LOLd into a false sense of security

Welp, I watched Joker. Spoilers for Joker will follow. If you don’t want them, please don’t read this.

SoJoker was.. a movie? I dunno, I’m having a hard time with this one. It wasn’t a capital B/M Bad Movie, but it also wasn’t good. It had a great cast who tried their absolute best with what they were given, but therein the problem lies. The film wanted to be Serious. It wanted to have A Message, but a lot of that got garbled up with genre problems and a difficulty with what it wanted realism to mean. The movie had a bunch of fun set pieces, and a cluster of modern ideas relevant to inflammatory social issues. It seemed like it wanted to say things about mental illness, about protest culture, literal class warfare and rampant inequality.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t escape from its own trappings. For all of its ambition to raise beyond comic book stakes, it played out like a cartoon. Peoples’ reactions were nearly always wildly out of proportion. I’ve never been to Gotham, but it seems that pedestrians hand out arse kickings like greetings. It’s literally unbelievable how many times people beat the shit out of Arthur while he’s curled up on the ground. Nobody seems to be able to act like an ordinary person. Most characters’ delivery is garishly over the top and the dialogue is trash. Just clunky as shit. Unnecessary roughness all the way down. The film takes a complex series of interrelated societal issues and makes sure you got the point. Everything is triple underlined, with all the subtlety of a cast iron pan to the face. A protester runs past at some point with a sign that says “RESIST”. No further context or explanation. It’s all shallow, surface level stuff. It wants to be greater than the sum of its material but as Scorsese himself said “I saw clips of it. I know it. So it’s like, why do I need to? I get it. It’s fine.” The price is on the can, yo.

It’s hard not to have sympathy for Arthur, a character that Phoenix disappears into. He’s a wretched creature, literal skin and bones, and his laughing affliction is genuinely affecting in its scope. We see the difficulty he has with simple social interactions, and it’s heartbreaking. It just sucks that all the peripheral characters behave like anthropomorphised cardboard cutouts. Of course, because it’s a DC film, Bruce Wayne gets shoehorned in, and it directly cheapens the movie. I’ve got no issue with fanservice, but the Joker character created in this film is not the Joker we love. He’s emotionally stunted and fragile, a simple and kind man relentlessly kicked around by the world he inhabits. He’s not, however, clever. He isn’t a criminal mastermind. Even giving the film a ton of leeway, assuming that this was all hiding behind his myriad of medications, for instance, is stretching suspension of disbelief too far. Aside from shooting his beloved talk show host, this Joker character doesn’t commit crime with intention. The actions he’s eventually praised for were accidental, or a byproduct of other decisions. He’s a symbol for a movement, but he’s not an architect. If we’re to believe that the riot he birthed resulted in Bruce’s parents’ death, it’s impossible to see this Joker as an adversary for this Bruce’s Batman. Or at least, he wouldn’t be a super capable one. If this was an unrelated movie to the franchise, honestly it probably would’ve read a lot better. But it wasn’t, and this film has no right to the Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

2019 was a great year for film. This wasn’t one of them.

Time to parcel on some knowledge

What dumb shit did you write in school?

I was listening to a podcast, and someone mentioned a high school essay they wrote. I had a thought, and almost physically recoiled. I remembered my schooling, and the excessive amount of essays I contorted into talking about subjects I already liked. In intermediate school I got put in a gifted stream. It was an elective class outside of our ordinary ones. We’d get together weekly, and were led to work on individual projects of our own design. I felt uncomfortable being moved away from the regular streams, and in no way did I think I deserved to be there. The rest were really smart kids. They loved science and computers. They had a host of extracurricular educational hobbies. I was just some goofy kid who loved superhero comics. I immediately knew what I had to do: Dig in. I decided to do my project on comic creation and the process. I think I really sold our teacher in charge on a piece about production. However, I really didn’t want to do research. So I read a bunch of fluff pieces, and put together a lionised account of Lee and Ditko creating Spider Man. Compared with the rest of the final projects, it was dismal. I’d drawn a dumb little comic, and I was a terrible artist. I didn’t care, I’d gotten off doing the bare minimum. I was relieved.

In high school I got put into the extension class again. I didn’t know why it kept happening to me. We did extension science and English. I flailed helplessly at the science, but in English? I did great. We were given Shakespearean sonnets to learn. I rote learned mine in an hour and said it out loud repeatedly. Soon everyone in the class knew mine. Hell, I still know it off by heart. I know it’s called “O Mistress Mine”, but I’ve got no idea what play it’s from. We were instructed that we were going to film a play. I got cast as Macbeth in a very truncated role. I learned my lines in a day, and turned in a gloriously gratuitous performance. I wasn’t in my element, I made it my element.

In university, I repeatedly warped the assignments around my sensibilities, almost rebelling against taking things seriously. We were to write an essay on a sentimental object in our lives. I wrote about Transformers bedsheets I got as a kid. I turned a feminism essay towards porn, and video game boob physics. I wrote an Environmental Feminism essay on mass production as a result of men’s inability to give birth. I talked about the curves of sleek cars and Coke bottles as commodification of the female form. I turned in an exam essay on creative revolts in the comic industry. Almost every project I put together revolved around subjects of interest, requiring the least amount of effort.

I think what I’m discovering, is that I spent my education trying to do as little work as possible, while getting results. If the schooling system was trying to teach me something, it was that nominal results didn’t really translate into anything tangible. I could get all the good marks I wanted, but I wasn’t really learning in the process. I was doing my best to not change, and teaching myself terrible lessons along the way. I wish that I’d known years back that there’s no way to shortcut the process. That real results came from advancing skills, not abstract marks for turning in projects. I think I’ve finally started to learn, but egads I wish it didn’t take this many decades.

Some gifted student, eh?

I don’t make movies, but if I did…

Well, I did it. I got through three hours of cinematic cinema (I’m a Writer and don’t you forget it) without having the movie spoiled.

So now I’m about to unload massive spoilers. Given the sheer importance of corporate ownership tied up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its various franchises, certain characters got left off the table in Endgame. Disney owns Marvel, it owns Fox, and it has the rights to certain Spider Man characters (I’m assuming the Homecoming ones anyway). I was quite surprised not to see any of the following characters in any of Endgame‘s many many hours:

  • Magneto: It just makes sense, right? Magneto is Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver’s dad. They’re mutants. Wouldn’t Infinity War be a great time to see this all powerful mutant introduce the X-universe to Thanos and his team?
  • David Haller (Legion): Fox owns the excellent show Legion on its FX brand, and since Disney owns Fox why not bring the high tier reality shaper and superhuman David Haller into the mix? Wouldn’t that make for some fun, creepy scenes? Dr Strange has weird mystical magic, is this such a stretch?
  • Silver Surfer: As used in the much maligned Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Marvel’s going all in on the trippy 70s cosmic stuff, why not bring in the Herald of Galactus to wield the Power Cosmic in defence of Terra Nova? Maybe he’d also herald a non-shit Fantastic Four script in the future.
  • Nick Fury: Anyone else remember the classic 1998 Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD? Starring none other than Baywatch babe David Hasslehoff himself? Alternate universes and stuff are big in Marvel (House of M, anyone?), bring in the old guard to help clean house and sweep the floor with any remnants of Hydra.
  • Squirrel Girl: Fan favourite Squirrel Girl could’ve had a hell of a Girl Power moment taking down Thanos with hordes of squirrels. IT WOULDN’T BE THE FIRST TIME. What’s more, it’d teach children that with love (and an army of fluffy rodents), anything is possible.
  • The Incredibles: We just had The Incredibles 2, and we know they have the mettle to go toe to toe with villains of all stripes. They’re bonafide super heroes with great family values. It’d be an excellent chance to capitalise on corporate synergy with their Pixar arm, and there was so much CGI in Endgame that they wouldn’t have seemed that out of place. Am I wrong? Jack Jack could’ve given Thanos a run for his money.
  • Mulder and Scully: Look, the X-Files got a revival last year. Everyone loves Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. They’d add steamy will they/won’t they tension the film was sorely lacking. Plus there are SO MANY aliens in the MCU, why not bring in extraterrestrial/cryptid/ghost experts? They’re great investigators and no stranger to combat situations either.
  • Super Buddies: In one of the multitude of direct to video Air Buddies sequels, they got super powers. If they weren’t gonna bring in the X-universe, they already had a budding (sorry, Buddy) psychic in yoga dog Buddha. Disney owned the rights, why not do a crossover and rekindle the beloved Air Bud Cinematic Universe with a feature in the MCU? It makes too much sense.
  • The Bash Brothers: Audience favourites from the much loved D2: The Mighty Ducks. When they’re on the ice, they’re practically unstoppable. Why not bring in Keenan Thompson to knucklepuck the fuck out of Thanos and his cronies?
  • Bart Simpson: The 90s It Boy himself. Aren’t we all clamouring for a scene where Captain America walks into a darkened corridor with scant lighting and whispering shadows? He spies a shadowy figure turned away, sitting quietly. Cap calls out “who goes there?” The seat slowly turns, diffused light casts down on a young man’s yellow face. A voice replies “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?” Why else would Disney have purchased Fox, if not to make dreams of the perfect crossover come true?

Look Disney, I’m happy to hear offers. Just give me an MCU already.

Since Disney owns Marvel and Pixar, why wasn’t Buzz Lightyear in Infinity War?

Greetings True Believers.

I’m about to see Avengers: Endgame after work. I’ve somehow managed to make it thus far without any spoilers, which I consider a marvel unto itself. Geddit, Marvel? Anyway, since I had no other ideas today, I’m gonna look back on the entirety of the MCU (not to be confused with the ABCU (Air Bud Cinematic Universe) and give a few quick thoughts on each film. I’ve got 30 minutes to cover 22 films, let’s see how I go:

1 “The Infinity Saga”

1.1 Phase One

1.1.1 Iron Man (2008) – 8/10

Back when I worked in radio, I remember hounding a friend at a rival radio station to get me sneak peek tickets. The dude delivered, and so did this film. The post credits scene was at the time, a total revelation. As a lifelong Marvel comics fan (though mostly X-Men and Spider Man) I was chuffed. RDJ’s charisma made this whole filmic franchise seem less of a pipe dream and more reality made manifest. A punchy script, it looked incredible and in that cinema, I felt like a giddy kid again.

I won’t write this much for each, trust me.

1.1.2 The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 5/10

I seem to recall this being pretty forgettable. I didn’t even bother watching it in the cinema, but a co-worker told me it was worth torrenting. I’m not sure she was right. At the time I remember thinking Ed Norton was a good Bruce Banner, but maybe it was just in comparison to Eric Bana’s lacklustre job on the half hour of 2003’s HULK that I watched.

1.1.3 Iron Man 2 (2010) – 6/10

I had all the goodwill for this one. Mickey Rourke was in it and I thought he was the bees knees after The Wrestler. We got Black Widow/Jim Rhodes entering the MCU. But even Sam Rockwell couldn’t save the absurdity of an upper tier superhero getting shitcanned by some dude with whips. Sure, there were quips aplenty and RDJ was still great, but this movie lost some goodwill from the first. I saw this one at home. Did I even like these films anymore?

1.1.4 Thor (2011) – 5/10

I went into this film thinking Thor was dorky and boring. I came out thinking the same thing. I think a friend dragged me along. So disliking the film was probably more on me. I thought the fish out of water idea had been better explored elsewhere. Love Natalie Portman, but there didn’t seem to be chemistry with Hemsworth. I do remember thinking that the scene in which he infiltrated that weird clear plastic laboratory by stealth was pretty cool, and showcased a side of Thor I didn’t realise he had. Most of the characters felt one dimensional and uninspiring. Maybe I was off the MCU after all.

1.1.5 Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 6/10

I’ve also never liked Captain America that much. Patriotism discoloured my opinion even as a kid. I didn’t even see this film until perhaps 2016 or so. I heard it was a scathing indictment of the US military propaganda machine, but in practice it still felt very U S A! U S A! I didn’t get why Rogers became a tactical genius instantly after taking the serum. That wasn’t alluded to in earlier scenes. It all felt very convenient, and overall I wish they’d just given the serum to Agent Carter. Also, watching it after the next phase (where I think Marvel cemented the formula and the films got better) was a total disservice to it.

1.1.6 Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – 9/10

How the script managed to flesh out, revitalise and grow all these characters without lagging was remarkable. Sweet, funny, with great action scenes. Somehow it all made sense bringing everyone together. One of my pet peeves is when films shit themselves in the third act and become senseless CGI slugfests with a blue pillar of light shining into the sky. In the third act Avengers became a CGI slugfest with a blue pillar of light shining into the sky, but the teamwork was fun and dynamic. It wasn’t senseless, it entirely justified the team aspect, while being lively and non-repetitive.

1.2 Phase Two

1.2.1 Iron Man 3 (2013) – 7/10

I’m far fairer to this film than I think most are. I thought the whole Mandarin thing was great. It was kinda progressive to show a superhero suffering from PTSD. Some of the fight scenes had great choreography (I’ve talked about it before, but the scene where he’s summoning one piece of armour at a time is stunning). It also did become a CGI slugfest with forgettable villains, but at least none of them were whip based.

1.2.2 Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Did not see

Thor for me was always a hard sell. The idea of paying money for this was unconscionable, so I told myself I’d watch it online at some point. I haven’t reached that level of desperation yet, and I doubt I will.

1.2.3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – 10/10

I skipped this one in cinemas and I think that was my mistake.

I don’t even know if it’s a controversial opinion, but I think Winter Soldier might be the finest MCU film to date. Or at least very close. The fight scenes did a phenomenal job of showcasing Cap’s understanding of vectors and efficiency of movement. There was a flow that was totally mesmerising. Was this the one with the elevator scene? ‘Cause that was a goddamn thrill. Johansson and Evans made for excellent road trip buddies, and they had fantastic chemistry. The idea of Cap going against his own institution for the sake of his own values nailed the character dead on. And like, one of the big villains was surveillance. Very very timely.

1.2.4 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – 9/10

I was sucked in by this one. Funny and often irreverant, it was a huge change of pace from the more self-serious films to come beforehand. The cosmic colour scheme was vibrant and exciting. I was also chuffed to see Prattprattpratt in pre-super-churchy days becoming all buff and stuff. This was so much fun I saw it twice. IN THEATRES. I never do that. The soundtrack kicked ass. Plus now Peter Serafinowicz is part of the MCU. I’d write more, but I’m running out of time.

1.2.5 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – 6/10

This movie sucked balls. They didn’t know how to write “the twins” (who weren’t allowed to be called mutants even though they’re Magneto’s kids, since Marvel didn’t own the rights to the X-Men universe). It lost whatever spark made the original Avengers so engrossing. Ultron was a shitty villain, and the conflict turned once again into CGI slugfest territory. Sure, it set up important worldbuilding for the next phase, but egads it was tiresome.

1.2.6 Ant-Man (2015) – 7/10

A fun, self-contained heist film. Scott Lang’s best friend (I never remember names) was the star of the show, with his lengthy tangential monologues. I mourn the film this could’ve been if Edgar Wright stayed involved (and imagine further Marvel films by Wright, right?). It’s a good popcorn flick, not super important but watchable, with fine performances.

1.3 Phase Three

1.3.1 Captain America: Civil War (2016) – 7/10

Look, Civil War is fine. If you expect anything more from this film than a lead up to the airport fight scene, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The introduction of Tom Holland’s Spidey stole the show, and it was awesome to see Black Panther onscreen (and whet the appetite for what they could accomplish in Wakanda), but otherwise this huge ensemble was strangely dull. I dunno, I found it pretty hard to care about the fallout, knowing that this was franchise driven and they had to all come back together eventually.

1.3.2 Doctor Strange (2016)- Did not see

I honestly don’t care much for blockbusters, the cinema experience or special effects. So a big IMAX CGI spectacle didn’t seem worth the price of admission.

1.3.3 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – 7/10

I was quite excited for this one and came out thinking it was just okay. Maybe it’s worth a re-watch? Some people really like it. The opening scene was a blast, I think I came out liking Star Lord a lot less than I did after the first. I’m really running out of time here.

1.3.4 Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – 9/10

This might be a very high rating, but I’ve written previously how much I adore this film. Just go there.

1.3.5 Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – 8/10

Ragnarok was super fun. Great cast, I’m a huge Taika Waititi fan. I thought this did phenomenal things to shape Thor’s character into one that I genuinely like now. A big ol’ enjoyable blockbuster for someone who doesn’t think much of blockbusters. It was very silly, with an astoundingly good (possibly Kung Fury inspired) climactic fight scene set to “Immigrant Song”. Oddly enough, it’s even better set to Holding Out for a Hero.

1.3.6 Black Panther (2018) – 10/10

I’m not even holding the dumb third act against this film. It was SUCH a spectacle. I watched this and felt flabbergasted by how they’d brought afrofuturism to the big screen. It was a kind of cinematic magic. Killmonger is hands down one of the best MCU villains, because his motivations mostly make sense (but like Thanos, there’s maybe one or two logical missteps that don’t have me fully on their side). The start of the film plays out like a goddamn Bond film. It’s exciting, the technology is awesome, the colours are fabulous, the distinct ritual and culture they imbued Wakanda with is captivating. T’Challa’s character is a stunning depiction of soft but confident masculinity, an archetype that isn’t explored nearly enough in action films.

1.3.7 Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – 7/10

TOO MANY CHARACTERS. I liked Thanos a bunch, but this film was just too goddamn long with so little payoff. Yes, the ending was great, even if we once again knew that this was franchise building and everyone would end up okay at the end. Characters were given maybe 2.5 minutes of screen time each, which was long enough for a couple of one liners and some action shots. Very little character development, and the ending sort of undid any stakes the film had in the first place. That’s not to say there was nothing good about the film. Like Game of Thrones, it was fun to see characters with storied histories interacting for the first time. That said, the new villains were once again totally forgettable. Characters acted in ways that were convenient for the plot, but didn’t necessarily make sense with how that character would usually act.

1.3.8 Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – Did not see

I planned to treat this as a popcorn movie some night, but never got around to it. Honestly, I disliked Infinity War enough that the idea of paying for another Marvel film made me feel bad.

1.3.9 Captain Marvel (2019) – Did not see

I was super psyched for this one, then most of the reviews said it was mediocre and skippable. At this stage, I’m not sure I want to watch another origin story. I’ve read enough comics well enough that I can watch Endgame without feeling like I’ve missed much on Carol Danvers’ backstory.


And after all of that, it’s almost time to see the film. People have said it has a very satisfying conclusion to this whole saga. You know what? At this stage that’s all I’m looking for. Maybe Groot will say “Groot” once more if I’m lucky. Fingers crossed.

I never meant to start a war. Unfortunately, I probably will finish it

Infinity War Part 2 is potentially going to be three hours.

I once got stopped coming back from New York. We’d arrived at the Toronto airport, but I’d stupidly travelled on my NZ passport and forgot to bring my citizenship certificate. When the security dude questioned me I was like “oh shit, that was dumb. Here’s my Ontario photo ID with address, and library card and whatnot.” He put a big “X” on my entry form and pointed me towards another room. My girlfriend, travelling on her Canadian passport, was waved straight through. It sucked. The line was long and slow moving. I chatted to the dude next to me. He’d been brought through from Utah on a football scholarship. Because he was immigrating, he’d had to take this extra customs step. He was nervous about being in a new country, but excited. By this point I’d been living here for maybe two and a half years, so I gave him some info on how to get around, what to see, etc. The line dragged on, and we were right at the end of it. After what felt like an eternity, I got to the front of the line and explained my plight to the customs officer. “Oh, you had ID and everything and he didn’t let you through? What a dick. Look, I’ll put this note in the back of your passport, and if anyone ever gives you grief about when you re-enter Canada, show them this and you’ll be fine.” It was nice to be treated like a person, but it sucked to have that whole endeavour to go through, even with a friendly footballer dude to talk through. That line took an hour.

Infinity War Part 2 is potentially going to be three hours.

I once watched a film called Golmaal: Fun Unlimited. It was a Bollywood farce that my friend got basically press-ganged into by an enthusiastic child selling VCDs on the streets. This child claimed that it was a “laugh riot”, and my friend would be sad for life if he didn’t buy it. My friend, of course, purchased the DVD and we watched together. It was kind of like Weekend At Bernie’s, with a group of college students pretending to be a blind couple’s dead son. There was a lot more to the film. An excessive amount of subplots and contrived romantic relationships. We mostly didn’t get it. Or maybe we did, and just didn’t like it. The film started with this large scale, colourful and evocative dance scene with a catchy song. It went downhill almost immediately. The film did not get better, but it felt like we were trapped there watching it until it ended. Maybe we were just culturally ignorant, or jaded by Western film experiences. Maybe it really was a laugh riot and we were too blinded by our own judgement to notice. It took forever and a day to finish, and there was little in a satisfying conclusion. It was a mere 150 minutes.

Infinity War Part 2 is potentially going to be three hours.

There’s this film Toni Erdmann that I’ve been wanting to watch for some time. It came out back in 2016 to rave reviews. It was nominated for the Foreign Language Oscar, Palme d’Or, etc etc. Critics lost their shit. My girlfriend didn’t share quite my level of enthusiasm, but was willing to go on that journey with me. We tried to watch it time and time again, but always seemed to run out of time. We’d be like “okay, what can we watch tonight? How about Toni Erdmann? Oh, but it’s like 9:30pm already. It’s too late. Damn.” This pattern repeated for a while. I have to stress, these weren’t remote incidents. We even planned to watch it on the flight back to New Zealand, but somehow didn’t get there. It was just such a massive chunk of time to devote to a German farce, we couldn’t work ourselves up to it. Eventually we started watching, but the film got too long, I don’t know if my girlfriend was truly into it, so we paused it. We haven’t gone back. Now that she’s absent for a couple of months, I may just power ahead and watch it on my own. If it was that hard to get the two of us ready and primed for it, maybe it’s ’cause she straight up didn’t want to watch, but felt rude speaking her mind. Who knows? Toni Erdmann is 162 minutes. That’s 2.7 hours.

Infinity War Part 2 is potentially going to be three hours.

You know, I don’t actually have to watch this film. I will though, and I hate myself for it.

I had no idea if I had to hold or fold, so I rolled

When we last met our hero, he was borderline hungover and half delirious with exhaustion.

Look. I’d had four hours sleep and was very excited about guesting on the Terrible Warriors podcast, but I was in no proper shape to do so. My incredibly dubious solution was to smoke a bowl before braving brunch alone. Did it work? I’m still not sure. Instead of being bolstered full of energy, I developed a constant dull nausea and just got kind of confused. I found myself a corner seat, ordered the pulled pork benny my stomach heart desired, and waited. It arrived with a cup of coffee, heaping of pulled pork and corona of Hollandaise. Wait, did I say corona? I meant to say they drowned the poor thing. It was great. I started almost shovelling it into my desperate body, awaiting the surge of strength from fats and proteins. It tasted good and I think I felt better, but also kind of ill and off balance? I was too warm, I started fretting about the podcast and character ideas. Did I have enough? Was I too stoned to play? What if everyone was incredibly prepped and I dragged the team down? Would I grow insular and forget to talk? Would I miss my cues and waste everyone else’s time? Or would I have a great time getting into character and commit fully? I had no earthly idea.

By the time I arrived at the condo, I’d had some fresh air and felt a little better. Then I saw the set up and got nervous again. I couldn’t tell what my body wanted. Was I too full? Was this nausea going to abate? Did I need to poop? I oscillated between drinking water and trying to go to the bathroom as other guests arrived. I looked at the set up and felt faintly overwhelmed. There was a big table with five mics set up around it. On one side was the producer/GM’s (game master) computer and sound desk. Behind the table was a large flatscreen hooked up to the same computer. It displayed the backup recording, showing mic levels and Patreon subscriber comments. With prep completed, I took one last attempt to clear myself out, then took my seat at the table. I looked down at the character sheets in front of me. There was so much information. How was I gonna come up with anything worthwhile if I didn’t know the rules. I had every faith in our GM to steer us right and every doubt in my ability to follow. I ran through the character ideas in my head, could I adapt any of them into the archetypes in front of me? I panicked as I came to a definite conclusion: No. I was on my own with nothing but my absent wits to guide me. This was not gonna go well.

We started rolling and the host began his intros. Going around the table he introduced the other players. They’d all guested on the podcast before. Some of them had even played Masks: The New Generation before. Some had even played Masks: The New Generation on the podcast before. What was I doing there? I started freaking out a little. The host introduced me and I stumbled through my words. It felt awkward. The attention moved away from me and I felt briefly relieved. I looked down at the character archetypes in front of me and got absorbed. I tried thinking of ideas but I was drawing blanks. I was too tired, I felt ill and more than a little stoned. This was gonna be a disaster. We went around the table reading from the sheets in front of us, introducing the character archetypes for listeners. It was going okay, I wasn’t screwing this up, I went with the flow and breathed a little easier. After we’d described each archetype, the host turned to me and asked, what archetype was I going to be?

Time stopped. I thought about all the archetypes at the table. I thought about who I was and which archetypes were similar. I immediately discounted all of them. For some reason I knew if I was gonna commit, I had to be someone wholly different from myself. I looked down at the archetype sitting on top of my pile: The Delinquent. A trickster and troublemaker by nature. They served to sow chaos and mess with authority. They were emotionally fickle and potentially standoffish. An all around shit stirrer. Their powers could be any two of teleportation, psychic weapons, gadgets/hacking, emotional manipulation, illusions or power negation. The Delinquent would be a complicated character to play and a pretty terrible choice for my current mental state. Without any good reasons to do so, I chose the Delinquent, with teleportation and emotional manipulation up my sleeves.

I flashed back to the improv class I took and decided to shoot from the hip. I just had to trust in First Thought Best Thought and hope I didn’t mess up too much. We moved onto creating a backstory and the GM asked me several questions to clarify who my Delinquent was.

  • How did you get your powers? My parents were human rights lawyers representing indigenous people. One day I was with my mother and she saw a bunch of policemen aiming guns at a young black kid on the street. She ran in front to protect the child and the policemen took fire. She died saving the child’s life and in my shock, I teleported away. I grew to hate how the law prosecuted the vulnerable. I stopped caring about most things and used my powers to take advantage of people. I could get my way easily, so life had no stakes.
  • What do you do for fun? Mess with people, play pranks and play by my own rules. Things were too easy, so I became an adrenaline junkie acting out to feel challenged.
  • Who, outside the team, thinks better of you than you do? My father. He’s the only one I really care about and I can’t bring myself to use my powers on him. He still thinks there’s good in me.
  • Why do you try to be a hero? Because despite everything I do, I still feel this nagging pull that stops me from going full villain. I don’t understand it, but I so desperately want to.
  • Why do you care about the team? They’re an outlet for my adrenaline seeking behaviour. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll help me discover why it is I’m pulled back to doing the right thing despite my best wishes.

I blinked. Where had that all come from? I had a character with motivations and emotional stakes. I had the potential to cause conflict and maybe even develop a redemptive arc. Maybe I could do this after all. The other guests fleshed out their characters and the pieces started to come together. I could threads of connection ran through my head. I internalised interactions, potential outcomes and narrative opportunities. The GM introduced us to Halcyon City: The city of heroes. It all made sense.

Over the next eight and a half hours, it all rolled together perfectly. The GM weaved a story, asked us questions and worked with our answers. I didn’t think too hard, I just put myself in the character and acted. It worked. Through twists and turns of the plot, we worked together to save the day and create a compelling narrative. We all had strong character moments and my delinquent had heavy emotional stakes. We all cracked jokes and alley ooped one another. It was fucking great. By 11pm, it was done. We had a complete story and four potential episodes in the can. I had a total blast and can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Against all odds, everything worked out.

And I still have no idea how.

You had your chance, Ronald

I’ve had an inadvisable amount of sleep and I’m doing nothing about it.

I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t. Maybe it was drinking coffee before going to that party. Perhaps chugging mixed drinks with coke all night didn’t help none either. Turning my brain off would be a boon, but it’s not an option. I’m uncomfortably awake without a choice, so I’m turning that into agency to get this writing out of the way. I’ve got shit to do today.

Mostly I really, really want brunch. I drank more than enough last night, stayed out late and hate basically no packing. My body craves fats and proteins and crispy potatoes. I tried, I really did. I walked home from the party last night and took a quick detour to McDonalds. Quick, because the sign on the door said they were closed between the hours of 3:30am and 4:30am. The one goddamn time I stoop to America’s Favourite Fast Food Franchise and it rejects my desires. You had your chance, maccas, and you blew it. So brunch is on the menu. I need to kill at least another half hour before the dive bar around the corner opens up and I can get me a pulled pork benny. So you’re stuck with me until then.

I also couldn’t sleep because I was thinking of today’s podcast. I’m going on a friend’s RPG podcast to play Masks: The New Generation. This ain’t the first time I mentioned it. I’m excited, and while lying in bed futilely trying to find rest, I kept mulling over superpowers and archetypes in my brain. Could I be a Nova? A character with wildly dramatic powers that come with severe consequences if misused? Maybe gravity manipulation, but with the chance of creating miniature black holes if I overdid it? Or what about a brawler who can absorb and amplify kinetic energy? I could charge up from receiving blows or the force of my feet hitting the ground while running, then unleash enhanced bursts in big jumps or powerful punches, etc? Wait, did I just recreate Sebastian Shaw from X-Men? It’s not like I’m gonna reinvent the wheel with powers.

Maybe I could be a legacy, a character with renown hero parents. Big boots to fill, but with powers that don’t appear to be powers. Trying to combat unrealistic expectations or not matching up to my predecessors. Last time I mulled over abilities I thought of someone with preternatural understanding of physics. Maybe it could even be more pronounced, like Spider Man style pseudo precognition by reading vectors. A tacit understanding of the motions of the world. Could they be headstrong and selfish? Too eager to prove themselves that they eschew help and support from others? The game seems to be more about creating and driving narrative than min-maxing and gamifying the system. It just seems like fun, y’know?

So yeah, I’m excited and to my chagrin I need to pass time before I can play. It’s alright, I’ve got this. Finish writing. Shower and make myself renewed. Decadent brunch with coffee galore. Try not to fall into inevitable somnolence. Find a route that avoids the Santa Parade congestion. Then I can play. Deal? Deal.

What else was I going to do? Sleep?