It’s incredibly humbling to see my illegible signature scrawled alongside so many others who have helped make Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and the related spinoffs one of the most significant bodies of work in the history of comics. Happy 25th Anniversary!
I never came across the early Carmen Sandiego computer games in the 80s, but I was in college when the PBS series Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? debuted in 1991 and I have vivid memories of watching it in my dorm every day after class. I was only vaguely aware of the various cartoon spinoffs and subsequent computer games that followed throughout the 90s, and never had any great sentimental attachment to the character. So I greeted the news of a new cartoon series on Netflix with mild curiosity at best. The early teasers I saw looked interesting, and I liked the look of the character designs, but I didn’t have terribly high expectations going in.
This week my kid and I watched all nine episodes of the first season of Carmen Sandiego, and it has quickly shot to the top of our list of Most Awesome Animated Shows. With Gina Rodriguez voicing the titular character and Finn Wolfhard voicing her hacker pal Player, the new series reimagines Carmen Sandiego as a kind of globe-trotting Robin Hood, stealing historical treasures back from the villainous V.I.L.E. and returning them to their rightful owners, all while keeping ahead of the superspies of ACME who are hot on her heels. The character designs by Chromosphere’s Kevin Dart (whose work I raved about on my blog ages ago) are gorgeous, the animation by DHX Media is fluid and lively, and the music by Lorenzo Castelli and Steve D’Angelo is note perfect. It is a jet-setting superspy thriller with great action and genuine laughs, and with a healthy dose of educational content in every episode.
Since watching the series I’ve acquainted myself with the backstory and lore established through the various game shows, computer games, and cartoon spinoffs, and was surprised to learn just how much the new series draws from the earlier iterations, including the return of Rita Moreno (who voiced the character in the first cartoon adaptation in the early 90s) in a key cameo role. In terms of cartoon reboots, this is on par with the new DuckTales series in terms of creating something that feels fresh, new, and relevant while being constructed almost entirely out of elements that had already been established in earlier versions of the franchise. It’s a fantastic piece of work, and we can’t wait to see the second season!
I’d heard all of the raves about Killing Eve last year, but only got around to watching the BBC America series this month. Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and based on the Codename Villanelle novellas written by Luke Jennings, it stars Sandra Oh as an MI6 operative searching for an assassin played by Jodie Comer. I went in expecting to like it, but was not prepared for just how MUCH I would end up loving the series. It is by turns hilarious and heart-pounding, with amazing performances, sparkling writing, flawless editing, and the most spectacular soundtrack of any TV series I’ve watched in ages. (I stayed up late the night I finished the last episode building a playlist of all of the music from the show in Apple Music, and I’ve had Unloved’s Crash Boom Bang on a constant loop in my head ever since.) The second season is scheduled to begin airing in April, so if you haven’t checked out the first season yet you’ve got more than enough time to catch up and join me in eagerly anticipating what happens next. As for me, I’ll most likely be watching the whole thing again from the beginning in the meantime, because I just can’t get enough of this show.
This web site presents one glyph for each of the world’s writing systems. It is the first step of the Missing Scripts Project, a long-term initiative that aims to identify writing systems which are not yet encoded in the Unicode standard. As of today, there are still 146 scripts not yet encoded in Unicode.
The information can be arranged chronologically, or by region, name, Unicode number, or status, but however it’s sorted the site is packed with interesting data on writing systems and is incredibly aesthetically pleasing.
I’m late to the party on this one, I think. The first season of ITV’s The Frankenstein Chronicles was recommended to me by Mike Mignola back at the end of 2017, and when both seasons cropped up on Netflix a few months later I added the series to my watch list, but I didn’t get around to watching any of it until the holidays a few weeks ago. I thought I had a pretty good idea what the series would be about, but I was completely wrong. It was so, SO much more than I had expected.
To avoid spoiling things too much, I’ll just say that The Frankenstein Chronicles is a period-piece horror/mystery story with supernatural/science-fictional elements that makes brilliant use of the era in which it is set, incorporating real historical figures in key roles. (Pointing out just who those historical figures are would spoil the fun so I’ll refrain, though I will say that I kicked myself for not recognizing the pen name of newspaper reporter until after I finished watching the second season finale.) And the story is set in a historical era that I haven’t often seen explored in these sorts of TV shows and movies, late Georgian England (1827 to 1830, specifically) rather than the more familiar Victorian era.
The second season was scripted by a different team of writers than the first, and there is a slight shift in tone, but I found the way that they explore and expand on the way the first season ends deeply satisfying. There are moments of real horror throughout, so it’s not for the squeamish, but the way that real literary history, politics, science, and philosophy are threaded through the narrative was surprisingly sophisticated and well-done, to my tastes. Both seasons are available now on Netflix, and are well worth checking out.
Somehow I am only just now learning about the existence of a fictional secret society whose history connects many of the more recent Disney theme park attractions around the world, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, or S.E.A. for short.
The basic idea is that the personalities behind many of the newer theme park attractions (and retooled versions of existing ones) were all Victorian/Edwardian era members of a centuries’ old society for, well, explorers and adventurers. And the attractions themselves, therefore, are all part of a shared world with a shared history. In essence, the Imagineers have created a canonical version of what many Disney park fans have done themselves over the years when concocting elaborate theories about how the backstories of various rides and attractions might be connected. Haunted mansions and towers of terror, jungle cruises and mountain railroads, it’s all part of one sprawling tapestry. (There’s even a connection to a certain adventuring Nazi-punching archaeologist, whose pilot pal was a member…)
I found some great overviews of the organization online, such as the write-up at the Disney fan wiki, and fell down a deep, deep rabbit hole of fan videos on YouTube, such as the three part series by Offhand Disney.
This may be old news to the rest of you, I know. Most of the pieces I read were written between 2014 and 2017 (though most of the YouTube videos seem to be more recent). But if you’re anything like me and have a weakness for steampunk adventurers, Jules Verne-esque explorers, and monkeys (yes, monkeys), then I have a rabbit hole of theme park awesomeness that just might be up your alley…
Like most everyone I know, I had a pretty rough time for much of 2018. As I said many times, it turns out that living in the early days of a dystopian future can really take it out of you. But the last few weeks I’ve been finding myself a little more optimistic. I think that 2018 was the least productive year of my professional career, but I feel really good about all of the work that I got done, and I managed to lay the groundwork for some really cool stuff coming in 2019. And even with all of the horrible stuff going on in the world there was still a lot of goodness, too. Time spent with good friends, traveling with my kid, and generally trying to make room in each day for the things that bring me joy.
I spent at least one hour every night reading strictly for pleasure, and managed an average of a half-dozen novels a month as a result. I also read huge stacks of fantastic comics and OGNs, particularly a lot of great middle grade and YA stuff. I played five or six fantastic video games to completion over the course of 2018, and end the year several weeks into what I anticipate with be a LONG obsession with Red Dead Redemption 2. I saw a bunch of great movies in the theater, even more at home on disc or streaming, and watched more great TV this year than in any other year I can remember.
My kid is spending the afternoon playing D&D with friends, and tonight the two of us will be celebrating NYE with a movie, some video games, and a nice, quiet evening at home.
There’s a fascinating piece on Atlas Obscura about the ways that Charles Dickens tweaked and revised the text of A Christmas Carol as he read it aloud in front of audiences for years. (Image courtesy NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, HENRY W. AND ALBERT A. BERG COLLECTION OF ENGLISH AND AMERICAN LITERATURE/PUBLIC DOMAIN)
I have John Coulthart to thank for pointing out this hour-long interview with Jorge Luis Borges, when he appeared on William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Firing Line in 1977. I’ve only ever seen brief video clips of Borges before now (who was a huge influence on me in college and after), and I’m looking forward to spending an hour listening to him talk.
As most visitors to this site are probably aware, for the last few years I’ve been helping steer the “Mignolaverse” with scripting duties on various titles set in the world of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, the lovable red demon dude with the rocky right hand. And the publisher Dark Horse Comics has just announced that, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the character on March 23rd of next year, they’ll be releasing a special edition of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1 and several other goodies, including a “new, folded version of the Hellboy double-sided poster and Mignolaverse timeline that debuted at New York Comic Con.”
Here’s a thumbnail of that timeline, which includes a number of my contributions to that world in recent years (and click through for a full-sized version). And readers new to the Hellboy comics shouldn’t worry, it’s a lot easier to follow that it might appear at first glance.