lydamorehouse: (Aizen)
I turned in my apocalypse story yesterday morning. I will let you all know what, if anything, becomes of that. It was a good story for me to write. I normally DON'T use writing as therapy, but this one was a good vehicle to work out some of my feelings about my cats' deaths. It was kind of a "the world ends, but you go on anyway" sort of apocalypse.

Now it's time to turn my attention to Unjust Cause and getting that thing in order for Wizard Tower Press.

Last night, we had a guest. Mason has several close friends on his Overwatch Team. One of them is a young person named Græ (pronounced like Gray, and might even be spelled with a 'y' also. That is their online persona, but what Mason calls them, so...), who just happened to be in town with their parents visiting Macalaster College. Mason and Græ arranged to hang out and play video games in the basement. We ordered pizza, because of course, and also Græ is a vegetarian. We got to meet Græ's parents, who I absolutely ADORED. I mean, do you ever have that experience where you start talking to someone and you think, "Oh! This is one my people!" It was like that. Græ and Mason already knew each other, so they got on like a house on fire, as well. I think Græ was here from 4 pm to almost 10 pm, and then we all stood around the living room hanging out for another half hour when it was supposed to be time to pick-up because, yeah, they were all that great.

So that was a lot of fun.

While it Mason and Græ played video games and chatted in the basement, Shawn and I went upstairs and watched "Ant-Man and Wasp," which Shawn hadn't seen before. We started watching some Hong Kong drama called "Iceman," about time traveling Chinese warriors, but Shawn found that just too silly (many wires, much weirdness) and so we switched over to the MCU. Shawn had NOT seen the first Ant-Man, but was introduced to him via "Captain America: Civil War." She really loved the character Luis, so we're going to try and hunt down that first Ant-Man, because I do think she'll like the Luis bits, if nothing else.

Speaking of the MCU, I saw "Captain Marvel" and loved it. Only really a spoiler if you are living under a cave, but I respect cave-dwellers so... )

Over the weekend, we made a double batch of fleischkeukle, which, as my parents pointed out when they called, is something we seem to be doing more often. This is true, partly because we made the decision to make smaller batches more often. Otherwise, it takes ALL DAY. It only took MOST of the day this way.

Uncooked dough meat pockets, like slightly larger pierogi lining a baking pan

People on Facebook asked me what we fill these with. Shawn's family traditionally fills them with hamburger, onions, and spices. Very simple. The dough is really only special because it's a cream-based dough. They still manage to be very delicious, IMHO, particularly when eaten, piping hot, right out of the deep-fat frier.

Same meat filled pockets only deep-fat fried to a golden brown

My D&D group got cancelled on Saturday night, for reasons of a death in the extended family of one of our members. That made me sad for a number of reasons. I really look forward to playing, if nothing else, but the situation reminded me a lot of my (still living) first lover and all those complicated feelings that I will probably carry around my whole life, much like what our member described. 

The only other news is that we moved Shawn in to her new upstairs office on Saturday, while Mason was at work. Mostly this involved carrying plants and all the delicate things not normally trusted to workplace movers. I think her new office looks very nice, very IMPORTANT, befitting a State Archivist and Director of Library and Archives. The only thing she needs more of is art for the big beige industrial walls and she'll be set.

I think that's everything I know. I mean, I could squee at you all about my fannish life, wherein I have a fan of my fan work, who happens to be an artist and who has taken it upon themselves to make a manga-esque comic book out of on of my Bleach fics. As someone who always wanted to grow up to be a comic book artist herself, it thrills me no end to see my words put to pictures in this particular way. In fact, yesterday, I finished another chapter of this work and so I made sure to send a sneak preview to my artist ahead of time in the secret hope that they will feel inspired to draw something from the upcoming action. :-) I don't expect anyone here to be all that curious, but if you are, the permalink to my reblog is: (a note for those who are regular manga readers, this one reads English-language style, left to right.) The story of mine that 'aysmiro' is illustrating is linked to at the bottom of the three page panel spread, too, if you're inspired to check out my work, as well.

So cool.

lydamorehouse: (cap and flag)
I think Marvel is taking a huge risk with "Avengers: Infinity War," splitting the story into two movies, a year apart... especially given That Ending.

A friend of mine who was surprised that my non-spoiler review on Facebook was a simple: "Remember this is Part ONE, everyone," was an indignant, "what was it like at the end of 'Empire Strikes Back' for people, then?" I said, "Since I was THERE, I can tell you, the screen went black and people started murmuring and then they flashed a giant TO BE CONTINUED."

"Infinity Wars" didn't have a 'To Be Continued."

"Infinity Wars" has only one after show teaser and if you don't understand everything that there is to know about the Marvel Universe, it could seem like the only point of that is a teaser for a new movie character (if you even get that out of it). Read more... )

Funny story about that, in the theatre I went to (which was mostly deserted, though we weren't the ONLY people there) I got super excited by that teaser and was the only person who shouted "WAAAAAH!" and when I realized I was the only person to have that reaction I said, "That means THIS THING (see spoiler cut above--or not)," and I got at least one sincere, "Oh. Thank you!"

So, I worry that there's no sense of hope.

I worry that there's too much time between Part 1 and Part 2 and that fandom will all have written a much better ending than what they'll end up getting in Part 2.

And, then there's this: a friend of mine at work, a librarian who is biracial, told me that she'd been warned off the film because it might "make black children cry."

Ummm... well, maybe?minor spoiler which maybe you don't know? )Also? We're talking about five minutes and the rest of the film is WONDERFUL and I'm really afraid that people aren't going to see it because of various warnings about That Ending.

So, I don't know. I mean, I LOVE, loved it for all of the bits in between. (Most of them anyway. genuine spoiler )

But, I mean, ultimately, I felt those were minor things.

All the kid lit shippers should die happy.

lydamorehouse: (swoon)
Robotics is coming to a close. Tonight, in fact, is the last night for building. Mason's team has until midnight Eastern Time (11 pm for us) to finish tinkering with their robot. After that, they have to shrink-wrap it and put it away until competition. I have no idea when I'll see my child tonight. I suspect the Washington team will go as late as possible (and my son will LOVE every minute of it.)

Luckily, he got to bed early last night.

And Shawn and I get a mid-week date night, so that works out pretty well. I suspect we'll catch up with "Victoria" and eat a lot of popcorn. Who says romance is dead?

Speaking of movies, I saw two this weekend. You'll never guess what the first one was.... yeah, actually, it WAS "Black Panther." My Marvel crew is always on top of things, so Mr. Murphy got tickets a week ahead, which was good because theaters were selling out. I had work at Maplewood from 10 am to 5 pm, and so I joked to Mason (who had spent from 8 am to 3 pm at "Week Zero" robotics, where they test their robot against the obstacle course for the first time) that both of us would be lucky to keep our eyes open. Hahahahahaha, yeah. No worries there. "Black Panther" was amazing. I don't have much to say about it that hasn't already been said, but I will add my voice to the chorus that recommends you to go, if you haven't already.

The other movie we watched was "The Great Wall." When Mason noticed us watching it he snarkily said, "Oh, I see, we're having the complete opposite experience from 'Black Panther' now, eh?" [If you're curious about the controversy around "The Great Wall" and somehow missed hearing about it when people were discussing it, Huffington Post pretty much sums up my argument about the movie: "No, 'The Great Wall' Isn't Racist Whitewashing (but The Question if it is a White Savior Movie is a Bit Tricker.)"]

What these two movies had in common was kind of surprising. Somehow, I missed that "The Great Wall" was a fantasy, where the Great Wall of China was kind like Wakanda in that it was fantastically science-fictionally advanced... the ancient China we want, full of amazing costumes, beautiful people, impossible heroics and acrobatics, and super-powered monsters.

Of course, in "Black Panther" the white people were superfluous to the plot (Tineey-tiny spoiler )), and the 'monster' was actually one of the more sympathetic characters who actually brought with him a legitimate conflict with real world implications.

It was an interesting double-feature, though, given the controversy around "The Great Wall."

I am not, by the way, recommending "The Great Wall." I found it to be somewhat vacuous, if pretty. The only thing going for it is that it very much had the vibe of a SUPER big budget version of a Hong Kong film, ala "Once Upon a Time in China" or "The Bride With White Hair" but with the annoying addition of Matt Damon. I can see why people cried "whitewashing," actually, because even though 8 out of 10 actors were Chinese, Damon's role is OBVIOUSLY the sort normally occupied by someone like Jet Li. It's kind of weird to see a white guy get the slo-mo slides and off-the-wall jumps, while shooting arrows... that's clearly supposed to be Li or Chow Yun Fat or Jackie Chan or Brigitte Lin or Michelle Yeoh.

So, I mean, "The Great Wall" and "Black Panther" both had the same number of white actors (3), were directed by PoCs, but one of these movies is a giant ball of Fail (at least in the US market. I have no idea how "The Great Wall" played in China. Okay, quick check reveals that Wikipedia says, "The film went on to gross $170.9 million at the Chinese box office, which is considered a disappointment.")

It was an interesting movie weekend.  The rest was same old, same old, I suppose.  I hinted at the fact that I worked at Maplewood on Saturday. That was another full day, but, wow, it was so much nicer to be at a place that respected my work. It went so much faster, despite being the same 7 hours. I also, because it's Maplewood, came home with a new manga series, which I read the first two volumes of last night called: The Girl From the Other Side / Totsukuni no Shoujo by Nagabe.  It's very "spoopy" as the kids might say.  I'm probably going to write up a review of it later today.

I guess that's me. You?
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It's What Are You Reading Wednesday and I can report that I read a bit more of Scarlett (I realize that my other problem may be that I seem to have made that book into my bathtub reading book) and two Marvel comic books: Ms. Marvel (Vol.7): Damage Per Second by G. Willow Wilson/Takeshi Miyazawa/Mirka Andolfo and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Vol. 5): Like I'm the Only Squirrel in the World by Ryan North/Erica Henderson/Will Murray.

I got halfway through volume 3 of another Yotsuba&!. What I need to do with those is make them my car books/carry around to read when you have five minutes books, because they read really fast.  I just keep forgetting about them.

So, about writing.... I had kind of an epiphany today.  It's going to seem like a sad one, but I'm not convinced it really is, but... I'm going to let go of the idea that "I'm going to write something today."  I've been living under the hope that "any day now," I'm going to get my act together and write a novel.  It's time to accept that's not going to happen. I've gotten into a really ugly, self-destructive mental space about it all, and I need to... let go.

I would be worried that this is a sign of depression, but the thought actually makes my soul feel lighter.  

I've had plenty of interest in the things that make me happy, in fact, I've been having a RENEWED interest in the variety of things that make me happy--all my little hobbies, including pen palling and stamp collecting and reading and cooking.  I've been the opposite of lethargic since I decided to let this go a little, and I've been getting a ton of things done around the house.  So, I mean, it's a sad realization in many ways, but it doesn't feel like one motivated by any kind of medical depression.

I'm not going to give up ALL forms of writing, either. I'm still very into my reviewing, in teaching, and critiquing fiction. I think I just need to let certain expectations about what I need to be in order to be a valid and productive human being--and one of them is that I'm any kind of serious about writing a novel any time soon.  I'm not writing.  When people ask me, I'm going to be honest and say, "I've given up on that for the time being.  I'm doing teaching and non-fiction work, instead."

It's not like this decision erases 14 published novels, either.

You can be sad for me, but I think this is the right decision right now.  I think, too, that if I can let go these expectations, I might actually be able, in time, to come back around to writing fiction.

Or not, but I need to be able to be happy with who I am. Right now? I'm not really a fiction writer and that's okay.

lydamorehouse: (cap and flag)
In reverse order.

Saint Paul has a lot of panhandlers. They tend to congregate at busy intersections. They're not as aggressive here as I am led to believe they are in other cities. No one runs out and tries to wash your window or anything like that. They just hold up various signs and attempt to figure out the right amount of eye-contact/no eye-contact that will illicit sympathy from Minnesotan drivers.*

Despite living here for over 30 years, I always fail this. I'm forever looking people in the eye. I compensate for this failure by smiling a lot. I figure if I've made accidental awkward contact, I might as well be pleasant about it. So, I'm looking out my window and I catch the eye of one of these panhandlers. He smiles broadly back at me and lifts his sign, which reads: "I bet you a buck you'll read this sign."

I laugh and reach for my wallet, because, yeah, okay, that's clever.

As I'm reaching, he excitedly runs back to his backpack and pulls out a carefully plastic wrapped pile of papers. When he takes my dollar bill, he hands me a sheet. "I'm a published poet," he tells us. "I'm going to have a reading one day. That's why I'm doing this." What can I say? I mean, I know a lot of poets, many of them professional, and it is not an easy life. Even really successful poets who try to only do poetry have a hard time making ends meet. So I take the poem with another sympathetic smile and say, "Good luck to you, my friend." He waves happily and goes back to his poetry spreading panhandling.

His poem is called "Real Love." His pen name appears to be BC the Black Clown.

"Ain't it sad?
So many people go through life
Never really feeling loved
Because when they open their heart
It gets crushed by the very one
That they gave their heart to
And ain't that sad?
That the amount of life that is received
Is often measured by
The amount of money given
The quality of the stability and comfort
And the degree of physical pleasures
Ain't that sad?"

It goes on in this fashion until it turns religious.... because, of course, you know who gives the perfect love? JE-sus.

I mean, I'm sure there's actually a place for religious poets, and I don't regret the dollar I gave him. Not only was his sign clever, but I paid a poet probably a better $/per word than they'd get trying to sell to a print or e-magazine.

The other big excitement of the day was going off with my usual Marvel crew to go see THOR: RAGNAROK. Eleanor, who hasn't seen Mason in several months, noted that his voice had dropped. Puberty is a thing, for sure, and Mason is getting hit hard all of a sudden. We also all noticed that Mason is now taller than Mr. Murphy**, by at least an inch.

Murphy bought us tickets at the AMC in Inver Grove Heights (the place I was supposed to see BLADE RUNER 2049, only ended up at the wrong comfy theater.) They have the reclining seats, which is nice, and assigned seating, which I find annoying, because inevitably people end up getting bunched together. I was knee-to-knee with a stranger, despite the fact that the row beneath us was empty. But, I couldn't let Eleanor, the introvert sit next to the strangers. That would be bad extrovert-to-introvert etiquette.*** If I'd thought of it, I'd have made Eleanor and Murphy switch once it was clear no one was going to be sitting between Murphy and the aisle. I only say this, because I predict now that Eleanor will not have liked this movie as much as she might have if she didn't have to sit surrounded by people (even friends. Since I have an introvert at home, I know how to care and feed introverts. Even having to sit that close to people she LIKES wears on Eleanor.)

We got to see some interesting previews. Of the ones I saw, I was most excited to see the new BLACK PANTHER movie. I was not super enthused by Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther: Nation Under Our Feet when I read it, but I was excited to see that movie seems to be following the visual aesthetic of the comic book. The Shield Maidens, in particular, look bada$$.

As a fan of the first PACIFIC RIM, I was equally thrilled to see the sequel's preview, as well, of course, as the newest STAR WARS (I'm one of three people who actually LIKE the character of Kylo Ren, so I'm perfectly down for a movie that features more Kylo character moments.) The one preview that I think I was intrigued by that no one else in my set seemed that interested in was Matt Damon's DOWNSIZED. It looks... I mean, yeah, it totally vibes like a Stepford Wives cross with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and I would NOT want to spend the outrageous movie ticket prices to see it first run, but I would totally Netflix it, if you know what I mean.

And then the movie.

I'm not going to spoil it at all (except a little bit under the cuts), so suffice to say that the humorous tone of the previews you've seen? It's that, all the way down. I personally did not mind the lighter tone. I'm not sure how a character like the Grandmaster would play (pardon the pun) if he was plunked into a movie that took itself even moderately seriously. HOWEVER, there are moments in THOR: Ragnarok that probably needed more there THERE.

Unless you're an Incredible Hulk fan, in which case this movie was 100% perfect for you. The Hulk gets, by far, the most poignant scenes (which given some of what transpires in Thor's life, and how complex his relationship SHOULD BE with his half-brother**** is a little... imbalanced?).

I have a friend, Rob Callahan, who had a brilliant take on the MCU franchise. He pointed out that each of the Marvel movies are kind of their own genres: you've got the war buddy film (Captain America), the melodrama (Thor), the industrial action flick (Iron Man), the heist (Ant Man), the space opera (Guardians of the Galaxy), and now, if you follow his point,... for some inexplicable reason you have fantasy comedy ala Princess Bride, (Thor: Raganrok.)

I'll be curious to know what the fan writer community thinks of this new addition to canon. Minor character moment spoilers, but several of them, so read at your own risk )

All and all, though, my complaints are minor.  Once you surrender to the tone, THOR: RAGNAROK is a fun film. The fight scenes always give this old Marvel fan a thrill because I can so easily picture the still framed panels they came directly out of.  

Speaking of that, I suspect one of the reasons that, of my group, I had less trouble with the tone of this particular movie is because it very much reminded me of some of the comic books I read Mason (particularly the All Ages+ of Fantastic Four) in the early-2000s, like "Fantastic Four: Doom, Where's My Car" and some of the more cheesy stuff that came out of the Chris Claremont era.*****

I used to read all that Grandmaster crap in the 1970s, and it was all like this. Only, I mostly ran across him in FF, so Reed Richards would outsmart the "games," but basically this is al that, plus a giant helping of "VERSUS" titles.  Do you remember those?  I think that's what they were called--but they'd always be these one shots Hulk vs. Wolverine! etc., etc., where the writers would contrive some scenario to make our heroes fight each other just to play the "who would win" game.  

The ways in which comic book canon is like a giant fan fiction community are, in point of fact, indistinguishable.

*Many Minnesotans are weird about eye contact. I say this as a transplant, who has lived here for 30+ years, and who has yet to figure out what the proper ratio of direct eye contact and "glance away" to use to make my colleagues comfortable in my presence. This is especially tricky when you're trying to sell people something, like, say, a book you've written.

**Sean. I would call him this, but as my wife is also named Shawn, we have gotten in the habit over the years of calling Sean "Mr. Murphy."

***It is my solemn belief that extroverts exist to spare introverts from certain things: phone calls, in-person sales people, pizza deliverer, and to act as HUMAN SHIELDS in crowds or at the occasional party that you've managed to drag your introverted friend / partner to.

****Fight me. Loki was always HALF-brother to Thor in comic book canon and this insistence on "adoptive" is bull CRAP. Though, I understand the need given fandom, but, darlings, adoptive or not they were still raised together so y'all better be warning for incest. Related Thor: Ragnarok minor spoiler )

*****Double plus fight me. Before you get on your high horse, let me remind you that Claremont is responsible of the X-Babies.  'Nuff said.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 There are two things I think would make Hollywood/Disney 743 ZILLION dollars only I'm certain they will never, ever do them... or, if they somehow do, they'll do them badly. 

1. "Lady" Loki, aka Loki in their female form.  So, I saw the new Thor teaser trailer and just about lost my mind.  For a very brief moment, before everyone on the internet crushed my dreams. I thought that unmasked Hela was Loki.  I thought, "Blessed Mother, they've done it. They're going with gender fluid Loki." Loki, who *is* canonically gender fluid (both in the comic books and the myths), should really be the focus of this new movie since, last we saw, Loki had seized Asgard.  A movie of Thor v. Loki would pretty much send all the fan grrls and boyz into a frenzy the same way seeing Tony/Bucky/Steve in Captain America: Civil War did. Gender fluid Loki with hot female lead + already smoking hot Tom Hiddleston = 345.2 ZILLION DOLLARS in profit. I swear to all the gods, Marvel/Disney.  Just do it. Watch people line up and scream, "Just take my money already!"

2. Then I saw the new Star Wars trailer and thought, "Meh, okay, but WHERE'S MY QUEER POLY KISS between Poe/Finn/Rey???!!" I like Naomi's reaction when I posed that question on FB. "Maybe they're saving it for the next teaser?" Because honestly, if I don't get AT LEAST a Poe/Finn romance/subtext I will be very unhappy.  I will give you my vision of how I'd love to see a tiny (harmless) scene go:
Rey (leans into cockpit to give Finn a kiss): Good luck on the mission!

Finn (smiles happily at her, then turns to Poe, leans over to kiss him): Good luck on the mission!

Poe (looks at Rey)

Rey (looks at Poe)

Poe and Rey (simultaneously give each other the thumbs up!) 

I know there's a big contingent of people who are really rooting for ace Rey. I'm okay with Rey having no romantic interest in the movie (though it would be even cooler if she were EXPLICITLY asexual.) But, I think that this OT3 thing would be amaze balls.  

So of course they'll never do it.


lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
"Does that girl EVER shut up?"

"Who gives the nurse at a doctor's appointment a business card?"

"Do you think she's really an author, or... really, really STONED?"

"Cheerful as fuck, though. I should probably get some of whatever drugs she's on."

"Because, who has so much energy at eight am?"

"It must be caffeine."

"I'm totally going to look up this 'Tate Hallaway' person, because she's hilarious. Is monster erotica really a thing?"

"Can't be from around here, though. WAY. TOO. LOUD.."


Seriously, what is wrong with me?

I was in to see a dermatologist because, you know, my warranty expired at 48, and Shawn noticed a weird little growth on my cheek. (I TOLD you that my blogs would suddenly be all medical issues all the time!) Anyway, so there I was, and I might have had a little too much coffee and was already wound up because I rage quit watching Jessica Jones (more on that in a bit) and I dunno, the nurse was nice, okay? And, I just didn't feel up for the Minnesota call-and-response so t stopped trying to pretend like I knew when the hell anything happened with my body.

Her: "How long ago have you had the growth on your face?"

Me: "Who even knows? You'd think I'd notice a thing on my face. It's not like I don't look in the mirror every damn day, but I must have just dismissed it as 'weird thing that seems harmless.' I'm only here because my wife worries."

Her: ...

Her: "Um, okay..."

Me: "I've had coffee. Maybe too much."

Her: ... *smiles nervously* "Yeah, okay. I get that. So what do you do for a living?"

Me: *already reaching for business cards* "I have the most awesome job. You won't even *believe* how cool it is."

The nurse agrees that being published is, in point of fact, WICKED cool and goes on to confess that she LOVES to read and she's super-sad that she hasn't be able to read for pleasure because she's in the middle of school (she's going for her RN, I asked,) and, yes, paranormal romances are RIGHT up her alley and her husband LOVES science fiction and she WILL take that card, could I write down a few titles? She goes away and I get undressed and stuff. When the doctor comes in, I can tell the nurse was talking about me, because the doc smiles brightly at me and says, "I hear you're a famous author," to which I reply, "Yes, award-winning."

Because I f*cking have NO shame.

And, because this is a skin check, I'm basically saying all this COMPLETELY NAKED. I mean, yes, I have a sheet draped over me, but the doctor is checking out my boobs and butt, because that's her job, and all the while I'm yacking away about why I have a pseudonym (a lot of people don't understand the mechanics of why you would, and when I told the doctor that the romances are under a different name, she was very curious why that would be.)

I'm SURE I was the talk of the office after I left.

On the other hand, I may have sold a few more books.

Speaking of creative content, I'm watching Netflix's Jessica Jones. I just rage quit in the middle of episode 5. I may go back, but I'm having serious problems with this show. I will put the spoilers under a cut, but let me first say that "noir" and "dark" shouldn't mean humorless and unthinking. The epic fan fic I write has been categorized as dark because I tackle hard issues realistically. But that doesn't mean that my characters are inhuman to one another (at least not ALL THE TIME) or that there aren't moments of lightness and insight and kindness. Jessica Jones misses some opportunities for clever humor, IMHO, that could go a long way to making the characters sympathetic. As it stands, I don't like anyone on the show (with the exception of a hapless neighbor.) Read more... )
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 Mild SPOILERS not under cut

Last night, I saw Ant Man with my usual MCU crew (Eleanor Arnason and Sean M. Murphy). I have to admit to some trepidation going into this film.  For one, I was never a huge Henry Pym/Ant Man fan when I read him in the Avenger comic books in the mid-1970s/early-1980s when he was, ironically, mostly Yellowjacket (and sometimes Giant Man).  Also, having heard that the Ant Man of the MCU would be Scott Lang, I was a bit worried that was like having a Captain America movie with John Walker wearing the cowl.

Generally, I have to say the movie was fun.  It was a good heist film, with a hilarious "crew" (which, let's be fair, included ants.)  I was particularly fond of Luis, whose only superpower, apparently, is his mean upper cut,  with which he reputably remains the only inmate to have successfully knocked out the meanest thug in San Quentin.  And, of course, his amazing storytelling style.  I think we should all start petitioning now for Luis to have his own comic book title. (Unless already does, in which case someone please point me to them STAT!)

Unlike other films in the MCU, however, I didn't have a single nerdgasm at any particular moment.  Again, this is probably very much due to my not reading much of Ant Man, and him not being as iconic a character as, say, Tony Stark/Iron Man.  (Because I think I own exactly ONE Iron Man, but he's a feature in so many titles I've read, including, of course, the Civil War mega-arc, that I knew a lot about him and his villains, sidekicks, etc., going in.)   Yes, I say 'not iconic' knowing FULL WELL Ant Man was a founding Avenger along with the Wasp.  Thing is, you ask your average, on the street fan and they will laugh and say, "ANT... man?  Really?  Ant??"  (Well, not any more, but they did.)  Also,and this I will put under a cut ) 

In fact, I am starting to be slightly irritated by the seemingly 'one woman per film' rule Marvel has going on.  Yes, we get a five second cameo of another one and that person's story was critical to the plot, but... COME ON.  As much as I adored the 'heist crew,' I fail to see why ONE of them couldn't have been a lady.  The get-away driver, maybe?

Yes, Hope Pym was fairly bassassagain since this might be significant later... )--though my complaint there seems to be that badass is  the only mode Marvel can do lady in, atm (well, badass or vaguely undeveloped in the case of the Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in Age of Ultron.)  So, besides "child in distress," I could have used a few more female faces. Marvel has a lot of female superheroes to choose from, and, you know, statistically there are just more of us alive at any given time.  

I'm a huge Marvel fan.  I had fun at Ant Man.  This isn't a huge 'boo.'  I just think it's one of those thing that I'm putting on my 'watch this' list.

lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
St. Paul didn't close schools today.

The wind chills are expected to reach -35 F (-37.22 C for my foreign friends--also is this right?  I don't know that my converter can handle minus temps). Winds are expected at 15 to 25 mph. How wind chill works is that it's "the measure of the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of air."  Another fun fact is that when the real temperature is -19 F, exposed skin can freeze in one minute.  The REAL temp outside at the moment is -23 F.  (My family thinks the skin freezing thing is false, well, fine: it's still colder here that it is on some parts of Mars.)

Minneapolis closed school.  

For a point of reference, Minneapolis is 10 blocks from my house to the west.  I can drive down University Avenue for less than a minute and arrive in Minneapolis.  

So... Mason is home today because I'm not sure what St. Paul is smoking, but it's not safe.

St. Paul has decided that all absences are excused today, at least, but we would have kept Mason out regardless and he doesn't even wait for a bus.  Why?  Well, firstly, in protest, because most other people do have to wait outside and buses do not run on time always.  Secondly, because the last time we decided to go in temperatures like these our car broke down and Shawn and Mason had to walk several blocks home while I was forced to sit in the car to wait for triple-A.  I was lucky, our break down was tire related and I could have heat, but our car door also sticks open and super-cold temps, so I was really very chilly.  

The decision, St. Paul has said on its Facebook discussion about this, was partly to aid homeless youth for whom school is the one place they can get a regular meal.  At the same time they announced this, a call went out to the neighborhood for warm winter coats for homeless kids because there's a real shortage.  So, St. Paul required homeless kids to leave the warmth of their shelters, wait for the bus without winter coats, just for a meal?  I'm not entirely sure how well all that works in terms of logic. 

So, yeah, that's my morning.

As I just told my friend in Wales when she asked me if I was writing--not yet, I have to drink more coffee and complain about the weather.  It's the Minnesotan thing to do.


I also thought I do a very mini review of Ms. Marvel #10.  My subscription finally came, btw.  Long ago, I decided to subscribe to Ms. Marvel because at CONvergence many years ago, I was on a panel with Sigrid Ellis, who suggest that the best way to support women comic book writers was to subscribe to the titles they wrote.  So, dutifully, I went to and put in my credit card info.  I was pretty sure I was being ripped off because nothing ever came.  Turns out, I apparently signed on to start AFTER #9.  At any rate, #10 "Generation Why" showed up at my doorstep a couple of days ago.  

Read more... spoilers.... )

In general, I'm just as happy my subscription starts now.  I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next (though I'm really hoping for an actual defeat for the Inventor soon).  I really like G. Willow Wilson's voice for Kamala.  Like my example under the cut, it's funny and sharp and smart.  Also, I'm growing very fond of Adrian Alphona's art.  It's stylized, but in a way I like?

lydamorehouse: (shield)
Those of you reading on Dreamwidth will see a new icon, Captain America's shield:

This will serve as a warning that I'm about to talk far too much about the Marvel Universe (comic books or movies) with probably very little other bits about my life.

Before I start on my Marvel stuff, though I want you all to know that once again I got a 99% percent on my Japanese quiz. This may sound as if I'm acing this class, but I thought about it a lot last night. One of my fellow classmates, Mint, has this wonderful pronunciation, right? He didn't do nearly as well on the quiz as I did. I think the reason for that is simple: anime. I'm really, really accustomed to LISTENING to Japanese because I listen to it at LEAST once a week (sometimes daily when I'm on a dishwashing/watching spree.) I think this means that I can hear the distinct words better than my classmates, because the quiz is that Tetsuya-sensei says the word (or occasionally phrase) in Japanese and we write down the English version. God forbid it be the other way around, that I would have to SAY the Japanese to his English. Half the time he looks at me like, "WTF are you even trying to say, Lyda-san?" when I do try.

So, you know.

Given that that's why I'm taking the class--a desire to hear and understand Japanese better, I feel I'm doing great. But if I were hoping to talk to someone Japanese, I think I still have a really, really long way to go.

Okay, so Marvel...

I just found out this morning that the new Captain America movie is subtitled "Civil War."

I'm so excited that I could squee my pants. Seriously. As I was telling my friend in Wales this morning, "Civil War" was the arc/storyline that truly brought me back to reading comic books regularly again after about a decade or so hiatus. I know I've written about it here when I was reviewing comic books more regularly and I also know that it's a bone of contention for a lot of Marvel fans.

Regardless about how you might feel about Civil War as it happened in the comic books, I feel like it's a good choice for the movie franchise. It seems as if they're already setting Tony Stark up for certain things, given spoilers (minor) though already out in the movie rumor mill ) By the time we get to Captain America 3, he may already be the spoilers if you're unfamiliar with the comic books ) I imagine that a good set of writers could dovetail all that nicely into what needs to happen to pull off a minor, two-hour version of Civil War. Especially if they use Age of Ultron to set up some of the tensions building between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Ideally, they'll do this with a background of major Civil War comic story line spoilers )

Ultimately, though, that's the problem, isn't it? Taking on these gigantic story lines and trying to distill them into two hours often means that some of the important character moments, etc. get lost in the Hollywood need for explosions.  Civil War appeals, I'm sure, because it comes with villains we already know and a lot of opportunity for every fans' wet dream of the versus, i.e. Hulk vs. Thor!  Who would win??  

And it's going to get complicated as they draw from earlier story lines like the Infinity Gauntlet, which is one I remember from when I was a youngster.  

So, I don't know.  I guess, fingers crossed?  Other Marvel fans, your thoughts?

Also, I have to admit that I'm not super-fond of the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Steven Strange.  I'm not necessarily against it, but Mr. Cumberbatch is currently overexposed.  I don't feel like the Marvel 'verse particularly needed him.  It would have been more interesting for my money if they'd gone with someone far less well known, like Oded Fahr.  I know there's no particular reason to cast an Israeli actor in the role of the very white Dr. Strange, but then there was no reason to cast Idris Elba as Heimdall EXCEPT THAT HE WAS THE MOST AWESOME HELMDALL EVER.  So, you know, it can work.  Also, it would make sense to case Strange as a PoC if only because it could have mitigated some of the awkward of the manservant Wong.  Some.  Honestly, I'm not sure how they're going to deal with Wong or a lot of the overt-Orientalism that permeates the Strange title.

TBF, that may have changed.  I think the last time I picked up the Dr. Strange title I was 12.  Though someone on FB told me that Wong is still there, acting more like Jarvis (which I'm not sure is different from his past or any better in terms of the racist stereotyping.)

So that whole thing could be interesting.  I particularly loved what my nephew John had to say about it which was, "If they shoehorn in an appearance by Loki just to make Tumblr poop itself, I refuse to see this film."

Tumblr may very well poop itself that that mere suggestion.  I'll be okay as long as they don't cast Martin Freeman as Wong.

lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
If you've been awake these last few days (and hang out in fannish circles on the Internet), you probably heard that Marvel is introducing a new Thor, a female Thor.  She looks pretty awesome to me, so I'm not quite sure what has certain fans in an uproar.  As a long time Thor reader, there is one single qualification in my mind to be Thor.  You must be worthy of Mjolnir.

For those of you just tuning in, comic book fans will happily explain that Thor not being Thor is so yesterday.  We've had a horse-faced space alien (a fan favorite, in fact,) Beta Ray Bill.  We've had, I kid you not, a frog.  All of those who welded Mjolnir before were WORTHY.  So long as this person is, I could care less.

Different people take on iconic hero titles all the time.  Do you even know how many Captain Americas we've had? At least one of them was insane, another had been a recently brainwashed super-assassin for the Russians.  So, you know, in the average life of a Marvel fan, this kind of thing is very ho-hum.

I was particularly struck by what it means (to me, at least,) to be a Marvel fan as I was finally reading through the Entertainment Weekly article about the new Avengers movie, Age of Ultron.  The article laid out the reason why the movie writers of the script decided not to make Henry Pym the inventor of Ultron.  I read that and thought, like a Marvel fan does, "Huh.  Okay, why not?"

"Huh.  Okay, why not?" could be a Marvel fan's mantra.

How about we reboot the entire mutant franchise when a villain goes back in time to kill Professor X? Huh.  Okay, why not?  (The Age of Apocalypse is still one of my favorite canon AUs.)

How about we replace a ton of your favorite superheroes with Skrull?  Huh.  Okay, why not?  (Secret Invasion. I  was less sold, but you know what, this is Marvel.)

How about the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a super-villain?  Huh.  Okay, why not? (Dark Reign.  Didn't read it, but am planning to try to collect it.)

The list goes on and on and on, and two thirds of my above examples are actually fairly recent developments, and don't even get me started on the whole Ultimates concept.  (For those of you who aren't comic book fans, Ultimates is like Marvel said, I wish we could re-write some stuff, and the PtB said, you can!  We'll just make it an AU fic, but because we're the bosses, it'll be canon because we can just make up a whole new set of titles for you!)

You know, it's like I tell new Attack on Titan fans--don't get too attached and roll with the punches.  Most of the time, the story carries you through all your fears.  Sure, sometimes it's stupid.  But, Marvel has, what now?  At LEAST 60 years of canon, some titles running weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly without interruption in all that times.  There's got to be some stupid given the sheer vastness of canon.  And, writers and artists can change mid-storyline, so Marvel fans have learned to cope in MULTIPLE ways.  I mean, I'll be honest, for me, I've been known not to finish a story because there's been a major writer shake up (still don't know how everything worked out after Straczynski left Amazing Spider-Man).

My friend [ profile] empty_mirrors asked me how does Marvel deal with people getting older, and I said, "They don't."  Given the mess of the above, there's really no reason to.  Readers have learned to say, "Huh.  Okay, why not?" when confronted by the fact that Reed Richards is stated in canon to have fought in WWII.  Writers tend not to bring that up.  Or, when they do, they get points for coming up with clever work arounds.  Honestly, a lot of us long-time fans appreciate when writers like Bendis slide in a line for Peter Parker like, "Look, how weird can it be?  I once had four arms!"

Because, yes, yes he did.

And that's the other thing Marvel comics are made for readers to come and go from it.  New readers can pick up a title at any point and go from there.  I've done it when I've come back to story lines.  But fans drop out, new fans come in, old fans return, etc., etc.

And sometimes Thor is a woman.
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
At the library yesterday, I gravitated toward my usual favorite section to shelve: teen (because they have all the manga and the comic books.) So, I came across this:


Black Widow: The Name of the Rose (Margorie Liu/Daniel Acuña). According to the back cover copy, "collecting Black Widow 1-5, plus some material from Heroic Age #1."

When I started it, I was a little afraid it was going to make me feel old again, like the new Hawkeye title did. The art is similar, but deeper:


But, for some reason, I really enjoyed the heck out of this title. I think maybe it's partly the fact that Black Widow is super-competient. She also gets beaten up, being mostly human, like Clint, but... she's just so much smarter and independent. Looking back to Hawkeye at the scene where Clint can't figure out how to untangle his cords for his entertainment system and calls Iron Man/Tony Stark, it's hard not to compare it to the time Stark is called in here... to find out that the reason Black Widow was attack was because she was secretly carrying a recording device, collecting spy information on EVERYONE (ally and enemy alike). Clint comes off as a moron; Natasha kicked your butt and you didn't even know it.

There are also a couple of scene that made me hyper-aware of Black Widow's sexuality. Guess what, guys, she has boobs. But, what SHOULD feel like gratuitous fan service never entirely did--even the scene where she's tied up, naked. I think the reason was because she comes off so completely unfazed by it. Like, 'ho-hum' bad guys are trying to make me feel vulnerable using my gender. Ah, well, I guess I'll just have to escape and KICK THEIR A$$ES WHILE COMPLETELY NUDE.

It's weirdly awesome.

I recommend it.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Some time ago, a friend and I had been IMing and she'd asked me about where to start with comic books as an Avenger movie fan.  I'd told her about several of the collected volumes I enjoyed, and particularly mentioned that, as a Marvel movie fan she might want to check out the four volumes of Ed Brubaker's CAPTAIN AMERICA: Winter Solider and Strazynski's re-boot of THOR, since clearly elements of those had appeared in the movies.  Being polite and not raised by wolves, I asked, "So, what are you reading?"

She recommended the new HAWKEYE (by Matt Fraction).  So, I checked it out. I read both of the volumes that the library had: HAWKEYE: My Life as a Weapon and HAWKEYE: Little Shots.

I've decided that maybe I'm too old for this title.  The main artist is someone called David Aja and his art is very... what's the word I want?  Kind of "indy"?  I'm not sure.  Here's what it looks like:


I can't say I dislike the art, but it has a flat, slick feeling.  The stories follow Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) in his life in New York City.  This is one of the things I tend to really adore about Marvel, in general, which is that a lot of the story is about what a screwed up life Clint has made for himself and how much it honestly sucks to be nothing more than a sharp-shooting archer in a team full of super-soldiers and gods.  Clint gets banged-up.  A lot.  Actually, you kind of start to wonder if Hawkeye's real superpower is the ability to get fairly seriously wounded and still live, despite not having a mutant healing factor. They also do some fun things with his stupid-a$$ arrow collection (because, seriously?  How dumb is that?).  At one point during the story he decides what he really needs to is organize everything and you know, maybe mark them with tape or something, so he doesn't accidentally reach for the smoke-bomb when he needs the exploding tip.  The trip to the hardware store to get tape becomes it's own adventure, of course, in the way of such things, and he ends up randomly using whatever comes to hand, as it were.  That's just funny.

But Clint really isn't that interesting on his own.  Frankly, he never has been.  When my cousin Laun and I used to play pretend Avengers, I would often be Hawkeye because... well, back in the 70s, it was clear Hawkeye was the hip friend to Captain America.  And he was handsome, clever, and charming.  (I always liked playing the hot guys.  Charisma 18+ FTW).   But, kind of an empty slate, really.  At least from my reading, which admittedly wasn't terribly deep.  Laun was always the bigger Avengers fan.

I'm not sure the reboot does Clint any favors.  He's constantly upstaged by more interesting cameos, including one by his adoptive dog, Arrow (shown above.) HAWKEYE: Little Shot has a series of misadventures with the women in Clint's life, complete with Romance Comics style covers, in between each section.

But, a lot of people called each other 'bro,' and a lot of the action was kind of disjointed in a way that made me feel... tired, and too old for this title.  Also?  Who prints this stuff so small?  I needed my reading glasses!

Yet, I'm glad I read it.  There was a tiny little throw-away scene that kind of fascinated me.  It showed PowerMan (aka Luke Cage) and Spider-Man (Peter Parker, 'natch) sitting around Avengers/Stark Tower playing video games.  Peter was in his Spidey suit, like he often is, hanging upside down with his legs crossed, like he does, and apparently getting his ass kicked by Cage.  It occurred to me that I bet Spider-Man sucks at video games.  I bet he sucks because a big part of his ability is his Spidey Sense.  I bet he spends a lot of time getting blind-sided by stuff that seems, from his perspective, to come out of nowhere.

Also, can we talk, Peter?  You were the only guy in "uniform" at the mansion/tower.  What's that about?  (Truth? I suspect it's because Parker is actually intentionally nondescript.)

Well, so I guess my recommendation:  Go ahead, give a try, with a caveat--it's very... arty, maybe 'modern' even.  I don't even know if that's a bug or a feature.  Milage will vary.

And, in other news, there *is* video from Wednesday night:

It's a lot of reading, but if you want to hear my squee about Anime and random things, skip to the last five minutes or so.
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
Uffdah, as they say around here.  Mason is back at school after three weeks hiatus, and every SINGLE Crossroads parent seemed to have forgotten how to use the parking lot. I'm lucky I'm not still there (or responsible for some car/child accident!)

This weekend, Mason spent part of his time at KidCON, which is [ profile] naomikritzer's gaming gathering of friends.  Mason came back really wanting to play Munchkin with us.  We have a basic set, and I've now been tasked to pick up a booster packs, if they have them, at MarsCON.  It was, admittedly, a lot of fun and totally got me jonesing for my RPGing days.  And Mason is the kind of person--not unlike myself--who actually ENJOYS hearing the tales of campaigns past, so I got to tell him about Fred Fumble, the Moon-Moon of the elf world, who routinely stumbled into his campaign mates and did THEM damage during a fight.  Fred's other name could have been Friendly Fire Fred.

It makes me wonder.... am I still one phone call away from a game?  If I asked around, could I find a D&D/RPG going down  RIGHT NOW to hook up with???

I used to joke that RPGs were my drug of choice, because if you go down the "Are you an Alcoholic/Drug Addict?" AA/NA pamphlet check list, "Do you have a hidden stash?" etc., my answers were often YES, if bent to include words like "of dice" or similar.  Do you think about gaming when you're not gaming?  OMG YES.  Do you schedule your life/change plans with others so you can game?  OMG YES.  Have you ever skipped work to game?  OMG YES.  The big one was always, "Could you get your drug of choice with one phone call/within the hour?"

Could I?  I used to be able to.  I had at least two friends on speed dial that were GMs who I probably could have talked into gathering something RIGHT NOW.  Actually, I bet I could... I still know gamers and their husbands/partners.

The other thing we did over the weekend was finally watch "The Wolverine."  True confession time: I can't remember every single detail of the Japan Saga.  I'm not even sure I ever read the Claremont & Miller original 4(?) issue miniseries in 1982 or if I caught up with Logan and Yukio later when Buscema penciled.  I have only the vaguest memories of those issues, and they kind of go like this: Yukio = kick ass; Makoto Mariko = tragic love interest (wife?); Silver Samurai = cool and adamantium.  The rest is lost to the annals of time or have been replaced by Bleach trivia.

Even with so little, I still feel like the movie betrayed my SACRED MEMORIES.

I will say, the filming on location, that was beautiful.  I wanted to live in all the houses they were in, particularly Mariko's bolthole in Nagasaki.  I also wanted her to feed me the nabemono she cooked Wolverine when they were there.

But the rest?  How did they make a cool arc so uncool?

I mean, Japan is just cool.  I don't know how you mess up Japan.  They even go to a love hotel and it's not nearly as funny and awkward and 'WTF, Japan?' as it should be.  There is talk of honor, but, I think, ultimately, it's hollow....particularly for the one person it should never be: Wolverine.

Shawn, half way through the film, turned to me and said, "They're making Wolverine nothing more than a brutish thug."  Casual fans of Wolverine might say, "And?" Isn't that his character?  No, it's really not, nor has it ever been.  Shawn is a much, MUCH bigger Wolverine fan than I am, but I can tell you the simple Marvel formula that sums up what Wolverine is about:  Wolverine is a beast struggling to be a man.

Wolverine stories, when they're at their best, tap this core issue.  I feel like (and I may be misremembering since I, frankly, remember almost nothing,) Claremont's Japan Saga and subsequent Japan arcs deal with this in a unique way--the idea of Wolverine as a ronin, as a masterless samurai.  They said those words in "The Wolverine" but they never meant them.  The writers of "The Wolverine" seemed to think this meant ronin = wild, lawless thug.  When, in fact, ronin should equal a lost soul that desperately craves honor and a code to live by.  This is a good analogy for Wolverine's constant struggle to tame his inner demon. Claremont knew that (I think.)  Or, if he didn't, subsequent writers who took on the Japan Wolverine really hammered that into my subconscious.

"The Wolverine" screwed this up a number of ways.  They did that thing modern superhero movies often get wrong, they focus on the super and not the HERO.  At one point Wolverine comes across one of the baddies and LITERALLY thows him over a hotel balcony.  We see that he's survived the fall by landing in a pool, but Yukio says, "How did you know that pool was there." Wolverine says, in full-on badass mode, "I didn't."

But, see, right attitude, WRONG MOVE.  Of all the Marvel heroes, Wolverine is most-likely-to-thoughtlessly-slaughter, but a good writer makes him suffer those moments because Logan/Wolverine doesn't WANT be only a beast.  Similarly, there's a moment when Wolverine sticks his chopsticks upright in the rice bowl and Mariko explains the chopstick taboo to him (which has to do with funerals and being considered bad luck/bad taste), but then he does it again.

I mean, okay, Wolverine is a brute.  This is one of the reasons I never entirely cottoned to him as character in the comic books.  However, I always felt that Mariko/Japan was one of the things that civilized him in a very sympathetic way.  I mean, it's classic, right? The love of a woman tames the wild man.  I'm pretty sure that started with Enkidu and is a total trope, but it's a good one... and it works with Wolverine, IMHO, because sometimes the love is slightly more platonic, like his relationship with Kitty Pryde.  And with Mariko/Japan there was (at least in my head) this lovely combination of love and HONOR.

The movie didn't seem to even try to go there, which is weird, because it was kind of slow in places.  If they were going to skip the character stuff, just SKIP IT, and go right into the ninja pile up, you know?

Ah, well, opportunities lost.  Once again, Hollywood neglected to call me.  I'm not sure what they're thinking when they don't tap me, honestly.

In other news, if you're curious about the other members of my writers' group, Wyrdsmiths, today on our blog Kelly McCullough is the featured interviewee.  Check it out:


Nov. 12th, 2011 02:55 pm
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Okay, we survived the trip to Valpariaso, Indiana. It was, as usual, a VERY long drive, however, we entertained ourselves by letting the .mp3 player choose the music. Our only rule: NO SKIPPING.

We have long believed that the device has had its own agenda. Now we're certain. We probably have thirty or forty big band/40s tunes on the thing out of thousands of songs. What did it play? EVERY SINGLE one. No, it wasn't stuck in genre, because ocassionally it would bust out with some opera, zydeco, or Patsy Cline (or Ella Fitzgerald or other jazz era/old-timey country). We also got some classical. One or two rock songs, but the .mp3 player picked very "easy listening" options.

Given how much rock and blues we have in comparison, this is a pretty clear indication that our .mp3 player has become an AI, complete with its own personality. (I'll double-check, but I don't THINK the brand name is a wholly owned subsidiary of SkyNet.)

We have decided to name our .mp3 player "Cap" in honor of Captain America, since it clearly prefers music that Steve Rogers would appreciate.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Even though Shawn thought I was fairly crazy, I went out last night with some folks I only sort of know through the Internet and fandom to the midnight showing of "Thor." More than that, I paid over twice the usual price for movie tickets for the privilege.

But you know what? It was AWESOME.

I need to preface anything I have to say about the film by the fact that I'm NOT, nor have I ever been, a Thor fan. As I said before, I remember looking over my cousin Laun's shoulder at various Silver Age issues of Thor. I vaguely followed the Beta Ray Bill storyline of the early 80s. But Thor was never a title I sought out or bought for myself. Of course, I knew about him from his various interactions with the Avengers and other titles that I preferred.

Part of my inability to attach to Thor as a character is, in point of fact, the whole God thing. I was never a big fan of Superman because I like the heroes that bruise more easily. For me part of being heroic is the courage it takes to stand up to powers much stronger than you are. Thor is a freaking God. Hard to be stronger than that.

On top of that rather major character issue, I was also a snotty kid. I thought the title was full of people with strange names and hard to pronounce words, like, Mjöllnir. Plus, people talked weird (and in a weird font) on Asgard. They had very stylized costumes and Jack Kirby made everyone look square (literally) and kind of grumpy.

The writers of the movie deal with the God-issue very nicely, IMHO. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that, in the movie, Thor gets cast out of Asgard for being a self-centered git. Odin strips him of his powers and, he spends the rest of the film attempting to be worthy of Mjöllnir again. For me, that’s a classic Marvel conundrum. It’s like Spider-Man’s “with great power, comes great responsibility” only it’s more like, “heroes need humility as well as strength to be truly great.” Though, humility isn’t quite the right word in this situation. One of the things I love about what the writers explore in the Thor movie is the idea of what it means to be a hero. The turning point in the movie actually stirred me. I cared about Thor enough to care whether or not he came through the other side of his challenge.

That’s pretty miraculous, IMHO, since normally I could care less.

It helps, though, that the actor who plays Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a complete hottie. (IMDB just informed me that he played Kirk’s dad in the Star Trek reboot. Cool!)

I also really ended up liking what they did with Loki, who, from my memories of the Thor comic books (which, granted is very sketchy), could very easily have been played as a larger-than-life EVIL villain. What they did in the movie, IMHO, was make him the hero of his own story in a way, frankly, that I found very sympathetic. Both Thor and Loki have serious daddy issues/needs to prove themselves MEN, but they manifest completely differently.

I went to the movie with David J. Schwartz (author of Superpowers) . He was saying that what they did with Loki in the movie is very different from Thor canon. This is one of the moments where not being a hardcore Thor fan probably helped me enjoy the movie more.

Also, my other companion did not like the look of Asgard, but, for me, it looked exactly like something Jack Kirby might have imagined. In fact, all the costuming on Asgard really felt Kirby-esque to me, which could either be a plus or a minus depending on how you feel about his particular style. Though (and I realize this is sort of blasphemy) I normally am not a huge Kirby fan, I thought it really worked in the film.

My last couple comments about the Thor movie is that it seemed clear to me that Kenneth Branaugh is a big, fat fan (very likely of Silver Age Thor). There were lots of “money shots” early and often, including spinning hammers and lightning strikes. I laughed out loud (and sometimes by myself) at a few of the fan insider jokes, including what it probably the best Stan Lee cameo of all the Marvel films.

The biggest flaw in the film was Natalie Porter, who played a revised version of Jane Foster. It was hard to imagine her as a love interest, especially since Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) is WAY cuter and funnier. I totally fell for her in the movie and could not understand what Thor saw in Jane.

Anyway, for me, it was one of the best Marvel films to-date. Right up there with Ironman (#1).
lydamorehouse: (cap)
My holiday reading included lots of comic books, bought at HPB. Of course, as usual, I seem to collect many of these with issues missing, so my reading of them is full of gaps. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt, Part 1 (#634) – Kelly /Lark & Gaudiano
The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt, Part 2 (#635) – Kelly/Lark & Gaudiano
The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt, Part 3 (#636) – Kelly & Wells/Checchetto, Lark & Gaudiano

Since I don’t really know how all this ends, all I can say was that my lack of Spider-Man history messed me up a bit in this series. I, for instance, had no idea Peter Parker had a failed clone, named after the Biblical first murderer [K]aine, no less. I think the writer(s) understood that a lot of readers might not know much about Kaine, thus there was this utterly depressing back story/mini-story of Kaine’s life previous, complete with a pathetic version of Aunt May, with whom Kaine has a detestable non-relationship with and discovers dead on the stairway. Gah! Since the entire of bit of the arc of “Grim Hunt” seemed to be about redeeming Kaine, I wonder at the wisdom of the wholly unlikeable mini-story, which simply served to make me happy he sacrificed the way he did. *

*New, later addition to this thought. At some point, Kaine calls himself a "soulless" creature because he's a clone, a mere shell of a man, etc., etc. Can I just say how much I hate this trope? Clones certainly have souls. Or maybe this is where I show my Unitarian upbringing, because I believe if you do good work that's close enough. So, live well, clone, and you shall be a real boy and have a soul!

Thor (#1): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#2): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#3): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#4): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#5): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#6): Straczynski/Coipel
Thor (#7): Straczynski/Djurdjevic
Thor (#8): Straczynski/Djurdjevic

People have been recommending these to me for a while, and I found this bundle on sale together at HPB. I have NEVER been a Thor fan. Straczynski, IMHO, had the sense to bring back Thor’s human counterpart Dr. Donald Blake, which helped one of my underlining problem with the title previously – relating to a Norse god isn’t easy for a mortal like me. Spider-Man deals with the kinds of things I do: mortgage/rent, keeping a job, getting along with a spouse/lover; Thor, not so much. I don’t really worry about Ragnarok much, frankly. So, bringing Blake back as the human side of Thor helped tremendously.
As with much of Straczynski’s comic work, I appreciated a lot of the little touches. I liked that Straczynski updated Blake to be a “Doctors without Borders” member. His relationship with his old lover was also wonderfully complicated by the reincarnation story and the fact that Blake is Thor to the point of obsession about Thor’s lover, rather than thinking about his own.

Speaking of the reincarnation storyline, I ALWAYS appreciate reincarnation stories that allow for gender shifts. (One of my favorites, a DC title: Camelot 3000.) I totally happen to buy into the choice Straczynski made, too.

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son (1 of 4), Reed/Briones
Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son (3 of 4), Reed/Briones
Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son (4 of 4), Reed/Briones

This series follows Norman Osbourne’s son(s) after the elder’s fall from grace as the former head of the Avengers/S.H.I.E.L.D. I’ve always enjoyed a good villain, though Green Goblin was never a favorite, not like say Magneto or Dr. Doom. I think it’s the crazy, honestly. Though kudos to Reed for taking on the whole complexity of being a villain’s kid. I found some of the relationships confusing, since I own, but have not yet read “One Last Day.” MJ with Osbourne, Jr.? Srsly?

Then, though these aren’t precisely a grouping, I also read:

The Heroic Age Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier (#1), Brubaker/Eaglesham

The Heroic Age Captain America (#606), “No Escape, Part 1,” Brubaker/Guice
The Heroic Age Captain America (#608), “No Escape, Part 3,” Brubaker/Guice

I have to admit to not knowing why these titles fall under this new “The Heroic Age” banner -- perhaps to distinguish them from the popular “Ultimates”? I have no idea. Okay, never mind. I just Googled “Heroic Age + Marvel,” because I can from home now and I’m disappointed to see that Marvel has plans to make the future bright and shiny and pull away from strife like the Civil War, Secret Invasion, the Death of Captain America and other fantastically awesome writing. Oh, wait, they didn’t say that last part, but it was pretty much implied. This is sad to me. I like dark and real.

Anyway, in Super-Soldier we find Steve Rogers trying to be a superhero without being Captain America. He doesn’t have much of a problem. ‘Nuff said.

Meanwhile, James “Bucky” Buchannan is having a MUCH harder time figuring out how to be Captain America, especially when Baron Zemo, Jr. exposes his past as Soviet era assassin to the press. Yikes! (Side note: is it true? Did Bucky also get the super-soldier formula? I thought only Steve did. In fact, one of the things I like about the new Cap is that he really doesn’t have superpowers outside of the one Soviet cybernetic arm.)

Of the two, I’m actually more interested in Bucky’s storyline, which makes me wonder. Am I really a Captain America fan, or did I really only like Winter Soldier?????


Iron Man 2

May. 11th, 2010 09:25 am
lydamorehouse: (cap)
Last night I got out to see IRON MAN 2 with my usual Marvel buddy, [ profile] seanmmurphy. I know a lot of people are more lukewarm about this installment, but I enjoyed it tremendously. Of course, I'll say without spoiling that the cross-over-y bits were lovely, and I can only hope that this grand experiment Marvel seems to be up to actually works.

I have my doubts.

Thing is, I think they have a misunderstanding of movie-goers and Americans, in general. Like I told [ profile] seanmmurphy last night, my agent speculated that one of the reasons Penguin was done with my Garnet Lacey series was because I'd committed the cardinal sin of marrying the two love interests. _Everyone knows_ you can no longer have fun, spark or excitment once you're in a committed relationship. I'd really hoped to prove them wrong. Because, for me, after twenty four years, I'm still head over heels, crazy in love. Every day is an adventure BECAUSE she's with me, BECAUSE of our history.

But the larger issue is that it has been established that romances are about "first blush," NEW love. American culture is very much about the new and improved. Throw out the old. Get the divorce and find the new, better, stronger, faster lover.

I think one of the reasons for that is because we don't have a lot of successful stories about romance between committed partners. The writers of the movie Titanic ignored one of the true life romances of that disaster (Mr. and Mrs. Strauss, an older couple, who stayed together and died together because they refused to be parted) and made up a more palatiable romance for American audiences (which was both forbidden -- by class -- and new and young.)

This relates to IRON MAN 2, how? Well, Marvel is expecting people to commit to characters. "Lost" and other serial TV shows have to give you the "previously, on 'Lost'..." bits because they know Americans audiences have etch-a-sketch brains. If it didn't just happen, they don't remember it. (By Americans, I mean, of course the general, average viewer. It is well established that fan brains are different. We have a legendary/notorious retention of storyline details and we are more comfortable with going with what's not familiar for a lot longer than the average reader/viewer.)

I don't know what that's going to be like, if, several years from now, they do success in making the Avengers movie. There's going to have to start being more than just a few hints and cameos.

And then there's going to be trouble.

Hollywood does NOT like ensemble casts. This to me is the reason for the relative failure of movies like THE FANTASTIC FOUR and SERENITY. It should be noted that I liked both movies, though I found them problematic. The problems centered around this issue. I think both tried too hard to fit the classic Hollywood mold and be about ONE character having ONE problem. The FF are a team AND a family. Their story needs to involve every character equally. Same was true of "Firefly" the TV show, which didn't translate well when they tried to make it mostly just about Captain tightpants/Mal.

So will Marvel be able to pull of an ensemble cast of big name actors all together on one screen? I don't know. I hope they can buck all the trends.
lydamorehouse: (more cap)
So as I mentioned HPB, that means I have some comic books to review. I seem to pick these things up with accidental themes, though this set was perhaps more obvious. This time, it was villains. This is a particular favorite subject of mine, because way back in the 90s, I answered a Marvel survey in one of the many X-Titles Shawn and I were reading during college that asked what superheroes we thought should get their own series. I suggested Magneto.

Thus, even though it meant breaking from my usual stable of writers, I simply had to pick up Greg Pak’s (June 2009):

X-Men: Magneto. “Testament” (2 of 5)
X-Men: Magneto. “Testament” (3 of 5)

And, then, since I was on a villainous theme, as I said, I got Ed Brubaker’s (2006):

Books of Doom (1 of 6)
Books of Doom (3 of 6)
Books of Doom (4 of 6)

After reading these, I decided that the first ingredient to being a Marvel supervillain is to be born into a historically persecuted people -- Magneto being a German Jew, and Victor Von Doom who is gypsy/Romany.

After that, I don’t really know what it’s going to take to be one of the two ultimate bad a$$ bad guy (though apparently deals with dark demons help significantly), as I didn’t get very far along in the stories. Between them, I’ll tell you, I’m more interested in Magneto. I’ve always been a Doom fan, but he’s MUCH tougher to sympathize with. I dunno, maybe it’s the whole speaking of himself in the third person thing and lines like, “Where before, though my heart was not filled with pity for the mass of humankind… now I found I looked at them as nothing more than gnats fluttering in my way.” (Books of Doom, 4 of 6)

When I was a kid, the one Marvel novel I read was the origin story of Doom, which at the time, I enjoyed tremendously. When I like him, he’s written as a sort of stand in for Lucifer: proud and arrogant and secretly kind of sexy. As I may have confessed before, I like the Doom who isn’t scarred by the college explosion at all, but merely so vain that he hides his face because he considers a tiny scar a horrible disfigurement. This goes with my whole “evil should be beautiful and seductive” theme. I like it in my Satan, and I like it with Doom.

Plus, on a completely superficial note, I think Doom has some of the best hair in the Marvel Universe. It’s always been that awesome auburn color, and wavy in just the right way. (Worst hair: Daredevil. Bad color, bad cut. Yeah, I know he’s blind, but his hair stylist isn’t!) And, while there’s one sexy scene in 3 that shows Doom’s hair off the way I like it, Brubaker couldn’t make me like Doom --which is fairly amazing when you consider he made me like Bucky.

The only scene I really sort of appreciated was when the KGB approached him to try to get him to work for the Soviets – which instantly spurred “What if?” in my head. As a child of the Cold War, I occasionally have a nostalgic yen for Migs and Red Stars and the great, mysterious enemy that the Soviets once represented. I found out on MySpace that Brubaker and I were born in the same month of the same year, so maybe it’s a generational thing.

Meanwhile, the Magneto books are developing a very sympathetic character. I mean it’s hard not to feel pathos about Magneto’s early days, even if all you know is that he grew up as a Jew in WWII and his latent mutant powers saved him from being shot to death when his family was lined up by a Nazi firing squad. The person Pak develops in the few issues I found is someone breaking under the pressure of being constrained by having to not fight back against the evil oppressors in order to save his family from repercussions -- even though, in the end, they die anyway. You can kind of get how Magneto might end up a roiling mess of “f-you, oppressors of any sort! Watch me rip the iron from your blood!”

Pak, of course, has a bit more wiggle room with Magneto’s character because, despite being the founder of the “Brotherhood of *EVIL* Mutants,” Magneto has also semi-successfully played for our team on and off. Magneto’s main conflict has always to do with a basic activist question: whether you should have justice at any cost, or whether you should play by the rules and change attitudes towards race/gayness/other civil rights issue, er, I mean, “mutants” incrementally. When Marvel writes him well, this issue isn’t as simple as it may appear, and thus his status as super_villain_ isn’t as black and white, as say Dr. Doom’s .

When we were out at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, I unsuccessfully combed the graphic novel sections in both used and new for the rest of the “Testament” series. I may have to break down and make my way over to Dreamhaven and see if they have it. I’d really like to see what happens to Magneto in this miniseries. Looks like, if I have to, I can still get it on Amazon in its collected format.

I also found several Captain America issues that catch me (sort of) up to date on that title, but they may deserve a post all their own.
lydamorehouse: (cap)
As I noted below, Shawn and I spent her birthday shopping. We spotted a HalfPrice Books in Roseville we’d never seen before -- though, according to the clerk, they’ve been there for two and a half years. For us, it was like a mirage appearing in the desert.

Anyway, Shawn checked out the new releases and I headed for comics. I found some Brubaker DAREDEVILs and ran into my friend and fellow writer Bob Subiaga, who was also hunting for cheap, used comics. He and I chatted, and I left with more stuff for me and Mason than for Shawn, alas.

When Shawn went to Kohls to shop for costume jewelry earrings, I sat in the car and read DAREDEVIL:

#84 / “The Devil in Cell-Block D” (part 3)
#85 / “The Devil in Cell-Block D” (part 4)
#86 / “The Devil in Cell-Block D” (part 5)
#87 / “The Devil in Cell-Block D” (finale)
#88 / “The Secret Life of Foggie Nelson”
#89 / “The Devil Takes a Ride” (part 1 of 5)
#105 / “Without Fear” (part 3 of 6)

I was never much of a Daredevil fan in my youth. I think used to perceive Daredevil as somewhat inscrutable (as he points out in one of the above, it’s not *his* thing to fight and talk) and, because he’s always portrayed as a serious loner, he wasn’t much fun to pretend to be when playing superheroes. My cousin and I used to prefer superheroes who were already part of a team (Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four) or gregarious enough to blend into an existing group, ala Spider-Man.

Plus, like Tony Stark/Iron Man, I’m never really sure how “good” Daredevil is. He’s always been out there as a vigilante – which is one of the things that I’ve always disliked about DC’s Batman (who is probably the closest DC analog to Daredevil, or visa versa since Batman came first.) But it’s more than that. I was doing the dishes just now trying to figure out why I have so much trouble sympathizing with Batman and, by extension, Daredevil.

I think you can judge the quality of a hero by his enemies. My favorite heroes fight my favorite villains. My favorite villains are often tragic in some way. Dr. Doom could have been a friend to Mr. Fantastic if only his pride and arrogance hadn’t consumed him so totally (and pride, as you may have guessed, is a sin I’m quite fond of.) Victor von Doom is what Reed Richards could be, but for the grace of god.

Likewise, Magneto is kind of the mutant version of Malcolm X (Professor X being Martin Luther King, Jr.). He wants freedom and equality for mutants, damn the cost (or screw humanity, as the case may be). Yet, often, Magneto makes a compelling argument, which is what makes him interesting to me. Professor X and Magneto are two sides of the same coin. Both want a word with mutant equality, they just have different methods.

The enemies of Daredevil (and the enemies of Batman) scare the crap out of me. Kingpin is a ruthless mob boss; the Joker is insane. If you go with my idea that enemies make the hero, than what does that say about Daredevil or Batman? There but for the grace of god you have a ruthless killer (Daredevil) and an insane megalomaniac (Batman).

You can kind of see it, can’t you?

Despite my deep reservations about Daredevil, I liked what Brubaker did (for the most part “quantum bullets” aside,) with the CAPTAIN AMERICA storyline, so I thought I’d give his DAREDEVIL a try. I enjoyed what I read as a story, but I’m still not terribly sold on Daredevil as a character.

By accident this set of DAREDEVILs and the Straczynski AMAZING SPIDER-MANs that I picked up earlier shared a common theme, which could be summed up in the question: what could make a superhero break (and become a villain)?

Interestingly, both answered basically the same way -- someone you love must die/or be dying.

For Daredevil, it’s his long-time law partner/bromance Foggie Nelson, who gets “shanked” while visiting Matt Murdock in prison. To be fair, Foggie’s apparent death is, for Matt, likely just the final the nail in the coffin. Getting sent to Riker’s Island is probably just as difficult, especially given that even without people knowing/suspecting that he’s Daredevil, as a lawyer, he helped put a lot of the inmates there in the first place.

Just as I suspected, in the darkness, Daredevil’s true character comes out, and I don’t like him. Over the course of the six part arc, we watch Matt slip closer and closer to becoming a cold-hearted, ruthless killer. It takes a wake-up call from the Punisher (of all people!) to shake him out of an unholy alliance with Kingpin _and_ Bullseye.

If I were more of a Daredevil fan, I’d appreciate this look into Matthew Murdock’s soul. But I’ve known it was dark and twisted there since reading the “Saints and Sinners” storyline back in the 90s (or 80s… whenever that was.)

I think I found Spider-Man’s struggles/descent into madness/criminal behavior more interesting simply because I like Peter Parker better. However, I can’t say it’s because his villains are favorites, though it’s notable that Doc Ock is a messed up, brilliant scientist and Peter certainly could have gone down that road. It’s actually kind of hard to point to just one darker version/antithesis of Spider-Man. His enemies are Legion, as it were. Perhaps his most persistent villain is the Green Goblin, and that wouldn’t say anything particularly nice about Petey – except, perhaps, that any evil he does, he does without knowing and that basically, at heart, he’s a good guy.

Okay, maybe it says a LOT.

Both the Green Goblin and Spider-Man have “daddy issues,” both making them essentially who they are. I can actually sympathize with Green Goblin when he’s Ozzy Osbourne (or even his father.) So my theory holds.

And yet no one has invited me to attend ComicCon; what’s up with that? *teasing*

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