Children are excellent at creating mythologies. And some of the mythologies that you make with your friends can affect you for the rest of your lives.
That is one of the first thoughts I probably had when I began reading Urasawa Naoki’s manga series 20th Century Boys. Much in the way that its protagonists struggle to remember all the details of their childhood, I find I’m having difficulty recalling how I even found this series.
I found some of the Viz Media-translated books at the Toronto Public Library and read Books One through Fifteen from 2011 to early 2012. They didn’t have all of them yet and I suspect that some of the books themselves weren’t even translated for purchase during that period. I admit: I was attracted to the simple prototypical white, grey and black elegance and faded colouring of the covers and, of course, the premise on the backs of the books themselves.
Yes, it’s not so much that I judge a comic book by its cover, but more specifically its back cover. And I was also intrigued by context.
It didn’t hurt that 20th Century Boys title is was actually taken from the catchy song 20th Century Boy by a music group called T. Rex, that the twentieth century itself covers so much ground with regards to modern history, and footnotes. Yes, a manga series that has footnotes about Japanese culture and–specifically–manga, anime, television, and geek (or otaku) culture. There’s this special magic in starting off a story of any kind with literary and cultural references: hence the reason why I tend to start some of my narratives with epigraphs, or quotes from other works real or imagined that appeal to me.
You can blame Frank Herbert’s Dune for that.
I’m also really hesitant in committing to most series. I admit it. There is this vulnerability in opening yourself up to a story that is bad, becomes bad, or is so good that you get attached to the characters and you just wince at what is about to come: especially when it hit something home for you much in the way of a children’s baseball game.
But as I was saying, it was the story premise that got me. In 1969, the time of the first Moon landing and Uri Geller’s spoon-bending psychic phenomenon, a group of children create a story where they are a society of heroes rising up against a league of evil that has destroyed the world. They create together a Book of Prophecy that outlines all the events that will lead to their battle. This is their symbol: that of friendship.
Eventually, when they lose the field with their “secret base” they leave a time-capsule with the book and then, as childhood friendships are want to do, they move and drift apart. However, just as the symbol above represents an image in some manga that tells the reader to turn the page (with an eye drawn over it), this story isn’t over yet.
Years later Endo Kenji, one of the group and the creator of the Book of Prophecy, is an adult and with the suicide of one of his old friends notices the rise of a cult led by a mysterious figure named “Friend:” a man that uses and wears their childhood symbol as a mask. Kenji and his other friends begin to reunite and realize that someone is reenacting the scenarios of their childhood into a very grim adult reality.
What I really liked about this series was how it took the tropes of the superhero, the supervillain, and even Japanese mecha and juxtaposes them over an adult and human world. Even as the protagonists themselves have to suspend their own disbelief and, indeed, try to remember the distant memories of their childhood in order to find out who “Friend” is and to stop him, “Friend” himself subverts the archetypal story and creates something truly horrific. It’s almost as though his actions and their consequences on the world around him not only mock the characters, the genre of adventure hero manga but our own expectations as well.
[Welcome to the *Real* Friend Zone]
From my perspective, reading 20th Century Boys is like Alan Moore having been born into an alternate universe where he came from Japan and was influenced by Tezuka Osamu, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, anime and manga for most of his formative years and became the person that exists in our world: Urasawa Naoki. However, don’t let my bad analogy deceive you. This is not a comics Revisionist series. While Urasawa did make a grittier and darker version of Tezuka Osamu’s Astro Boy world of robots through his series Pluto, 20th Century Boys is its own world and story that utilizes, parodies, subverts and pays homage to the otaku and twentieth century symbolism of his, and so many others’, childhood and culture.
In fact, now that I think about 20th Century Boys reminds me of the realistic and gritty style of gekiga. I wrote a sloppy Blog post about this a while back with a focus on a lack of superheroes in Japan, but this book is making me reconsider some of my original points. It actually does remind me of Julian Darius’ explanation about Reconstructionism.
As children, the main characters are very iconic and essentialized while they are surrounded by a realistic background. In fact, even when they grow older they still maintain traces of that youth–of that neoteny–only matured and “grown up.” And isn’t Reconstruction what creating stories is ultimately about: especially when you consider that children form stories in much the same way that put Lego pieces together. You have your basic building blocks that exist in reality and then you rearrange them to create some other kind of meaning. That’s what Kenji’s Group does. And then imagine the story continuing to build itself after them. Later in the series, a character even flat-out states “But kids games never finish.”
And sometimes reading 20th Century Boys is like watching a child’s game continue imperfectly. It’s true. Between the introduction of ESP into the story which seems to serve little significance to the characters but to hearken back to the spirit of the late twentieth century, people miraculously being able to walk away from explosions that should have killed them, the use of some stock and stereotypical characters, and a lack of visual closure with regards to the narrative build-up of some emotional relationships (which I hear is typical of Urasawa in his other works as well) the story is not exactly perfect.
However, consider this: the plot of 20th Century Boys is that “Friend” made a children’s playground out of the destruction of the world: turning a childhood dream into a dystopian nightmare used against its dreamers and all humankind. It was like Urasawa combined Field of Dreams with The Prisoner and 1984. It is terrifying and fucking beautiful in that the only way the protagonists can beat him is if they play the game that they all made together.
It makes me wonder what would have happened if some of the roleplaying games of my childhood and long-term friendships were ever applied to the real world. A long time ago, some of my friends, influenced by the Dune II computer game, created a whole world of interactions that I had a part in creating to this very day.
I won’t lie: becoming the secret Emperor of the world does intrigue me from time to time. But what 20th Century Boys illustrates is how even a childhood dream can cost the lives of billions. Even so, what a beautiful story that makes in fiction.
I would definitely recommend this series. It was only recently that I finished reading them online. Unfortunately the ones I read were not Viz English translations: which was one of the reasons why I hesitated in looking elsewhere for so long. No translation, from Japanese to English or any language for that matter is the same. So if you can find those Viz English editions, please read them. If not, consider the following:
The Friend cult sometimes has to purge some of its members. While the literal translation of their euphemism is generally translated as “banish,” the Viz version uses the word “reject.”
So tell me, my … friends, doesn’t the phrase, “Reject him,” sound so much more satisfying? And doesn’t it remind you of childhood: where acceptance and rejection can make all the difference in how your perceive your identity if not your very life? Keep that in mind when you read 20th Century Boys and you wonder who the heroes are, who the villain is, what their motivations are, and how some parts of childhood affect you forever. There is never full closure.
David S. Goyer seems to have an idea for a comics character reboot. And it begins with that most fundamental of tenets: going back to the basics of the character.
The very basics.
In recent a Podcast of Scriptnotes, presented and recorded before a live audience, the film director, comic book writer, screenwriter and self-professed “comic book fanatic” was given a spontaneous reboot pitch challenge by screenwriters and podcast hosts Jon August and Craig Mazin. He was not the only screenwriter presented with the reboot challenge. Andrea Berloff, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who were also part of Scriptnotes’ aptly named “The Summer Superhero Spectacular” panel also had to choose superheroes at random to make an imagined pitch and appeal to an eager audience.
Yet while they had to settle for poking fun at amplifying and ridiculing the angst of Spiderman (an oldy, but a goody), selling others on the merits of the Incontinent Hulk, keeping Ororo Munroe–or Storm– in Africa and limiting her elemental powers to an uncontrollable “Carrie-level” of temper-tantrum, and sowing some creative confusion as to whether or not Wonder Woman really should protect her ancient Greek roots in the Southern American Amazonian rainforest, Goyer took his innovation a step further.
He got the Marvel superhero Jennifer Walters–She-Hulk–to reboot. Goyer didn’t waste any time. Faster than a speeding bullet of Kryptonite, Goyer cut to the heart of the matter. He ignored all the superfluous details of continuity added to the character throughout the years: her painfully obvious intellect, the fact that she was a lawyer for Heroes for Hire and the Superhuman Law division of the New York law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway, her tendency to break the fourth wall in order to let the reader know that she was a character in a comic book, and the fact that her transformation through a Gamma-irradiated blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner brought out her own natural assertiveness and self-confidence with an integrated personality instead of a propensity towards anger and destruction.
No, instead Goyer came right to the point of origin. He explained in some detail that She-Hulk is a female shadow of the Incredible Hulk–you know, the pre-reboot one that still has control over his basic bodily functions–who captures all the sexy musculature of the Hulk without challenging the sexuality of pre-pubescent boys. As Goyer himself put it, She-Hulk is “a giant green porn star.”
But that is just the starting point and she is much more complicated than that. Goyer goes on to explain to the audience that if all pre-pubescent boys identify with the Hulk’s strength and muscles, then the idealized, or fetishized She-Hulk is the woman “that only the Hulk could fuck.” If you are not the Hulk, however, you can’t fuck her and she will break you. You know, ignoring the fact that She-Hulk had lovers that were both superhuman and ordinary men she had varying degrees of affection for–who were not at least physically broken–this statement would be absolutely true. And after all, fanboys would surely know that in order to have any real chance with She-Hulk, they’d have to relate to her, I mean literally to be related to her.
You know, like Bruce Banner: Jennifer’s cousin, the one who gave her that life-saving Gamma-radiated blood transfusion, and the very person who actually is the Incredible Hulk.
However, Goyer seemed to have a rather ingenious solution to this conundrum. It came after Martian Manhunter was chosen. After Goyer made sure to ask if anyone in the audience knew who the superhero was and then took some extra time to voice his concerns in asking “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?” he proceeded to afford Martian Manhunter some of the same courtesies that he had gifted the character of She-Hulk.
He went right to the root of the issue: putting aside the fact that J’onn J’onzz had a whole life and family on his home world before becoming a survivor of his entire race’s genocide, that he adopted his identity and even the idea of being a Martian through being exposed to Ray Bradbury’s stories, to shapeshifting into a human just so that he could help others and no longer feel lonely, and was a founding member of the Justice Society of America (the Justice League’s predecessor) in order to critique the Martian part of his superhero identity and his “overpowered nature” in spite of his inherent weakness to fire.
Goyer’s reboot treatment solution was therefore two-fold. He decided to make Manhunter, as he’d like to call him, something angry and green grown out of a petri dish (perhaps with some influences from the aforementioned Hulk and Swamp Thing) with the sole purpose of, get this:
That’s right ladies, gentlemen and other beings throughout the universes. Apparently with his ongoing work on Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice weighing heavily on his mind, Goyer decided to kill two birds with one stone because, after all, what is a combination reboot and crossover other than an excuse for pornography?
But now let me talk about something a lot less serious than David S. Goyer’s ad hoc collaborations with the panel on Scriptnotes. I’m not a screenwriter or even a comics writer, so consider this an uneducated opinion. I do think that while it’s almost excusable for a panel of writers presumably involved in the Hollywood industry to generally not know what they’re talking about outside their own medium of film–save for the asinine manner in which they are making fun the fandom around the comics medium they clearly do not understand–I do think there is something very unprofessional in a comics writer and script writer of comics-based movies denigrating not just two franchises (including one that he’s already in the process of working with), but the people who love them.
Then again, I could be wrong. I mean I’m also not a woman so perhaps I might be wrong in thinking there is something terribly wrong with making fun of a powerful female character who might have started out from sexist origins but has attained some sense of self-agency with her love life and career, but hey: I’m not a woman. I’m also not a pre-pubescent fanboy. Or green for that matter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right?
I mean, I only have a few modest ideas of my own. After all, a screenplay where Jennifer Walters is shot, only to be saved by her cousin, having to struggle with her personal life, adjust to her powers, her apprehensions, and her newfound nature that’s really always been inside of her while the news media calls her She-Hulk does seem pretty amateurish. It’s just like my idea of J’onn having his own movie where he has to deal with the loss of his people and, perhaps as Goyer suggests, he is reconstructed in a military laboratory from basic building blocks of life, becomes a detective later after his escape and gets a partner that calls him the Martian Manhunter because of his zeal and his love for reading Bradbury fiction. He is, however, afraid of Fahrenheit 451 because if there’s anything that the Martian Manhunter knows, it’s definitely not a pleasure to burn.
But no. I’m probably wrong. Green crossover porn would be so much more interesting. Did I mention that I’m looking very much forward to Goyer’s work in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice? And The Sandman movie?
I was away last week, but I had a pretty good reason: one so compelling that I actually changed the article that I was going to post up here today.
For those of you who have been following me, you know that I’d participated in the Dark Crystal Author Quest. Unfortunately, I had too many other tasks at the time and I couldn’t deliver on that story beyond the outline and crude introduction that I posted on Mythic Bios a while ago.
What some of you might also remember was that I’d been working on another project at the time. Some months before, Janet Morris–the creator of Heroes in Hell–approached me and asked me if I wanted to write a story for her universe. Of course, I agreed. Not only do I find the world she created captivating, but it would be the first opportunity I’ve had in getting a short story of mine published into print.
Of course, I didn’t want to say anything too soon. There was not guarantee that I was actually going to get my story published. First of all, it had to be accepted first. There were a lot of challenges in even creating this story, and then editing it. Two weeks ago I was going a little crazy: hitting a major learning curve in the collaboration process. This was happening for a while, but in particular almost concurrently after showing off my Twine game and attending the GeekPr0n Third Anniversary Party.
But I was lucky in that there were good people to help me through the process, including and especially Janet Morris herself. So now, let me make it nice and official.
My story WHEN YOU GAZE INTO AN ABYSS has been accepted into the latest volume of Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell POETS IN HELL.
As a bit of background information, Heroes in Hell is a shared universe that operates on the premise that anyone who has had an interesting life will have violated one of the 613 commandments intrinsic to the fabric of a moral universe and will thus find themselves in hell. So imagine hell filled with underworld gods, fallen angels, demons, monsters, mythological figures, historical figures, genii, mass-murderers, thieves, and–well–humankind in general. And make no mistake, my friends. This is literally hell. If you think our world is bad, and it has a lot of bad qualities, reading this will make you appreciate our world a whole lot more: as all good and intelligent literature should.
My story “When You Gaze Into An Abyss” features Lilith, the apocryphal first wife of Adam, and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche — amongst other diabolical friends.
I look forward to hearing what you think about this story and the volume that it comes in. I can’t reiterate enough that this will be my first short story ever in print. Expect POETS IN HELL to become available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon around June to July 2014. I also believe it will be on Kindle as well along with its other volumes. I will update you all with more images and links when they arrive.
Suffice to say, and considering all the struggle it was to get to this point in time, it feels good to be a poet of hell.
It seems that after 2011 and the end of the second part of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, we will get to look forward to the return of cold, darkness, winter, and the warmth of the Potterverse coming once again to the theatres near us.
Since September of 2013, it’s already been established that the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them trilogy, based on J.K. Rowling’s supplementary in-universe book, will take place in the 1920s and focus on the ventures of Newton Scamander: the famous Magizoologist that examines and explores the nature of magical creatures and eventually creates his book: which is standard text-book reading in Hogwarts and the Potterverse.
I have to admit that I didn’t really expect a film like this to be made. As I mentioned earlier, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a lore compendium created by Rowling to expand on her universe beyond the main Harry Potter narrative. It was created for the Comic Relief Charity back in 2001. I’d seen the book around, but I didn’t focus on it in particular and I never dreamed that J.K. Rowling would write a screenplay from it. Nevertheless, there are a lot of possibilities here. Fantastic Beasts itself illustrates the fact that the universe created around Harry Potter can be considered a fully realized and complex place in and of itself without its protagonist.
Rowling herself has said that this story is neither a prequel nor a sequel to Harry Potter. Even so, it’s interesting to look at the timeline of this book in the Wizarding world. In the 1920s Dumbledore was still a young man and hadn’t had his epic duel with Grindelwald yet. And Voldemort himself wouldn’t be born until 1926. As a result of these mainstays being either too young or non-existent yet, there is a lot of ground that can be explored here.
And look at Scamander himself. Not only is a wizard that specializes in magical creatures, but when he attended Hogwarts he was actually part of House Hufflepuff. Think about that for a few moments. For those of us that have read the books and seen the films, we have seen some very notable members of Houses Gryffindor, Slytherin and even Ravenclaw. But the Hufflepuffs, at least in my opinion, have always been given the short end of the wand, as it were: even though they are known for hard work, honesty, and loyalty.
For some reason, I keep thinking to myself that a great majority of wizards and witches in Rowling’s Wizard world have come from Hufflepuff (at least in Britain) and while the Gryffindors act courageously, the Slytherins plot, and the Ravenclaws study and innovate the Hufflepuffs keep everything running. The best geeky analogy I can think of is that while the other groups are like the Jedi Knights, Hufflepuffs are the original clone troopers and commandos: the rank and file of the Wizarding world that get the job done and thoroughly so. So to see a character from that House as what seems to be the protagonist of this trilogy will definitely be something for which to look forward.
I think, in the end, Rowling’s decision to expand on this book into a new film trilogy also hits something home: namely, it is more of a misnomer to call her universe the Potterverse than it would be to consider it her own Wizarding World. It is definitely a place where you can tell a lot more stories. I, for one, would definitely not mind seeing some Rowling Wizarding World films based off of the dark witch and wizard fairy stories within The Tales of Beedle The Bard. In some ways, I liked those stories even more than her entire Harry Potter story arc.
Clive Barker’s short story “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will And Testament” is not only being adapted into a horror film by the Canadian and Torontonian film director Jovanka Vuckovic, but Lena Headey will be playing the role of Jacqueline Ess.
While until this announcement I was unfamiliar with Jovanka Vuckovic or her work, and I only know of Headey through her roles in Game of Thrones and 300 as Queens Cersei and Gorgo respectively, I have read “Jacqueline Ess” and it is a fascinating story. Beware my friends, if you intend to read this story there will be spoilers.
“Jacqueline Ess” is a story found in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. It is about a woman by the same name who, after being neglected and passive-aggressively abused by her cheating husband and being dissatisfied with her overall life, attempts to kill herself only to be brought back from death with–for lack of a better word–some strange, flesh-crafting abilities. Think of it as telekinesis that can only affect human flesh and organs. Now imagine all that rage and pain that she has suppressed her whole life in being the good wife or woman and patronizingly being told what how she feels by men.
But the story is so much more than simple revenge. It subverts stereotypes. It changes Ess from a victim to an accidental instigator of manslaughter, to a murderer, and into someone who examines the very nature of power. Her sexuality, which was used by men, becomes her most overt weapon. However, again, she is not simply a monster or a villain, or a Carrie that lets her repressed emotions completely rule her powers. She is an intelligent woman that not only wonders about this power and what it means, having gained it by temporarily piercing the veil beyond death, but she also truly examines what the meaning of life is in light–and despite of–the discovery of her powers.
The very weapon that is her power, that is her sexuality, that is her body, becomes a weapon that ultimately turns on her. What this might say about social perspectives with regards to female gender and sexuality is a whole other subject entirely that will hopefully be explored in further depth, but I will say that the story manages to move this power from the place of the stereotype into the dark, red realm of the archetypal: of that primal place where life comes from, where it is changed, in that plane suspended between sex and death and, when you get right down to it, even a sense of enlightenment and acceptance.
Clive Barker has an interesting sense of horror: at least in his earlier stories such as those found in The Books of Blood. For him, horror is not only your fear of the unknown, but your secret desire for it and that place where your anxiety is forced to meet your sense of anticipation in the language of the flesh.
I suppose you can tell that I really took a lot away from this story. Certainly, I can see Lena Headey making an excellent Jacqueline. Not only does Headey have a sense of portraying women of power in Game of Thrones and 300–characters that exist in traditionally male-dominated spaces–but particularly in the first Season of Game of Thrones to me she actually portrays a more sympathetic version of Cersei Lannister: someone who has power, and knows she has power as a woman in a traditional role, but who was never trained to understand it to its fullest extent or to protect those that she loves.
Headey’s Cersei understands just how subjugated and micro-managed women in Westeros truly are and even in Season Four you can see just how powerless and vulnerable she can be when her father takes her son from her. To me, it’s almost as though Headey’s Jacqueline may well be a parallel to the character of Cersei: both start out with affluence but are limited by the men and patriarchal structure of their lives, but while Cersei stays with the trappings of power and never seems to explore their origins, hopefully Jacqueline will portray her vulnerability and continue to explore her more literal and supernatural power and its nuances on the environment around her.
As I said before, I didn’t even know who Jovanka Vuckovic was before news about her film came out. However, if she can explore the details of Jacqueline’s evolution and its effects on the men and society around her, while keeping in mind Barker’s own horror genre sensibilities we will definitely see an interesting multifaceted blood-soaked gem of a strong female character and what she says about our own world: as a master of the horror genre, the sub-genre of body horror, and the medium of film tends to do.
Given the fact that Jovanka Vuckovic was an Editor-In-Chief for Rue Morgue magazine, author of Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead, founder of She Wolf Films, studied physical anthropology, and the fact that she made The Captured Bird, a horror-fantasy short film about a young girl that discovers a black-inky evil underlying her world only adds to the fact that I very much look forward to seeing what she does with this film. I know that many of her friends in the Toronto geek community–including some here at GEEKPR0N–wish her and her endeavours well.
It was the most social I’ve been outside of the Internet in a while. First, I went to the Global Game Jam Videogame Expo at Bento Miso where I presented my Twine game: The Looking Glass. Next to the 3D and cell-shaded games, mine looked pretty “under-dressed”: especially near the corner of the room. It looked a lot like some strange, old, lost game that you’d find in a creepypasta.
Even so, some people played my game and we talked about it. I was told that my writing is flowing like a river and it has a poetic rhythm. Of course, that is only a sample of the kind of writing that I actually do but it was still good to hear.
I had fun walking around, talking and playing some other people’s games. I even got an opportunity to draw on the white board. I drew a spiral and some words underneath it. I wrote: “A mark appears on the wall. You are Agent Red and you have a choice to make.”
Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring my camera with me to take a picture and the one picture of me that came from the event is … less than flattering.
This same lack of foresight on my part is also the reason why you will find no pictures of me at the GeekPr0n Third Anniversary Party. It’s just as well, really. Compared to my compatriots, and not unlike my game from the previous event, I was very under-dressed.
But I had a lot of fun. I’ve been working at GeekPr0n for a while now and it was only that night I got to meet most of my co-writers and fellow staff for the first time. After I realized all I had to mention I was “Staff,” I got a VIP mark on my wrist and I went to the back section where I hung out with these really nice, geeky people that I’ve come to know. Over the excellent mixes of DJ Misty, I geeked out with them–mainly about Star Wars–and then slowly and inexorably found myself relaxing.
We even got some presents: specifically action figures. I got a figurine of Smiley Bone and a Manhunter from the Green Lantern.
It’s funny how things work out. A year ago, at another location, I attended GeekPr0n’s second anniversary as a fan. I’d been a long time since I went to any club downtown. This year, GeekPr0n had their third anniversary at the Velvet Underground: a club I used to go to a lot. In fact, it was the first club I ever knew about that had gothic music. We had a lot of history together, but most of it was me dancing in the background and being known by very few. The rest of it was the results of belatedly growing up.
Years later, I find myself in the VIP section of the club eating snacks and chatting with my fellow GeekPr0n staff members who are friendly, nice geeks like me. And it made me realize something. All those years ago, when I went out to these places on my own, lonely, young, afraid and wondering, what I was really looking for were friends: and a family.
And even though there is so much more to do and many details to consider, looking back on all of this and in the words of Darth Vader, “The circle is now complete.”
Though, of course, given that there will be three more Star Wars films and extra media, I think the circle is expanding–becoming a spiral, if you will–and hopefully not a rabbit-hole. But that, my friends, is a post for another time.
This isn’t particularly surprising, unfortunately. It has been made clear throughout the years by Lucasfilm that the Expanded Universe beyond the films, The Clone Wars cartoon (and the soon-to-be Rebels) would always come second to the original source material. And then you also need to take into consideration that much of the EU has been pretty contradictory. For example I’m sure there are some fans that won’t miss the Emperor returning in clone bodies and converting Luke to the dark side in the comic series Dark Empire, the superweapon of the month club spectacles of Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy or Leia accepting an arranged marriage in The Courtship of Princess Leia, or Chewbacca being killed by a moon in Vector Prime.
And there will be fans that will totally miss this.
There will also be fans that miss the adventures of Kyle Katarn, a whole other Jedi aside from Luke, fighting to discover what he is in the Dark Forces series, or the odyssey of Revan and friends in The Knights of the Old Republic, or looking at the origins of the Jedi Order itself in the Tales of the Jedi comics series and Dawn of The Jedi. There are the X-Wing and Wraith Squadron series with wise-cracking Rebel and New Republic pilots that will also become non-canon and a truly excellent series called Republic Commando written by Karen Traviss which truly fleshes out the Grand Army of the Republic’s clone troopers as actual characters and human beings in a wartime situation and the moral ambiguity of them being essentially slave-soldiers.
Palpatine’s origins in Darth Plagueis will be shrouded in mystery and half-truths again, Darth Vader will never have a secret apprentice such as Starkiller from The Force Unleashed andeven the future of the Galaxy with regards to Cade Skywalker and the Imperial Knights in the Legacy comics is now called into question. All of these stories and adventures will be given the designation Legends and, perhaps, Lucasfilm will utilize some of these Legends’ characters and elements in their own way.
I know for myself that it will be hard, in a lot of ways, to watch the next three films, the spin-offs, and read the new books without thinking about some of the old. It would have been nice if Lucasfilm had gone through its Great Holocron and found some of the characters and stories that worked. It would have been even better if they had asked their fans to vote on what they wanted included into the canon. Of course, that last idea would have been problematic at best as we, as fans, all have “a certain point of view.”
But now GEEKB0T has ordered me to tell you the good news. The good news is that with the Expanded Universe eaten by the World Devastators, these figurative superweapons that technically no longer exist will be creating new stories and content that not even the best Force Adepts among us can farsee. And as I said, perhaps we might see some of these “Legends” manifest again. Perhaps Grand Admiral Thrawn still had campaigns during the thirty years between Return of The Jedi and the new films. Or maybe a certain red-headed Imperial assassin named Mara Jade encountered the last of the Jedi and helped train the first of the new.
One can only hope. But, as I have been further instructed by GEEKB0T, if this news does not cheer you then perhaps this new video made by the Nerdist, Revenge of the Threesome, will.
And with those vintage 1980s action figures to soothe you, we at GEEKPR0N wish the Force to be with you. Always.
Oh, one last thing…
GEEKPR0N’s Star Wars themed anniversary party is tomorrow night! Tickets are on sale now and are also available at the door, however if you buy your ticket in advance you’ll be entered to win a BRAND NEW PS4!!!
“I’d start talking about the dark and darkness, cold, loneliness, aging and illness, money, and how the hell can anybody keep making a living through a whole lifetime? I’d get myself all wound up and just rattle on in my head about the scariest shit I could think of” (2).
An ice storm hit parts of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and knocked out our power. For about three days in late December 2013 we had neither heat nor light, but plenty of cold and darkness. I felt absolutely helpless before Nature and my personal demons as my parents’ home became a dark and icy tomb. Suffice to say, this book came to me at a very appropriate time.
It was on the second day that I got Anthony’s book early in the mail: the postman having somehow navigated across the treacherous ice-crusted ground and overhanging crystalline pine hedges to deliver it right to the mailbox on the doorstep of our deathly cocoon. It’s similar to the way I will also have to navigate through this book.
One challenge I really had is that even though I wanted to look at Beloved Demons in its own right, in a manner similar to how I examined the theme, interrelation of stories and, of course, what I related to in Lunatic Heroes, this book still remains stubbornly intertextual. What I mean by that is it’s almost as though Anthony’s beloved demons want to war and fight alongside his lunatic heroes and define themselves by this ancient conflict. While you can read Beloved Demons as a standalone book, it has a whole other dimension if you take its predecessor into consideration.
So first off, what does Anthony possibly mean by a “beloved demon”?
It is said that the ancient Greek poets, when singing stories of heroes attempting to find home, war, or both, would evoke the muse — or the daimon — before they began to recite their tale. “Daimon” is also the root of the contemporary words “angel” and “demon.” In addition, daimons are known as forces of nature that pass through and influence human beings. So it is only fitting, and in keeping with the ancient idea of the daimon, that “Cocoon Talk: Confessions of a Psychology Intern” begins with Anthony singing on the road on a warm summer’s day.
It’s also tempting to mention that demons have traditionally been used to incarnate a particular vice, evil, or negative thought in order to ward off, exorcise, or otherwise purge it from a subject. Certainly, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” is a pretty good example of an attempted exorcism. However, I feel that Anthony draws on Carl Jung’s idea of the daimon much more and, in doing so, it brings an older mythological resonance to mind.
The Roman equivalent to the daimon is the genius loci: a very clearly monstrous or non-human spiritual being that protects places and people. These genii also tend to embody their spaces: to serve as their souls. And, if you think about it, it can apply well to Anthony’s Beloved Demons. His short story “Sign” is an example of a space with great emotional resonance to that regard. In other words, places can be spaces, and spaces can be memories. And Anthony evokes their souls like the daimons that they are.
Each one of the nine stories in Beloved Demons is like a different and yet interconnected reality. “Swept” is the only story that focuses solely on Anthony’s childhood. Almost all of his stories focus on the aftermath of his youth and how it affected his developing adulthood. The crowning achievements of this process can be found in the narratives of “Cocoon Talk,” “Sign,” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost”: for just as daimons served as intermediaries between mortals and the divine, so too do these stories seem to function as bridges between Anthony’s past and adulthood.
As such, Anthony’s “Cocoon” is a nice complement to his last book’s short story “Swamp”: except that while Bullfrog was a symbol of enlightenment and the casualty of Anthony’s childhood sense of powerlessness, the butterfly is Anthony’s personal adult casualty. But the thing to understand about this butterfly’s death isn’t so much that Anthony was responsible (he was driving as it hit his vehicle after all), it is the fact that the butterfly, among other things, represents change. It is said that the wind from a butterfly’s wings can utterly destroy a mountain on the opposite side of the world. And while no one ever truly suspects the butterfly, Anthony seemed to believe the potential omen all too well and tried to prepare for the resonance of the change: the change that he ultimately experiences.
In fact, even more so than Lunatic Heroes, time seems to collapse faster than a landslide in Beloved Demons. It’s as though all the experience and time within Anthony that had been contracted into itself, into himself and his inner world back in his first book begins to expand out in extreme, ricocheting vengeance in “Cocoon”: a process that he makes even more clearly explicit in “Feast.” Anthony is breaking out of the confines created from the trauma of childhood: the continued suppression and the emotional starvation caused in “Force Fed” becoming an expansive and terrifying “Feast of the Hungry Ghost.”
Anger and passion are definitely elements of this great change. It is no coincidence that, for seemingly the first time, Anthony reveals his first legal name to be Carmine (30): the colour of red and fire and blood, of the wine-drenched Dionysian god and associated today with demons.
There is also a sense of space that becomes dilated between certain kinds of individuals, particularly sensitive ones such as Anthony, over time. For instance, I find there to be an interesting parallel between “The Wild” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” in which people, from well-meaning and voyeuristic to impatient and completely disrespectful, try to know more about — and even interfere with — the more intimate parts of Anthony’s life. In many of the stories from both Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons this, unfortunately, seems to be a recurring theme — of people wanting to know or control the passion inside him that he has been trained from childhood to avoid, while he is attempting to find and understand it himself in the midst of people constantly violating his personal space.
As a result, his space seemed to be small and narrow at times against a much larger world. At one point Anthony writes “I threw my eyes like an ocular ventriloquist” (18). It was Anthony’s reaction, ingrained from his mother, to avoid looking at people, while at the same time dealing with the perverse reflex to subvert authority and follow his own natural curiosity. Anthony’s account of Jackie not wanting him to look at “the crippled boy” in “Cocoon” is an interesting complement to his short story “Carnival” and his childhood reactions in that one as well.
You can even take this internalization a step further. In fact, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” does take it further when the Devil and she-devils, which were seen as secretly forming and liberating within Anthony’s subconscious in Lunatic Heroes‘ “Carnival,” now become fraught with anxiety and desire: with a fear of judgement.
This leads Anthony to all but come out and describe the creation of a kink in “Feast”: or at least his kink. He seems to hypothesize that a combination of familial shame, religious fear, and suppressed desire culminated into a need for submission and masochism on the BDSM spectrum: with a particular focus on a darkly eroticized female archetype and a craving for punishment (144-45). After explaining how it is a feeling of wanting to get away, but eventually give into the fantasy scenario, he then describes a sensation in his stomach that he calls “‘the sugary feeling,’ which was both weakening and wonderful” (145). It is a striking description: particularly the latter aspect because it, above everything else, portrays a bridge between something that is both loved and feared: a beloved demon.
As I write this, I feel as though I am analysing themes in English class, and the very sense of my life depended on it. Whereas my review of Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes looked at many of his possible influences or what his tone at times sounds reminiscent of (I compared it to Will Eisner’s unsentimentality), it now really feels like Anthony’s own voice resonating throughout this entire series of linked narratives.
That said, there is one intriguing idea I would like to note. When Anthony talks about his cat Java mourning the death of his old dog and rejecting the new (110), it is very reminiscent of the narrator in Neil Gaiman’s TheOcean at the End of the Lane being “enraged” at having his pet die while some adults, in their ignorance, attempt to replace him. It is interesting to consider that Neil seemed to have created this particular story around the same time Anthony was working on Beloved Demons‘ predecessor. In any case Neil’s novel, according to Amanda Palmer, seems to have “dialed down” the setting on his own “creative blender” — of that place in an artist’s mind where their personal experiences and imagination intermix to make a story — and I can’t help but wonder if reading and working with Anthony might have influenced this in some part.
Certainly, this can be seen even more overtly when you consider that Neil actually wrote an Introduction to Beloved Demons in which he’s not only very candid about death, but he even writes out the Buddha’s entire quote on self-conquest (xxii) to which Anthony alludes in the conclusion of the book (193). And make no mistake: while Lunatic Heroes was obviously a personal narrative, an autobiography through-and-through, Beloved Demons delves deep into the personal and adult aspects of not merely “an unquiet mind” (which is one of the biggest understatements I’ve seen in Anthony’s work) but a forming mind attempting to find its individuation or, rather, its own sense of centre.
It is a dark and grueling process. I think that out of all the narratives, and aside from “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” coming to some kind of revelation through pain, pleasure and eventual acceptance, it is “Sign” that presents that unsettling feeling most of all.
Whereas “The Wild” was merely a hint of Anthony facing the primal part of his nature — his “Other” long controlled, vilified, alienated and chained as an animal — it’s in “Sign” where it truly comes to the fore in the form of power. It is very disturbing, to know that passion can be warped into the capacity for violence and the desire for control over another, and that this struggle is within all of us. But Anthony spells it out in himself and … it is unsettling.
I suspect it is meant to be so. This is something that wants to be free from all constraints: from his family’s expectations, societal duties, and his wife at that time. There are patterns and dynamics that Anthony finds himself bound by and wanting to fall back into. But there is more at work in “Sign”: a greater work if you’d prefer. You begin to realize that all of these impulses and thoughts in his mind are reaching a state of at least narrative transformation. As he finds himself back in his childhood home, it’s as though he is attempting to find stability amid his own change and he goes back to the place where he sketched out the sign of a crucifix — a cross — on a door frame so long ago.
And this, here, I believe captures the essence of why Anthony writes. The crux of it, I believe, can be seen when he asks himself: “I wonder why I made that mark? Perhaps to save something of myself from that time? Or to create a future a memory? To say I was here … To see the sign. Or perhaps I only carved into the soft, painted wood with my thumbnail, and that’s it … nothing more; then, all those years later, made a story of it. Just to make a story. The world isn’t created of atoms and molecules, but of stories” (88).
It becomes very apparent here that not only are Anthony’s books his “cross” for us to see that he was here — that perhaps all autobiographical stories function in this capacity to help us remember who we are, who we were, and perhaps to see where we are going by comparison — but it also hits home another crucial point. Dominance and submission war inside him, and these are forces, within him which he can neither deny nor completely surrender to, he attempts instead to master: that he does to the point of transcending his own sense of self and stating something very important about his book, autobiography and literature itself:
“Making stories from memories … I think it has something to do with looking back and fabricating meaning in events that, at the time, just happened. Maybe writing stories is the same as the tiny sign of the cross in the molding. Perhaps that was my first story, my first memoir, to be known about and read only by me. Now, it seems, I mark the entrance to my childhood with these symbols on paper and share them so others will know I was here, understand me, and help me understand myself, before I’m gone and can’t return” (88-89).
Any way you look at it, however, Anthony’s stories have become his beloved demons, even as he understands now that he is his own.
I am about done here. Now that I have talked about the symbolism and interlinking of stories in Beloved Demons, I want to write out some quotes that I think are very interesting and that found sympathy with me: you know, as if I haven’t already.
Anthony talks about love and perspective: “I loved her in the only way I could love then” (51).
At the beginning of “Cocoon Talk” Anthony makes a statement about the origins of human conflict: “I was always babbling, always unsure of what I was saying yet revealing nothing, and never truly trusted people who said they knew themselves or suggested that they knew me. Never really wanted anyone to see me” (3). It strikes me that the root of all problems and conflicts within relationships is that people claim to understand others and their intentions without actually doing so. No one ever truly or fully knows anyone, and the very act of proclaiming that “You don’t know me” is not only an act of anger and defiance in and of itself, but also a reminder that in all of our connections with each other we are our own sovereign spaces and should be respected as such.
In addition to the spaces in ourselves, Anthony writes about personal demons and how they can begin as weaknesses and become our strengths: “Through fantasy, we enter the screening room of an obsessed mind. And in our private theaters, we watch the show through the projector of our damaged narcissism — where the phantasmagoria transforms weak pariahs into prevailing superheroes, the shamed and the shunned into the celebrated, and places us, the marginalized extras, right at center stage … And here, we come not merely to tolerate, but to accept and finally embrace our demons — as if we willed them into life out of passion and the need to survive” (150).
I think my favourite quote, however, is the one that seems to describe how Anthony envisioned himself interacting with his desires. He states, “Nothing was nearly as captivating as this special pursuit, along with my role as undercover superhero- disguised as a pale and twitchy kid, foisting a dazzling subterfuge on a coterie of torment-skewed girls. A superhero, whose special power is getting his covert muscle charged by girls without their knowledge — surreptitiously slipping Kryptonite into their hands in order to feel his strength deliciously melt away” (152).
This last statement has a great affinity to me not only due to the “superhero” reference and how he applies it to his kink, but also in how it is different from my own personal vision of myself. Whereas Anthony seems to describe his childhood as him pretending that he is powerful and giving that power to others for his own enjoyment, I have always liked the idea of seeming to be mild — of actually being mild and kind — while underneath entertaining the fact that I can bring to bear great fury and power on everyone and everything around me. And even then, I’ve always considered what I am doing now, slowly building up my connections and experimenting carefully with that core of energy within me, as exercising that power in careful and clever ways until I can gain what I want: to take what is rightfully mine.
So if Anthony is a “superhero,” then I am definitely a Dark Lord of the Sith. Perhaps Anthony’s story “Swept” and what he learned from his father might have come in handy with my own education to that regard.
Finally there is the fact that, apparently, Anthony’s dog Poochy is “a food-operated boy” (72). Yes. He went there. He went there. If you want a hint of what to expect from Beloved Demons beyond what I’ve written, here is a video of its book launch in which not only do we hear Anthony reading “Sign” and “Dog,” but we also get to listen to Neil read his Introduction to the book and Amanda … basically making you feel. Her song Bigger on the Inside (an appropriate title for more than one reason) certainly made me do so.
I finally understood where the statement originated from and what it means. It will give you all more background on Anthony and perhaps on both of his books. As such, and in no way due to any implied threat, I give Beloved Demons a five out of five. The fact of the matter is that what I said about his quote on his dog Poochy applies to the rest of his book.
He went there.
He went there into the cold and the darkness, melting the warped and stratified ice of his surface interactions, singing like a rat, and I have to give the Devil his due … just as Anthony gave his demons their own.