It’s been some time since I’ve given praise to fictional parents. With the newly released God of War: Ragnarök out on consoles, it’s only appropriate to show the growth of the former God of War, the Ghost of Sparta himself, Kratos. NO SPOILERS, SINCE I DIDN’T FINISH RAGNAROK YET. BUT TINY SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED THE OLDER GAMES.
Before he was at war with the Norse Gods, Kratos was seeking vengeance for what the Greek Pantheon did to him. Manipulated nearly from birth, Kratos was a Spartan warrior who lost every member of his family to the Gods’ machinations. His brother, Deimos, was taken from him as a child. His mother became one of many victims of Zeus’s womanizing ways and was tricked into killing his wife and daughter by Ares. That was the final straw, which lead Kratos to wage war with, eventually, all the Greek Gods. One by one, Kratos brutally destroyed the Gods, until Zeus himself was left. In an epic struggle, Kratos exacted his revenge. Killing Zeus, Greece was brought to ruin, and for Kratos, only death remained. Killing himself, (to spite Athena and keep the power of hope away from the Gods) the story of Kratos ended in Mt. Olympus. Or so we thought.
Flash forward over a decade later, and we see Kratos with a new family. With Faye, his wife, passing, it’s up to Kratos and his son, Atreus, to fulfill her last wish. Scatter her ashes over the highest peak in all the realms. Easier said than done, with the strained relationship between father and son. Atreus wants to prove that he’s ready for the journey ahead of them, but Kratos has his doubts. Furthermore, Kratos hides the true heritage of his Godhood from Atreus. While on their journey, Kratos learns how to love again and be the best father he can, while Atreus learns the way of the warrior and how not to make the same mistakes his father made.
There are some critiques about the God of War series that I want to briefly debunk. For one, there isn’t a single “bad” entry in the franchise. That includes God of War: Ascension, the “black sheep” of the series. For another, Kratos wasn’t just a one-note character, only consumed with rage. Throughout the games, he has shown a softer side, it was just pushed to the back for the sake of pushing the gameplay. In the prequel, Chains of Olympus, Kratos has a chance to be reunited with his daughter, Calliope. But, when Persephone (the goddess of death) schemes her way into destroying Elysium (the Greek version of heaven), Kratos’ daughter will be lost as well. With one of the most painful choices of his life, he pushes her away, to save her. One of the many regretful choices Kratos has had to make, over his lifetime.
With Atreus, Kratos struggles with his anger, wanting to explode, at times. But, with his past experiences, he now has the wisdom to learn and grow. When Atreus snaps at him for not showing any kind of remorse over losing his mother, it takes all Kratos has not to succumb to his anger and snap back. For the most part of God of War (2018), he exudes a wave of quiet anger, only yelling when necessary. (Which is even more fitting.) He, at first chides Atreus for mistaking not voicing his grief for not having any. As soon as he says this, Kratos regrets it, stating that he didn’t teach Atreus how he deals with loss. Later, though, the two form a bond that won’t be broken by anything. Whether it’s fighting ogres and demi-gods, or saving each other from certain death, their bond becomes stronger. What’s more, is that they learn from each other. Kratos begins to let his guard down emotionally, and Atreus learns that just because you’re a god, doesn’t mean you’re above reproach. One lesson that still says with me is when Atreus makes some mistakes, early in the journey, on a hunting expedition. He quickly apologizes, but Kratos sternly replies, “Do not be sorry. Be better”. It’s not just the line that resonates, but how he says it. After checking his own anger in his son’s mistakes, Kratos realizes that he must practice what he preaches. As gamers, we see that happen, as father and son become better versions of themselves. Atreus learns how to fight, but more importantly why they fight while still holding on to his humanity. Kratos is still that God-killer, but with more reason to strive for humanity.
I’m sorry if this ran a bit long, but I’m a big God of War fan. Played all of them, and dare I say, there hasn’t been a bad entry in the series, yet. With the new games going for more personalized storytelling, it’s only going to get better. That’s all, for now, fam. Be sure to share this blog, follow me on Instagram at @blerdpov2.0, and till next time fellow blerds!
This past week, fans around the world heard the news that long-time Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy has passed away. I’m not gonna lie to y’all. This news gutted me. Ever since the ’90s, Conroy has voiced the iconic character, giving memorable performances that rival (and even exceed) the live-action adaptations of Batman. For many, whenever they read a Batman comic, they imagine Conroy’s voice saying those lines. For a special tribute, this will be dedicated to Conroy’s performance, how I first heard of him, and how no one can touch how he portrayed Batman for decades!
I was about 8 when Batman: The Animated Series first aired. After the success of the Tim Burton films, we got a new Batman show that was taken seriously. With mature themes that both kids and adults viewed, the show earned instant success and multiple spin-offs. But, if there’s one standout to this show that helped gain attention, it’s how Conroy played a Batman who was stern, but fair. Cold, yet human. (And a surprisingly great singing voice. If you know, then you know.) Using his voice, Conroy would go on to be one of the best voice actors of all time, joining the likes of Steve Blum, Cree Summer, Peter Cullen, and more. Conroy was perhaps the first to master making the “Batman” and “Bruce Wayne” personas sound different in cartoons, which translated to live-action films. Conroy would go on to voice the character for the spin-offs, the Arkham games (except for Arkham Origins, which is still fire.), various animated movies and projects. He even portrayed a version of Bruce Wayne in live action (FINALLY), during the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover special. I collected a TON of Batman comics, as a kid. Whenever I would read them, Conroy's voice would be what I'd imagine Batman would sound like. A strong, firm, vulnerable at times, but wise. Not raspy, or barely above a whisper.
What made Kevin Conroy so special was his connection to the character. While he was young, he struggled to gain work as an actor, due to his being gay. Despite the homophobia he had to endure, Conroy used that experience to create a version of Batman that he could relate to. Gravitating to the pain of Batman losing his parents at an early age, Conroy’s performances became heartfelt and tangible that became the standard of voicing the character.
Perhaps his best performance (or, at least my favorite, anyway) was the 98 animated film, Batman: Mask of The Phantasm, in which we see Batman come to terms with an old flame of his past. The film also shows us a younger Bruce Wayne, right before he becomes Batman. He’s torn between love and a promise he made to his parents. Conflicted, Bruce goes to the graveyard to plead his case that things are different now. The pain is still there, but he’s actually happy. Bruce wants to be happy. However, he feels guilty about his newfound happiness. Bruce begs for permission on the gravestone of his parents, and we can hear the heartbreak that Conroy conveys. I swear, no live-action performance has EVER topped this emotional scene done by Conroy and actress Dana Delany (Bruce’s love interest and villain, in the movie.).
Hearing his now iconic line, “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” hits harder now that Conroy is gone. And while he has done other projects that non-Batman related, to many, Kevin Conroy WAS the definitive version of the character. He will be missed. That’s all for now, friends. Until next time, fellow blerds.