Monthly Archives: November 2012

At Last! The Avengers Reviewed

Oh my, The Avengers has got to be in the top two superhero films of all time. Damn, that was a great movie. I freaking loved it!

Everything about this film is almost perfect. And that makes writing this review so difficult. Where can I point out the flaws in all of the elements that are so right? Well, there are a few things.

I can’t say that I’m overly fond of Agent Coulson’s fanboy attitude towards Captain America. That kind of got on my nerves.

Another issue I had is the requisite superhero brawl before the inevitable team up/ team formation. Ugh, why does this always have to happen? Too big egos?

That said, I think Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) does a stand out performance. And all of the actors who make up the Avengers do a splendid job.

The one acting job I have an issue with is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. In ThorLoki’s tragic journey to super villain status is heartbreaking and very well acted. Indeed, I much preferred his story over Thor’s. But in The Avengers, he becomes just another petty wannabe tyrant. What made him work so well as a character in Thor just seems absent here. And that is a waste, to be sure. And the acting shows that, in my opinion.

And the credits interlude scene? Bah. I never liked Thanos. So I’m not really looking forward to him being a main antagonist in future films.

Now, let us shift a little to the action. Whoa, some of those scenes are just amazing. Especially the attack on the Helicarrier and the Battle of New York. Oh my, now that is how you do action sequences! Spectacular!

Is it possible to do a fair review when you really enjoy (or love) a film? I don’t know, honestly. I know The Avengers has its flaws, but what it gets right makes up for it by far. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, why the heck not?

 

I know this review is rather short, but it is late, and I have other things I want to do.

Also a quick reminder to comment topic ideas for post 300. If you don’t, I’ll write a post on my obsessions. Until my next post. . .

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Why the (Bleep) Do I Need A Reason (to Create a Character)!?!

I’m so very tempted to use profanity in this post. But I’ve refrained from it so far on this blog. Maybe I should change my policy. Just in case, there will be profanity. Apologies to those who don’t approve of such language.

I wrote a post a few months back titled “Where in Science Fiction and Fantasy are the GLBT Characters?”. I recently received a comment on that post. Two things jumped out at me: the desire to not include  LGBT characters “for their own sake” and a desire to see no LGBT representation in YA. In my response, I had issues with both statements. And I want to go into the former more here. With a large dose of ranting included.

Why the fuck do I have have to have a reason to include LGBT characters in my work (or any work for that matter)? Seriously, what the hell is meant by “not there for their own sake”? I don’t mean to pick exclusively on zireael07. My own brother shares the same opinion. And in my mind, it is stupid.

Supremely stupid, in fact.

In my opinion, I think that whole argument really reads as “we don’t actually want LGBT characters, but we don’t want to appear homophobic, so we’ll waffle it.” Well guess what? You kind of do.

Thing is, Gil and Archeth are amazing characters. Could Richard K. Morgan have achieved similar effects if the two are gender flipped heterosexuals? Maybe. But the choice to go with the LGBT content is a brave one. And makes for compelling reading.

Bunker from the Teen Titans is an equally amazing character. Scott Lobdell deserves huge props for creating him. Did he have to be gay? I don’t know. Does it matter? He is. And it is a great thing.

I could go on and on. But I’m not.

Why? Because, like I said earlier, I don’t get what the fuck the argument “not there for their own sake” means. I’m going off the assumption it actually means “we really don’t want those characters around” without sounding like homophobic douchebags.

Here’s the thing. Yes, as a writer I’m big on diversity. I want to have as diverse a field of characters as I can get. Does that mean I need a “reason” to go beyond straight white people? Fuck no.

The more I think about this whole thing, more pissed I honestly get. I think because I’ve realized that in a why, it is a bald faced attempt to force self censorship on creators. If the pressure is to think about “why” or “for what reason”, doesn’t the resulting self doubt lead to inclusion being less likely? Would that mean Bunker, Earth 2 Alan Scott, Wiccan, Hulkling, Kate Kane, Carolina Dean, and all the other LGBT characters in science fiction, fantasy, comics, etc. not exist?

Well fuck that shit. Create the fucking characters you (the writer) want to. And for the nay sayers, they don’t matter.

On Space Opera

When it comes to speculative fiction (sf), I’ve always been significantly more of a fantasy fan. That’s not to say that I don’t like science fiction. I do. But, like I said in my previous post, I’m not overly fond of the science fiction often championed by the sf internet circles I frequent.

When I read science fiction, I prefer space opera by a significant margin. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I was introduced to science fiction largely by space opera. Okay, I started out as a Star Trek and Babylon 5 fan. And my love for those series moved me gradually into a small passion for space opera.

My favorite science fiction novel is Dune with Excession and Chasm City fighting it out for second place.

What I love about space opera is the scope of the story. And the fact that the focus is on both sweeping narratives and interesting characters. Don’t get me wrong, I like science, but I’m really not that interested in scientific accuracy or nitty gritty. So what if the FTL method is ludicrous? Just so long as it works.

Science fiction has been plagued for decades with the question of why people read it. What is the value of science fiction? To me, that is a rather stupid question. I read science fiction because I want to be entertained. If I also happen to have my mind blown by the themes, ideas, characterization, etc. of the work, then that is absolutely a great thing. But I don’t read for revelation or prophecy. The assumption that science fiction’s worth is tied up to its predictive accuracy is, to me, bull. Perhaps that is why I have an issue with a lot of science fiction? It dates so poorly.

Now, space opera isn’t the only subgenre of science fiction I read. I do like me some punk (so long as the punk is actually punk). And I don’t completely hate the New Wave. But I tend to go for space opera.

The funny thing is that I haven’t really read science fiction in months. I think the last time I read any science fiction was either an anthology or for Critters. Damn, I need to get some science fiction read!

 

Crap, before I post this, I need to remind every one about Post 300. Remember, comment any ideas you have for the subject.

Also, here’s an update of for the posts I have for the rest of the week:

I’m adding a rant on LGBT inclusion in fiction (again). Expect this either tonight or early tomorrow morning.

I also have a review of The Avengers on tap. I just need to watch the film first.

And I have a ton of comics coming in from my local library. So expect a review of The Children’s Crusade among others.

Later.

Thinking about Media and Genre: What Interests Me?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for two days now. And I’ve been rather distracted by life. And time. But now I’ve got some to spare, so I’m taking it. Tonight, I want to write about media and genre. I want to explore why I want to write in certain media and focus on certain genres. But as I’ve written before, never say never that I won’t migrate to media or genres I have no interest in now.

Media

Poetry: I’ve written poetry for creative writing course assignments. And some of my favorite literature courses have been centered around poetry. But I have no real passion for writing poetry.

Prose Fiction: Let’s divide this up in two, shall we?

Short Fiction: I know I should be passionately in love with short fiction. But I’m just not. I like to read short stories and novellas when I get the chance. But I have no real passion for them. And even less in writing them. I just don’t know. . . I just don’t dig it.

Novels: Now this is what I’m passionate about! I love getting in depth and exploring characters and worlds. Many of my ideas scream to become novels. Novels take a lot of work, though. There is a demand for novelists to have an eye for detail. And an ability to keep the readers’ interest for hundreds or thousands (yikes) of pages. When I develop ideas and projects, they are always divided in two categories: novels and. . .

Comics: To be honest, I’ve had a fraught relationship with comics. Comics were among my first loves. But I’m a fickle and inconstant fan. In recent years, I’ve fallen back in love with comics. Hard. And I want to write them. Now, my main focus is on creator owned projects. I have several ideas for comics series I want to develop. Would I ever want (or love) to write for the Big Two? Hell yeah. I would love to write Catwoman, Red Robin, Young Avengers, Storm, etc. Never say never.

Video Games: Much like comics, my relationship with video games is fraught. I love video games. And I suck at them. Really badly. I’ve only ever beaten a few games. More often than not, I quit at some point in frustration. That doesn’t mean I don’t love watching other people playing. Nor does that mean I’m not interested in how video games are made. Would I ever want to write for video games? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the industry. But, never say never.

Television: I currently have an obsession with serialized fiction (of which comics and television are the prime examples of). But do I really want to put up with a team of writers, producers, show runners, etc.? Probably not. But who knows?

Movies: Again, I’m not too interested in writing for film. My brother once tried to get me to write a few movies with him. But I’ve never really felt an impetus to want to write a screenplay. I mean, I’ve written a play before. Didn’t like it though. So, I think I’ll pass.

Genre

This post is starting to go on longer than I really want (and I don’t want to write a two part post), so I’ll speed through this. Any questions, please leave me comments.

Given the nature of this blog (and my interests), I’ve always wanted to write speculative fiction. I’ve tended to naturally focus more on the fantasy side of things compared to science fiction. And as I’ve gotten older, that tendency has started to grow.

Perhaps the issue is that the type of science fiction popular with the internet circles I frequent are not the types of science fiction I would like to write. I’m more of a space opera guy. I’m not overly interested in hard science fiction or near future dystopia. Do like a bit of punk, though. If the writers actually know what the hell punk is. . .

But that is not to say that I’m exclusively interested in speculative fiction. For a long time, I wanted to write literary realism. I gradually abandoned that to focus on speculative fiction. But there are inklings of an idea that may be calling me back. I don’t know though. I could still somehow make it speculative in some fashion. You never know with me. I mean, I read a history book and I automatically get ideas for fantasies.

In the end

Crap. This post is getting more than a little long. There’s not much else to say except to always remember never say never. And to never try to predict the future.

With that in mind, lets have a preview of what I want to do the rest of this week!

I want to write a post on space opera. I want to explore my obsessions. And I have The Avengers to review.

There is one thing I want to try, though. In the next few weeks, I will hit my 300th post. I would like to give the choice for post 300 to you, the readers. Comment your suggestions, please.

Later.

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving (or a good day in general) yesterday. My own Thanksgiving was decent. I am thankful that I didn’t gorge myself yesterday, though.

I really don’t have much on my mind lately. I’ll try to have more productive week nest week.

Until then, later.

Dropping. . . Fairy Tail?!

My local library has finally gotten volumes 20 and 21 of Fairy Tail. I’ve read them. And I hate to say it, I didn’t like them. In reading them, I’ve come to realize some major issues in Mashima’s plotting/ scripting.

For one thing, I am really hating the Edolas arc. Seriously, even when Lucy is the most powerful member of the guild (since the rest can’t use their powers), she is still portrayed as ineffectual compared to the others.

Further more, I’m not loving how the Oracion Seis arc ends. Really? Zero is defeated that quickly? Ugh. And the aftermath? Yesh.

Why could Jellal not stay “dead”? Really. Mashima’s great weakness is that many of the antagonists become redeemed. Which kind of makes things rather pointless. I mean there is Kageyama, Lyon and his team, Juvia and Gajeel, Erza’s old friends (including Jellal), and Hoteye. And if you read the spoilers: Coco and Pantherlily (Edolas) and  Ultear and Meldy (Tenrou) all eventually defect to aid the protagonists. Hell, Jellal and Ultear made great recurring antagonists! Why do they have to become good?

Yes, having Jellal back (and then imprisoned) puts Erza through an emotional ringer. But still, I think it would be better for her to still love Jellal as an antagonist rather than as a recurring ally.

I’ve also previously mentioned my annoyance about the whole Zeref plot twist mess. And of course there are characters who just cannot stay dead. Heart warming, yes, but still annoying.

What about Wendy? I really don’t like her introduction. She’s likeable and all. But there is a little bit of the Cousin Oliver about her, though. And her sudden inclusion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, to be honest.

And one more thing, I really am starting to dislike how Natsu almost always has to be the one to defeat (or deliver the final blow) to the main antagonists in recent arcs. Why can’t Erza have been the one to defeat Jellal?

Now I’m just venting. Venting is, perhaps, good. I mean, I still love the art. I’m just finding myself frustrated with the repetitive nature of the story arcs and the tendency to redeem antagonists. Even when it seems more interesting to keep them as antagonists.
That’s it for my Fairy Tail rant. I don’t know if I will drop it or not. Maybe I’ll give it another arc or two and see if it improves. Otherwise, I may really be out of good manga to read. And that would suck.

Seven Bats on Film

If my memory serves, the only post on the Batman films is my review of The Dark Knight RisesI recently had the chance to rewatch the first two Batman films, Batman and Batman Returns. I originally thought that I preferred those two films to the other five. But now, I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. The first two Bat films are far superior to the third and fourth films. I mean seriously, Batman Forever is okay but ridiculous and Batman and Robin is just unwatchable.

But compare the Burton Duology to the Nolan Trilogy. Perhaps the Burton films rose in my estimation given the fact that I haven’t seen them in a decade or more. Was my high estimation of the two films based solely on nostalgia and memory?

Well, I certainly think that is the case with Batman Returns. Rewatching after so long, I found that film to not really hold up. Especially when compared to The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Why?

Well, time to compare Catwoman to Catwoman. Let me be clear: Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/ Catwoman is far, far superior a character compared to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. Where BR’s Catwoman struggles to assume a stronger position (and is undercut by the hints that Catwoman is a “freak”), TDKR’s Catwoman has a subtle strength. That she can kick ass without becoming “abnormal” is so much more satisfying.

And overall, I’m finding that Batman Returns does not hold up very well in terms of plot. Penguin’s machinations, though numerous, always fail. Despite the illusion of a threat, he really isn’t. I mean, Batman defeats him quickly in each engagement.

And really, it takes months for recall and political elections to occur. And Batman Returns only lasts a week or two at most.

I am disappointed that I’m not loving this film as much any more.

So what about Batman? I don’t know anymore which Joker I prefer. To a degree, I almost want to say that I’m leaning more towards Ledger’s Joker. But, it has been years since I’ve seen the first two Nolan films, too.

Maybe I should take the time to watch them again.

Ranting on Representation: Frustrations with LGBTQ Characters

This is a rant. During the course of which, I may write something stupid (or wrong). If I do, please let me know in the comments.

For many of you who read this blog, you know that I’m very interested in how GLBTQ characters are depicted in literature. Usually, I’ve limited myself to just discussing LGBTQ characters in genre (sf, fantasy, and comics). For this post, I’m going to spread out and discuss issues of representation outside of genre, too.  So, what’s my beef?

Kurt Hummel

I don’t like Glee. I think the writing is atrocious and the vision schizophrenic. The only reason why I’m interested is because Kurt Hummel is one of the most important GLBTQ characters on television today. Kurt Hummel, love him or hate him, represents a zeitgeist change in how LGBTQ characters are represented.

You see, Kurt Hummel is one of the rare GLBTQ characters who have sustained importance to a show. Especially given the genre. I mean, Victorious, set in a performing arts high school in Los Angeles, has no LGBTQ characters that I know of. Seriously?

But. Kurt Hummel could be a great character, instead he is damned to the hells of narrative tropes. Among other things.

While I have issues with some of Kurt’s season one story, it seems to me that season one was his greatest moment (plus maybe the first half of season two) as a character. Even if it does incorporate a reversed standard coming out narrative (which I loath). Following that, Kurt’s major stories involve his saccharine relationship with Blaine (which did have potential for some interesting stories, I will admit, just never happened) and a demotion to GBFF for Rachel (how insipidly stereotyped can you get- I hate the GBFF trope, by the way).

Another thing that bugs me about Kurt Hummel is his inexplicable lack of “sexiness.” Even though he damn well is. Why he is depicted as a delicate flower just seems stupid. I don’t get it. Let him go through a sexy phase! (They won’t though).

And finally, what the hell is up with the lack of a gay community on the show? I get that Lima is a small city, but it ain’t a hick town. There are three major cities  (including Columbus) within less than a three hour drive. There has to be more than just Scandals, damn it. Is this a case of “but not too gay”?

Ian Gallagher (US Version)

In many ways, I much prefer the “anti Kurt Hummel” Ian Gallagher from the US version of Shameless. Now, I do have issues with him as well. For one thing, I really don’t get why he hasn’t come out yet. Hell, most of his family knows he’s gay already. And Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is history. So why? Unless it’s just not his time.

But what I especially like about the Ian Gallagher character is that there is no fear in showing his sexuality. For me, I believe that it is important to have the courage to show gay male sexuality. Even if it is on network tv.

Bunker (Teen Titans), Alan Scott (Earth 2), and Wiccan and Hulkling (Young Avengers)

I don’t know if this came from an interview or just hearsay, but I think that Scott Lobdell mentioned that when he pitched Bunker, he was told to not make him “too gay.” What does that mean? Now, I haven’t kept up with Teen Titans. So far, I think Bunker has only come out to Wonder Girl. But that is about it. And somewhere, he has a boyfriend conveniently in a coma. So no romantic action (unless said boyfriend doesn’t actually exist).

It took gumption to recreate Alan Scott as an out gay man. The kiss between him and Sam is just amazing. But (spoiler alert) Sam dies in that same issue. So no romance for Green Lantern for a good long while.

What would happen if Wiccan and Hulkling ever broke up? I don’t know. They’ve been together so long that they’re practically inseparable. And it still took them nearly eight years to get an on panel kiss! Seriously? Hopefully the new Young Avengers series won’t shy away from some Wiccan and Hulkling love scenes.

This Post has gone on too long

I think I should conclude with how I want LGBTQ characters to be represented. I want to focus on giving them narratives. Narratives in which they stand on their own. Not being tied as a GBFF with perhaps some narrative crumbs. I want to see arcs devoted to them, not see them easily become disposable. I want to see them become great characters who just happen to be GLBTQ. But I don’t want that aspect to be completely neglected either. I want fully human characters that aren’t afraid to show who they are.

 

Comic Book Review Day, Part Two: Morning Glories Vol. One For a Better Future

Morning Glories is a comic book series written by Nick Spencer with art by Joe Eisma. Oh my, I freaking love this book. I mean seriously, after I finish this review, I have every intention of buying a copy. And then follow the series. I like it that damn much.

Morning Glories is set at the fictional Morning Glory Academy, a prestigious prep school noted for its rather unorthodox teaching methods. And by unorthodox, I mean killing, torturing, and brainwashing. The series follows six new students to the Academy. Each are troubled and, to a degree, mysterious.

The first five issues comprise a single arc that introduces the characters and sets the stage for a conflict between the students and the faculty.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to go into much detail. As the six new students arrive (Casey, Zoe, Jade, Ike, Hunter, and Jun), they find themselves immediately on the bad side of the teachers, especially Miss Daramount, the principal.

It quickly becomes apparent that the faculty are looking for something in the students and hope to find it in the new crop. Casey soon finds herself the primary focus of the faculty and the de facto leader of the new students. It is her actions that save her classmates during a detention, and it is her leadership that prevents Jade from being put down by the sadistic Nurse Nine.

The last issue in the book looks into the future (?) and sets up further mysteries about the school and the, perhaps, its supernatural nature. And the students?

The characterizations are amazing. Especially the six students. Casey is clearly the protagonist. Her enthusiasm is quickly quashed by fear, anger, and hatred. She quickly morphs into a determined leader. As Casey is an overachiever, Zoe is first introduced with a number of boys (all of whom she dates). She comes off as indifferent and superficial, but there are hidden depths that remain unexplored. If you think Zoe is bad, Ike takes it to a thousand. Zoe jokes of a pregnancy scare. At the age of sixteen, Ike already has six children. Of the six, he is easily the most detestable. Jade is easily the emo of the group. Hunter is in a way the every man of the six. Rather average if not a little geeky. Jun is easily the most mysterious of the six. He knows something about the school. He knows its dangers. And he has a twin with a gun.

The villains are equally interesting. What can I say? I rather like Miss Daramount and Mr. Gribbs. There is a subtle humor that plays behind their dialogue. Especially Miss Daramount’s propensity of getting caught in explosions. A running gag, perhaps?

The art is very good, in my opinion. My only issue with it is that some of the characters tend to look a little too similar to each other.

Now that this is done, I’m going to go buy a copy.

 

Comic Book Review Day, Part One: Scalped Vol. One: Indian Country

Scalped is a 60 issue series written by Jason Aaron with art by R.M. Guera. This review covers the first collected volume of the series, entitled “Indian Country.” All in all, this was a very surprising and enjoyable read.

A quick synopsis: After fifteen years, Dashiell Bad Horse has returned to the Prairie Rose Reservation and finds himself unwillingly drafted into the reservation police force.

There are two arcs included in the volume. First is “Indian Country” where Dashiell Bad Horse must acclimate to his new reality as the newest member of the reservation police force. The second arc “Hoka Hey” explores the relationships between Dash and Carol Ellroy, Chief Red Crow and Gina Bad Horse as well as exploring the events of 1975 (inspired by the Leonard Peltier  case).

As a character, Dashiell can be easily described as an angry young man. He outwardly hates the reservation, but as Agent Nitz points out, there is also something there that pulls him back.

His tumultuous relationship with his mother is also excellently depicted. Gina Bad Horse  is a Native American rights activist who (in Dash’s mind) abandoned him so she could carry on her crusade. In reaction to this, he not only becomes a cop on the reservation, but is also revealed to be an undercover FBI agent working under Nitz (even if unwillingly).

Given Scalped’s noir roots, there is also the femme fatale/ damsel in distress figure embodied in Carol Ellroy, Dash’s old love interest and Chief Red Crow’s troubled daughter. The sexual tension between them is palpable and explosive. Both characters come off as incredibly self destructive.

Even as the main narrative focuses on Dash’s mission to bring down Red Crow (a former Native rights activist turned politician/ mob boss), the events of 1975 fuels the flames of the present. From determining what kind of reservation Prairie Rose will become ( the casino or the old ways?) to a racist  FBI agent’s pursuit of vengeance/ justice, none of these characters can escape their pasts.

And the final panels are just awesome.

Now, the art. If I were to just look at the art without reading the comic, I don’t think I would like it. The art is gritty and noirish. But as I read the comic, the art makes everything come together. The art is, honestly, perfect for the series.

Now, I ILLed this book from the library. But I must say that I look forward to picking up this series as the opportunities arise.