#StandwithChelseaCain

I woke up today to a news piece and  one thought that’s been pushing against my brain for a long time now.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry Ms Cain that people, more specifically comic fans, felt the need to harass you, to negatively attack you for speaking your mind.

You put yourself out there and created something that no one can take away from you. Your Mockingbird series is out there, will be collected, and will continue to find its way to new readers. The series may have ended but it is quite the legacy you left fandom.

Thank you.

You are much more than this incident and you aren’t the only one. Chelsea, you and so many other women are under attack and again I’m sorry. Each time I’m reminded that we all have so much further to go.

As comic fans we look at our colorful heroes as the best in us, as the people who we strive to be in our lives. I can’t imagine our heroes attacking someone on Twitter. I don’t know when we lost our sense of wonder. When we stopped looking at the sky.

I’m sorry we haven’t lived up to the example of these heroes. That we have failed to be heroes in our own lives.

I hope you don’t give up on us. There’s a lot of fans who love your writing and want you back. We need you you just as we need all of the women who have faced this before you. Thank you for living up to these ideals we grew up reading. Thank you for reminding us we need to do more. To be better.

Change is coming. It worries some people. We’re trying. But change brings tension. Some people have not responded well to that change. They’ve lashed out of in anger at the ones who they think represent this change.

I’m sorry you were targeted.

I’m sorry so many women have been targeted. Sorry that they grew up in a world that treats them differently. That treats them unequally. I’m sorry that this continues until we can finally change. My God, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that saying “sorry” doesn’t even begin to cover it. We need to continue to try being better. To be better.

I haven’t written in a while. Things have been crazy, but you’ve inspired me to write again. “Thank you” really doesn’t cover it but it’s a start. I’m sure you have already and will continue to inspire others to write novels, comics, and everything in between.

We need more people like you. We need to have people grow up with diverse perspectives. To help us learn, empathize, grow, and change. It won’t be easy and you’ve already helped out so much.

Thank you for that. Thank you for writing, inspiring, and standing up.

Thank you.

Diversity Spotlight: #AAIronFist Follow-Up and What’s Next

Recently some big news dropped regarding an upcoming Netflix series that bummed some fans out. This news of course was the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand aka Iron Fist.

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I previously wrote a post about the big push behind #AAIronFist and getting some more diverse representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by casting an Asian or Asian-American actor in the titular role.

Alas, the #AAIronFist was not meant to be and the show will stay true to the Caucasian character from the comics. So what now? What’s next?

I gotta say I’m still excited for the show. I’m a big fan of Iron Fist especially when he gets to interact with Luke Cage. While I’m bummed we didn’t realize a chance at an Asian lead in a big Marvel property, I take solace in two things.

One the relationship between Danny and Luke still seems to resonate and have importance. In these days where the Black Live Matter movement is pushing for changes and award shows seem to lack diversity (I’m looking at you Oscars), people need to be reminded that race shouldn’t divide us.

These characters appear in the books as more than friends. They are brothers. Despite any difference in their race or history, they have this bond as strong as family. If this is shown in the Netflix series, I will be happy.

The second thing that makes me feel good is that while this casting would have been big for Asian or Asian-American actors it wouldn’t have been as far reaching as possible.

I love the Netflix model but it is not meant for the younger audience. I am a huge fan of Daredevil, but I wouldn’t let my daughters who are 9 and 6 watch it. I couldn’t let them watch Jessica Jones and I’m sure the Luke Cage and Iron Fist series will be the same. If there is an Asian actor for a Marvel property, a movie would have the most universal reach.

As I mentioned, I look forward to this show. I also look forward to opportunities it presents. While Danny won’t be the diversity fans were looking for, we should get Colleen and possibly Lee Wing as important characters. I hope we get a compelling Steel Serpent character, and I personally would love more Madame Gao.

I discovered this character in the early 90’s after having grown up on a healthy diet of Barry Goody’s The Last Dragon. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the glow is very similar to the Iron Fist. Also on a side note, I regrettably missed an opportunity to have my DVD signed by Taimak at NYCC a couple years back. And I’m still bummed out about it.

While I know the casting wasn’t what everyone wanted. Many sites have pointed out that a group would be upset no matter what decision was made. At this point though, I still love this character and have high hopes for this series. For those of you who were looking for an #AAIronFist, hopefully we get a very diverse cast with this series.

I believe that we shouldn’t give up on it and hopefully the full cast will offer a wide range of diversity. It may not be the victory people were looking for, but it could still be a victory.

Spotlight: Power Man and Iron Fist 1, Two Bros a Jones and a baby

I have a deep love for Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron Fist (Danny Rand) and their world. To say I had high expectations for this title is really underselling it. So how did this first issue by David Walker and Sanford Greene go?

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In short, I absolutely loved this book. It smashed my expectations and I can’t think of a better number 1 issue that I have read recently. For fans like me that may have loved the classic run and followed the characters in recent years, this is a rewarding treat of an issue.

For new readers, this book makes a very easy first entry into the history of these characters. The opening page gives a brief recap of the backgrounds of our two leads which will be helpful for any reader. The first couple of pages also set up where the characters are now as we see Cage’s family.

We also get to see how these two characters interact in these pages. Walker’s writing really shines in these moments and he is able to capture the relationship between these two characters. Sure they were partners in Heroes for Hire and you could call them friends, but that really sells this duo short.

They are much more than that. As Cage says himself in the issue, “Nobody loves you like I do, brother.” Within the same page Danny thanks Luke for coming to prison with him pointing out that he knows, given Luke’s past, that he doesn’t like prisons. Walker really nails the core of these two and their relationship. They aren’t just friends or partners. They’re brothers. Family. Hell, Luke and Jessica Jones’s baby is named Danielle in honor of Iron Fist.

Jessica is also used in the first page to show that the characters are currently in different stages of life. Luke is a family man now while Danny comes off as less settled down and looking to get their partnership going. For his part Luke acts like this is a one time deal and Jessica doesn’t seem convinced that Luke is done super-heroing with his buddy.

As I mentioned the writing is incredible. It gives Power Man and Iron Fist what seems to be a one-off mission, nails the characterization for our two heroes, and really draws the reader in. The ending also shows that the unfinished business they try to wrap up, is likely going to come back to haunt them.

Along with the fantastic writing of David Walker is the incredible art of Sanford Greene. This book seems to have energy even on the quiet moments. From cover to final page, the art in this book had me drooling. While that may not be good for keeping my comic in prime condition, it is damn good for keeping me reading this title month in and month out.

Greene’s characters are drawn in a way that’s expressive and allows each character to loom unique. From Luke’s towering strongman physique to Danny smaller, wiry frame, it demonstrates even more how different these brothers are from each other. At one point, Danny even slips into his Iron Fist outfit while Luke stays in his dress pants, shirt and vest.

The art is paired perfectly with the writing in this book. Greene’s ability to make each character stand out and the expressive facial features and body posture really sell each scene.

Especially the scenes with humor. From Luke giving Danny crap like any friend would to a hilarious flashback showing why Luke sensors himself now using words like fiddle faddle even when he isn’t with his daughter. And I have to say to this team that as a father, I too have used fiddle faddle. I have also used “Santa Maria” and “son of a bee sting.”

The final component to the exceptional team on this book are Lee Loughridge on colors and Clayton Cowles on lettering.

Ever since I saw his work on X-Factor, Loughridge’s color work has really impressed me. The colors seem to be muted at times and definitely help to set up the tone of the issue. Throughout the story, the coloring makes it seem like something nefarious is going on behind what seems like a simple errand.

The flashbacks are done in a way to appear almost gray as opposed to black and white. It is also worth noting that for me, the colors really seemed to get more vibrant in the action scenes and especially Danny in his Iron Fist attire. The coloring really is a great match for Greene’s art on this book.

Cowle’s lettering is also top notch and helps to easily identify who is speaking. There’s a scene where the character Tombstone is depicted with smaller print since he always talks quietly. The caption boxes and the word balloons really add to the overall beauty of this finished product and I hope this team has a nice long run with these characters.

That being said, if you love these characters then this is the comic for you. If you are new to these characters then this is the comic for you. This story is fun and exciting. We even get a “Sweet Christmas” from Luke.

At the end of the day, these characters are two bad knick knack paddy whacks.

Shut yo mouth.

I’m just talking bout Power Man and Iron Fist. (Shout out to Walker’s work on Shaft)

Now seriously get to your comic store and buy this fiddle faddle book. Let’s make sure we keep getting these high quality stories from this impressive creative team. Highest recommendation to buy this book. It was a perfect first issue.

TV Spotlight: Legends of Tomorrow Today

In recent years, there seems to be nothing I find more enjoyable than two things: comics and British television.

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Today, I will be talking about the happy marriage of these two things in the most recent CW show, Legends of Tomorrow. This show is run at 7 at night here and I have decided to see of my daughters will watch with me.

Based on this premise the pilot was a stirring success in that both daughters seemed entertained and drawn in. They asked questions about these characters and of course noticed that Rory from Doctor Who was a main character. And a time traveller to boot.

I am a bit behind in Arrow and The Flash but I still felt that this was a very accessible entry point into the new show. Some of the characters are more familiar to me in this television universe than others but the pilot has given a good idea of what makes each of them tick and what they bring to the table.

I can honestly say that we will be watching this show when it airs each week and look forward to seeing the characters develop throughout the season. White Canary was an awesome character from her time on Arrow and Cold and Heatwave are a fun pair of villains from The Flash.

This show was my first introduction to the Hawks and their story looks to be an interesting spin through time. The other duo of Firestorm also appears to have a fun dynamic while Atom’s search for his place on history adds a little angst to the proceedings.

Overall, this show is well-cast and seems to be off to a fun start. I’ll be here all season hoping the rest of the ride is as entertaining.

COC Spotlight: Ringside #1, That Ring of Fire

For this week’s COC Spotlight we will be taking a look at Ringside #1 from Image Comics.

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Ohhhh yeahhhhhh

This issue and series was created by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Nick Barber. Simon Gouge provided the coloring while Ariana Maher is on letters.

As an 80’s child I grew up with a healthy dose of WWF and WCW(yes I said WWF and I meant it). I grew up in the heyday of Rowdy Roddy Piper(RIP), Hulk Hogan, Macho Man(RIP), and Jake the Snake(still love you Jake). And if you’re like me then I think Ringside is for you.

Here’s the deal. This book doesn’t really show a ton of the in ring stuff, but it will show you all of the ins and outs of the wrestling business, and the reality that our favorite stars went through. And it is damn enjoyable and pretty to look at.

The first issue introduces us readers to an assortment of characters like a retired former wrestling star that is distancing himself from his old persona while living in a world of shit, his old marine buddy packing an arsenal, as well as a young up and coming wrestler and his older veteran wrestling mentor.

All of this is illustrated by Barber’s gritty lines that show a harsh world that doesn’t show on the screen during major wrestling events. He captures all of the real world life that we have seen as we lose our heroes or see what they have suffered to bring their characters to life.

The art and writing respectfully show the world behind the curtain of an entertainment industry that is often criticized for being fake. However, as many fans know and what non-wrestling fans may find out is that these ring heroes put themselves through physical abuse and hell often to wind up broke yet forever tied to the business.

Danny Knossos, the Minotaur, can’t escape his larger than life character even though he wants nothing to do with it. Reynolds is trying to make his name and wrestling career, but last minute changes are screwing him over. The reality is hard when all the glitz and glimmer is stripped away, but characters like Reynolds shows the love of the entertainment.

This was a fantastic issue and ideally enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed Keatinge’s writing on Glory, Hell Yeah!, and Shutter and this looks to be anptjernfine addition to his resumé. The art team of Barber and Gough provide visuals that are a bit darker than the over the top visuals of wrestling. Finally, the letters by Mayer allow readers to easily follow the story.

On top of the story is some wonderful supplemental material in the form of an interview with Keatinge and Barber from wrestling correspondent, Danielle Matheson. Here, readers are able to see that this series comes from a place of love that many an 80’s wrestling fan can relate to. I mean, if they creators are like me, I’m sure they can still gyrate like Ravishing Rick Rude.

This interview is one of my favorite parts as it shows how and why this series came about and what readers can look forward to. Just as there are many colorful, larger than life varieties of characters, there will be many other characters showcased in this series. And the overall goal will be to show the life inside and outside the ring, which our wrestling heroes live. It’s and interesting angle and I’m all in.

This series can be loved by people who are fans and those that are not fans of professional wrestling. This comic like professional wrestling is about the business of entertainment and parallels can be drawn between this and any other entertainment industry.

Bottom line pick this series up. The creative team is putting out an outstanding series that will entertain all people like the glory days of professional wrestling. So seriously pick this up. Cause Comic Book Oddball says so! Can you smell-el-el-el-el what this book’s got cookin!

COC Spotlight: Where is Jake Ellis? No really, where is he?

Welcome back to a brand new year and a brand new COC. Today I will be looking at Where Is Jake Ellis issue 5.

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This issue is brought to you by Nathan Edmondson as well as Tonci Zonjic and Jordan Gibson handling art duties. This 5 issue mini is the follow up to Who Is Jake Ellis, which was also previously put out by Image Comics.

In the first series, readers followed the adventures of a CIA analyst named Jon Moore. He was on the run from a shady Jason Bourne style organization. He manages to survive in no small part thanks to a voice and ghostly presence in his head named Jake Ellis.

Throughout both series, both characters have struggled to stay ahead of those hunting them and survive. The writing has managed to keep readers on edge while also providing some great action.

The ending to Where Is Jake Ellis 5 brings the story full circle in regards to the relationship between Jon and Jake. It also leaves things in a spot where the creative team could come back and tell more stories in this world that blends the gritty real world with some sci-fi supernatural elements.

Meanwhile the art and this series has been able to provide that real world gritty feel and show the weight of the main characters’ situation. There are times where the atmosphere is really rendered heavy and more intense by the art and coloring combo.

I will be interested to see if there are any future announcements from Image and the creative team regarding a new series set in the Jake Ellis series.

Diversity Spotlight: #AAIronFist

For this week, I decided to take a step into the current climate of comics and shine a light on one of my favorite comic characters.

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There has been a recent call for diversity in the Marvel cinematic universe and a push to cast an Asian-American as the lead in Iron Fist.

In comics, Danny Rand is a blond-haired, blue-eyed caucasian male, who is trained in martial arts in a mystical city and obtains the ability to focus his chi into a fist unto iron. At this point he turns down immortality in order to satiate his thirst for revenge.

As a white male, I actually have no problem with changing Danny’s ethnicity. I will admit that my preference is for Iron Fist to remain a white male mainly due to his relationship to Luke Cage, which I think is important with the current racial issues in our country.

However, I believe there is a need for more roles for Asian-Americans and am glad that reports were that casting met with Asian-American actors for the lead. My hope at this point is that the people in charge don’t let an actor’s ethnicity eliminate them from contention if they’re best suited for the role.

The biggest reason I think this role is important to Asian-Americans is due to the recent white washing of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. At this point, changing Danny’s ethnicity might be a nice way to apologize for that.

At the end of the day I love Iron Fist. I am fully behind an Asian-American Danny and will devour the show when it’s released. If they cast a white Danny, I will do the same. The fate of Iron Fist is in the hands of Marvel casting either way and I accept that.

But I will say that if they cast a white Danny, then they damn well better work Davos into the storyline and cast an Asian-American in the role. We have seen that the Netflix series have crafted compelling villains that are as compelling as the heroes. As a result, this could really be a break out role for any actor.

If it were me writing the story, I would harken back to the revenge driven Danny Rand and make sure the viewer honestly isn’t sure whether Danny or Davos is more sympathetic. I feel this would be a new take that could make for more interesting storytelling. Just because he’s the antagonist, doesn’t mean he has to be evil.

One last reason that it would be great to have an Asian-American Iron Fist is that this is a different medium and the creators shouldn’t be beholden to the comics other than to honor the core of the character. Nail the characterization and the main character not being white should be no big deal to any fan.

I have years worth of excellent comics and in 2016 I will be reading a new Power Man and Iron Fist comic (my favorite comic book duo). For the fans who want a white Danny, you can pick up the book. The rest of us can enjoy an Asian-American Iron Fist on Netflix. The adventures of white Danny can also be seen on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, which my daughters are loving.

If you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment, but I also urge you to leave your reasons. I think 2016 will be a good time to add more diversity to a line that is growing in popularity. I feel confident in Marvel’s casting that if they cast an Asian-American for Iron Fist, that it will be the right choice.

Happy New Year and may all your fists be like unto a thing of iron.

Movie Spotlight: Star Wars My Fandom Awakens

Hello all. As I mentioned previously, I was super hyped for the new movie having been a lifelong Star Wars fan. I saw the originals at a really young age and fell in love with that galaxy far, far away.

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Before I get to the review, I need to apologize for the lack of posts lately. I intend to jump back in this week and get some out each week by Friday night.

My recent absence is due to the holidays and an unfortunate case of strep throat that hit me and left me in the ER with an elevated heart rate and a 102 fever.

But all of that pales in comparison to my Star Wars fever. This is something I have felt before as I was born in the 80’s and was there for the release of the prequels. And the disappointment that followed.

I almost lost my love for Star Wars after the prequels or at the very least was burnt out, but it was a combination of introducing my daughters to the original trilogy (the prequels too) and the announcement of Episode VII that started to bring me back and get me excited..

The Sunday after the film opened, I had the new experience of taking my wife and kids to see the movie and it didn’t disappoint. At all. Every single one of us enjoyed the new entry and couldn’t stop talking about it on the car ride home.

My daughters loved Rey and Leia. My wife’s favorite character was Finn. One of my old time favorites was Wedge so I find myself partial to Poe, but all these characters are great and compelling. I find myself interested in seeing their story unfold.

This in and of itself is a huge difference between this film and the prequels. The originals had the same core characters through 3 films and we grew with those actors, characters, and their journey. The prequels had Obi-Wan as the only main member through all 3. Obviously Anakin was there but portrayed in different stages of his life by two actors. Maybe that was part of the problem.

I left that theater satisfied in many ways. It was a great family film and experience for us. The characters from our heroes to Kylo Ren were interesting and had great portrayals, and the story was fun and felt like Star Wars. I look forward to the next movies.

May the Force be with you.

Spotlight: Thanksgiving Special Valiant’s The Fall of Harbinger

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Today, I will be taking a look at a book and series that I am super thankful for. Our main focus will be on Book of Death The Fall of Harbinger.

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Full disclosure, I was a bit leary of the idea of having futuristic endings of the Valiant characters in a storyline when I first heard about Book of Death.  But the truth is that seeing another story of Harbinger, even one that promises the potential demise of Pete Stanchek, had me excited for this issue.

And you know what? The creative team crushed it on this issue. They have delivered a stellar read that even addressed some of the concerns I had with the whole Book of Death concept.

The best place to start with this spotlight is with the writer, Joshua Dysart. The reason we start here is that Dysart has been the writer for the entire run of Harbinger under Valiant Entertainment.

The development and care he has shown for these characters and concepts really show in this issue as a sort of beautiful swan song. After all, this is how these characters go out. Isn’t it?

The writing is the constant that ties this story to all that comes before it, but it wouldn’t be such a beautiful work without the art of Kano. And man does this guy contribute. It looks like he pencils, inks, and colors the entire issue based on the creator page.

In that span of story, Kano’s art bounces back and forth between various points in the characters” lives and really sells the drama and the tension of the story. The use of color for some of the more cosmic scenes are both beautiful while showing the terror of what’s headed for Earth.

The final component of the team is the lettering of Dave Lanphear, which is expertly done. Everything in the issue reads clearly. It also looks great and without his efforts, a lot would be lost in the climax of the story. As this is a story about characters with mental abilities, there are times where we need to see what they are thinking.

At the end of the day, this is a wonderful issue and has won me over on the Book of Death concept. This story does what most comics don’t but probably should do. It ends. As much as we may hate it when things end, it really allows us to remember the characters and the stories we loved. We look back with fondness while reading their last moments.

While I do tend to avoid giving spoilers, it is worth noting that when you pick this up (if you haven’t you should), the idea of endings (yes, more than 1) is addressed in the book’s climax. It’s at this point that a whole slew of possibilities are opened up to the reader on where future Harbinger stories might go.

So pick this book up with the highest recommendation I could possibly give. If you haven’t done it read Harbinger and read Imperium as well. Why? Because Joshua Dysart and artists like Kano have made the books associated with Harbinger characters a master class in comic book storytelling.

They have consistently put out one of the best books on the shelves, and I can’t think of any other book that can top that. So go now. Buy the books. You can come back and thank me in the comments later.

Black Knight 1 Spotlight: Did Dane Whitman Pull the Wrong Sword

Last month I expressed my love for the character of Black Knight. And just as I once followed him on his adventures to the Ultraverse (that’s a deep cut for any younger fans), I’ve also followed his adventures to the new Weirdworld setting in All New All Different Marvel.

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Eric Powell Cover

So what is the deal with Dane Whitman? Well this issue is an ideal jumping on point as a couple of pages gives you a brief history of the Black Knight of Marvel. Frank Tieri using the narrative device of the Black Knight chronicling his origins and current status on a tape recorder which allows new readers to see where he started, insight into the Ebony Blade, and allows the action to progress without any jarring exposition.

Well done.

For his part on art duties, Luca Pizzari shows off the new duds that our hero is sporting and it looks quite badass in the sword and sorcery setting of the issue. He also manages to put a nice spin on a very Obi-Wan style character for Dane in the form of his ancestor Sir Percy of Scandia.

And as far as which Obi-Wan, Tieri writes this as the dickish “from a certain point of view,” really not that helpful spirit guide. Which should lead to fun interactions within the series, since Dane already seems tired of his ghost ancestor’s nagging.

This series has helped me realize that you can’t trust old wizards. As my title points out, the all powerful Merlin might be the biggest dick of all. Sir Percy was the first of Dane’s lineage to carry the Ebony Blade and mantle of the Black Knight during King Arthur’s reign. As Dane points out for new readers, yes he means that King Arthur.

What do we know of Arthur? Merlin guided him. He became king and was able to wield Excalibur, an enchanted and powerful sword. And this is where Merlin is a dick because Arthur gets a sword and is king and here is how the conversation with Percy must have gone:

“Hey Percy take this enchanted weapon the Ebony Blade. Unlike Excalibur, this sword has an unquenchable thirst for blood and will make you and your bloodline addicted to its power. P.S. it will also drive you mad and be your undoing. Merlin out!”

So yeah, maybe it isn’t the greatest weapon to have by your side, but in this issue alone it shows how cool its power can be and the benefits it bestows on Dane.

The whole team is doing a great job of world building from creating supporting characters for our hero to creating the actual Weirdworld setting. Aiding in this task are the tremendous colors of Antonio Fabela. His muted pallet really creates a dark ages type of atmosphere. The colors help create a perfect scene of when Dane stumbles across something else that was dumped in this realm. Fabela enhances the scene to make it look both haunting and beautiful.

Joe Sabino is the last component providing lettering that is clear to read and does not interfere with the art. His choices on the word balloons really sell the dialogue and the captions are especially important when detailing the character’s history.

All in all this is a fantastic issue that ends on a cliffhanger that leaves me dying to see what comes next. Eagle-eyed readers may notice a character at the end who I believe appeared previously in Tieri’s Original Sins 2.

Do yourself a favor and add this to your pull list. There won’t be another book like this in stores. Whether you are a Black Knight fan or not this story should suck you in and appeal to fans of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for that sword and sorcery feel. As Tieri mentioned this may also appeal to Breaking Bad fans as the hero is addicted to his cursed sword and seems to be willing to give anything to hold onto it.

Before I close out, I have to mention that this series is also blessed with beautiful covers that really make it stick out on the shelf.

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Julian Totino Tedesco Cover