With so many stellar standalone works and series already cataloged in the ever-growing media pool, it seems as though we are stuck in a continuous state of remakes, adaptations, and revivals. Now, while this at first seems disappointing, I’ll explore several recent and upcoming releases that are bound to draw you in for the sake of nostalgia, curiosity, or perhaps the fact that you’ll now be informed on the facets of their designs which sets them apart from their predecessors. To me, discussing why some works shine through and set themselves apart from others in an over-saturated genre or medium is one of the most intriguing aspects of pop culture and art history.
Creator: Blizzard Entertainment
I already know what a lot of players’ first impression likely is for Overwatch: “Oh, this is just a copycat of Valve’s hit, Team Fortress 2.” Well, in a way, you’d be exactly right, because that’s one of the reasons why I purchased it. However, I also saw a unique touch to each character in the tremendous cast, which led me to believe that it will be remembered by the value of its standalone merit as well.
Firstly, let’s continue to focus on how these characters are introduced. Blizzard began hyping this game through a series of online media installments leading up to its release. This includes character biopics, character spotlight animated shorts, comic tales, and beautifully-detailed character design reference guide PDF’s – all of which can be seen on Blizzard’s Overwatch Webpage. Aside from the intro upon starting the game and the eater eggs throughout the level environments, there is essentially no plot conveyed in the actual gameplay, so this is an interesting approach. Although, not necessarily unseen. If you’re a dedicated gamer, you probably remember that Valve did something similar with Team Fortress 2 as well. For example, the TF2 Character Introduction and Short Film Videos. The only difference is, instead of just being broad class identities, the Overwatch cast is compiled of individuals with self-identity (names, backgrounds, etc.) As one who is already anxious to learn more about the Overwatch crew, I can’t wait to see more updates.
Secondly: gameplay. There are offense, defense, support, and tank categories. Each are comprised of four to six characters, so you’re already looking at much more variety than TF2 had upon launch. Yet, TF2 has been getting online support for a while on Steam for additional weapons and maps. Luckily, Blizzard plans to do the same by adding EVEN MORE CHARACTERS, maps, and gametypes ALL FOR FREE (a big deal when it comes to digital content in the gaming world). It’s best to jump on board now, and be a part of this community as it begins to expand. It’ll be a captivating evolution. Furthermore, this game is meant for casual gamers, in addition to the hardcore FPS fans. You’re player level only dictates the players you are matched with, but does not affect your abilities, so everyone is on an even playing field in every match. You can even swap heroes in the middle of matches upon respawn, which creates an additional tad of craziness to the mix.
I recommend joining the craze. Overwatch is available for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
2. The Killing Joke
Creators: Alan Moore, Brian Azarello, Sam Liu, Bruce Timm, and other Warner Bros./DC Comics Affiliates
Graphic novel readers have been praising this work for its depth into Joker’s origin and his emotional intent since its release. It tosses in his association to Red Hood and a coerced mob deal, which ultimately drives the plot and fabricates his historical character flaws. Ultimately, by taking a character who was well-known and acclaimed for being misunderstood and mysterious, Alan Moore did a fantastic job imagining an origin story that will enable the reader to identify and associate with this villain.
This is the graphic novel that made me realize how important each panel really is when it comes to comics and graphic novels. The ambiguous ending will have you re-scanning the last few pages just to guarantee that you are fully understanding what just happened or will happen – definitely provoking a great feeling that few stories pull off successfully in a closing sequence. Why this book is even more critical to dive into now, if you haven’t already, is because there is an animated adaptation releasing next month. They’ve been gathering fan hype by claiming that this animation will shed some light on the ambiguous ending and even advance the story even further, which could gather unpopular criticism, but I’m being optimistic for now.
Read the graphic novel on the Hoopla App or pick up a copy. Watch the trailer for the film here.
3. Coloring Book
Creators: Chance the Rapper and Friends
Man, chance is just the true prophet of the rap game right now. And I mean that literally. I don’t think any other gospel rap release has ever accrued anything near the status of over 50 million streams in week one. He is an artist who is repeatedly improving with each mixtape, collab, and feature. There is no doubt that this third mixtape will be remembered as the one that has now set a standard for a genre that many are now just jumping on-board. That’s right. “I was a fan of gospel rap before Chance released Coloring Book.” That’s what people could be sayin’. But at the same time, I doubt any artist will gather an all-star cast to propel themselves to stardom like Chance has.
Shoutout to Jamila Woods, Donnie Trumpet, and the gang for helping shape the Social Experiment act and contributing to this mixtape that will be played on a (at least) monthly basis for the rest of my life. The sheer joy this man bring into the world is just ridiculous, as can be seen from stunts like the Magnificent Coloring World in Chicago to collaborating with OWSLA label artists on Show Me Love.
When he announced a tour with unannounced “special guests”, it was an instant sell for me. Become a follower, if you aren’t already. You hardly have a choice.
4. Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared
Creators: Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling
These two creators are basically my heroes. I owe my will to begin crafting puppets to this video series. Further than that, I am continuously inspired by the ridiculousness and provocative creepiness that takes over about halfway through each episode. Sure, we’ve got The Muppets, Sesame Street, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Mr. Meaty, and Avenue Q added some adult flavor… but this is a whole different level of pristine, unpredictable sing-along entertainment. With that being said, the series has come to an indefinite end. Upon the release of the sixth episode about two weeks ago, some loose ends were tied and some new ones were cut, strewn or knotted into existence. Whatever the future may be for red guy, yellow guy, and duck, I’m glad that they have at least come this far. If anything, this project became an archetype for how hard work and creative density can attract enough attention for crowd funding to help finish the plans you set for yourself as an artist. Additionally, I’d like to take a moment to remind each and every reader to support art that you appreciate, even when it is distributed for free! (Buy Merch, Attend Shows, or Donate!)
Catch all of the episodes, some behind the scenes info, and project merchandise on the Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared Webpage.
5. Suicide Squad
Creators: Warner Bros./DC Comics Affiliates – Multiple Installments
Now there are three different comic book series for Suicide Squad. I’ll make it simple by stating that one began in 1987, then one in 2011, and then the New Suicide Squad released in 2014. I believe that the upcoming film is to be yet another recreation of the squad’s story, borrowing a little from each previous series. I suspect such, because we see yet another shift in character design and the frontline cast of characters. For example, in comparison to the New 52 (2011) series, it doesn’t appear that Savant will be present, and it seems that King Shark has been traded for Killer Croc 🙁
I for one, thrived upon the scenes where King Shark swallowed teammates whole and when his inability to effectively communicate with others caused a snowball of misfortune. It is unfortunate that we will not see any repeats of this on the big screen.
One thing we can count on is that since Amanda Waller is in charge yet again, this wretched, no-good-doing squad of outcasts will be expected to perform superhero-oriented tasks by being held against their will by explosive body-implants. And Waller can summon a skull explosion whenever someone disobeys orders. This didn’t bode well for some of the members in previous plot lines, so we may see some history repeating itself in the film.
The five volumes of the 2011 New 52 Suicide Squad are on Hoopla, as well as the first volume of New Suicide Squad.
Click here to see a trailer for the upcoming film.
6. Kill la Kill
If you’re not an anime or manga fan, when you see Kill la Kill, you probably just think that it’s a fast-action episodic tale of sexy chicks with dainty clothing battling with swords. Well… that actually is a portion of it. Except… these clothes are something else.
Goku uniforms and kamuis dictate the social order of the Kill la Kill universe and the Honnouji Academy rankings. Goku unifroms are earned by achieving a Club President or Student Council status at the academy, while the kamuis are rare and more powerful creations crafted by revolutionary scientists. The real difference between the two is in their composition and user sacrifice requirements. Goku uniforms are of different levels: one star, two star, or three star, with each succeeding level having a higher concentration of life fibers. “Um, okay. What the heck is a life fiber.” Well, in general, life fibers are a higher order of entity than humans in the Kill la Kill world. For instance, because Senketsu is the kamui of the lead role and transfer student Ryuko Matoi, and is made of 100% life fiber, he can actually speak and move independently. This makes for some interesting scenarios and makes one really consider what a friendship with an conscientious sailor garment could be like. Oh, but there’s a catch. That sacrificial requirement I mentioned… a kamui must also be fueled by the blood of the wearer. Yup. That’s anime for ya. So, since Ryuko begins her quest to avenge her father who was killed by the over-sized scissor blade that she has recovered to wield so confidently, it’s no surprise that Senketsu is discomforted by the rate at which her blood boils.
Anyway, if you’re in for dastardly character motives, fast-paced action, stunning character design, blood-gushing swordplay, and some twisted confidence reincarnation tactics…. look no further. Stream it on Netflix or Crunchyroll.
Oh, and don’t forget to watch the final OVA (Episode 25), which can be viewed here. It ties up some loose ends.
Additionally, there are some ultra-informative documentary videos that follow the production process of the anime, and they serve as a perfect example of the dedication necessary to bring a work like this to life. It also lays out the inter-disciplinary aspects of contemporary anime, such as the inclusion of 3D rendering and analogue background design. The creators are down to earth folk who express, with no hesitation, that they repeatedly borrow cliche’s from other animes and implement techniques that are primitive, yet require no revamping. This, again, serves as proof that modern day art maestros are those who nab the tricks and torches from their predecessors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Inspiration is important. After finishing the show, get started watching The Making of Kill la Kill.