Andrés – Humble Artist by Day, Super Rock Superstar by Night

Heroes, Villains, and all that Jazz – Andrés

When you think of rock, who comes to mind? When you’re browsing through Spotify, or Apple Music, who comes up in your shuffle rotation? Forget your mainstream artists who release the same music and perform at those annual cringe-fests; you need some flavor in your life. You need a little funk, a little jazz, and a charming rock star to swoon over. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce y’all to Andrés Aparicio.

My first exposure to Andrés began sometime last year, and the more I listened to his music, I could tell that Andrés was gonna be a rad up-and-coming artist. Once I managed to reach out to Andrés, I realized how much of a super down to earth guy he is, and with his sense of taste and style, I knew I’d love to ask him a few questions about his work.

Last year proved to be massively difficult for a lot of people, and it definitely took a toll on musicians who lost world tours, or performances at music festivals. I asked Andrés how last year went for him personally and as an artist. Andrés said, “Honestly, it was a breath of fresh air. I was stoked that I had plenty of time to write a new album!” Writing a new album is impressive, but that isn’t all that Andrés has been up to. Since 2020, Andrés has also managed to put out new original music, new merch (facemasks included), held some socially distanced performances, and even conducted his own Q&A session live on Instagram! Andrés managed to make the most of the year, as the chaotic year was a blessing in disguise in some ways. “To be completely honest, I’m very grateful for the break,” Andrés said. “I just want to use it as a time to write and record a new album and take the time to make new music videos.”

High School – Andrés

When it comes to music videos, Andrés has the most fun with it. A lot of his music videos are references to cool media from pop culture, like where Andrés dresses up as Archie Andrew and brings the whole gang from Riverdale to the movies in his music video for High School. He does another where his friends jam in a car in a That’s 70s Show style of fashion for his Bad Boy music video. His videos are fun, and you can tell the man has fun putting out content like this for his fans, both for the die-hard fans of his music and fans of the shows he dresses up for!

Archie and Fez aside, his alter egos aren’t the only things that make his music stand out. It really means something to me when another Latinx artist manages to delve into the rock music genre, and really rock at it. It’s more than inspiring; it really brings me hope for what music will be like for young kids that come from Latin heritage. I asked Andrés what it was like to sort of create a barrier-less genre and collaborate with former lead singer of the rock band Dance Gavin Dance not once, but twice.

“I just kept working hard at my own music, and eventually I gained the interest of a few fellow peers,” Andrés said. “Ultimately, it’s always been a process of working hard and putting out music that you’re proud of and working hard to promote it via shows, tours, videos, and the internet.”

Bad Boy – Andrés
New 52’s Teen Titans – Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Robin

After getting to listen to more and more of his music, I found myself jamming to his album Heroes, Villains, and all that Jazz the most. I wondered a few things; firstly, how fun would it be to wear a spandex supersuit for an album photoshoot? Secondly, how BIG of a superhero fan is Andrés?

I asked the hard questions; pulled zero punches. I asked what superhero team he’d prefer to have travel alongside him in a tour bus as a security team (hypothetically, you know, post-pandemic). His response?

“Man…Teen Titans all day. But, more importantly…Tim Drake as Red Robin, Cassie as Wonder Girl, and Conner Kent as Superboy. Those Teen Titans.” Andrés is a DC fan! That’s rad! “I’m a huge DC fan. Shit, Red Hood, Starfire, and Arsenal, that would be tight too.”

Hell yeah, it would! I also managed to ask Andrés if there are any upcoming projects or music that he’d be willing to tease. Turns out, he had something! That’s right, an exclusive here at Stars and Monsters! “I plan on releasing a new album this year! The DIY Astronaut!”

There you have it folks! Stay tuned for the new album by Andrés, The DIY Astronaut, and in the meantime, check out his music and merch here.

Love, Addiction, Loss – A Deep Dive into Euphoria’s Special Episode

Alright, folks. It’s here. The post I’ve been dying to write since the start of this blog. Yes, that’s right. It’s a post about HBO’s Euphoria. It’s a fantastic hit drama that debuted last year, and with season two having been written before the pandemic hit, filming the rest of the series proved a little more difficult. The series grew so big that fans have been clamoring for new content nonstop, from sneak peeks to music soundtracks for the show. Thankfully, the show managed to put out a special episode that serves as a sort of epilogue for the first season, while also being a Christmas special. With many fans still reeling from the HBO gods appeasing them, it finally brought an opportunity to discuss the series, and new special episode, as a whole.

For those who aren’t aware, Euphoria is a show starring Zendaya as Rue, someone who struggles with drug addiction, and is in love with a girl named Jules. That being the central narrative, the series focuses on other characters, and the show follows storylines about students in school who struggle with relationships, sexual and queer identities, toxic masculinity and body image as well. While it may feel like a cable network’s mature take on a high school drama like Degrassi, HBO and Sam Levinson never holds back punches. The show is pretty raw. It’s real. In the first episode alone, Zendaya’s character says “I know a lot of you probably hate me right now…If I could be a different person right now, I promise you I would. Not because I want it, but because they do. And therein lies the catch.” She lets us know shit is going to get rough, and by all standards, it does. Without giving too much away of the entirety of the season, it’s worth noting that the show is pretty damn good. Leonardo DiCaprio likes it, too. With that said, go watch the series if you haven’t already, and then come back to read this, because we will be getting into FULL SPOILERS.

Trouble Don’t Last Always

Sobriety, and the Relapse

“The hardest thing about having the disease of addiction, aside from having the disease, is that no one in the world sees it as a disease.”

The episode starts with Zendaya’s Rue and her co-star in the episode, Colman Domingo, as N.A. sponsor Ali. They both are at a diner on Christmas Eve, just eating and chatting, as Rue discusses her newfound balance of her mental and emotional state now that she’s been clean and sober. However, Ali quickly notices strange behavior in Rue, which as it turns out, is because she isn’t sober anymore. After becoming sober for Jules, Rue gets her heartbroken and is abandoned by Jules and relapses. The two discuss the struggle of staying sober after falling back onto drugs. It’s sort of the entire focus of the episode, which bored a portion of viewers who were expecting this episode to have more than just the few characters. At the end of the day, this was not meant to be season two, and this episode was one of the few episodes that managed to actually have Rue gain true help over her addiction, despite how in denial she was at the beginning. The episode is, in its simplest form, an NA meeting and eventually, a full blown therapy session for Rue, and for us as well.

Second Step: “A Power Greater Than Me…”

“You ‘ve got to fall in love with the poetry. Because everything else in life will fail you. Including yourself.”

The episode goes deeper than addiction when Rue begins to admit something to Ali, who we later learn is a converted Muslim. She recounts the steps to achieving sobriety, which starts with putting one’s self first. The second step includes acknowledging a higher power above one’s self as well. Essentially, putting faith in God. For Rue, this proves to be difficult for her to do. It’s more than something like atheism; she has a genuine distrust in the notion of a higher power such as God. Rue recounts when she first lost her faith; it happened when she lost her father to cancer. She scoffs at the belief that everyone’s life has a purpose given by God, and argues that this is false; Rue believes that her father’s purpose in life was to raise her and her little sister. With him having passed, she resents the sentiment of this being a part of “God’s plan”. After all, bad things just happen, don’t they? Rue shuts down any acknowledgement of a power higher than herself, which leaves Ali feeling almost defeated. And God bless Ali, this character, because he really stuck around to let Rue open all wounds to him.

A Revolution: “Our Lives Matter”

“Chinese Muslims are sewing these Kaepernick sneakers for 7 cents an hour, and you’re telling me that my Black ass matters. Give me a fucking break.”

Ali tries to console Rue by reminding her that, with each life having a purpose, and each one destined to die for a “Greater Plan,” there is more to living. He compares this to those who have died for the Civil Rights movement to come to fruition, and how their deaths served such a high purpose. He begins to take a look at how revolutions used to change lives for everyone, and Rue jokingly suggests that she starts her own revolution to give her own life meaning. Ali scoffs and says, “Didn’t you hear? The revolution is already here.” Ali begins to explain how every cause spins out into a whole revolution, where it almost becomes a trendy fad for millennials and gen-z kids, and also for big names and companies as well. Ali makes a really funny point here, while taking a jab at capitalism for being “revolutionary” as a means of being popular. He walks into a Nike shop, seeing a mural on the shoe store’s wall saying “Our Lives Matter,” which pleases him. It makes him not only feel safer, but also loved for once. He sees kids, Black and white alike, taking photos with the mural, and he never questions the disingenuous love for the cause, and then he picks up a pair of Nikes and sees the $149.99 price tag, then says “What happened here? I thought you loved my Black ass.” With this hot take on capitalism, Ali brings the conversation back to the point of the matter, the root of it all. He speaks on what it means to start a revolution, and not a hot new hashtag, but a true revolution for yourself. A revolution in your soul, spiritually, can only happen when you change yourself as your core. It takes knowing who you are, who you want to be, and finding the connections between those two in order to make real progress and change.

“I Miss You”: What to Do About Love?

“Me in 20 Years”

At this moment, Ali steps out of the diner to give Rue a few moments to digest all of the heavy sage-like wisdom, and calls his ex-wife to wish her and his children a Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, Rue receives a text from Jules, the girl who broke her heart. The text reads, “I miss you.” This ends up bringing us back to Rue and Jules relationship, which, as it turns out, was a little different in Rue’s head than we were led to believe (she was high all the time, and probably not the best reliable narrator). We hear about Rue’s desire to fix things with Jules, but with Ali’s advice, she realizes that she will never be able to have a better life for herself if she puts her focus and energy into someone else. At the end of the day, she needs to put herself first for her own well-being, instead of this girl she loves; you cannot make a relationship work without fixing and focusing on yourself.

Forgiveness is the Key to Change – “Beyond Forgivable”

“You think, ‘Why change? I’m just a piece of shit. I better keep going now. What’s the difference?’ without realizing that forgiveness is the key to change.”

In order for Rue to begin to forgive herself for becoming sober again, she needs to learn to forgive herself for past mistakes; as Ali puts it, forgiveness is the key to true change. Rue struggles with this, feeling as though she has done things that are beyond forgivable (which is neat, considering that in the initial draft of the pilot’s script, she admitted to killing an abusive jock). The notion of hitting rock bottom is brought up, and Ali regales Rue in a story about his own abusive father, and how he swore to never become anything like him. Years later, Ali finds himself having struggled with the same abusive relationship with his ex-wife that his father had with his mother. He realized the generational trauma was deep, and he needed to break it. Rue sees that, if Ali is preparing to learn to forgive himself for something so unforgivable, then Rue would have to as well.

Dark Times (Forever)

Then, we hear the truth from Rue as she begins to contemplate whether or not she can forgive herself. She admits something to Ali. She says, “I just…don’t plan on being here that long.”

That is the dark truth. After everything that has happened to Rue, from her father she’s lost, the addiction she’s suffered through, and the heartbreak she’s endured, she has decided that she is not willing to forgive herself or start a spiritual revolution at her core. Instead, she would rather just give up on life altogether. But then Ali, being the tough and supportive mentor that he is, calls her bluff.

“Who do you wanna be when you leave this earth?” he asks. “How do you want your mother and sister to remember you as?”

Rue looks up at Ali with tears welling up in her eyes. “As someone who tried really hard to be someone they couldn’t.”

Faith

We do too.

And at that moment, we realize that Rue doesn’t need to have faith in herself; not yet. As long as she has loved ones who have faith in her…she’ll eventually make it, won’t she?

This episode of Euphoria was not only the best deep take into Rue’s character, but it was also some of the greatest content to be put out by the writers, especially during the pandemic with low budget costs, smaller casts, and a single set piece being used. It served as a great epilogue for the first season, and hopefully the next special episode does just as good of a job in that way.

Check out Euphoria on HBO, or stream it on HBO Max.

this is not a review for this is not a podcast the podcast

Do you listen to podcasts? It’s cool if you do, and even better if you don’t. The internet has been flooded with podcasts whose hosts get into all sorts of conversations. Joe Rogan gets into the controversially bizarre, Ben Shapiro gets into the politically conservative, and Alex Jones used to get into controversially conservative. Meanwhile, there are podcasts like The No Jumper Show for your underground hip-hop fix, Welcome to Night Vale for your horror fiction, and The Ace Watkins Presidential Hour for your political satire with the gamer twist. With each of these podcasts, there are a set of fans who these shows are written for. So what do you recommend to someone who doesn’t really know what sort of podcasts they would like?

it’s a podcast, but, it also really isn’t

Logan Lofgren aimed to make a podcast that was real and raw. He set to make a show that was genuinely funny and entertaining, and he somehow made exactly that, but all without forcing any comedy bit onto us, or struggling to follow a certain narrative or scripted structure. The content he gives you is exactly as it is titled: “this is not a podcast…the podcast.” Lofgren narrates this show in a cheeky Peter Parker kind of way as a look behind the scenes of the podcast’s creation. To put it simply, it’s a very meta podcast. We’re taking a look into this guy’s life as his show is being made in the duration of his recording sessions. You never know what will come up, or where his show will go next. Is it mundane? Well, sure, but life is mundane, isn’t it?

Just rip your eyes away from all of the screens it has a hard time peeling from, calm your mind as it struggles to cease from racing across thousands of thoughts a second, and sit with Logan for an episode of this podcast, which again, isn’t a podcast. Reality can be as simple, or as relatable as his reality is. You invest in what life throws at you, or rather, at Logan. The minor struggles, the confusion, despair, and yes, mild hijinks of creating a successful podcast become as riveting as any fictional show or podcast written. But that’s how Logan Lofgren gets you; the reality of it is…it isn’t fiction. What you hear is all actually happening, and the fourth wall crumbles as you chuckle and sigh in amusement as you and Logan journey with Irish musicians, K-Pop stans, the Chocolate Rain guy, and Keanu Reeves throughout these episodes. (Yes. Keanu Reeves.)

Take the opportunity to take in what there is to offer in this show. It is not a podcast, according to the title, but if it doesn’t become one of your new favorite podcasts to listen to, then Logan Lofgren will personally pay you $1. Loads of people end up loving it though; myself included. Hell, I’m not even much of a podcast guy myself, but I do love bingeing content.

If you’re interested, check out the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to do more to support the podcast, you can head over to the Patreon to learn more. Check out this is not a podcast on Twitter, and let Logan know if you like the show. Or not. Either way, maybe hit the guy up.

Who Murdered Empathy?: Commanders in Crisis #2 Advanced Review

I wanted to thank my readers for your support of Stars and Monsters this year. It is now November, and despite this year being almost over, we still have a long way to go before we see real change in our world. With that said, I wanted to give a big thanks and shoutout to Steve Orlando for allowing me to write an advanced review of issue 2 of his new series from Image Comics, Commanders in Crisis.

Commanders in Crisis perfectly touches on intense themes that are timely during our very real political climate this year. Set in a universe where a diverse set of former U.S. Presidents with superpowers from other realities act as the line between patriotic heroes and vigilante outsiders, this second issue continues to touch on out-of-this-world ideas with powerful and thrilling new turns.

American Individuality – Better Than Our United States?

Mind Muggers: Stealing Our Hope 77 Years from Now

One of the things that makes this topical issue exciting for new readers is its release post-election season this year. The series delves deeper into a version of America where a politician is aiming to pass a bill for all 50 states to secede from the nation and become 50 independent nation states. Dissolving the entirety of the United States in this way is argued to allow citizens to feel safer about being considered “evil” for having other beliefs and disagreeing with others.

What I love about this narrative is it allows us to view our own world’s problems with ideological disagreements and consider whether forcing separation from those opposing of us would bring about the betterment of America. In Commanders in Crisis, the politician enacting this plan feels as though this bill of American Individuality create less opposition. Where we have failed to force Americans to be great by being the same, we will be better off by not being united.

What do you think, folks? Will that save our nation? I suppose you’ll have to pick up this issue to find out more.

God’s Quantum Eye and Rewriting Reality – Beyond Our World

Ridiculously Hot Former Presidents – Variant Cover #2

Okay, now, politics aside, Commanders in Crisis is so gosh friggin’ awesome. My absolute favorite element of this superhero series has been the grand scale of the abilities shown here; the sheer powerhouse of — with her Quantum Eye, and — using her articulate knowledge of vocabulary to rewrite reality itself allows for each issue to feel as climatic as any other comic book event series. The kicker is that Commanders in Crisis doesn’t hold back when it comes to characters utilizing their reality-bending; these characters are the main defense against threats from the entirety of the multiverse and its secrets. There’s no room for error as the stakes are big in this series. A heavy weight burdens our heroes, and seeing how much each one is capable of in these issues is more of a reason to see how the rest of this story unfolds.

Answering to the People, Not a Flag – Heroes or Menaces?

Commanders in Crisis #2 – Out Now at Image Comics!

The Commanders are some of the most interesting and impressive new heroes to strike against evil forces in comic lore in recent time. From cosmic warfare to multiversal secrets, Commanders in Crisis #2 is a must-read that should be on every comic reader’s pull list, both for die-hard comic fans and those hoping to jump into something brand new. Check out the new issue at Image Comics, currently out now!

Top 5 Children’s Fantasy Book Series for Your Kids

Hi folks! Hope everyone is still taking the time to take care of themselves. Things are still really tough, so I figured I’d give an easy breeze of content this week. Let’s leave the logistics of this semester’s academic season behind and just kinda talk about books for your kids and family! Maybe some kids are readers at home, or maybe some students just need a new book to pick up, right? It’s 2020, and I can guarantee you kids are bored of the Harry Potter books and movies, or maybe Percy Jackson wasn’t cool enough. Maybe the pre-teens don’t like all those intense YA books like The Hunger Games, or Divergent, and are sick and tired of The Maze Runner always running the maze! (That’s a joke, that’s not how the book goes.)

Anyway, this year has definitely made me feel old, and has got me reminiscing over some of the books I grew up reading, and it made me want to share my top five children’s sci-fi fantasy books!

NUMBER FIVE – Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant

A Fun Horror Mystical Romp

A tale for those who thrive on mystic endeavors into the secret unknown, Skulduggery Pleasant was one of those classic middle-grade novel series. Focusing on a young girl named Stephanie Edgely and her sudden apprenticeship under the mysterious detective, Skulduggery Pleasant. And yes; he is an ancient magical skeleton. Pretty rad stuff. The first book had humor, dark fantasy elements, and an expansive mystical world built in London that can keep readers shuffling through the dozens of books in this series. A fantastic series to start any young reader on that may love this genre.

NUMBER FOUR – Jeff Smith’s Bone

Fantastic High Fantasy Comic Series

This comic series might actually be the first comic I ever picked up. Forget the superheroes, and forget the manga, because these old school fantasy comics made up the hot wave of middle-grade literature in the late 90’s. Aside from maybe one character smoking a tobacco cigar, this series is a great pickup for a young reader who loves treasure hunting high-fantasy stories about a Chosen one taking on magic evildoers to protect the villagers’ home. A great series for middle-grade readers on that can help them branch out into reading fantasy novels and Western comic books.

NUMBER THREE – Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

This Book Series Has Groovy Historic References

So, for those of you who read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this book series takes the legend of that philosopher, Nicholas Flamel, and brings him to the modern era where he mentors a pair of twins with his wife in their small little bookstore. When other ancient evil immortals track Flamel down, they steal a book that contains most of his hidden secrets, and the twins are then thrown into a race across the country, meeting many magical and historically well-known characters in the series like Joan of Arc, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Mars, the Roman God of War. This series explores fantasy magic, sci-fi mythos and ancient legends that make Harry Potter seem like a snore fest. Highly recommend this series for any fantasy lovers and readers who love history.

NUMBER TWO – Z Brewer’s The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Perfect Teen Angst and Drama

This series is a classic. Yes, it is a teen vampire book series, but it stands out from the other cheesy vampire romances; The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd has humor, angst, and intense drama that kept me as a reader wanting more and more. The lore of vampirism, and even being half-vampire (which is interpreted as a culture in a very neat way) doesn’t feel dramatized or even forced in this series. Vlad’s story is just the story of a young teenager struggling to get by in a really difficult life, given his circumstances; between murderous teachers and students, to vampire hunters, and the general anxieties and depressions behind being an orphaned kid in a small town. It became a bit of a comfort series to read for me as a young kid, if I’m being honest. I feel as though other kids might enjoy this series as well, and would definitely recommend this to others as well.

NUMBER ONE – M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places

“The Game of Sunken Places” by M.T. Anderson

M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places was an amazing children’s fantasy novel because of the sheer imagination and concept behind it. It’s like Jumanji, but with three times the mysteries and plot twists, with dangers and terror that made this fantasy sci-fi book series a wildly underrated top tier series. With a game that two boys come across during a vacation trip, they discover that the rules of the game aren’t so clear after all, and if they don’t work together, then they may not make it out alive. M.T. Anderson deserves more praise for this series than he’s ever gotten, and it stays firmly on top of this list of fantasy children’s book series.


And there you have it. Some great new sci-fi fantasy children’s books to pick up (for you or your kids) and not a moment too soon either, which each of these carrying enough spooky vibes to make this fall a great reading season! Thanks for sticking around, folks. Stay safe, and stay lovely ✨

Protecting the Multiverse Head First: Commanders in Crisis #1 Advanced Review

From Midnighter and Apollo to Wonder Woman, Steve Orlando’s upcoming new comic book series is one that pushes the boundaries of superhero stories in a fresh and exciting new way. From vampires to psychic thieves, this book throws creative new foes at this brand new superhero team. Do your favorite superheroes fight universe-ending threats during those big annual crossover events? The Crisis Command does that for breakfast.

Image’s Commanders in Crisis, written by Orlando and art by Davide Tinto, is a story that takes the expansive scale that traditional superhero comics slowly build towards, and give it all to you in Issue #1. As the mantra goes in Dan Didio’s introduction for this book, “Worlds Live, Worlds Die, and nothing will ever be the same.” Cosmic destruction is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this ensemble of heroes, and Orlando manages to pace this book perfectly, balancing the rad action sequences with moments for each original superhero character to shine on their own.

This series debuts some of the coolest superheroes in this new epic saga. The Commanders, each with powers as diverse as the characters themselves, make up a united front that defends the world from reality-altering time travelers and blood sucking thieves. With the group’s collectively grandeur abilities like rewriting timelines and seeing the future to x-ray visions and super-strength, the Crisis Commanders are nothing short of powerhouses and strong leaders of their own worlds. It’s really fun to see the big-time heroes teaming up so early on in this big-stakes storyline. We get RIGHT to the good stuff in Commanders in Crisis.

Representation Matters

When it comes to our heroes, it’s the diversity aspect of it that sold me. Each lead is a character that comes from some marginalized community; Through representation of queer identities to BIPOC, this book becomes a lot more enjoyable for a reader like myself, because I see not just one character, but a GROUP of characters that all remind me of, well, me. As a biracial bisexual, that’s hard to say. Big props need to go to Tinto for not only helping bring Orlando’s vision to fruition, but also making everyone just so pretty. The character designs are also really cool, from Prizefighter’s stunning champion gear to Seer’s ethereal look. The art on these pages alone is enchanting enough to keep you hooked into the Commanders’ journey in this comic book.

C.I.C. #2 – Who’s Killing Reality?

Get ready for this series, folks. It’s the next big thing, but even bigger. The sheer scale of this book’s main conflict will surely excite new readers, and to back that up with an original team as fresh and unique as the Commanders, it’s gotta be the next thing you pick up. If you’re interested in getting your copy of Commanders in Crisis before the Oct. 14th launch, you may check out the order form below. Bring it to your local area comic book shop before the deadline on Sept. 21st to reserve your copy!

Scissor Seven: High Action, Mellow Vibes

Hi, folks! I’m back, after a long week and an even longer Wednesday. After the blog was updated late last week, I had hoped to get back on track with uploading weekly every Wednesday. That being said, I officially have been brought back into my day job and am back as a full time employee, er, essential worker, whatever you’d like to call it. With that, my blog’s weekly schedule with be a little less consistent, but ideally will still be occurring weekly. I have more of a fluff piece over a fluffy animated series. This one is a neat little Mandarin anime, a Netflix Original titled Scissor Seven.

Scissor Seven – A Hardcore Slice of Life Shonen

Mild Spoilers Ahead!

I’m sure at least one of my readers is going to ask themselves “Gee, I wonder where this guy found this obscure anime?” and to be quite honest, there’s always this innate urge to delve into something obscure. For some, that may be Neon Genesis: Evangelion, or maybe it’s Cowboy Bepop, or even the wickedly metal and weird anime series Devilman. Today, after it’s remarkably well received second season debuted, I decided to shed some light on the beautiful obscurity that is Scissor Seven. It follows the lead, Seven, as he makes his way as a skilled barber and aspiring assassin, with his telekinetically controlled pair of scissors, as he pairs up with Da Bao (Seven’s mentor, also is a chicken) and other wacky characters, ranging from quirky Chicken Island locals to dangerously armed foes and cyborg scientists. Despite the action set pieces and epic clashes executed in each short episode, the series also delivers lighthearted humor and witty casual storytelling.

A Peek at the Comfort Show

On paper, Scissor Seven may not make its targeted audience very clear to most viewers, but that’s the beauty of the series; it’ll draw you back in time after time with a laid-back narrative and goofy plot points, but the fun kind! It’s not like the show is comprised of filler or anything, because the stakes never arise from the high tense action sequences. No, no, that’s the misconception of this slice of life animated series. No, the scenes with the most impact are usually the quieter moments, the calmness and the relaxing aspect that comes from a series that pokes fun of itself, while also creating heartwarming character development. It comes from moments like Seven using his expertise in cutting hair and assassinations to cut a young bride’s hair on her wedding day, or turning down the contract to kill a young girl, whose solution to her terminal illness was to hire a killer to put her out of her own misery. Little things like this. It really tugs at your heartstrings in the best way possible.

A Series that Has Fun With Its Action

Some of the best action sequences are the ones where the animation artists have the most fun with it. You can see the passion put into a project like this anime, and it definitely shows from the immense creativity put into shots, like the one above. A duel in which Seven utilizes a friend/rival of sorts to take on an enemy in classic Street Fighter style art, or a guitar playing dog named Mad Bark using rock as a form of fighting, are just a few of the awesome creative directions that this series has taken to make the “Shonen” aspect of the series some of the best content I’ve seen in a really long time.

An Endearing Presentation of Art

This show has the prettiest presentation of artsy shots like this one up above, and even better music, namely Mad Bark’s romantic rock ballad that he sings to his feline love interest, and the intro/outro music themes. After having binged the entire first season, you can see how the team behind the series can manage to create such gorgeous set pieces and wonderful music without the largest budget in the world. This ain’t no Naruto or My Hero Academia, but it’s a darn good series that can rival those shows by its execution in art alone.

Action as Pretty as its Designs

Now, with the “slice of life” aspect covered, let’s talk about the action that satiates my hunger for stone-cold anime fights. Again, this isn’t a typical Shonen written by a big budget studio. That being said, the animation team does not hold back when creating action sequences to remind you of why you stuck around in the first place. The action is seamless, the music is always perfectly matched with the stunt choreography, and the variety of characters and character designs allow for the writers to utilize consistently fresh action after every 12 minute episode. Between each type of fighter that is introduced in the series, there is at least enough character development hold up at least four seasons of this action anime, with the slice of life aspect drizzled all over, and to be quite honest, I hope this series continues with the most success. Give it a peek if you’re able to on Netflix, because if this show didn’t already cross your radar at some point this year, it definitely needs to be.

Scissor Seven: Season 2 Now Streaming

Hope y’all have been doing alright, as well. Times are really weird right now and we’re all doing what we can do v i b e 💫 and decompress to relax. If any of y’all are looking for a good Twitch stream to check out some chill vibes and fresh gameplay of things like Fortnite, y’all gotta check out my boy at twitch.tv/drippyxthree. I also have a new song out, the first time I’ve done any music in 2020! It’s a new wave, folks, and it’s always good to mellow out the best y’all can. Stay safe, and stay toasty, y’all 🤙🏽

Harley Quinn: Chaotic S-Tier Heroine

Hi there, folks. I’ve got another one for you, and this one is all of the fanboys. That’s right; I’m calling on all DC comic, movie, and television fans, because I’m about to gush about the DC comics breakout star, Harley Quinn. Whether you’re familiar or not, Harley Quinn was famously known for her debut in Batman: the Animated Series, where she started off as the psychiatrist-turned-villain who teamed up with Joker who commit crime in Gotham, yada yada yada. Since then, the character has evolved beyond that, by standing out as own character outside of that shadow, and became one of the most fun and bad ass characters since Deadpool (a shout-out for any Marvel fans).

The character has been sweeping her way across all DC content this past year. She debuted in mainstream media and theaters this year with Margot Robbie as the titular character in Cathy Yan’s film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (don’t worry about the really long name they gave it at first). Harley Quinn also stars in the self-titled animated series that launched on the DC Universe streaming service. Both of which were so successful, that Warner Bros. already green lit a sequel for the film, and the animated series received a second season only a month or two after the first season aired. Harley Quinn’s animated series is already being brought to the Syfy network, and the film has already been released for video on demand, and both were highly praised by critics and fans. If we’re being quite honest, the only people who didn’t enjoy either iterations are the fans who view Harley Quinn’s character arc as SJW propaganda. That being said, I am not here to discuss that flawed logic, because even from an objective standpoint, Harley Quinn, film or television iteration, is a character that kicks ass in every aspect.

Many Sides to Harleen Quinzel

In the 2020 film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, we see Harley Quinn at a very interesting point in her character’s development. Margot Robbie plays the character in a point in her life in which she has left her psychology practice, became a part of Batman’s rogue gallery alongside Joker, was placed in a government sanctioned task force for expendable criminals, and finally gained her freedom in all sense of the word. As she descended into a downward spiral of insanity, the Joker took advantage of her devotion and love for him (granted, a delusional love, maybe even a distortion of Stockholm syndrome) and abused her physically, emotionally, and mentally, all for the sake of having another clown-themed lackey by his side. Even in the animated series that ran during the 90’s, we see examples of that abuse, despite the context shifted towards a younger audience; the abuse is apparent. The 2020 film shows the long-term effects of that abuse, after she finally breaks up with the Joker and embarks on her own solo journey.

Her True Origin Was Never at Ace Chemicals

In this live action iteration, she begins to learn what it’s like to step out of one’s shadow, and discover her own potential, from picking up roller-derby, getting her own cozy apartment in Chinatown, and exorcising her inner demons and tackling her trauma head-first by blowing up Ace Chemicals, where her ex bathed her in the acid that made them the way they are today. You know, typical post-breakup stuff. Of course, the film follows some other story threads, introduces the characters that would soon form the female-heroine group known as the Birds of Prey, and pits Harley against the infamous Black Mask (played by Ewan McGregor, for any Star Wars prequel trilogy fans). This film showcases exactly why Harley deserves to stand out on her own, way beyond being Joker’s sidekick, and way beyond being a part of the Suicide Squad. Hell, she received her own comic book series at DC more than a handful of times. She not only single handedly unites a cop, an assassin, a meta-human enforcer, and a thief together as a team in the film, but she also takes down the most terrifying and unhinged crime boss. Harley Quinn is a character whose origin was never based on the acid bath, or even her meeting, treating, and falling in love with Joker; her origin was always her earning her freedom. From Joker, from the law, from the crime world, and from the rest of the misogynist men who claim to own her.

“Because I’m Harley F*ckin’ Quinn!”

A true queen in every right. Margot Robbie reminded me why a character as chaotic and daring as Harley Quinn always deserved more exposure. Thankfully, after the success of her role in the movie industry, DC decided to push forward with an animated iteration of Harley Quinn in her own series on the DC Universe streaming service. With the humor and fourth wall breaks that make any Rick and Morty fan cackle in laughter, this version of the character not only highlights the character’s best traits, but justifies why she should’ve had her own series long ago.

Heads Up, Chaotic Clown Babe Comin’ Your Way!

This animated series takes a vastly similar approach when it comes to developing Harley’s character. It starts her off as Joker’s “partner” (I use that term lightly, seeing as they were never equals), committing crimes and fighting Batman in the name of love for Joker, only to find herself locked up in prison for a year, awaiting her clown prince’s rescue, which never happens. Instead, her best friend and one of Gotham City’s Sirens, Poison Ivy, breaks Harley out of jail. However, with any person in any toxic relationship, Harley goes right back to joker, to find herself making the same mistake she’s made over and over. After all, isn’t insanity just repeating the same thing, expecting a different end result each time? I’m sure Harley could tell you, since she’s got a degree in psychology anyway.

“Mistakes Were Made, but We Love You Anyway.”

Despite all of that, she eventually learns the same lesson that Margot Robbie’s Harley learns, in that with self-actualization of her own self-worth and potential, she can become her own top-tier villain in the DC Universe (for evidence, check out Sam Humphries Harley Quinn #45 from 2018, where she takes on Darkseid, the literal DC version of Marvel’s Thanos). She decides to break up with the Joker in an appropriate slaughtering of his clown goons, and teams up with her closest ally Poison Ivy, alongside Clayface, King Shark, and other goofball DC rogues. She grows, she evolves, and she continuously kicks ass in the show, embarks on the craziest set of journeys (more than was possible in the realistically grounded Birds of Prey film), and manages to earn her own freedom and respect as her own villain, or even anti-hero, the same way Robbie’s portrayal did. With the same support that the live action iteration found strength in allies and friends, the animated series shows Harley at her strongest when she has people she loves, and who love her too, backing her up.

This is What We Call “Growth.

So for anyone who believes Harley Quinn is just a character pushing some sort of feminist agenda, or can’t stand the sight of a Harley Quinn that isn’t sexualized by James Gunn or something, they are wildly misguided, and quite frankly, missing out on a hell of a fun time. Cathy Yan’s Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey shows the character’s independence from the Joker, and from outdated source material, to bring a fierce and gratuitously violent heroine to the big screens and mainstream media, for fans of action movies, comic films, or maybe just really tough and strong women. In the same way, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn series shows us a similar development of her character’s arc, while also providing genuine laughter and humor, proving that raunchy and adult humor is just as good, if not better, than other adult animated shows. Both at least deserve to be on your radar. I said 2020 would be an artistic renaissance, and this is just one of many examples of that truth.

Share This If You Stan Bisexual Villains, because I know I Do!

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, folks. Hope y’all enjoyed this piece. If anyone would like to spread some love to other artists and creators, I encourage y’all to check out a good from of mine who is making her own clothing, done entirely with crochet! Check out @beas_artesania on Instagram. Products are being hand-crafted as we speak, so if you’re interested, place your orders soon! If you’re in the Texas area, and you’re having your seasonal withdrawals from not seeing the Gypsy Dance Theater girls belly dance over at the Texas Renaissance Festival, then feel free to follow those lovely ladies on Instagram as well, over at @gypsydancetheatre. And, lastly, if you’d like to support your fellow freelance writer, and are unsure how to go about that, then I’d like to humbly welcome donations over at PayPal, which aren’t required whatsoever, but would drastically help improve the quality of the content I’m working to start up and create, from digital comics to an animated series, and of course, help keep this blog alive. Thanks again, readers. Much love comin’ your way. ✨🙏🏽💫

Vicious Rivals and Endless Dreams: A Look at Potential

Happy Wednesday, folks! I hope everyone is enjoying their time right now, making good use of their energy and efforts these days. May has just started, and Mother’s Day is around the corner, and with that, I hope everyone is able to reach out to a loved one, where ever they may be. Nobody is ever completely out of reach, if we reach out just a little. With a few moments out of our day to check up on friends and family costs nothing, and it’s important to open up just a little bit more. That’s my message to my readers this week. If we just open up our hearts a little bit more, I promise, we’ll all be that much more happier.

Now, with the sappy stuff out of the way, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some creative works that I found myself completely mesmerized by with this week. Granted, one of these is a novel that I had already read, but just came across when my sister was cleaning out her room. It’s an amazing piece of science fiction in the YA genre of literature, and dare I say might be the juiciest and sexiest crime thriller around as well. I pitched it to my sister as “Professor X vs. Magneto” meets Grey’s Anatomy, but, she’s busy watching Money Heist on Netflix. For those of you who know exactly what book I’m talking about, I just want to thank y’all for putting me onto this series. I love y’all!

The book is Vicious by V.E. Schwab, first of her Villains series and predecessor of Vengeful. It’s so lovely how dark this tale is, while taking readers on a suspenseful journey across a gritty comic-book-styled world. The story follows Victor Vale and Eli Ever, two college roommates and medical students who explore the possibility of near-death experiences being the catalyst that can awaken superhuman gifts within them. As the two embark on this journey as academic rivals, they become obsessed with the results, leading to a battle between the two brilliant minds as they use their newfound abilities to destroy one another as arch-nemeses.

If anybody has read this book, then you know why it’s such a highly recommended novel. Along with V.E. Schwab’s wonderful writing style, development of the characters in her stories, and the sheer scope of the superhero dynamics she explores in the series, it’s also just a hell of a great time for any fan of revenge thrillers. 10/10 coming from me, folks! And if you aren’t interested, then we can at lest admire these gorgeous covers.

I, personally, was drawn into the series by the premise of unlocking newfound abilities through pushing one’s self to the brink of death, and to be brought back with a new breath of life. Vicious doesn’t dwell heavily on the sci-fi aspect of the abilities by allowing Victor and Eli’s medical student backstory to help ground the concept in a realistic scenario. That being said, I found the unique look at a human’s untapped potential to become superhuman in Vicious vastly more fascinating than, say, a radioactive spider, or “You’re a lab experiment, Rogers; everything special about you came out of a bottle.” (Yes, I’m calling Marvel out, let the Disney overlords take me away.) There’s something truly extraordinary about the possibility that, in order to become the more capable version of ourselves, all we need to do is dare to explore scientific experimentation in a trial and error fashion, while also gambling one’s own life. That’s what the two characters, Victor and Eli, end up doing, but with completely diametrically opposing mindsets and viewpoints. At the start of the novel, Victor is a lonely cynical atheist, whose trust issues stem back to his absent parents, while Eli is a loving and passionate young man, whose big heart is a result of his devotion to a righteous God. As the two’s philosophies and beliefs contradict one another, they test the theory with less interest in the ramifications or consequences of these tests, but rather out of pure jealousy and rivalry. Victor believes he can accomplish this by succumbing to a messy overdose, while Eli believes he can create a controlled environment in order to slow his heart rate to the point of nearly flat-lining. As the experiments continue, with success, more and more chaos ensues, and we see what it’s like when two people attempt to play God with their lives and those around them.

Untapped potential and superhuman abilities? Perhaps these two could’ve, I dunno, stayed in school and cured cancer or something. They were both arguably smart enough to become amazing men, and instead they just…well, I suppose you’d have to read the book yourself to find out what happens to these two young men.

On another note, I wanted to continue the conversation about untapped potential with another creative project I came across. This one also came about when my sister jokingly asked me “Why don’t you get into computer science? Make a video game or something.” Now, if anybody knows me, they know I absolutely abhor math and science form a professional standpoint. I say this fully aware that I just went on and on about a book involving medical students, but, you will never catch me learning how to code in Python or anything like that. However, my sister did spark an idea in me that led me to a pretty worthwhile investment (if you can even call it that; I spent maybe 20 bucks on this only.) Anyway, check out Dreams, a video game that is essentially a game creator system published by Sony, from the creative minds behind Little Big Planet.

It’s SO heckin’ cute!

It’s a weird concept to explain on paper (or screen?) but basically, the game allows you to utilize mechanics found in video game development engines to create your own video game projects! In Dreams, tutorials on the development of levels, characters, and stages are optional, as you are also given free range to test out and play other creations made by other users. Whether it’s a remake of Super Mario 64 in the Sony game engine, a test run of an original video game character’s animations, or a completely rendered cinematic of the Batman: The Animated Series intro. There are also music-based projects, like synth machines and piano rolls, and visual environments used for background noise and concentration, like study beats! There’s even some weird remakes of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, but that’s for the meme-loving gamer.

So Much Power and Potential In Dreams

Speaking of gamers, if anybody is looking for any good light-hearted satirical humor tailored to gamers AND politics, check out Ace Watkins’s podcast, The Ace Watkins Presidential Hour. Their latest episode features Ace Watkins and his team as they discuss Hillary Clinton’s endorsement of Joe Biden, weigh the pros and cons of drinking bleach, and talk through what grinds their Metal Gears. So, ya know, just another President candidate, spittin’ stuff that’s quite normal in comparison to, ya know, those in Office.

I do want to give a big thanks to my sister who, without her finding my copy of Vicious and her inspiring me to try out Dreams, I wouldn’t have had anything to discuss today! So, for that, I’m going to shout her out, my immensely supportive pain in my ass sister. Love ya. Stay safe, folks.

Another “May the Fourth Be With You” Post

Hello, America! Trying out new greetings during this time, and I admittedly also have reruns of the Bernie Mac show on in the background, so I choose to believe my intro is just me channeling the Return of the Mac (cue comedy rim-shot! *ba-dum-tst*🥴). Today also marks the first day of me officially launching this blog post on my site as a freelancer! So, we’re off to a great start this month as well. Taxes got filed, papers got processed, and the oil in the weird little machine mandating both resistance and compliance is, ya know, running. But it’s time we take another break from the heaviness and denseness, America, because today is a holiday. It’s Star Wars Day!

That’s right, folks, this is for all of the Jedi Padawans, Jedi Masters, or even the few Sith Lords who are “just misunderstood” (looking at y’all, Reylo shippers 🙄). Today, we are observing the impact of a franchise that started off as a sci-fi flick that even George Lucas himself expected to fail. Star Wars, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and the late Carrie Fisher, was meant to be a one and done deal for Lucas, but fans were enthralled by world that had been built, the conflict that had been struck, and the battles won by the mystic monk-like space wizards known as the Jedi.

Now, I’m an avid sci-fi fan and casual Star Wars fan. I loved the original trilogy, mildly enjoyed the prequel trilogy, and I genuinely liked the sequel trilogy up until everyone became divided over the last film in the saga. At that point, I just didn’t bother watching it, and I had already been spoiled on the ending, and I truly am just impartial to it. In the words of the Han Solo himself-

May the Fourth Be With You, from Harrison Ford and I.

That being said, there is something I would love to highlight and talk about today, on this gloriously wonderful Star Wars Day. Whether or not you were a fan of the films, the extended universe created in novels and comics, or the amazing television shows, one thing fans could agree on is that Star Wars was always strongest when its driving force was family. Luke Skywalker was only able to become a fully powered Jedi, and go on the galactic journey that he did because of his friends and family. They were his support system, so to speak. Han was the strong, yet cynical friend who believed in Luke more than the Force itself. Leia was, well, his long-lost sister who’s Force-sensitivity helped guide the Rebels and the Resistance in the war against the Dark Side. Then you’ve got RD-D2 and C-3PO. They’re just two little robots that, in my head-canon, are in romantic relationship. Star Wars is a love story between these two droids and nobody can tell me otherwise.

Anyway, I digress; Star Wars is a series centered around families that support each other, and as the story branches out, we see how love and kindness, or rather lack of it, can shift an entire dynamic between a mentor and his pupil, like Obi-Wan and Anakin. All Little Ani needed was to practice more unconditional love, and he wouldn’t have become the space nazi dark lord that he was, right? Or perhaps we see it in the lack of compassion that Anakin’s son, Luke, showed for Ben Solo, aka, Kylo Ren of the Knights of Ren and the space neo-nazi dark lord. As the story shows the heroes prevailing on the side of the Jedi and the Force, those who were corrupted by greed, anger, and power, were victims of inherited trauma, essentially. Anakin is shown rejecting unconditional love and kindness in his hear, but finally opens his heart to compassion when he dies in the arms of his son. Fast forward chronologically in the Skywalker Saga, and that very same son, Luke, is now rejecting unconditional love and kindness to Anakin’s grandson, Kylo, who essentially channels the same anger and thirst for power that his grandfather fell victim to. Luke doesn’t find that unconditional love until he meets Rey, the new hero in this story. She also ends up saving Kylo’s soul the same way Luke did for his father, sort of breaking a chain or a cycle in the Skywalker lineage.

But you already knew all of that, didn’t you? Yeah, unless you’re a nerd like me, then this might’ve been a hell of a lot to digest. Fear not though, because this May the 4th can still teach everyone one thing; use the Force! Channel the Force, and reject anger, and greed, and power. Instead, open your heart up to love the same way Jedi open their heart up to the Force, and perhaps then you will find your support system as well.

The Sickest Fight in the Entire Saga. Period.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for y’all today, folks. I’m using the theme of family to work on my upcoming story, The Dark Within Us, and in the meantime, I hope everybody enjoys whatever Star Wars fun y’all are having today. May the Fourth Be With You! 💫 Be safe, and stay lovely, folks. Until next time. Peace.✌🏽