‘Legends of Tomorrow’ S1E7: What the Hell Is a Time Pirate?

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Here we are, a-floatin’ through space, trying to figure out when to go after Vandal Savage next, but needing a serious software update to the shipboard A.I., Gideon, in order to manage that. Captain Hunter is torturing himself with holographic visions of his past, while our Legends are going stir crazy. Rory and Snart are still sniping at each other over the events of the previous episode, Ray and Kendra are tippy-toeing around romantic entanglement, and everyone else is just really bored. Then comes a distress call from Captain Baxter of the Timeship Acheron, and our Legends are off to save the day!

We have to remember that Professor Stein is the manchild nerd for the sci-fi geek in all of us, and really, the Waverider hasn’t really gone through space yet: Only timestreams. So, while Stein waxes poetic about the stars and his time as a Space Ranger when he was a wee boy, we’re treated to further memories of Rip Hunter’s time at the Timemasters academy, where he trains with a love interest and fellow student, Miranda Koburn. It’s so cute how Rip responds to being overshadowed in the training simulation by his female counterpart with something like, “You beat me – that’s so hot,” and a makeout session that sadly, gets them into trouble. Timemaster romance of any kind is rather harshly discouraged, and young Rip and his Lady are about to be the equivalent of court-martialed.

Meanwhile back in the really-real world, the boarding party that went to check out the Acheron has been overrun with — say it with me — space pirates! Or rather, as Captain Hunter calls them, Time Pirates, led by Captain Valler (Callum Keith Rennie). Many of us did wonder, as we were watching the episode, how does a pirate plunder time? Are there tachyons to be stolen? Well, anyway, our Legends are here in space being harried by Time Pirates, which inevitably opens the cargo bay doors for every single last classic Sci-fi reference you can think of! Star Wars, of course, Jax probably got the best line for that one; Ray as Captain Palmer is so much better as a Sulu reference rather than trying to Shatner his way through Star Trek; the green lighting on the Acheron makes us think of the excellent atmosphere in Ridley Scott’s original Alien; Stein talked about being a Space Ranger when he was a kid, DC just broke the fourth wall; there’s even a cry of “Great Scott!” and we all know what beloved time travel epic that’s from! The commands, “Imperiex,” and “Kanjar Ro” are also names of space-based DC comics villains, just FYI. And it has to be included, Captain Hunter running around fighting time pirates in that coat reminded me very much of Captain Jack Harkness, doing his epic thing in Torchwood!

Much emphasis is placed on the deteriorating relationship between Rory and Snart, especially when Rory decides he’s had enough and attempts to make a deal with the Time Pirates. Snart has a few beautiful moments with Sara, first while they play cards to alleviate boredom and she has some almost-sympathy for the dwindling brotherhood, and then later when they’re both freezing to death (because nature’s vacuum runs on irony) and they exchange what death is really like and how Mick and Leonard met. The assassin and the thief, we adore them both and the show seems to have them swimming towards true friendship, if not an actual romance. I’m voting for a romance, even if it’s brief, because just imagine the shockwave reverberations through all the Legends once it’s over!

Eventually — we knew it was coming — our Legends overcame the Time Pirates, repaired both the Acheron and the Waverider, cleared Captain Hunter’s name as far as the snooty Timemasters reputation fuckery goes, and now we have to deal with internal issues. Our resident firebug, Heatwave, has just gone too far into the darkness, and our Legends meet around the table to discuss what to do now. Snart says he will handle it, and even makes an actual go at it, but can he really take out the sundered other half of his soul? As much emphasis as the show placed on love no matter what, I kind of doubt it. The preview for next week’s episode shows a few of our Legends off chasing Vandal Savage in 1950s Oregon and Kendra in an actual poodle skirt, so let’s pray for visions of a greaser Heatwave, or at least a Rory on ice for now!

Catch DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Thursdays on the CW at 8:00 p.m./7:00 p.m., Central!

XXX

‘Boldly Go!’: Where No Musical has Gone Before

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Who doesn’t love the sweeping span of the Star Trek universe? While we all wait for our next beloved offering of the Roddenberry-inspired series to come back to the small screen, we can all get off our collective butts and go see the Trek-inspired stage play of Boldly Go!

A stage musical of epic farcical proportions, Boldly Go! follows the intrepid crew of the — what else? — Starship Enterprise, featuring the return of many beloved characters along with some brand new ones, all off on a brand new exciting adventure! Previous assumptions will be confronted, old paradigms challenged, new alliances tested, and brand new contacts made – whether for good or ill as has yet to be seen. And our beloved sci-fi world is all set in a side-splitting tour de force of musical mayhem!

While the stage show has fun with the sometimes ludicrous aspects of science fiction and parodies Star Trek, this new show also lovingly satirizes the entire musical theater genre as well. At its core, Boldly Go! is a story about being true to oneself and one’s convictions even if and perhaps especially when they can be considered laughable, about friendship and love, about the discovery and wonder of things new, about the triumph of the individual over any adversity, and about the joy of sharing with one another this vast and mysterious Universe.

Boldly Go! is written by the Remmen brothers: Cole, a University of Minnesota Theatre Arts Senior, and Grant, a Caltech theoretical physics graduate student. The Caltech world premiere of the stage play features a talented cast from the Caltech and Jet Propulsion Lab communities. The musical is being shown at the Ramo Auditorium of the Caltech Campus in Pasadena, California. Scheduled performances are as follows:
Friday, February 26, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 28, 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 3, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 5, 2:30 p.m.

Purchase your tickets online here, and remember, to Boldly Go! where no musical has gone before!

XXX

Agent Captain Logan’s Comic Directive #17: Star Trek #48

by Agent Captain Logan (a.k.a. Agent Captain Logan)

Star Trek #48

Writer: Mike Johnson

Art: Tony Shasteen

The ongoing Star Trek series from IDW has been pretty hit-and-miss since it launched four years ago. It’s been often-mired in mediocre plotting and characterization and has difficulty striking that delicate balance between idea-driven and action-driven stories. And I sympathize, because there are a few kinds of rope tying Johnson’s hands behind his back. He’s trying to add to a new Trek mythology without stepping on what the film series is doing — not as much of an issue post-Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I’m sure he’s not allowed to shake up the status quo of Starfleet and the Federation too much. He’s trying to tell solid, classic Star Trek stories, but in the fast-paced, high-octane spirit of the reboot. And he’s trying to stay true to the new characterizations of the original series crew, which, try as he might, he’s struggling to make as charming and endearing as their previous counterparts.

In all fairness, I’ve only casually kept up with this series since it moved away from re-tellings of original episodes in the rebooted continuity, but every time I’ve returned, it’s always read like something’s holding it back from greatness. Every now and again, there’s a re-tooling of something from the Prime universe that strikes me as a stroke of genius, but it’s usually just a run-of-the-mill, standard Trek tale that isn’t especially memorable, and never becomes any more than the sum of its parts. And some of that, I think, is because too many of these story arcs are just too short. They vary in length but a lot of them, like this one, are only two issues long, and they come off like a truncated Animated Series episode. This one shows some promise, but I’ll be surprised if the next issue isn’t mostly action, five-minute wrap-up style, sprinting to the finish instead of using this curious situation to explore its protagonist and allow him to shine.

The set-up is intriguing enough. Captain Kirk is giving Sulu his first taste of command, assigning him to lead an away team to observe a pre-warp civilization, because, Kirk says, “one thing I’m sure of is that you’ll be the captain of a starship one day.” That’s an allusion, of course, to Sulu captaining the Excelsior in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Wow, there’s a scene you never would have seen between Shatner and Takei. Allegedly, there was supposed to be a promotion ceremony for Sulu in one of the early movies, but Shatner sabotaged it because he felt upstaged. At least, according to George Takei. Having heard that story over the years, I found this opening scene almost surreal. It’s nice to see some of the rest of the cast getting their own stories. We’ve moved away from the traditional TOS triad for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, the format here is a little more like The Next Generation and there’s room for that.

Scotty has invented a technology that serves as a precursor for the holographic duck blind used to keep tabs on alien races up close in the Next Generation episode “Who Watches the Watchers.” His is a crude energy wall that camouflages whatever is behind it, and also masks sound. Kirk decides to let him try it out on Sulu’s mission. Sulu brings Scotty and three other people we’ve never heard of — none of them are dead yet, so I’m expecting to lose all of them by next issue, or at the very least, the girl in red. She is not dressed for success.

It’s a very original series situation: a quiet, ominous planes environment with several giant, foreboding pillars looming over our heroes with alien writing on them, and no intelligent life around. Suddenly, a storm is billowing on the horizon and Sulu decides to find cover and wait it out. He’s there to observe the civilization there and he hasn’t seen one alien yet — why not beam back to the ship and come back later? But that point is immediately rendered moot when several enormous turkey-type creatures show up, spew a bunch of sounds that apparently the universal translator is picking up as gibberish, and the team hides behind Scotty’s holo-wall. Sulu thinks the turkeys are sacrificing their young to the obelisks, and we see an enormous crescent-shaped blade ship next to the Enterprise feeding off the lightning storm. There’s a cool bit of forshadowing a couple pages earlier, when the lead turkey man arrives holding a stick with a blade of that very crescent shape attached to it. I noticed that instantly and thought it was a striking image. That made the appearance of the gargantuan vessel more jaw-dropping.

I like this situation. The somewhat green and naïve Sulu is taking a dose of reality as he’s faced with a horrifying predicament, responsible for the lives of four other people and forced to figure out how to salvage the Prime Directive as much as he can when the lightning storm is interfering with the energy wall and the aliens are going to detect them. Really large, dangerous, savage-looking aliens. I like that Shasteen has creatively designed a weird race that would be difficult to put on screen, taking advantage of the comic medium where money is no object in rendering elaborate creatures, allowing the Enterprise to encounter “new life” that isn’t always just humans with bumps on their heads. And there’s a legitimately interesting mystery here. Who are these savages? Are they really this primitive or do they control the obelisks and know exactly what they are? Do they worship the blade ship? What’s the ceremonial sacrifice all about?

The only problem I have with this one, again, is that I know it’s only a two-issue story and what I’ve read here feels like a five-minute teaser for an hour-long episode. Perhaps Sulu will go through a perfectly satisfying character arc by the end of next issue, but that seems unlikely, given that Johnson has to pay off all the elements of this alien mystery and get the away team back to the Enterprise (or, at least, the survivors) in just twenty pages, so it’s hard to imagine how he’ll also have room to really explore Sulu as an untested leader. At the end of the issue, Sulu laments in his log (which, comically, he can’t possibly be making, just then) that “everything that could go wrong on my first away mission has.” And that’s fine for an opening act — how will he deal with this dilemma? How will he handle things differently than Kirk — who’s dealt with this sort of scenario a dozen times — would? That’s an especially neat idea because the arc is called “Deity,” and how often does Kirk go up against some civilization’s god? Although, the “god” in question here is hovering right next to the Enterprise, so I guess Kirk is sort of dealing with this one himself, too.

We’re already halfway through the story, and that makes the character stuff feel like the catalyst for a plot-driven story, instead of being at the heart of it. I suppose I’ll see next issue, but this is pretty par-for-the-course for this series. I appreciate some of the limitations Johnson faces in adapting the Abramsverse to comics, but why must these stories be so truncated? Fun, fast, engaging read, but I think it may need more real-estate to be anything more substantial than that.

XXX

Oracle of the Cosmic Order: A Practical Guide to Mayhem by the Stars 7/27-8/2

by Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a. Madame Helleveeg)

July 26-August 2, 2015 Horoscope:

Venus is in retrograde, villains. The misunderstandings with a Venus retrograde can be tricky. They could mean many things … an indomitable pon farr reaction, or a mushroom cloud higher than the Intimidator 305 (and not half as fun!).

Unfortunately, some wolfsbane and a watchful eye on the key to your mooncage may be in order, especially if you have any Leo or Virgo in your charts. Wait it out, because you will not be able to MacGyver yourself out if it this time.

Aries  (3/21 – 4/19):

Aries Villain, batten down the hatches and retreat! This is not a week for your signature adventurous spirit. With Venus in retrograde, your ability to communicate will be compromised, so it is best to cocoon up, Mothra, and wait to face the Brave New World next week.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):

Taurus villain, this is a vampire week, and not the sparkly, romantic, venison-loving kind, either. Are there people who you encounter in your life that make you feel like you’ve had a brush with Nosferatu? Or, on the milder side, donated to the Red Cross, at the very least? Avoid these people this week, their influence will be even more draining, and it could affect your super powers in the process.

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21):

Gemini villain, you may get a new lease on life — but don’t cheer just yet, it may involve an identity change and an artificially intelligent car … okay, well the AI car is pretty cool, right? But, however beneficial, these changes are inevitably going to take their toll, so hang on for a bumpy ride. Harness your inner MacGyver and use what you have available to survive the transformation, because it will be worth it!

Cancer (6/22 – 7/22):

Cancer villain, ever thought about changing your profession? I don’t mean you need to stop being a super villain, I mean, maybe switching from being a mad scientist to a Wilson Fisk-esque king-pin, instead of a mad scientist or a vendetta-driven megalomaniac … if you’ve ever thought about changing the course of your villainy, now is the perfect time. Perhaps a villainous meteorologist? With everyone scrambling during Venus’ retrograde, you’ll take the world by storm.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):

Leo villain, Venus’ retrograde is visiting your house this time around. This is bad news for the zodiac’s largest cat. So, this is not a time to think or act big, because it will backfire. How big, you ask? Can you say “10,000 foot mushroom cloud”? And, because we’re talking about Venus here, you’re going to want to impress your love interest or people you admire. Do not succumb to the temptation. It will end worse than a Coyote and Roadrunner VHS on fast forward. Bide your time, and wait out the retrograde, or your Acme bill will be the least of your worries.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):

Virgo villain, Venus IS your house, which always complicates things when it is in retrograde. Your rules for the next 40 days: no new love interests, no new job interests, and be wary of new friends who want to weasel into your life. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. There’s always a twist. Even though you’ll need to stay away from new love or job interests, you’ll experience a quasi-pon farr in this department. This may result in a massive kal-if-fee … or a literal or figurative “ka-boom.” Best-case scenario? Find someone you trust to administer the wolfsbane and hold the key, because lycanthropy’s a bitch. It’s going to be a loooong month.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):

Libra villain, you are usually the face (and voice!) of diplomacy, but this week you have the David A. Angar touch. So, be careful what you say and whom you say it to! You may even surprise yourself at your bluntness — this is because Leo and Virgo, the main receivers of this nasty dose of retrograde, are sandwiched between you and Cancer. Yep, you two are the ciabatta bread to a pon farr, bravado, and toxic-ooze Panini, and it is not pretty. So choose your every move wisely!

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):

Scorpio villain, this is not a time to advertise your uniqueness, as much as you want to! This is, unfortunately a time to kow tow to the boss. What if you are the boss? This is a time to show a united, calm front. So, if you’ve mutated your arm to shoot sleep-inducing pellets of ectoplasm, or if you’ve genetically engineered a slightly mentally unstable clone of yourself, now is not the time to reveal these advances. Wait a week and check how receptive your boss, your crew or your minions will be.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):

Sag villain, you’re going to have a memorable event this week … but remember, memorable is not always good. But, you choose whether it’s going to be “good memorable” or “bad memorable” by your actions. That means exercising a little humility, Sag villain. You need to leave the nuclear-powered megaphone at home, and the sequined super-suit may not be the best choice.

Capricorn (12/22 – 1/19):

Capricorn villain, your look and routine have changed over the years about as much as the Chuck Taylor All-Star, but your canvas is due for an upgrade. Don’t freak out, as you often do with these types of changes! It’s quite a feat to keep the same formula for 98 years, but imagine how unstoppable Capricorn 2.0 will be with that legacy and a brand new upgrade?

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):

Aquarius villain, your parental instinct is in top-gear this week, so mind your descendants. You may be the embodiment of Maleficent or Jafar, but you’re still a parent — even if they’re fur babies — and non-human fur babies; we’re super villains, mutations DO happen! Your progeny may have your nurturing, genes and your powers, but will they fulfill their destiny as villains or side with the (*gag*) heroes? That is yet to be seen. It also sounds suspiciously like an afterschool special produced by the happiest (*gag again*) place on earth. Makes you wonder if paying that tuition is really worth it in the first place.

Pisces (2/19 -3/20):

Pisces villain, this is a week of deception, and while you may think you’re deceiving your enemies, you’re really deceiving yourself. So, while you think your photostatic nano-mask and your change of wardrobe is fooling the crowd, be careful that you’re not becoming too comfortable in that role.

That doesn’t mean some undercover cosplay can’t be fun! Dress up, play the part, but remember who you are, super villain. Getting close to the super heroes means you’re one step closer to world domination, not a standing invite for tea and crumpets.

XXX

 

 

 

Captain Logan’s Comic Directive #14: ‘Star Trek/Green Lantern’ #1

by Agent Captain Logan (a.k.a. Agent Captain Logan)

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War #1

Writer: Mike Johnson

Artist: Agnel Hernandez

Publisher: IDW/DC Comics

It’s hard to deny the novelty of an unlikely-but-fitting crossover story between two fan-favorite properties. When I was a kid, my head exploded when introduced to the notion, with stories like Frank Miller’s Spawn/Batman (which, sadly, doesn’t hold up even a little bit) and the epic, once-thought-impossible (and now probably would be) Marvel/DC: Amalgam. It’s a thing that’s a lot easier to pull off in comics, both monetarily and in procuring licenses, than it’s ever been in television or movies. Who Framed Roger Rabbit made history by putting the two most recognizable cartoon rival mascots on screen together– Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny — when Spider-Man and Superman had already met in comics over a decade earlier. And while few of them have been even a football field closer to brilliance, one of the most popular franchises to hop over into somebody else’s sandbox these days is Star Trek, thanks to its comic license being controlled by a publisher that collects movie and TV licenses like they’re Pokemon.

IDW has unclogged a lot of fans’ dream pipes and made the meet-ups we couldn’t help but imagine come true in the last several years; Kirk has met Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes and Picard has met the Doctor, Rory and Amy. And DC even teamed up with IDW once before this so that Kirk could rendezvous with the Legion of Superheroes. We Trekkies have been a little spoiled when it comes to seeing other great space adventures mix it up with Captains of the Enterprise. Now, if only Paramount and Disney could come up with some sort of agreement to allow IDW and Marvel to send the Millennium Falcon to the Alpha Quadrant…

There’s a certain logic to creating so many stories that see the Enterprise investigating strange beings from other trademarks because that series is all about exploration. It’s very easy, with or without some sort of alternate universe conceit, to see a Federation starship simply fly up to something totally recognizable by anyone that’s ever turned on a television but which its crew is totally baffled by. Kirk and crew are going where no man has gone before and stumble upon Mork from Orc or Alf or a Predator or those ultra-generic aliens from Independence Day, and boom, you’ve got a story.

The frustration I’ve had reading a lot of these crossovers is an un-economical use of real estate. Why spend pages and pages trying to develop an overly-scientific, technobabble reason two sets of people from different dimensions are able to exist in the same universe? It’s just a plot device to get the ball rolling in the first place — isn’t the fun part seeing what happens after characters you never thought you’d see in the same room get there? If someone’s from another reality, à la Star Trek in the episode “Mirror, Mirror,” obviously his main objective is going to be figuring out how to get home, so yes, you have to devise some sort of plot device for how he got there in the first place. But while he’s trying to accomplish that, you have to come up with reasons to let him (and your audience) play in that playground. Crossovers also tend to spend too much time recapping, with flashbacks, important events from one or both of the properties’ past that inform this story, so that anyone who picked up the story for one side but isn’t familiar with the other won’t be lost. What ends up happening is that everybody’s bored waiting for the novelty to pay off. If you have to recap, do it in text in the inside cover and get on with the story you want to tell.

Star Trek/Green Lantern avoids both of these pitfalls with grace and ease, making it easily the best first issue to a crossover I’ve read with IDW’s logo on it, and perhaps ever. It’s the first of six issues and does exactly what it needs to in order to catch the reader’s attention, regardless of which of the properties is his favorite, to instantly break status quo and set things up so the story can hit the ground running next issue, and to get the reader’s mouth watering for more. Despite involving two very different worlds, they immediately feel like they co-exist in the same universe. There’s no talk about interdimensional vortices or tears in the fabric of reality — that stuff might be coming later, but we’re not bogging down the introduction to this awesome situation with scientific gobbledygook. The story is simple, straight-forward, and easily accessible to anyone familiar with either of these properties, or dare I say, even someone who has only passively heard of each (although I can’t imagine why that person would be reading this). I’ll describe it without mentioning Star Trek or Green Lantern. Imagine you didn’t know either was involved and see if you can follow this:

A strange creature carrying a multi-colored assortment of powerful, glowing rings dies on a strange planet. A starship flying through space in the name of exploration happens upon the equally dead world this creature is decaying on and a team is sent to investigate. They bring him and his rings aboard ship and begin studying them. Meanwhile, an enemy vessel fires on the ship and it’s outmatched, until one of the rings mysteriously super-charges it and makes it invulnerable to the enemy ship’s attack. And several of the other rings suddenly fly around and start choosing crew members to bond with.

Naturally, I won’t give away the ending, but you get the idea. If you weren’t familiar with Star Trek, the fact that the enemy vessel is Captained by none other than the Klingon Shakespeare nut with a bolted-on eye patch, General Chang, would mean nothing to you. And, if you weren’t familiar with Green Lantern, you’d be as lost as the crew of the Enterprise as to why the heck rings were lighting up and shooting all over the place. Not to mention, the big reveal on the final page would simply be an introduction to some new character you’d expect to learn more about next issue. But it’s a simple science fiction mystery story that’s easy to follow. It doesn’t matter how much you already understand about these worlds — they’re both simply presented, in a confident, non-hand-holding way, and the reader is given enough to credit to just read and let it all sink in without it all being spelled out to him, just like an average issue or episode of either of these things might be told. If you’re reading this for Star Trek, the dead Guardian is the alien of the week and his rings are the mysterious artifact that might lead to a morality play about ultimate power and that Kirk may or may not be forced to try to destroy. If you’re a Green Lantern fan, it’s a little more complicated, as this is cemented squarely in the world of Trek — and according to the first page, all of the Lanterns are supposedly dead — but it reads as an alternate future in which something terrible has happened to our heroes and now some humans are trying to get to the bottom of it.

Straight away, it’s a 50/50 split between the two and they, somewhat surprisingly, fit like a glove. I might never have thought to put these two things together, but there’s definitely a certain logic to it. The Lanterns are space police who patrol the galaxy and try to keep the peace, while recruiting new members when they discover new sectors, and the Federation is similar, except with an emphasis on exploration over being a military force. But both are about protecting people rather than conquering. As fictional properties, while Green Lantern is generally more in the science fantasy department, there’s certainly a quirkiness to both, they’re both bright and colorful, and with each, there’s often an emphasis on humanity’s role in the greater universe. While I haven’t loved a lot of the Abrams-verse stories IDW has published, using that version mixes well with Green Lantern because of the action/adventure emphasis, and Hernandez does a superb job of blending both styles to create something that somehow, on every page, looks like Blackest Night and the IDW Star Trek book simultaneously.

There’s not a lot of character stuff yet, as this issue pretty much just gets the situation set up, but I like Kirk and Spock’s banter. At one point, Kirk points out to Spock that he doesn’t have to lecture him on the Prime Directive again because they’re on a dead planet investigating a dead person — there’s no possible way they can affect the natural course of any species’ cultural evolution. And Spock simply tells him that he had opened his mouth to agree on that point.

It’s a mercifully quick read without a ton of internal monologue or sleep-inducing Captain’s logs that go on for pages to explain things I can easily see with my eyes. It’s cinematic and reads like well-plotted storyboards. It’s a delightful read and with five more whole issues left, I’m expecting Johnson and Hernandez to explore the full potential of this premise. Star Trek characters get rings from all the corps. Now I’ve seen everything. So much fun.

XXX

If you can’t get enough of Agent Captain Logan’s comic book analysis, here’s a bonus! Check out the latest episode of The Comic Book Vault: Rapid Fire Comic Reviews, including (time stamps in parentheses):

  • (02:09) Star Trek/Green Lantern #1
  • (06:58) Lando #1
  • (08:51) Civil War #1
  • (14:47) Spider Island #1
  • (17:16) Age of Apocalypse #1
  • (19:31) Archie #1
  • (23:17) JLA #2
  • (29:31) Batman #42
  • (34:03) Secret Wars 2099 #3
  • (38:39) Spider-Verse #3
  • (41:13) Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2
  • (44:48) Little Marvel AVX #1-2
  • (48:28) Book and Cover of the Week! 

Tim Russ Lives Long and Prospers at XCon World

by Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a. Madame Helleveeg)

For such an accomplished man, Tim Russ is shockingly modest and humble about his long and prosperous career, both on screen and behind the scenes. Although, he originally screen-tested for the role of Geordi La Forge on “Next Gen” (which for all of you non trekkies out there refers to Star Trek: The Next Generation) before he gained the role he’s best known for: Tuvok, the Vulcan Chief of Security and Chief Tactical Officer of Star Trek Voyager. Russ is known for his intelligence and immense scope of knowledge of the roles he plays, and in true form, he came to the role of Tuvok as both a fan and with a comprehensive knowledge of Vulcans themselves.

But this was not his first trek into Gene Roddenberry’s universe. “I had read for and guest-starred in a dozen Star Trek series before I got the part of Tuvok, “ Russ recounts. And that is only a modest account, he was a mercenary in the “Starship Mine” episode of Next Gen, a Klingon in the Deep Space Nine episode, “Invasive Procedures,” a Lieutenant in the Star Trek Generations film, and Tuvok’s “mirror self” in the Deep Space Nine episode “Through the Looking Glass.” He was a director of the fan series, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and directed and co-stared in the fan-financed Star Trek: Renegades. And these are just a few of the many projects Russ has been involved in; he is truly dynamic, both on screen and off.

He talked about working on the fan-funded project, Star Trek: Renegades, with an immense amount of pride. “Renegades should be done by June. We were trying to get it done by May, but it’s probably going to be done by June 20th. So many people helped make that thing what it is today. And when you watch that, compared to all of the other departments, know that my contribution is marginal. Special effects, ITP, the cameraman — the woman who created the costumes/wardrobe is very dear to me, because she made 62 costumes from scratch, and it was a heck of a project. I’m very proud of it. It’s a Star Trek story, and it’s designed as a pilot presentation. If it gets picked up, great. If not you’ll still see it.”

One of Russ’ smallest, but strangely most iconic non-Trek roles was in the Mel Brooks classic, Spaceballs. He was the trooper who, while combing the desert, shouts, “We ain’t found shit!” After discovering how refined and reserved Russ is in person, this line is particularly humorous and ironic, but nonetheless memorable to fans. “It was very brief, like a day or two on the set. It was in Arizona, so it was like 112 degrees. I wore a black hood over my head, so it was like putting my brain in a microwave. Mel Brooks is a very gracious, very friendly, considerate, wonderful guy to work for, and it was very, very quick … and the legacy of that? They’re still talking about those four words. That’s showbiz, as they say!”

Russ went on to talk about his favorite parts of working on Voyager and portraying Tuvok, “What I loved about Voyager is … well, if you look at CSI, they’re all the same, and that’s fine, they’re very satisfying that way, but what we do is different. We’re able to explore the origins, the histories of these characters in ways that was not formulaic to television, and even though it was in the Gene Rodenberry universe, Voyager was, in a lot of ways, completely different from the original series, so we were able to invent a lot of it, which I think made this part of the Star Trek universe interesting and new to viewers.”

When asked about his favorite Voyager episode, he referred to the episode “Nemesis,” from season four, and the complexities it brought up in its rich and intricate story line: “We dealt with complex ideas like where does an alien soul go, [and] how is history portrayed, because often the aggressors record history and it’s skewed from what actually happened, especially to the victims. There were stories about origins, about where races evolved from. My favorite episode was when Chakotay’s character was captured by these humanoid creatures, it was an alien culture, but they were humanoid, who seemed very peaceful, sensible, and practical, and they were in many ways just like us … and they were being threatened by these seemingly horrible, predator-like-looking aliens — just really hideous — they tried to indoctrinate Chakotay because he had amnesia, into fighting against these ‘horrible’ alien terrors that were marauding their territory; they were the bad guys. But, it turns out, it was the humanoids who were the aggressors, but it wasn’t discovered until later in the story. We, as watchers, are going to see ourselves and relate to the humanoid character, because the other creatures don’t look like us, so they must be bad. So, it really explored how we perceive others who may not look like us. It’s an important lesson to learn.”

And, for those who either are late millennials or early Gen Z kids, or their parents, you may also remember Russ as Principle Ted Franklin on the hit Nickelodeon show, iCarly. This role was, in some ways, a departure from his Star Trek roles, and in some ways, very much the same. Like Tuvok, Principal Franklin was stoic, but fair, and showed glimpses of good humor in the most surprising of situations. Russ said of working on such a dynamic set, “Working on iCarly was wonderful. It was a lot of work, but it was really wonderful. The producer on that show was really good; he is an excellent writer and a meticulous producer. He’s actually there on the set when we’re taping. Dan Snider, he’s very hands on, he writes the scripts, and after each take, he would have us try new lines, then we would shoot it and he would say, ‘Now, try this line,’ or ‘Try that.’ We’d actually change stuff as we were shooting … there were many, many changes to get those sequences down and get them right, because he wanted them just perfect. Not only was it well written and it took up a lot of time, but those kids worked their tails off. Because when they were not on set, when they were not blocking or shooting, when they were not rehearsing, they were going to school right there on location at the studio. So they were going to class in between learning their lines and their blocking. They were disciplined, they didn’t hold things up, they didn’t act crazy, they were there, they performed their lines, they were absolutely remarkable: every single one of them. They were very professional and a great talent. They were wonderful.”

Russ both heralded and lamented the new Star Trek movies: “They are this generation’s only reference point to this universe, and they’re trying to get as wide an audience as they can. That’s not to say that they don’t pay homage to the original characters, and J.J. Abrams is incredibly talented, but the mega millionaires … let me repeat that: mega millionaires who are in charge of producing these films are not interested in the nuances of the original TV shows and movies. They’re interested in making money. This is why you probably won’t see another Star Trek series in America, at least. Because it’s not about good storytelling any more … Do you ever wonder why an excellent show — they even win Emmys and other prestigious awards — gets taken off of the air? It’s all about money, and not about quality programs. But you, the younger generation, you have the ability to change all of that.” However, this willingness to sacrifice quality for cash is certainly not the case for Tim Russ, whose involvement ranges from fan movies to TV, teleplays to comics, and, of course, to big screen. Everything he works on all has one element in common: the love, pride, and quality which Russ holds dear.

But Vulcan lore and iconic roles aren’t the only talents Tim Russ has to offer. He speaks about his experience as a director on Star Trek Voyager, “I directed the Voyager episode ‘Living Witness.’ As a director … it’s like when you’re taking a picture, you basically have the entire tapestry to be overseen, in terms of how it looks and the words on the page, you’re trying to visualize them on camera. Whereas as an actor, you’re a small-but-important color or item on that tapestry, and all you have to worry about is that part. As a director you’re looking at the entire piece. The trick is to take the script and visualize it as if it were on the screen, and that’s a bit of a [large, extensive] process. I enjoy doing it because it’s a challenge, as opposed to acting, which is a different kind of challenge. But I truly enjoy doing it.”

And like his metaphor for directing, Russ weaves a tapestry of utterly brilliant roles in this often-ruthless business. He acts in, directs, and produces programming that is infused with his talent and the talent of those he works with, as well as the love he has for his craft. After hearing this panel, there’s only one word that accurately describes Tim Russ, and that word is “uncompromising.” Uncompromising of his vision and the quality he prides his work on.

May you and your immense tapestry of work live long and prosper, sir.

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The Geekvolution is Coming!

by Special Agent Laura Davis (a.k.a. Hex Quillion)

The Super Villain Network is proud to welcome the Geekvolution Radio Hour, with producer Jaymes Logan and co-host Vince Haskins, to our radio cabal! Together, Logan and Haskins investigate, analyze, and discuss geek pop culture in a way that’s as intelligent as it is entertaining. Though the show’s primary focus is on comic books and graphic novels, superhero film and TV, science fiction, and most especially Star Trek, they cover an impressive range of topics and genres, from horror to video games to fantasy. “We did one show about nothing but blood,” said Logan. “How blood is used in film, when to show it: What is the point of gore in film?”

Logan and Haskins met in a college playwriting class, and started producing content for the Geekvolution YouTube channel within the year. The Geekvolution channel includes a variety of audio and video content, like the Geeks not Nerds podcast (which features Logan and Haskins debating over a variety of geek topics); The Comic Vault (comic book reviews); and Superhero Rewind, in which Logan makes in-depth studies of superhero movies that are at least two years old. Logan describes Superhero Rewind as, “a fan perspective but objective, level-headed, and something that digs a little deeper than your average YouTube review … It’s academic, focused on characterization and story, but conversational and fun.” The Geekvolution Radio Hour has its roots in Superhero Rewind, though it offers more variety in each episode, and, of course, the interplay between the hosts.

The geek-bonding between Logan and Haskins is definitely part of the magic behind Geekvolution. Logan explains, “We’ve got this brotherly camaraderie, though we’re very different people … We’ve been arguing about the Watchmen movie for six years now … Sometimes, we bring it up just because we know the audience loves to hear us arguing about it.”

But it’s not just a bunch of random rants on Geekvolution. Oh, no. When you take a pair of hard-core geeks with English degrees, and turn them loose on geekdom, what you get is a more literary kind of analysis, focused on fiction as a craft. Then again, they are geeks, so it’s a rapid-fire discussion filled with cross-references and the humor of our people, yet they avoid getting pedantic about their various fandoms. Logan mused, “I think people come to us because we’re a little more open-minded; we really try to stay away from the fan-boy mentality.”

Haskins is particularly into movies and horror. Logan is a huge Trekkie, and a sci-fi fan in general. Both Logan and Haskins are comic book geeks, though it’s likely that Logan wins the uber-geek award on that score: He’s in process of remodeling his office into a comic book room with custom shelving for long-boxes, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases on an entire wall to hold his collection of graphics novels and trades. Since the room will double as the new set for The Comic Vault, Logan also designed it with display space for figures and memorabilia. Whatever they’re talking about on their programs, they approach the topic with zeal, intelligence, and wit. Logan adds, “Vince is really funny. He’s a comedian, and he’s really good off the cuff.”

We’re proud and excited to have this dynamic team joining us, and we can’t wait for you, our audience, to be part of the Geekvolution! It sounds like they’re a little enthused about the move, too. Logan concluded, “I think SVN is a good fit for Geekvolution because the super villain theme fits our comic book/superhero interests and our quirky sensibilities. The folks at the station are easy to work with, they get our content, and allow us to be ourselves. I’m also excited to be on the ground floor of something with a ton of real potential. SVN is doing a lot to help us expand and reinforce our brand, and we hope to do the same for SVN.”

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Happy Birthday and Takei Care! A Birthday Wish to George Takei

by Agent Amanda Grefski (a.k.a. Madame Helleveeg)

Happy Birthday, and Takei Care!

A very happy birthday to one of our favorite original members of the starship Enterprise, George Takei. Today we celebrate your life and work, old friend—and he has been to so many of us in his advocacy for LGBTQ rights and nondiscrimination of all kinds.

A lot of us know Takei as Hikaru Sulu; he was part of a revolutionary cast who broke through social and discriminatory boundaries more swiftly than the Enterprise itself. But Takei hasn’t stopped there! He’s guest starred in popular shows like Heroes, movies like Larry Crowne and groundbreaking musicals like Allegiance. To Be Takei, a documentary on Takei’s life and career premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, and was released theatrically that summer. He hosts Takei’s Take, a YouTube program that discusses pop culture, technology, trends, and current events, plus a tongue and cheek web program, It Takeis Two, about his adventures with his adorable husband, Brad.

But that isn’t even what makes his presence amongst us so dear.

Takei has taken (or should I say “Takei-en”) over social media in such an approachable and palpable way, it truly makes us all feel more than mere Facebook acquaintances, but friends. He is on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a blog called “That Blog is so Takei”—as you can tell, he loves punning on his last name as much as we do! He even has a book about the subject, aptly named, Oh Myyy, after his signature baritone catch phrase.

Unlike fan pages (we all know them), he doesn’t inundate with hard sells for merchandise or generically written posts. We get hysterical memes, questions, puns and all of the “regular” things that we do on social media, but we also get a sincere window into the mind of man himself. A person who isn’t too proud to poke fun at himself, but knows when to take issues seriously. And one issue he takes extremely seriously is nondiscrimination.

Takei is always ready to take a stand when it comes to the marginalized, the sublimated, and the disenfranchised. Takei was one of the Japanese Americans interned in camps during Word War II, and he’s been a vocal champion of the need to educate and remind ourselves about the Japanese Internment. He proudly and unabashedly fights for diversity and the rights of the LGBTQ community, and he does so with the right amount of self-effacing humor and love. This has never been more apparent than on his April 3 appearance on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez. An excerpt from that transcript best describes what he does for the LGBTQ community and all of us, “We continue to move forward. Social change comes in increments. And what we are living through right now is one step toward improving, but incrementally, on what we need to do to have … a loving, a sharing inclusion. And that’s what our society really should be.”

Always articulate, always kind, always possessing such a rich sense of humor (and the puns, oh the wonderful puns!) and always so generous of time and spirit. It’s your birthday, Mr. Takei, but we’re the ones who constantly receive the gift of your presence. Happy 78th, and many more!

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