Sunday, May 4, 2014

May the Fourth Be With You...Always.

The comic book that fueled my love of all things Star Wars
          Today is Star Wars day and it’s made look back several times over my thirty-three years or so of loving all things Star Wars.  I was too young to remember A New Hope, I was just four years old after all.  The Empire Strikes Back, though, now that movie I remember.  I know my Aunt took me to the movie but I don’t remember a whole lot of the movie itself.  She says I went to the bathroom a lot but I honestly don’t remember it much.  I have a vague recollection of Hoth but that’s about it from that experience.  What got me hooked, and I mean really hooked was a copy of the second edition of Marvel’s comic book adaptation of the same movie.  It was slightly larger than a normal comic and the colors were very stark but that book is what opened up my mind and my world to all that was Star Wars.  I had some toys before that too, the Death Star play set figures prominently in my memories as does the Falcon playset but that comic was my ‘gateway to geekdom’. (Geekgate?  Gateway Geek?)

                I’m not exactly sure what about the series that hooked me so completely and continues to hook me even now as an adult.  Maybe because it had it all; swords, action, flying ships, guns, and rogues just to name a few things!? My seven year old brain sucked it all up and from then on my world was set.  It was my Errol Flynn, my Three Musketeers, Zorro, and Lone Ranger all wrapped
Oh Yeah!! The Death Star!!
into three movies.  It scared me (that Wompa was not a nice creature) and in the beginning I wasn’t even too sure of Darth Vader.  My view on what a hero should be as an adult is modeled entirely on Han Solo, a bad guy just isn’t really a bad guy unless they can top Vader and Palpatine.  I suppose I was the perfect age for it but whatever it was I was in!! 

                As I’ve aged I’ve always been fearful the movies would age or wouldn’t hold up to my adult scrutiny but they haven’t.  They’ve grown more fun to watch especially as I share them with my sons (my daughters too but they won’t admit it publicly that they like the movies but I know they do...they do I tell you!!).  The prequels had their issues sure and didn’t even come close to matching the majesty of the original three (especially episode V) but they were Star Wars through and through.  They had swords, guns, romance, ships, and awesome bad guys just like the originals.  They stoked the Star Wars flames of my soul.  They made me feel like a kid again and stoked the imagination.  They took me back to hours spent playing with the toys or just imagining I was the one fighting Darth Vader instead of Luke.  They took me back to time spent pouring over fan-fiction before fan-fiction was even a thing.  I spent hours making up distant relatives of Solo and writing about those adventures. 

Fan-Made Episode VII poster
                As we slowly march our way through 2014 and into 2015 there is the promise of more Star Wars goodness.  I’ve seen the original cast is returning and that’s simply awesome.  The fans out there in the internet may not like it and throw down all of their negative fan hate that could only exist in the anonymous world of the internet but I’m pretty sure when those opening credits pop on the screen and the words begin their long scroll up the screen that I’ll be in my seat grinning like a loon, my inner seven year old squealing in absolute joy.  Whatever intangible thing it was that hooked me on this universe all those years ago, I am very grateful it was there.  Star Wars has made me a happy child, a happy boy, and a happy adult repeatedly over the years and I can’t imagine a world without being able to sit down and watch one of the movies, or quote a line at my wife, or have my mom throw out a line from Yoda or discuss the finer points with my wife and best friend. (or...shhh...beating my wife at Star Wars trivial pursuit!!! muhahahah)  Thank you George Lucas for being as influential on my life as much and probably more than any teacher ever was.  Long Live Star Wars, and May the Fourth Be With You!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's a scary scary world we live in!!!

                It has occurred to me recently that not all is right in the world.  No seriously, innocent little things like comic books and geek culture (one I’ve been a member of for nearly 30 years) is not as innocent as I once hoped they were.  This thing that started with my buddy and I running down to the local 7-11 and Newcombs to get our books on a monthly basis (for .65 cents no less but that’s a topic for another blog)  and trading books on the front porch of his parents house has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry (with movies thrown in).  Innocent ‘one and done’ comic books about teen age angst (Spidey) and that taught us to care for all of humanity no matter their race, sex, or power (X-men) or that anger wasn’t always the answer (Hulk) were what the industry was all about.  Comic Cons didn’t exist and if they did they were a world away from our parent’s front porches.  Wolverine was the best there was at what he did but all we really knew about what he did was that it wasn’t pretty.  This was how I came into the world of Geekdom. 

Cover Art by John Byrne
                Then the internet struck and like many many things in the world things got….discombobulated….innocence slowly melted away.  One-and-done’s turned into epic multi-issue arcs that gave way to company spanning events.  Great covers gave way to foil covers and small community center comic conventions where books changed hands for other books turned into mega-cons!!!  We lost our innocence.  Usually this isn’t a big thing to me.  It happens.  Life will always move forward and that’s the way of things so we have to deal with it.  Books will never return to .65 and we’ll be lucky if they stay at the $3.99 mark they’ve been at for the past several years. 

                I grew up and so did my comic books.  I’ve had kids who have been immersed in the culture.  More specifically I’ve had girls who are as much fan-girls as I am a fan-boy.  This has me nervous.  I am alert to all of the dangers that face 13 year old girls.  The internet, boys, bullies, TV, eating issues, image issues, and puberty just to name a few.  I never in a million years thought I’d need to add comic books or anything else from Geekdom.  I have made attempts to keep them from some of the covers (Witchblade probably the most) so that they weren’t exposed to ‘those kinds of images’ and while they’ve not really taken to comic books per se they’ve seen them in the house.  They’ve gotten their toes wet in Geekdom by following Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, Adventure Time, Minecraft.  On the surface these aren’t too bad but they’ve led them to want to go to cons and one day it may lead them to want to read comic books or continue deeper into their chosen ‘Geek Path’. 
Cover Art By John Byrne

                The question that faces me is, ‘Do I want them to?’ After reading about all of the hate directed at one individual who criticized a cover of a comic book I’m wondering if this culture is really safe to raise 13 year olds in.  Because a woman stood up and spoke her mind the Culture with which I have so proudly claimed to be a part of lashed out in some of the meanest ways imaginable.  Do I want my daughters exposed to this? 

No I do not!!!  Not even a little bit. 

The anonymity of the internet protects these ‘people’ from persecution and emboldens them to say things they’d never say in public but it also means some of these comments were the true feelings of the posters.  These were the first things that popped into their minds!!  For the first time ever I was embarrassed to be a male and specifically to be a male in this culture.  I wanted to defend the males who would never ever think to say these things but I found myself at a loss.  I didn’t know what to say.  Honestly, I still don’t.  I stand with the females who’ve stood up and made the Culture aware of what’s going on, I stand next to the creators who’ve publicly stood up and put these ‘fan-boys’ down.  I’ve favorite posts, and re-tweeted tweets to show some support.  I’ve downloaded Podcasts and visited blogs to show my support but it’s not seemed like enough. 

                Now I look at the world I live in and realize I’m not a ‘cause’ type of guy.  I live a quiet life with my family.  I don’t speak out to often, I don’t donate money to charity’s, I simply live my life the best way I know how and hope that will be enough.  I’m polite, I open doors for people, and I wave and/or smile at strangers.  So how do I help with the ‘problem’?  How do I help ‘change the world’?  The answer is I raise my children right.  I also have two boys and I make sure they grow up knowing it’s not okay, ever to say those things or even think them.  I teach them to stand up for things that are right.  I teach my girls to overcome and to not accept the status quo.  I teach them that this is not the 50’s or 60’s and that they as young women have as much right to protect the image of women and of themselves as anyone else.  I teach them that the faceless masses of anonymous internet are wrong, that they are not humanity.  I teach them to seek the truth no matter what others say, no matter what the ‘common perception’ is.  I teach them to be Women, intelligent-go-after-what-they-want women who will rule the world in the end.  I teach all four of them the wonders of the comic book world, to look deep through the title spanning arcs to see the beautiful truth and lessons that are buried in today’s comics.  I teach them to appreciate the art and in turn to encourage the artists to ‘get it right’ and not accept the stereotype.  I teach them to read deep and feel what the author is trying to express.  This is how I can defeat the anonymous masses.  This will be my commitment to the wonderful world which I’ve enjoyed for so long and which I hope to continue to embrace.  This will be my contribution to the world at large.  Comic books are a beautiful medium and Geekdom is an awesome culture that has come together to achieve some really spectacular things.  I hope it continues, I hope I am able to teach my children to continue with it.  And with that, I will return to my room where I have stacks of books waiting to be read and return once more to the great stories being put to paper by the wonderful authors and artists who month in and month out are producing some of the most awesome story telling available.