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.

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)

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.✌🏽