Second Chances and Social Callers – Commanders in Crisis #3 Review

Steve Orlando’s Commanders in Crisis #3 continues to bring us more mystery, sci-fi villainy, and wildly attractive superheroes in this addition to the series. While the action does die down a little bit more in this series, we’re finally given a few more answers about the murder of Empathy, its effects to our heroes on a cosmic level, and who exactly took the hit when the concept of Empathy was killed. Check out the issue first if you haven’t already, and be prepared for MILD SPOILERS.

Pretty Boys Cry Too

The first two issues of Commanders in Crisis centered on our heroes, the Crisis Command, trying to figure out the culprit behind the conceptual death of Empathy. The death, however, left behind the body of a man with no name or identity upon his discovery, and a means of murder that resembled that of a vampire attack. The questions were all we had for a while; “Who is this John Doe?” “Who could possibly do something as grandeur as killing all of Empathy?” and obviously, “Was it…vampires?”

Finally, issue #3 answers one of these questions. We find out that the mysteriously dead John Doe was actually one of our Commanders’ former lovers in “another world”- or at least a parallel one. We find out that Nina, also known as Frontier, had either been with this man or a version of this man, which at this point in the series, is fair game. The outcome and revelations will still be surprising, but in a multiverse-jumping story such as this, it definitely lines up. One of the bigger ideas that is mentioned in their scenes is the idea of second chances; what would you do if you were given another opportunity to live life, knowing you had the limited amount of time left in your world? What would you do if you knew you would die tomorrow? How would you spend the rest of your life? This issue touches on existentialism, and it works with Nina sort of grounding the John Doe as her anchor, along with the flashes of Nina’s past with him. With Nina’s relationship with this former living man teased, we also get a very brief glimpse at her connection to a certain corrupt politician in DC, who may or may not be wielding more pull than just scandalous knowledge and deceitful leverage.

My biggest eyebrow-raising awe moment was definitely at the introduction to a new villain, the Social Callers. It is phone-addiction made deadly. The notifications start off as a warning to his presence, which gradually become more and more frequent. They escalate into text messages, and then phone calls, and pretty soon he shows up.

His victims are all found dead and clutching to their cell phone devices, as Prizefighter puts it, “like they’re their wounded cubs.” If that doesn’t speak some level of volumes to you, the social commentary might have slipped over your head. This series doesn’t hold back punches with its sense of meta-ness and self awareness, and makes the effort to show and reveal things about us as people, as a collective society, and as an American country, and when the mirror is raised up to our faces in this book, you really can’t help but admire the poetry.

Canadian Tux Variant Cover? YES PLEASE.

Without giving too much away, please do yourself a favor this holiday season, and get Commanders in Crisis #3 OUT NOW from Image Comics and Arancia Studio! Between the Grant Morrison inspired world, and Davide Tinto‘s art popping off with lightning on the page, this series is one you don’t want to miss out on.

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!

Jessa Furches: A Rising Star Among Us

I want to thank all of my readers who have supported Stars and Monsters and our blog site this far into the year. It began as a small endeavor to make use of a writer’s free time, and it became something more. Between discussions about books and comics to interviews with inspirational connections I’ve made, I knew there was nowhere else to go but up from here. Thankfully, that’s where we are headed now, thanks to my guest on this week’s blog post.

This week, I had the privilege of being able to interview someone very special; someone who has not only garnered so much internet fame and success in the music industry as an independent artist, but has also become an inspiration by fighting through dark battles, slandered reputations, and a chronic illness that has made living in a post-pandemic world a lot harder for her this year in 2020. Her name is Jessa Furches, of the singing duo, the Furches Twins.

Jessa Furches: A Star

Jessa and Gwynne, the Furches Twins

From Greensboro, North Carolina, Jessa and her twin sister Gwynne were both thrust into stardom and music at such a young age. When they were both only four years old, the Furches twins were brought into community theatre year after year, partaking in loads of different productions.

“The Wizard of Oz and the Music Man were always my favorite movies,” Jessa said, “and after I learned how to sing songs from the Wizard of Oz, we auditioned in community theatre productions for six years, and we did it until we were twelve years old.” They did Wizard of Oz every year, with Gwynne and Jessa both given identical roles as the Gatekeeper, having the two girls stand and walk side by side in unison. Audiences loved the twist in the character, and from there, the twins knew music was their calling.

Following those years, Jessa and her sister became victims of severely cruel bullying in middle school and high school. Between being made fun of for her body image, being called flat chested, or flat-assed, and being called too skinny, or ugly, nothing hurt Jessa more than being ridiculed and made fun of for her love of Michael Jackson. “People were not only mean to me, they were nasty,” Jessa described. “Around 2010, I had no group of friends to fit in with. The only ‘friends’ I had, told me I needed to eat cheeseburgers…they were the only friends I had because nobody else gave me a chance, and the ones we had bullied us.” There was little to no help given to the twins. Even when Jessa and her sister had to switch schools in the 8th grade in hopes of ending the bullying and harassment, nothing had changed. It got severely worse; it got so bad that Jessa and Gwynne had to fake an entire fight with each other during gym glass so they would be suspended and leave school. It was what they needed to do to get out of the awful environment. “One of the preppy, popular students encouraged the other students to yell and shout nasty, incestuous remarks about us, about my sexuality, and about my issues with my own self-harm. They’d target me when I was alone, asking ‘What do you like to do, cut yourself?'” This was something Jessa struggled with for the entirety of her teen years, up until she was 18 years old. By the time high school came around, kids were only more cruel.

One of the things that got Jessa through the harsh mean girls and hating trolls of those adolescent years was the fact that her twin sister, Gwynne, was by her side. “I vividly remember a guy who’d bully us in a class with Gwynne and I, where him and three other guys got the whole class to say ‘You don’t belong here! You need to go back to where you came from!’ And Gwynne and I just sat next to each other. Having each other made it easier for sure.” The bond that Jessa and Gwynne share, not only as twins, but as friends, is something that has saved these twins time and time again. Seeing their love and loyalty to one another brought tears to my eyes as we discussed Jessa’s childhood growing up.

Jessa and I went on to talk about what motivated and inspired her. “I adored Michael Jackson’s music,” Jessa said. “See, when I was ten, my dad left us. It was a huge blessing in disguise, to not have him around. He left a woman who loved him for 14 years and her two chronically-ill children, so I’d be inclined to agree as well. Jessa went on, explaining how her role model shifted when Michael Jackson’s Thriller came on the radio one night. “My mom was all like, ‘Listen to this! He is a legend!'” Jessa’s mother began to share all of his different albums with her and Gwynne, and played all of his music videos for them. Michael Jackson and everything he was became a safe haven for Jessa. “I’d cry by his posters, wondering why he’d gone, and my mother would hold me and, with tears in her eyes, she’d say ‘Listen to Michael; Keep the faith.'” He was always meant to be placed in her path, and it was Jessa’s single mother who gave her someone great to look up to.

Michael continues to be one of Jessa’s biggest influences in her music career. From when she was just starting out in choir, taking after Jackson himself to not sight-read sheet music, to drawing vocal influences in her music and covers of pop songs and classic ballads, her stylistic voice is what got Jessa and her sister the internet fame and stardom that launched their music career. They started uploading to YouTube, creating singing videos, and gained a following. By 2015, the Furches Twins had 100k subscribers on YouTube channel, and a combined Instagram follower count of over 900,000 followers. The two had garnered so much recognition from their music covers on social media, the twins were even able to sign with a record label in North Carolina called Othaz Records. Since then, Jessa has managed to begin writing and creating her own original music as a solo unsigned music artist, with new music available on YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify.

Gwynne Furches – My Other Half

Jessa, Gwynne, and their Mother

When Jessa told me about her music endeavors as a solo artist, I asked about her sister, Gwynne. After a traumatic vehicular car accident that cost someone their life last year, Gwynne was charged with a felony, and it shook the Furches family in ways that are almost beyond words. When asked about the night Jessa got the news of the incident, she said, “I didn’t know what was going on. My girlfriend at the time woke me up, because I was asleep. I was confused, and went to the hospital and received the tragic news.” As we talked, I realized we were dredging up memories that were best left alone, but Jessa faced this heartbreaking event in her life, and she reaffirmed that she was willing to confront this with me during the interview. She asked me to include the following statement from her:

“I, myself, and Gwynne as well, know what she has done, and she made a horrible mistake, but it was an accident. She’s willing to do whatever she has to do, however amount of times, for the family of who was hurt. I support my sister, but I do not support her actions on that night.”

With that, I ask my readers to be kind, considerate, and continue to help each other move passed horrible traumas, regardless of what they may be. As I told Jessa, 2020 has been a year that’s required so much reevaluation and insight into ourselves, that even facing the most discomforting moments are meant to better us and, eventually, others around us.

Admittedly, I shed a few tears as Jessa and I talked about her sister. As someone who has an older sister, I dread the possibility of losing her. With Jessa’s sister also being her twin, I wondered if, despite everything, she still feels as close to her sister as before. “I will always feel close to her,” she said, “no matter where she’s at. She is my other half. I cannot think of one moment when my world fell apart…other than that horrible tragedy that could have been prevented.”

With all of these sudden changes in Jessa’s life, between what changed for her personally, and the sudden changes that took place in our world this year, 2020 was all around a drastic shift in perspective and awareness. Jessa mentioned her desire to go and help make a difference with recent protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, to the racial conflicts and broken tension in the nation, and the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned, she and her sister have chronic illnesses. “With cystic fibrosis, being immunocompromised makes things difficult for me,” she mentioned, “it’s hard to go to the grocery store, or go to work, and it’s been even harder because of the conflicts going on right now. I wish I could go and protest so much. I asked about her condition, and whether the pandemic has caused any issues in getting treatment. Thankfully, Jessa is still able to treat her cystic fibrosis twice a day, for twenty minutes a day. Because of her condition, however, leaving her home becomes quite difficult. Thankfully, her mother has been able to remind her to continue to move forward day in and day out. “‘You’ve got to keep going’ she’d always say. It’s why I won’t give up on this; the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight against COVID-19, the bullying and conflicts. It’s why I’ve continued to make music.”

One of Us

Sweet Sisters

So much lies within Jessa Furches. Between her passions and love that she brings into the world, and her adoration of legends like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Marilynn Monroe, she continues to forge success triumphantly. “Marilynn Monroe was trying to be taken seriously as an actress instead of a sex symbol. I myself want to be taken seriously as a singer, and not just a sex symbol. In that regard, I see myself in her, but I began to make money selling my photos of myself and other NSFW content.” In a post-pandemic world, jobs have become more difficult to come by, and whether it’s the new gig-economy that saves our asses, or the success of platforms like OnlyFans, people need lucrative ways to maintain sustainable income. For Jessa, it was more about empowerment for herself more than anything else. “Of course it’s empowering. It’s less about the money, but it has been good to save up for my family and such. The money doesn’t bring me happiness; the rich that comes from it means nothing when it feels like nobody cares about you.”

That’s the stigma with OnlyFans, it seems like. More people seem to have a lot more to say about empowered women taking advantage of a platform that allows them to profit off of their own body and image while maintaining ownership of their work, but keep quiet about the pornographic sites that exploit women and content without any accountability for those who steal from content creators and abuse platforms that way. Just my two cents as a fellow content creator.

Anyway, I lastly wanted to share a final word from Jessa Furches, who was so kind enough to say to my readers.

“I want whoever is taking the time to read my story, who may be a little inspired, or feel like they can relate to, we all deserve love, and we all deserve to be accepted. I ask that you all take care of each other, take care of yourselves, and wear a mask. I’m compromised with cystic fibrosis, and it’s BORING, and it’s lonely. Always worry about your families, friends, those around you, including your pets, and God bless all of you. So much love, no matter where you are, and who you are, and stay safe.”

I agree. Be sure to follow Jessa Furches on Instagram, YouTube, and OnlyFans, and check out her single, L.O.V.E, available on iTunes and Spotify now. If you’re a longtime fan of hers, then y’all will be pleased to hear, exclusively here at Stars and Monsters, that she’s got an upcoming new single being released sometime in November 27th, titled Seeing is Believing.

And, again folks, stay safe, and stay lovely to one another.

2020’s Presidential Debate: A Discussion of Political Tyranny, Ethical Integrity, and Our Humanity

Today is October 1st, 2020, a full two days after the first Presidential Debate of 2020. America sat down, popcorn bag in hand, and watched President Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden duke it out in what some have considered the biggest fuck-up of a debate in our democracy’s history.

If you noticed our title here, you might notice that Stars and Monsters admittedly does not usually tackle politics or anything of that nature. To be quite frank and honest with my readers, though, nothing can really prepare this country for the pure chaos in November after a train-wreck like that. If anybody is confident about the upcoming election this year, they may be lying. America has lost, believe it or not. So raise your glasses, light your cigarettes, or whatever vice you cope with, and sit down with me as I run down the few major takeaways from last night’s debate.

Trump v. Biden 2020 – “What’s The Plan for COVID-19, Guys?”

One of the things that was brought up during the debate was COVID-19. Biden was first to speak on it, laying out facts that we’ve heard for the past few months. From the numbers, to the death toll, to the things Trump did, or rather didn’t do, that led us to where we are now, it was a brief run-down in COVID-19 news. In the transcript, Biden quotes the headline that Trump said, “It is what it is,” and says that this is what it is because Trump is who he is. Trump began to respond by placing the blame on China and clarifying that it could’ve been a lot worse, with millions dead instead 200,000 dead. The two continued to bicker and fight as Trump reacted to Biden calling him out on his mistakes. Trump told Biden he couldn’t do the job that Trump did, which is weird to tell the former Vice President, as well as sort of brag about the casualties not being any worse than they are. It’s like someone saying they only ever killed three people while drunk driving, and it could’ve been worse. When something very wrong happens, the fact that it wasn’t worse doesn’t make it ok. That’s sort of the point that was missed during this segment. It sort of went nowhere.

Is Trump to blame for COVID-19’s outbreak in America? I don’t know. I just live here. Between the dozens of ways his time in office has directly and indirectly affected my life, I can only say what I know, which is that these things happened while Trump was President. Cause and Effect, you know? That’s all.

In case you missed it

The segments went on. The economy was brought up, and then Trump and Biden’s family finances brought up, but also seemingly the moderator’s as well. It got weird, considering Trump verbally went after Biden’s son as well? I won’t go into it, because family is off limits. Unfortunately, Trump lacked the decency to understand that, so I’ll move on.

Trump v. Biden 2020 – “How Many Black People Do Cops Need to Kill to Fix Racial Injustices?”

Racial injustices in America was one of the next big topics brought up. Biden was asked how he would deal with race issues in the next four years. Biden spoke about equality and decency. He disavowed the actions of those who identify with the ideologies of the Ku Klux Klan, and reminded America of Trump defending the violent aggressors of white supremacists, in which Trump talked about the “very fine people” on both sides. Trump scoffed, and Biden continued to describe the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, where Trump had his men tear gas peaceful protestors away from the White House so that he could film a video of himself holding a bible in front of a nearby church. Biden discussed Trump’s actions creating more racist division, whether he realizes it or not.

Once Trump was given his time to discuss, he went and immediately called Biden a racist, reminding everyone that he called the black community “super-predators” or something. Which is weird…because Biden never said that. Hillary Clinton did, technically. Fake news? I don’t know, because all it took was a Google search to clarify that for myself. It’s really hard to feel the urge to back up the President when he gives misinformation out with a full chest of misplaced confidence.

That’s not even the worst of it, because the conversation was directed towards the topic of race issues, and when Trump’s turn came around, he began to endorse police and law enforcement. Why? Why would Trump ignore the question at hand, and instead begin to discuss something kind of irrelevant? Are police officers “entangled” with racial injustices? Obviously. But the question was pretty darn clear. I’ll include the question from the transcript;

Wallace: My question for the two of you is why should voters trust you, rather than your opponent, to deal with the race issues facing this country over the next four years?

Anyway, Biden was then asked to talk about systemic racism and bringing accountability to the “bad apples” in law enforcement, and to not use violence as an appropriate response. Peaceful protests should be a given, and not a cause for arrests and such.

The President then began to compare the peaceful protests to the violent lootings and burning of buildings. You know, the things that people did during the peaceful protests, who weren’t really part of the peaceful protests. Looters peaceful protestors, but somehow that gets lost in translation.

Anyway, Trump mentioned “Law and Order” so many times that he was asked why he ended racial sensitivity training for law enforcement. According to Trump, that in itself was racist. How was teaching people to not be racist…racist? Well, it apparently taught people not how to be less racist, but how to hate America.

Are you lost yet? That’s ok, I am too. Let’s move on.  

Here’s another one

Trump v. Biden 2020 – “Who are the Proud Boys and What the F*ck Does ‘Stand Back and Stand By’ Mean?”

This got me. The conversation about racism got so heavy that the moderator and Biden all began to sort of lose their cool and did us all a favor by calling Trump out for not condemning white supremacists. You know, the group of individuals who share ideologies with, I don’t know, the Ku Klux Klan, and Neo-Nazis, and that sort of thing. These are hate groups that the FBI has considered to be domestic terrorists. You all remember what terrorists are, right? Really bad motherfuckers, like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, but they are not overseas. Anyway, Trump was finally given an opportunity to do the thing we all really wanted him to do. We just wanted him to say “Bad white supremacists!”

Instead, he addresses the Proud Boys and says “stand back and stand by.”

So what the fuck does that mean?

Well, after some research, I noticed some confusion among the masses. A lot of people where calling them white supremacists. A lot of people were saying that the Proud Boys aren’t even white, because its current leadership is led by Enrique Tarrio, a Cuban-American. Now, here’s the thing. Just because this Cuban-American is the current leader of this group, the Proud Boys, a predominately white male-only hate group, does NOT mean that they aren’t white supremacists, because that’s what they are. They are no different than Neo-Nazis and the KKK in ideologies, goals, and actions. Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to what Trump did during the debate.

He told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” He didn’t tell them to stand down, nor did he condemn the group. It almost sounds like a military leader’s command to have his men…wait. Wait for what, you might be wondering?

Man, who the fuck knows? November is right around the corner, after all, and instead of just saying that white supremacists are bad boys, Trump said something that almost feels like he’s threatening the country.

Weird that CNN wouldn’t tweet this clip

Trump v. Biden 2020 – “We Need to Talk About the Elephant in the Room…”

The elephant I am referring to is not the Republican mascot (not that anybody even really remembers the elephant and donkey), but rather the big thing we all need to remember; this is a repeat of last election year. Whether anybody wants to admit it or not, the previous election was structured to make sure that both Trump and Clinton looked as awful as possible as candidates for the Presidency. We all remember the emails, and the shit-show of debates that went on before. This year is only an exaggerated version of it, because it’s 2020 and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and the rest of the year has had nothing but god-awful headlines that feel as though they were ripped out of a Mad-Libs.

Even though the most competent looking guy in the room was Biden, with a higher poll rate than Trump in this first debate, we are still looking at a “lesser of two evils” situation. Trump failed this country, and Biden might have won the debate, but that doesn’t mean America will win this upcoming election. There’s a very big chance that Biden can’t get America back on its feet again after all that’s happened. That being said, don’t think Trump is the answer either, because if he’s in office any longer, we may actually be looking at more chaos than before, and that’s saying a lot. All I can say is, we need to not only continue to be kind and safe to one another, but prepare for absolutely anything in the upcoming weeks.

Stay on your toes, y’all, because shit can still hit the fan

So What Do We Do Now, Folks?

VOTE. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE, AND VOTE. Stay informed. Educate yourself on what is going on around you. Understand what is happening, and do not buy into the notion of fake news, or any of that nonsense. Read your most trusted news outlets, and even then, make sure you are fact checking your own most trusted sources, and fact check your fact checkers. I mean this sincerely. Misinformation spreads like crazy. If you don’t believe us here at Stars and Monsters, take the opportunity to read up yourself. I’ll leave the transcript for the entire debate that I referenced here.

Reconnect with your community. Not just with your friends and family, but with all of your communities. Organize with your neighbors and your coworkers and trusted companions and allies, and make sure everyone is working together to make sure we get through these difficult and disturbing times safely.

Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and energetically. We are on the cusp of becoming something great, but we have to see passed these dark times. Follow the gut feeling, the intuition in you. We’re all on a path towards a good light. Just trust in it. As always, be safe, and be 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!

Interview with Lexie Marie – Influencer to Human Rights Advocate

S: I just wanted to start off by asking you to sort of introduce yourself. You and I are good friends, but there are a handful of readers who might not know you, so this will be for them.

L: My name is Alexis, but I’m primarily known as Lexie Marie. For those of you who don’t know, I consider myself to be a social media influencer, but for the most part I’m just a regular girl with big goals and dreams, and I’m motivated with a huge passion to bring change in this world.

S: Since you’ve been active as Lexie Marie online, you’ve garnered a bit of a fanbase, you know? People don’t just follow you, but there are a lot of people who are influenced by your style, looks, and trend-setting vlog posts on YouTube. Do you feel as though your social media influence can make a big positive impact?

L: I definitely feel like my social media influence can make a significant impact! I want to be able to inspire my fans to be whatever they want to be. I want to inspire them to not be afraid, and to be their unique selves. I want to use my voice and platform to promote & raise awareness on the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and especially help give voice to victims and survivors of sexual assault. 

S: I’m glad you’re mentioning more than one way of making a positive impact. Lately, it feels as though some issues get drowned out by the sound of the next viral movement.

L: I would rather be known as a girl who cares about the world than the girl in it for the fame and money. I know what my intentions are.

S: The power of intention is real. Especially now, because things are really intense in the world right now, with a lot of very bad and heinous things happening. It’s a worldwide awakening, and there’s a movement for just about every injustice that our oppressors need to be held accountable for. What’s one that you’re looking to bring change to?

L: Human rights for everyone is something that we cannot ignore right now. That being said, justice needs to be served for the black community; the black community continues to suffer and fight for their lives every day. We also need to be more accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community and learn that we are not different from the other, and that everybody is equal. Families are being separated and destroyed at the U.S. border as well. All of these things are always happening, and we need to support these oppressed victims. One thing that I do intend on bringing change to is sexual violence, not just against women, but against men as well. That includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, etc. I believe that our victims of sexual violence do not get the recognition or voice that they deserve. It’s something that should be taken very seriously, and there aren’t enough people trying to normalize having this necessary conversation. It can cause a lifetime of pain, suffering, and trauma to one’s mind and body. We need to wake up, open our eyes, and do better for each other.

S: Yes, we need to do better for our brothers and sisters right now. All of the abuse and violence against minorities and survivors of sexual assault needs to end now. Sexual assault is a painful thing for us both to talk about; “My Body, My Choice” is something that comes to mind when I think of consent with my body. Do you think there is more to the idea behind “My Body, My Choice”?

L: I definitely do believe there is so much more to the idea of “My Body, My Choice”. Of course, the main thing is that it supports the idea of having the option to have an abortion or not, and I also believe it has a lot to do with consent, body positivity, and sexuality. It helps women to be free from pretty much everything society tells them not to do. For example, if you’re an exotic dancer or stripper, you’re automatically considered a whore. If you sleep with a handful of men, people will say you don’t have dignity or self respect for yourself, and call you a slut; these are just a bunch of judgmental and toxic views against women that needs to change. It’s 2020, I think our views against women should’ve changed a long time ago. ❤️

S: I agree, we have come so far, and we should continue to progress forward rather than regress backwards in 2020. Letting go of the shaming and the labeling is a great first step to doing so. There needs to be an active change in how women are ridiculed, and how we need to stop silencing women’s voices. Before we wrap up, I noticed there was a new non-profit you started promoting on your Instagram. Tell us about it.

L: It’s called RAINN, and it stands for Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network; It’s the largest anti-sexual violence organization ever constructed. It is created to help survivors/victims who suffer from any form of sexual violence by providing counseling services, important information which can also educate the public more about the topic, as well as provides a hotline to those who are in need of aid after an assault, or for those who want to help loved ones. I think it’s important that we get Involved with RAINN, help donate, and bring awareness to those who suffer everyday from these kinds of things. You’ll never know whose life you might help or change, and making a change is absolutely a good feeling.


She’s right. There is a lot that needs to be done before we move forward. The oppression, the abuse, the suffering that is being inflicted on us needs to come to an end. Obviously, writing about this can only do so much. Reading about these things doesn’t do enough for change, but it starts with you and me. Remember, there is no activism without self-activism.

Learn more about RAINN here.

Follow Lexie on her YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter.

Stay safe, folks, and please, be kind to one another.

Artist Interview with The Artist J

Hi folks, back with another one! This week, I figured I’d share this little interview I got to have with this comic creator, The Artist J. He’s got a book out called Superhero University, and his artwork on the project, along with the other work he’s done, was just so dope, I HAD to do an interview. Hoping to put out a few more of these, and I hope y’all enjoy!

Me: “So, tell us about Superhero University and your time drawing for that comic series.”

Superhero University

J: “How I got that job is actually a really awesome story. Last year I was at a point were I was barely getting any commissions, and by barely, I mean none. I wasn’t getting any. So I went outside one night and prayed about it. I’m a Christian, and I told God that I felt like He called me to be artist, so if He had then I could really use some commissions to supply me with income. Literally the next day the author contacted me, and said he thought my art would be perfect for a big project he was doing called Superhero University. He asked me to be on board, and seeing as how God answered my prayer, I said ‘Yeah!’

His book is a 43 lesson manual on how to become a superhero. He hired me to create a comic section to go along with each lesson he wrote. The author is really cool and was super easy to work with. It was a blast because he gave me free reign! So I got to create and design all the characters, add in fight scenes (which are my specialty,) and write the comic’s story just as long as it tied into what the lessons he wrote were about. It took about 6 months to finish, and I did all the pencils, inks, colors, and lettering myself. I ended up doing a 110 comic pages I think, along with the cover and few other things. It was definitely a fun project that God used to help me out and hopefully the author and others. Since then I’ve have had constant commissions!”

The Bible Goes Hard

Me: “Where would you say your inspiration comes from?”

J: “So many different things and so many other artist! My older brother inspired me to start drawing in the first place. He would draw all the time, so I just followed his example and started drawing whenever I had the chance. Also just having a ton of stories in my head that I need to get out and put on paper so others can see them and enjoy them. Though my main inspiration to draw just comes from being able to. God has given me a talent for it and I love using it and want to do it, for His glory and to support myself financially at the same time. From there I would just say probably from watching cartoons and anime to reading comics and manga growing up is where most of the things I’m inspired to draw came from.”

Anybody Can Be Super

Me: “So would you saw your inspiration has also influenced your art style?”

J: “Well, I’ve found my own art style in mixing elements from both Western comics and anime style. My style is a unique mixture of both, and those elements were influenced by certain artists I’ve admired in comics, like Jim Lee and Joe Madureira, or a particular way that I liked how something was drawn in specific anime, like Dragon Ball Z. I was able to take those things I’ve learned by studying those artist and combine them into my own art style! I still do that, I don’t really change the general look of my art style now, but I still implement how things are drawn from other artist that I admire into my own style. There’s always room for improvement, and I’m always looking to get better!”

Spawn – Superhero for the Metal Fans

Me: “Do you have a certain creative process that you tap into to begin a project?”

J: “I’ve never been much of a planner. I’m about as laid back as they come, so my process is usually just thinking of a cool concept for a storyline or drawing, visualizing it in my head and being like “yeah, I think that would be cool. Time to make it happen!” I’m a simple guy! Haha! I do always start with a very loosely drawn rough sketch, just to get some poses down of what I thinking, and then begin drawing over that with the actual outline.”

Filling A Manga-Shaped Hole in my Heart

Me: “Laid back gets the job done, folks, y’all heard it here first! Any dream job you want to land as an artist?”

J: “I feel like most comic book artist’s dream job is usually to draw interior pages for Marvel or DC, but that’s not me. I’ve always wanted to bring out my own stories. Unless it’s drawing interior pages for one of my own comics that I’m trying to bring out, I actually prefer to do character designs and the comic covers for other people way more than drawing interior pages. So my dream job is literally to just be able to create and sell my own comics with original stories and characters I’ve made that people will love, and hopefully want to keep reading about. So I guess in short my dream job is to be a comic cover artist and to keep creating original comics of my own.”

Me: “Oh, that’s the dream, I feel that on a deep level. Here’s a heavy one; Where would you want to see comics go in the next few years in terms of direction?”

J: “Wow, that’s a tough one. Comic industry aside, all I know is the direction that I want my comics to go in. My goal is to provide good clean comics that everyone can read while still being action packed with interesting stories and characters to follow along with. My main focus has always been on the action and providing high quality fight scenes. To be honest, I’ve always been a little disappointed in Western comics fight scenes. I’ve always found them to be choppy and hard to follow exactly what’s going on. It’s more like random punch here, then random kick here in this next panel, with no cohesiveness between them. My mission is to make fights that have a fluidity to them. Like, you’re watching the fight play out on the paper as if it you were watching it animated. So that’s the direction I would like to see my comics go at least.”

Oh, how I LOVE sick action. Whether it flows well in comics, or is executed perfectly on screen for TV or film, I love a quality action sequence. Looks like J is the artist to look out for when it comes to the good stuff, am I right folks?

There you have it. A brief one, with more content coming at you soon. Just like J, I’ve got projects under wraps as well, and I’m working on getting them up in the air before announcing anything big. Thank you again, folks. Until next time, stay safe, and stay lovely.

The Hate Plague, and the Other Half of 2020

Hi, folks. I missed y’all. It’s been hard to write these past few days, if I’m being quite honest. I’ve been caught up between two distinctly different worlds these past few days. You know what I’m talking about. The way we wake up now, and it feels like if we try really hard, and I mean really try, things can sort of look like they used to before. I mean, hey, now we can sort of go out places! Keeping in mind, of course, the necessity of face masks still. Also, no large gatherings in, say, movie theaters or pools this summer. But, squint hard enough, and it’ll start to look just like things used to be.

Do you remember how things used to be? When the biggest thing on the news would be the showcase of the effects of police brutality and the injustices that black communities faces every day? Black Lives Matter, of course. They always have, and for anyone who is surprised that this is surfacing amidst everything else, it is time to really process that as truth, and if any reader is against that notion and sentiment, now would be a good time to turn away from this page.

It’s currently 11:14 pm, on June 11th of 2020. At the start of this year, prosperity and a higher good were things I began to spiritually manifest, and to be quite frank, it’s been difficult recently. Between the start of 2020 and now, we have all collectively undergone a massive shift in terms of energy and understanding. Between individual human rights being distorted by the COVID-19 outbreak and being trampled on by the police, things just do not feel safe anymore. I’ve had to take a break from my day job, beginning to feel a lack of security and safety from not just the initial virus, but from the other virus.

Oh? Have I lost you? Yes, in case you weren’t sure, there are two virus outbreaks. COVID-19 and Hate.

I’m calling it the Hate Plague. You know, like the Bubonic Plague from way back when. Only, the plague this year is fueled by hate. It’s just hate. Hate that has been systematically structured to oppress, manipulate, and break down the human spirit as a means to force us to “settle” into the American Dream. But that’s the thing about dreams, isn’t it? You have to be asleep to enjoy it.

It’s time to wake up.

As a creator and writer, I’m all for dreams, but there is no sleeping past anything that’s happened in the past week. Just in the last week alone, at my day job at a local food joint, I had to deal with angry racists, homophobes, and surprisingly the least threatening encounter, being a cop parking his police vehicle across two parking spots. Thankfully, none of these people posed as genuine threats. Not at my workplace, that is; at the end of the day, I’m at my workplace, and people know better than to assault workers at their job, because that’s an easy lawsuit for me to win. That being said, the hate is real, the anger is almost tangible, and it doesn’t mean that these people aren’t one bad day away from taking it out on me and my job’s establishment.

So let’s backtrack, because this isn’t about my experiences. No, my experiences aren’t where the danger and hatred lie. I let those experiences wash over me, because outside of my reality, and presumably yours, there are worst things happening. And we’re going to talk about it.

Starbucks, the coffee shop that you may or may not rely on to start your mornings, has banned workers from wearing Black Lives Matter clothing at work. Mind you, their uniform only consists of an apron and hat. But, no, they cannot wear t-shirts, or hats, or I don’t know, maybe even custom masks, that say “Black Lives Matter.” Why? It’s a movement, just as valid, important, and necessary as a pink ribbon supporting Cancer Awareness, am I right? No? Well, then, let me ask you this. If Blue Lives Matter was ever a thing, then there’s no reason for any employer to not allow their employees to wear Black Lives Matter merch. No ands, ifs, or buts about it. Starbucks coffee tastes like cardboard trash anyway, so I have no problem boycotting them. Do you?

Some of you may know me as a former Bobcat over at Texas State University. If you know me from there, or are a Bobcat yourself, or are just a college student of any sort, then this story needs to be heard. In Austin, a TXST student, Justin Howell, stood next to a protester who threw a water bottle near a police officer. Mind you, it was a WATER BOTTLE. You know, plastic. Half of my readers probably don’t even think twice about whether its trash or recyclable. You know, since it’s plastic. Non-lethal, right? Well, the police officer who saw this bottle in the air shot Howell with a “less-lethal” munition in the head. Knocked the kid out. Protesters helped carry him to the police department, in hopes of seeking medical attention for Howell. Of course, the police proceeded to shoot the group with “less-lethal” munitions. I keep placing quotations strategically around “less-lethal” because it isn’t the same as non-lethal. These are heavy, metal cores inside of rubber bullets bigger than tear gas canisters, and even those are getting thrown and shot at people head on. Here’s footage, because a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is worth much more than that.

Maybe you’re tired of seeing the graphic content, right? The violent, shaky video footage, it’s all…what, out of context? Sure, sure, let’s say that the issue stems from lack of context. Well, this Instagram user, @bysalsabil, shared a pretty disturbing photo, in my opinion, of an officer from NYC, Officer Quinn, blowing a kiss at the protester as they took a photo of him. The caption in the photo describes the first hand experience from the photographer’s end, and to my knowledge, omitted more disturbing details outside of that single snap-shot moment. This is for those who, I don’t know, only need a photo that’s worth only a thousand words.

If a thousand is a good worth, then I suppose $1M is as well? Or, $750,000 to be exact, seeing as that’s how much it took to get Thomas Lane, ex-cop charged with George Floyd’s murder over a counterfeit $20 bill, out of jail. Because, at the end of the day he was “just following orders” as a police officer. Where have I heard that before? Somewhere in my textbooks from high school. I’m sure some of my readers remember, right? No? Nazis. Nazis used to say they were just following orders. That’s where I’m going with this.

Well, since the Floyd case has essentially been open and such, with the murderers *ahem* oh sorry, ex-cops, just getting a slap on the wrist with their get-out-of-jail-free card, things can calm down now, right? No. No they cannot. A black EMT, Breonne Taylor, was shot in her sleep EIGHT TIMES, by two officers conducting a drug sting. She was asleep. Eight shots were not necessary whatso-fucking-ever. A law has been passed in honor of Breonne Taylor, which prohibits officers entering anywhere without knocking first. So, essentially vampire rules. Cool. Kinda stupid that they think they can barge into, say, my house or yours, and potentially shoot us eight times in our sleep because they think a drug ring might be operated out of our home. Except no, that shouldn’t be the case at all. Whatever, her murderers are walking free, just like Thomas Lane is. Real life villains, ladies and gents.

Oh wait. No, I lied. The villains are stemming from the entirety of the US, if I’m being blunt. They’ve been abusing our human rights for, like, a month, but has slowly been going on all year long, if I’m being perfectly honest. Which I am, because you’re my reader, and all I wish to do for my readers, is to enlighten you in the slightest way. My fluff pieces about anime and comics may lighten things a little, but I’m tired of pretending that the blog titled Stars and Monsters wasn’t ever going to shine light on the monsters in this world. Because they’ve been here, folks. But it’s just like I said; it’s time to wake up.

Me Explaining This to My Family on Facebook

I’m sorry for the dramatic shift in tone. I’m also sorry I hadn’t addressed any of this sooner. I took a week of silence as a creator to help amplify black voices, and after that week, things began to weigh down on me, and my outlet was, of course, writing. If you’ve made it this far, than congratulations; You’re concerned enough to want hope.

Click here for Places to Donate and Sign Petitions.

In case some of you want more accessibility to footage that isn’t from Twitter or Instagram, and you’re tired of the propaganda the news airs, then here. It’s a Google Spreadsheet with a ton of videos of police brutally being violent with protesters, with categorization options. Yes, there’s enough footage to categorize the videos. That’s too many cases of what police are doing to people out there. Do with this what you will. It’s for you to digest, and use your best judgement of the subject matter.

And, again, in case there’s any confusion about any of this…Black Lives Matter. Simple as that. Didn’t need to say it again, but we tend to forget about important things, with the way we move onto the next hashtag and trend. For once, let’s not forget. Let’s not go back to sleep.

Notes with Sources (straight from Twitter and Instagram because, let’s be real, that’s where the raw stuff is at. This is for my Facebook readers, for easy access.

Starbucks Bans Workers from Wearing Black Lives Matter Merch (Via Twitter)

Young TXST Student Injured in Austin by PD (via Twitter)

Cinematic Photograph of Cop “Blowing a Kiss” to the Camera (via Instagram)

Ex-Cop Charged with George Floyd’s Murder Released after Posting $1M Bail Bond (via Twitter)

Breonne’s Law Passed in Lousville (via Twitter)

US Abuse of Protestors and Their Human Rights (via Twitter)

Google Spreadsheet of Police Brutality footage (Updated and Categorized)