My Knee-Jerk Reaction To the New Thor

Today we learned there will be a new Thor, and this Thor is female.  My first reaction to this news is, “Thank goodness they are not calling her ‘Lady Thor’ or ‘Thorette.'”  I also thought, “Hey, she’s fully dressed – good!”

I had these initial reactions because these are two issues that bother me to no end.  I have two very young daughters, and we love super heroes.  But it irritates me that most of our super hero toys are male – Superman, Batman, Iron Man, etc.  In fact, my oldest daughter asked me when she was four if there were female super heroes besides Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl.  Of course there are, we all know there are, but I started coming up with names like Spider-Woman, Batwoman, She-Hulk, and something dawned on me.  By and large, most of our female super heroes are derivatives of a male counterpart.  Those who are original, such as Wonder Woman or Black Canary, tend to wear little clothing or fish-net stockings.  I think this is a bad message to my daughters.

I want my daughters to know that they can and should rely on themselves.  I want them to be original, innovative, and free-thinkers.  I don’t want them assuming that they should only take an existing idea and alter it.  They need to always strive to break the mold, to do things their own way, and to avoid letting gender come into the issue at all.

Marvel Comics is a corporate entity.  I’m thrilled that they’ve allowed Black Widow to shine in their cinematic universe, but in the comic book universe, there is much room for improvement.  But, because they are a corporate entity, oftentimes their books are determined by the bottom line – profit.  Why not give this new “Thor” her own identity and let her float?  Because there is a good chance she would sink.  Don’t get me wrong, I would constantly take chances on new, original characters – both male and female.  Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of Marvel, and if I was, I’d probably drive them out of business pretty quickly (or take them to soaring new heights).

You take a female character, put a very well-known brand title on her (Thor), and she will make money.  From Marvel’s perspective, they are doing something initially perceived as risky and progressive, but there’s really no risk at all.  Comic books are largely a male dominated field on both the production side of things as well as in regards to the readership.  Plus, we all know the male Thor will be back before Avengers 2 comes out.

I’m the first to admit this is all speculation.  We don’t know much of anything about the new Thor.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction and I addressed that fact in the title of this article.

But I wish I didn’t have to settle.  I wish I didn’t only feel good about the fact that they aren’t calling her “Lady Thor” and that she’s fully clothed.  I wish my daughters had heroes that matched their imagination and independence.

 

Picture taken from Women You Should Know‘s Facebook Page

Keep the “Wonder” In Wonder Woman

Against my better judgement, I’m playing the old comic book fan card.  You know the one: the “I’m quitting this comic because of a creative change!”

Let me explain.  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe and called the (sort of) reboot “The New 52.”  In the (sort of) new DC Universe, super heroes have only been around for about five years.

Some of the (sort of) rebooted titles have languished due to the change, but others have flourished, such as Wonder Woman.

You should know before The New 52, I never bought a Wonder Woman comic book in my life.  Truthfully, I wasn’t very excited about buying it for the first time ever as a thirty-something, but the fact is that Brian Azzarello is a master storyteller, Cliff Chiang is a fantastic artist, and I could not resist their combined talent.

Their Wonder Woman is rooted deeply in Greek mythology, which is totally in keeping with her history.  The Greek Gods are important characters in her title, but they are nothing like you’ve seen before.  Azzarello revitalized an already wildly popular character by making her appeal to a larger audience.  Azzarello’s interviews before the title’s release describing his plans for Wonder Woman and the Gods’ incorporation proved the main reason I came aboard.

Furthermore, Chiang draws an attractive, respectable Wonder Woman.  I’m not embarrassed for my wife to see my Wonder Woman books lying around.  I’m not worried about my small daughters’ sense of body image when they look at Chiang’s Wonder Woman on the covers.  Chiang draws her beautifully.  She is large and feminine.  She is powerful and graceful.   Her costume could be manipulated into something skimpy and trashy, but Chiang makes it appropriate and even regal.

Wonder Woman has been an intelligent, exciting story concerning Wonder Woman and her Greek God family with dynamic, attractive art that celebrates Wonder Woman’s heroism.

I worry that all that is going to change.

Azzarello and Chiang are leaving the title.  They said in the beginning they had a three-year story to tell, and that third year is about over.

A few days ago, DC announced the new Wonder Woman team.  I at first felt pretty good about it.  The writer is Meredith Finch, who is, of course, a woman.  A woman writing Wonder Woman is always a good thing in my book.  Meredith’s husband, David, will be the artist.  Uh-oh.  David Finch is an engaging artist, but his women tend to appear more like pin-up models.  My red flag is going up.

To make matters worse, Meredith Finch is on record as saying she wants to veer away from the Greek mythology and focus more on Wonder Woman’s interactions with her fellow Amazons and the Justice League.

Here is where I play my comic book fan card and scream, “I’m out!”

Here’s why: I don’t want the overly sexual Wonder Woman that Finch will most likely depict in his art.  I certainly don’t want a Wonder Woman title where she is primarily interacting with the Justice  League.  You know where I can get that?  The Justice League books.  Or the Superman and Wonder Woman book.  When I read a Wonder Woman book, I want it to be a unique experience, something specific to the character that sets her apart from her shared universe.  The Finch team seems intent upon returning Wonder Woman to the status quo.

I get it.  Wonder Woman is going to be in the new Superman movie.  It will also have Batman with probable appearances by Aquaman and Cyborg.  I suspect the rest of the Justice League will show up as well.  They want to position Wonder Woman to capitalize off of the movie, and they want to position the movie to capitalize off of Wonder Woman.  I think they call that corporate synchronization.

I understand their intentions, but it’s a shame.  Azzarello and Chiang made a character I previously refused to read my favorite DC title, a title I regularly told people who don’t read comic books to check out.

So I’m playing the comic book fan card: I’m out.

Chiang vs. Finch

For a Guy Who Doesn’t Watch a Lot Of TV, I’m About To Watch a Lot Of TV

I’ll be honest, I don’t consider myself much of television guy, but when thinking about my DVR settings I realized that next season I will be a full-0n couch potato.  Here are the shows I currently watch …

  • Doctor Who
  • Sherlock
  • Orphan Black
  • Mountain Men
  • Arrow

The good news is that most of those shows have very short seasons, so I don’t have to commit too much of myself to them.  Unfortunately, that’s all about to change.  Here are the shows I want to add to my viewing …

  • The Flash
  • Gotham
  • Constantine
  • Scalped
  • Preacher
  • DMZ

Yes, these are all shows based on comic books, and if that surprises you then you don’t really know me at all, do you?  But hey, The Walking Dead came from the comic book realm, and it seems to be doing okay (even if I did quit it).

Oh, by the way, the list would be even longer if I had Netflix.  You could add Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and AKA Jessica Jones.

Which of these new shows will I stick with?  I can pretty much guarantee The Flash (lifelong fan), Gotham (lifelong fan), and DMZ (amazing Vertigo comic series).  The others are “wait and see.”

Honestly, added on to my love of NFL football, this is just too much TV.

 

My Initial Impression Of the Affleck As Batman Photograph

Today Zack Snyder released the first image depicting Ben Affleck as Batman for the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, tentatively titled Batman Vs. Superman.  Though the movie does come out until May 6, 2016, it’s never too early to get the fans worked into a frenzy, and this photograph has apparently done just that.

You know I love Batman.  I love all iterations of the character.  There’s enough love in my heart for the character to accept most interpretations.  And concerning this image, honestly, I like where they’ve taken him.  It’s already been established that this Batman will be an older and wiser, battle-hardened version, such as the Batman depicted in the critically acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, and this costume does much to evoke that series’ imagery.

For example, I love that they have finally got a cape and cowl that seem attached to one another and organic to the man beneath.  Best of all, his head doesn’t look huge because of his mask.  It looks very sleek and form fitting.  It’s good.

I also like the over-sized bat symbol on his chest. Again, this looks like the one from the graphic novel, and that’s okay by me.  The belt looks cool and useful.  I love the little nuances of the costume/armor – the little lines and details.  Snyder is an extremity stylized director, and the costume reflects that.

Ironically, the costume is also far more simple than I expected.  It does not look clunky with plates of armor, it does not appear awkward due to gargantuan headgear.  Even the ears are more subtle.

In fact, quit honestly, this looks like the most “comic book” version of the costume we’ve had perhaps since the 60’s television show.  I hear rumblings that it would appear as though Jim Lee drew it, and that seems to be the case.

Are there some things I wish they’d done? Sure.  I’m a little tired of the all black Batman.  Some kind of grey and black contrast would have been nice, or even grey and dark blue.  I also miss the yellow oval included with the bat symbol as well.  Finally, the white eye slits like in the comics would be so cool, but I get that they want us to recognize the actor beneath in some capacity.

But, even having said all that, I am satisfied with this look.  To me, it’s the most loyal to the source material we’ve had yet.  I’m excited to see more during the next two years.

Graduation Day

Today is rather special for me because it’s Illinois State University’s graduation day.  On this day I officially earned my Master’s in Reading, a journey that lasted four years.

There are many people who supported this venture, but I particularly wanted to thank my wife and in-laws for the role they played in my success.  My in-laws live in town, and virtually every night I had class they were here, helping out with the kids.

It goes without saying that my degree is not mine alone.

 

 

My Long Lie and J.R.R. Tolkien

When Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings finished, I made up my mind to finally read the books.  I was but a few years out of college in 2001 when the adaptations began, and never previously enjoyed the occasion to read the source material.  But, I fully intended to rectify that oversight.

Thus, I started Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.  I quit by page 120.  Frankly, I was bored with all the Shire and hobbit story.  I wanted the battles, the action, the other characters.  Because I knew all the major beats after viewing the movies, I simply didn’t have the patience to wade through the nuanced narrative.

So I quit.

And then I started lying.

I want to make it clear that I’m a pretty honest person.  I pride myself on being a good husband, a respectable father, and a responsible teacher.  I don’t lie often, and I judge those who do harshly (though I know it’s not my place to do so).

So why did I start lying concerning Tolkien?  That’s a bit complicated.  When one is an English major, one is expected to have read every single book ever written during the history of mankind.  I typically don’t give that sort of thing much truck, but when it came to Tolkien, I just could not admit to people that I’d quit The Lord of the Rings.  I could not confess that I never read the trilogy.  So I just pretended like I had, and no one ever gave it a second though.

But the guilt.  Oh, the guilt.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, the guilt wasn’t that bad.

However, I did really always feel like I’d let myself down by not completing the books.

The irony is that I read The Hobbit and loved it, but that was long before the film versions came out.

Now here we are in 2014, and I’ve been watching The Hobbit film adaptations and missing Middle-earth.  I decided now is the time – now is the time to end my lie!

So, a few days ago, I picked up where I left off in The Fellowship of the Ring, Strider soon appeared, and now the book is incredibly exciting.

I think enough time has passed that the movies are no longer fresh in my mind, I don’t remember every little thing, and I’m able to enjoy the book on its own terms.  And, as further penance for my sins, I’m confessing to the world my long lie, and working diligently to turn it into a truth.

P.S. I’m not sure Gandalf believes me.

Do Me a Solid and Show Some Love To a Teacher

I’ve taught high school English for twelve years.  I happen to work in a great district, my pay is nice, my hours are good, my benefits are adequate, and the vacations are ample.  Best of all?  I get to have a positive impact upon the world on a daily basis.  I have the opportunity to lead by example, to show young people the right way, and to be a role model.  I take those things seriously while having fun doing it.

So I’m not complaining about being a teacher.  I love being a teacher.  I think I’ve got one of the greatest jobs in the world.  But, like most jobs, I won’t say it’s easy.  The one thing I didn’t expect when I entered the profession is the emotional toll.  Engaging with nearly 125 teenagers every day is a roller coaster, and it’s sometimes challenging to remember that I’m the adult, I’m the professional, I’m the role model.

It gets especially hard around election time.  That’s when politicians like to use education as ammunition.  That’s when we hear our students aren’t good enough, our teachers aren’t good enough, and our schools aren’t good enough.  Politicians love to beat up on education because it’s something every American can relate to in some capacity.  We’ve all been to school, right?

And, like most jobs, teachers typically don’t hear much from the public unless something has gone wrong, unless there is a complaint of some sort.  Like I said, this isn’t unusual for any job, but I just wanted to point out that it’s true of education as well.

So here’s what I’m asking of you, here’s the solid I request.  If you have a child in school, please try to find something nice to say to the teacher about the job being done.  Even if you don’t have a child, please get in touch with a former teacher for whom you have positive memories and let them know they did right by you.  I can personally attest that these small gestures mean the world to educators and can do much to recharge the batteries, especially when considering the current month!

About once a semester, I get a personal note from a student.  The student often lets me know that they appreciated my efforts, my passion, my humor, or simply my kindness.  I cherish those letters.  I save them like they are bricks of gold.  I wont’ lie – I pull them out when things are a little rough and use them to bolster myself.

The gesture you show a teacher today could literally encourage them for years to come.

We all need a little cheering on from time to time, and teachers are no different.

Thanks for the solid.

 

Upon Completion Of Reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Series

In early December, I decided to reread Neil Gaiman’s entire The Sandman series.  It marked the first time I reread the series since my initial read of the collected editions nearly ten years ago.

There isn’t much for me to say that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief.  The series, as a whole, is literature at its finest.  The problem with comic books, for the most part, is that they are serialized.  They expect to run perpetually, and they often change hands as new writers and artists come in.  Superman, for example, has been published monthly since 1938.  It is hard to do anything too substantial with a character expected to appear continuously.

The Sandman, however, does not suffer from such a dilemma, which is what makes the series so enjoyable.  Though it got off to a inconsistent start due to the fact that it tried to exist within the same universe as Superman, The Sandman soon broke away into a world largely its own (thanks to its own publishing imprint).  As a result, Gaiman was free to create worlds, mythologies, and, as a consequence, quality stories.  Best of all? Gaiman alone wrote the series, and Gaiman clearly worked to an endgame.

That’s right.  The Sandman has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and Gaiman executed each stage thoughtfully and with purpose.  Lord Dream, or Morpheus, is an eternal character that impossibly changes throughout the series, and, as a result, evolves into something completely unexpected.  The series is character driven—not plot driven.  Gaiman had something to say, to do, with his main character, and when it happened, the story ended.  Simple as that.

Literature.

The scope of this series will mesmerize you.  The characters will leap off the page and into your heart.  The intricate plots that seem unrelated only to finally connect near the end will captivate you.  The dialogue will give you chills.  Honestly, nothing quite compares to The Sandman, and nothing ever will.

Sometimes horrific, sometimes hilarious, always enlightening, The Sandman will always live on in your imagination once you’ve experienced it.  Whether you think you enjoy comic books or not, if you like a good story, I implore you to give this finite series a read.

A Brief Contemplation Concerning Michael Douglas As Hank Pym

I’m hardly an Ant-Man aficionado.  I enjoyed the first Ant-Man, Hank Pym, when he was with the West Coast Avengers and wore his red jumpsuit, and I appreciated what they did with him in The Ultimates, but other than that, I have no real regard for the character.

So when they announced that Michael Douglas would play Hank Pym in the new Ant-Man movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Paul Rudd, I definitely experienced surprise.  Surprise, but not dismay.

First of all, it’s Edgar Wright doing Ant-Man, so he can cast whomever he chooses as far as I’m concerned.  The fact we’re even getting an Ant-Man movie is reason enough to celebrate.

Secondly, I have total trust in the Marvel cinematic brain trust.  If they want Hank Pym to be depicted older on film than in comics, there must be a valid reason behind it.  And frankly, I agree with the decision.  I know nothing about Scott Lang, the character that Rudd will play, other than that he stole Pym’s technology to save his sick daughter and then used it for good afterwards with Pym’s blessing.  (I got that information from Newsarama at this address: http://www.newsarama.com/20026-ant-man-casts-michael-douglas-as-hank-pym.html).  What I know of Pym, however, is that his intellect is on par with Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Bruce Banner.  Now, Reed Richards is out of the cinematic conversation, but with the amazing chemistry of Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, do we really need or want Rudd in that scientist mix?  With Rudd as Lang, he can do his own thing, be his own character and shine in his own way when he finds his way into the next Avengers movie.  We don’t need or want another super-intelligent funny guy.  RDJ and Ruffalo fill that quota perfectly.

Douglas is far too old to do much in the way of super heroics, but he can still give Pym the depth and intellect the character deserves.  I thinks it’s both a pragmatic and wise decision on the creators’ parts.  Who knows?  With Pym’s Ultimates history, Douglas could even have a little more edge than we suspect.

I really don’t know of any die-hard Pym fans out there, so I’m surprised some seem really upset about casting Pym as an older man.  In my opinion, Edgar Wright always knows what he’s doing, and the Marvel movies haven’t gone wrong yet.  I think we’re going to get the best Ant-Man movie we ever expected.  (Of course, I never expected an Ant-Man movie, so …)

Why I Quit AMC’s The Walking Dead

I’ll be honest with you, when AMC’s The Walking Dead came out, I touted it as the next L O S T.  The acting wasn’t superb, but the production was magnificent, the effects breathtaking, and the storylines captivating.  It thrilled me on a weekly basis, made my palms sweat, and kept me coming back for more.  The dynamics between the characters intrigued me to no end, and I truly cared about them.  When they started dying off, it stunned me, but it didn’t anger me.  As a fan of Cormac McCarthy, I’m accustomed to major characters dying.  I actually relish it in books and movies, when done intelligently, because it heightens the suspense.

Seasons One and Two just blew me away.  And though some serious characters were killed off, characters who drove storylines and oozed charisma (Shane and Dale, in particular), they were replaced with worthy men and women such as Michonne and Hershel and allowed existing characters such as Daryl the chance to rise to the top.

Season Three tried my patience, but I stuck with it.  Lori’s death advanced the plot, but I knew the end was near for me with the birth of Judith.  I knew of her fate in the comic books, and I remember telling my friends that if they show that sort of thing on the TV show, I’m out.  Andrea’s death seemed completely pointless, as did much of the violence of the season.  With each character’s death, the dynamic got smaller and smaller, and so the characters were, as a whole, suddenly becoming less interesting to me.  Rick, honestly, has never been the hook in my eyes, and so now the show rested primarily on Hershel, Daryl, and, to a lesser extent, Michonne.  Woodbury proved an interesting premise, but it got stale in my eyes, and the prison took away one of the aspects that I found most entrancing – survivors constantly on the move.  Suddenly they were in the same setting all the time, and not a very interesting one at that.  The Merle plotline saved a largely tiresome season, but I think we can all agree it didn’t live up to Seasons One and Two.  But, I was still an avid fan.  I still had to watch it the night it aired, could not stand the idea of watching it on DVR after the fact.  Had to talk about it the next day.  There were some trends forming that I found disturbing, one that started with Sophia, but I could deal with it.

And then Season Four Point One arrived.  Okay, the prison is now a refugee camp, that’s a neat idea.  I can roll with that.  Oh, a deadly flu breaks out.  I like that.  That definitely raises the suspense – that can’t be fought using their conventional methods.  Children are being taught to kill … I don’t know if I like where this is going … Children are sick and orphaned.  Hmm.  The Governor is back, has adopted a family, has a little girl to be like a daughter to him, goes nuts again, wants the prison for his own camp, is willing to kill to make it happen.  I’m kind of tired of that – didn’t we do all that already?  We did that in Season Three.  I like the Governor’s character, and I love David Morrissey, but I really had no interest in his return.  And what’s going on with Rick’s baby?  Does the guy ever interact with her?  Frankly, when she first arrived, as already mentioned, I had a sneaking suspicion she was there for shock factor, that they had something dastardly planned for her …

Then the mid-season finale came.  The Walking Dead has always been a violent show, but it, for the most part, seemed to play a role in the actual storyline unfolding.  Yes, there were moments of ghastliness, but they were usually reserved for the dispatching of zombies.  The finale seemed to abandon all attempts at a meaningful story and just go for our throats.  The prison raid had been done before, the Governor had been done before, and while I like that the survivors are on the move again, I cannot abide the “shocking” scenes involving children shooting adults, Hershel’s graphic beheading, and the bloody baby carrier.

In fact, violence against children has turned into quite the trend with The Walking Dead.  There is much I can turn a blind eye to, but this is not among those things.  I knew the moment they introduced Judith that they planned to kill her, and while she may not actually be dead, as some have suggested, the bloody baby carrier was simply done in poor taste.  Seriously, during that attack, Rick’s only action should have been about guaranteeing both of his children’s safety.  Trusting his prison mates to keep his child safe is a character flaw I cannot overlook.  In fact, the idea that no one stopped to keep Judith safe, that not one adult took it upon themselves to save a baby, is something that has deterred any interest for me in following these characters.  But it doesn’t end there, yet another child died in the Governor’s foster daughter, which was, again, over the top.  Finally, the absolutely unnecessary dragging out of Hershel’s decapitation did not thrill me, it sickened me, it made me wonder what was wrong with the people producing the show, and it sealed the fact that this show had no intention of telling a story any longer.

The Walking Dead has sunk to a gratuitous low.  This show was once about human interaction amongst a horrible set of circumstances, but now it has simply become about killing off characters and abusing children for the sake of “shock value.”  I cannot continue watching it if this is the direction it’s taking, and, from all indications, it is.  You should know that I’ve thought about this since the night the finale aired.  I wanted to give myself time to really mull it over, to make sure I wasn’t having a kneejerk reaction.  And while I certainly do not bemoan any who continue watching the show, just know that it is no longer for me.