About mbarkersimpson

Melissa Barker-Simpson is a multigenre romance author. Her stories are about connection, friendship, and love in all its forms. So whether in a magical setting, an alternative universe, or a world where anything can happen – and often does – there is always an element of romance. Melissa is currently residing in the North of England with her two daughters, and when not writing, is fulfilling her other role as a British Sign Language Interpreter.

Netflix Tag-Team Review: Daredevil is Awesome

You might have guessed that I enjoy to collaborate, and given the fun I had with Hannah on the Age of Ultron review, I’ve been dropping some major hints! So when our Instigator-In-Chief, Gene’O, suggested a collaboration on Daredevil, I jumped at the chance.

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First, we’ll start with our overall views before we break it down a little and end on a verdict!

Mel – As a television show, Daredevil works for a number of reasons. It has a dark, edgy comic book feel to the production; great characters you can enjoy even if you don’t know their history, and a hero who is fighting his own personal demons while taking out the trash! I’ve always been a fan of Matt Murdock and, although I was nervous about how the character would be represented, I had high hopes for the show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Gene’O – I’ve always had a soft spot for Daredevil myself, and I was not disappointed either. In fact one of the things I like about the show is its “dark-but-not-too-dark” tone. It manages to be a serious show without taking itself too seriously. I think that’s mostly in the acting, and I have to say, the casting is phenomenal. Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk is an especially inspired choice . . . but let me not get ahead of myself in the intro.

The Good

Mel – The differing points of view. It is especially powerful when the audience is allowed to see through Matt’s eyes; what he hears, feels, experiences.

The fight scenes – the choreography is wonderful; some of the best I’ve watched. An example of that would be the corridor scene from Episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. It reflected the character beautifully and, to me, was a personification of Matt’s fighting spirit.

Gene’O – I agree about the fight choreography. It’s beautifully done. The two I find most memorable are the final showdown and this one, which is absolutely epic. [WARNING: BIG-TIME SPOILER HERE.]

I also think the points of view work well, but the thing that stood out the most for me were the relationships. This is a well-scripted and superbly acted show. The characters are complex, and there are a lot of emotional moments in this series that just feel genuine. That’s not something I expected in a Netflix superhero series. It was a welcome surprise.daredevil_netflix_claire

MelI have to jump in here, Gene’o because I completely agree about the relationships. I particularly enjoyed the character-centric episodes, “Nelson v. Murdock” being my favourite. The acting in that episode was superb; raw and extremely moving. Matt and Foggy’s relationship is one of the highlights for me – their dynamic works so well. I also enjoyed Matt and Claire’s chemistry, especially when we got to see his vulnerable side.

Gene’O – And I have one more. I like the way they handled the Daredevil costume. You know it’s got to be coming from the beginning, but it’s very late in the season before it’s even developed, and it’s an important element of the plot. I thought the reveal, when we finally got there, was a huge payoff and worked well.

Mel – I agree. The build up to the reveal was particular well-timed. I was so excited that, by the time we saw the suit, the tension was killing me! So cool.

The Not-So-Good

Gene’O – I had a hard time coming up with any of these, but this is a review, so we must find something to criticize 😉 If the show has a weakness, it’s in some of the supporting cast. Even though Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is so good, he could almost carry the show on his own, I thought some of the villains could have been better.

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I don’t think there are any poor performances or terrible casting choices here, I just thought a lot of the bad guys were . . . well . . . forgettable.

And I may take some heat for this one. Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson annoyed me at times. I thought he overplayed some of the more serious dramatic moments, but that may be as much about direction as about Nelson’s technique. And he does get props for doing well with the occasional comedic bits.

Mel – You won’t get any heat from me about Foggy, though I loved his character I will admit. If I have a criticism it’s that, after the emotional roller coaster of “Nelson v. Murdock,” his ultimate acceptance felt a little rushed.

As for Vincent, he was superb. My favourite scenes were when he lost control. I loved his sinister energy, and the fact he turned into a rage monster. It was bound to happen, given how much he suppressed. That said, there were times he reminded me of Goren from Criminal Intent.

In an effort to be constructive, because I’m also having a hard time finding fault with the show, I did feel the transitions were a little lacking at times. I also agree about the villains in general, which is why I’m really looking forward to the next season and keeping my fingers crossed we get to meet ninja cult, The Hand.

Gene’O: LOL. Criminal Intent. I didn’t pick up on the Goren vibe, but I agree about the transitions. A few times, as I was starting a new episode, I went and scanned through the last 10 minutes of the previous episode to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I’m also hoping we get to meet The Hand, and I like the supernatural undercurrent that seems to be developing.

The Verdict

Gene’O — If you like action/drama with plenty of grit and the martial arts turned up to 11, give Daredevil a look, even if you don’t typically go in for comics characters. On a five-point scale, I give it a solid 4.5. I’m tempted to rate it higher, but it’s not quite perfect, though it is one heck of an entertaining series.

Mel – I’ll concede to the rating for an overall score, though there are some episodes (such as “Stick”) I would give a 5. Matt Murdock is a compelling character, and it’s not only his tremendous skills, it’s his heart, the vulnerability that pulls you in. He’s a hero who is struggling with his own dark side which, granted, is not a unique trope, but the show handles character conflict exceptionally well. Add in the action, the dark comic-book feel to the show, and the strong relationships and it’s a hit in my book!daredevil_netflix_charlie

Gene’O – Yes, some of the individual episodes are 5’s all the way. I agree about “Stick,” and I’ll add “Cut Man” to the list. There was absolutely no chance of me not finishing this season after that episode. Did we just write an entire review of Daredevil without mentioning Charlie Cox??? I’m a bit of a Charlie Cox fanboy, but even if I weren’t, I’d still have to say. He is pitch-perfect in this.

Mel – I could wax lyrical about Charlie Cox all day! You’re right. He’s perfect for the role, so colour me a fangirl for Charlie and Matt both!

Gene’O – Thanks, Melissa! This is so much fun!

Mel – It’s my pleasure. I think it might just be my favourite way to review! Fair warning though, I’m hoping to convince you to make it a feature. With all the great contributors here on Sourcerer, it should be a blast. I appreciate the chance to work with you on it.

But now we’ve had our say, it’s over to you. How would you rate Daredevil? What are your highlights from the show? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Shows which will rise in the Fall

Being as I’m from the UK I have to experience Comic Con vicariously (at least for my favourite shows). There is so much to look forward to this year. Supernatural returns for its eleventh season, and who can resist the Winchester Brothers? This time the producers are stripping everything back, so Sam and Dean will have the kind of relationship they had in season one; two brothers fighting against evil. I’m sure there will be help from an angel or two, and more laughs from the King of Hell, Crowley. It says something about Mark Sheppard when you’re rooting for a demon!

A few shows had their debut this year, and perhaps my favourite is Sense8, which Gene’o reviewed here. The concept of a group, or cell, being connected telepathically – that they can somehow channel each other’s skills and abilities – it’s pretty exciting. Mix that with powerful themes and our most basic need for connection and, in my opinion, you’ve got yourself a hit.

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DC and Marvel continue to shine, and both introduced new shows this year. We’ll start with DC. It won’t surprise you in the slightest that I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Arrow. Having spent some quality time with Felicity Smoak, Olly will have plenty to smile about in this season – it will be interesting to see a lighter side to Oliver Queen.

The Flash also returns for a second season; a relief considering the dramatic finale. I really enjoyed the introduction to Barry Allen, and the show is one of my favourites. It is the light to Arrow’s dark, which works perfectly. There will be more opportunities for crossover between the shows – episodes I particularly enjoy.

Olly and Barry will also be ‘popping over’ to the all-new Legends of Tomorrow, which is set for release early 2016. The cast includes Ray Palmer (The Atom), Rip Hunter, Mick Rory (Heat Wave), Sara Lance (White Canary), Leonard Snart (Captain Cold), and Dr Martin Stein.

But that’s not all, in October this year Supergirl premiers. The pilot episode was recently leaked on the internet, so it’s a safe bet many fans already have an opinion about the show. I haven’t seen the pilot, but I’ve heard plenty of good things, and it was this show which prompted the post. Considering Greg Berlanti is on board, it certainly has potential. We need a strong female lead, and I’ve always liked the character, so I’m reserving judgement until October.

It’s an interesting cast. Melissa Benoist, who starred in Glee, plays Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin). Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant, and Chyler Leigh (from Grey’s Anatomy) plays Alex Danvers. It tickled me that Dean Cain is also credited, and I will admit to having a weakness for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

The trailer didn’t blow me away, but it interested me enough to want to give it a go. Here it is, I’ll let you decide!

So that leaves us with Marvel, who brought us Daredevil this year. I loved the show; it’s dark and authentic, and I have high hopes for the next season. There is also Agent Carter, and Agents of SHIELD.

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There are other great shows, new and existing. But I’d like to hear from you. What are you most excited about? Which are your favourites?

Review: Ant-Man

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Superheroes have been showing up on the big screen and TV for a few years now, so even if you don’t read comics you will recognise quite a few of the characters within the Marvel Universe. That said, I think many were sceptical about a superhero named ‘Ant-Man’ – I mean, it’s not the coolest superhero name in the world. But I think, after seeing this movie, Ant-Man will get a lot more love in the future. He’s funny, down to earth, and fights with everything he has to become a better father. What’s not to like? Add in the fact he’s engaging, relatable (he’s made some pretty big mistakes), and doesn’t take the whole superhero thing too seriously, and it’s all points in his favour.

So, Ant-Man – who is he? His name is Scott Lang, and in the movie he’s played by Paul Rudd, which probably helped in terms of getting people to the cinema, because Paul promises to bring the goods in terms of humour. Personally, I think it was an inspired choice, Scott Lang is hilarious in the comics, and this certainly reflected in the film. In this case, Rudd’s humour is definitely understated and, despite criticisms regarding a ‘dilution’ of his talents, I believe he hit the mark. The subtleties he brought to the role were what made it work, at least for me.

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But, Rudd is not the only great casting choice. Michael Douglas plays Hank Pym, and he demanded attention from the very first scene. He’s utterly convincing, and adds a coolness factor all of his own. Dr. Henry (Hank) Pym is the original Ant-Man, and though you don’t need to know that to watch or even enjoy the movie, it’s worth pointing out.

In the comics Scott Lang stole the suit to save his daughter and Hank allowed him to keep it. The film puts a slightly different spin on the theme, but fundamentally they didn’t stray far from the origin story. It means there’s something for everyone, which Marvel excels at. For those not familiar with the comics, they are introduced to a unique superhero, and for fans of Ant-Man, the writers stayed true to who Scott Lang is.

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He’s a former cat-burglar, an idealistic campaigner recently released from prison, and a man down on his luck. He’s divorced, is fighting for custody rights to see his daughter, and the only job he can get is at Baskin Robbins (even then he has to lie about his identity). Despite managing to get himself sucked in to Pym’s plot to protect his inventions and prevent the Pym Particles (formula which alters the size and mass of objects and living things) from being released into the world, Scott still manages to show a keen intelligence, and skills worth bringing to the table.

As for being part of the Marvel Universe; there are subtle references built in, if you’re looking for them, and an appearance from an Avenger. A scene which is particularly well done, and one of the highlights of the movie. There are other highlights, of course, and it might seem odd, but they are definitely the scenes with the ants. Yes, this is undeniably helped by the excellent special effects, but still, when you see what Scott and Hank get these little guys to do – it’s wonderful to watch.

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So, you have humour, including excellent comic timing, an engaging hero who performs miraculous feats (in human size and when he’s shrinks). Mix that in with an unconventional army, a superior cast, great special effects, and you have yourself an extremely entertaining film.

What did you think? Have you seen the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sourcerer’s Eleven: Questions for Author Joshua Robertson

Welcome to round three of Sourcerer’s Eleven. An interview series where contributors within the site get a shot in the big chair. The Instigator-In-Chief, Gene’o interviewed Luther Siler, who then put me through my paces, so now it’s my turn *rubs hands together*. In the hot seat today is Joshua Robertson, author of Melkorka (Book 1: Thrice Nine Legends), and A Midwinter Sellsword (Book 1: Hawkhurst Saga).

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  1. You recently released Gladiators and Thieves, book two of the Hawkhurst Saga. Can you tell us a little about that series and how it came about?

You will have to forgive me if I momentarily nerd rage. The story of Hawkhurst was never intended to be in my collection of stories. Hawkhurst first began as a politically-themed RPG MUD (Roleplaying Game Multi-User Dimension) played through text on a web-based platform. I spent an entire weekend creating a complex city from the ground up – detailed with theological and political underpinnings – vibrant with unique shops, guilds, and NPCs. Unfortunately, the group of players only were able to engage in the game for a few weeks. I could not let the creation go to waste, so I started restructuring the themes of the plot into an engaging tale.

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The series is about Argus, the bastard child of House Madrin, who ran away from Hawkhurst years ago after being enslaved as a gladiator. Argus is tricked into returning to the underground city. He soon finds himself trapped and subjugated to the political games between the noble houses. In desperation, he is forced to trust old friends with hopes to escape again before anyone discovers his true identity.

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That’s a great origin story, and an extremely rewarding outlet for the nerd rage! For the plotters among us, it’s a dream come true – a whole platform with which to expand on. Those who know you, will be aware that you began crafting the world for your dark fantasy series Thrice Nice Legends in 1999. I really like the fact there’s a fan site for the series, and a TnL tabletop game. I’m going to leave the gaming element there for now. There are several contributors at Sourcerer who will be chomping at the bit to ask you questions so we’ll leave it for the thread!

  1. I had a great deal of fun on my visit into the world; Melkorka is a wonderful introduction to the series. I know the sequel Dyndaer will be released in January 2016. You’re also co-writing a standalone within the Thrice Nine Legends. How did that particular collaboration come about?    

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Ooo…there is a good question. You weren’t kidding about the hot seat! The TnL Game originated from a collaborative plan back in 2013, where my world was used as the primary setting. The game continues to be tweaked and play tested, but to answer your question – JC Boyd, the co-author to Anaerfell (the standalone novel) is also my partner in the TnL game. He and I developed an idea for a book in 2004 and Anaerfell is the final result of that original idea. Thrice Nine Legends will soon be better described as a shared universe (much like Dragonlance) with a series of stories taking place in the same world. Melkorka, Dyndaer, and the final book, Maharia (set to be released in 2017), will be a trilogy within The Kaelandur Series.

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  1. That is incredibly cool, it has to be said. I can see it now; novels, game accessories, films, audiobooks – a hugely exciting project in more ways than one! You recently set up your own company, a small press (Crimson Edge Publishing), specializing in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, and Horror. That in itself takes considerable planning, not to mention the shared universe. What’s your secret when juggling all these projects (we can’t all have J.A.R.V.I.S) – is there a programme you use, a specific system, a container full of notes, an army of minions, how exactly do you keep everything straight?

That would be incredible. When I sell just one book, I’m like an 80s child discovering Q-Bert for the first time. If my stories ever made it to film, my mind would be blown! [And, I’d beg to be an actor in the movie.] As for keeping it straight, I wish I had something cool like JARVIS, but my budget only goes as far as sticky notes (the computer-widget kind). In all seriousness, I stick to a structured schedule for gym, writing, editing, publishing, marketing, family, and so on. I only deviate to fill the coffee pot.

  1. I have planners envy! I couldn’t stick to a schedule if it followed me around all day 🙂 I can totally appreciate the Q-Bert reference, and that feeling of excitement (though I was a Donkey Kong fan myself). But in all seriousness, when we writers dream, we tend to dream big…so I’m sure, if you don’t already have the full cast in your head, you have an idea of what your characters would look like on the screen. Do you have detailed character profiles, concept art, that kind of thing?

There have been several illustrators who have created rough concept art for Thrice Nine Legends, but there are no pictures of the characters found in the stories. I would be thrilled to have some fully framed, canvas images of the characters to hang up around my house. But, yes, I have files upon files of detailed character profiles. I have a short biography on each character that outlines their homeland, family and upbringing, major childhood events, adolescence and training, religion, romances, and motivations for the plot. The motivations are the most important! My kingdoms, cities, and other settlements are far more detailed than the characters, mirroring the same complexity as Hawkhurst. I have folders embedded in folders embedded in more folders that have been created over 15 years. However, despite all the information known about the world, a writer has to be clever in how the world is discovered with their characters. I once did a short interview on Building World and Story.

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  1. Thanks for providing a link to the interview. I enjoyed your views on the art of world building in fantasy, especially the section on inference. I also agree that a reader enjoys to learn with a character. We’ve established your admirable organisational skills (read the article, folks!) and it’s clear the worlds you create are as rich and diverse as our own. If you could bring one of your characters into this reality and teach them the ways of our particular universe, which one would you choose and why? Tell us about them – what job would they have and how would they adapt to their new surroundings?

I have to consider my main character, Branimir. He could not only use a little acculturation into the world of humans, but he would be the most appreciative of the experience. Branimir has a free spirit, rarely bound by any personal ambitions. He is extraordinarily blameless and kind, but he is also quite inquisitive. This would make him ideal in venturing through our world. I think his long life span and natural curiosity would set him up to be an archaeologist, a historian, or a world traveler.

  1. I loved spending time with Branimir, and as Melkorka was the first book of yours I read – I’ll probably always have a soft spot for him! We tend to be loyal to our firsts 🙂 And now I’m curious. Which fantasy character/s have stayed with you?

I would give most credit to Matrim Cauthon, who is a character in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Mat is a roguish guy who is all about women, gambling, and drinking! Today, I meet several folks that grew up with Harry Potter. Well, I grew up with this brazen kid from Emond’s Field and lived vicariously through him.

Other characters that have stuck are between fantasy and science fiction genres: Gandalf, Han Solo and Chewbacca, He-Man, Ender, and Spock. I know – some all-time favorites for many geeks in that line up. Beyond that, there are a handful of characters that I have played in Dungeons and Dragons for almost twenty years that are close to heart.

  1. I’d love to discuss some of those fine characters with you, but perhaps we’d better save it for the thread! Let’s bring it back to you. In terms of writing, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

That is an easy one, Melissa. Keep writing! There are many tidbits out there to help a writer hone his or her craft, but the number one thing that any author can do is to keep writing.

  1. I actually have that printed on a t-shirt (I kid you not!) Keep writing. It’s important – as is reading. It should be in the induction pack – well, if there were such a thing. Okay, so we’ve discovered a lot about you in terms of your work, your tastes, and how you approach certain projects. Now tell us something you’ve never revealed before – one thing you enjoy. I’m not talking deep, dark secrets here, just something we don’t yet know.

The only thing that comes to mind are random facts, like I always order a 5-layer bean burrito when I go Taco Bell or I’m one of the two members of my family tasked to be the ancestral historian (very enjoyable!).

  1. We don’t have Taco Bell in the UK so I’m not going to lie, I googled the 5-layer bean burrito because my curiosity got the better of me. It looks delicious! And I love researching my ancestors – those nice little surprises that always seem to end up in a story (very enjoyable indeed!). Are there any writers in your family tree? Artists? Gold miners?

I have yet to find any writers in the long history of my “family tree”; we have oodles of farmers. However, we make up for it in my immediate family. My older sister wrote stories when she was younger. My younger sister is currently working on her first novel. And, JC Boyd is not only my best friend and co-author, but he is also…[drum roll]…my younger brother.

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  1. That is beyond cool! It’s so great that you get to share the journey together. The following two questions are unique to Sourcerer’s Eleven, so – first up: Give us your best pitch elevator pitch. In four sentences or less, why should we read your books?

Is there a restriction on the sentence length? Wait! Did that count as one?

There was a time when gods were gods and men were men. Before legends divided truth from untruth, love from hatred, or the righteous from the wicked, the world was nothing but a veil of myth and misconception. It is heroes who defied what it meant to be a man or a god, seeking a purpose for themselves and humanity. My stories are about those heroes and their legendary adventures.

  1. Sold! Though I didn’t need the pitch – I’ve already spent time in your fantasy world. Final question – If you could own one (and only one) piece out-of-this world technology or magical artefact, large or small – anything from the simplest magic wand to a Death Star — what would it be?

Besides the infamous Horn of Bubbles from DnD? 🙂 I choose the Ring of Gyges introduced to the world by Plato. The story explains that this ring gives the power of invisibility to its wearer. In addition, the owner may forever have whatever they touch as though it were their own. There is some speculation the tale of the Ring of Gyges was the inspiration behind Tolkien’s LOTR.

Thank you so much, Joshua. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you, and I look forward to the conversation in the thread – I know people will have plenty of follow up questions from this engaging interview.