And the Walls Came Down

When I was a kid and into comic books (and in all honesty, I never tired of comic books; getting out of them was generally an economic decision as well as one of time), one of my absolute favorites was Teen Titans.

The Teen Titans were all the sidekicks of the major super-heroes; kind of a junior Justice League: Robin, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Kid Flash, later adding more members like Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy. They were teenagers, and as a kid, I could relate to them more than I could to the adult super-heroes (which, of course, didn’t stop me from enjoying the adult super-heroes). Eventually, they were relaunched as the New Teen Titans, in the mid to late 1970’s (I could be wrong about these dates, but it’s what I remember). The News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia had about four or five magazine racks (they didn’t sell hardcover novels, only paperbacks), and the last rack, closest to where the books started, was where they stocked the comic books. I remember The New Teen Titans from buying them in Emporia, which is where I get the dates from.

This new iteration of the Titans included non-sidekick heroes: Starfire and Cyborg and Raven and Jericho. In the early 1980’s Dock Grayson progressed from Robin to Nightwing, becoming an adult–and one of my absolute favorite heroes.

I love this new iteration of Dick Grayson. (I also remember when the news broke in the late 1980’s that DC was killing off Robin and being initially traumatized at the loss of Dick Grayson–and then remembered there was a new Robin–Jason Todd–and that MY Robin was now Nightwing and sighed in relief.)

I never watched any of the animated series–which I really need to correct–but I subscribed to DC Universe solely because they were launching an original, live action Titans series, and it was from the Greg Berlanti production team, which had done so well with the Arrowverse series. (I eventually stopped watching these shows, but will undoubtedly go back to them at some point.)

I watched season one during a period last year when I was going to the gym again–between New Year’s and Carnival–and watched an episode every day I went while walking on the treadmill. I enjoyed the show, but wasn’t sure if it would be something Paul would like–he tired of the Arrowverse before I did–and I have never pushed my love of super-heroes on him too much (he does watch the films with me). I liked the show, but it never really grabbed me; I thought it was incredibly well done, and of course, the actor they hired to play Dick–who was no longer Robin but also not yet Nightwing–was gorgeous.


That’s Brenton Thwaites in the remake of The Blue Lagoon. But don’t let the fact he appeared in that keep you from watching Titans–he’s actually quite good in it. And he’s not that baby-faced anymore.

Much better.

When Season One opens, the Titans have disbanded and scattered. Dick is now a detective with the Detroit police department, trying to distance himself not only from his teammates but from his own past, with Batman. But he still suits up from time to time and wreaks havoc on the criminals of the city–but he’s concerned that he can no longer control his rage, which is part of the reason he no longer wants to be a masked vigilante anymore.

The primary driver of the Season One plot is Rachel, a young girl with strange powers she doesn’t understand and she’s afraid of; in the first episode her mother (or so she thinks; played by Sherilynn Fenn from Twin Peaks) is murdered and she’s been having dreams in which she sees the death of Dick’s parents…and with her own mother murdered and going on the run, she tries to track Dick down. (Rachel is, I assume, eventually going to become Raven.) Teagan Croft plays the part well.

Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth

Kory Anders, a gorgeous and perhaps the best written part on the entire series, is chasing Rachel as well–but cannot remember who she is or why. As a long-time Titans fan, I knew she was Starfire–and she forms a great bond with Rachel, as well as Dick–they sleep together; I do remember them as a couple from the comics. Brilliantly played by Anna Diop, she also gets the best lines, and perhaps the coolest super powers.

Anna Diop as Starfire

We also meet Beast Boy, aka Gar Logan, when Rachel escapes from some villains trying to capture her and winds up at the mansion where the Doom Patrol live (this is kind of a backdoor pilot for The Doom Patrol series; I am interested in watching the show, which was produced after some recasting–and they brought in some big names: Brendan Frasier, Timothy Dalton, and Matt Bomer); after Dick and Kory catch up to her there, Gar leaves with them and they continue their adventures.

Gar quickly becomes my favorite character on the show.

We also meet Hank and Dawn, aka Hawk and Dove, who now live in DC and are a couple–Dawn used to be with Dick (which plays out more in backstory in season two) and both are great characters, played very well by Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly.

Hawk and Dove

Those who are paying close attention will recognize Ritchson–he guest starred on Smallville a few times as Aquaman. He’s also gorgeous.

We also get to meet Wonder Girl, Donna Troy, played quite well by Conor Leslie.

Conor Leslie as Wonder Girl

The entire first season really revolves around the mystery of who Kory is, and why so many people are out to either capture or kill Rachel. Oh, I also forgot, we also meet new Robin, Dick’s replacement, Jason Todd.

Curran Walters as Jason Todd, Robin 2.0

He’s pretty–almost cartoonishly so–both Paul and I thought that he actually looks like a comic book character.

So, the Titans essentially reunite, Season One ends with a cliffhanger involving the big bad, and Season Two begins with not only the big bad being defeated, but an evolution of Rachel’s powers–the former Titans take off, while Dick brings the new Titans (Gar, Rachel, and Jason) to Titans Tower in San Francisco to train and become the new team. Not a bad first season, not bad at all.

But Season Two? Season Two is epic.

I won’t spoil anything–but there are two big bads–CADMUS Labs (aka Lex Luthor) and Deathstroke–played by Esai Morales (in the Arrowverse he was played by Manu Bennett; not sure why the switch, or if the two universes aren’t connected after all, despite Greg Berlanti’s involvement). We also meet Conner Kent (Superboy), Rose Wilson, Jericho Wilson, and Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Even better? KRYPTO.

I think this is from one of the recent reboots of the comic book universe, but Conner is a clone, developed from a combination of Superman’s DNA and Lex Luthor’s and grown at CADMUS Labs. I’ve always loved Superboy–which is one of the reasons I watched every season of Smallville–and was very happy to see this addition to the cast.

I also greatly loved the mute character of Jericho from the comics, and was delighted to see him added to the cast, and played by Chella Man–and even cooler, the actor is trans.

Chelsea Zhang is pretty badass as Rose, too.

We also all too briefly meet Aqualad, played by Pretty Little Liars’ Drew Van Acker.

Season Two not only has the two big bads, but also explores in greater detail–which we didn’t really see much of in season one–the two great tragedies that led to the break-up of the original Titans team, and why Dick was questioning being a caped crusader in the first place….plus we see Dick transition back into being a hero, being reborn as Nightwing.

It’s very well done, and I highly recommend it, if you’re into super-heroes.

The Night I Fell in Love

And now begins the three day weekend. Yay!

It’s also July now, as one can tell by the tropical weather experience New Orleans is currently enjoying; heat index averaging high nineties over a hundred everyday, your occasional heat advisory (“stay indoors if at all possible”), thunderstorms and flash flood warnings out of nowhere and some Sahara sand storm dust thrown in for shits and giggles.

I finished watching the only season of the original Jonny Quest yesterday while making condom packs, and I have to say, the original writers of this show had some serious issues with Asians, and most especially the Chinese. It’s unusual that in a decade and time period when the Cold War was particularly chilly–it originally aired only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and in prime time that single season–the Russians were never the villains. Dr. Quest’s arch enemy was the evil Chinese scientist Dr. Sun; and in several episodes the villains were Chinese. They also had a remarkable number of adventures in Asia–China, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Nepal; and the natives were always either evil or horrible stereotypes (as were any jungle natives they encountered in either South America or Africa). Hadji, a series regular, was a particularly stereotypical magical Indian youth–who managed to charm snakes, levitate others, and numerous other magic tricks while chanting “Heem, heem, salabeem” or some such nonsensical thing. He was always in a turban and Nehru jacket, and even in beach scenes, when the others wore swim trunks, he wore a Gandhi loincloth. Why?

I also watched a couple of episodes of Scooby Doo Where Are You, and despite the simplistic, casual racism of Jonny Quest, it’s still the superior show. I’ve not watched any of the later reboots of Jonny Quest–the one from 1986 shows up on HBO MAX as the second season, and in the mid-nineties The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest launched, with the boys aged to teenagers from eleven year olds, and Race’s daughter added to the mix (I guess to deflect the deep queerness of the original); the animation in this version is perhaps the best of all three versions–with Race finally achieving his full muscle-god bodyguard perfection–but whenever I’ve tried to watch, the “it’s not really Jonny Quest” disappointment always sets in and I stop watching.

We also got deeper into Season 2 of Titans, and it gets better and better with every episode, frankly. The Jericho story is particularly heartbreaking; and I love that they are using the second season (with some continuity errors) to explore how the team came to break apart in the first place (the show begins with the Titans already broken up, and them coming back together to confront the big bad of Season One) and how, essentially, all the action of Season One really was set into motion. It’s very exceptional story-telling, frankly, and the plotting and pacing is, for the most part, superb. Also superb is the addition of several new cast members: Rose Slade, Conner Kent, and Deathstroke as the big bad, with Aqualad appearing briefly as set up for the original conflict between the Titans and Deathstroke. We only have two episodes left, and I was glad to see the show was renewed for a third season already…although, given the pandemic, who knows when it will ever be filmed or when it will actually air.

Today, as I already mentioned earlier this week, is the day I am taking off. I have some emails to respond to, and some other things I need to get done this morning, but as soon as I get all of that done I am going on sabbatical for the rest of the weekend. I want to get a lot of writing done this weekend–the Secret Project must be finished, and there’s a couple more short stories in progress I want to work on and develop, but today for the most part I’m planning on mostly cleaning and reading and chilling out, so I can just let my brain relax and recuperate and my body to rest, so that the rest of the weekend I can get the writing I need to get done finished. I am looking forward to getting back into Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths–the first chapter was blistering–and getting through all the emails in my inbox. I also have my edits for the Sherlock story, which I’ll also have to get through this weekend–perhaps today–I am giving myself until one to deal with the Internet and emails and so forth before shutting down for the holiday weekend.

It’s very strange outside this morning, neither light nor dark but sort of grim-looking and hazy. The trees aren’t moving so there’s no wind of any kind out there. I’m not sure what the weather is supposed to be like today–there’s usually not much point in checking the forecast as it’s inevitably always the same–hot humid chance of rain–and usually, after June, we surrender to it and don’t bother with daily updates and just start paying attention to tropical formations and depressions coming across the Atlantic or forming deep in the Gulf. It isn’t hot in the kitchen/office this morning yet–the absence of the blindingly brilliant morning sun has helped, and I haven’t had to turn on the portable Arctic Air coolers yet (but I know it’s inevitable), but it actually feels pleasantly cool down here this morning thus far, which is rather nice, quite frankly.

I still have three stories out for submission (“The Snow Globe”, “Moves in the Field,” and “This Thing of Darkness”), but I do want to spend the summer trying to get more out there. One of the biggest disappointments I’ve found as a writer is the continual drying up of short story markets that actually pay, and while others have sprung up in their place they either don’t pay, or pay so little as to just be a token (and might as well be unpaid, for that matter). I’ve always been concerned about the decline of the short story market, because I do think the form is important to literature, and to crime fiction in particular. I personally love the short form–despite my constant struggle with it–and I also know I am just as guilty as anyone in its decline, because I don’t read them as much as I should. I do buy anthologies and short story collections–Sara Paretsky’s is winging its way to me even as I type this, along with the new one edited by Lawrence Block–and I am probably going to be putting together another one of my own at some point over the next year or so (provided the world doesn’t burn to the ground in the meantime). I was calling it Once a Tiger and Other Stories, but I have to completely rethink the title story, “Once a Tiger,” and so I may need to rename it. I would also like to include some of these stories I’ve recently sold–which will delay the collection more, as the original publications have to occur first, but I was thinking perhaps The Carriage House and Other Stories, or Night Follows Night and Other Stories. I also would love to collect all my love story/romance short stories into an edition–I’ve published three or four, but have a lot more just sitting in files needing to be revised or rewritten or finished.

And on that note, I am going to head back down into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, everyone.