Tired of politics? Here are some news and notes from the world of pop culture that offer relief from the real world:
Netflix Witch Glitch: The verdict is in on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and everyone seems to love this dark take on the Archie Comics staple. Well, with the exception of those who are familiar with real witchcraft.
The Satanic Temple is threatening legal action over the statue of Baphomet shown prominently at the Academy of the Unseen Arts, Sabrina's answer to Harry Potter's Slytherin. The Temple argues that the image is copyrighted, and therefore being illegally appropriated.
And in a story posted Nov. 5, the Huffington Post interviewed some real practitioners of witchcraft, who are disgusted at the show's "inaccuracy."
OK, it's important not to dismiss anyone's religious concerns. But it's also important to note that this is a fantasy TV show with a made-up religion that only shares a few nouns with the Satanic Temple, Wicca, neopagans and others. It also has magic that works, and a god who physically visits his adherents, which should make all religions envious. "Sabrina" is no more an attempt to accurately describe witchcraft than the Hulk, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are attempts to accurately explore the effects of radiation exposure on human beings.
Big Times for Rick Grimes: Despite all the hype, it turns out that Rick Grimes of "The Walking Dead" wasn't killed off in his final episode, which aired Nov. 4. It's true that the character, played by Andrew Lincoln, is leaving the show. But he won't be pushing up daisies, as expected —instead, he'll be making movies.
Scott Gimple, chief content officer of all things TWD, announced on the "Talking Dead" follow-up show Nov. 4 that Lincoln will star in three made-for-TV movies in the Walking Dead universe, presumably set wherever it is that the Chopper Ex Machina took him to. Meanwhile, the Rick-shaped hole on the TV show will be filled by Danai Gurira (Michonne), Melissa McBride (Carol) and Norman Reedus (Daryl), all of whom are to receive a huge pay raise.
Online fan reaction has been split. Some are just delirious that the character isn't dead and that the Walking Dead universe is expanding. Others (mainly TV critics) have pooh-poohed the bait and switch of the non-death.
With TWD ratings in decline, how this is perceived is a critical issue. The final Rick episode enjoyed a "modest" ratings bump, according to The Hollywood Reporter, rising slightly above the season premiere's numbers. Stay tuned to see which way the numbers go now.
Reception Chilly for Bat-Willy: When the first edition of DC's new Black Label line debuted, it was marked "Mature Readers." And, boy, they weren't kidding.
"Batman: Damned" #1 arrived with something unexpected: two panels of full-frontal Bat-nudity. Sure, the panels were in deep shadow, and the Bat-reveal was extremely subtle, and many readers overlooked the debut of Bruce's Li'l Wayne entirely. (Sorry, Batman.) But the internet, as the internet does, quickly drew attention to the Batawang, and the inevitable hysteria ensued.
Immediate heat —both public and corporate —was brought to bear on new DC Comics president Pam Lifford and co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio. The upshot was much back-pedaling, promises to tone down future Black Label (and Vertigo) books, and the elimination of the offensive parts in digital copies of the title and future reprints.
Which seems a bit of an overreaction. After all, the whole point of "Black Label" —as we were told in the run-up to the launch —is creative freedom. "Batman: Damned" is clearly marked "Mature Readers." Heck, even the title of the book defines it as not safe for kids, and if you flip through it, you're going to see content that should be even more objectionable to the bluenose crowd: A crucified, nearly naked Joker leaps to mind, as well as scenes of Batman bleeding copiously from severe wounds.
And it's not like this is the first time male genitals have made an appearance in mainstream, high-profile superhero comics. Back in 1986, "Watchmen" featured Dr. Manhattan, a big, blue guy who famously didn't wear pants for 12 consecutive issues.
But, OK, fine. Corporations always play it safe, so the emasculation of DC's mature-reader books is probably going to happen, even though that's probably the worst possible outcome of this non-controversy. On the plus side, "Batman: Damned" #1 is going for $2,500 on eBay.
Happy Stranger Things Day: Netflix declared Nov. 6 "Stranger Things Day," celebrating the date when Will Byers disappeared into the Upside Down in Season 1 of the popular show. Yay, child endangerment! Made-up holidays can be weird.
The streaming service released a video from the set of Season 3, with various cast members wishing "Happy Stranger Things Day" to anyone who might think it's a real thing. That's probably all we're going to get until Season 3 debuts, sometime in summer 2019.
For those who can't wait —or just like good comics —Dark Horse is publishing a "Stranger Things" title, one that actually tells us things we don't know. It focuses on Will Byers from the time he disappeared (on Nov. 6, remember) until his rescue —scenes we never saw until now. For example, the second issue of "Stranger Things," now on sale, tells us how Will made the lights blink in his home.
Timey-Wimey Hurley-Burley: What do a lot of TV shows have in common these days? Time travel! And it's working, as evidenced by these three:
—Doctor Who: Naturally, it takes a British show to teach American history. The second episode of this season's "Doctor Who," starring Jodie Whittaker, visited 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, to watch Rosa Parks refuse to give up her bus seat, sparking a bus strike and making national headlines. So as to not diminish Parks' principled stand, the Who crew were little more than spectators —as it should be.
—The Flash: Nora "XS" West-Allen is the future daughter of Barry and Iris, a twentysomething who has traveled to the present in order for Dad to train her in super-speed. That's a premise that could easily descend into schmaltz, and/or spawn endless time paradoxes. But Jessica Parker Kennedy, the actress who plays XS, brings enormous charm to the role and a spark of youthful energy to the pacing.
—Legends of Tomorrow: A show built around time travel is one with little chance for true drama, since the Reset Button is always within reach to un-do any bad thing that happens. And since the team is removed from the timestream, it can't recruit any characters that are important to DC history, like, say, a Dark Knight or a Man of Steel. So the Legends are, by necessity, a bunch of forgettable also-rans.
In other words, at its core "Legends" is absurd. And what makes it work is that the show embraces its absurdity —which allows for some really fun time travel. So far this year the gang has attended Woodstock, broken up the Salem witch trials and grooved to 1970s London. With John Constantine on board this season for added snark, it's become a really fun show.
(c)2018 Andrew A. Smith
Visit his website at comicsroundtable.com.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTOS (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):