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.

Super-Gods, Sick Mixtapes, and a Surreal Universe: Leaders of the Free World Review (#1 – #2)

If Gods blessed you with powers, would that make you one? Or does that just place you on a tier-level below the source of your abilities? It’s okay, don’t dwell on the existential question for too long, because thankfully we’ve got the answers for you. Hi, folks, and thank you for being patient with this anticipated post (just getting back to the day job grind) and welcome to my first ever Official Stars and Monsters comic review!

I was honored to be offered an opportunity to review the comic series Leaders of the Free World by one of the creative minds behind it, Corey Pruitt (better known as Task on Twitter) and quite frankly, it might have been the one of my most exciting experiences since the initial launch of this blog. Task is not only a comic writer, but also a podcast host on Supersuit Show, but also a major source of influence in the vortex that is the comic twitter community (Spider-Man fans hate Spider-Man, it’s the truth!) Task allowed me to preview his first two issues of his series, drawn by Elijah Johnson (also known as @artbyatlas0 on Twitter), and share some of my thoughts on Leaders of the Free World #1 and #2. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

Leaders of the Free World #1 – “A Surreal World”

I dove right into the first issue with the same initial thought that new readers to any series worry about; “Will I be overwhelmed by the world that was built before me?” I suppose the breakdown of the Free World mythos stems from the origin of the Godsend, a group of super-powered gods who arrived to the planet, each instilling themselves in one nation, and essentially committing to their nation’s image, government policies. In return, the Godsend provided tech and knowledge to help advance the world, which inadvertently birthed a new generation of super-powered beings: the Archetypes, a less powerful group of people who created more conflict than safety in the world. After a war killed a third of the world’s population, the Godsend issued laws to limit an Archetype’s activity to only their respective country. This is the lore of Leaders of the Free World.

This series starts with an excellent brief look at the world’s history in the form of a history class, narrated by Surreal, a teenage Asian-American descendant of the an ancient god known as the Monkey King. He fits every relatable aspect of being a teen whose heritage holds more power than they realize. With great power comes great responsibility, and thankfully, we don’t have another Uncle Ben-esque character to reminds Surreal of that. Instead, he meets Eco, the Son of Gaia, who is a superstar wrestler with abilities drawn from, well, Gaia. When these two characters meet and share scenes together, there’s definitely an undeniable chemistry between the two when it comes to the hilarity in their bantering back and forth, and Eco’s unconditional support towards Surreal. The young Monkey King doesn’t know his own true worth yet, and thankfully, the powerful and wise Eco stands beside him from the very beginning, showing a kind of trust that makes me reminisce about the days when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up in Marvel’s Heroes for Hire series.

“Timber”, Eco’s wrestling signature move. Also named after my dog.

As I continued through the issue, I enjoyed the spotlight on these two characters a lot, while also finding myself more enthralled by the joy in seeing Surreal’s old school hip hop playlist scattered across text-boxes in the comic. It creates an entertainingly new and fun experience in a comic book that feels as authentic as a classic comic series as you go through each panel. It was one of the things I was most excited about discussing with Task. When asked where the inspiration for this came from, Task said, “I always listen to music when I write. So I thought ‘What if each issue had its own soundtrack?’ It’s a way for the reader to see where my headspace was at during the creative process.” Nicely done, Task. We love it.

One of my other favorite story threads in this issue specifically included the introduction of Moonshine, the wildly erratic and drunken female superhero whose abilities appear to rival even Superman. It was just one of the many things I enjoyed in this first issue, and I could easily list more, but I have LOTS more to gush about!

Leaders of the Free World #2 – The Beginning’s of Freedom

Aright folks, this is my favorite issue of the two for sure! In Leaders of the Free World #2, we are introduced to my absolute pairing of characters in this set universe. Like Ying and Yang, we meet Medic and Doctor Seance. Medic is, well…if God was a woman, to put it perfectly. As an angel of war and peace, she’s a balance between life and death. In nothing but merely scrubs, she manages to kick enough ass to make Jessica Jones second guess her career as a comic book badass. Alongside her is Doctor Seance, an evil necromancer whose character visual design homages aspects of Robbie Reyes’s Ghost Rider, with a symbiotic relationship to Medic like that of Venom, and a sinister and calculating villain mind that crosses between Lex Luthor and the Batman Who Laughs. These two characters, joined together by a holy and flaming halo over Medic’s head, embark on a quest to join the other lead heroes as they prepare for a crisis of epic proportions.

This, however, prompted me to ask Task about the bonds between the various characters, like the development between Surreal and Eco, or between Medic and Doctor Seance. Task’s response was, “When I came up with the characters I had to ask myself ‘Who would get along the most? Who would hate each other?’ Surreal and Eco are both mythical beings born into a life that they never asked for. So they relate to each other the most. Medic and Seance have history that will be explored throughout the series. I don’t want to reveal everything now but let’s just say you will be surprised.”

Comics can mend ya heart, kid.

As I continued on in this issue, completely enthralled by the concept of Medic and Doctor Seance (and Surreal’s Mix scattered through this issue as well to help set the tone), we soon learn more about the hardships that some of these characters hold in their personal lives. Medic, being a superhero and all that, is still a medical doctor, and has a duty to both the world she saves and the world she inhabits. When she turns to work from battle, she unfortunately fails to save her patient’s life. She storms out, completely broken, and her coworker consoles her by stating a sad, but accurate fact of life. She says, “You can’t save everyone all the time.” When I read this comic panel, it was then that I knew this was going to continue to become a really powerful story, with a really exceptional writer behind this stunning and beautiful line work. And, just as the moment on the page was beautifully had, it was interrupted by a beautifully nostalgic shot…

*CUE FREEZE FRAME*

FREEZE FRAME!

The story returns to the initial group, with Surreal. Eco, Tech-Neek, and Moonshine briefly meeting, but it’s just as an invasion brews in the sky above them. From that, to their hilarious first encounter with Doctor Seance, we get really funny dialogue, awesome action sequences, and super dope nostalgic homages to things in nature of, say, giant mechas, or Power Rangers, or maybe even Dragon Ball Z, or just plenty of West Coast classics to keep the action seamless like a swift breeze under Surreal’s feet. Another one of my favorite shots out of this back half of this issue is most definitely Eco’s greeting to the invaders, known as the ominous Outreach. We get some top-tier Samoan representation, some more amazing character moments amidst the action, and an epic finale shot that may tease an epic clash between two of the most powerful beings on the team. Both beautiful and strong women, might I add.

One of my last questions, more of a fanboy-gushing moment, was me asking about what could be teased to other fans of this series, whether it be epic shonen-styled fight scenes between certain highly powerful characters, or the brief tease of the mysterious Mr. Excellent. Task answered with, “I’m trying to make this world seem as big and alive that I can. And that there’s more going on than what is happening in the books. Mr. Excellent’s story will lead to another story arch that I am excited to share. And it’s funny how you brought up the fights with Lunar because let’s just say she’s not entirely sold on the idea of this team up yet. Where she comes from she reigns over these beings, not collaborate with them. Issue 3 is on the way folks. Stay tuned.”

Well done, Free World. You have a special place in my love for comics now, and I cannot wait to see what an amazing franchise this becomes soon.

A Cybrogi. That’s it. ‘Nuff Said.

No weekly plugs this week, folks. Not like I usually do, I mean. No, all I want to suggest to my readers is to check out this new comic book ASAP. This is seriously one of the most enjoyable comic reads I’ve had in a very long time, for sure. It’s pretty amazing, and the series is available on Comixology right now, or, if you’d like, you can follow the writer @uptotask, or the artist @artbyatlas0 on Twitter.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Leaders of the Free World #3!

Switchin’ up my outro like I usually do too, folks. This time, I’m quoting Gamer Presidential Candidate, Mr. Ace Watkins.

*ahem*

Not solo; squad.

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.✌🏽

A Post-Apocalyptic Bundle of Joy!

Hey folks! Hope everyone is having a great week. I know I am! Met up with some great people, just got my first paycheck, have been in a really great state of mind, and have gotten to enjoy some REALLY GOOD television this last week! Just peeped the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Arrow‘s series finale, and I have THOUGHTS! Also came across some good animated shows recently, notably, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.

Wonderbeasts is a wonderful world!

The show is a Dreamworks show, so expect the beautiful worlds that they create, like She-Ra’s world designs, with a whole other level of fantastical imagination. Kipo is set in a world where humans live underground now, and at first, we don’t know why, but quick into the first episode of the show, we learn that the surface world is now overrun by mutated monsters, or “mutes” as they’re referred to in Kipo, or as I like to call them, “the Wonderbeasts”, as per the wholesome title! The mutes are the sole reason for roping me into this new age that Kipo exists in, and you’re amazed EVERY episode when a new mute is debuted, from lumberjack kittens and mafia frogs, to lesbian metalhead snakes and a sentient body of water.

Kipo & Pals are the cutest!

This show also does something I didn’t think would happen for me, which is create another group of friends that I’d love as much as I did with She-Ra‘s group. I fell in love with the dork that is Kipo, the killer smol bean Wolf, and the hilarious pairing of Benson and Dave. They all have such lovely chemistry, going from a group of kids just trying to survive through an adorable post-apocalyptic world to becoming a found family that would fight tooth and nail for each other. Not to mention they are all POC, one is biracial, one is LGBTQ+ AF and I love it!

A soundtrack that rivals Into the Spider-Verse

A reason I stuck with this show, not knowing it should fill my She-Ra shaped hole, is the soundtrack. The music is SO good, and when I say it’s on par with Into the Spider-Verse, I am not exaggerating. The music is hip-hop influenced with some songs taking folk country inspiration and even some rock and R&B too! My favorite thig about this show, which I wished more shows would do, is they acknowledge the dope music that comes on in each sequence by having a character play it off of a cassette tape. It’s smooth i how it transitions from a plot detail of “Oh, I’ve got the PERFECT track for this trip,” to the immersion of an action sequence with hype music, similarly to Spider-Verse and their ost.

Dreamworks does She-Ra action but really well

As I said before, the action is stellar! No cap, it is by far the most interesting and visually exciting action oriented animation that I’ve seen from an American animation studio since Young Justice, going as far as to almost borrow some anime visual designs as well! After just coming off of MFZK, this show does that thing I loved from that movie, which is do the most dope action sequences with banging music! If there’s any good show that you wanna start that is lighthearted, but carries stacks, while taking you on an wondrous journey of imagination with an amazing setting and fun characters and sick beats, then check out Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeats on Netflix!

So, a Mandalorian and a Witcher Walk into a Bar…

Greetings! Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. Classes start up again soon, and people are getting back into the work grind, and I have been ITCHING to get through the week and find time to write another post. I was debating what the first post of the year should be about, but after having went through all of The Witcher on Netflix and slowly watching The Mandalorian on Disney+, I realized what I had to talk to you guys about.

It’s no secret that these two shows started to take the world by storm, really. With Disney+ being a big step as far as streaming services go, getting all of the content that Disney now owns onto one platform for families was exciting. That being said, majority of the content really is just for families. Like, The Simpsons are there, and it might be the only FOX property as far as I know (which is weird because they don’t even have FOX’s X-Men movies or anything, just their old cartoons), but majority of the content really is tailored for family oriented viewers and, like, a stupid amount of unscripted series and documentaries. Like, this might very well be a streaming service for your grandparents. That being said, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian fits in that demographic and then some, seeing as it’s an expansion of Star Wars lore (your grandparents’ franchise), while also creating a solid and enjoyable series for fans who pretty much know nothing about Star Wars. I’ve considered myself a casual fan of the series, having seen all of the movies excluding the latest (just haven’t had time), and I absolutely adored The Mandalorian.

“It’s easier to lie with this helmet on.”

There are really two kinds of viewers watching the show who know nothing about Star Wars. You’ve got people who start the series because of the hype it’s gained and go in entirely blind and find that they really can enjoy it without all of the context of the Star Wars universe, because what’s needed to be understood is in the series anyway. You’ve also got the people who want to watch the series, but believe that watching the Star Wars movies will enhance the experience and is almost required. That being said, I don’t think that’s the case, and I think that’s what made this series a real treat.

“This isn’t much of a Star Wars easter egg but rather more of an E.T. reference.”

On the other side of the nerd spectrum, you have fans raving about Netflix’s The Witcher. Now, not much needs to be said about Netflix at this point, it’s been around, it might always be around, and right now it’s Disney+’s biggest contender (sorry DC Universe, maybe just market your service a little better, because I’ve only ever seen ads for Harley Quinn on Adult Swim, and that’s after the platform has been out for over a year), and most of their credit goes to Lauren Hissrich’s The Witcher being one of the most streamed shows to date. That title also went to The Mandalorian for a while, both of which topped Stranger Things, which is a pretty big accolade to earn. Now, when it comes to viewing The Witcher, which is based off of a video game series that is based off of the book series, it kind of feels difficult to encourage anyone to say that they need to go to the source material to enjoy the series, because that’s not the case. I didn’t play the games, even though they seem super rad, and I haven’t read the books either, but this show was REALLY neat.

“I just think it’s neat!”

That could have something to do with the queer subtext I got to enjoy between Geralt, the titular character of the series, and Jaskier, the bard who would GLADLY toss a coin to the Witcher’s taut ass, or just seeing Henry Cavill shirtless that many times (as opposed to a dude who literally never removes his armor). It could have also been seeing these female characters completely owning the series, more so than Geralt himself sometimes, especially when there’s SO MANY OF THEM! I didn’t know who I desired to kick my ass more, the Princess Ciri, her dope (but arguably racist) grandmother and Queen Calanthe, Yennifer the Witch, or Renfri, the chick from the first episode that never come back (she might’ve been my favorite, hot take!)

“Well, I can’t think of any reasons why we SHOULDN’T have sex…so there’s that.”

There was a lot to enjoy in both of these series. A lot of which the shows have in common (sexy angsty freelance dads earnin’ big bucks while becoming adoptive fathers), but that isn’t to say that these shows don’t have critical differences (like one being in space and the other being in a fantasy realm).

Both The Mandalorian and The Witcher both feature protagonists who embody the warrior archetype; they both are seemingly the last of their kind, and carry the weight of that with them, which leaves these two with walls built between them and other people. They have been betrayed, and have had their trust broken, and now live their lives as nomads who kill for coin and credits, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake and tales of their endeavors told in rumors and songs. That is, until their journeys go from simply taking jobs in self-contained anecdotes to bringing children into Mando and Geralt’s arms. Mando is tasked with killing the child, but he’s not a heartless monster, so he decides to save the child! Geralt has no intention of having a child, but he sort of stumbles his way into becoming a godfather of a princess in comedic Stooge fashion.

Now, the only reason I’m not writing about how these shows are pretty much the same thing as one another and giving them shit for it is because, well, these shows really aren’t the same at all, despite the warrior-dads thing. And yes, it goes beyond the surface and is more than just the sci-fi and fantasy aesthetics. In terms of what the shows do, they have episodes that each focus on a singular event occurring, like, “The One About The Prison Break In Space”, or “The One Where I Join A Quest To Slay A Dragon”, which makes it feel as though each of their eight episodes truly are a single chapter, or a peek into these character’s lives in a journal of sorts. The structures of these shows are what really get me. In The Mandalorian, Mando doesn’t meet the child until the end of the first episode, which is sort of the inciting incident, but from there, the story progresses forward in a way where time isn’t necessarily tracked, but we know that everything is occurring sequentially. It doesn’t feel as though there are big gaps or time jumps between scenes or episodes aside from, but we don’t really get much detail as to how much time has passed. This doesn’t make for a jarring experience, though.

However, when one is viewing The Witcher, we are watching Geralt’s story occur, along with Ciri and Yennifer, two of the wonderful female characters I mentioned earlier. Now, each of these three characters’ stories all start at a certain point. Geralt’s story starts with him meeting Renfri in a village. Yennifer’s story starts with her as a hunchback being sold to witches and inducted in their academy of sorts. Ciri’s story starts with her fleeing her kingdom after it is conquered by an enemy kingdom (who don spooky black armor that couldn’t scream “we’re the bad guys” any louder). Now, as these stories progress throughout the episodes, there’s a lack of an overlap until a certain point. Like, we’re seeing things happening to Geralt, and to Yennifer, and to Ciri, and they all go places and do things, and for a while, we’re like “huh, when do they…?” and then we start to get to points where certain characters that, say, died in certain episodes reappear later, and interact with Geralt, or Yennifer, or Ciri (the Big Three, so to speak), and then it starts to dawn on us…the show’s structure isn’t linear at all.

See, that’s what got me. The Witcher is told from three perspectives, all of which pretty much start at different points in time, and only one of which is actually taking place in the present. This isn’t explicitly clear right off the bat, which might’ve confused some viewers, and would’ve upset me if it hadn’t all come together by the finale. It isn’t until the last episode that we see these three characters make it to the same point and place in time (and no, I don’t mean TIME TRAVEL, that’s another post I’m writing soon). The last episode is also when we finally get a child in Geralt’s arms, which is a wild contrast to Mando’s parental journey. One gains a child by the start of the show, while one gains a child by the end. One follows a linear plot, and the other jumps between years in the story. Favreau and Hissrich both follow drastically different writing structures, but somehow utilize wildly similar formulas in how their protagonist’s arcs progress, which in turn has created the new archetype we all love and appreciate now: grumpy warrior dad!

“Bonus eye candy: Aunt Cara shows us her GUNS!”

Anyway, that’s all I really have. I’m not over here writing essays, so this might be the cleanest wrap-ups I will write for a while. If you’re wondering which of the two my favorite was, it’s pretty close, but I’d have to go with the show with the dude who was naked more often (Sorry, Disney, your family-oriented marketing is wholesome, but that’s all it is). But in all seriousness, The Witcher is a series I went in completely blind for, which might of left me with a lot less expectations than I did for The Mandalorian. I knew Star Wars, so I might’ve expected a certain type of show, and despite thoroughly enjoying the series, The Mandalorian never made me go WOW (except scenes showing off Cara’s guns…as she holds her rifles and stuff). I did go “aw” a couple of times, but that’s what I’m talking about. It wasn’t saucy like I had hoped. The Witcher scratched that naughty itch for me, while also having me go “WAIT A MINUTE” when the plot lines converged, leaving me pleasantly more entertained than the former. That’s just my hot take, and anyone else’s take is just as valid! Let me know some of your thoughts. Stay lovely, folks!

(Sorry, I don’t have a punchline for the title. Maybe comment some if y’all think of one.)

Fanboy Hour – A Look Back At the Pre-Crisis Multiverse

At the time of this posting, we will be pretty much one week away from the start of the Crisis of Infinite Earths crossover event on the CW network. We’ve got crossovers with the main Arrowverse shows that debuted here; we’ve got Arrow, The FlashSupergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and the newest edition in the lineup, Batwoman. Aside from those five series, we’ve got a tie-in with characters from Black Lightning, along with cameos from other DC tv show properties like Smallville, Birds of Prey, The Flash from the 1990’s, and even big characters debuting, like Kevin Conroy as Batman from the Kingdom Come comic series, Brandon Routh as Superman from his 2006 film (which is also canonically Christopher Reeve’s Superman character and Kingdom Come Superman), with other appearances rumored for the crossover. Some of those names include Lynda Carter and Burt Ward in an undisclosed role, and others that I can’t keep up with because this event is HUGE!

I’ve got my theories and speculations about what we’ll see out of the crossover, and as much as I’d love to go on about those thoughts, that’s not what I’m going to do with this post. That being said, I did make a bingo card in preparation for Crisis with all of my major theories used as the spots. It’s posted on my Tumblr, and y’all can check it out here!

Now, without further ado, let’s get caught up on these shows and see where we’re going from here on out! SPOILERS follow!

We’re, uh, actually skipping  DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It premieres after Crisis, so…

“Better, Gayer and Edgier Than Batman”

Let’s start with Batwoman! It debuted this year, which I was mega excited for because IT WAS SO DOPE TO GET THE TEASE FROM THE ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER OMFG! There was a lot of backlash for Ruby Rose being cast as, like, the one lesbian in Hollywood, which I would’ve been more upset about if I hadn’t seen her kick ass in John Wick. My biggest thing when it comes to action series is having the actors and actresses be bold enough to pull off the stunts on their own without stunt doubles. Not that it’s bad to use doubles, but I’m just more impressed as shows having their own actors do stunts. That being said, the stunts on this show aren’t the most exciting, but it’s a good thing the show has been making up for it with Rose just KILLING it as Kate Kane. I had skepticisms about the villain, but Alice proved to be a really good arch enemy for Batwoman, so I’m down with it. The will-they-won’t-they between Kate and her ex is okay, but like, I’m waiting to get past that and for Kate to find real potential love next season or something. The writing has been really good with Caroline Dries from The Vampire Diaries working on the series. We’ve got a good Batwoman adaptation, solid drama, and so much queer representation to make my recently out-of-the-closet queer heart melt. Love the series. Can’t wait for post-Crisis Batwoman to do some gnarly things and expand on their lineup. I’d love to see Red Hood, Orphan, or even Bluebird show up. Not much else to say, considering this series JUST debuted with its first season. The other shows have a LOT more to go through.

“PANTS!”

Let’s go to Supergirl, now! We’re five seasons in, having reached episode 5×08, right before Part 1 of the Crisis starts. At this point, we went from an entirely different network version of the show, having started on NBC, with massively different set pieces, cast and crew, and writers doing different things. The show moving to the CW left us with a loss of, who I thought was a dope villain, Maxwell Lord, along with gorgeous characters like Lucy Lane, and the enigmatic Cat Grant. In that move, we did happen to gain OTHER set pieces, new cast and crew, and, like, OTHER writers. From the purest origin story we could get for Kara, to the cutest queer coming out arc for Alex, to gaining the Legion of Super-Heroes (I would’ve loved, like, Lightnig Lad and Timberwolf and Triplet, but…we got Brainiac 5 and Saturn-Girl, so we’ll take the dub where we can). Villains like Manchester Black, Reign, and Lex Luthor came around, and then we’ve got MY personal favorites, Lena Luthor and Nia Nall. 

Out of all of the arcs we’ve gotten during these seasons, I’d have to say season four was my favorite. We didn’t have Mon-El being trash (yeah, I didn’t like him at all), we got our lovely trans representation debut in Nia, who was the purest little bean of a character when she debuted, to someone who has kicked ass alongside our heroes, but for some reason has been a little absent in our most recent episode, and I really don’t remember why. The storyline between Kara and Lena really got amped up after season four, going from acquaintances to best friends to PRACTICALLY GIRLFRIENDS, to this seemingly broken relationship. This is the one thing that keeps drawing me back to the show, and I would love to keep them at the core. Manhunter stays being a cool father figure, but Martian Manhunter’s storylines are less exciting now that he’s been focused on this random brother that Monitor brought back. With that arc coming to a close, we can prepare for Supergirl’s involvement in Crisis, bringing in Superman and Lois Lane, along with their baby AND LEX LUTHOR AGAIN! Can’t wait for where the show goes post-Crisis. I don’t know if they’ll continue this Leviathan arc, which aired around the time that Event Leviathan was being released by DC. It was a conspiracy espionage with a masked villain who was taking down the government to basically build a new world order, because according to Leviathan, everyone else has been saving the world wrong. I was expecting season five’s arc to go down that route, but it’s been…NOT that. We got an Earth Bender from Avatar trying to kill Supergirl, and it’s been okay, but I’m hoping that isn’t the villain post-Crisis. Hopefully we’ll drop the queerbaiting subtext between Kara and Lena, and just LET OUR BABIES BE HAPPY. That’s all I want, is for the two of them to be happy.

Image result for the flash season 6 poster

“Season 6 of ‘Monster of the Week’ ft. Preparations for Crisis”

We are six seasons in for The Flash, caught up on 6×08 right before Crisis, and we’ve gone FAR! I’m talking naive little me watching Arrow’s second season and thinking, “gee, Barry Allen might be a side character on Arrow’s next season” to the first Arrowverse spin-off debuting and teasing Crisis on its premiere. From that point, we got one of the best first seasons of an Arrowverse show, with Reverse-Flash posing as one of the dopest villains on the show, with season two pushing epic boundaries with the Multiverse being introduced. Season three debuted Flashpoint, one of the things I was most hype about, but it being an episode long was the biggest buzzkill. It was a little too dark and depressing, so it’s sort of part of this repressed part of my mind. Season four was when they said, “gee, let’s get funny again,” and became borderline tacky in some instances. Ralph Dibny, the funnier guy, debuted at this point, and the tone of the series shifted dramatically. The villains, in all honesty, started absolutely sucking from this point onward.

The show kept its “Monster of the Week” formula intact, but with its villains no longer being speedsters, after everyone got annoyed with season three’s Savitar disaster. We had an uber-smart handicapped technophobe, an awfully voiced and unthreatening meta-serial killer (and his future niece or whatever, which nobody cared for), and this season’s villain. Now, what I love about the recent seasons is that they took more liberty pulling from the Rebirth canon, similarly to Supergirl pulling from Event Leviathan. We had Godspeed make an appearance (although it was definitely way more lackluster than it should’ve been), and Bloodwork show up as this season’s main villain. I’ll be honest, his gimmick makes sense, being a villain who offers immortality to Barry to help survive Crisis. It would’ve made sense for last season’s Cicada to be immortal, but what do I know? That being said, Bloodwork’s thing was basically just spreading a bad zombie infection. Like it wasn’t all that complicated, but it wasn’t interesting at all. Barry has a mind trip when he’s infected, and with Dark Flash showing up, it was just gunk in his mouth. Like, I really wanted to like this villain, and this whole season, but it was mostly just “fight a villain while we think about Crisis” but not really do anything about Crisis. I guess that’s the point though, with Barry having to accept his fate of dying in Crisis. I really hope that we don’t see Bloodwork past the first half of this season. I say “first half,” because once Crisis is done, I’m expecting a major shift in everything going on throughout a majority of the shows, especially with The Flash. It’ll be the first time we see a future past the looming headline that’s been haunting Barry since the premiere, and hopefully cool things in terms of structure will go down. 

“Every Mission Has An End”

That leaves us with Arrow. The Big Papa of the Arrowverse, having just aired 8×07. Each episode this last season was meant to be an homage to the series as a whole, with each episode being reminiscent of its corresponding season. We got through seven episodes, seven seasons, of the best and worst of the Arrowverse, from seasons one and two being Arrow’s peak, with it dying down during season three and four, and the remainder of the series having both highs and lows. Season five ended the five-year story of Olive being on the island and becoming the Arrow, only for those flashbacks to become super convoluted, so, you know, whatever. After that, season six became a lot more grounded and ended with a big gamechanger: Oliver outing himself as the Green Arrow. Season seven led to a dope prison arc, with more Rebirth villains coming in, like the Ninth Circle, and the Longbow Hunters debuting Silencer.

Again, highs and lows. Ricardo Diaz was, like, cool for being the first villain to survive a season and continue being a villain, but he got old really quick. Emiko Queen was also really dope, but her whole “villain-or-hero” thing was just as annoying as it was with Laurel from Earth-2. Yeah, Earth-2 Laurel’s “villain-or-hero” thing was ALSO one of the major lows of the show. It lasted, like, three seasons? I don’t know. Hated it. Hated Lance’s off-screen death, Ragman disappearing, Felicity growing from adorable to annoying, and blue balls (or, green balls) with all of the Green Lantern references for Diggle. But we got highs, like the 150th episode of Arrow being a really dope documentary styled episode, the flash forwards giving us baby Mia and William being the best siblings ever, and more ROY HARPER, the love of my life! I’ll admit, this last episode really chopped his arm off, which hurt SO much, but like, Roy has always been written as the DC character to be hurt the most, next to Wally (who is annoyingly absent from The Flash right now. We got Roy back before Crisis, why couldn’t we get Wally? Shame the writers don’t know what to do with him). Anyway, we had a very good run anyway. Stephen Amell killed it as Oliver Queen this season, with the entirety of the season being a big buildup for Crisis, while it also sort of being Oliver’s internal battle with himself, as he was sort of in denial about dying. We got fan favorites that came back for the final season, from the Merlyns to Moira and Thea, Adrian Chase and the OG Deathstroke (no Nyssa or Ragman or Artemis, also mad about those). But in terms of the final season wrapping things up, it did so in a way that made it feel like an entirely new show, both fresh and familiar for Arrow fans. It’s been great, honestly. Loved it.

And with that, you have caught yourselves up on the Arrowverse with me, and are a week away from witnessing one of the biggest events to happen with DC. I’m talking altering the canon of not ONLY the CW shows, but shows and films and canons that have been around for decades and have just now debuted. We are IN FOR A REAL TREAT, FOLKS! Get ready.

Stay Lovely – ya boy