Geek Viewing and Reading Suggestions for Riding-Out the Coronavirus Pandemic
Stuck in Quarantine?
A wise geek once said, “Let’s go to the Winchester, have a pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.”
Who could argue with such flawless wisdom?
For those of us who can’t get to their own personal Winchester or local watering hole, because let’s face it, even bartenders don’t want to deal with your icky-ness, I have some good alternatives to riding out Covid-19.
In actuality, I’m writing this because my wife said yesterday that the county library was closing early due to the pandemic. I bolted from my laptop as if I’d just found out my next-door neighbor had left his huge cache of toilet paper unguarded and drove there to pick up my choice selections.
Because who knows? People can get cabin fever and that’s how cannibalism gets started. Plus, given that my wife is a vegan, strange and terrible things can happen once she tastes man-flesh. So, I’m doing this for her.
I am a comic book geek. I don’t go to group therapy as the disease is its own reward. With that, I have an insatiable love for comic books and good sci-fi and pop culture stuff. What I would like to suggest to my fellow geeks is my personal recommendations for books, comics, and DVDs to keep your thoughts away from consuming your housemates.
Many of us will be trapped at home, away from school or work. Some estimates have people thinking they’ll be home until possibly April. Should this be the case, a geek will need to read a really long book. I suggest the following books:
Book: The Stand by Stephen King
In what I would say is one of his best works, The Stand is what I call the Boston Marathon of true horror fans. While this is no Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, it falls under one of the darker side stories of King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower.
The world has fallen into a man-made weaponized plague with all of the symptoms of the common cold. This disease called “The Super-flu” or “Captain Trips” is 99.99% contagious and 100% deadly. The victims fall dead from the virus within a week. The story follows the fifteen or so main characters and turns into the ultimate war of good versus evil. I recommend this story (and have purposely gifted it) to any friend who seems to be suffering from a cold. The word count for the complete and uncut story is over 500,000 words.
I promise you, it is a great read.
Book: World War Z by Max Brooks
And while we’re talking about contagion and pandemics, let’s get into World War Z. If you saw the movie, you have my sympathies. The book is a million times better. This book, a wonderful companion to The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (son of Mel), tells of the story of the Zombie War.
Brooks, who is the nameless narrator, is a reporter who has done extensive research in the aftermath of the Zombie War. In his investigation, he has interviewed the survivors and told their stories from the beginning of the outbreak to the zombie infestation to the profiteering and military actions taken by the government.
I cannot recommend this book enough. While most people could think of it as a horror story with zombies, the zombies almost become an incidental element to the whole thing. It is a story on how humanity reacted to the crisis and recovery more than anything else.
Book: Ray Bradbury Stories by Ray Bradbury
I will freely admit that as a writer I have a soft spot for Ray Bradbury.
The author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 is one of those wonderful writers that truly loved his craft. In his book, Zen and The Art of Writing, he is an advocate to every young writer who has shown fear and trepidation to working on the craft. I read my first collection of Bradbury stories (The October Country) back when I was in grade school. His storytelling is addicting and each tale brings with it a secret sense of horror that will linger with the reader for decades.
This book is a collection of many of his best short story works that have come from other anthologies. Included in the collection are The Dwarf, The Witch Door, The Sound of Summer Running, The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse, and The Illustrated Man.
Bradbury is a writer’s writer and has influenced such famous writers as Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone), William Francis Nolan, Forrest J Ackerman, and Charles Addams (The Addams Family).
On DVD: The Addams Family (animated)
Perhaps one of the more refreshingly entertaining animated movies within the last few years has been the new animated version of The Addams Family. As I am old enough to remember the original television run of the series that starred John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, and Ted Cassidy, this new feature offered a hybrid of the old series, the cartoons, as well as the 90s movie incarnations starring Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd, and Christina Ricci.
With all of the charm that can be expected in a series of eccentric psychopaths and freaks, the animated version of The Addams Family is a guilty pleasure. There is some terrific humor on the surface of the movie as well as some open Easter eggs that lay buried not far beneath. With so much going on where disease and terror are lurking in real life, it’s a wonderful release to sit and laugh at people throwing knives and shooting arrows at one another.
Starring the vocal talents of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, and guest voices of Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, and Snoop Dogg, this is one of those movies where you’ll find yourself laughing out loud.
DVD: The Andromeda Strain (by Michael Crichton)
Before Michael Crichton started writing about the eaters of the dead and genetically made dinosaurs on a tropical island, he wrote probably one of the most terrifying novels about contagion going - The Andromeda Strain.
Filmed in 1971 and directed by Robert Wise, The Andromeda Strain is a story about a contagious and deadly alien virus and the story of the scientists who are working on a cure in order to save mankind. This disease has already killed an entire town in Arizona. It is deadly in the sense that anyone who contracts the virus will have his blood instantly clot in his body - killing them.
This film is full of suspense, terror, and intrigue.
On DVD: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Speaking of great sight gags, Zombieland: Double Tap is the sequel to the 2009 movie, Zombieland. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin resume their roles as the practically purposeless post-apocalyptic zombie killers with the city name aliases. Joining the cast is Zoey Deutch (as Madison), Rosario Dawson (as Nevada), Luke Wilson (as Albuquerque), Thomas Middleditch (as Flagstaff) and Avan Jogia (as Berkley).
If you like post-apocalyptic comedies featuring zombies, you will just love this film. It has all of the gore, mindless mayhem, and destruction of the first and will not disappoint fans of gun-splattering violence.
Should you rent or stream this movie, I recommend plenty of cardio, double-taps, and that you remember to enjoy the little things.
Graphic Novel: Marvel Zombies (Volume 1) by Millar, Kirkman, Hudlin, Land, Phillips, Breitweiser, and Portella
If you’re a fan of superheroes and zombies, you’ll love the Marvel Zombies’ stories.
Led by the imagination of The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman – who is no stranger to writing superhero stories (fans of the Invincible comic will attest to that) – this series is terrifyingly awesome. Imagine that practically all of the Marvel Superheroes on the planet earth get infected with the zombie virus.
Ordinarily, a zombie would be a mindless automation that shambles around looking for that oh-so-flavorful taste of people. The Marvel Zombies are not like that. They have kept their intelligence and they are bent on getting as much food as possible. So when the Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe gets an invitation to come to a traditional Marvel dimension much like ours, he opens a dimensional doorway only to find an undead Fantastic Four waiting for him.
This post-apocalyptic story of practically every good guy gone bad and them being obsessed with eating the multiverse for food is so well done (as well as medium-rare) it will keep you coming back for more.
Graphic Novel: The Warriors Three – Dog Day Afternoon by Wilingham, Edwards, Zelenetz, and Vess
It is almost impossible to be a fan of The Mighty Thor without being a fan of his supporting cast The Warriors Three.
The Warriors Three is the collective group of the Asgardian adventurers: Volstagg the Voluminous, Fandral the Dashing, and Hogun the Grim. Created over fifty-years ago by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, these three mainstays were a regular part of the Journey into Mystery title as well as all of the other Thor titles. Stories of the Warriors Three have since taken a more mythic tone. As told in the story “Blood Oath” where Thor has accepted a challenge to go on several successive quests and has pledged to not use his hammer as an offensive weapon. With the help of the Warriors Three and their cunning, they set off on their quest. The Warriors Three graphic novel is another such journey but it features them on a solo mission.
If you’re like me and you got angry after Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun were killed in the MCU movie Thor: Ragnarok, you’ll love this Marvel tale.
Graphic Novel: Justice League Dark (Volume 1) by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin
We all know about DC’s The Justice League of America; Well, this is about a specialized group within the league known as Justice League Dark.
These are the guys that handle all of the supernatural stuff.
If it goes bump in the night or threatens to demonically possess a six-year-old girl, these are the guys you call. Answering the call of the mystic Madame Xanadu, the sorceress Zatanna, the sometimes hero, Shade, the con man, magician, and trickster, John Constantine, and Boston Brand (aka Dead Man) are drawn together to fight a magical horror that threatens to destroy the Earth.
You know, business as usual.
This is the breakout chapter for Justice League Dark. They are the group that no one wants to know and no one wants to remember. Yet, when it comes to their particular brand of justice, there is no one better.
Graphic Novel: John Constantine – The Devil’s Trench Coat by Milligan, Camuncoli and Landini
Ever wear your favorite sweaters in a room full of cigarette smoke? It stinks, doesn’t it?
John Constantine, DC’s favorite con man, trickster, and dabbler in the black arts, has lost his favorite trench coat and that’s where the trouble starts. You see, like a sweater that has marinated in cigarette smoke, cheap beer, and booze, Constantine’s coat, after years of exposure to spells, curses, and supernatural horror, has gained a life of its own.
Woe be unto the unfortunate man or woman who mistakes this coat as a good fashion choice.
Meanwhile, Constantine is having problems himself when he has to help an old acquaintance with his problems with the mob. This collection of Hellblazer stories written in 2012 is a perfect way to reignite a passion for our favorite cockney conjurer.
This is the New 52 Constantine. He’s our guy for the 21st Century. I’m really liking these new stories. They’re a different kind of grit.
On DVD - The Twilight Zone (with Jordan Peele) Season 1
If you started reading this article now, congratulations. You are reading an updated version of what to watch.
And, trust me, you are in luck.
I held back including this entry because I seriously didn’t think there would be enough time in this quarantine to watch an entire season of a television show. What I’ve tripped across is just television gold. For those of you who have splurged on CBS All-Access, you have a gold mine of available shows to watch. Among those shows is probably one of the best-resurrected franchises in modern times.
I am, of course, talking about the new Jordan Peele produced Twilight Zone episodes.
Holy crap! They are good.
I did have my reservations on this. There have been several attempts to bring back The Twilight Zone. Most notably, there was the infamous John Landis film that cost the life of actor, Vic Morrow through decapitation by helicopter blades. Sadly, this Stephen Spielberg project was mediocre and could’ve been done better after CGI effects were made available. There was also the 1985 and 2002 attempts at the show, which never quite got the magic of the original 1959 version with Rod Serling.
Let me tell you, Peele hit this one out of the park by not only paying homage to the original series but also, by giving old themes a new twist. I cannot tell you how addicting I found this and how I pretty much binge-gasmed this season.
Luckily, if you have CBS All-Access this is available immediately. If you don’t have this access, you can either borrow it from the local library (when it opens) or order the DVD through Amazon. It is well worth the investment.
On Netflix - Ozark – Seasons 1 to 3
Way back when I was a child and dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth, I caught child-actor Jason Bateman on a show called Silver Spoons, starring Ricky Schroder.
Yes, it was pretty stupid. Yes, a kid has to occupy his time before watching Different Strokes. And no, I didn’t like that show, either. The eighties had some really crappy television shows.
Unlike today, where we have television-on-demand and can watch whatever we want to at our own convenience, and because we have this kind of luxury, we can watch a single season of a show within a day.
This is good because when you’re in a quarantine situation, you might find yourself going a little strange without worthwhile television programming. I found myself preparing formal wear for my feet so I could marry them to each other.
Don't judge me.
Jason Bateman shines in this dark dramatic thriller, Ozark. Playing a mild-mannered money launderer, he finds himself in a desperate situation with the drug cartel he was working for. In an improvised plan to launder millions of dollars for them, he proposes a scheme to run the money through the up and coming vacation get-a-way in the Ozarks.
This show will keep you at the edge of your chair every moment in every episode for three seasons. It is not for children and you will be blissfully disturbed by the plot.
There are great performances of, not only Bateman, but also Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Esai Morales, and Harris Yulin. Trust me on this one. If you loved Breaking Bad, you’ll love this show.
The popular meme going around during the coronavirus quarantine is that Generation X has been waiting for this kind of opportunity for years. Well, I’m Gen-X and to be honest there’s only so much television and comic books a man can read in a week.
There must be other things.
In the long run, all we’re really doing is looking for big distractions. After all, the situation outside is grave. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us to take a pandemic seriously. As of this writing, New Jersey has claimed over four hundred cases of Covid-19. Those numbers are escalating exponentially.
On the positive side, whenever geeks like me break into their own vintage comic books, it’s good to know that our hands have been scrubbed thoroughly. Plus, there appear to be a plethora of unwatched DVDs in my collection. Having oodles of time to myself means that I either use this time for entertainment or I might be forced to use my time… (gasp)… constructively with an improving book.
I don’t want to accidentally learn something. There lies to the road to self-destruction.
The recommendations I’ve made were based on what I could get from the library without knowing about the long term closure that was to come. My country library made the announcement that checkouts would be delayed indefinitely.
Some of the things that did not make the cut for this article were the following:
Glass – The third part of the Unbreakable series. I really thought this movie was going to be as good as the previous chapters (Split and Unbreakable). It was not. Even I as a consummate comic book fan found the writing to be a bit over the top. While there were a few scenes in this movie that made the geek in me squeal, on the whole, I was terribly disappointed – even with the M. Night Shyamalan standard twist at the end.
Sorry, life is too short for bad movies.
On that note, there’s this.
The Girl in the Spiders Web – This is another chapter in the world of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – only this wasn’t written by Larsson, it was written by David Lagercrantz and then adapted by Fede Álvarez, Steven Knight, and Jay Basu. I enjoyed the first movie of TGWTDT because it had the element of surprise and no one really knew anything about Lisbeth Salander and she seemed to be a very complex personality. Had I never seen an action movie in my life, I might have liked this movie. However, much like Glass, this was over the top. Yeah, we get it, she’s a computer genius and literally any technology device in her hands becomes a weapon. Yawn. By the end of the film, all I wanted was to feel the sweet release of being frozen to death in an unknown part of Sweden.
The Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt – I signed this out without knowing what it was. My initial presumption was that it was a construct of DC Comics because the Corto Maltese had been mentioned in many other DC stories. For good or for ill, this very long comic strip was not related to those stories and was published by Euro Comics. I’m not saying that this is a bad story – far from it. Pratt’s reputation among comic book aficionados is really high. The fact of the matter is that when the Corto Maltese was being used as a hotbed of controversy in fiction, it was an homage to Pratt’s work. The truth is that the collected words are huge and I haven’t gotten a chance to fully review it. Rather than wait until after the pandemic, I decided to give you recommendations I can actually make.
The theme of all of these stories was more or less on the lines of a pandemic. Should you want more on that subject, I highly recommend a healthy watching (or reading for that matter) of Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars on Netflix. Mister Maberry does pandemic fiction probably better than anyone else in the business and with that much of his work with the Marvel Zombies series as well as his own work of the comic Pandemica and the young adult series Rot and Ruin.
Whenever I’m not watching the Netflix docuseries Pandemic, I will recommend some good zombie fiction as well as the Dustin Hoffman movie Outbreak. Why? Because there is nothing like watching horror when it’s made up against the horror that is actually happening outside of our doors.
My final thought on all of this is a note of caution to all of us who are locked inside awaiting good news from the outside world. Remember, that this is a terrible time. The worst nightmare that can happen is getting sick and your last words being “I can’t breathe”. We can take that in fiction. We can’t in reality.
Be safe. Practice social distancing. Keep inside. Wash your hands.
© 2020 Christopher Peruzzi