Archive for the ‘ Superheroes ’ Category

On Convolution 2016

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but now I’m making it official: I am once again a guest at Con-Volution! I’m very pleased to be joining the convention again. My panel schedule is as follows:

Friday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Classic Scary Stories: Shelley, Poe, and Others

Looking back on some of the classics of literary monster-makers and scary storytellers

Saturday, 12:0opm – 1:30pm: BOF: Marvel Universe

There’s SO much to love about the Marvel Universe, both in Comics, and in Cinematics — so come join other fans to chat about what you think has been done well, could have been done differently — and even better — what’s next! (I’ll be moderating this birds of a feather meetup; I’ll be the one in the Avengers t-shirt. You know, the one.)

Saturday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Building a Better Monster: The Nuts and Bolts of Monster Physiology

It may seem like the more tentacles and claws, the scarier the monster, but when it comes to writing a monster worth its scales, sometimes less is more. Or is it? We’ll discuss!

Sunday, 12:00pm – 1:30pm: How Far is Too Far? Introducing Change to Established Characters

Just three words: Captain. America. Hydra. When does an evolving, long-time character get driven too far off its original basis, and is that a good thing, or ultimately bad, no matter what?

Sunday, 2:00pm – 3:30pm: We Love the Scare

Discussing the need for horror in pop culture, modern media, and fiction. Why it works for us, and why we need to keep it working.

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In and around all that, I’ll be attending some of the other programming (I’m not only a panelist at Con-Volution, I’m also a member!), and I’ll be around and available to chat as much as anxiety allows. I’ll probably also camp out in the gaming room for some Sentinels of the Multiverse at some juncture, though I’m going to have to schedule that on the fly. If you’re looking to see me, I’m going to be most available on Saturday; I am commuting to and from the con this year, so it’s very likely that on Friday and Sunday I will be leaving soon after my panels, probably after having dinner with friends and performing some of the (pleasant) duties that come with being a convention guest.

Also, my now-usual disclaimer: I suffer from society anxiety. I’m medicated for it, but it does mean that sometimes, talking to people is very difficult for me, and it is likely to be even harder after a day of public speaking and answering questions. I won’t blow anyone off, and I encourage people to talk to me, but if I need to make a hasty exit, I am not being trite when I say it’s me, not you.

I hope to see you there!

On New Ventures

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This post will be brief; all I’m doing is announcing the new place you can go to see my words.

I am proud to announce that as of today, I am officially a contributor to The Ace of Geeks. Every week I’ll be writing The Pull List, a review column focused on the comics I read this week, as well as new trade collections I recommend. I’ll be contributing other articles on a more ad hoc basis, but The Pull List is the guaranteed place to see me.

I’m pleased as punch to be joining the Ace of Geeks staff; I’ve loved them since I first got introduced to their podcast via mutual friends, and I was absolutely delighted and flattered when Mike asked me to start writing for them. This feels like a big step for me and I’ve been very excited ever since he pinged me; it’s nice to finally get a column out so I can say something about it!

Currently, the Pull List will publish every Thursday; if that changes I’ll make sure to let you know. I’ll post links in my Twitter feed rather than spam them at you both there and here (SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MORE TWITTER FOLLOWERS), but for now, the first one is here.

I hope those of you who aren’t already Ace of Geeks fans join us on the regular, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in our comments sections!

On Focus

One of the few rules I’ve been taught about blogging — besides “avoid religion and politics” — is “don’t call attention to the fact you haven’t been blogging for a while.” So yeah, I just broke that rule, because this post is about why. Don’t worry, it’s all good news.

I recently took a one-week vacation from my day job; my vacation time was in serious danger of maxing out, and I was kind of crispy anyway, so I figured, why not? The vacation started with two family plans: a board game day with my parents, and a day at the beach in Santa Cruz with Sonya’s family.

Zoom in. At the beach day, I wind up spending a lot of time with my niece and nephew(-in-law). One of them is hitting the early teenage years, and is experiencing the horror that is middle school, and in discussing Pokemon Go and anime with them, they confide in me that they sometimes feel weird about admitting to the things they like, because they feel like it’s “silly” or “too young” for them.

Being me, you can imagine I didn’t take this comment lying down. I told them: “As long as you aren’t hurting anybody, you can like whatever you like.”

I can now say I both stunned a teenager into contemplative silence, and was told that I said something inspiring. That’s a nice way to start my free time.

Zoom back out. This is where that conversation becomes an ironic echo.

In the process of this vacation, I realized three things: I actually like being a house-spouse, a lot; I am capable of a truly monstrous amount of creative productivity if that is my only “job,” even if I am also being a house-spouse; and I have been badly oversocializing myself.

I used to think I was an extrovert, and in many ways, I am, but lately I’ve become more introverted. Some of that is me embracing the fact I have a social anxiety disorder and socialization costs me mental energy; some is me getting treatment for said disorder, and realizing how much of my socializing was a need to feel included and accepted; and some is just me getting older and being a busy adult with many important things to do. At the start of my vacation, a friend messaged me about doing something over the vacation, and I locked up and realized that doing something social — with anybody, not just them — sounded like the worst thing in the world.

So I spent my vacation alone, except for some IM conversations and the company of my wife (and one Pokemon Go hunt, because heck yeah Pokemon Go). Every morning, I drank my caffeine (sometimes with a walk to the local coffee shop first), read part of Marvel’s Annihilation Omnibus, and got down to creating and cleaning. I played video games and board games when I was done. And I came back to my day job the next week, feeling more refreshed than I have in months.

I altered a teenager’s worldview by saying that liking whatever they want is not wrong, but I didn’t apply the same idea to myself until I really listened to what my brain was telling me. Games and wrestling help me look at different ways of telling stories while also relaxing me, and let me see the problems of a creator from a new viewpoint. Cleaning and cooking make me feel productive, and quiet the capitalism-fueled anxieties that both insist leisure is a societal ill and that art is not a worthwhile pursuit. Comics are not only a great way to experience stories, but are also easy for me to focus on and digest in large amounts, which is perfect for days where my anxiety is bad enough that I do not have any attention span. Being alone whenever I need to be alone is a valid way to spend my time, and I actually don’t like having too many plans. And whatever people tell me about developing my platform, it’s OK if I don’t blog for a while.

And I have not been blogging lately, it’s true, but that’s because I’ve been working on fiction instead. Since I last put text to WordPress:

  • I have finished both pre-alpha-reader edit passes on my current novel project (the unnamed “New Novel” that I have been hiding the title of out of nothing but anxiety*).
  • While amidships on the edit passes, I also sent a writing sample to Onyx Path Publishing to be considered for inclusion in a collection of Changeling: the Dreaming fiction.
  • The day after finishing the second edit pass, I hit Duotrope looking for open submission calls, and found a call from Meerkat Press due on September 15th that is right up my alley (I mean, superhero stories? Yeesh, twist my arm…). I despaired of the total lack of possibility that I might make that deadline, right before churning out a story idea and an outline over the next two days. I’m now about 2000 words into my rough draft of “Good Fences,” and am really liking where this is going, though I recognize that the Editing Saw will need to be deployed without mercy to make word count.
  • And…I have preliminary ideas penned down for a sequel to New Novel; the kernel of another short story that is for no anthology or open call in particular; and the very rawest, freshest seeds of another possible novel series that needs some research and development before I start outlining anything.

(I also still kick the tires on comic scripts here and there, though I need to start out with something less sweeping than my The Shoulders of Giants concept. I’m waiting for a short work to appear in my head that would work well in comics instead of prose so I can focus on short, “single-issue” works and perfecting the scripting form before I attempt to do something longer. (I had an idea last night, but I want to let it germinate for a bit.) It’s a whole different way of writing than I’m used to, and taking baby steps is perfectly valid (topical!).

I still have Twitter and Facebook to keep my name out there and boost the signal as necessary — arguably, those are more effective for me than WordPress, judging by the response I got for the No Sh*t, There I Was Kickstarter. If I make myself blog, I’m going to wind up writing endless columns of writing advice someone already covered, or glom onto controversies about which others have already spoken expertly. I might start curating links to those sorts of reports, actually — it’s worth boosting the signal, especially when the voices involved are typically marginalized — but in the meantime, if I don’t have an idea for what to post here, that’s OK. Lessons in self-marketing may teach me that not blogging is dangerous for my brand, but but if I want to talk about fiction writing, it’s probably best if I do some of it..And if that’s what I like, and I’m hurting nobody…that’s OK.

*I’ll reveal the title once I’m shopping it to agents and publishers. Promise.

On Reviews: Captain America: Civil War

Some Bulleted Thoughts On One of the Best and Most Complex Superhero Movies
This is the short version while I gather my marbles and think and edit, but I want to be sure I get my thoughts out while they’re fresh.
**SPOILERS FOR CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR ARE UNMARKED BEYOND THESE THREE MAGICAL DOTS***
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I adored this movie, I think it’s one of the best movies to come out of the MCU (along with Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3). In no particular order because I can’t rank them, the things I loved:
  • The way they approached the plot. I never felt like the division between Team Cap and Team Iron Man was illogical or like either side was being forced to carry the Bad Decisions Ball to drive the plot forward. Both sides made good points, both sides made mistakes, and usually both sides recognized that about each other (except…see below).
  • Spider-Man. That was the best Spider-Man I have yet seen on the screen, hands-down. They nailed his awkwardness, his drive to do good with the gifts he’s been given, his youth, his genius…that’s the Peter Parker I’ve wanted all along.
  • T’Challa. He was intelligent, kind, regal, unrelenting, and burdened. He was also the most mature of all the supers to date, and his emotional struggle underlined the general emotional core of the entire movie.
  • The character moments for every single supporting character; I felt like the writers and directors bullseyed every character in this movie. Special shout-outs to the conversations between Scarlet Witch and Vision, Ant-Man totally geeking out over meeting the Avengers, the grudge held by Falcon against Bucky, and basically every scene with Cap and Tony, who were just absolutely on point.
  • The fight choreography. Those were the best superhero fights I have ever seen on-screen, hands-down, and they could so easily have been a total mess (it would have been understandable and forgivable, even). Special mentions go to: everything Ant-Man did in the airport fight (Giant-Man!); Scarlet Witch showing why actual superpowers would, in fact, terrify people; Spider-Man being the hyperkinetic ball of quips and webbing that we all know and love; Cap using that shield of his to absolutely masterful effect; and him and Bucky as the unstoppable tag team of World War II-era grit. It would be gorgeous if it weren’t also driving home how destructive superheroes can be when they let themselves go to town.
  • Speaking of which: The willingness to make sure this movie had consequences, physical and mental, for everybody involved. People got hurt. Things broke. Teams disassembled but left hope for reassembly. No-one ended sure they did the right thing (except for maybe Thunderbolt Ross, but he’s not what we call a “good guy”). The MCU was fundamentally changed by the Civil War in ways I now know I can trust Marvel to keep playing with as we go along.
  • The comedy moments. They were perfectly timed to make sure this very sad, very intense story never became more than appropriately overwhelming. (“I hate you” being a major one, along with “I’m shaking your hand too long!” and also everything involving Spider-Man).
  • The emotional core of the movie. T’Challa says it best at the end: This is a movie about people being consumed by their emotions and failing at empathy and logic as a result, but in entirely believable and often temporary ways (though not temporary enough). Tony is pro-Accords out of guilt and fear (over what he caused in Age of Ultron and what others like him could do, and how much worse it could be if superheroes did put up a fight). Steve is anti-Accords out of fears of his own (of governments overreaching like SHIELD did or like happened back in the fresh-in-his-mind World War II). Bucky is paranoid and hurt and gun-shy and tends to flee as soon as he’s in danger, which gives the people hunting him evidence to support their decision. The most dangerous, destructive moments (Crossbones’ explosion hurting all those people; Vision accidentally hitting War Machine with his laser; the entire last fight) occur because someone lets their emotions rule completely. Even our villain, Zemo, is about being so angry, so in pain, that he spends a year making sure he can inflict that pain on those he believes brought it to him.
This movie was amazing. I think I need to see it again.

On Choices No-One Should Face

Sexism, Violence, and Every Iteration of the System.

(Content Notes: Discussion of misogyny, violence of both a sexual and non-sexual nature, death threats, threats of violence, institutional discrimination)

This week, I had to ask myself the question twice: Do I choose possible once-in-a-lifetime advancements of my career, or not working with people I know to be horrible?

There were two different opportunities sitting before me this week. One was to submit a packet of writing samples and a resume to DC Comics, for a chance to get included in their Talent Development Workshop for writers. If I got into that, I would embark on a 13 week online course in writing comics that might end with a chance to write for DC. You don’t need to look through my old posts to see that this would be a dream come true for me — writing comics? Writing superhero comics? The chance to work with a professional and learn how they do things on the getting-paid side of the equation would be such a godsend…

Then, earlier this week, I was pointed to an opening at Privateer Press, the makers of Warmachine, among many other things. Privateer Press apparently needs a Copy Editor, a job for which I am qualified; and I could get in the door at a gaming company, which would marry my passions and my work, and would also facilitate Sonya and I moving to a slightly more affordable part of the country and maybe starting to get the next step of our life on the move.

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “Maybe my cup runneth over? Maybe my life could be starting to turn a big, shiny, sunlit corner? Maybe this is the next step we need! Let me polish up the resume and select some writing samples and try to remember where I was recently hearing about Privateer Press, given that I don’t play Warmachine…”

It was when I told my wife about the opening (with the lead-in “how do we feel about moving to Washington?”) that I was reminded.

An excellent, hard-to-read Tumblr post made the rounds of the social justice spheres recently, entitled “Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem.” (All my content notes for this post? They apply double to that article.) The writer discusses in no uncertain terms her own experience and the shared experience of women in tabletop gaming spaces, and in the world in general — specifically, that white men are allowed to and enabled in harassing and outright assaulting women who attempt to be part of the tabletop gaming hobby, and that authorities will not help them — will, in fact, often blame them for their attempts to portray themselves as victims or otherwise attempt to cover up the truth. Among the stories related in that post is a story of a person slapping the writer across the ass while she is discussing the Privateer Press product Hordes, and the Press Ganger (Privateer Press’s game demonstrators/event organizers) who witnessed it insisting the writer was getting emotional over the whole subject. So, that gives me pause regarding Privateer Press — even if the Press Ganger’s response is not exactly a statement from the CEO.

Then there’s DC Comics. DC Comics, who continue to employ Eddie Berganza. Berganza is accused, very publicly and by multiple women, of being utterly vile toward women — harassment that, according to the tweets linked in this Mary Sue article, have actually caused DC Comics to avoid putting women to work in Berganza’s department as a form of “quarantine.” Other tweets I cannot find have been more specific about what Berganza has done, but as I cannot find them I will not engage in second-hand hearsay, only say that what he has supposedly done is absolutely vile. And while the writers are not at fault for that, and while I doubt the entire company is actively complicit in that, it leaves me wondering if applying to/being employed by DC would be interpreted as tacit condoning of Berganza’s behavior.

Which brings me back to my initial question: Which, if any, opportunities do I pursue, given that they might be interpreted by either victims or victimizers as my stamp of approval? Which brings me to my next question: Why do I have to even consider that question? Why are there so many different reports of sexual violence, of harassment and the sheltering of harassers, that I have to think this about two different opportunities I learned about in the same month?

That, right there, was the icicle to the heart. That right there was one of those moments my white male self has to sit back and go: This, self, is proof of how deep the problem really goes. And just imagine, women don’t have to just ask if they are condoning harassment — women have to ask if they are opening themselves up to that harassment. Any woman who joins the Press Gang not only has to consider whether they are saying it’s OK to touch women without their consent, they have to consider whether their body is the next to be violated. Any woman who works for DC has to wonder if they are saying that it’s OK for Berganza to behave the way he does, and also whether they are putting themselves in the line of fire for the Berganzas of the world to attack next.

These are the questions women have to ask every day, self; these are the risks they have to take for the crime of doing something they want to do while also identifying as, or being identified as, a woman.

And this is a question we all have to keep asking. How do I know no-one at my current office is horrible? How do I know any given publisher I work with has no-one who is horrible? It’s easy when I work at smaller companies like my current one, but it’s not like I have never had a toxic interaction there. It’s easier with smaller presses like Alliteration Ink, where there are single-digit employees and a clear harassment policy, but what if I ever get picked up by Penguin Random House or Harper Collins? What if I move on to copy edit at a large corporation? What if, in a some-day life as a freelancer, the jobs that will put food on my table are coming from Gators, from Puppies, from people who hold or have held MRA views? How do I reconcile my promise to believe the victims with my own desire to advance my own life, and what does that say to the marginalized people in my life about how I value my life over theirs?

I did decide to apply to DC, with the reasoning that the whole company is not Berganza, and that I could help from within the offices more than I could from outside, at least by being a voice of privilege corroborating the stories coming from voices more traditionally silenced. But I recognize the enormous privilege shielding me in this case, and I recognize that this does not change the basic truth at work here.

No-one should have to make a binary choice between full-throated success and dealing with terrible people. The victimizers, not the victims, should be the casualties of restructuring, the ones having trouble finding work, the ones who have to explain themselves and apologize and work their way back into the good graces of those in powerr. This needs to change. And there is not a one of us who does not need to be involved in changing it.

It’s so easy for me to say. Let’s see if I can do it. Mostly, today, I am hoping that someone besides me is now really thinking about this, and that some day very soon, we push hard enough that no-one has to think about it anymore.

On Confidential Battles

The following may contain spoilers for the recent arcs of the Avengers comic and for Secret Wars Issue #1 and Issue #2, but I needed to share this somewhere. I take no responsibility for you reading past the next two lines of asterisks.

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Alright. So here’s this idea I have in my head.

Right now, it looks like Battleworld/Latverion is the product of Doctor Doom’s imagination — he’s salvaged parts of the worlds the Beyonders were just going to destroy, but he’s done it in a way which makes him the centerpiece. This implies that it is possible to bargain with the Beyonders (possibly with the Molecule Man as leverage) or, as was the case back in the original Secret Wars, that it’s possible for a mortal to hijack a Beyonder’s power, and thus do we have Latverion and Doomgard and all that other self-indulgent pomp and circumstance that makes us love Doom.

It also looks like at least some characters are coming out of Secret Wars with more or less the same personality and the same ongoing narrative arc. Thor, Goddess of Thunder has been guaranteed to return post-Wars, and her arc is definitely coming to a middle, not an end. Ms. Marvel appears to be the same person, along with the newest Captain America, provided the Free Comic Book Day issue of All-New All-Different Avengers is accurate in its portrayal of the team makeup. So this doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a hard reboot of the entire Marvel Universe; some things are going to retain their inertia. But, for now, not everyone appears to understand that Battleworld is something new — at least some characters, including canon main characters like Apocalypse and Sue Storm, seem to see Battleworld as what has always existed.

So here’s what I want to see. Here’s where I feel the plot going in my head.

Over the 8 issues of Secret Wars, and possibly some in the related miniseries, we’ll start seeing characters figuring out that Battleworld is not the only world that has ever existed. Some will learn it from the Cabal, others will piece it together from evidence buried in Battleworld’s firmament, others may have it shoved into their brains via magic or other means. Some characters will start feeling that this state of affairs is not acceptable and/or tenable; either because they rankle under Doom’s yoke, or because they feel like they could make a better world, or because they think they are who should be in charge. The actual “Wars” of the title will then be the fight to figure out how Doom pulled off what he pulled off and/or take control of that power through various means.

And at the end, there’s a group of heroes and villains, all with their fingers on the proverbial button. They have figured out how to reboot the universe and end the reign of Doom and bring back Earth and Knowhere and Asgard and all the bits that used to be around before the Beyonders decided they were bored, with some changes — some history altered, some memories erased.

And the villains — I’m picturing Doctor Doom, Thanos,  will think “I could make a world where I rule.”

And the heroes will think, and say “You know…we should not mess with people too much…but maybe a fresh start is a good idea.”

Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, looking at each other, and imagining what the Avengers could be if they had never gone through Civil War or the battle to save the world from the incursion.

Scott and Alex Summers, imagining a world where they and the Brotherhood never took some of the steps they took, and the dream of mutant harmony could be a little more within reach.

Reed Richards and Sue Storm, looking into each others’ eyes, and saying “You know, we were great once. We could be great again.”

Ms. Marvel, head ducked, thinking she just wants to see her parents again.

Of course, the villains will not go gently into that good night; and so some compromise will have to be made with them in order to prevent them insisting on just hoarding all the power for themselves, they have to allow Thanos and Galactus and Dr. Doom and, yes, Magneto to come and exist in their world, too. And of course, there will be changes that no-one is comfortable wreaking — a certain Uncle Ben, perhaps, or maybe a well-known exposure to cosmic rays…and so, good and evil and self-involved will all work together, and tear down Battleworld, and out of it will come a world that seems similar, but is a little bit shinier, a little bit newer, a little bit more capable of working toward that better tomorrow the Avengers and the X-Men lost sight of near the end of 616…a world where the Goddess of Thunder is still doing her best with a terminal diagnosis, and where Kamala Khan gets that call-up to the big leagues…a world where Iron Man and Steve Rogers are friends again, where Professor Xavier and the X-Men can trust each other again…but a world that also has to be ready to deal with the darkness waiting in the wings.

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That’s how I hope Secret Wars ends. And the fact I can see just the barest threads of this and give them a good, cosmogonic tug; the fact that there is room for conjecture and interpretation, and that I am this excited about the possibilities; are why I am currently not at all worried this will be like Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I can’t wait to see what Marvel does next.