Four Letter Nerd

Author - A Nerdy Guest Contributor

Previously on Game of Thrones: A Look Back at the end of Season 4

Over the next six weeks, I will be presenting a series of articles previewing the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. The first edition takes a look back at where each of the principal characters were as the last season came to a close.

King’s Landing
You may want to consult a doctor or psychologist if you forgot the image of Tywin Lannister, the man pulling all the puppet strings in Westeros since season 3, sitting on a toilet dead with two arrows in his chest from a crossbow shot by his youngest son, Tyrion. For all his strengths, Tywin’s downfall proved to be his greatest weakness; his underestimation of the dwarf son he despised. Now, Tyrion is in a crate on a boat likely headed across the Narrow Sea with Lord Varys, who appears to be fleeing himself.

Jamie proved to be the key cog that sprung Tyrion loose, freeing him from prison in the first place. But he is still Lord Commander of the King’s Guard and the man primarily responsible for his son…I mean nephew, Tommen’s protection.

And speaking of our young king, the death of his grandfather also opens up a key position of influence for Cersei and Margaery to fill. Margaery is pledged to be married (for the third time) to Tommen and I’m sure these two ladies will be in full agreement of how to manage the young king in the future.

Sitting on the operating table is a lifeless Mountain. Though he defeated Oberyn Martell in a brutal trial by combat, the poison from Oberyn’s spear as left him near death (and I am sorry the show didn’t make this clearer, but the Red Viper got his nickname from the poison in his spear). But Qyburn has a solution not approved by Grand Maester Pycelle that might return the Mountain to life.

The Vale
Dark-haired Sansa!!!! The young lady who came down the steps to greet Petyr Baelish exuded far more confidence than the naïve, frail red-haired girl who’s been mostly tortured since the show started. But Littlefinger owes her for not testifying against him during his trial over the death of Crazy Aunt Lysa. And now they are ready to head out across the Vale with “Brave Ser Robyn” (que the Monty Python music) to rally the region to their cause.

Meanwhile, Brienne and Pod were on their way to find Sansa for Jamie. They likely had no idea how close they were to Sansa when they ran into Arya and the Hound, and the brawl of the ages ensued. Brienne came out victorious, but Arya slipped away. So will Brienne and Pod continue their course towards the Vale and Sansa, or will they seek out Arya, heading in a completely different direction?

As for Arya’s escape, she left the Hound for dead (we think?) and is aboard a ship headed for Bravos. The ship captain dismissed her until she presented the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her at the end of Season 2. I will say more about the importance of that coin as Season 5 unfolds.
The North

Roose Bolton now rules the North. The Boltons warred with the Starks from many years before bending the knee. Now the Stark betrayer from the Red Wedding back at the end of Season 3 has finally fulfilled his house’s desire to lead the North. And he will do it reluctantly with his bastard son, Ramsey, who can now officially carry the name of Bolton instead of the north bastard name, Snow.

Theon (or should I say Reek) had a hand in “uniting the North” for Ramsey and his father and finished season four entirely at the will of his torturer. He even spurned an attempt by his sister to rescue him out of fear of what Ramsey would do to him. The overconfident prick from the first two seasons is a distant memory.

Beyond the Wall
We have our first true super team in Westeros (well not sure how much of a “team” they will end up being, but it’s pretty cool to have all these characters in one place). The war with the Wildlings appears to be over as Stannis and his men arrived to aid the men of the Night’s Watch and defeat Mance Rayder. Now Jon Snow, Stannis, Melisandre, Mance and Tormund Giantsbane are all at the wall (!!!!!) with plenty of issues to settle.

We hear (and I emphasize hear, because we didn’t actually see any of it) that the slave cities along Slaver’s Bay that Daenerys freed are in chaos as the former slave masters have tried to regain their power. She sent Daario (the one she had sex with) and Hizdahr zo Loraq (he appeared once pleading for mercy for former slave masters for Dany, so you many not remember him) to settle things down.

The mother of dragons also started having her first issues controlling her dragons. One of her dragons, Drogon (the largest of her dragons) has escaped and apparently burned a young child alive. The burned bones of the child’s body forced Dany to chain up her other two dragons. With all these issues emerging around her, Daenerys must move forward without her most trusted advisor, Jorah Mormont, who was banished from Meereen after Daenerys discovered he had been spying on her back in season one.


Questions moving forward:

-Will Daenerys move closer to her original goal of claiming back the throne of Westeros for the Targaryens? Or will the unrest in Slaver’s Bay unravel her plans?

-Who will fill the power vacuum left by the death of Tywin Lannister in King’s Landing?

-How close will Sansa and Lord Littlefinger become and who can really trust who in their bizarre relationship?

-How will everyone now at the Wall coexist and what will the relationship dynamic be between them all?
-What direction are Tyrion’s and Arya’s stories heading as they shift to new locations and, presumably, interact with new characters?


Next week: Religions in Westeros and their importance in the upcoming season.


(This article was written by 4LN GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

I don’t typically get all broken up about celebrities dying. Though they may touch our lives with their work, we don’t know them and having an emotional attachment to them has always struck me as a little silly. Thus celebrity deaths are more or less a way to mark the time.

How very logical of me.

But, here I am holding back tears as I write this, because Leonard Nimoy died today, at 83. He was many things: an actor, a director and photographer, an author, a philosopher. But to me, and to so many around the world and across the decades, he was Spock. Spock, who in so many ways defines the best of what Star Trek is and what it aspires to be.

Half Vulcan and half Human, Spock’s journey mirrors our own. What does it mean to be Human? How do we reconcile the intensity of our emotions with the need to deal with our world and those around us rationally? When should we listen to our heart and when should our head take the lead? What does it mean to be a friend? The very best of Star Trek investigates these basically human, existential questions. A journey into the unknown of space is simply the occasion to ask the questions.

Outside of his life as Spock, Leonard Nimoy took these questions to heart and lived them out in his life and work. These adventures will be well detailed across the Internet today, so I won’t go into them here.

I only want to say this: as Leonard Nimoy now travels the final frontier, may we all live long and prosper.

(Editor’s note: this article was written by Logan Robertson at the Disembodied Beard)

Game of Thrones Season 5 Trailer Analysis

It felt like Christmas morning to wake up, look on my phone, and see that I had a link to the season 5 trailer streaming on youtube from the IMAX showings of last season’s final two episodes. And finally, we get an ACTUAL TRAILER, not some ten second snippet of a bird with three eyes while nonsense is professed on the screen. Thank you HBO!!! But more appropriately, thank you Youtube poster for taping the trailer illegally and posting so we don’t have to pay fifteen or twenty bucks to see this two minute clip.

But while the trailer does get me excited for the new season, much of it is hard to discern any key plot points, splicing half-second to one second clips of random soldiers marching or characters looking concerned about their situation. There were some notable scenes and dialogue worth discussing, which I shall be discussing below. But first, here’s the trailer (assuming it has not been pulled for copyright infringement). Warning: If you want the entire season to be a total surprise, you may want to stop reading now. Also, stop reading if you are not caught up through Season 4. But there will be no season 5 destroying spoilers here, so most of you can read ahead free of worry.


1. Jamie is standing over a body in the Holy Sept.

I think it is safe to say the body is Tywin Lannister, killed at the end of last season. And much like last season, it appears this will be another place for Cersei and Jamie to have a discussion about where things stand with House Lannister (let’s hope they avoid the sex/rape confusion scene from last season).

2. Littlefinger is still trying to manipulate Sansa…

and is still doing it in such a creepy way, holding her head still while he tells her “There’s no justice in this world.” But the end of last season revealed “dark-haired Sansa,” who seems to have taken all the lessons she’s learned from being around master manipulators like Cersei, Margaery, and Littlefinger to become quite the gameplayer herself. Will this change her interactions with Littlefinger, or will she be just as uncomfortable as before?

3. There’s another wedding.

The young man getting married has a crown on his blond head, so I think it’s safe to assume this is Tommen and Margaery’s wedding. I assume this wedding will go on without a hitch just like all Game of Thrones weddings.
4. Wildlings are marching.

Now, I thought Stannis showed up beyond the wall last season and took care of this whole Wildling invasion thing. So why are they marching with weapons as if they intend to attack again? And will Jon Snow, who later appears to be leading an attack of some sort, be the man trying to stop this repeat invasion attempt? I sure hope not.

5. Jorah Mormont is fighting in some sort of Gladiator like pit.

When we last saw Dany’s trusted advisor, he was being banished from her presence for spying on her back in season one. What chain of events will lead him to fighting for his life (at least it appears that way) in front of large crowd?

6. Melisandre, the Queen of Thornes, and Ellaria Sand oh my!!!

All three of these strong female characters make brief appearances in the trailer. Melisandre is doing something with fire (imagine that) and seducing someone (imagine that part 2). The Queen of Thornes (Grandma Tyrell) is giving out advice (I will assume it is Margaery, but cannot confirm it). And Ellaria (Oberyn’s paramour from last season) is just standing there (back in her homeland of Dorne or someplace else?)

7. Arya standing before the large black and white door and holding needle.

I received more questions about Arya’s future storyline than any other character after last year’s finale. And it makes since for non-book readers since everything she is getting ready to do has been hinted at very little in the show. All I will say is that large black and white door is a very massive hint as to where she will be.

8. Varys and Tyrion are having conversation across the Narrow Sea.

The best part of the trailer in my opinion are various snippets of conversation had between these two who appear to be off the boat they boarded last season discussing their situation. The largest reveal of the entire trailer comes towards the end, where Varys seems to reveal his allegiance to Daenarys, saying “Who said anything about him?” when Tyrion questioned who this perfect candidate for the Iron Throne Varys describes is. And speaking of Daenarys….

9. A giant statue falls from the pyramid Daenarys has been doing business in since taking over Meereen.

The final scene of the trailer is this falling statue, which I have two theories for it’s meaning:

Theory 1: Daenarys ordered they be taken down
-The statues on top of the pyramids in Meereen represent the gods of the old Ghiscari Empire, originating from the city of Ghis. When the empire fell to the Valyrians, they allowed the cities on Slaver’s Bay to stay as a holding center for all the people they conquered. These statues represent some of the last remnants of Ghiscari culture. Is Dany taking a stand, attempting to eliminate any part of the old culture that might oppose her?

Theory 2: Riots in Meereen are threatening Dany’s rule.

-At the end of last season, rumblings were being mentioned (I emphasized mentioned, not actually seen, which would’ve been much better) that many were rising up to oppose Dany’s rule in Slaver’s Bay and her slave freeing policies. Are some of these groups rising up and expressing their displeasure?

I don’t care if it is either one of these scenarios or a different one, I just want Daenarys to get out of her pyramid and do something instead of the snorefest that was the second half of last season for the Mother of Dragons.


(Editor’s Note: As usual, this article was written by 4LN’s resident Game of Thrones corespondent, Jeff Merrick.)

Game of Thrones Quarterly Report: Winter Edition

Three months!!!! That’s all!!! Three months until the premiere of Season 5 of Game of Thrones!!! It doesn’t feel like much time as passed since season four reached its bloody conclusion. But now, here we are getting ready for a new season that promises to be quite the reboot for our characters in Westeros and beyond the Narrow Sea. I plan on writing several entries in the near future reviewing the previous season and providing some important background information for the events that are to occur this upcoming season. But first, let’s catch-up on some of the news that has come out over the last couple of months regarding our favorite HBO fantasy drama.


Premiere date announced for Season 5!!!

Contrary to many reports that Season 5’s premiere would be delayed because of editing issues, Game of Thrones’ new season will begin on its usual early April start date, April 12th.

Special IMAX showing of last season’s final two episodes January 23rd-29th

At first reading, this sounds very exciting. Seeing the battle at the wall in episode 9 get the IMAX treatment would be amazing (imagine watching that giant scythe slicing through wildlings on the large IMAX screen). And also included with (I assume sometime after) this showing is a special preview of Season 5. Sounds great, except that this time last year, HBO released a trailer that was shown on their network and then released online for free the next day previewing season 4. Does this mean we only get the trailer for season 5 if we fork out the money to see two episodes we’ve already seen? I hope not. But I will be keeping an eye out for this preview around the time of its release hoping that it pops up somewhere online for my analysis. And speaking of previews…

HBO releases ten second preview of new season

Don’t get too excited. Here’s the “preview” in its entirety.

That’s it. Arya wakes up and a door opens. Mind Blown!!! It would have been better for HBO to release nothing than this lame teaser. Better (though just as brief) teasers appeared in HBO’s end of 2014/preview of 2015 montage presented here (the GoT scenes begin at 1:38).

Most important of these preview scenes are Tyrion with a full grown beard and hooded face. He appears to be fully undercover after the events that ended last season. Also, Arya appears to have just stepped off a boat on the other end of the sea she was floating across at the end of last season. The other two scenes say little about the upcoming plot. Cersei walking determinedly is nothing new. But I was glad to see John and Olly (who appears to have grown about three feet since he was last seen killing Ygritte with his bow and arrow) together at the Wall.

Bran will not appear in the fifth season

Because his story is now caught up with the source material, Bran and his not so merry band will not be appearing in the fifth season. Though I did find it odd that HBO is using the three-eyed raven (the shriveled up old guy in the tree that Bran reached last season) as part of the marketing for the

upcoming season despite Bran not being a part of things. Not sure what that’s about, but this also means no Hodor for season five as well .

HBO schedules “A Day in the Life” special for GoT February 8th

Little information is available as to what the show entails, but scroll your cable/satellite tv guide page to this part of the schedule and this 28 minute special appears. I suspect this will also be used to provide more buzz for the upcoming season and (hopefully) a more revealing trailer.

And in closing…

Game of Thrones again denied the Golden Globe for Best Drama.

Something called “The Affair” took the prize this year. The only thing I know about the show is Jimmy McNulty from the Wire (strongly recommend this show if you haven’t watched it) stars and somebody cheats on somebody else (I used my very strong inferring skills from the title to figure this out). I don’t want to judge the show without having seen it, but how can a drama about a modern day affair compare to a giant scythe chopping up Wildlings?


(Editor’s note: This article was written by 4LN’s resident GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

Why I Closed a Comic Book Store

Someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

Remember that, because I’m going to come back to it.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have a comic book within 10 feet of me. I wrote in them with markers. I took them to school in my backpack. I met Stan Lee when I was 12. My two children are named from comic book super heroes. For the last 7 years, I’ve helped manage one of the country’s largest online comic book collecting websites ( and I’ve attended comic conventions from San Diego to New York City to Toronto as attendee, exhibitor and professional. With a little research, you fill find my name in both the letter columns and credits of your favorite comic books. But there’s many of you out there who will never meet me or know who I am. So allow me to introduce myself:

I’m the reason you and your children are wearing SPIDER-MAN t-shirts, SUPERMAN Converses and watching MARVEL movies on Netflix.

I am the comic book retailer.

Or at least I was.


In the middle of the entire print vs digital debate which has raged through the comic industry for several years, our website, which offers collecting software, manages comic book sales online and has tens of thousands of members, took a strange direction. While many sellers took all their sales online, went digital and closed up shop, we took our website property and leveraged a brick and mortar store to compliment our website 14 months ago.

It was a bold move. has been around for years and has enjoyed a modicum of success within the industry. Oh sure, we had a selection of exclusive variants that we sold at conventions or gave away to our members as gifts if they popped in for the last few years, but this was going to be a stretch. The idea was to help promote and drive customers to the website locally while at the same time giving our membership that stopped by every now and then just to say hi a place to drop a few bucks and all the while, we honored the industry we love.


And so it was that Comic Collector Live: The Store was born. We secured an account with Diamond Distribution and opened just before HALLOWEEN COMICFEST 2013 to slow to average sales, but with the long term goal of making something really unique that comic collectors and their kids can enjoy for years to come.

Now remember, all this time, someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

I remember the next 6 months was a real struggle. I busted my ass to ensure that the shop was clean and well-stocked. I worked extra hours on the weekend. I budgeted and managed financial expectations for the store down to the last dime. I created a kids’ section of the shop that kids and parents enjoyed. If any of you reading this ever attended a DIAMOND RETAILER SUMMIT, I was the guy in the meeting room taking feverish notes on how to run a successful comic book store. I worked more within the community to promote the store, working with school libraries and preschools. If the word “comic book” was spoken in this city, I wanted “Comic Collector Live” to be spoken in the same sentence with it. And as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I watched most of the money going directly back into the store. And I often wondered if it was all worth it.

Then around April 2014 (specifically FREE COMIC BOOK DAY), something wonderful happened.

We started to get more customers. A lot of them. Maybe it was the guy who just came in every couple months to see if we had anything new. Maybe it was the mom who drove by with kids pointing fingers asking if they could see what was in the building with the HULK standee in the window. Maybe it was the guys with the comic book news website that saw that we loved comics as much as they do (A wink and a nod to 4LN). But for whatever reason, these people become regulars and signing up to get all their comics through us. It wasn’t a home run by any stretch….more like a bunt to fake a base hit to first….but it was enough to give me hope that this store might actually stick it out long enough to survive the first year. By summer 2014, I was convinced that the shop was going to be around for a while and maybe, just maybe be able to (“GASP!”) start putting money in savings. While still relatively small in number, our customer base is and was loyal. I enjoyed many awesome moments, not the least of which was joining our local community Literacy Council.

Jacob Rougemont

Jacob Rougemont

Now keep in mind that all this time, there’s a website with tens of thousands of members that also needs love and attention sitting off to the side. It had been years…literally years…since the site has been updated and, despite all our best intentions and hopes, it hasn’t been done.

And for those of you who have ever seen STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, you know what’s more important than the needs of the few.

The good news is that is on the fast track to a much needed facelift and will continue to help bring buyers and sellers together. Technology has changed A LOT in the last 7 years and the website will be leaps and bounds better than what it is. But in order to give the website property the attention it needs, Comic Collector Live: The Store has to go and its’ last day of business will be January 31st, 2015.

And it’s literally as simply as that.

It’s a bittersweet moment. Probably not unlike the feeling when LEGO realized that while, yes, a clothing line is awesome, you stick with what you do best and that’s building bricks. And that’s my conundrum. In doing my job these last 7 years, it comes at the cost of doing something I’m also good at….selling comics…even though technically, I’m still doing it by helping manage this incredible website with incredible members and incredible potential.


To my good friends at 4LN, who have been supporters of CCL: THE STORE: I’m not really going anywhere and we’ll continue to see each other, albeit under different circumstances. I’ll simply give you guys this piece of advice: do what you love and you’ll always be successful. I appreciate the dedication and attention you’ve given our little shop and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your families. You each have something to contribute and are the closest thing to THE AVENGERS I’ll ever meet in real life. I look forward to your continued friendship.

To the customers, friends and friends I’ve come to call family these last 16 months in our shop: I want to personally thank you for allowing me to serve you and keep your passion for this business alive. We must have made an impact in your lives due to the large number of well-wishes and supportive words (and even invites to dinner) I’ve received in the last 72 hours. Today, I find that 4LN has written a eulogy column mourning the death of our brick and mortar store and a customer today informed me that because of the store, we’ve inspired her to write her own comic book.


To say I’m moved by these gestures would be an incredible understatement. Believe me: it would be a lot easier if I could tell you that our little shop was closing because it failed financially.

But it isn’t.

It’s closing because we have an obligation and a love for this industry that goes beyond what we were currently doing. And strangely enough, it goes deeper than that for me. Remember when I told you that someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money? I used to think this was just something that comic professionals tell each other in order to show they love comics more than you do. But then I realized something. They were absolutely right. If I make money doing what I love, all the better, but in the end I honestly want to be the reason EVERYONE loves comics. You, your kids and your kids’ kids.

So in order to do that, I have to look beyond what I have and forward to what Comic Collector Live can become and achieve.

And the irony is: if I ever do make money in this business, I’ll probably just spend it on more comics.




*Steve Boyd is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Goloco Media Group, Inc’s E-Commerce Division, a member of the Board of Directors for the Literacy Council of Middle Tennessee, Manager of Comic Collector Live: The Store, co-creator of, co-host of the WTWD podcast and has most recently contributed to 2 projects for Marvel Comics. He also knows every word to the “McDonald’s Menu Song”. While his office will remain at the same location in Hendersonville Tennessee, the storefront closes on January 31st.

4LN Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

In my opinion, the three Hobbit movies have been a bit of a letdown. Not necessarily in the quality of the movies, but in the experience of the films. The reason for my disappointment is because it’s hard not to compare the three Hobbit films to their predecessors, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy from the early to mid 2000’s (remember when it only took one movie to express the story of a book).

Anyone with an affinity for nerd culture owes a significant debt of gratitude to those films. Before LoTR, stories of fantasy were only appreciated by a few while being soundly dismissed by the majority. “Have fun reading those graphic novels, playing those silly board games, and dressing up for those silly comic conventions you guys go to. We’ll sit in here and enjoy our 90’s sitcoms and action hero/end of the world flicks, thank you very much,” said most of America until Peter Jackson convinced New Line Cinema to lay down between 200 and 250 million dollars on the production of three Tolkien inspired films (unheard of at the time because of the disaster a first movie flop could mean for the production company).

But then, “Fellowship of the Ring” hit the theaters. J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, only familiar to a few before, was now being experienced by the masses. And the graphics!!!! Revolutionary in its use of CGI, Jackson recreated Middle Earth on a scale that would not have been possible even five years before. “Return of the King” would take best picture at the Oscars a couple of years later. I remember walking into a packed theater at the Opry Mills 20 in Nashville on opening night as we watched the final three hour installment of Jackson’s masterpiece.

Fast forward to today and the once taboo nerd culture is all around us. Book series’ being bankrolled for multiple movies has become the norm with Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, Harry Potter, and some HBO TV show based on a book series I am somewhat familiar with. CGI is now expected by moviegoers (a key element, in my opinion, to the popularity of the ongoing Marvel Universe, beginning with Iron Man in 2008).

But as the final Hobbit movie is released this weekend, any buzz for its arrival is extremely muted. I am sure many will go see it and hundreds of millions of dollars will be made, but lacking is the excitement that was present for “Return of the King.” And “Battle of Five Armies” can thank its predecessor for that. The graphics in the Hobbit are spectacular, but they are in every movie now. The movie wastes no time getting right to the action, settling the previous editions cliffhanger. But it’s the third movie, and so we now expect the third of a trilogy to waste no time with plot points and pleasantries between characters. “Battle of Five Armies” is very entertaining filled with action throughout, but it wasn’t the same experience as sitting in that packed house in Nashville on opening night in 2004 when LoTR, the pioneer for modern cinema, finished its run.

Now, if you can forget what you experienced a decade ago, treat “Battle” as its own stand- alone experience, then you will still enjoy this picture. When we last left Bilbo and his dwarf friends, they thought they had killed Smaug, the dragon who was sitting on Thorin Oakenshield’s treasure. But Smaug escapes, and we are left with a cliffhanger: Smaug is free and ready to wreak havoc on Dale, the village inhabited by men close by. As a book reader, I appreciate Jackson playing out in real time important scenes that Tolkien, for some odd reason, chose not to.

Tolkien told the tale of Smaug’s attack on the city of Dale in a flashback. But Jackson opens “Battle” with a conclusion to this as well as Gandalf’s dealings with the Necromancer. Once again, this is another issue Tolkien chose to deal with off the pages of the book, having Gandalf disappear for half the book to deal with it, only to come back later and say, “It’s taken care of.” The Necromancer scene also sets the stage for the events in LoTR just like any good prequel should do.

The rest, and most significant part, of the movie deals with the battle. Recall that throughout the trilogy, the dwarves, on their way to reclaiming their gold, have angered orcs, goblins, elves, and men. All these groups are heading to the mountain the dwarves are sitting in to settle each of their particular grudges. While the first LoTR movies had very clearly defined good guys and bad guys, the third Hobbit movie does not (at least not when all these groups first converge). I like the range of emotions the different characters express in the events leading to and events that happen throughout the battle. Each group has their own selfish interests in mind, which is far more realistic than the good vs. evil fight to save the world in “Return.” I did feel as if some characters (and the overall conclusion of the battle) were shortchanged as the battle scene wound down towards its conclusion. But the goal of a movie is to entertain. And “The Battle of Five Armies” does that, even if any buzz it creates blends in with all the other noise from all the other series movies LoTR helped originate.


(Editor’s Note: This review was written by Jeff Merrick.)

(Barely) Star Trek

(Editor’s note: this article was written by our friend Mark from the Disembodied Beard)

I’ll make this short. Star Trek and Star Wars aren’t the same. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. You can’t ask someone if they’re a “Trek” or a “Wars” person, because that’s not a real dichotomy. Star Wars is a frenetic opera. Star Trek is Shakespearean theater in the best sense. You can like both, because they’re wildly different things to like, though you might not realize it after watching Into Darkness.


A comic I did a while back for, my usual soapbox, which addresses the growing murkiness.

For this reason, Paramount trying to make Star Trek 3 like Guardians of the Galaxy is an awful idea. There’s no nice way to say it. Guardians is also an opera. A really good one, at that. It’s such a good opera, I hope the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII sat up and took notes. But wanting Star Trek to be that way means you don’t know what Star Trek is. Have you watched Star Trek? Go back and binge on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. Do you realize how much talking there is? How much standing, deliberating, thinking happens in a 45-minute episode? Enough to fill a Lucas Films CGI department.

I’m an old man. I have been since I was a child. So maybe “I’m just bitching,” as my ailing grandmother once said to her shocked family. But Star Trek is special. It’s unique and lovely, and it’s art. I know that because it’s transformative, because it leads the viewer to new information and new ways of seeing old information. It does something no one else has been able to replicate. It’s why fans like me long for another Trek show; television could use it. The problem is, no network is going to pick up a Trek series with that trademark tone if Hollywood keeps setting a skewed Trek agenda. Which is why, if there are any movie executives reading this, please, hear me out: think Gravity, not Guardians.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Some Observations

With it being less than a week away from Christmas I will be watching Christmas movies and holiday episodes of different shows nonstop because I want to share the joy of this time of year with my 2 year old, Charlie, but mostly because Christmas themed shows and movies are my favorite. We decided (well, I decided because I’m the mom) to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the 1964 Christmas Classic. As it came on and that funny looking snowman scooted onto screen and introduced the story I sat in anticipation, excited to share this moment with my son. As we watched I started to notice some things that were a little bothersome in this 2014 PC friendly world we currently live it.

I realized very quickly while watching this that Santa is a total dick. When he sees Rudolph for the first time his first reaction is not how you would typically greet a newborn anything. He steps back as if he’s in fear because Rudolph has a lighty up nose. I mean I get it, if I went and saw one of my friends newborns in the hospital and he/she had a lighty up nose I’d be a little caught off guard. Santa isn’t very sensitive to the situation. He tells Donner that with a nose like that Rudolph will never make the sleigh team. Basically, he said you just made a freak and you need to hide him because he will never be accepted as normal. What the hell Santa? What’s your problem? I get that it’s a tough world out there and we need to be able to handle it but still, it’s a little harshenhanced-buzz-21692-1337636512-6The snowman refers to Rudolph’s nose as a “nonconformity.”  Which I just thought was a funny way to put it. For such a non-politically correct movie that’s a very politically correct way to say Rudolph is a freak.

The story then takes you to another dark and tragic aspect of North Pole Life (I feel like I just created a new hashtag), the sad life of Santa’s elves. They toil away day after day, year after year, making snot nosed kids toys that they will play with for all of 5 minutes, which is when they discover the box the toy came in. If you don’t like making toys as an elf, you basically have a snowball’s chance in Hell at surviving in the North Pole in Santa’s Workshop (more like Santa’s Sweatshop, am I right?) I mean do they get paid? Is there a union to protect them from hazardous working conditions? I’m going to go with NO on that. At one point you see the elves singing for Santa.  That’s when I realized that Santa is a dictator.

hail_santa_by_zmbgraphics-d4h6hr9The elf overseer realizes that one elf isn’t there, Hermie. He soon finds Hermie in the Sweat…I mean Workshop hammering away at a doll’s mouth. Why? Because Hermie wants to be a dentist and in the North Pole, an elf wanting to be a dentist is NOT OK! The overseer tells Hermie he will never fit in! So Hermie leaves, because he doesn’t fit in, he’s a misfit. What they do elves have against dental hygiene anyway? If their diet is even remotely like Buddy the Elf they NEED a good dentist in the North Pole.

You then go back to Rudolph on his first day of flying school. This blonde reindeer, he may have a name but I will refer to him as Biff. He prances up to Rudolph (he must be Prancer’s son) and is all like “come on Rudolph let’s go, there will be does there!” (because apparently the girls had nothing better to do then watch the boys learn to fly). Another thing that bother’s me is they laugh hysterically at the reindeer that tries to fly for the very first time but fails. Well duh, not everyone is like Harry Potter and picks up on flying so naturally.

Once Rudolph’s nose is discovered and he is promptly made fun of, he fleas the only home he has ever known. On his travels he meets the abominable snowman. Unfortunately Rudolph’s beacon of a honker attracts the monster (he’s my kid’s favorite part). Luckily, a lone weirdo (and fickle prospector) named Yukon Cornelius (hell of a name) saves Rudolph and Hermie by discovering Bomble’s (Yukon’s pet name for the monster) weakness. Apparently he is made of concrete and quickly sinks when he falls into the water as the three misfits sail away on an iceberg (Bomble does get out of the water in case you were wondering).

They sail upon an island of misfit toys. There is a Charlie in a Box, the black sheep of the Jack in the Box family. That makes me sad because my son’s name is Charlie and I think it’s totally fine for a in the Box toy to be named Charlie.  They are ruled by an Oz like leader, who happens to resemble a winged Scar from the Lion King.


They soon discover that they are misfits even on an island of misfit toys. Quite sad actually.

Rudolph decides to leave his companions and return home. When he gets home, Santa tells him that his mom, dad, and girlfriend have gone out to search for him and that Christmas Eve is two days away. Basically Santa says that Christmas will be ruined for everyone and it’s all your fault you stupid freak. Santa lays on the guilt trip hard. The movie does a flashback and Donner tells his wife to stay home because it’s man’s work to go look for things. Now, I am in no way a feminist but come on!

Rudolph ventures out to look for his family who is looking for him. You get this weird reindeer inception thing going on. He finds that they have been captured by Bomble! The reindeer are saved by Rudolph’s old travel buddies, Yukon and Hermie. Yukon knocks Bomble out and Hermie pulls out all his teeth. f35c50da2623c555f6a6c672c0f69776

Just when they think they have won, Bomble wakes up and Yukon tackles him over the edge. Charlie (my son, not Jack’s black sheep cousin) got extremely upset because Yukon’s sled dogs go over they edge too. “Roo roo! Roo roo!” He makes a sad face as I try to reassure him that they will be okay. Before I forget to mention it, Yukon had a misfit team of sled dogs. He had at least one bulldog and a toy poodle. Not sure how he was able to mush around.

When Hermie and the reindeer return to the North Pole, the other elves and Santa admit that mistakes were made and they should have made so much fun of Rudolph and Hermie. So apparently just saying sorry for running some one out of town is enough. Yukon returns some how so there is a nice reunion.

At Christmas eve dinner  everyone is celebrating the return of the misfits and all is forgiven and forgotten. Then the storm of the century blows in and Rudolph is the only thing that will help Santa deliver toys to millions of kids around the world. When the show went off to the tune of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer and Santa was proudly holding the reins of his trusty sleigh with Rudolph out front Charlie said bye Santa! I looked up and smiled at him and thought to myself, if you only knew the true Santa…one day my son, you will understand, one day.


In Defense Of Batgirl #37

Editors Note: Here at 4LN, we are not all of the same mindset. Some of us think Batman is a superhero, and some of us vehemently do not (although, said individual does not discredit the heroism of Batman, but I digress). There are those of us who LOVE Aquaman, and there are those of us who prefer to ridicule Aquaman for being a stupid, worthless hero (at least, that’s I’ve heard). The rest of the guys are very well versed in Star Wars trivia but I personally am not. I like Star Wars, and have seen all the movies, but it’s just not really my thing. With that being said, one thing I feel like it’s safe to say is that we all support the equality of all comic book characters. Men & woman, black & white, Skrulls & Kree, and definitely all characters that are identified as being apart of the LGBT community. Now, are there some of us that are probably more vocal about it than others? Absolutely. While some of us may be more documented as vocally supporting the rights of LGBT characters, we all feel like every character, regarless of gender, race, religious faith, or sexual orientation, has the right to exist.

Last week there arose the controversy of Batgirl #37, wherein the new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr depicted a cross-dresser/drag queen in a manner that many people felt was insensitive. They have since issued a formal apology to the readers, and anyone else, who were offended and hurt by the depiction of this trans character.

So, none of us here at 4LN have been reading Batgirl, and none of us have read this particular issue. We cannot weigh in on the situation based off of the hearsay so we won’t. However, we have a very good friend whose name is Clay VanBuren. We have all known Clay for several years. Clay is gay and is very much well versed on drag queen culture (he gave me a damn history lesson on it recently and I know a lot more about the drag world than I did when I watched the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. #TeamAdore). Clay also does not regularly read comics, but  he just so happened to get his hands on a copy of Batgirl #37 because the nature of the story appealed to him. We asked Clay, as someone whose personal culture is directly impacted by the developments in this issue, if he would share his thoughts about it. He agreed and what follows is his take on the whole matter. – Stephen Andrew

Batgirl (2011-) #37

Hot guys in skin tight outfits, rippling and bulging with muscles, questionable relationships with sidekicks and other characters within the story line, tongue in cheek jokes and possible double meanings within comments; all great things that should make me a comic book fanatic, but yet, I know hardly anything at all about them. The only things I can tell you about the gigantic and multi-dimentional worlds of DC and Marvel and the vast amount of other publishers, would all be pretty much regurgitated factoids fed to me by my friends. Why, you ask, then am I even writing any kind of review of a comic, or even trying to give my point of view or opinion? Well its exactly just that, I want to help give a voice to the “novice” or “noob” of this particular fandom. Every so often, either due to social media, or friends, or just happening to be at the store at the right random moment; I come across a comic book that catches my attention and sparks my curiosity to actually want to pick it up and read it, and in the few instances purchase it. This is the case with the most recent Batgirl comic, issue #37, because of a random post on Facebook by an LGBT magazine that I subscribe to and follow. What caught my attention about this particular issue was something about the “controversy” and possibility of the writers/creators “going to far” with the portrayal of the villain that Batgirl was going to face in the issue, and of course after reading the article and the argument that it posed to the readers I had to obtain a copy for myself for a few reasons. (1:) It’s “controversial”, and dealt with the LGBT community in and interesting way and (2:) I wanted to read the actual story and form my own opinion about how the comic’s point of view read. I mean, anyone and everyone has their own way of reading and interpreting things, so I wanted to see if I saw and felt the same way as some of the people that the article talked about saw and felt like. And finally (3:) after seeing the character in question and the main cover picture of him, I just simply fell in love and thought it was one of the hottest, fiercest covers I have seen for a comic, and being the kind of “drag fag” that I am, well of course I HAD TO HAVE IT! Ha! Okay…anyways…now, I hope I have at least kept your attention to this point because now I want to do a quick rundown of what’s going on in the this particular issue of Batgirl so that I can give my honest feelings and opinions at the end and you aren’t completely lost. Though, I do highly suggest going and picking this issue up and reading it yourself so you can form your own opinion as well. (Spoilers are going to be happening from this point on, but still, go get the damn comic. It’s only $3, and that’s half of your morning Starbucks. You can suffer for a smaller size coffee frappe latte froofroo drink.)

The beginning of the comic puts you in a car with 5 girls that have just robbed a celebrity’s house and have stolen her diamonds and bling and such, and are now looking for a party and to have some more fun. One of these girls is supposedly Batgirl, and the other 4 girls are shocked she would take part in such activities, but ultimately just want to continue to look for the next happening spot to show off their newly obtained goods. Out from the shadows the real Batgirl comes flying in and the fake Batgirl disappears from the car leaving behind her 4 party cohorts. After the party girls are taken into custody we move to the apartment of Babs (Batgirl), where she receives an updated and modified phone from her friend, then we see her getting ready and arriving at a big art installation gala opening for the mysterious and fairly anonymous artist Dagger Type. Upon entering the art exhibit, she is floored to find out that the entire installation is of gigantic portraits displaying Batgirl in multiple positions, the final one being a beaten and worn down figure sitting in a wheelchair. Babs being completely confused and taken off guard returns after the exhibit has closed dressed as Batgirl and grills the manager for information about the featured artist, and after getting said info on how to find him, goes on the hunt. Next we find her looking around inside one of Dagger Type’s supposed work spaces in an ally under a bridge, where she is confronted by a couple of hench-women. After she fights them, out from the rafters, in a sparkling golden outfit swings in the counterfeit Batgirl. They then go back and forth with catty remarks, finally beginning to fight and brawl themselves ending up on the top of one of the bridges giant arches. During this “Battle of the Batgirls”, more catty remarks are made, then ultimately the real Batgirl ends up unmasking the counterfeit exposing it to be none other than the elusive artist Dagger Type. Batgirl is now yet again completely confused, causing her to be taken off guard again and shot at by Dagger Type in an attempt to kill her and take her place. Batgirl falls to the dark water below and Dagger Type gets away. The final arena we find ourselves in is… well… an actual arena. Dagger Type is setting up his final installment in the “Batgirl Exposed” collection. He then makes the big revelation to the crowd that it has been none other than HIM that has been under the mask of Batgirl and that he is exposing this for all of Burnside to know finally. He is met with heckling and boos from the crowd and ends up being taken down by the real Batgirl who is using her real identity of Barbara Gordon so she can defeat him. In the end we find out that Dagger Type has been hired by some unknown “Patron”, as he put it, and that he was promised fame and fortune if he took out the real Batgirl and then posed in her place. Dagger Type is taken off to jail and the final panels show the real Barbara Gordon dressed as Batgirl getting her friend to take her picture so she can post it on social media to show Burnside the real Batgirl. The End.

Wow, I hope I didn’t bore you all there. I did warn you all that I am new to this entire world of comics and reviews, so I wanted to cover as much as I can to give the gist of the comic.

Now we have come to the fun part, the part where thoughts are expressed, feelings may be hurt, toes may be stepped on…but ultimately I hope eyes are opened as well as minds. I want to also express, even though I myself am an out and proud gay male, I am in NO WAY attempting to speak for the LGBT community as a whole, and even though I am a massive massive fan of the amazing art of Drag and the performers who make a living doing it, I am in NO WAY speaking for them as a whole either. I am simply giving MY point of view and my opinions on this and am not meaning any disrespect by anything I say, though I am going to be as honest as I can be. That being said, lets get into it.
Like I said in the very beginning of this thing, what really caught my attention about this particular issue of Batgirl, was the controversy that seemed to come with it. The idea that somehow the writers/creators have “gone to far” and are portraying the LGBT community in a bad light, and the fact that they’re accused of adding fuel to the flames of horrible stereotypes because of the way they drew and portrayed the main villain Dagger Type really made me curious. I had to find out for myself what was going on. So I read the comic, and well, I honestly just didn’t quite understand the hype over the character and what made him so offensive. All I really thought after seeing Dagger Type was “Damn he’s got some f—ing sickening outfits! Now who do I know [as a drag queen] that could and would do the same outfits justice in real life?” I didn’t see the “sadistic sissy” that the articles I had originally read made a big deal about. I didn’t see this horrible “homicidal homo” or anything along those lines that was apparently causing such a giant split between LGBT comic readers, and offending so many people. I don’t understand what about him as a character was causing so much of a fuss. In my eyes, he’s the just the stereotypical over the top comic book villain. Oh but wait… there’s that word… There’s the source of the “controversy”… Dagger Type is said to be a “STEREOTYPE” (enter the cheesy “dun dun duuuun” music for added drama). Sure, he is a scrawny, artsy, flashy, blonde, twinkish guy who has an eye for sickening makeup, diamond encrusted costumes, a flair for flashy entrances, an addiction to social media and the desire for fame and fortune and notoriety (though I have to say the only thing I truly found offensive in the entire book was the multiple references to Kanye West, I mean come on! Of all the f—ing people for a “gay” guy to reference being in a video with, why Kanye??? That’s what you apologize for, creative team). But why do those things being part of his character automatically make him a stereotype? Why can’t they just be his character? What makes him so controversial to the point that the LGBT readers are split on whether or not they find him offensive, and that the writers/creators have since extended a formal written apology to the fan base for all the backlash that they have received due to this character?

To me this is such a minute issue within the LGBT community that I just have to shake my head. Out of everything we are fighting for and trying to gain, for people to cause any kind of significant fight over a character in a comic book is laughable. It’s a comic book for gawd sake, not the right to vote or to get married. So I think people need to loosen up and just take it for what it is, a cartoon character. I mean if you look at him, he really is just simply an ink and color rendition of a drag queen. He’s no different to me than Jessica Rabbit or Betty Boop, well other than the fact that he’s… well… a he. I hope you see the point I’m making. Those two characters, iconic as they are, are just simply the exaggerated idea of a stereotypical “real woman”. Granted, I’m sure if I researched enough I’ll find the same bullshit about them, and the controversy and blah blah blah that they fueled in their respective time periods, but that’s a story for another day.
Overall, I will end with this: Batgirl #37 is a fun and campy read that hits on some small points about young people today. Social media,and the desire for fame & fortune and the easy routes to get to it and the hold that these ideals have on us as the younger generation. Dagger Type… I love him, and I want to see someone bring him to life and perform in his bad ass outfits. Again, he is nothing more than a campy nod to the hay day of cheesy, over the top villains that we all have grown to love in comic books and I think he should honestly be taken with a grain of salt. If you really truly are offended to your core by a cartoon, well, I don’t know what to tell you. I just hope that somehow you become a little less uptight and more confident in yourself as a human being, that you can find something a little more important to cause a fuss and ruffle feathers over than a damn comic character. Open your eyes to the real world around you, not the fake ones made of ink and paint. I say this out of love. There is so much more to life, so go have fun, see a drag show, chill with friends, make memories, and just be happy you are alive and well.

Welcome to “Welcome to Night Vale”

(Editor’s note: this article was written by our good friend, and resident Walking Dead expert, Matthew Mason)


“The Arctic is lit by the midnight sun. The surface of the moon is lit by the face of the Earth. Our little town is lit too, by lights just above that we cannot explain. Welcome to Night Vale.”

This is one of the many introductions to Welcome to Night Vale, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Set in a desert town full of strange hooded figures, Angels, a five headed dragon, mysterious glow clouds and many more odd citizens and unexplainable happenings. This dark comedic/sci-fi/horror podcast is presented in the form of a news broadcast from the local radio station.
Our narrator Cecil, voiced by Cecil Baldwin, keeps the citizens of Night Vale up to date with all of the local news and announcements such as the PTA meeting that “ended in bloodshed, as a rift in space-time split open in the Main Street Recreation Center Auditorium, setting loose several confused and physically aggressive pteranodonsas.”, and How you should try not to look at the newly opened dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you. On special occasions we get to learn all the best gossip from Cecil’s own personal relationship with local scientist, Carlos, who saves the town from eminent doom on multiple occasions. Many reports come in from recurring roles such as old woman Josie and her alleged angel friends, that bastard Steve Carlsburg, and The Apache Tracker who is actually just a white guy who wears the huge and cartoonishly inaccurate Indian headdress.
This podcast from Common Place books can be difficult to explain without speaking a bit of gibberish that you won’t really get until you’ve had a listen. I like to say it’s like the Twilight Zone & Tales from the Crypt meets NPR, and set in a Midwestern desert town. It’s other worldly aura gives the sense that you’ve entered a town outside of Area 51 that’s been lost in the Bermuda Triangle, where conspiracy theories are true, ghosts exist, and a faceless woman is visible only in your mirrors.
As the report reaches the half way to three quarter mark Cecil takes time out to fill you in on the weather. Which is not the weather as we know it. It’s actually a spotlight for a song by bands or artist from all different genres of music.

WtNV started in 2012 and currently has 58 episodes available all roughly 20-30 minutes long. Perfect for a quick listen on your way to work or something to kickstart some crazy dreams before you fall asleep. You can find them in the podcast section of iTunes, YouTube, or just about any podcast site available. If you are a fan of dark comedy, and creative writing this is definitely worth checking out. And remember if you see anything, say nothing, and drink to forget.