About That Babylon 5 Reboot…

“You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed.” — Heraclitus, quoted recently by JMS

As most Babylon 5 fans are aware of by now, there is finally a “from-the-ground-up reboot” in the works for the once-groundbreaking, award-winning “Babylon 5” (1993-1998) series. This is a big surprise, since original creator/producer J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Thor, “Sense8”), aka JMS, had told fans for years that Warner Bros., who own the TV rights to the show, had absolutely no plans for anything B5-oriented. Now it seems that Warner Bros. has changed its mind in a bid to “leverage the company’s existing IP to help it stand out from other broadcast networks and streaming services.”

At the time, Straczynski tweeted out:

“We have some serious fans over at the network, and they’re eager to see this show happen. I’m hip deep into writing the pilot now, and will be running the series upon pickup. The network understands the uniqueness of ‘Babylon 5’ and is giving me a great deal of latitude with the storytelling.”

Last I read (from JMS’s tweets), the pilot will be the length of a regular episode (as opposed to a TV movie like Babylon 5: The Gathering was), and he was almost done with the script. (There was one joking tweet that might indicate it is complete.)

Explaining that he intends to use the knowledge and storytelling experience he has gained over the intervening years to re-craft his B5 story, Straczynski went on to say,

“[W]e will not be retelling the same story in the same way because of what Heraclitus said about the river. There would be no fun and no surprises. Better to go the way of ‘Westworld’ or ‘Battlestar Galactica’ where you take the original elements that are evergreens and put them in a blender with a ton of new, challenging ideas, to create something fresh yet familiar….

[The original series’] tradition for innovation will continue in this new iteration, and I hope to create additional new forms of storytelling that will further push the television medium to the edge of what’s possible.”

He has also said that, just as the original series commented on the state of the world in the mid-’90s, the reboot will attempt to address the issues of today.

I think a “re-imagining” is another way to describe the new series. There is certainly a lot of speculation as to how much he will keep from the original storyline vs. how much will change. It sounds like the “core” of the story that fans are familiar with will still be there. I suspect at least the major political and spiritual themes will be retained and probably some of the major beats and events. But, there will likely be a lot of variation in how it all plays out. I wouldn’t be surprised if (and I hope it’s the case that) most or all the major characters “return” much as they were, though with some changes.

B5 season 3 cast

I totally agree with the wisdom in doing a reboot rather than trying another spinoff or even a continuation with the original cast, several of whom have passed away. This allows for a fresh start. Included in this are the opportunities to update SFX, revisit neglected sub-plots and interesting species, address perceived weaknesses in plot and characterization, etc.

Interestingly, I have not seen anything that says if Straczynski is planning a 5-year arc, as before. I know the character of ‘Cmdr. Sinclair’ will probably not appear, since the focus is on ‘Capt. John Sheridan’ from the start. (Will some of Sinclair’s story be merged into Sheridan’s?) Also, while I suspect certain aesthetics (e.g., uniforms, ships, station design) will be tweaked or even overhauled from the original, I haven’t read anything about possible changes to the appearances of the major non-human races (Minbari, Centauri, Narn, Drazi, Vorlon, Shadow, Drakh, et al.). If so, I hope they are at least still recognizable as such.

I do have certain concerns about this project (e.g., the fact that it is being developed for The CW, which skews younger; the probability of an even more pronounced “wokeness”; changes to characters and things that I don’t want to change). But, in the end, I trust Straczynski to write a good story with interesting characters and wry humor, and I am excited to see what he and WB/CW come up with. I am, to use one of my favorite phrases, cautiously optimistic.

For those who hate even the idea of a reboot, remember that… you don’t have to watch it. You can re-watch the original series — either as aired or the recently remastered version — as often as you like. And if the reboot disappoints the studio or network and gets canceled, the original series will still be available to comfort, console, challenge, and entertain.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the new series will happen, since it is still in development and not on any schedule. If things do move forward, though, Straczynski indicated that a pilot might shoot as early as March 2022.

If and when(ever) this re-imagined reboot sees the light of day, I’ll be looking forward to sitting down to watch it with a glass of hot jala.

Will Sam Beckett Leap Back On the Air?

“Oh, boy…” — Dr. Sam Beckett

If you were a child (or teen or 20-something) of the ’80s/’90s like me, you probably remember the sci-fi show “Quantum Leap” (1989-1993), starring Scott Bakula (‘Sam Beckett’) and Dean Stockwell (‘Adm. Al Calavicci’). Or, maybe you caught it in reruns in later years. If not, here’s the opening explainer:

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator, and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

Filled with humor (mostly from Sam’s confusion and awkwardness in various situations), action, and romance, while also addressing topical issues like political corruption and various forms of bigotry, it was a very popular show. It was certainly a favorite of mine from that era, and, like my fellow-fans, I was really sad to see it end after five seasons.

But, is there a possibility of a restart or reboot of some kind? Both NBC and Bakula say, “Yes.”

A few years ago, creator/producer Donald P. Bellisario said he had “finished writing a Quantum Leap feature [film],” though nothing came of it. Then in early 2020, NBC Head of Program Planning and Strategy Jeff Bader admitted that there was a lot of talk about a possible “Quantum Leap” reboot, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock was considering it for a streaming series. Around that time, Bakula was on “The Talk” and said,

“I know the fans would love to have a reboot. There are so many things going on right now that need to be put right, that are currently going wrong. [Sam] would be very, very busy. Lots to do.”

Leap forward several months… While on Bob Saget’s Here for You podcast last month, Saget asked him about it and Bakula responded,

“There are very significant conversations about it right now going on…. I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know who would have it. The rights were a mess for years. I don’t know if they’re even sorted out now. That’s always been the biggest complication.”

He went on to say that he periodically has had conversations over the years with Bellisario about reviving the show.

“He would always say, ‘I can’t write it without thinking of you and Dean [Stockwell].’ I said, ‘Just think about me and Dean and write your show. Get it out there. If you have an idea, just write it. I am sure it will be great.”

I understand Bellisario’s hesitation. After all, it has been almost 30 years since the original went off the air. Though no longer tied to “NCIS: New Orleans”, Bakula just turned 67; Stockwell is 85 and retired from TV. Also, comedian Dennis Wolfberg who played the goofy techie named ‘Gooshie’ passed away in 1994. If the “reboot” is a continuation with the original, ‘Gooshie’ would probably be replaced and I doubt Stockwell would want to do more than perhaps a cameo in the first reboot episode. Bakula seems hearty enough that he could continue to play Beckett. But, given the way that many series, especially streaming series, are made these days, it would probably be 6-10 episodes per season.

I suppose they could try recasting with younger actors, so the story could pick up right from where it left off with the original series finale. But, then they would lose one of the strongest selling points of the series — i.e., Bakula’s portrayal of the lead character. At the very least, his replacement would need to mimic Bakula’s mannerisms, so that it actually feels to fans of the original that it is indeed ‘Dr. Sam Beckett’. I really doubt that would work, though.

Another option is to have an animated version, which would allow for Bakula (and possibly Stockwell) to voice the character(s), and the larger story could continue from the original. Animation, of course, also allows for more locations and F/X — or, the equivalent thereof — that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive. But, I’m not sure if an animated show would have a strong enough appeal to enough fans to make it either satisfying or sustainable.

Regardless, if Bellisario comes up with a great idea for a reboot and has the backing of the studio and Bakula, I’m willing to give it a watch.

Skrulls, Expendables, and More!

I’m not saying this is everything that has been announced over the past few months, but the following are the castings I took note of (including several in May) and never got around to posting about… until now. It’s quite a nice sampling across the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genre(s). Maybe there are a couple you hadn’t heard? Anyway, I’ll just jump into it…

Jackson, Scott, Mendelsohn

1) Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” (2022) series has added to its cast. Back in April I wrote about Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”, Terminator Genisys) joining Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, et al. on the series. Shortly thereafter, Irish actor Killian Scott signed on. As usual, details about his character — or about the series’ plot, for that matter — are being kept, well, secret. Still, I’m guessing he’ll play a Skrull. I haven’t seen Scott in anything myself, nor have I read any commentary about him, so I don’t have anything to say about his being cast.

At about the same time, veteran actor Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, various DC animated) was also announced as joining the cast as “‘a newly created character’ who could cross over into additional MCU movies and Disney+ series.” No use speculating who or what this character could be, but I’m pretty sure McDonald will do a fine job.

2) Also in April, I blogged about the casting of the title role (Alan Ritchson) and a few others for Amazon’s new “Reacher” TV series. Roughly a month later, they announced that Bruce McGill (“Rizzoli & Isles”) will play ‘Mayor Teale’; Maria Sten (“Swamp Thing”) will play Reacher’s friend and former protege, now private investigator, ‘Frances Neagley’; and Hugh Thompson (“Chapelwaite”) will play ‘Baker’, Detective Finlay’s superior and nemesis.

Kreuk, Bendavid, Carpenter

In June, we got a few more casting announcements for Season 1. Frazzled and in-over-his-head accountant ‘Hubble’ will be portrayed by Marc Bendavid (“Dark Matter”). Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”, “Beauty and the Beast”) will be Hubble’s wife, ‘Charlie’, a surprisingly tough former debutante. Willie C. Carpenter (“Devious Maids”) has the role of ‘Mosley’, a life-long Margrave resident and town barber who helps Reacher. Currie Graham (“Murder in the First”) plays another ethically-challenged character — this time it’s ‘Kliner Sr.’, a businessman and town “savior” but with a “dark side”. Harvey Guillén (“What We Do in the Shadows”) will play ‘Jasper’, the town medical examiner who suddenly finds himself very busy. Maxwell Jenkins (“Lost in Space”) will play teenaged Jack Reacher in flashbacks.

Honestly, it has been too long since I read The Killing Floor (on which the first season is based) for me to remember many details about the plot, let alone the cast of characters. But, I recognize several of these actors and am happy to see such a strong cast.

Cavill as Witcher, Lambert as Highlander

3) When I fan-cast for Highlander a few years ago, I mentioned that Chad Stahelski (John Wick) had signed on to direct a reboot. Earlier this year, I reported that the reboot was in “heavy development mode.” Not long after that, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, “The Witcher”) shared on Instagram that he had been cast in the title role:

“Being not shy with swords, and having a director as talented as Chad Stahelski at the helm, this is an opportunity like no other. Deep diving into franchise storytelling with all the tools at our disposal, is going to make this an adventure I (and hopefully all of you) shall never forget.”

Not a bad choice, I must say. I am interested to see how closely Stahelski et al. stick to the original premise and whether or not they explore some of the darker concepts that were in Gregory Widen’s original draft. As long as they keep the core ideas (unlike some previous sequels/spinoffs), possibly keeping Widen as a consulting producer, I don’t mind seeing some new ideas.

Calle about to do some wire-work

4) The Flash movie, which finally began production in May(?), will involve — or, at least, show — alternate Earths and associated heroes. One of those heroes that has been cast is Supergirl. She will be portrayed by Sasha Calle (“The Young and the Restless”), who “reportedly beat out more than 400 actors for the superhero role, becoming the first Latina ever to portray Supergirl.” However, with pictures surfacing that show her with short dark hair, fans are speculating that this might be the lesser-known version of Supergirl named ‘Cir-El’, rather than the better-known ‘Kara Zor-El’. (IMDB only lists her as ‘Supergirl’.) Regardless, I have no idea what to expect, but “Best of luck!” to her…

5) The Expendables 4 finally got the green light not long ago, with Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham reprising their central roles. (The Expendables 3 came out in 2014.) Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture will also return. But, this particular announcement was for some “new blood” — namely, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, and rapper Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson.

Jackson, Jaa, Fox

I enjoy the series and its balls-out take on ’90s-era action flicks. Lots of fun seeing action stars from that era co-starring or doing cameos, too. (Still waiting for Steven Seagal, Cynthia Rothrock, Michael Dudikoff, and Brigitte Nielsen to show up. Jackie Chan and Danny Trejo would be cool, too.) Martial artist Jaa’s involvement makes sense, since he has the skills and actually started in the biz as a young man in the mid-1990s. Neither 50 Cent nor Fox are known as action stars exactly, though they have both been in action movies. For example, 50 Cent has been a supporting player in Stallone’s Escape Plan film series, and Fox — the youngest of the bunch — has co-starred in the Transformers and TMNT franchises. I’m not expecting stellar performances, but hopefully they will round out a decent cast.

OK, we’re done here.

From Apex to Abyss

In last week’s post, I introduced(?) readers to the band Unleash the Archers, and I highlighted their two most recent albums, which I really dig. I briefly mentioned the overall fantasy story that the two concept albums tell, but I couldn’t go into detail. I wanted a guide to the story for myself, so I re-listened to the YouTube videos of Brittney Slayes (vocalist, songwriter) explaining the two albums track-by-track and wrote my own summaries. I share these with you below.

UTA (ca. 2020)

But, first…

The players on the albums:

Drums – Scott “the ‘stache” Buchanan
Guitar, Vocals – Andrew “the ginger” Kingsley
Guitar, Vocals – Grant “the scream” Truesdell
Lead Vocals – Brittney “the voice” Slayes
Bass on Apex – Nikko “nimble fingers” Whitworth
Bass on Abyss – Benjamin Arscott

The story covering both albums was written all at once, but the recording and release was three years apart. In fact, as revealed by Slayes in a recent interview, The Living Infinite album by Soilwork “directly inspired ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’. It is the reason they were originally going to be a two-disc record, and the reason I decided to write the story out in an outline with very distinct directions to the boys on how to write the guitar riffs. I wanted a record as complete as this one in sound, feeling, and tone, and I can guarantee you that ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’ would not exist without this album having existed first!”

The players in the tale:

The Immortal – the protagonist; a powerful warrior, cursed ages ago to serve whomever awakens him, so he’s always under someone else’s control

The Matriarch – the antagonist; an evil, sorcerous queen who oppresses her people; she “lays waste” to her enemies and anything else she feels like

Oldest son (of the Matriarch) – a slimey, cowardly politician/bureaucrat

Second-oldest son (of the Matriarch) – the high-priest/quasi-god of the realm’s religion, a sorcerer who subtly influences people with his words

Third son (of the Matriarch) – has renounced any power/influence he may have had in order to live a secluded life with his wife and child

Youngest son (of the Matriarch) – general of the Matriarch’s armies but not what you’d call noble or brave

Grandson (of the Matriarch) – son of the Matriarch’s third son; plays pivotal role on second album

— — —

Apex album cover

APEX (“the shimmering heat of sweeping lead guitars, face-melting solos, deafening growls, pummelling bass lines and of course the thrilling hooks of Brittney Slayes’ king-size voice”):

“Awakening” – The Immortal wakes up in his mountain a couple thousand years since the last time he was awake.

“Shadow Guide” – The Immortal waits for the usual guide to appear to give him instruction. This time it is a falcon, whose shadow he follows on the path before him.

“The Matriarch” – Told from an external, “omniscient” p.o.v., this track introduces us to the Matriarch. She’s a “bad@$$” and a worthy adversary for the Immortal.

“Cleanse the Bloodlines” – Sung from the Matriarch’s p.o.v., this track is about the first meeting between her and the Immortal, whom she (somehow) awakened. She explains his mission, which is to “collect” her adult sons for her, so that she can perform a ritual to give herself immortality. The ritual involves her personally killing all four sons during a planetary alignment. (Nice lady, eh?)

“The Coward’s Way” – When the Immortal shows up to capture the oldest son (bureaucrat), he tries to buy off the Immortal to retain his life/freedom. But, subject to the Curse, the Immortal cannot be bribed or otherwise persuaded to disobey his orders, nor can he be defeated in battle, so the son’s attempt fails.

“False Walls” – This track is about the Immortal’s struggle and eventual success in defeating the second son’s (priest/god or “cult leader”) sorcerous deceptions. He has no qualms about taking this scumbag back for his execution.

“Ten Thousand Against One” – The youngest son (general) puts his armies between him and the Immortal. Despite the Immortal’s pleas for the soldiers to put down their arms, they blindly go to their deaths, futilely defending their cowardly commander.

“Earth and Ashes” – The third son is the only decent and noble one of the lot. He helps the Immortal realize that he has a bit more control over his own fate than he thought. Though this son goes with him willingly, the Immortal struggles over the fact that he must still take this guy to be sacrificed, leaving his family behind. “Once again, I’ve been forced into doing something I really don’t want to do.”

“Call Me Immortal” – Contrary to her promise to free him from his curse, the Matriarch betrays him. Though he followed her instructions and she got her immortality, she wants to keep him available to use in the future. She sends him back to his mountain retreat, and — not being surprised by the betrayal — he expresses his resignation to his fate.

“Apex” – ‘Apex’ is the Immortal’s mountain, but it also represents hope, security, a goal to strive for, “a state of being”. So, as the Immortal reaches the mountain, he is relieved to be home, where he can achieve a bit of both physical and emotional respite from his difficult life and the tasks he is forced to do. It is only a temporary freedom, but in his sleep-state he dreams of other worlds and what it might be like to not have to serve evil despots.

— — —

Abyss album cover

ABYSS (“perfect mix of highly complex, catchy bangers and moody, synth-infused power ballads”):

“Waking Dream” – Sort of an interlude to bridge between “Apex” and “Abyss”. The Immortal is in a quasi-dream-state, neither fully asleep nor awake, but it’s an uncomfortable one in which he feels like he’s drowning in a blackness. He’s reaching for the light but can’t wake up.

“Abyss” – The Immortal awakes but, rather than being in his mountain, he is alone in space on a gigantic starship. He senses that his mountain is very far away, but he has no idea where he is or how he got there. He doesn’t know where the Matriarch is or what he is supposed to do. Uncertain and afraid at first, he finds the strange, dark “abyss” of space to be comforting and hopeful, so he decides he is ready to face this new “path” he finds himself on.

“Through Stars” – The Immortal wanders through the huge, empty starship, wondering how he is even awake let alone wandering the heavens in this strange ship. He reflects on his past and all the bad things he experienced or was compelled to do, etc. But, his current strange situation results in him deciding to forge his own path and refuse to be someone else’s weapon ever again, even if it costs him his life.

“Legacy” – Told in the voice of the Matriarch’s grandson (i.e., son of the one noble son who befriended the Immortal in the previous album), this track tells his story. He eventually realized that the Matriarch was the true villain, figured out a way to steal the Immortal away from her, and he was the one who awakened the Immortal (roughly 50 years after Apex). But, rather than use the Immortal as a weapon of his own vengeance and effort to free the Universe from the Matriarch, he is going to guide/mentor the Immortal so that he can defeat her of his own volition. He will in that sense become the Grandson’s legacy.

“Return to Me” – This track is told from the Matriarch’s p.o.v., and she is ticked off about her grandson stealing the Immortal from her. She doesn’t know that the Immortal is now awake and working for/with the grandson, so she tries to threaten and intimidate him into giving the Immortal back to her. Her supreme arrogance is obvious.

“Soulbound” – Here we are introduced to the Soulbound, who turn out to be the Matriarch’s four sons. She now controls them utterly as her undead servants. The Immortal wants to free them from their enthrallment but isn’t sure he is capable or worthy, since he is partly responsible for their current state. (The Immortal is still having a crisis of confidence.) The third son has retained a measure of mental free will, so he is less of a threat. (This is because he had a living son (i.e., the Grandson), which his mother didn’t know about, so she wasn’t able to truly “cleanse the bloodlines”.)

“Faster Than Light” – The grandson and the Immortal have defeated the Soulbound, but they are now running for their lives, as the furious Matriarch is right behind them. Her fury is even more intense than before, since she knows that the Immortal is awake and working directly against her. The Immortal realizes that there is no escape. He needs to find the strength to turn and face her, defeating not only her but (symbolically) anyone who used him in the past, as well as his own demons and past self.

“The Wind That Shapes the Land” – The Immortal and the grandson land their ship on a remote planet with the remains of a long-dead civilization. We begin with some introspection and anticipation of the future by the Immortal. Then an epic battle ensues, as the Matriarch creates an immense storm of magical and elemental forces to assault him. Pushing through and weathering it all, he finally gets his hands around her neck and squeezes the life from her. Victory! [insert happy-dance!] Unfortunately, the grandson lies dying nearby, which puts a huge damper on his celebration. [Fun fact: This song is a re-worked version of Kingsley’s song “The Illusion” from his pre-UTA days, which you can find on Soundcloud.]

“Carry the Flame” – The Immortal holds the grandson in his arms, weeping that he has lost his only true friend he has had in ages. The grandson tells him “now you can let the past go and be your own man”, then he breaks the curse, setting the Immortal truly free.

“Afterlife” – With the curse broken, the Immortal now has a new path to discover, a “new life”. Part of him says to use his power to let loose, become a tyrant, lay waste to civilizations, whatever he wants. But, he has had enough of that. He wants to be a light in the universe rather than an instrument of darkness.

As per Slayes,

“The whole record is just about the Immortal finding himself and finding the strength to break the chains of expectation and to learn that fate doesn’t determine what he does and what he says and his choices in life. His path is not determined, it’s not a straight line that he walks. There are many options and many possibilities, and just like in life for the rest of us, we don’t have to do what everybody expects of us.”

There is more detail re Abyss in the limited edition earbook (which I do not have), but those are hard to get these days. However, a UTA fan has posted videos of himself reading the earbook narrative — well, the audio is of him, but the video is text and photos from the earbook. I only just discovered these and have only listened to one part at this time. You can watch/listen to the whole playlist from here, though.

Immortal vs. Matriarch and a Black Crystal Sword

Roughly a year ago, I wrote about three power metal bands that sing about ongoing, original tales — i.e., material that they created rather than, say, LotR or video games — in the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. Those particular bands are/were intentionally over-the-top, even goofy. Today, though, I would like to share with you my top two favorite power metal — or, power metal plus — bands who tell “serious”, original sagas. And, because I apparently can’t help myself, I’ll give more background on each than I did about the other three last year…

Apex-era UTA

I discovered Unleash the Archers (UTA) roughly two years ago. The Canadian band was formed in 2007 by its two core members, vocalist Brittney Hayes (a.k.a. Brittney Slayes) and drummer Scott Buchanan, along with guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski. After adding another guitarist and a bassist, they released their debut album and the only one with the original lineup, Behold The Devastation (2009). Subsequent releases include Demons of the AstroWaste (2011), Defy the Skies (EP) (2012), Time Stands Still (2015). I can’t say I’m a big fan of this earlier stuff, as the death metal influence is more pronounced, though there are some great vocals and instrumental work.

But, I fell in love with the band’s 2017 release, Apex, a concept album which began the tale of the Immortal and the one who controls him thanks to a curse, the evil Matriarch. (A graphic novel is planned.) The band, especially primary songwriter Slayes, are huge sci-fi/fantasy fans, and it shows. Slayes came up with a cool story that has definite fantasy vibes, but then it adds sci-fi elements in the sequel, Abyss (2020). (They even experimented a bit with the music, e.g., adding a bit of synth in the latter album to enhance the sci-fi tone.) There was an unrelated EP, Explorers, released in 2019.

There have been some lineup changes over the years. Guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley joined the band in 2011 and 2014, respectively, and their contributions are felt with the amazing guitar work — both composing and playing. (Note: Kingsley supplies occasional clean vocals, and Truesdell replaced Dyczkowski on harsh vocals.) The incredible bassist Nikko Whitworth was a member during the Apex days, but he left and has not been permanently replaced. (Nick Miller plays bass in live shows.) Buchanan continues to impress on the drums. Then there is Brittney Slayes, the sweet, geeky girl who turns into a metal queen with a powerful voice and impressive range.

As samples, I present one track each from Apex and Abyss, beginning with the video that hooked me:

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I think it was around a year ago that I discovered Ancient Bards, another tremendously talented group — though from Italy, this time. As with UTA, I wondered, “How the heck are these guys not huge names, yet?!” Keyboardist (and primary songwriter) Daniele Mazza got the idea for the symphonic metal band after meeting bassist Martino Garattoni in 2006. They added vocalist Sara Squadrini, drummer Allessandro Carichini, and guitarists Claudio Pietronik and Fabio Balducci, then put out the Trailer of the Black Crystal Sword Saga (EP) (2008). The Alliance of the Kings (2010) included the same songs as the EP plus a few more and included the subtitle “The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 1”. Part 1 of the Saga continued in Soulless Child (2011) and *A New Dawn Ending (2014). In 2019 we got *Origine – The Black Crystal Sword Saga Part 2*, so I anticipate another couple albums to continue this part of the Saga.

Ancient Bards ca. 2018 or later

While I noted that the whole band is immensely talented, I tend to focus on three of them. First is the lovely Sara, a soprano with an amazing voice that I love to listen to. (Note: She has a solo channel on YouTube where she posts her occasional covers of songs from various genres.) I love the fact that Garattoni gets to show off his 6-string bass-playing chops, and I always love spotlights on those with true talent. And, when it comes to true talent, Pietronik (who also has his own YT channel and works with JTC Guitar) is one of the best guitarists I’ve heard. The three members who I need to pay more attention to include Mazza, current drummer Federico Gatti (who joined in 2010), and guitarist Simone Bertozzi (touring 2014-2018, regular 2018-present), who provides occasional harsh vocals.

Honestly, I haven’t figured out enough about the Saga to follow it. From what I understand, there are four benevolent kings charged with protecting the powerful and magical Black Crystal Sword; the evil wizard Sendor wants it. The kings are betrayed by Dorus, “secretly the stillborn son of Sendor and Queen Shena who Sendor brought back to life with black magic, but couldn’t give him a soul so Sendor is attempting to rejoin Dorus with his soul through the power of the sword,” etc. While Mazza’s musical composition is top-notch, his storytelling ambitions appear to be a bit beyond his capabilities. Mazza has stated that he doesn’t actually read fantasy novels but enjoys fantasy movies and video games. This may indicate that his exposure to good writing is rather limited, resulting in his own story being convoluted and perhaps barely coherent. For me, however, if the music is good, I still enjoy watching and listening to the performances.

Sample videos include “Through My Veins” from Soulless Child and “Impious Dystopia” from Origine:

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Let me know if you dig ’em, too!

A Few Thoughts on Current and Upcoming Star Trek Series

This week I just wanted to make a few brief comments regarding the current, growing crop of Star Trek series.

“Discovery”: I have reviewed each of the previous three seasons, so you can get my thoughts and opinions on this controversial show from those. But, the official trailer for Season 4 (prem. 11/18/2021) dropped a few days ago. Have we seen humongous, planet-threatening anomalies in Star Trek before? Sure. But, that’s the sort of thing that we should expect, and it lends itself to lots of drama and excitement. It looks like the new season will include a lot of personal and professional growth for our heroes, as well as opportunities for unity — including among Federation and non-Federation worlds — in the face of a mutual enemy. I’ll be there!

“Picard”: I also reviewed Season 1 of “Picard”, so I won’t repeat myself here. But, since the Season 2 trailer has dropped, just a few words… I can’t say that I was a huge “Q” fan, but his return has me feeling nostalgic. “The trial never ends” is a nice tie-back to ST:TNG, right to the very beginning of the series, in fact. This time, we have time travel, too, (thanks to the Borg, it appears) and an attempt to undo an altered history. For the most part, the trailer looked good to me, so I’ll be watching come February 2022. (Fingers crossed that they don’t disappoint!)

“Lower Decks”: This animated series has been controversial in its own right. Most complaints I’ve seen were about artistic style, wacky humor (that didn’t belong in Star Trek), and questions of whether or not it was canon. I mean, could such a ship with over-the-top characters, incompetence, and unprofessional behavior really operate and survive in the normal, serious Star Trek setting? No, of course not. But, before watching the first season, I decided to take it as existing in an alternate universe where such things exist and… work. I, for one, enjoyed it, and I look forward to Season 2 (which began airing in August, but I haven’t scheduled time to watch, yet).

“Prodigy”: The second, new, animated Trek series is “Star Trek: Prodigy”, which will debut 10/28/2021. The concept — i.e., interspecies group of kids/teens(?) find and re-activate an abandoned Starfleet ship, leading to lots of fun and dangerous adventures — is interesting, to say the least. In contrast to “Lower Decks”, this one will be kid-oriented. The official trailer for this one also dropped, and the artwork is quite impressive, as are the character designs. Kate Mulgrew returns to voice a holographic version of Janeway, so that’s a nice bonus. Color me intrigued. I may not be the intended audience for this show, but I may have to check it out, anyway.

“Strange New Worlds”: As I think I’ve mentioned before, I am definitely up for this one. Getting back to the old, episodic format is a major plus. I look forward to seeing the Pike, Spock, and Una (aka Number One) characters explored further. From recent casting revelations, we learned that the show will also include younger versions of Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and Dr. M’Benga. Very cool. One of the new characters appears to be a descendant of Khan (who is currently in stasis in the Botany Bay), so that could prove interesting. (Will she be enhanced, too? Does she know what Khan’s worldview and plans were?) The series won’t come out until 2022 some time, but like many other Trekkies/Trekkers, I wait with bated breath.

“Section 31”: Not much news on this one. It will bring back Michelle Yeoh as ‘Captain Philippa Georgiou’ (or is it former Emperor Georgiou?), which should be a huge draw for those who enjoy Yeoh and especially that character. The focus will obviously be around the mysterious and sometimes ethically-challenged ‘Section 31’ organization, tasked with protecting the security interests of (initially) United Earth and (later) the United Federation of Planets. I think this could be a very good show, if they make it primarily a “spy show” — sort of like Cold War-era James Bond — rather than a “sci-fi show” (though that will obviously be the setting). I look forward to this series with hopeful optimism.

“Starfleet Academy”: While the concept has long been discussed and rumored, we got confirmation a few weeks ago that Paramount is indeed developing a Star Trek series “built around the Starfleet Academy”. It will be “aimed at a younger audience”, but we don’t know yet if it will be live-action or animated. When writing on the possibility back in 2015, I said:

“Personally, I think it might work as a mini-series or series of movies, but I don’t think a full series would work well. Even though cadets serve some time on a ship before graduating, I’m pretty sure most fans would prefer a focus on competent, fully-trained officers on important missions, not partially-trained cadets on training exercises, going to class, and taking exams.”

So, I suppose it could work, but I obviously have my reservations about it. Will they go for a CW-type of show. I hope not. I’ll refrain from further comment until we know more.

OK. End transmission.

Superman’s Invincible Legacy

There are three new superhero TV series that recently aired and that I’ve been considering reviewing here. I finally finished watching the last of them, but I haven’t been able to psych myself up to do three full-size reviews. (Just one is a lot of work!) Then I got the idea to do three relatively brief reviews in a single post, so… this is that.

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Lois, Clark, Jonathan, & Jordan Kent

“Superman & Lois”

Readers may remember that I made some initial comments after watching the first episode. After watching the full, 15-episode first season, my opinion is still rather favorable. The casting is all pretty good, though the standout may be Elizabeth “Bitsie” Tulloch as ‘Lois Lane’. Tyler Hoechlin’s ‘Clark Kent / Superman’ is good and likable, though I would like to see him put on some muscle. Decent chemistry between Tulloch and Hoechlin, too. Dylan Walsh as Lois’ father, Gen. Sam Lane, is a stretch, but they do try to make him look a few years older. The Superman suit and Steel’s armor both look good, believable, and the F/X overall are quite well done, imho.

Referring back to the concerns of Forbes‘ Paul Tassi, I think the show did indeed maintain “a more grown-up, less campy, higher budget” feel when compared to the rest of the Arrowverse. It wasn’t perfect, of course. I liked the story of John Henry Irons from another Earth. But, I wasn’t a huge fan of the overarching story about Morgan Edge, his interests in Smallville, his big secret and ultimate plans. (A shame, ‘cuz both the Edge character and the actor, Adam Rayner, could have been very interesting.) I guess they had to get the “big bad” out to the countryside somehow, and at least they didn’t default to Luthor. The plot elements with the Kent sons were alternately good and meh. While I knew to expect some “teen angst” drama on a CW show, sometimes it bugged me. Same goes for the Cushing family issues.

I also question how Supes can be doing anything close to the amount of crime-fighting and disaster-aversion activity that is expected of him, when he is balancing farming, assistant coaching, family drama, and town politics in rural Kansas. Sure, he has super-speed. But, we never see him out doing other stuff in other parts of the country or world or even hear such exploits being referenced in conversation. Did I miss where he told Earth’s other heroes (assuming there are some) that he was going on quasi-sabbatical, so don’t count on him helping out?

Personally, I would have preferred a “Superman and Lois” show to be Metropolis-based and focused on their pre-marriage or early-marriage years as reporters, along with Superman’s global activities. But, that’s not the direction Warner Bros. and the CW decided to go. That said, the show that we got is being done quite well and has the potential to be even better. Fingers crossed…

“Jupiter’s Legacy”

I have never read the “Jupiter’s Legacy” comic series, and I didn’t read anything about it before watching the show. So, I had few expectations and no source material to compare it to. I will say that it is a pretty good story concept — a twist on a familiar tale — and I think the alternating “present” with flashbacks (for character backgrounds and “origin story”) worked fairly well. On the other hand, I was wishing that the origin for the Union’s superpowers could have been explained a little sooner, as well as some of the intermediate history. (I like to know who can do what and why.) I cringed at the dysfunctionality of the Sampson family, as well as the non-heroic attitudes & behaviors of some of the second generation. But, I understand that it allows for some interesting character development, personal growth, alliances, betrayals, factions, etc.

Josh Duhamel finally got cast as a Superman-like superhero, and it suits him. Leslie Bibb’s ‘Grace / Lady Liberty’ gave off enjoyable ‘Lois Lane’ vibes. It was good to see Matt Lanter (‘George / Skyfox’) again, whom I recognized from “Timeless” — though he also does voice work for Star Wars, DC, and Marvel. Nice to see Kurtwood Smith, Conrad Coates, and (under a lot of makeup and padding) Tyler Mane, too. I didn’t recognize the other players, but they all did good jobs.

The violence didn’t bother me, as I have seen as bad or worse both on-screen and in print. Like I said, mostly what concerned me was the relational issues, especially between generations, and there was plenty of blame to go around. Those were some rather startling (or were they?) revelations at the end of the “present” plot, and we only got part of the origin story in the final flashback sequence. With that sort of cliffhanger ending, it really is a shame that there won’t be a second season. (At least, not right away. Instead, Netflix has opted to develop “Supercrooks”, another concept from the Millarverse that could be quite fun.) Obviously, though I was frustrated with things here and there, I enjoyed the show and want to see what happens next — in both time periods. I should probably look into getting the TPBs.

“Invincible”

Speaking of brutal and gory superhero stories…

When I was still buying/reading comics on a regular basis, “Invincible” was one of my favorite titles — and I read a lot! I read “Invincible” from the beginning and for several years until, well, “life happened” and I had to stop collecting. A few years after that, I found several hardcover collections of the title at my local library. But, I still never got to read the last few years’ worth of the comic run, so I don’t know how it ends.

I tell you that just so you know that I was/am a big fan of the character and can still remember some plot developments from the comic. So, I had high expectations for this animated TV series. Of course, as was done for “The Walking Dead” (also created by Robert Kirkman), there were a few alterations made for the adaptation from comics. A few are, shall we say, irksome (e.g., changes to a character’s race/ethnicity or gender/sex for reasons of “inclusivity” and “representation”) but, given the nature of the change and/or relative (non-)importance of the characters, don’t affect the story much.

Other changes are concerned more with pacing and the timing of certain plot developments. For example, Nolan / Omni-Man’s true nature and intentions were revealed sooner than they were in the comic series. Another example has to do with the battles with the Flaxans. (In the show, Invincible and Teen Team fought the invasion force (while Nolan was in the hospital), but in the comics it was Invincible and Omni-Man.) The TV series also fast-tracked the plot about who Robot actually is and his efforts to have a clone of Rex grown for him. There were also changes to a few miscellaneous scenes here and there that differed from the comics.

BUT,… somewhat surprisingly I don’t have any big gripes about this. The changes helped strengthen characters and/or pushed the story along. Part of this is because TV and comics are different mediums (media?) that present scenes and information in different ways. Part of it (I suspect) has to do with considerations for keeping audiences interested, feeding certain information while holding other info back, deciding what can be reasonably included during an 8-10 episode season, etc. And I’m OK with that.

I am pleased with the cast chosen to voice the characters, from regulars to cameos. The artwork is top-notch and very much in the style of the main artists for the comics, who consulted on the project. Even more importantly, despite those changes already mentioned, the TV version is so far faithful to the characters and the storyline. So, it is safe to say that I think Amazon Studios and Skybound/Image did a terrific job with the animated TV adaptation, and I hope we have several more seasons to look forward to. (Amazon Prime Video announced on April 29, 2021 that the show had been renewed for two more seasons.)

But, just to be clear, in case you are not familiar with either the comic or TV series, the graphic violence (along with adult themes and occasional profanity) make “Invincible” entirely inappropriate for children. Not all cartoons are kid-friendly!

Whew!

“Manifest” Returns

“On behalf of the cast, the crew, the writers, directors, and producers, thank you to Netflix, to Warner Bros., and of course to the fans. You did this.” — series creator Jeff Rake

In case you somehow missed the news earlier this week, “Manifest”, the recently-canceled TV series, will be back after all. The NBC TV show starring Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh, et al., was canceled after three seasons, much to the disappointment of its loyal fan base and Jeff Rake, who created the show for a planned 6-season run. Many fans expressed their love and support, while Warner Bros. TV tried to negotiate a new home for the series. Netflix was involved in those talks, naturally, since it had recently started carrying the first two seasons and Season 3 was added to its U.S. market just last weekend. (International distribution was a sticking point.) But, those negotiations fell through, leading to the announced cancellation on 6/21.

However, thanks to the fan-led #SaveManifest campaign (which the actors also participated in) and to Netflix coming back to the negotiation table, a deal was reached. The show has now been picked up by Netflix for a final, fourth season — and a full 20 episodes at that! Woohoo! This announcement was made at 8:28am PT on 8/28, which is quite fitting for a series about the fictional, mysterious Flight 828 and its survivors.

“Since its premiere on Netflix in June, ‘Manifest’ has proven very popular with our members. Jeff Rake and his team have crafted a beguiling mystery that has viewers around the world on the edge of their seats and believing again in second chances, and we’re thrilled that they will bring fans some closure with this final super-sized season.” — Bela Bajaria, Netflix Head of Global TV

From what I have read, most of the regular cast is either in negotiations to renew their contracts (possibly with a nice raise) or have already closed a deal (e.g., Dallas and Roxburgh). One potential issue is that Matt Long (‘Zeke’) has a one-year contract with a new show called “Getaway”, so they have to figure out a way for his shooting schedules to fit for him to appear in both shows. They are also trying to get a mix of old-hands and new talent for the writing and production team.

Obviously, it is way too early for any premiere-date announcement for Season 4.

On a personal note, I have been watching “Manifest” from the beginning (though usually a few weeks behind). Like most such shows, it wasn’t perfect, as there were times/things — e.g., thematic elements, character journeys, etc. — that bugged me. But, I was invested enough in the overall story and characters, so I continued to watch and enjoy. (Not sure how I feel about the “Lost”-like vibes, though.)

I think I may have started the 3rd season even after the show’s cancellation had been announced, which would be enough for some people to just give up on it. But, I continued with it, anyway. Given the shocking, cliffhanger ending, I am sooooo glad that the series will now get the opportunity to address those developments and wrap everything up, even if more quickly than originally hoped and planned for. Plus, I can now feel comfortable recommending the show to newbies, since there will be a (presumably) proper ending.

Yaaayyy!

More Black and Brown Superheroes On-Screen

I have explained in previous posts (e.g., here and here) how I object to the misguided attempts by certain writers and studios to make non-white versions of historically-white characters — especially if the character is well-known, even iconic. Among other things, it is disrespectful on multiple levels. (Think how people would scream if such a race-swap went the other way!)

So, I wanted to briefly comment on the recent casting of Black and brown actors for live versions of superheroes in upcoming productions.

Leslie Grace | Batgirl

1) For DC’s standalone Batgirl movie, Warner Bros. has cast actor/composer Leslie Grace in the lead role of Batgirl / Barbara Gordon. I am not familiar with Grace. She is a lovely and, I’m sure, talented girl. The problem, as I see it, is that she is Latina (or Afro-Latina?), whereas ‘Barbara Gordon’ — niece/daughter of Commissioner Jim Gordon — is decidedly Caucasian. J.K. Simmons is rumored to be returning to the DCEU as Jim Gordon, so they would have to explain the “mismatch” as Barbara being bi-racial or adopted. Still, ya gotta ask… why the change? The obvious answer is the SJ push for ethnic diversity and “representation”.

2) Jurnee Smollett played Black Canary / Dinah Lance in last year’s Birds of Prey movie. While mildly entertaining, there were many bothersome things about the film, one of which was the new version of Black Canary. Most obviously, Smollett is (as she calls herself) “blewish” — i.e., part-Black, part-Ashkenazi Jew –, whereas the comics version of Black Canary / Dinah Lance has always been a blonde white woman. And, now it has been announced that Smollett is working with Misha Green to develop a Black Canary spinoff movie for HBO Max. No thanks!

3) This next project is a podcast, so technically it doesn’t qualify as “on-screen”. But, I still wanted to mention it. Winston Duke, who played Wakandan warrior M’Baku in Black Panther and related Marvel movies, has signed on to voice Batman / Bruce Wayne in Batman Unburied. Now, if this was a live-action “Black Batman”, I’d have a problem with it. But, this is a podcast, and some actors of color have successfully voiced white characters in animated features. So, this could be fine. On the other hand, it isn’t clear if this version of Batman will be white or Black. We know that the character works as a forensic pathologist at Gotham Hospital, so it sounds like an alternate Earth / parallel world type of thing, though that wasn’t explicit in the announcement, either. (Note: Jason Isaacs will play Alfred, which I think is decent casting.)

Jordan | Val-Zod Superman

4) In a previous post, I talked about the “Black Superman” project being developed by Ta-Nehisi Coates and J.J. Abrams. I mentioned that Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Creed) was interested in played the Calvin Ellis Superman of Earth-23. It was later announced that Coates & Abrams were race-swapping Clark Kent instead. Last month, a new project was announced whereby Jordan “will produce and potentially star in a ‘Superman’ project for HBO Max following the Val-Zod incarnation of the superhero.” THAT’s the way to go! (As long as it doesn’t push a “woke” agenda, that is.)

5) Finally, there is the new “Naomi” TV series being developed for The CW. It is the story of ‘Naomi McDuffie‘, a Black girl from another Earth who survived a cataclysmic war between metahumans and was sent to DC’s Earth-Prime as a baby. She grew up in a “normal” family, until she developed superpowers of her own and began having the typical adventures that brings. (Notice the Superman parallels?) I have never read the Naomi comics series, but apparently she went simply by ‘Naomi’ until Aquaman dubbed her ‘Powerhouse’. I really like the sounds of this one. It is a relatively new (but popular) character which debuted in March 2019. ‘Naomi McDuffie’ is Black, so there is no need to race-swap. And it has the markings of a teen-centered, coming-of-age drama, which is what The CW made its brand with. (I just hope it isn’t too angsty or too “woke”.) Writer / executive producer Ava DuVernay has confirmed that the series, starring Kaci Walfall, has begun filming.

So,… I definitely have issues with the first two projects, as they seem to have race-swapped established characters for no good reason. The third one might work as an “Elseworlds” type story, pending more information. The last two will bring existing, Black superheroes to life on screen, which (like the “Black Lightning” series) is exactly what needs to happen.

Btw, notice that those are all DC properties, but Marvel has several projects with Black leads, too. For example, “Secret Invasion” (starring Samuel L. Jackson as ‘Nick Fury’), Ironheart (about a brilliant teenage girl who creates an Iron Man-like suit of armor), Blade (the human/vampire anti-hero), “Armor Wars” (with Rhodey as War Machine), “Kingdom of Wakanda” (self-explanatory), The Marvels (inc. ‘Monica Rambeau’). There are Black and Asian characters among the Eternals, but unfortunately a few characters were race-swapped and/or gender-swapped. “Ms. Marvel” will feature an Asian lead, and Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is virtually all Asian. Eternals‘s issues aside, all of these non-white leads are established, non-white characters.

Fan-Cast: Hercules

“Verily, it is time for some righteous smiting.” — Hercules Panhellenios

What can be said about Marvel’s Hercules — the Prince of Power, Lion of Olympus, and Son of Zeus himself? He is an “old school” hero from ancient Greece, a demi-god who revels in wine, women, song, and perhaps his favorites: feats of strength and personal combat! As I’ve said in the past, if the MCU is phasing Thor out, I think it’s time we saw ol’ Herc on the big screen as Thor’s replacement. I don’t know if that is in Marvel’s plans for the future, but I do have a few casting suggestions for them, just in case….

Hercules

The boy originally known as ‘Herakles’ (or ‘Heracles’) was the son of Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, and Queen Alcmena of Thebes. (Zeus disguised himself as her husband, the absent King Amphitryon, in order to seduce her. What a creep!) Somewhat ironically, the child was raised by Amphitryon as his own, while the goddess Hera, his namesake, rejected the boy and tried to kill him. (More than once!) This was instrumental in his altering his name, in order to distance himself from Hera.

Young Hercules had many adventures over the centuries that followed — e.g., the Quest for the Golden Fleece, the Twelve Labors, killing Ares’ son Kyknos –, some of which got him into trouble and others of which were meant as punishment and/or to teach him valuable lessons. At one point, he spent a few days in the depths of Tartarus before Zeus had mercy on him. He even stripped his mortal “shade” from him and made Hercules a full-fledged god.

In his long life, Hercules has fought titans, gods, demi-gods, sorcerers, magical creatures, armies, extraterrestrial and extradimensional beings, along with plenty of humans and superhumans of various sorts. On the other hand, he has allied himself with several of those, as well. In recent decades, for example, he has fought alongside many Avengers (often as a member), Guardians of the Galaxy, Asgardian gods, fellow Olympians, the Champions, Heroes for Hire, Renegades. One of his most entertaining relationships has been his friendly rivalry with Thor, the Asgardian God of Thunder (and later All-Father).

Physically, Hercules is an extremely muscular white male with dark, wavy hair (and beard, usually). Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’5″, 325 lbs. He is, of course, several hundred years old — maybe thousands? But, his Olympian heritage includes true immortality, so his appearance is that of a normal human in his 20s or 30s, I’d say. This might be tweaked for a live version, so I’d like for the actor portraying him to be no more than 40. I think the very muscular physique is integral to the character, but an acceptable height range is 6’2″ to 6’8″.

As the Greek God of Strength, Hercules is one of the most physically powerful beings on (or anywhere near) Earth. This includes raw, “godlike” strength, superhuman speed and reflexes, invulnerability, superhuman stamina and agility, and a regenerative healing factor. His hand-to-hand combat expertise rivals the likes of Thor and the Hulk. He even created the art of pankration, which combines both Greek wrestling and boxing. At times he has used the ancient weapons known as the Golden Mace, the Sword of Peleus, the Shield of Perseus, and the Helm of Hades. He is an expert archer (though for personal reasons he rarely indulges) and has the Olympian gift of Allspeak, allowing him to understand and communicate in all languages and dialects.

In addition to the personality traits I mentioned earlier, Hercules is rather egotistical. He can also be a sneak and a jerk. On the other hand, he has matured somewhat over the ages and can be quite the loyal friend. He is incredibly confident, strong-willed, and courageous and has a strong sense of duty and honor, resulting in his desire to fight for causes he believes in. And, of course, he loves to bestow “the Gift of Battle!” on those he deems worthy, whether friend or foe. It is also worth mentioning that, if pushed too far, he can fly into a deadly rage, during which even friends and family have suffered.

One of the first guys I thought of for the role of Hercules was Dough Hubler (6’3″,b.????). Who? Hubler is a relatively unknown actor who used to appear at conventions as Marvel’s Hercules and DC’s Black Adam. He also appeared as Herc in a couple episodes of the fan-made series “Avengers Assemble”. He wasn’t quite as massive as these other guys, but he really looked the part. Last I heard, though, Hubler had fallen on hard times. (Plus, he may be too old for it, now.) Steve Lord (6’5″,b.????) is an actor that shows up here and there that, at one time, I thought might be a decent fit. He has the action background, too, both on-screen and as a former Marine. He is still fairly muscular, but I think he’s close to 50. A couple bigger names that came to mind were Joe Manganiello (6’5″,b.1976) and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (6’2″,b.1964). But, the former doesn’t have the right look, and the latter is definitely too old.

Lesnar
Archer

There are a couple guys that I considered because they have the brawn, but they are both a bit older than I would prefer (assuming they would appear in more than a couple movies). I’ll mention them here, anyway. Brock ‘The Beast’ Lesnar (6’2or2.5″,b.1977), of course, is a well-known pro-wrestler. To play Hercules he would have to grow out & color his hair, or possibly wear a hairpiece. Losing a few pounds around his middle and gaining some definition might not be a bad idea, either. Rob Archer (6’6″,b.1975), on the other hand, is hugely muscled and needs no help there, though he would need hair(piece). Archer has the TV/film experience, but his dialog has been minimal. In both of their cases, their various tattoos would need to be removed in post-production. Plus they are both in their mid-40s already.

CORRECTION: I originally (8/18/2021) had Brett Azar confused with Sergi Constance, resulting in Constance being left off the list. As of 8/30/2021, I have corrected the listings below.

Azar

Brett Azar (6’2″,b.1987) may look familiar, too — or, at least, his body does. (Not as creepy as it sounds.) Why? He has been Ahnuld’s body-double in Terminator Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate, as well as appearing in “Jessica Jones”, “Gotham”, “The Blacklist”, et al. Currently, Azar portrays pro-wrestling superstar ‘The Iron Sheik’ on the “Young Rock” series. He obviously has the physique, and he nails the ‘Herc’ look with the facial hair. He even has a bass/baritone voice that fits the character and is perfect for the inevitable bar scene and drinking songs.

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Constance

Unless you are really into sports fitness/bodybuilding or trending sports brands, you may not have heard of fitness model/trainer/entrepreneur Sergi Constance (5’11.75″,b.1988). Plus, he has done next-to-no acting to speak of, except… He is the guy who appeared as ‘Zeus’ in the ancient battle against the forces of Darkseid shown in (both versions of) Justice League. So, the plusses on his side are that he has an amazing physique, he is the right age, and he looks the part when he sports a beard. On the down side, there are his lack of acting experience and the fact that he is under 6′ tall. Still, he looked so good as ‘Zeus’, I had to include him here.

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Reed

Finally, I have to add pro-wrestler/bodybuilder Aaron W. Reed (6’7″,b.1981) into the mix. Reed only began acting a couple years ago, and much of his experience has been in India and Thailand, so far. But, he has appeared in “NCIS: Los Angeles”, “Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse”, and as the huge body with Ryan Reynolds’ face in Free Guy. (That’s how I “discovered” him.) With the right hair, whiskers, and costume, he could be the embodiment of the Olympian Prince of Power. (Assuming he can act, of course.) Btw, this pic is from when he was still wrestling and had been cast in a Persian movie. From other pics I’ve seen, he is even bigger and more defined now.

I can’t quite decide if I prefer Azar or Reed. What about you?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2021.