proud of!)

The Rocket Scientists been doing shows on-and-off for a year and a half (we originally planned on doing a set of new material every month, but it's been more like once every two months) and have finally put together our very first 'best-of' revue, called 'The Alright Stuff' (NASA references! Ha!) It's going to be a raucous two-act set with an intermission and everything. Not only that, instead of falling back on our usual (and super awesome) venue The Comedy Bar we've booked the John Candy Box Theatre at the Second City Training Center (70 Peter Street, Toronto, Ontario). It's going to be weird but incredibly fun to be in a new space doing older material. I'm really looking forward to revisiting some of our 'classic' bits. If you spend a day or two writing a sketch, it feels like a waste to perform it only once - especially if you test it out and find that it works. Hence this show!

The Scientists were originally a three-man troupe made up of myself, Brandon Hackett, and Chris Small (The fourth gent rounding out our quartet is Kevin MacNeil, a former co-worker of Chris who used to do a lot of improv back home in Nova Scotia). I'd met Chris through a friend during university, and Brandon soon after when we both starred in a Ryerson University production of Neil Simon's Rumors that Chris directed for his senior thesis course. Apparently during that show I convinced Chris and Brandon I was funny, because when they decided to start up a sketch troupe they asked me to join sight-unseen.

The cast of Chris Small's 2009 production of Rumors - from left to right, Matt Bernard, Jessica Thorp, David Fisher, ME, and Brandon Hackett. It was from the ashes of this Upperclass New York City Farce that the Rocket Scientists were born!

Though I'd done several comedic roles on TV, I'd never specifically worked in more short-form comedy like sketch or stand-up before, unlike Chris and Brandon who were both seasoned comedians. I'm forever grateful to Chris and Brandon for asking me to be in their troupe when I essentially had no experience in the medium. The fools!

That being said, I'd like to think I've taken to it pretty quickly! It's been really rewarding to do these shows - especially the writing. Again, I'd never worked in sketch before and it's been an incredible learning experience to just jump right into writing for a medium completely different than what I was used to! And unlike a lot of the writing I do on my own time (novels and screenplays), sketch is short form so you get to see a 'result' from it a lot faster, which is very satisfying.

The Rocket Scientists contemplate what exactly killed this tiny, tiny man. From left to right, Kevin MacNeil, Christopher Small, Brandon Hackett, and me, Ephraim Ellis. (photo credit, Erin Gerofsky)

I've got an oddly sentimental attachment to the art of sketch comedy since my father used to work at the Second City in Toronto back in the 70s and 80s. He was a stage manager and comedy teacher at the Old Firehall, and eventually went on to be the special props builder for the seminal Canadian sketch series SCTV, which starred Second City alumni like John Candy and Andrea Martin. It's been really neat having my Dad come to our shows and give us scathing (and constructive) notes afterwards. I respect honesty amongst family (especially from those who have invaluable opinions on your art). It's been neat to dip my toe into something akin to the "family business."

After this best-of show, the Rocket Scientists hope to keep moving up in the comedy world! Brandon recently became a member of the Sketchersons and can be seen weekly at Comedy Bar for Sunday Night Live, and the Rocket Scientists themselves were just informed that we're going to get to take part in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival! This troupe has provided me with a heckuva lot of artistic fulfillment (and laughs). If anyone reading this hasn't much to do this Saturday night, come on out to the John Candy Box Theatre (70 Peter St. in Toronto, Ontario) at 8pm and have a couple laughs with us!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fanboy Friday: Theorizin' 'Bout F'nales (Doctor Who S.7 Edition)

Every year it's the same tired story. The showrunner of the venerable and excellent telly program Doctor Who starts setting up a running arc throughout the season, hinting at a massive conspiracy that we believe will ultimately come into play in the season finale, culminating in the realization that Amy Pond's home town was actually the Eye of Harmony the whole time or the return of the Eighth Doctor or Adric or Nega-Rose. But of course, every year it's the same thing - all the theorizing comes to naught, and it ends up just being a regular season finale with a big space battle and the Big Bad being defeated by the Power of Love or whatever.

But that ain't gonna stop me from theorizing.

This week on Fanboy Friday I'm going to be talking quite a bit about the seventh season of Doctor Who, and, specifically, what I'd be doing with their upcoming season finale were I to be lucky enough to be wearing Stephen Moffat's big imposing Scottish TV writer shoes.

Despite my opening preamble, I'm actually a big fan of the Who finales. Doomsday was fantastic, the whole Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords three part finale was impeccable save the moment when the Doctor was saved by the whole world clapping it's hands and saying "I believe in Time Lords" (I paraphrase, but still). During Moffatt's current tenure as showrunner, the season finales have actually been kind of amazing. Season five's finale might've been about saving the whole of time and space from evaporating, but the action of the episode was contained and quite intimate. The whole thing took place entirely in a museum with just the four main characters running away from a petrified Dalek. Amazing!

This season, we've got two mysteries going already. The prophecy at the end of last season about how the Doctor will be forced to answer "The Question" (the question being "doctor who?") and this will have some kind of universal ramifications. The other mystery which wasn't really a mystery unless you're like me and read entertainment news, was that the actress playing the Doctor's new companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman, was in the first episode playing a differently named character, who is revealed to actually be a Dalek, and subsequently dies. How exactly is that actress going to go on and play the new series lead if she's killed in the season premiere?

I think I have a pretty ingenious solution to this. So! This season, each episode keeps drawing attention to the fact that the Doctor has been going on a tear deleting any record of himself from databases throughout the universe because his legendary reputation was doing more harm than good. Hence everyone asking him "Doctor who?" like, every episode this year. So. I presume this is setting up how that question will be important - the fact that people know or don't know who the Doctor is is important. And, at the end of the Dalek episode, Jenna Coleman's character uses her crazy hacker skillz to delete any record of the Doctor from the memory of the Dalek race before she dies. This is pretty big since it's established in that episode that "Doctor" is a synonym for "Predator" in their language - the Doctor's existence is tied to the Daleks' entire worldview. 

My theory here is that when Jenna Coleman joins the main cast, she'll be the same character as in that Dalek episode, but picked up by the Doctor before she crash-landed on the Dalek planet and became assimilated (because he thought she was so cool, and decides to use his freakin' time machine to save her from her grisly fate).

This, of course, will lead to the Daleks remembering who the Doctor is, because Jenna Coleman was never Dalekized and never deleted the Doctor from their database. The Daleks will, as per usual, come up with some kind of Season Finale level evil scheme that the Doctor will only be able to stop if his anonymity remains intact - leading to a fateful, terrible decision where he'll have to either consign Jenna Coleman back to her original, tragic fate or let the Daleks win.

I think this would be great, especially because the importance of the question "doctor who?" is only established by facts that came into play after we found out what the question was in season six (Jenna being Dalekized, the Doctor becoming anonymous, etc). It wouldn't rely on any arcane backstory from the classic series or back in the new series catalogue! That and it sets up a neat, timey-wimey but emotionally trying conflict for the Doctor to go through.

But, then, of course, Christmas happened. In the Christmas special, Jenna Coleman shows up again as a presumably different character in Victorian England who also dies but who has the same last words as her Dalekized counterpart. And then it's teased that she's playing yet another character who lives in the modern era. Which kinda blows my idea out of the water.

I really hope this multiple characters played by the same actress who are somehow linked isn't explained with some kind of mystic silly shared soul or essence thing, and that they aren't 'destined' to all meet the Doctor and die similar deaths or something. There's enough fate-based material to play with just by having a Time Machine as a weekly prop without bringing in actual Fate. I'm sure the Moff has something up his sleeve, but I, for the life of me, have no idea what it is.

But, again, theorizing has never actually helped when it comes to Doctor Who (or any other sci-fi series. I mean really, Starbuck's dad should've been a secret Cylon. Really.) Fingers crossed for an exciting second half of season seven!

Also, since if you got to the end of this post I assume you watch this series, when Amy and Rory got trapped in the late 30s, why couldn't the Doc just go get them in the TARDIS? I know there was all that "I can't go back to 1938 New York, too much time distorion" malarky, but, couldn't he have just gone back to 1938 Detroit, and got in a cab? Or go to 1941 New York? All I'm saying is that it really seemed more like a major inconvenience rather than a "we can never meet again" thing.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bi-Weekly Digital Drawing Slam: Han Solo

It's a couple days late but I stuck with it! Two weeks later and I've drawn something else. Lessons I've learned this time - don't start the day before an assignment is due, even if it's self-imposed. You'd think university would've taught me that.

 I, yet again, got partway through a sketch and realized that instead of trying to draw a fashionable Pulp Action Hero in a pea-coat with a revolver, perhaps I should just try to draw my reference photograph. My reference photo, in this case, was Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

I also got halfway through this and realized my first two drawing posts have been Star Wars related. Typical. Sigh.

This week I learned how to colour using the polygonal lasso tool! It's super convenient! I also learned courtesy of my sister, a PROFESSIONAL ILLUSTRATOR (in training), that a good way to cartoon the eyes of something is to not ink the whole way around the lid. Neat!

I've also included the penciling layer here, for your amusement. I love saving all the steps in a project like this because you get to see how the drawing develops! Good times.

Well, that was fun. See you in two weeks!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fanboy Friday: Amazing 'Ending'

If I’m gonna keep calling this Fanboy Friday I really oughta write it / post it earlier in the day. Hm. Hm. Lessons learned. Anyway!

Spider-Man has always been my favourite super-hero. Considering that, you'd think I'd be upset with the current developments in the Spider-Man comics. I'm not. Lemme tell you why.

For the uninitiated, in the last story arc of the long-running series The Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus was on death's door, dying of cancer, and used his mad-scientist skills to switch bodies with Peter Parker to both save himself and finally murder his arch-enemy in one foul swoop. This sounds like standard super-hero/sci-fi fare to me. You’d expect an eleventh hour solution to this story – Spidey gets his body back, maybe manages to save Doc Ock from cancer in the process, and is left to pick up the pieces Octo-Spidey made of his reputation.

But he doesn’t. The Amazing Spider-Man, which debuted in 1962, ends with issue #700 and the ‘death’ of Spider-Man, ignobly with his mind stuck in the cancer-riddled body of his greatest enemy. A new series picks up from that story and follows Octo-spidey’s attempts to be a super-hero. Why does Doc Ock suddenly want to take up the mantle of super-hero, you ask? Because the eleventh hour solution to the body-swap dilemma had Peter transfers all his memories, including the death of Uncle Ben and the “with great power comes great responsibility” malarkey into Octo-Spidey’s brain. Basically, Doc Ock is now trapped in Spider-Man’s body and has been artificially given a conscience. He decides to deal with this nagging, awful feeling in his brain (it's called morality, Otto) by becoming a superhero and not only that, trying to prove he can do it better than Pete did (hence the name of the new series, The Superior Spider-Man.)

I got this mug from my cousin for Christmas and I’m really happy about it. Despite this weird new storyline, I’m definitely still saying Go Spidey!

You’d think I’d be pissed off by this. My favourite super-person (since before I could read comics!) is dead and his life has been taken over by an imposter. I’ll tell you why this doesn’t bother me. Anyone remember the ‘Death of Superman’? That (actually pretty compelling) tale from the early nineties where Superman got punched to death by Frankenstein and almost single handedly caused the comics-collecting price bubble to burst by flooding the market with eighty different collector’s edition lenticular cover varients that Dads everywhere (including my own) all bought as an investment for their kid’s college tuition?

That sure lasted. Superman bounced back a year later (sporting a bitchin’ Fabio haircut) and all was right with the world. Same thing happened to Captain America a couple years ago after he was assassinated. No matter how many press releases you put out calling this “a game changer” and/or “the new status quo,” you’re not gonna convince me that death is gonna take on ol’ Webhead (especially with Andrew Garfield playing Peter Parker, not Otto Octavius on the big screen for the foreseeable future). People come back to life in comics all the time. Spidey will find his way back to the land of the living soon enough, and in the meantime, The Superior Spider-Man #1 has convinced me that its gonna be a really fun story-arc getting him back.

A lot of critics and fans have been saying that this new Spider-Man isn’t likeable – but really, that’s the point. He’s still Doc Ock. And I for one loved to hate Doc Ock. He’s my favourite Spider-Man villain, and seeing him flounder and desperately attempt to not cackle maniacally while trying to be heroic is hysterical.

Octo-Spidey (I’mma just keep calling him that) is great. Despite how often the comic tries to convince you that re-living Peter’s memories has somehow reformed him, I don’t buy it. Doc Ock isn’t a super-hero. Doc Ock wanting to help people doesn’t make sense and he’s consciously aware of it. His entire attitude towards super-heroing seems to be like he’s compelled against his better judgement to do it. I’m really enjoying the feeling that he’s only taking up this super-hero thing because he’s had the original Spider-Man’s conscience duct-taped onto his mind - he’s compelled by a part of someone else’s personality!

There’s a scene in Superior #1 where Ock runs away from a fight, basically going “screw this!” because he’s getting his ass handed to him (by Speed Demon no less), and he could care less about the robbery he’s trying to stop. But, sure enough, against his will he flings himself back into the line of fire to save a cop, asking himself in as many words “why on Earth did I do that?”

It’s great! I’m really hoping this is leading to an arc where Ock, the longer he lives his life as Spider-Man, slowly moves away from being a super-hero merely because he’s compelled to do so and more towards being a person who is truly reformed and does good of his own accord. I think it’d be a really interesting journey to take him on to have him very slowly and methodically realize the true meaning of “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Unfortunately, I’m unsure this is the direction they’re gonna go in. The twist at the end of issue #1 (SPOILERS) reveals that Peter Parker’s full personality is still kicking around Doc Ock’s subconsciousness, manifesting on the page as a kind of blue wavery Force ghost. While I’m happy to find out Pete’s still ‘alive’ (and, therefore, ostensibly gonna be back in the driver’s seat of Spider-Man’s body before too long) I really hope Peter’s phantasmal presence won’t rob Ock of any agency in his choices to do good. I think it’d be cool to have Ock slowly integrate his bequeathed conscience into his own personality as he learns what it means to be a hero – but if that conscience is literally another person in his head, staying his hand and preventing him from being a villain, it kinda robs him of any character development.

Another potential, very gross snag in where this series could go is the Mary Jane problem. Octo-Pete is, as of issue #1, is trying to ‘re-kindle’ his romance with Mary Jane. If by re-kindle I mean not tell Mary Jane he’s actually Peter’s greatest enemy trapped in Peter’s body. And then ogle her chest. Gross.

Since I’ve never thought of Doc Ock as being evil enough to be a rapist, (especially not now he’s supposedly the protagonist of this series) I'm going to be very, very upset if anything sexual happens between those characters before Ock comes clean because that’s what it'd be. Rape. And that’s incredibly gross. Especially if the writers take it lightly and act like it’s no big deal. I’m really hoping, if the look of horror on MJ’s face on the cover of issue #2 is any indication, that this’ll be dealt with in an appropriate manner very soon. What I’m hoping for is that MJ realizes something’s wrong with her boyfriend, forcing Ock to come clean and feel awful when he realizes what he was really doing and she inevitably lambasts him for attempted rape. Basically, they need to handle it like that episode of Buffy did when the Trio were horrified to realize that if they’re mind-controlling a woman to have sex with them its no longer consensual.

Long story short, Pete will be back in the driver’s seat soon enough, and until then, the Superior Spider-Man limited series (it’s gonna be a limited series. Trust me) is off to a good start, and, barring any gross sexual-political missteps (which, I’m sad to say is a distinct possibility) this is gonna be a really fun series. I’m still kinda disappointed that the “new Spider-Man” didn’t end up being a time-displaced Miguel O’Hara, a.k.a. Spider-Man 2099, as had been red-herringed on twitter, but, ah well. Can’t win ‘em all.

Also, the Living Brain is in Superior #1. That’s reason enough to pick it up.