Fanboy News Network Episode 16

Fanboy News Network Episode 16

Comic movie and TV News

This episode

What Andy Serkis is doing on the set of the Avenger: Age of Ultron

Pre-buzz on Guardians of the Galaxy

What Dave Bautista did to get ready to play Drax

The Batman v Superman trailer at SDCC

The picture of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman

Why Gotham may not be that good an idea.

Buzz for the coming seasons of Arrow and The Flash.

Review: Penny Dreadful

penny-dreadful-photo-533ab68c096e3Normally when I review a new series I like to watch five episodes, review it, and then do a follow-up review at the end of the season. With Penny Dreadful there was no point doing this as the first season only had eight episodes.

Penny Dreadful is a Showtime production that follows in the footsteps of Wold Newton, by way of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Anno Dracula. It is a cross-over universe set in Victorian London that brings together the novels Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, along with hints of other stories appropriate for the era.

The story follows Sir Malcolm Murray, as he assembles a group to search for his daughter Mina, who has been abducted by a mysterious force. This group includes Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) a childhood friend of Mina’s who is also a medium, Ethan Chandler (Josh Harnett) an American sharpshooter who clearly has a troubled past, Sembene (Danny Sapani) an African who acts as Sir Malcolm’s manservant, and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) who Sir Malcolm brings in for his medical knowledge.

Along the way, these adventurers encounter other characters who further complicate matters: Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), who finds Miss Ives fascinating in a way he cannot explain; Brona Croft (Billie Piper) an Irish prostitute, dying of consumption, who Ethan falls in love with; and Frankenstein’s Creature (Rory Kinnear) whom the others are not aware of, but makes his presence felt none the less.

One of the strengths that Penny Dreadful has over The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Anno Dracula, is that not all of its characters are taken directly from the novels. In fact outside of Dorian, Victor, and the Creature, all the other main characters are original to the series. This gives the show much more freedom in how it wants to portray them.

The show has also benefited from the short season. There was no filler. Scenes either advanced the story, or advanced the characters. Next season will increase to 10 episodes, but that should not do any damage to the pace.

It is also clear that series creator John Logan is aware of the difference between gothic horror vs an action story using horror characters. The horror is on full display here, and the mood is pervasive. The monsters here are not portrayed as beautiful misunderstood outsiders, but as alien horrors to be rightfully feared. This is counterbalanced by watching the effect the events have on the main characters and how, in many ways, that is more horrible than the monsters themselves.

The acting in the series is excellent, which isn’t surprising given the experience of the cast. What is surprising is that the standouts tend to be the lesser known actors. Harry Treadaway and Rory Kinnear give poignant portrayals to Frankenstein and his creation. They are so good that the series could just focus on them and it would still be well worth watching. This is not to take away from the other actors. Eva Green gives one of the best performances of her career as Vanessa, who is conflicted by guilt over her role in Mina’s peril, and the cost that saving her friend is taking on her. Timothy Dalton portrays Sir Malcolm as a man obsessed with saving his daughter, but blind to how his efforts are tainted by that obsession. Josh Hartnett does a fine job with his role, which is often to be the voice of reason, meaning he is often at odds with Sir Malcolm.

Overall, the show does an excellent job of conveying a mood and style consistent with Victorian horror.

I give Penny Dreadful a final grade of B. Fans of the horror genre will enjoy it and non-fans should still find it entertaining.

Horror Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Behind the mask

When Jennifer Lovely (of Don’t Read The Latin) started our weekly Friday Horror Movie Night, one of the movies I requested we watch was Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. I’d been hearing about this movie for years and was interested in how it was executed. Recently, we finally did watch it.

This movie works from the premise that all slasher movies are actually real events, but that the slashers themselves are just ordinary men who worked to give their actions the suggestion of the supernatural. Slashers are also shown as having their own subculture.

Behind the Mask is about Leslie Vernon’s efforts to become the next great slasher. Leslie reaches out to a documentary crew to film him as he prepares for his killing spree. At first going along to capture this strange underground culture, the film crew find themselves getting drawn into Leslie’s world for better or worse.

At its heart, Behind the Mask is a deconstruction of the slasher genre. Unlike the Scream movies, that are more about characters that are aware that they are in a slasher film, Behind the Mask takes a look at the genre from the slasher’s point of view.

Director Scott Glosserman, who also wrote the script with David J. Stieve, makes several key choices in how the film presents this world that keep it unique. The main one is in not letting his concept box him in. Most of the cinematography is done in a ‘found footage’ style, with the idea being this is what was shot by the documentary film crew; however, when there are scenes that make no logical sense for the film crew to be there, the cinematography switches to being a more in keeping with standard slasher movie styles. It’s a device that works well. In the documentary segments Leslie is talkative, explaining every step of the way what he is doing and why in great detail. When it is in straight-up slasher film style Leslie says nothing, becoming the typical silent slasher. Even the color saturation changes from natural, to the deeper colors you see in a typical horror movie. Also, the camera men are never seen during the documentary sections. In fact, they are barely characters until the third act when the documentary style is abandoned completely.

This film does a great job of laying out what is going to happen in the story, by following the predictable slasher movie expectations and then subverting them at the last moment. The script has some brilliant moments of subtle foreshadowing for those paying attention.

Of course, a film like this is going to live or die based on the performance of the title character. Fortunately, Nathan Baesel gives a great performance as Leslie Vernon. He makes the character very charming, even while conveying that there is something clearly off about him. Thanks to Baesel’s performance there are times in the movie when you really want Leslie’s reign of terror to go off according to plan.

The other lead in the film (Angela Geothals as Taylor Gentry, the interviewer for the documentary) also puts in a fine performance. Taylor rides a fine line, varying from being aloof about Leslie’s plans, to excited or horrified.

One name in the cast that I’m sure was there to help sell the film to the horror crowd is Robert Englund as Doctor Halloran, a man who knows about Leslie’s plans and is trying to stop him. Englund’s part is small and doesn’t require much from the actor, but does serve to add to the overall structure of the movie. Englund’s presence is fun, especially since Freddy Kruger is called out by name a few times as one of Leslie’s influences, and one character suggests that he knows him personally.

Speaking of the character that might know Freddy, the best performance in the film comes from veteran character actor Scott Wilson, who most people today know from The Walking Dead where he plays Hershel Greene. In Behind the Mask he plays Eugene, a retired slasher who lives with his wife in a quiet secluded home. Eugene acts as Leslie’s mentor, giving advice on key parts of his plan and giving the film crew insights into slasher culture. Eugene comes off as a friendly paternal figure, who still gives off the vibe that he could be very dangerous, given the right circumstances.

Behind the Mask is a hidden gem of horror that is underappreciated by horror movie fans, and certainly under seen.

I give Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon a final grade of B+. Horror fans should really enjoy it and non-fans should appreciate how it turns the normal slasher tropes on their head.

 

Fanboy News Network Episode 15

                                  Fanboy News Network Episode 15

A Fanboy News Network/Gothic Charm School Guide to Disneyland

Jeff gets together with his sister, Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm Schoo, to talk about Disneyland at a Fandom.

They Discuss:

How Disneyland fandom differs from just visiting.

Their personal Disneyland traditions.

Easter Eggs in the park.

ways to enhance the Disneyland experiences.

Batsday

Tales of pranks Jeff has pulled on Jillian at the park.

 

The SDCC harassment failure

comiccon-150x150Once again, we find ourselves wading into the issue of harassment in geek culture. This time it hits the big arena that is San Diego Comic Con (SDCC).

The growing awareness of the issue of harassment at conventions has led to many conventions addressing this issue in increasingly clear language. I have written about this several times. We have seen good examples (such as the policies put forth by Emerald City Comicon and The Calgery Expo), bad examples (such as with Fan Expo Canada), and even tragic examples (as was the case with Aki Con).

But unlike these shows, SDCC is well known to mainstream culture. It is THE big show, sells out in 90 minutes, and getting to go is akin to getting the golden ticket.

In light of all these factors, a group called GeeksForCONsent created an online petition to urge SDCC to create a specific anti-harassment policy. Right now, what they have is a broad code of conduct that mentions harassment, but does not define what it means.

Specifically, the SDCC code of conduct is as follows:  Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.

What GeeksForCONsent is looking for is a more clearly defined process that includes a visible reporting mechanism, signs around the convention outlining the policy, and staff training on how to handle these issues. If this sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about it here detailing Emerald City Comicons anti-harassment effort. These are also the steps that The Calgary Expo and many others adopted this year.

Unfortunately, any hope of this petition having any effect right now is stalled. We know this because the director of marketing for SDCC (Daniel Glanzer) has commented on the petition in an interview stating that he did not favor creating a more explicit and visible policy, because it may send the message that there is a harassment problem at SDCC.

I understand if you need to take a minute after reading that last sentence.

Glanzer’s stance is that he thinks that SDCC has taken sufficient steps to deal with harassment and anything else would just cause bad press. I want to go on record as disagreeing with Glanzer. While I do not think a policy needs to be point by point, I do feel it needs to be specific enough that it points out what harassment is defined as, and what mechanisms are in place for someone to report it and get help. In reading Glanzer’s, response I feel his message was that SDCC marketing and publicity was more important than making the convention a safe space. Not only do I find their position unsettling, I worry that they are sending a message to other convention organizers that they need not worry about their own harassment policies.

We are at a point in geek culture when the issue of inclusion vs harassment is now a major issue. Not every convention has a good policy, but as more incidents are having light shed on them, more organizers are taking steps to address the issue. The effects of these steps are visible. Conventions that make sure they are a safe space are reaping the benefits of good will and strong attendance.  Conventions that ignore the issue are getting bad reputations and are starting to see more people staying away.

My biggest concern is that SDCC does not have as much incentive to change, since it is the big dog of conventions. Even staying with their lack luster policy they are going to sell out. The only thing that might be able to change their position externally is a lot of very bad press, or boycotts from major figures in fandom.

My hope is that someone with clout, either inside or outside the organization, can convince them that updating their policy is in everyone’s best interest.

Until then, it is up to those of us in the trenches to keep pushing this message and demanding better.

 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D End of Season Review

agents-of-shield-logo

I did a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D at the beginning of the season and, as I did with Arrow last year, I vowed to do a follow up review at the end of the season to see how the show ended up. I think this is going to become a tradition here at Fanboy News Network.

If you want a refresher on what I said in the first review please go here. I’m going to assume you have read that review before going into this one. Be warned, I am not going to avoid spoilers, so if you have not seen the season finale you may want to hold off reading this.

So what changed on  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D between the last review and now? Damn near everything.

The biggest complaint about the show was that for a TV extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D didn’t feel that connected to the movies or the comics outside of the occasional name drop. Of course, what seemed like a bizarre oversight turned out to be a high stakes gamble by the producers. Knowing the plot of Captain America: The Winter Solider in advance, the whole front end of the season was one massive build up to that story.  While the price of that gamble was a major slip in the ratings and much rancor from the fanbase, the payoff was incredible.

It also allowed a build up to that event, starting with the return from the mid-season break, and for some real delving into the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection.

This level of coordination between a film and TV show is unprecedented, which is a word that gets tossed around in regards to the MCU a lot. It also took a show that was good and made it riveting, as the entire status quo of the series was obliterated.

Out of this you got a fresh look at the characters.

Grant Ward got a lot of this. In the early part of the season a major complaint about the character was how bland he was. In hindsight, this was brilliant as it was later revealed that Ward was an agent of Hydra. His blandness went from just a flaw to a cover that hid his true allegiance. I am also impressed by the dedication to this development. It would have been easy to write in a change of heart in the finale and have Ward attempt to redeem himself, and thus rejoin the team. Instead, they doubled down on the betrayal and simultaneously showed that Ward is, in his heart, a follower who is lost if no one is giving him orders.

Melinda May turned out to be a very interesting character, once the story really got going mid-season. The revelation that she created the team, and was tasked with monitoring Coulson, cleared up a lot of issues that hampered the show early on and allowed for some great character moments. It also allowed her to have complex relationships with Coulson, Ward, and Skye.

Fitz and Simmons were on the short end of the stick when it came to character development, early in the season, but their arcs have become interesting, as the show continued on. Fitz is a company man through and through, will follow Coulson whatever the circumstance, and is the one that struggles the most when Hydra strikes. Simmons is more interested in discovering the truth, and will go behind the team’s back if necessary. They also had the development that their feelings for each other were complicated. Early in the season fans couldn’t tell if their relationship was meant to be romantic or more like siblings. The reveal was that for Simmons it was sibling, and for Fitz it was romantic. The resolution of this is one of the cliffhangers at season’s end and it will be interesting to see how they deal with it next season.

Skye was an early source of derision amongst the fanbase. Because she was there to act as an audience proxy, she was a focus point for most of the early episodes. Due to this, she was declared a Mary Sue. Which the show decided to poke fun at by having her reveal that the orphanage she grew up in gave her the name Mary Sue Poots. Later episodes still had her as big part of the story, but gave more balance to other characters. Her big reveal was that she may not be fully human, and that her parents are described as being monsters. There is great potential here, especially if they make whatever she really is something from the comics such as an inhuman, or an eternal.

Phil Coulson always had the advantage of being the character everyone had already warmed to from his appearances in the MCU movies and one-shots. He also had the built in mystery story arc of how he managed to still be alive after the events in The Avengers. It was the revelation of how he was brought back to life mid-season that marked the shows turnaround from just ok to really engaging. It was also great to see Clark Gregg take the character and flesh him out. With an entire series to work with, we got to see more of what drives Coulson; his idealism and his doubts were both on display. I also want to touch on, for perhaps the last time, the article I wrote prior to the release of the Avengers where I mentioned that Tom Huddleston had said Loki would be up against 8 heroes, and I speculated on who the eighth Avenger was. In the finale, Nick Fury came out and said that he considered Coulson an Avenger.

Outside of the main cast you had some very interesting reoccurring characters:

First, I would like to point out Antoine “Trip” Triplett (played by B.J. King) who was introduced as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent working with John Garrett. Trip’s role on the team evolved into being their new specialist, after Ward was revealed to be a Hydra agent. Trip avoided the blandness issue that plagued Ward by being made the grandson of one of Captain America’s Howling Commandos. This gives him a connection to the MCU movies and he and Coulson are able to bond over their shared love of S.H.I.E.L.D’s history. He also flirts with Simmons, creating tension with Fitz.

Mike Peterson (played by J. August Richards) is a character that appeared in the pilot, and had the subversion of being made into Deathlok, thus retroactively becoming a character from the comics. Like that character, he starts out as a reluctant villain. In the finale, he is freed from Hydra’s control. My hope is he will be followed up on in season two, and we will get to see his redemption story.

John Garrett (played by Bill Paxton) is a subversion from the comics. Like his comic incarnation, he is a S.H.I.E.L.D agent that is made into a cyborg. But, like Alexander Pierce in the Captain America: The Winter Solider, he subverts those roots by being a Hydra agent. Garrett is an example of a well built character arc. He is friendly and helpful before he is revealed to be the bad guy, giving his heal turn some real bite. Once he is free from the need to pretend, he proves manipulative and self-serving. He turns into a great foil for the team and makes a memorable bad guy.

The biggest flaw of the series is that, even though they knew where they were going with the Hydra plot from day one, they so underplayed it that early part of the season seems disjointed and not at all connected to the MCU. While they made up for it in the second half, they had an uphill battle to regain the goodwill of the fanbase.

Based on all of this, I give Season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D a final grade of B.

Fanboy News Network Episode 14

Fanboy News Network Episode 14

The year in Geek TV

Jeff takes a look at the season finales for several geek appealing shows and also what we can look forward to next season.

Captain America: The Winter Solider : A comic fan’s perspective

caws

Now that Captain America: The Winter Solider  has been out for a while, it is time again to look at how the movie represents the characters and storylines as they relate to their comic book counterparts.

As with the other times I have done this, there will be spoilers for both Captain America: The Winter Solider and the current storylines in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so consider yourself warned.

As the title suggests, the film is a loose adaptation of Ed Burbaker’s Winter Soldier storyline from his run on Captain America. I say loose because while elements of Brubaker’s story are used, the movie is more centered on a new plot that ties into the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  One of the major strengths of the MCU movies is that, even though they are all superhero movies, each one stakes out its own genre to keep them from feeling repetitive.

Captain America: The Winter Solider is, at its heart, a political thriller/spy film. The story is a throwback to the S.H.I.E.L.D. stories that Jim Steranko created back in the 60s and 70s. In other words, this is a S.H.I.E.L.D. story that happens to feature Captain America, Black Widow, and the Falcon.

It also works as the best example yet that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a cohesive whole and that what happens in one part has implications in another.  Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the TV arm of the MCU) has been directly affected by the events of the film, just like related comic titles would be affected by a major change in another title’s storyline. This was an unprecedented event and marked a major uptick in the investment viewers had inAoS.  I’ll get into this more when I do the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season review, after the season finale.

Back to Captain America: The Winter Solider. There were so many continuity nods that it was almost too much to keep track of. The shout out that got fans the most excited was the mention of Stephen Strange, making fans giddy with anticipation of the Dr. Strange film.

As for the characters, we have Captain America himself, of course. Chris Evans has truly embodied this character, staying true to his comic book incarnation. A patriotic idealist who has a firm moral compass, and will strive to do what is right at all times, for no other reason than that it is right. In a time when even film portrayals of Superman have moral ambiguity, Captain America is still the beacon of light without becoming a victim of farce.

Black Widow brings a different take; prior to the MCU, Black Widow was really a second string Avenger. She was the former villain turned hero and the spy girl. Her appearances across the MCU, and how Scarlett Johansson has played her, have led to her becoming a much more major character in the comics, but she was never as close to Captain America as the movies have portrayed her.  Her presence makes sense in this story, both as a continuation of the MCU storyline in the Avengers and that Black Widow did have a history with the Winter Soldier in the comics, but it was actually more direct there, than in the film.

The Falcon is a case of Marvel Studios again finding the perfect balance between how the character was portrayed in the comics and how he needs to fit into the MCU narrative. In the comics, Sam Wilson was Captain America’s partner through the majority of the 70s (so much so that the comics were titled Captain America and the Falcon). His personality in the film is very aligned with how he is in the main Marvel Universe, while adding in the military background from the Ultimate Universe. Anthony Mackie gives a great performance, and I feel I could happily watch a movie devoted to the Falcon. In particular, I want to point out that the first time Falcon is revealed with his flight harness the word that sprang to my mind was “majestic.”

The Winter Soldier himself was a good take. Through most of the movie he was less character, and more plot device; he would show up and things would go to hell for the heroes. This is consistent with how the Winter Soldier was played early in the story. That even with those limitations Sebastian Stan is able to garner sympathy for this character is a testament to his skill as an actor.

Arnim Zola is a real stand out in this film. In the comics, Zola constructs a special cloned body for himself that has no head, with his face being a holographic projection on his chest. This would have looked ridiculous on-screen, so the movie wisely went the less taxing route of having his mind uploaded to a computer and his face appearing on the monitor.

Alexander Pierce is the one major departure in the film from his comic book counterpart. In the comics, he is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. serving directly under Nick Fury. His reveal as the main villain of the film is a major departure for this character; however, the way he is played in the film is consistent with how the Red Skull acted while he was manipulating different events in the comics. This led fans to speculate that Pierce was the Skull in disguise. The big take away I had with him from this film is that Robert Redford is being criminally underused in current cinema.

I give Captain America: The Winter Solider a grade of A. It is a superior effort that is enjoyable by both fans and non-fans alike.

 

Fanboy News Network Episode 13

Fanboy News Network Episode 13

In this episode

A look at the events that led Comic Book Resources to reboot their forum.

Another convention in need of a lesson in PR.

A look at the cast of the new Star Wars Movie.

DC Comics unfortunate free comic book day release.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour Review

The-Thrilling-Adventure-Hour-Logo

I feel like I came a bit late to The Thrilling Adventure Hour  party. I had heard of the show, or at least that there was a show, for about a year. What I hadn’t heard was what it was about. Back in January when I went to the see the Welcome to Night Vale live show, it was announced that they would be back in Seattle in March for Emerald City Comicon, and to do a cross-over with The Thrilling Adventure Hour. So with that announcement I decided it was time that I find out what The Thrilling Adventure Hour was all about.

And once I did, I was more excited about them coming to town then Welcome to Night Vale.

In short, The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a monthly live show performed at the Largo at the Coronet, a 250 seat theater in Hollywood. It is a show done in the style of old time radio, with the performers standing on stage with scripts in hand and with sound effects added live. Segments of the show are then released weekly, as a podcast by Nerdist Industries.

The show was created in 2005 by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, when they were developing an animated show to pitch. They liked how the read through sounded, and it inspired them to attempt the old style radio format. A typical live show is broken into three segments, two regular ones and a rotating middle segment. The segments are often broken up by ads for fictitious product brands.

So, from this basic format what was it that made me get really excited about this show? The simple answer would be everything, so let’s get down to specifics.

First is the writing; Acker and Blacker are amazingly talented writers, who found a format that lets them cut loose. The scripts are well plotted and paced with an emphasis on the dialog between characters. Also, you can clearly tell the characters apart just by the dialog, which comes in handy when different actors sometimes have to step in to play an already established character.

On top of that you have an embarrassment of riches in the actors.

The core performers of The Thrilling Adventure Hour are known as the Workjuice Players. They were formed initially from improv actors associated with Second City, and grew to include some of the regular guest stars. The current roster of the Workjuice players is Paget Brewster, Craig Cackowski, John DiMaggio, John Ennis, Mark Gagliardi, Marc Evan Jackson, Hal Lublin, Joshua Malina, Busy Philipps, Autumn Reeser, Annie Savage, Paul F. Tomkins, and James Urbaniak. Additionally, you have the show’s director Aaron Ginsburg, and Musical Director Andy Paley.

On top of the core players, the show has had an amazing array of guest performers. Nathan Fillion has appeared so often he has his own reoccurring segment.  His Castle co-star Molly Quinn also has a reoccurring character. It would be insane to try and cover all the other guest stars, but examples include Weird Al Yankovich, Jon Hamm, Zachary Levi, Karen Gillian, and Clark Gregg.

Part of what attracts such notable guests is that the format requires no memorization, so prep time is minimal. Guest starring on the show has become such a big deal that many of the Workjuice players have said they are glad they got in early, as they are not famous enough to warrant a guest spot now.

It is a formula that works. The monthly live show regularly sells out. And they have regular attendees, as well as people coming to see the show after listening to the podcast. The live nature gives it an energy you just can’t get in a recording booth.

As for the show itself, you can tell that the fans are fully invested because they cheer loudly when familiar segments start.

And about those segments. They cover a wide range of genres, with the unifying factor of almost all of them being funny.

And what are those segments?

The live show traditionally starts with Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars. This was the original show that Acker and Blacker were writing as an animated pilot. It is literally a space western, telling the story of Sparks Nevada (Marc Even Jackson), a man from Earth in the 31st century who is the Marshal on Mars. He is aided by Martian native Croach the Tracker (Mark Gagliardi) who accompanies him to fulfill an onus owed to Nevada by his people. This is the one segment that is serialized and needs to be listened to in release order to follow the story. It also has several spin off segments that fit into its continuity, but I’ll get to them in a bit.

The last segment in the live show is Beyond Belief. This follows the adventures of Frank and Sadie Doyle (Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster), a couple who get involved in various supernatural situations. They are pastiches of Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies. As such they are drinking constantly, and would prefer to be left alone, but always end up helping whoever comes to them for help.

The middle segments of the show rotate each month.

First you have what has become known as the “Sparks Nevada extended universe.” These are stories set in the Sparks Nevada continuity but do not usually feature Sparks himself.  The most common of these is Cactoid Jim, King of the Martian Frontier featuring Nathan Fillion as the title character, a cross between Davy Crockett and Buck Rogers.

Next is The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam, starring John DiMaggio as a Silver Age style superhero. In later episodes it also features Phillip Fathom, Deep Sea Detective (Hal Lublin), who is basically an aquatic version of the Nolan Batman.

Down in Moonshine Holler follows the exploits of a depression era millionaire (Craig Cackowski) who abandons his old life to become a Hobo, as he searches for his love The Hobo Princess.

The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock features a Victorian gentleman (Craig Cackowski) who protects the timeline on behalf of Queen Victoria. It has a spin off in The Algonquin Four, where members of the Algonquin Round Table gain the powers of the Fantastic Four.

Tangentially related to Tick-Tock is Amelia Earhart, Fearless Flyer, where the famed pilot faked her disappearance in order to fight time traveling Nazis across history.

The show also has a completed series called Tales from the Black Lagoon, featuring Mark Gagliardi as Ben Chapman, the actor who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The story is a Noir alternate history of Hollywood, and the only segment to not play up comedy.

There are also various one or two shot segments that occur from time to time.

All segments, with the occasional exception, are narrated by Hal Lublin.

One of the strengths of the show is that it avoids the common comedy trope of the hero being an incompetent idiot who wins through the luck that comes from the efforts of others. Rather, it mines its comedy from dialog, relationships, and the situations the characters find themselves in.

An example is Sparks Nevada, who is very blasé about everything and a bit egotistical. However, in a crisis his blasé attitude translates into a lack of panic, and his ego gives him confidence in his skills. The humor is usually about his relationship with Croach, or their mutual love interest The Red Plains Rider (Busy Phillips) and how issues involving these come up at the worst possible times.

I give The Thrilling Adventure Hour a grade of A-. Genre fans will love it and non-fans should enjoy most of it. The only reason it gets the minus is not everyone will enjoy every single segment.