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Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger

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Refreshing, young, bold, new, and different seems to be the formula Marvel is hashing out with its new TV series Cloak & Dagger. Last year Marvel branded its first series on Hulu with The Runaways, which for the most part was positively reviewed by critics. It was one of my sleeper hit shows of 2017. Marvel knows it’s basically unstoppable when it comes to super heroes on the big screen, but the comic book giant hasn’t quite found commercial success on the small one. One can argue Agents of Shield was a commercial hit when it debuted but it fizzled after a couple of seasons. Since then Marvel has been trying to somehow string along any familiarity they can attach from their popular Avengers characters onto smaller lesser known characters, like Agent Carter from Captain America. Super hero fatigue is a term tossed around a lot lately, due in no small measure to the constant barrage of Marvel and DC movies. Marvel is wise to tell smaller stories involving characters we know little about in the hopes of avoiding that fatigue and staying relevant after ten years of creating a cinematic universe. 

Marvel is now partnering with Freeform to release its latest teen hero series. We can’t quite delve into a Marvel TV series without going back to its comic book origins. Tyrone Johnson, also known as Cloak, first appeared in the 1982 Spectacular Spider-Man #64 issue. Tyrone, raised in South Boston, came from a humbling background. One day he and his friend Billy witnessed a robbery at their local grocery store and ultimately the shooting death of the store clerk. When the thieves fled so did Billy because he knew the officers would quickly accused Tyrone and himself of the crime. Tyrone stayed back trying his best to explain the situation to the officers but unfortunately his stuttering made it difficult for the officers to understand him. One of the officers shot and killed Billy, and Tyrone fled the scene fearing for his life, and he ultimately ended up in NYC. Struggling to get by he decided he was going to rob a rich girl named Tandy Bowen that he noticed when he arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Only someone else beat him to it. Tyrone, overcome with guilt, stops the would-be robber, returns Tandy’s purse, and the two become instant friends.

Tandy, being a teen runaway just like Tyrone, needed immediate shelter, and she accepted an offer from some strangers to stay at a nearby shelter. Tyrone went along to keep her safe, but they were soon delivered to a criminal chemist named Simon Marshall. Marshall was experimenting on synthetic heroin and testing it on runaway teens with tragic results. Tyrone and Tandy attempt an escape when Tyrone suddenly is engulfed with an immersive powerful darkness he could not control… until he was near Tandy.

Tandy herself also seemed to change when close to Tyrone – glowing bright and with light daggers appearing on her hands. They knew they were destined to be powerful together as one, and the two began to call themselves Cloak & Dagger. Suffice it to say they easily defeat their captors and escape. From the looks of the trailers Marvel released since announcing the show, it seems the series will closely tie in that origin story.

The show is set to take place in New Orleans, which makes a lot of sense since the city is well known for its legendary street magicians, and historic stories about ghosts and witches. Pair that with the abandoned classic Victorian houses scattered throughout the city and you can already start imagining the tone.

Aubrey Joseph plays the role of Cloak (aka Tyrone Johnson) and Olivia Holt plays his counterpart Tandy Bowen, otherwise known as Dagger. Not too much can be taken from the few trailers that are out, but it does seem to show the pair getting into character rather quickly after discovering their conjoined powers. It’s likely that the better part of the series will be about confronting the chemist and/or company that cursed them with these powers. The show also hints at several theories based on Cloak & Dagger’s comic book stories about one of them dying in order for the other to live, as it suggest the two of them can’t survive together at the same time for very long.

I’m personally excited for this show because it gives us something we haven’t seen before, like Marvel’s last TV series The Runaways. This is also good for audiences who may already be fatigued from the normal rouges gallery of super heroes they are constantly bombarded with on the big screen. Marvel maybe the only studio today that can materialize a superhero blockbuster in an instant, but it doesn’t mean they have to. Creating smaller intriguing characters may in fact help build the Marvel brand more so than the next Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I look forward to seeing what they dust off from the comic book shelves and onto the small screen.

Look for Cloak & Dagger to premiere the first two episodes June 7th on Freeform.

 

Delving into anything thought provoking and relevant to our current times, with a touch of sci fi and tech to keep the needle on the beat.

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10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1

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We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.

Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.

As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.

Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.

 

1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.

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While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.

I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.

2. Seating for Black People

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo of a segregated bus

While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.

3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier

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In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.

4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook

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Scene from episode 1 depiction of the Green-Book

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Actual Green-Book

The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.

5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide

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During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.

6. Ice Cream stand Scene

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Scene from episode 1

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Gordon Sparks photograph

In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.

7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo

This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.

8. The billboard across from the gas station

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Scene from episode 1

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Advertisement the billboard is based on

While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of  Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.

9. Sundown towns

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Scene from episode 1

Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!

10. White walls

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Scene from episode 1

Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!

I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.

 

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AMAZON’S “CARNIVAL ROW”

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Just three episodes in and Carnival Row has me hooked and mesmerized by the sheer amount of work Amazon Studios has put into making and building a world set in a Victorian fantasy wonderland. It may feel familiar and even remind you of majestic scales seen in Harry Potter or even The Lord of the Rings but make no mistake this series stands on its own and will be the model other similar fantasy tales are told.

Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world!

You also get hints of Sherlock Holmes from the many British actors the show puts on display. This world not only houses humans but it also features Fauns aka Critch or Puck. Which are humans with horns attached to their heads and goat legs for…. well legs of course.  The second tier of creatures are the Fae who resemble humans at first glance but instead have wings on their backs. They are a non-violent group who fled their homeland from outside invaders. They’re also called Pix. The last group of other worldly beings are called the Pact, who are no friends to the Fae. I hesitate to enter spoiler territory as the reveal of what these creatures are can be seen early in the series.

The story is essentially a civil war among three groups of people and conflicts with the overpowering government in place. Mix that with the ongoing tensions of humans and creatures attempting to live in “harmony” in one land and you have yourself an amazing story relevant to our current state of disarray in this country.

Leading the cast are actors Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne who wonderfully steer this complex interweaving beautiful fantasy world in the right direction, each playing characters opposite of each other but also having their own past backstory of fighting together in a war as well as a blossoming romance between them. Enough so to make their current situation even that more appealing and engaging.

If that’s not enough there is a serial killer prowling about the city disfiguring their prey in a grotesque inhumane fashion. Another character worth mentioning is the actual city where most of the story takes place which is called the Burge. The city is brimming with life and cracks of danger lurking in each corner. Just the lighting alone from street lamps illuminating light in the dark noir city alley ways instantly puts you in that time period, not to mention the costume details of key characters. Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world. All worth investing your time and attention in to.

Delving into anything thought provoking and relevant to our current times, with a touch of sci fi and tech to keep the needle on the beat.

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THE BEST PLAYER IN BASEBALL

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It’s a Friday night and i’m finishing up some work waiting for a friend. So I click over to the Angels Seattle game and the first thing  I see is the entire Angels team adorning the number 45, the number worn by their fallen teammate Tyler Skaggs who died of unknown circumstances. However there was something else that I came to realize while watching. Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!

The man delivers something productive practically every time I see him play. Whether i’m watching at the stadium, in an airport or at home. He’ll surely be diving in centerfield to rob a hit, stealing a base to get in scoring position or driving himself in with a 400 foot home run. His impact is beyond REAL!

If you haven’t seen him play, I suggest you catch it while you can. This level of excellence doesn’t come too often and you wouldn’t want to regret missing it. Let’s put it this way, Mike Trout signed a 12 year contract for…wait for it….$426.5 Million dollars plus a 20 million dollar bonus. And guess what? He’s not overpaid! The dude is really that good.

Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!

If you don’t believe me, just peep the stats. Coming into his 9th year in the league, the former rookie of the year, 2 time MVP (finished second 4 times) and 8 time all-star has been averaging 38 home runs, 101 rbi’s and a batting average of .306 per season. This is a Lebron in a lifetime type of talent with a lot more in the tank to go.

It may come as a surprise to the casual sports fan since Mike isn’t in every other commercial like most superstar athletes. But to baseball aficionados out there, this isn’t really a revelation at all. They’re just praying the Angels get some more talent around him to showcase those skills to the world or just trade him to the Yankees. I’m pretty sure New York can find a way to make some room for him.

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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