Cartoon

Over the Garden Wall: The Unknown

Wha’ Happen’?:

Beatrice flies through a blizzard, desperately searching for Greg. She sees him ahead, standing in a snowy clearing with the Beast. Suddenly, she is blown away by a mighty wind.

The Beast asks Greg to bring him a spool of silver thread and a golden comb. Greg brings him a cobweb and a honeycomb, demonstrating the kind of lateral thinking that’ll probably get him a job in Google down the line. For his final trial, the Beast tells him to lower the sun into a teacup. So Greg simply puts the teacup on a tree stump and waits for the sun to set so that it looks like its going into the cup from the right perspective.

The Beast is apparently satisfied by this transparent con job and tells Greg to wait in the cold until everything starts feeling real warm and comfortable.

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Over the Garden Wall: Into the Unknown

Wha’ Happen’?:

We begin our episode in a strange and mysterious wonderland full of great music and childlike whimsy and wonder.

The Nineties.

Wirt is pacing his bedroom nervously, having just created a mix-tape for Sara in the hope that she will immediately consent to be his wife and tend his farm (as was the custom in the nineties) After chickening out and unravelling the tape, he finally mans up and repairs the tape. He then makes a Halloween costume out of a re-purposed Santa Claus hat and a repurposed Civil War era jacket.

Look at the freakin' detail on this cup, man | Over the garden wall, Garden wall, Cartoon

Finally resolving the mystery of why he’s dressed like an idiot.

Of course, this doesn’t actually answer the question of what exactly he was dress as for Halloween. My guess is that he’s going as General Gandalf Ulysses Mayberry, commander of the 11th Ohio Wizards.

Known to his men as “Ol’ Spellface”, he was eaten by a dragon at Gettysburg.

Wirt heads over to the school football field and watches Sara through the fence. Sara is currently dressed as a giant bee as she is the school mascot.

I don’t think this is why Wirt’s into her, but no judgement either way.

Greg, who’s apparently been out trick-or-treating alone (ah, the days before 9/11) and we finally learn what he was dressed as: an elephant.

greg over the garden wall - Google Search | Over the garden wall, Garden wall, Garden wall art

Ohhhhhhh…

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Over the Garden Wall: Babes in the Wood

Wha’ Happen’?:

While Beatrice searches for the boys, Wirt, Greg and the Frog sail down a river in an outhouse. Things are looking pretty grim. The Unknown has gone from Summer Autumnal to Winter Autumnal, Wirt has slipped into a deep depression and worst of all they can hear the Beast singing opera some ways behind them. Or, as Wirt puts it; “The obsidian cricket of our inevitable twilight, singing our requiem.”

Sidenote: Despite blogging for eight years, I still thought it was a good idea to look for this gif by googling “Wanking Gif”. I got everything I deserved.

Wirt says that it’s Greg’s fault that they’re trapped here and that he’s given up all hope that they’ll ever make it home. Greg asks if that means he’s the leader now and Wirt says “Whatevs” and Greg promises Wirt that he’ll be a good leader and won’t let him down because the kid’s a little champ.

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Over the Garden Wall: The Ringing of the Bell

Wha’ Happen’?:

So the…I feel weird calling Wirt, Greg and Beatrice “our heroes” all the time. I really should come up with a name for them. The Unknown Wanderers? The Frog Squad? The Autumnal Avengers? Greg and the Gregettes? What am I saying, the answer is obvious.

So Greg and the Gregettes have split up with Wirt and Greg having ditched Beatrice after her trying to sell them into indentured servitude to an evil witch (God some people are so sensitive).

They’re ambushed by the Woodsman who tries to warn them the Beast is after them after the events of Songs of the Dark Lantern but they of course think that he’s the Beast…or a lunatic with an axe which either way, y’know? So they flee until they come to a creepy cottage in the middle of the woods and hide inside.

Inside the cottage they find a barrel of the mysterious black turtles that have been cropping up all over the forest. The boys are discovered by a thin, pale servant girl named Lorna. They hear a noise outside and Lorna nervously whispers at the boys to hide in the turtle barrel so that they won’t be found by “Auntie Whispers”.

“How’d you do I, see you’ve met my, faithful HANDY man…”

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Over the Garden Wall: Lullaby in Frogland

Wha’ Happen’?:

Nearing the end of their journey, our heroes are riding a ferry to Adelaide’s house and everything seems great. Greg is having a grand old time and even Wirt (Wirt!) is happy and relaxed for once. Plus they’re on a boat inhabited entirely by fancy, fancy frogs and who doesn’t love frogs?

Cutest frog in town | Cute frogs, Cute animals, Baby animals

Daaaaaaaw don’t touch it, it is literally poisonous enough to kill an entire village.

Only Beatrice seems ill at ease and unhappy. Suddenly, two frogstables show up and try to arrest our heroes for sneaking on to the ferry without paying. Beatrice suggests they just surrender and get thrown off the boat but Wirt refuses because they’ve come so far. The cops chase them all over the ship until they disguise themselves using the Ol’ Totem Pole Trench technique.

Over the Garden Wall | Mad Love / Lullaby in Frogland

And afterwards, they can buy beer and go see R-rated Frog movies.

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Over the Garden Wall: Mad Love

Wha’ Happen’?:

We begin In Media Res…

…with Wirt, Greg, Beatrice and Fred the horse having dinner with the fabulously wealthy and utterly batshit insane tea mogul Quincy Endicott who thinks that Wirt and Greg are his nephews. And he thinks that because…Beatrice has straight up told him that they are because she wants his money.

Wirt is aghast that Beatrice wants to scam this sweet old man and Beatrice explains that she was actually thinking of just straight up robbing him.

Good Place Quotes • Chidi Anagonye

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Over the Garden Wall: Songs of the Dark Lantern

Wha’ Happen’?:

Looking for shelter in the middle of a storm, our heroes arrive at a creepy tavern full of people dressed in American colonial era garb and who apparently have no names, only job descriptions. The Tavern Keeper insists that Beatrice wait outside as birds bring bad luck. When Beatrice tries to explain that blue birds bring good luck the Tavern Keeper snaps “good luck, bad luck, I don’t need any of it!” and hits her with a broom.

Fuming, Beatrice waits outside in the stable with a weird horse that seems to be wearing lipstick. She hears the sound of someone chopping wood in the dark forest, and a deep voice singing…

In the tavern, the Tavern Keeper demands to know what Wirt and Greg’s deal is but Wirt doesn’t know what to tell them. After listening to the Highway Man’s song, Wirt asks the way to Adelaide’s House. This leads the tavern patrons to decide that he’s The Young Lover and throw him up onstage to sing his love song.

Outside, frustrated that Wirt’s not making any progress, Beatrice flies off into the dark forest in the direction of the singing and chopping, hoping to ask for directions.

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Over the Garden Wall: Schooltown Follies

Wha’ Happen’?:

After leaving Pottsfield, Wirt, Greg and Beatrice are now trying to reach the house of Adelaide, the Wise Woman of the Woods. In order to get Greg to stop singing, Beatrice tries to crush his indefatigable optimism. She tells him that the world is a miserable place and that he should be more like Wirt, a beaten down husk of a pushover who just quietly does whatever he’s told. Well, Wirt may be a triangle nosed goober cosplaying as David the Gnome’s secret abandoned lovechild, but even he has his pride. So when the trio stumble across a small school in the middle of the forest where a young woman named Miss Langtree is trying to teach a class of blank eyed animals to read, he joins the class just to spite Beatrice. Greg, who isn’t that big on book learnin’ (I know, stunned gasps all round) instead hangs around outside the school with a bunch of truant racoons, deer and possums.

As Miss Langtree explains in a wistful monologue, the school’s in real trouble. Her father, the owner of the school, is threatening to shut it down, her fiancée Jimmy Brown has done R.U.N.N.O.F.T. and there is the little matter of a mad gorilla on the loose.

Top 30 Schooltown Follies GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

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Over the Garden Wall: Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee

Wha’ Happen’?:

Still following the Woodsman’s directions, Wirt and Greg come across the Beatrice the talking bluebird again. She’s trapped in a thornbush and offers to do the boys a good turn after Greg frees her. She tells them that she can take them to Adelaide the Magical Woman of the Woods, who could send them home, but Wirt really isn’t up for a magical Wizard of Oz esque quest and they continue looking for a town with a reluctant Beatrice in tow.

They come to a town called Pottsfield where the locals are celebrating the harvest in pumpkin costumes and dancing to music that’s ever so cheery and it’s not creepy at all…

Watch Over The Garden Wall | Pumpkin Stare GIF by reikert on Gfycat. Discover more over the garden wall GIFs on Gfycat.

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“It doesn’t have to be good to be a classic.”

Let me tell you about the only comic book to ever make me cry in public.

From the first page of Amazing Spider-Man #121 something is off. There’s no title. Simply a sombre note from editorial telling the reader that they won’t actually learn what the name of the story is until the end. But it’s still very much a seventies Spider-Man story; bright primary colour palette, soap opera melodrama to burn and an exclamation point/period ratio of around 90 to 1. Norman Osbourne, who used to be the Green Goblin but has forgotten the whole thing because of amnesia, is undergoing a psychological breakdown because his son Harry went on a bad acid trip (did I mention that this came out in the seventies?). Suddenly, he relapses and remembers not only that he’s the Green Goblin, but that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Racing to Peter’s apartment to enact his revenge, he instead finds Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey who he abducts. Peter desperately pursues the Goblin to a bridge (George Washington per the text, Brooklyn according to the art) and Spider-Man and Osbourne have a desperate, thrilling mid-air battle that comes to a horrific halt when Gwen Stacey is thrown of the bridge by the Goblin.

Frantically, Peter shoots his webs to catch her before she hits the ground…and he does! He’s saved her! He’s won! Good triumphs over…

No. This time it’s different. And, on the final page, we at last learn the name of the story we’ve been reading which is, of course The Night Gwen Stacey Died. This is the panel that always makes me well up. :

At this point in the comics, Peter Parker was no longer a teenager. He had graduated college, he was an adult. But he was still very much a children’s character. And I find something indescribably tragic about this child’s superhero cradling the body of the woman he loves, unable to comprehend that his world has changed and that the old rules don’t hold true anymore. Good does not always triumph over evil. The innocent are not always spared. The guilty are not always punished. The people you cannot live without will be taken nonetheless. It’s a story about the loss of innocence we all go through and it’s one of very few single issue comics that I would hold up as an absolute work of art. It’s a piece that’s moved me deeply and that I feel a real personal connection to. And I think one of the reasons why it is such a gut punch is because the brutal tragedy at the heart of story is contained in all this colourful, innocent Silver Age goofiness, like a hand grenade with a pink smiley face on it. It wouldn’t work a tenth as well if done in a moody, gritty “realistic” style.

The Night Gwen Stacey Died became an instant classic and to this day is usually considered the demarcation point between the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, a period marked by a more mature and literary style of comics that produced some of the greatest masterpieces in the genre. Unfortunately it also taught a generation of hacks that they could kill the hero’s girlfriend for some cheap drama and pathos. Nowadays, the phenomenon of female supporting characters being killed to provide motivation for the male lead is usually called “Women in Refrigerators”, a term coined by writer Gail Simone after a particularly notorious Green Lantern storyline, but before that it was called “Gwen Stacey Syndrome” because it was really this story that opened those floodgates. To be clear, this does not make The Night Gwen Stacey Died a bad story (or at least, I certainly don’t think it does). The problem is the raft of imitators who failed to realise that what made Gwen’s death so shocking and effective was that it was so rare. Hard as it might be to believe, prior to 1973 women almost never died in mainstream comics, and if they did (Batman’s mother for example) it was almost always off panel. So what does this have to do with The Killing Joke?

Well, The Killing Joke is a 1988 Batman story by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland, and since its release its been frequently lauded as one of the best Batman stories, the definitive Joker story and one of the greatest comics of all time. (thanks to Clifford who pointed out that I actually put it on my list of greatest comics which I had completely forgotten). However, it has also increasingly been viewed as being somewhat…problematic…

Frau_Blucher

Why? Well, because in the course of this story the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon, paralysing her, (possibly) sexually assaults her and then shows her father pictures of it in an attempt to break him psychologically. Like Gwen Stacey, Barbara Gordon is brutally assaulted in order to advance the story of a male character, in this case her father and Batman. So there’s quite a bit of backlash against this book, with even Alan Moore himself effectively disowning it. Although honestly, take that with a grain of salt. Despite being the most influential writer in the history of the medium not named Lee, Siegel or Finger, Alan Moore basically now regards the entire comic book industry the way Captain McAllister views the sea.

My feelings? Well…I basically feel about The Killing Joke the way I feel about 99 Problems.

Is it misogynistic? Yes.

Noticeably so for its time and compared to the rest of its genre? Not really.

To the point where it obscures its artistic merits? No.

Of course, reading it now you have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. That Barbara Gordon was able to overcome this tragedy, and became Oracle, a wheel-chair bound superhero who became an inspiration to many disabled comic book fans and one of the most valued heroes not simply in the Bat family but in the DC universe as a whole.

Barbara Gordon | Batman Wiki | Fandom

And then Bruce just had her fixed so she could become Batgirl again, which was inspiring to comic book fans with billionaire friends who magically solve all their problems for them.

Ultimately, despite the problematic…

Frau_Blucher

…elements of the story I still think it deserves to be considered one of the all time great Batman yarns. And I was really pumped for this animated adaptation. Look at this line up! Bruce Timm, creator of the legendary Batman the Animated Series was producing, well-regarded Batman scribe Brian Azzaerello was writing the script and the voice cast was shit shot: Conroy! Tara Strong! MARK HAMILL COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT TO DO ALAN MOORE’S JOKER YE GODS!

But then early word had it that the animated adaptation would be greatly expanding Barbara’s role in the story and I was leery. I mean, on the one hand, it’s certainly a laudable impulse to want to address criticisms of the original by giving Barbara Gordon more agency and putting her experience front and centre. On the other hand, that is a radical change to the story. Put bluntly, The Killing Joke is not a Barbara Gordon story. Hell, it’s not even really a Batman story. It’s a story about the conflict between Moral Nihilism as represented by the Joker versus Ethical Objectivism personified by Jim Gordon. So my feeling was that if the creators doubted their source material to the point that they would make such a radical change, they probably shouldn’t be adapting it in the first place.

My worry was that we would get a more progressive, more enlightened, less problematic version of The Killing Joke but probably not a better one.

Oh, oh, oh…

I wish that was what we got.

JESUS.

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