Working On A Comics Script and Submissions

I thought I should make a proper update while I still have some time.

My Displacement Twine became something of a one-off project that I came up with late at night while I’ve been dealing with other matters. I’ve already mentioned that I’ve got ODSP and I didn’t, in fact, have to go into a hearing as my community lawyer settled it “out of court.” It takes a major load off that’s been weighing on me for the better part of a year, but even though I know there will be more challenges and annoyances ahead, it still feels like progress.

But now for the stuff that you don’t know about.

A little while ago, I was a student at Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp Writing for Comics course. During that time, after doing many assignments, we were supposed to hand in a script: in order to get feedback from Ty himself. Unfortunately, due to life’s circumstances I was only able to submit a rough outline of the script that I wanted to write. So I found peace with that in order to get at least some feedback from Ty.

Instead, he gave me a considerable amount of feedback and actually wants to see a completed script.

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So that is basically why I’d been gone for a month. I’ve been working on my comics script to show Ty Templeton. So far, I’ve finished the Story Mapping phase: where I try to approximate the story beats and pacing on each page. It’s actually made me look at details I might have missed before and even given me the opportunity to hone down other aspects of my outline. I had so much more to say about this a little while ago, but I have been busy. Suffice to say, though, I’m drawing it out by hand in my Mythic Bios notebook with my 1989 Batman movie pencil that you can, no doubt, see in the graphic of this Blog post.

It’s sad because I know there are other insights I could talk about and refer back to, but basically for me this has been creating the skeleton of my story which, considering its subject matter, is very appropriate. But basically I am outlining each page, sectioning it off into threes, and placing the basic idea of what happens in every section followed by beats to show what happens in each panel of that section on each page.

But now I have entered the Storyboarding (wow doesn’t that sound like some kind of psychological torture technique) Phase: where I am going to have to approximate what visually goes on in those panels. Much of this is going to start off with me reviewing the notes I’ve taken from Ty’s class to the point where I’m confident in drawing it all out with crude and inclusive stick figures that I will have to describe with thorough wording for the Writing Phase of the Script: and that doesn’t even include the dialogue and captions that I need to write clearly and distinctively.

Then I’m going to show it to one of my fellow classmates, Kim — who is awesome — and then submit it to Ty when everything is said and done. But yes. I even have plans for further stories after this one, but the World-Building Phase — which includes more descriptive writing — will have to continue along with my capacity to do so and remember that an artist needs to know details but also have the freedom to do their own thing.

I’m almost done with my update. But script writing and submission aside, and have the attention span to finally sit down and knock this post out, I also want to mention that I’ve applied for a writing position in an online magazine called Panels: a place that talks about comics, comics subcultures, and the writer’s reactions and insights into them. It’s right up my alley and it’s a paying job.

Some of the sample works I’ve sent them include: When I Recognized Elfquest and Chasing Amy and Reviewing the Laurel Leaves.  So we will see whether or not I get accepted into their ranks and, if so, it is definitely an exciting start.

So yes. A lot of stuff is happening on my end, finally, and I just need to keep at it while — at the same time — I also need to pace myself. I don’t know when I will write here next, but hopefully I will have more to talk about and more to report.

Take care everyone and thank you for continuing to follow me on this journey.

What If Marvel Cinema

I’m not sure if it will ever come to this, but I would definitely love to see a Marvel What If short film series: on the web, as bonus content on DVDs, or others. But I’m afraid I’m just being a bit misleading with my title. Really, this is just another Thursday geeky conjecture ramble that was a long time coming. What can I say? I am a busy man these days.

There are a few things I would have loved to see happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, there are some things that I could have definitely seen happening in the films that — for obvious reasons — did not.

One thing always bothered me about Avengers: Age of Ultron. You know, for all Joss Whedon had Ultron sing that “there are no strings on me,” Ultron and the way he carried himself felt a lot like Joss Whedon playing Ultron if that makes any sense. What I mean is: it felt less like watching Ultron develop and go into action, and more like Whedon using Ultron as a prop to carry the story onward: being the puppet that he claimed he was not.

Age of Ultron

Like many of you, I saw the trailers. In particular, I saw the trailer where Ultron’s conscious possessed one of Iron Man’s suits and made that twisted, jagged hole of a mouth on its surface. I thought it was creepy and perfect: the sign of an artificial intelligence going completely, maliciously, and utterly insane.

So imagine this. Instead of a long and convoluted plot that starts off with the Avengers going after HYDRA — with perhaps a key streamlining of the process for the sake of continuity with Agents of SHIELD — we get to actually see Ultron get created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. But more importantly: imagine if we could have seen Ultron develop.

Picture Tony, Bruce, and JARVIS working on Ultron. Think of them working with him. After deriving all the missing elements of artificial intelligence evolution from the Sceptre’s Gem to further improve on Tony’s own knowledge, I could see Ultron genuinely affecting change and improving on a defense plan: undertaking the monumental task of protecting humanity from all dangers. But perhaps there are … “glitches” or “malfunctions” along the way. Sometimes Ultron complains about “an absence” or “lacking something”: phantom electronic pains. Think of it as an artificial intelligence’s sense of dysphoria: though in this case it is Ultron’s lack of a physical body that plagues him. You even see him experimenting with one of Tony’s suits and attempt to embody it like a ghost in the machine: resenting the people that made him and the constant chronic discomfort that he always feels.

ultron

But it’s only when he begins to fully process the fact that humans are a greater threat to the world than anything that is extraterrestrial that Ultron decides to destroy humanity in the only way he knows how. It’d be a slow burn, perhaps one that has no real place in a superhero action movie where the audience already knows that Ultron is supposed to be evil, but the payoff along with the philosophical implications and the confrontation with Vision could have fleshed it out even further. A sympathetic Ultron, as warped and evil as he is, could have made audiences truly unsettled.

Then consider how Ultron would undertake his goals. It’s true. He could spread his consciousness through many bodies as he already has. But he could take control over SHIELD and general human technology. Hell, he could even release substances into Earth’s atmosphere that would utterly decimate humankind without going through something as grandiose as smashing Sokovia’s capital into the Earth. A subtle, creepy, and ubiquitous Ultron could have gone a long way into making The Age of Ultron an action adventure superhero film bordering on pure science-fiction horror.

Ultron wouldn’t have to look far to realize that humanity is a threat to Earth and itself. All he would really have to do, and what he already did in Whedon’s take, is look at the chaos that HYDRA attempted to unleash in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is also interesting to note that there was an AI in that film as well in the form of Arnim Zola: the man responsible for regrowing HYDRA right within the ranks of SHIELD itself.

Zola

It was Zola that ultimately created the data-mining algorithm that HYDRA relied on to eliminate potential enemies. This was done through SHIELD’s Project Insight: taking advantage of three heavily-armed satellite-linked Helicarriers that were supposed to proactively protect the Earth from further alien invasions and using them to destroy HYDRA’s enemies and everything around them. This would allow HYDRA to obliterate the world’s infrastructure and be the only force of civilization left to Earth’s survivors.

But Zola’s algorithm didn’t predict the Avengers: or at least it didn’t deal with them all that well. Imagine what would have happened if HYDRA remained in hiding for a little while longer. Think about it: HYDRA had infiltrated all levels of SHIELD and the World Security Council. HYDRA itself, at least since WWII, had evolved from a para-military branch of Nazi Germany, to its own organization, and into an intelligence sleeper-agent group. Covert operations became the name of their day.

Would it have been too much of a stretch for HYDRA, who had already been privy to most if not all SHIELD operations, to know about Captain America’s retrieval from the ocean? Would it have taken much for one of their operatives, as a SHIELD staff member, to gain a sample of his blood? And I’m not even talking about HYDRA recreating the super-soldier serum: though they sure as hell tried in the Centipede Project. No: certainly the Red Skull wouldn’t have been nearly so trusting of his branch of HYDRA back in the day to take some of his blood as we know the organization thrives on Social Darwinism to its nth degree.

What HYDRA could have done, if they had been clever enough, is create an anti-serum for Erskine’s formula. All they needed to do was inject it into Cap while he was comatose. And, really, who would have been the wiser? Cap was frozen for quite some time: and no one really knew how that formula worked to begin with. It wouldn’t have been inconceivable for Cap to have died of complications in his decades long sleep. And in injecting some sweet sleep painless poison from a hidden fang, HYDRA could have removed one major enemy off the playing board.

What would the Avengers do without him at the very beginning of the game?

Captain America on Ice

And about the rest of the Avengers? Well, most of the technology they had access to came from SHIELD itself and HYDRA has infiltrated many facets of the organization. Imagine if HYDRA had managed to get their hands on the blueprints Howard Stark created for a power source and purposefully engineered a controllable flaw in the device: effectively creating a kill switch to Tony Stark’s heart? Or maybe they could have rigged something explosive into Sam Wilson’s EXO-7 Falcon jet pack or sabotage one of Hawkeye’s arrows.

Thor and The Hulk might also be problems. However, HYDRA has the psychological profile of Thor to work with: or at the very least might be able to prevent him from returning to “Midgard” due to their own researches into Asgardian technology. As for The Hulk: they would need to use some powerful tranquilizing agent on Bruce Banner before he transforms and they would need to do it quickly … or have a very good assassin cut off his head.

The Avenger HYDRA would have the most issue with would be Natasha Romanoff. She is distrustful of everyone and she has millions of contingencies: perhaps as many as Nick Fury himself. Even releasing all the information of her past gruesome deeds to the world and a warrant for her arrest would only buy time with warm bodies. Perhaps forcing her to kill unwitting agents or having her hold back would wear her out. The Winter Soldier has defeated her before as well, and he could either be sent after her or be placed into the Avengers in Cap’s place to turn on her. But you never know with the Black Widow.

Of course, there are many flaws to these possibilities. The Hulk can change really quickly. Hawkeye probably takes care of his own arrows. Tony Stark would spot a design flaw in his Arc Reactor, back in the day, a mile away and he doesn’t even need it to protect his heart now. Even if the alloy and equipment for his armour had initially come from Obadiah Stane’s engineers, Tony would have detected any discrepancies and improved on them. Thor might be a warrior but he is not stupid enough to be manipulated easily into being unworthy of his Hammer, and I doubt anything HYDRA has can incapacitate him or keep Asgard from accessing Earth unless their “real plan” comes to fruition.

And finally, we have Cap. That Super Soldier Serum is built like a motherfucker. It is not going to be poisoned or altered easily. And even if HYDRA somehow had legitimate access to him through medical staff, Nick Fury is paranoid. He has a sixth sense born from battles and infiltration gone wrong. He is a man that trusts his gut and he just knew there was something wrong in The Winter Soldier. Also, it is fairly possible only Fury, Maria Hill, and their confidants knew about Cap’s retrieval and kept it that way.

Winter Soldier

No. if HYDRA had really wanted to win, they needed to pull an Order 66: create a visible enemy to distract SHIELD and the Avengers that wasn’t them, and then simultaneously sabotage and/or kill them with the operatives that served as their “back-up” and “cavalry.” And even if the Winter Soldier himself was brought into play, and there is no way HYDRA’s SHIELD operatives could have convincingly brought him into the Avengers or SHIELD without setting off major warning bells in Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury’s minds, none of this would be a sure thing.

Seriously: Black Widow should be remembered for just how terrifying her fighting and infiltration abilities truly are … the deeds she did in the past, and what she tries to do about them now. I wish there had been more emphasis on that.

Black Widow

Yet all this aside I can honestly do this all day and all night. But I really don’t have the time and I know there are many flaws with my ideas. Certainly, there are better geeky experts than I who could poke holes in all of these scenarios. But this was a good exercise in creative speculation. I look forward to doing this again sometime in the near future.

As the man says, “Excelsior.”

Who Wants To Be Luigi

There is always someone who can relate to Luigi.

Let me be clear on the matter. It’s not because they were necessarily the younger sibling stuck with being Player Two on their Famicom or Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s not because they’ve felt second best throughout most of the entirety of their lives, or feel like they are only talked about in relation to a “better person:” to the point of their last name being the first name of said before.

I’m not talking about Luigi in the original games or even the newer adventures that have been released in recent years: particularly in The Year of Luigi.

No, I think that most of the people who can relate to Luigi have played Super Mario Brothers 2.

Yes, I know. Super Mario Brothers 2 is problematic. I mean, in addition to it only being a single-player game for the multiple choice of characters at your disposal, it is also goes in and out of being Doki Doki Panic: the intended Mario sequel, made into its own game, and whose bones made the game we all know and love from the late 1980s.

And in this game we have another problematic character. For the first time we see that Luigi is different from Mario! He is not just Mario with a green hat and shirt under blue overalls. He is taller and thinner. And he even jumps higher than his brother.

For the jumping alone, Luigi should be superior to Mario. The problem in the problematic here, however, is one simple fact: much like my green-feathered budgie, Luigi sometimes has troubles when he attempts to land.

It’s true. He jumps magnificently in the air only for his feet to spin under him in a slapstick cartoonish fashion. This is especially annoying when you try to aim for a platform: which might as well be made of ice due to the fact that Luigi is too busy spasmodically moving up and descending.

I know I’ve been frustrated many times in attempting to control Luigi’s jumps: just for him to scuttle or slide off a platform or a brick. It can be downright infuriating.

But imagine what it’s like to be Luigi. Mario doesn’t jump as high as you, but he is a more dependable jumper and lander (for the most part).  He is consistent. He gets the job done. People generally like him a lot more. And it all seems so effortless. It’s as though its all innate: all natural to him.

Yet you, Luigi, know you can jump high –higher than anyone else in the game — but you have to work at it. You have to think it out, and you become self-conscious of that process. Maybe you have more energy to expend than Mario. Perhaps you are so afraid of potential danger that you have to channel that frenetic energy somehow, or you’re excited, or that is just how you move under scrutiny. Or maybe you wish you could glide more like Princess Peach.

Maybe you like to imagine that you can fly.

And it only gets worse when someone is frustrated with you or draws attention to you when you attempt to jump under orders. Some might find it right on hilarious. And few people, if they only see you in one video game — in Super Mario Brothers 2 — will ever truly appreciate your jump. All they will see is how you struggle, and fail, and fall.

Luigi

That is why I think some people like Luigi better: not because he’s perfect, or even good. But because they are Luigi: and they don’t get the luxury of a curtained stage with a Player Select Screen.

Chasing Amy And Reviewing The Laurel Leaves

I wasn’t originally going to watch this film. In fact, my plan was to avoid it into the unforeseeable future. In the beginning, back in 1997 when Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy was first released, I just wasn’t interested. At the time my interest in comics and superheroes was waning and I was in the phase in my life before I went into any conventions, panels, geek communities, or had any relationships. Later, after I got back into comics and saw them for all the adult potential they could contain, I still didn’t watch this film because I’d heard about the messiness of the relationships between them and, at the time, I didn’t understand and I wasn’t interested in subtexts of other sexualities, geek subcultures, the minutiae of romantic comedy and failed relationships beyond the theoretical, and I felt safer in my own head.

Much later, after opening myself up to more life experiences, the reason I avoided Chasing Amy was out of fear. In retrospect, it was always out of fear. It’s only know that I’ve realized that by avoiding Chasing Amy that I’ve actually been running towards it. And tonight, for the first time, I decided to actively run towards what I can see of its heart.

If you don’t want Spoilers to a 1997 movie, please don’t read any further.

I think there are two reasons I kept away from this film. The first was that I knew how it was going to end. Knowing how a work is going to end before you experience it definitely affects how you might react to it.

And the second reason is that I knew its setting — at a convention amongst comics geeks and creators — would hit close to home. Holden and Banky’s introduction in signing their ridiculous superhero parody comic Bluntman and Chronic (modelled after the in-movie and in-Smith universe Jay and Silent Bob characters), with Holden’s high-brow intelligence and Banky’s sarcastic and hair-trigger irate temper — along with how they dealt with and understood their fandom — already threatened to draw me in. Even Hooper X and his ludicrously over-the-top Black Power White Man hating persona — to the point of claiming Darth Vader to be an icon for Black slavery and repression — got me to smile when I realized it was all a clever subversive act to keep up his image.

Then there is Alyssa Jones. She is the creator of what seems to be an even more subversive take on the Archie comics genre through the creation of Idiosyncratic Routine: a comic with what seems to be lesbian or queer oriented relationships story. I really appreciated some of the subtext here: that throughout the interactions in the beginning of the film towards the end we are seeing the difference between generic superhero comics and the personal stories of which they are capable of telling.

Idiosyncratic Routine

To be honest, I didn’t want to like anyone in this film. To be fair, it would have been worse when I was younger: back when I hated crudity and was taught to think it was wrong. Even now, the fact that all four characters had — at times — had superficial relationships with people. However, I also know there is a difference between casual talk at a bar and a character’s actions: as well as context.

The thing is, I can understand why each character does what they do and Kevin Smith takes pains to show us little details along the way. You can see Banky’s over-insistence that he isn’t gay, his homophobic comments, and his need to carry around an excessive amount of porn magazines as a major source of emotional compensation. He likes, at least his long-time homosocial friendship and creative partnership, with Holden and doesn’t want it disrupted in any way.

You can even understand Holden: at least in the beginning. Imagine being in a small bubble of society and only hearing about other things beyond it through spectacle and fiction. Then imagine you meet someone and you totally hit it off with them, or so you think — even getting invited to event by this person — only for them to begin making out with their partner right in front of you for an extended period of time. When I saw Holden sitting at that bar table with Banky, and watching — or trying not to watch Alyssa and her girlfriend of that time — I could see that for every time he told Banky to shut up, he was really venting his disappointment and discomfort: all the way to the point where he just wanted to straight out leave the bar.

Of course, there is Alyssa herself. As you get to know her, you realize she is a woman of some extremes. Sometimes, she genuinely seems to act like a very perceptive brat: knowing that she’s doing some shit-disturbing but entertaining herself in the process. And I say this with some fondness. She is witty, clever, and awkward in a way in which she can laugh at herself. At the same time, when she gets angry: she gets … angry. I’ll admit, Joey Lauren Adams’ voice has an extremely high-pitch and it can be off-putting: especially when drawing on the self-righteous fury of her character. But often, when she gets angry, it’s because Holden manages to trigger a place of hurt inside of her and she reacts accordingly.

But one thing I like about Alyssa is that even when she is an angry manic pixie girl, she still possesses enough self-consciousness to admit her faults and, honestly, has some painful moments of eloquence.

This is a woman who has spent a good portion of her life discovering who she is: experimenting with what she likes, who she relates to, and going to places that sometimes cause her pain. Unlike Holden and Banky, she’s a lot more aware of who she is and what she wants due to the struggles in getting there.

You have to figure Alyssa has gone through a lot. She experimented with her sexuality when she was younger and less mature. Boys took advantage of her and spread rumours and video tapes depicting her acts with them. By the time where Chasing Amy starts she has already dealt with having to come out of the closet and deal with her sexuality in college, fully identifying herself as a lesbian.

And then she and Holden meet each other.

Alyssa’s sexual orientation is not primarily where the tragedy begins in this dynamic. Imagine coming out of the closet: to yourself, to your family, and friends. You have a group of friends that orient their group and political identity around a particular sexual orientation. Then imagine meeting someone, a person, who challenges all of those preconceived notions. Holden, who seems to be a straight man, can’t begin to understand just what the implications of their attraction actually might mean for her. Alyssa could, and seemingly does, get exiled from her group of lesbian friends. And while I’m sure this doesn’t always happen, this phenomenon is definitely known to occur. In fact, what Alyssa seems to go through, at least in that one brief scene around the table with her friends, is reminiscent of works such as Gaming Pixie’s What’s In A Name? in which some gay-identified people consider bisexuality to be a fake designation: a cover for someone pretending to be gay but who is secretly straight.

It’s tempting to say that just as Banky’s internalized homophobia might be the result of repressed homosexual feelings towards Holden, Alyssa runs — and arguably succumbs — to the danger of dealing with some internalized and externalized biphobia. However, as I said Alyssa has done the work before and gradually accepts Holden as the person that she loves beyond sexual orientation, social structuring and despite — even because — of his messiness as a human being.

Holden, unfortunately, can’t seem to afford her the same courtesy. He has never had to deal with figuring out who he is to this regard. Moreover, he is still hung-up on power dynamics and hierarchy: on needing to feel equal to Alyssa in terms of experience. He ignores the fact that she loves him as an individual and not for the “prestige” of being “the first man” she’s slept with.

Chasing Amy Breakup Scene

One sad element about Holden is that there are points in the film where you can see him beginning to change. You see him calling out Banky on his homophobia and questioning just what kind of creative work and legacy he wants to undertake instead of the shallow superhero story of Bluntman and Chronic.

You see just all the time Holden and Alyssa spend together: even before they know they are developing romantic feelings for one another. Hell, there are points when Alyssa and Banky seem to get along. You’d think that she would get incredibly offended by Banky’s homophobic statements, but the way I see it to her they are a lot like Archie Bunker’s comments and she can at least respect the honesty of them if nothing else.

Alyssa and Banky

Certainly, Banky’s prejudices are a whole lot more open than Holden’s internalized ones: ones that he thinks he can overcome by virtue of being with Alyssa. Also, the characters themselves are crude and open about matters generally: though Holden himself due to his more reserved and conservative nature does this a lot less.

For me, Chasing Amy is less a romantic comedy and more of a tragedy: especially as you get this horrible mounting dread as the film moves towards its end. Holden just can’t shake off the taboos and power-structures in his head in time to save his relationships. In a horrible mangle, he tries to create a threesome between him, Banky, and Alyssa: after vehemently rejecting Alyssa for her sexual past with other men. This is a breakdown of communication and the terminal phase of a relationship gone dysfunctional. From my perspective, Alyssa should have told him about this past but, really, Holden should have been the one to ask her in a direct and respectful manner, outside of a hockey game, and with time put aside. Of course, Holden also should have borne in mind that many of the qualities he admires in Alyssa comes from all the experiences, mistakes, and work that she had undertaken.

Banky could have looked at himself and realized his feelings for Holden: or at least communicated just why Alyssa bothered him so much. I really noticed that the three of them could have easily been friends if nothing else.

Holden, Alyssa, and Banky

And then there is the fascinating element of Alyssa herself. When I was watching this spectacle unravel and she was explaining to Holden just why it wouldn’t work, I realized that Alyssa wasn’t just talking about the threesomes and play that she had done in the past. Even in her lesbian relationships, I strongly suspect she and previous partners attempted polyamory: or at least some kind of non-monogamy. As she states, there are many permutations of how it might not work out, and Alyssa herself saw those earlier relationships as experiments that she went through before finding what and who she wanted.

Alyssa, at least at this point, is monogamous and wants to be so with Holden. But Holden’s arrogance and insecurity poisons and destroys what they had: or could have had. Certainly, Holden’s fever-logic idea of creating a threesome to eliminate insecurities would, by Alyssa’s own words, have only made things worse. Perhaps with time, effort, patience, and actual talking — maybe even experimentation on Holden’s part and Alyssa’s understanding — all of this could have been salvaged. Instead, Holden loses Alyssa and Banky. Due to his own actions, he is essentially left with nothing.

The end of the film reminds me of the ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. The god Apollo seeks the naiad Daphne and she is not interested in his romantic overtures. He ends up pursuing her: chasing her to the point where she asks her river god father to change her into a tree to escape the god. Daphne became the first laurel tree. Apollo, in his grief, takes on her laurel leaves as his new crown. Laurel leaf crowns were awarded to ancient Greek athletes and victorious Roman warriors: perhaps reminding them of that kernel of defeat and loss at the centre of triumph.

Apollo and Daphne

Silent Bob tells Holden the story about a girl he knew named Amy who, because of her previous experience with multiple men, he couldn’t accept: leaving her and realizing, only too late, that she loved him just for who he was. Hence we have the title of the film: Chasing Amy.

A person is not an ideal even if they can, by their presence and loss, inspire creation. Holden ends up creating a new, personal comic sharing the title of the film. He gives a copy to Alyssa a year after their relationship ended. It is a comic book whose pages are laurel leaves and whose panels are lost moments of time. It is made up of the beauty, maturity, and understanding that he gained after losing the woman he loved by chasing an impossible ideal and, in doing so, chased away the flawed, vulnerable, and ultimately human person that she is.

And Alyssa? She ends up dating women again and doesn’t even acknowledge what Holden was to her newest partner. Even though he still clearly means much to her, he is part of her past now: the same past that she hid from him and so many others in order to psychologically protect herself. I’m even tempted to say, in a very less than qualified way, that she buries down what might have been a delving into bisexuality to embrace the relatively easier notion of homosexuality once more, leaving us with perhaps an example of bisexual self-erasure. Or, again sexuality doesn’t come into it. This was just about people relating to one another: and failing.

I am not in the LGBTQ spectrum and I know this film has been written about many times and probably in better ways, so hopefully you’ll understand when I say that I hope you take everything I’ve written with a grain of salt. After seeing the movie, I kind of wish that we could see another one: not from Holden’s perspective in gaining his laurel leaves, but Alyssa’s, or Amy’s — or even Daphne’s — defiance of that trope.

Chasing Amy Comic Cover

As such I hope it goes without saying that women, obviously, do not exist so that they can “be lost” by men in order to gain them a certain level of maturity and humility. But there is a trope here — a Western and Classic idea in which love is a “forbidden knowledge” that you must fall into, and that only through loss can you begin to understand who you are — and it is tragic in that it exists at all. The truth is, I didn’t want to like Chasing Amy: a personal enlightenment tragedy wearing the layers of romance, comedy, geekdom, comics arts and meta-fiction that it is. And I realize the reason I was so afraid of it was because there were many times in my life that I almost became Holden. Sometimes I’m afraid it still might happen.

Fear of loss is reason is why I didn’t want to get attached to the characters: to become affected by their loss and their pain of loss. But by not becoming attached to something, you attempt to hold off relating to it — and by not relating to it you can let an opportunity pass you by, develop a dysfunctional relationship with it, or let a part of yourself become mangled and ruined before it can grow. And I can’t do that any more.

I’d like to think that, in watching Chasing Amy I took a chance and looked at the forces that shaped it. As I have attempted to do in my own relationships, I accepted the experiences it had — and has with others — and realized that they only made it all the richer for me to learn from and relate to in my own right.

This is Halloween

This will be the first of two posts that you will see today.

I spent a lot of weeks before and during Halloween differently. When I was a child I would be inundated with television specials, movies, school events, and trick-or-treating. As an adolescent, I spent some time with my group of friends. In my early adulthood I spent a lot of it by myself trying to remember how happy I used to be and imagining all the other people who were having fun that I did not. I spent the rest of my young adulthood, alternatively, with friends and sometimes on my own.

I almost went to a Halloween party last year but I didn’t. I was too depressed and I did what I often do in that state: sleep and work.

This past while I’ve been doing something different for Halloween. Instead of wandering around outside at night in the dark aimlessly, or watching television, or hanging out with friends and lovers I have been busy.

I have been busy.

Last week or so, I covered six films in the 2014 Toronto After Dark for GEEKPR0N. I even covered an extra day, a Wednesday, so I could watch one film that was recommended to me. Those of you that read this Blog or my work at GEEKPR0N already know about this. I wrote reviews on The Drownsman, Wolves, Late Phases, Wyrmwood, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and Why Horror?

And it was difficult. There were many times I thought I could just watch the films, then go straight home, and write something out that night. But even though I got wiped out, it was totally worth it. The irony is that once, long ago, I was told that I should write reviews for movies — or movies like these — and I didn’t think I was qualified to do so. It’s only in relatively recent times that I’ve realized that the only way to be qualified to do anything is to make yourself so, and start to believe it.

I got some other things published in honour of Halloween as well. Not only did I write a nice short article on the end of Kris Straub’s Broodhollow Book Two, but I got to examine and see just how a creepypasta created by Eric Heisserer the subreddit no/sleep truly lures readers into fear and trepidation. If you have read my articles on creepypastas, you know something of what you might be in for when you read this particular piece of mine.

But I think there is one achievement in particular that I can really be proud of mentioning. Do you recall, that week or so ago before I went off the Mythic Bios grid again, that I was doing another interview: this one live and in-person? Well, with the help and guidance of GEEKPR0N and Toronto After Dark organization … the following actually occurred.

David Hayter Fav and Retweet

Not only did David Hayter, the screen writer of the first two X-Men films and Watchmen as well as the voice of Solid Snake favourite and retweet my review of his movie Wolves I also got to interview him before Werewolf Night at the Toronto After Dark.

You can find my interview with David Hayter right here.

So that has been my time leading up to Halloween so far. The rest of what I intend to do, however, is as follows. Later this evening I am going to the Silver Snail Halloween Party: the same one I didn’t end up attending last year. I don’t have a costume idea as of yet and I’m having some difficulty finding make-up after my last misadventure but I’m going and to anyone living in Toronto or nearby, I hope that you will join me. It’s organized by GEEKPR0N, in part, and it makes some pretty awesome parties and I don’t intend to miss this one this time around.

The next day I’m going to the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery to pay a visit to Drawing For Deb: In Support of Epilepsy Toronto. There will be signings and a 12-Hour Comics Marathon: Special Edition there to raise money to combat epilepsy which claimed the life of Debra Jane Shelly: a well-known friend of the comics community and someone that I only began to know when I first started coming to the Lounge. She was an awesome person and there will be some good people there. I’ve realized long ago that I am just not an artist with pictures, so I will be attending to pay my respects and I may not be there the entire day.

And then the next day I will be going to Horror-Rama: an all-horror convention where I want to explore and particularly meet Jovanka Vuckovic: the brilliant upcoming director of the Jacqueline Ess film adaptation.

Then somewhere, somehow I will catch up with my Doctor Who recaps and next week get back to my fiction writing and probably sleep for a few centuries as I am bloody exhausted.

So this is both what I have been doing, and what I am going to do. It’s funny. When I was reviewing Why Horror? I started thinking about just how it is effective. When I was a child I read many abridged versions of horror stories, listened to and read written down folktales and urban myths. And I would spend time in the now-defunct Hollywood Movies store reading the backs of horror film VHS tapes. I would attempt to avoid watching them, scared of being caught in the web of their details and becoming committed, but so very fascinated with what I might find.

Not much has changed. I think the reason that horror is so fascinating is the fact that when you look at all the gore, the grisliness, and the uncanny you see what you are not and you also get to see a bit of what you are. You are ultimately safe and in sensible surroundings, or so you think, and it gives you a rush of life — of vitality — in the autumn.

That’s why some people have sex after watching horror. That’s why some people have an urge to create stories and study mythologies after watching horror. That’s why people gather around their friends and celebrate their grisly façades: the orange light in the darkness. That’s ultimately why I’m rambling right now.

I’ve spent my life fascinated by, and avoiding life. But it lures you in. It is the ultimate horror but it is also a spectacle, and best experienced in good company. I hope that, today in sharing all of this with you, that I got to be the latter.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Interviews and More Writing

I’m still doing my writing, but I just thought I’d go into a little more detail about what I was talking about in my last post.

If you remember I talked about an interview I did for GEEKPR0N. That interview was actually with Larry Wilson: the co-writer and co-producer of Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, and the writer and director of Tales From the Crypt for six seasons. Our interview centred around his current project the web series Cindy: a twenty-first century retelling of Cinderella with elements of Reality TV parody, dark humour, and just plain weirdness.

To be honest, I never dreamed that I would be talking to one of the people integral in creating a large feature of my childhood. I first got to know Beetlejuice through the cartoons and it goes without saying that while I knew about The Addams Family before the film, I recall spending a recess in the corner of my elementary school reading its novelization. And I’m not even going into the time where I would to sneak up late and watch some Tales From the Crypt on Fox.

And I will tell you right now that if I had the money and even basic screenwriting experience, I would definitely take up Larry’s script consultation reward. I honestly hope that if I can’t, someone else does.

I’ve also written a little something for Clive Barker. Yes: that’s right. You read that correctly. Basically he has put a challenge out there to write a story for an image he painted and posted on Deviantart. I will link to the image and I’ll post what I wrote here: because one requirement was placing the narrative in the Comments section.

ON WHOSE DREAMS

They built cities to keep them out.

People will tell you all manner of more pragmatic reasons for the creation of cities. They will mention the intersection of culture and trade, of the need for propaganda art to cow enemies and citizens alike, of a place to better house the billions of human beings being born every day.

But some will tell you something else. They’ll inform you, secretly where they think no one else can hear, that all of that art and architecture, the arrangement of the paths, streets, and buildings, and even the placement of certain homes and peoples were arranged as a pattern: to ward them off.

Yet ultimately it is the enclosures that are the thing.

They are no new innovation. It’s well known that ancient humans and their predecessors would hide in their caves during the night after saying farewell to their loved ones, their friends, and their enemies. And even now they would like to forget the howling outside, the scraping against the rock walls and their paintings of animal blood,  the hunger deeper than the tunnels in which they hid and the pleading: to be accepted back among their people.

However, all of them are wrong. They remember it all wrong. Cities weren’t made for the living to hide and hoard their food against the seasons and the predators. The lost weren’t put outside to roam around for eternity. No. The tribes often placed their lost in their homes: sealing them up and painstakingly maintaining them. They would bring them food, tools, and the results of trade. Over time they bargained with them, prayed to them … worshipped their memory and what yet remained.

Caves like wombs became camps. Camps became villages. Villages towns and towns cities. The monuments grew higher each day: growing from the foundation of countless generations and those that tended their ground: which they still do to this very day.

So now do you understand? Do you know why sometimes you feel so tired: so drained? Even as the symbols lengthen like shadows into the sky and expand across the land, nothing truly changes. It is amazing how, simultaneously, you are cramped and alone: like you are the one living in the coffin. You are the one that’s trapped here.

No. Cities were not built to keep them out, but to keep them in.

For cities are not built for the living, but for the dead: in which everything within truly belongs.

So to say I’ve been busy would be something of an understatement. I’ve already told you about the fact that I’m going to be covering the Toronto After Dark. I actually tried to do this last year with Mythic Bios and for my efforts I got an invitation to view and write a review of their opening night. This time, however, I’m attending on behalf of GEEKPR0N. Expect to see me there for the Sunday and Thursday showings.

And I am going to be interviewing someone else. Again, I’m not going to go into any details as of yet but I will say that it will be my first in-person interview ever and I’m both cautious and excited over that prospect.

I remember once being the person that never even dreamed of having these opportunities or being this person as immersed in geek culture as I am now: even when people encouraged me to do so. And well … here we are.

Don’t worry. I will take time to peer in here and update all of you. I just thought you’d like to know about this. And please, read my articles and tell me what you think. It means a lot to me. Yet again, take care everyone. 🙂

Writing Time Again: And More To Come

Hello everyone. I’m glad I got to spoil you with two articles last week, but this will probably be an exception and not the rule. Still, for a while there it felt almost like old times and it was all creative writing: as I obviously have Doctor Who on the brain.

Basically I am going into writing and deadline mode again. So I am going to be focusing a lot of my energies on my current assignment and, when it’s done in some way or form, I’ll be back in force. But before I go, let me tell you a little bit about what has been happening with me so far.

Very soon you are going to be seeing a lot of GeekPr0n articles. In fact, you already have in some ways. Cyan Worlds even retweeted my article on their plans to make a Myst television series. Myst was prevalent in a lot of my young adulthood and there is something very full circle about being recognized by its creators: especially as it is an article about worlds — Ages — linked to by Writing.

But that all said and done, it’s the season of Halloween and I found a lot of current news to talk about. As the zombies moan, spread the love and you know where to follow me.

There are two things of note that I’d like to mention, though, to this regard. First, I had an important interview with someone who has informed many a geeky childhood and is currently doing some good work. The second thing I’d like to mention is that I will be covering some of the upcoming Toronto After Dark for GeekPr0n.

And it’s funny. For years I had nowhere to go and nothing to for Halloween night proper and now I have two events around that time which I am going to attend. I’m excited and I feel different these days. There is still a lot I have to deal with but, and I think this has been happening for a while, I am not the same person that I used to be.

It’s hard to explain and it doesn’t involve spiritual or alien possession, cloning, mutations, or the dark side of the Force as far as I know. I’ve been producing words like a fiend and even though I didn’t get to undertake my Twine projects like I planned, I still haven’t ruled them out and they will be in my thoughts for the future.

In the meantime, I have some other writing to do and I hope to see you all soon and well. Once again, take care everyone. You are all awesome.

Star Wars: Preludes and Interludes Of A Space Opera

I think that if I were a Time Lord, I’d be a unique one that specializes in travelling to alternate timelines: not because I originally intended to, but due to the fact that these are places to which my senses are attuned.

Lately, not to mix metaphors, I’ve been thinking about Star Wars. I mean, when aren’t I? But bear with me. Imagine, in that period between 1980 and 1983, when The Empire Strikes Back made people truly want to know what happened next, George Lucas came up with a plan: a long-term plan.

We already know and suspect that by Return of The Jedi, Lucas was planning on heavily merchandising the hell out of his universe. Some people even think the addition of Ewoks in the last film was an attempt to particularly appeal to children and their love for toys. Even after the sixth film, we had cartoons like Ewoks and Droids.

But what if it didn’t stop there? What if aside from the made-to-TV Ewoks films George Lucas had wanted even more merchandising. At the time, LucasFilm was in the process of developing its special effects technology that would be utilized not just by itself, but by other companies and film productions as well. Even so, by the time of the cartoons it had only been a few years since Return of The Jedi and people — particularly children — were still fresh off of a galaxy far, far away and wanted more. More than that, and I can speak for myself here, fans had questions: about the Jedi, about the Republic before the Empire, and the Clone Wars themselves.

Many of these questions had been answered with the new CGI Clone Wars cartoons and the Prequel films — albeit with some gaps even now — but there was a gap of at least, what, seventeen years or so, between the films: where many of us waited after the re-release of the Old Trilogy to find our answers and immerse ourselves into new Star Wars.

Yet what if during that time, we had something else to tide us over during near two decades of waiting?

Indulge me and imagine this. After the last film and the initial cartoons, LucasFilm decides to release oncoming series that takes place during The Clone Wars. Perhaps Lucas calls them, collectively, Interludes. During this time, we get to essentially see the Republic and the Separatist Crisis, and the Jedi Knights. We get to see a young Obi-Wan and Anakin actually growing together but, more importantly, we get to see something else as well.

Jedi Team

We are witness to other characters — other Jedi and galactic denizens — and we get to watch them grow. We are introduced to the clone troopers early and see them as individuals: while always wondering why they look so like and unlike stormtroopers. And there are hints of Anakin’s back story and how he met Padme. At this stage, perhaps a few seasons or an interrelated series of cartoons (perhaps aided in the 90s by one young Genndy Tartakovsky) and live-action programs: space opera serials not unlike the material from which their structure was derived. Can you imagine that? Coming home from school to watch your Star Wars show?

And yes, the intervening years between the early 1980s and the late 90s might not have much in the way of advanced graphics or special effects by our contemporary standards but imaginary worlds have been built on much less and with more attention to detail. I mean, look at some anime from that period, or even the Old Trilogy and how immersive it was for looking all run-down, and world-weary and real: letting our minds fill in the rest. I could have seen LucasFilm making a lot of money during this time. I mean, think of an Interlude series of Star Wars: Clone Commandos playing alongside G.I. Joe. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t be bad-ass.

Clone troopers

So during this whole time, you have all these background characters getting built up, living, and dying. You get immersed in their lives. Shaak-Ti, Aayla Secura, Kit Fisto, Plo Koon and the other Jedi have many adventures and you get attached to them. You see the Jedi Initiates as children and you want to be a Jedi: relating more to you directly as a child than even Luke does in the movies. Hell, you might even want to be Clone Troopers, have their special armour and play Clones Verses Droids along with Rebels Verses Imperials in the playground.

Of course, there would be comics and books as per usual. And then periods where there are no cartoons or shows. It makes the audience wait with anticipation. You build on the culture that you have already cultivated and created. The important thing is that you leave the questions. You have Anakin refer to his time on Tatooine and being a slave and you never know everything that happened. He has moments of darkness and you don’t know what caused them. You can tell Palpatine is doing something, but you don’t know where it all began or what even started the Clone Wars at all. Then there are the other questions about what will happen to the Jedi: particularly your favourite Jedi and their friends and comrades in the clones.

1999 comes around. Perhaps there has been some intervening years where the Interludes — The Clone Wars cartoons and live-action serials — have died down. Everyone is waiting. Now take the movies know from our timeline. If you want, imagine that the ideas created by George Lucas were written out by other writers: as he had those in the Original Trilogy. Maybe he even has others giving direction to the actors: those who can relate to them and have them react in believable and human ways. Scene-sequencing is interspersed with equal amounts of dialogue and action. CGI is cut down considerably and used sparingly: with a greater reliance on prop development and real world scenery.

The Phantom Menace reveals Anakin’s origins and just why the Jedi think he is so important. Attack of The Clones, three years later, shows us how The Clone Wars began. And, finally and heartbreakingly, we have Revenge of The Sith: where not only do we see Anakin fall, but all those Jedi characters that survived up until this point are mercilessly cut down by the clone troopers that we have, despite our better judgement as adults and adoration as children, grown to love.

Think of the impact of this alternate timeline. Think of how much we could relate to the death of Aayla Secura if we had seen her in various shows fighting for worlds and having her private moments with Kit Fisto. Think about Plo Koon and his time being a part-time mentor for Ahsoka Tano — perhaps even tutoring her in piloting — only to have his ship blown apart by one of his own clones. And the Younglings, those children you saw becoming Jedi … think about the horror in that.

How would you have viewed even the Prequels that we have now if there was all that build-up to the tragedy — a well-written tragedy — that was their Trilogy and the beginning of The Empire.

So now the Prequels are over. You know what happens. And yet … there are still some mysteries. Some Jedi are still alive or unaccounted for. A Rebellion has yet to form. LucasFilm, and perhaps Lucas Arts as it might still be around this alternate timeline can play with that. The fans are devastated by the impact of the Rebellion and Luke Skywalker is felt even more keenly. You watch the films again to know that the Empire fails.

Perhaps Star Wars cartoons and shows are divided into the Preludes — those dealing with the events before the Empire — and Interludes — those focusing on events during the Empire. Maybe some of these shows happen after the Prequels in real-time and others during the 80s and 90s. This is all you have to go on so far.

But everyone wants to know what happens next. They want to know what Luke and Leia do after the Empire falls. They have only had their appetite whet with the Clone Wars and the origins of the Empire. They want more.

And then, after 2005, ten years later after more shows and merchandising — and perhaps with the aid of Disney’s resources — we have: the Sequel Trilogy. The New Trilogy.

Of course, many people might have their own alternate ideal Star Wars watching timeline. Maybe there were no Clone Wars or Prequels. Perhaps the Sequel Trilogy happened right away. But there is something else to consider and it took me a while to personally understand and accept this.

It was Tony Pacitti in his pop culture memoir My Best Friend is a Wookiee that made me consider it. Perhaps one day, if not right now, there will be a new generation of children born. These children might watch The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones. Then they might watch The Clone Wars. Then Revenge of The Sith. Then the Old Trilogy. And the New Trilogy. They will see all the standalone films. And right now, it is all open to them. It isn’t perfect and there are gaps and questions, but they have mysteries to explore and wonder to consume.

It would be like us discovering the magic of Star Wars for the first time and their experiences would be different but similar to our own. They have so much more to see and know. They get to do what we can only dream of doing: living a life of imagination inundated by a variety of Star Wars: decades of Star Wars. And no matter way you look at it, this will be their first step into a much larger world.

Star Wars Legends: Crisis In Infinite Galaxies

It was a little while ago that Star Wars fanatics were informed, by LucasFilm, that the Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels, comics, video games and other multimedia would no longer be considered canon in the Great Holocron of that Galaxy far, far away. The Star Wars canon, such as it is, has been culled down to the current six films, The Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Rebels.

For the most part, all other materials belonging to the Expanded Universe have become Legends: stories that have, for all intents and purposes, been regulated to the status of galactic apocrypha. I wrote something on the subject at GeekPr0n, where I was fairly tongue-and-cheek about the entire matter, but I have to admit I had a few more thoughts on the matter.

You see, it’s not the first time a major franchise has rebooted, or attempted even a partial reboot, of itself: where stories that fans have followed for ages become either the relics of Gold, Silver and Bronze Ages, or non-canon entirely. Say what you will about Star Wars Legends becoming different “points of view” in examining that galaxy, that fans will “always get to keep their stories,” or that they will be consulted for those creators making the “new continuity.” I can even sympathize and admit that there were some Expanded Universe elements that simply didn’t make sense or, frankly, were very badly made.

But that all said, despite my own feelings that I wish the Prequels and The Clone Wars CGI series should be relegated into the realm of Legends (because, frankly, I don’t like the majority of their elements) I feel that there is something very cynical about taking a story and characters that people love and saying that they are no longer legitimate. Oh, they get their Legends and you can still read them but, chances are, you will never see them influence mainstream Star Wars and even if they do, they will not be the same. Your stories and characters are no longer in continuity.

For me, and in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this news felt “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

Obi-Wan

But why stop there? Why simply stop at placing all of the Expanded Universe into its own Legends pocket dimension and go further?

That’s right ladies, gentlemen and other beings throughout the multiverse: perhaps LucasFilm should have “pulled a DC” and created their Crisis In Infinite Galaxies.

I mean, the tools were all there. There were already Star Wars Infinities comics: the very same that are, ironically enough, in Legends right now. But instead of a series of What-ifs, they could easily make a big What-If. And let’s make it a big one that functions a little something like this:

Imagine that each story arc: The Dawn Of The Jedi, Tales Of The Jedi, Knights and The Old Republic, The Star Wars Prequel books, The Clone Wars, Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed, X-Wing, Thrawn all the way to Visions Of The Future, Young Jedi Knights, Star Wars: Jedi Knight, Dark Empire, The New Jedi Order, The Dark Nest Crisis, Legacy Of The Force, Fate Of The Jedi, Star Wars: Legacy, the original Marvel Star Wars comics, The Star Wars, and all other multimedia adventures are their own Galaxies: including the novelizations of the films. Think of them all as alternate timelines and realities like the different Ages of DC and the parallel universes of Marvel.

Star Wars Expanded Universe

And each of these realities contains alternate versions of our favourite characters, and some unique characters as well. We take these characters and settings and, through some deus ex machina — through the art of the crossover stolen from the traditional comic book superhero genre — we do what Star Wars does best: we engineer a plot-driven conflict and destroy every reality until there is only one: the accepted one.

Think of this as the premise: there is an imbalance in the Force. In the Splinter Galaxy, an archetypal and primordial power known as the Kaiburr Crystal has been taken from its place in the Temple of Pomojema on Mimban and split into pieces by the forces of the Light and the Dark. Because of the separation of this Crystal and its removal from its resting place, the hyperspace disturbances on the edge of the Galaxy fluctuate.

Kaiburr Crystal

Meanwhile, in other Galaxies the ancient Celestials and the Rakatan Infinite Empire become aware of this shift in the boundaries beyond their Galaxy: or perhaps a hyperspace lane that one of them is manipulating warps into an unstable portal in the Deep Core. The Celestials proceed to explore while the Rakata mobilize their fleet and their Dark side-fuelled technology for invasion. The spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda appear after a mysterious rift opens up near Endor and give Luke Skywalker a new mission. Then you have the Force Priestesses that taught Qui-Gon Jinn and Master Yoda ascension, along with The Ones, the anchorites in the Clone Wars Galaxy sense the destabilization of reality and summon the Chosen One and his allies to deal with this issue from Mortis.

Of course, this does not go unnoticed by the Dark Side. In addition to the Rakata you have Abeloth from the Fate Galaxy rushing in past the remnants of the Centerpoint and Sinkhole Stations: where a rift opens in the Maw and her realm “beyond shadows.” It gets worse, of course. Palpatine from the Dark Empire Galaxy seeks all of his alternate selves and plans to drain their knowledge and become a god, whereas the Sith Emperor Vitiate from The Old Republic Galaxy plots to destroy, devour all life everywhere and do the same.

Now imagine a young Luke Skywalker meeting all of his alternate selves: including the older Jedi-Bendu version of himself from The First Draft Galaxy, the swashbuckling hero from the Marvel Galaxy, and his Jedi Master selves from the others. Envision Han Solo’s genuine shock when he sees a reptilian version of himself that tells him about the odds. Perhaps Starkiller from the Unleashed Galaxy meets Annikin. The clones from Republic Commando run into their The Clone Wars counterparts. Even now I can see the Delta and Omega squads stating, “Brain chips? Brain chips!? What the kriff is this load of osik?”

Then you have Revan from The Old Republic Galaxy meeting The Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker and making the latter wonder what it is to be the Chosen One. Or Darth Vader encountering his First Draft counterparts: the general sharing his name, Prince Valorum of the Knights of the Sith and the prototype demonic artist’s version of himself. And just imagine the Force spirits of different Galaxies meeting each other: such as the young Anakin and the old Anakin many of us grew up seeing.

Star Wars Conceptual Drawing

And the Space Fortress and Death Stars band together, all survivors band together as a terrifying amalgam of World Devastator and Sun Crusher technology — something with a name like the Cosmic Obliterator — crafted from a Galaxy where a Droid Revolution or an Abominor invasion succeeded, or perhaps even the Star Forge gaining its own sentience and independence — obliterates one Galaxy after another in its quest to reunite the Kaiburr Crystal shards and gain unlimited power.

Star Wars Zombies

Or worse … perhaps the malicious Mnggal-Mnggal, coming from the Unknown Regions Galaxy, is seeking to expand its pain, suffering, and self-awareness across all the flesh in existence utilizing the Sith and Imperial-created Blackwing Virus to infect and infiltrate beings in all currently enmeshed realities — the only thing stopping it being a united Kaiburr Crystal. Or the strange and transdimensional Waru, from his Crystal Star Galaxy is drawn into the madness and wants to just go home. That’s right. I went there. I definitely went there. And yes, the blob gets his own Galaxy of that book title’s name. So there.

Yes, I am being incredibly sarcastic. But why not? If each story is no longer canon or set within a Star Wars continuity, why should there be a causality inferred between them? Of course there are copyrights to consider and more fan rage, but just consider the stories you could tell with this attitude. And imagine if the stories were told well. Think of all these characters and their interactions, the stories they themselves can tell. Imagine them making fun of, but respecting their own origins for what they are. And when they die, they can die with some kind of meaning: something more than simply being told they no longer exist.

Star Wars Explosion

And even with the cop-out of the reunification of the Kaiburr Crystal in the centre of the First Draft Galaxy’s most potent Force nexus repairing and “rebooting” the Galaxy of long, long ago erasing the characters’ knowledge of past events, does it really matter? Because if they don’t know of the struggles, if they no longer exist as the credits and the epic music roll heralding a new and uncertain reality, we will remain. We will know.

Jedi-Bendu

We will mourn the passing of the strange teleportation, time-travel, advanced droids and lost civilizations of the Marvel and Dark Horse Galaxies, the origins of the Je’daii civilization from the Dawn Galaxy, the short and meaningful lives of Frontline Combat clone commandos, the insane pinnacle of Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker who finally comes into his own, beautiful Zeltrons, the varied lives of bounty hunters, scum and villainy, and the love and passion between worlds.

Or, maybe this could be the process by which future writers will decide what goes into the new primary Galaxy. Who knows.

I will tell you now: this is the stuff of fanfiction. But I won’t make this story. I can’t. I recognize my limitations. But if something has to end, it should go out with a bang and everyone should have their time. I salute anyone who can, is, or will be running with this mad jigsaw idea of a crossover.

My rant has turned into a homage. Thank you for reading it. The Force be with you. Always.

Kids Games Never Finish: Urasawa Naoki’s 20th Century Boys

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.

20th_Century_Boys_symbol

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.

Friend

[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.

20th Century Boys Characters

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.

The games of children never end.

20th Century Boys True Friend