Put on your spandex boys and girls, it’s swimsuit season–superhero style!


Looking for a way to spice up your beach wardrobe? You could always go comic book with these suits from Splish Competition Swimwear. The site caters mainly to athletic swimmers, but who says you can’t wear a speedo or a racer’s one-piece to a pool party? Especially when the designs are so much fun! (Do I sound like an info-mercial? I wanna sound like an info-mercial!)

Go patriotic at your 4th of July beach BBQ with the ultimate American hero:

Or make friends with the fish in this suit (there’s even a speedo version for the dudes):

And this is what would happen if Wonder Woman and the Flash had a kid (please no):

In their article about the suits, Comics Alliance recommends picking up this swim-tux to channel Zatanna (should I pull a seagull out of my hat?):

but I prefer user KrakaDOOM’s idea: “The tuxedo bathing suit could easily work for Alfred. Just because you’re at the beach doesn’t mean you don’t need someone to bring your drinks or field dress a wound.”

Damn straight, KrakaDOOM, damn straight.

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO FEEL!!


There are big things going on in the comic book industry right now. The internet is abuzz with news about the DC renumbering to take effect in September. Now, on a very basic level what this means is that 52 of our favourite titles will get shiny re-imaginings, starting off again at issue #1. On August 31st, we’ll see Justice League No.1 by Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee.

Naturally, this has sparked a lot of debate, and comic lovers are in a tizzy.

One of the prominent issues:  is this a reboot?

DC says no. Various official information from the publishers refers to this massive undertaking as either a “relaunch” or a “renumbering.” Fans hold that there is a vast difference between a relaunch and a reBOOT, and I agree. The spelling of the second syllables are hardly comparable. Yes, that was snark, because really, I think the two terms suggest the same thing: old heroes, new stories.

But that raises questions, too. What do I mean by new? Are we going to be reading about new villains? Different back stories? Again, DC has a response, but it’s pretty vague if you ask me. In an interview with USA Today, Justice League No. 1 artist Jim Lee (you know him from titles like All Star Batman and Robin) says, “This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.” It looks like characters and costumes alike will be getting revamped (there’s another “RE” for you guys), but the basic origin stories will remain the same.

I think Booster conveys my sentiments about this pretty well.

The horror!

As my title suggests, I don’t know how to feel! This is big stuff, my friends. This is huge. And honestly, I can’t tell what the real motivation is behind it. Are DC really trying to help the fans? Are they just in it for more money (probably)? Are they sick of trying to keep track of multitudinous, convoluted story lines? It’s probably a bit of all three, but who knows? It could be that aliens controlling their brains in a twisted experiment to see how the comic book community responds to change. There’s got to be an easier way, aliens. There just must be!

Certainly, there are pros and cons, as Blastr attempts to outline in this article, but here’s the rub: I’m not really sure we can know what the pros and cons are. I’m impressed we’ve even reached a point where we can acknowledge their existence. Now, I don’t mean that as an insult. Comic book lovers tend to be intelligent people, and if they’ve stuck with the characters all these years (see MULTITUDINOUS and CONVOLUTED above) they must be pretty good at wrapping their heads around things, however, this is a biggun.

Never fear, gentle readers! I may not be a super hero, but I do have one on my shoes.

Thus, I feel qualified to give my opinion on the matter. And here it is: I’m excited.

Mercy!!

WAIT! STOP! Don’t stone me to death! (That picture’s really handy.)

Let me explain.

I love comic books, but I would call myself an amateur comic book reader. Is there really such a thing? I don’t know. What I mean by it, though, is that I haven’t read very many of the big DC or Marvel titles, and I certainly haven’t been able to follow the stories of my favourite superheroes. The comics I actively read are more along the lines of Sandman, The Ultimates, Buffy Season 7, and graphic novels like Watchmen and V for Vendetta. In other words, graphic literature with an expiration date. When I first read Sandman, I knew it would end, which was sad, but it also meant I didn’t have to scramble to read five hundred issues of a story that wasn’t even finished. And I’ve always been a little bit cranky about the fact that I can’t just pick up a Green Lantern comic and start in. I wouldn’t know where to begin with any of those big names. There are series and spin-off series and companion stories and alternate universes and it’s all a little brain-explody.

So, yes, it’s kind of nice that DC is letting me start at the beginning, perhaps in a manner similar to that in which the Ultimates gave me a comprehensive story about the Avengers. (Or perhaps not like that at all. We’ll have to wait and see.) I’m excited for Justice League No.1 and I’m going to keep an open mind about other titles as well. Maybe this will be my chance to up my nerd-knowledge when it comes to comics, maybe it’ll just put a strain on my bank account, but either way, trying new things is good for the soul. It keeps me interesting. And you guys would probably be the first to tell me, I could use all the interesting I can get.

Questions?

I know. I think I’m so funny. But if you do still have questions, here’s a handy dandy source list:

DC Universe: The Source: DC’s press release

The USA Today article referenced above

The Comics Reporter’s blog

Geeks of Doom’s post

First Class Entertainment with Professor Charles Xavier


Please hold while I squeal girlishly.

Alright. I think I’m good.

Now that I’ve seen the film twice (the midnight premier was glorious, by the way), I think I’m ready to chat. Don’t expect too much objectivity, though–I’m a teensy bit obsessed. Also, there be ***SPOILERS*** ahead. Big, juicy, shark-ridden waters of SPOILERS! I think you’ve been sufficiently warned.

Hello? Is anyone there? Great. Now no one’s reading this.

So, to start off, a slight complaint. Mainly with this poster:

Where is Banshee?! Maybe I’m prejudiced because I have a little thing for gingers, but the rest of First Class is there (sans Darwin. More on that later), so why is Banshee AWOL? And why is Havok so teeny-tiny in the background there? Did they do something wrong? Are they not worthy?!

But seriously. Banshee is awesome. He kicks serious ass, and he’s funny to boot. And Havok! HAVOK!! Scott Summer’s younger brother who is mysteriously already a young adult in 1962! Yeah, I’m not even going to touch the continuity errors–I’m sorry, choices–made in this film. Let’s get back on track. Havok and Banshee are awesome, and they deserve a little more face time.

That’s more like it.

Let’s take it from the top. From the first scene of X-Men: First Class onward, we know the film is going to be a rollercoaster of  intense emotions and fantastic film flashbacks. First Class begins with the same opening scene as the 2000 film X-Men–young Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents during a Nazi operation in Poland. The scene was re-shot with Bill Milner as young Erik and  Eva Magyar as his mother, and the detail is exquisite. The scene plays differently enough (it’s shorter, filmed at different angles, etc) from its counterpart in X-Men to engage the viewer, but it’s similar enough to make those of us who are X-film fans say, “I’ve seen that before! I know what’s coming!” And, let’s face it. We like to feel like we’re in the know.

And it’s all uphill from there. We see a Charles Xavier who is young, full of life, vastly intelligent, and just plain thrilled by the possibilities presented by the mutant evolution. It’s a portrait of a brilliant young man who is just beginning to find his footing in a world that has no notion of his true potential, and the older, wiser Professor X we know and love is just beneath the surface, waiting for his younger counterpart to finish growing up. And over the course of First Class, Charles certainly does.

We also see a lot of familiar faces and hear some names that are important later in the X-Men saga. William Stryker is mentioned, Charles flashes on a very young Ororo Munroe (Storm) during his first go at Cerebro, we meet the ever loquacious Logan (Wolverine), and we get the back stories of some of the characters we’ve always wondered about–namely, Mystique and Beast. I’m sensing a blue theme.  And First Class introduces the team sensibility for which X-Men is famous. The characters’ abilities create a bond between them that allows them to work well as a unit, even before Charles’s intensive training week.

What did you do this week?

Oh, I went shopping, worked, the usual. You?

I mastered my mutant abilities and averted World War III.

Right. Must be Tuesday.

When Shaw and his minions come for the mutants, Darwin and Alex need only to make eye contact and engage in some manly shoving to come up with a plan to save Angel. You’re looking skeptical. Is that because things went sideways and Darwin sort of–yeah? Yeah. That was sad. But my point still stands. Teamwork.

Now, I gave a spoiler warning (did you see it? It was ***surrounded by symbols*** and BOLD) so I think it’s only fair to give an I’m-going-to-talk-about-religion-and-emotional-experiences warning as well. Prepare yourselves.

Every time I watch the opening sequence of the original X-Men film, something inside me clenches up with an odd kind of empathy. That boy, that young Erik Lensherr, could have been me, had I lived half a century or so earlier. Okay, no, I wouldn’t have been able to bend metal with my mind, but I might have been a frightened young woman forced to wear a yellow star on her chest, separated from her family. I grew up in a Jewish household and spent my formative years at religious school learning about the Holocaust and the atrocities done to the Jews, the gypsies, the homosexuals, and anyone else of whom Hitler wasn’t particularly fond. And I’ll admit, I’d grown a little jaded. There are only so many documentaries, photographs, and statistics a young person can be exposed to before those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis become first the stuff of nightmares and later something I attempted to forget I’d ever seen. And that’s just plain wrong.

If there’s one thing I believe to be true, it’s that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Hell, we repeat it even when we do remember it. And maybe it sounds a bit far fetched, but the X-Men films have reminded me how important it is to remember the Holocaust. Erik is tortured at the hands of the Nazis. He sees his mother murdered before his eyes and watches his people enslaved and slaughtered. And he craves revenge. I don’t know how his story would affect me were I not a Jew, but I am, and as such, I watch Erik’s spiral into darkness with sorrow in my soul, because it shows me that hatred breeds hatred, heartlessness begets heartlessness.

The reason I learned about the Holocaust in religious school was because the Jewish community cannot let the memory of what happened to our people be forgotten, and Erik’s story reflects that sentiment. We see a man in pain, a man who only knows rage and revenge, and it shows us just how far reaching the damages of persecution can be. Erik harbors a cold, desolate kind of loathing for his tormentors. He is not self-righteous, he is purposeful. He says, “I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.”

And thus, one of the most dynamic comic book villains of all time is born. No more black and white, no more evil masterminds for us. No, we’ve got something much more powerful. We’ve got Magneto. He might not fit the classical definition of a tragic figure, but his transformation is most certainly a tragedy. Magneto is a cautionary tale. His rage turns him from victim to oppressor, and he begins to view non-mutant human beings in the same way the Nazis viewed their victims during the Holocaust. To anyone who has ever been persecuted it says, “Don’t let your anger turn you into that which you hate.” And to the few left over who have never faced prejudice, and to those that have been prejudiced against others, it says, “This is what hatred does.”

It seems like an easy lesson, but one needs only to pick up a newspaper (okay, fine, to read an article online) to realize it is a lesson the human race is only beginning to learn. X-Men: First Class is more than just a comic book movie, it’s a film with some rich social commentary, and a lot of grey.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to voice them. This is a film that deserves our attention, full of issues that bear discussion. (No, I don’t work for 20th Century Fox. Promise.)

I Love Books


I may be a little late to the party on this issue, but, as is my want, I’m going to add my two cents. (Possibly even three.) Are you ready? Good, because the next sentence you’ll read here is extremely important.

YA saves.

What does that mean? Well, it’s in response to this article by the Wall Street Journal, which, to be frank, makes me angry. Stop saying that! You’re not Frank, you’re Sarah Jane. (Gotta love the Dad humor.)

But I digress. The article in question raises objections about contemporary young adult literature, specifically those novels that deal with real-life issues such as bullying, rape, abuse, suicide, and self harm. The article postulates that such novels are harmful to teens and appears to defend censorship of such literature in libraries and book stores. Now, this is of particular interest to me as I am a) a writer of young adult fiction and b) an avid reader of the genre. I am, after all, only twenty. It was not so long ago that I was in the age bracket to which these books are marketed, and, last time I checked (two minutes ago), they were still relevant to my life.

Meghan Cox Gurdon, the writer of the article in question, claims that YA novels dealing with dark themes are harmful to those that read them. She claims that “…a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.” Mrs. Gurdon, I think you’re missing the point of these novels.

Typically, I don’t like to generalize (see what I did there?), but since Gurdon has done so with relish in her article, I’ll have to adopt a similar tactic to counter her argument. So, here I go. Most YA novels of a “dark” thematic nature exist to give a voice to those who haven’t been able to speak out. A teen who has been through some sort of trauma may read a fictional account of struggles similar to hers and think, “I’m not alone.”  But, more importantly, she will read of her fictional counterpart’s recovery and think, “I have hope.”

It may sound sappy, but I believe that is the greatest power YA fiction possesses: hope. The darkest bits of a YA novel can be very dark, but they have to be in order for us to recognize the light at the end of the tunnel, however dim it is. One can’t just ignore the things Gurdon objects to because they’re not pretty. That happens enough in the real world, which is why there is suffering to be written about. The aim is to bring that suffering to light–to force people to acknowledge it, ugly though it may be, so that we can do something to fix it.

And how can we do that if disgruntled individuals who prefer to stay ignorant call for censorship of these novels? To shut these stories in a dark room where no one can look upon them is to deprive teens of a vital lens through which to view the world. Young adults who might have been saved by a novel’s message would never hear it, and people who might have been encouraged to act–to report their tormentors to the police, to rally against the evils in our society, to help others who have been through hardship–would sit idle.

And then there’s that whole issue of how censorship is WRONG (I don’t use that world lightly). It is a parent’s responsibility to judge what is and is not appropriate for their own children. It is neither their responsibility nor their right to decide that for others’ children. Let’s put it this way: my parents let me read whatever novels I chose, regardless of how disturbing the content may have been. If Suzy’s mother had forbidden me from reading those novels, would I have listened? No. It’s not her choice. So, Suzy’s mom (you’re a metaphor, by the way, but I’ll understand if you’re not familiar with that concept), why don’t you focus a little less on me and a little more on Suzy? Because here’s the truth: if a teenager wants to read a book that chronicles a boy’s desire for suicide, she should do so. And then she should be able to talk to her parents about what she’s read, to synthesize ideas and think deeply about the issues brought to light by the novel.

Young adult fiction author Maureen Johnson said it best when she posted this graph on Twitter (via photobucket’s Half-Lighter):

Discussion is key. Gurdon posits that “Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it” and she may be right. However, literature is not just entertainment. It is a mirror that reflects facets of ourselves with which we may not be familiar, and a lens that allows us to look upon the world through someone else’s eyes. And perhaps a young adult will become attracted to darker novels because of his experiences with certain YA fiction, but if he is taught to process what he has read and to learn from it, he can do nothing but benefit.

A few things to ponder:

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, blogs beautifully on the issue here.

Twitter user Foz Meadows says “#YASaves because books can say things that other people won’t, whether peers, parents or teachers. We read silently, but it is not silence.”

Twitter user Robin Wasserman says “Without books, I would have been alone. Trapped. Without hope. If adolescence is a cage, books are the key. #yasaves

The YA community’s response to the WSJ article as covered in novel novice.

This picture:

If you’re still skeptical, do me a favour and read up on book burnings in Nazi Germany. Or, here’s a wacky idea, read Fahrenheit 451. (See, I did get something sci-fi related in here!)

Thanks for reading. And thanks for Reading.

A Few of My Favourite Things


Hey! Remember how I love Doctor Who? And remember how I love Neil Gaiman? And remember how I love charlieissocoollike? Well, now all three are together in one beautiful TARDIS shaped package full of wacky hair and British accents! Yes, all is right with the world.

You see, many moons ago, Neil Gaiman posted this picture on his Twitter account: 

Which of course made the little fangirl in me make truly mortifying excited noises.

Around the same time, Charlie McDonnell (AKA You Tube’s charlieissocoollike) gave us this lovely teaser image: 

And it’s entirely possible that my heart stopped beating for a spell. I’m better now.

In any case, these mystifying pictures culminated in an episode of Doctor Who complete with funny bits, scary bits, sad bits, and running about bits–all Neil Gaiman’s favourite bits–written by Gaiman himself. Impressive. The episode, entitled ‘The Doctor’s Wife,’ was everything we could want from the series, which I’m sure Gaiman would be pleased to hear. He and Charlie had a nice chat about the episode, the TARDIS, and the program in general, and BBC graced us with the footage earlier today. 

Brilliant! Bravo Charlie and Neil! I laughed, I cried, it changed my life. Alright, really I just laughed. Still, well worth the 7:07 minutes. (By the by, was that intentional? Seven is an awfully magical number for an awfully magical trifecta of awesome.)

In other news, Neil and Charlie aren’t the only ones who’ve spent time with the TARDIS.

Shut up fangirl! Quiet!

It has to be just very complicated Solitaire


It’s me–I’m back!

Did you miss me?

….No?

Well bugger off and read someone else’s blog then.

No, please stay!

All right, stop that! It’s silly. And a bit suspect, I think.

But really, after three weeks of final exams, stressful travel, exploits in NYC, and melting in the Florida heat, I’ve returned, and I’ve got things to tell you!

On today’s edition: Good Omens. They’re positive portents, they’re pleasant predictions, pleasing prophecies…I’ll stop. Really, I’m talking about the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It’s a funny little book. It looks like this…

…or like this…

…or, more often, some derivation of this

Anyway, I’m a writing major and a religious studies minor, so this book is more or less my bible. The irony is not lost on me. Given the season finale of Supernatural–shining in all its sacrilegious glory (my kind of glory to the tee), full of ***SPOILERS*** rebelling angels, apocalypses averted (twice), deals with devils, and new gods–I’ve had religion on the mind. Especially Christianity, especially relating to heaven, hell, angels, demons, God, Satan, and especially the apocalypse.

What with the rapture coming and going more or less unnoticed (see, I didn’t want to go to heaven on Saturday–I’d have missed Doctor Who), I’ve been thinking a lot about what a funny thing an apocalypse is. If you ask me, contradictions are more or less inherent in its nature. The foremost of which is best represented by a rather blasphemous opinion I hold: heaven sounds painfully boring. I quite like earth, thank you very much, despite–no, because of all its flaws. What’s the point of life (or afterlife as the case may be) if there are no problems to solve, no conflicts to resolve, no goals to work for or improvements to be made? What fun is any of it if it’s all perfect?

That’s what I think Good Omens is about. It’s about the pros and cons of life on earth, about the balance of power in a world which may be a giant chess board, or a complex Solitaire spread, or a disc riding on the backs of four elephants standing on the back of a turtle. Alright, probably not that last one. Good Omens is about right and wrong as opposed to Right and Wrong. It’s about prejudices realised and destinies averted. It’s about free will and whether free will was ever really all that free to begin with. It’s about mad old women who weren’t mad at all when you got right down to it, and it’s about very astute ducks.

And it’s brilliant.

Now, it doesn’t answer any of the Big Questions, really. We still don’t know the question of life, the universe, and everything, although I think Crowley and Aziraphale would have to agree that the answer is most certainly 42. (What is the atomic number of molybdenum? The critical angle of a rainbow? The wildcard character? I’m not even warm, am I? A Coldplay song? Now that can’t be right.) Good Omens does, however, make me smile. And I assume it’s made many other people smile, given how wildly popular it is. Either that, or I’m just reading it dead wrong.

I’m joking, of course. Good Omens is the sort of book that just can’t be read wrong. It’s also the sort of book that is about anything and everything, and possibly nothing at all, depending on how you look at it. (Although the bit about the ducks, that’s incontrovertible.)

So there it is, a book about the apocalypse that wasn’t. It seems we’ve seen quite a few of those in the last decade or two. And with another one due for next year, I think Good Omens is as relevant as ever. Or more so. It’s possibly the most relevant thing I’ve ever written about. (You see, writing about this novel is as close as I’ll ever come to actually having written it, which makes this entire entry rather a lot of wishful thinking.)

Wishful thinking. Dreaming. Questioning. I like to believe that’s the sort of thing we’re meant to do while we’re waiting for heaven or hell or the dark of a Death Cab for Cutie song or whatever it is that comes next. I like to believe that if there’s something or someone out there, up there, anywhere who expects anything of us, that someone/thing appreciates that we wonder, that we ponder, that we challenge superstition and supposition. Because Adam Young said it best: “I don’t see why it matters what is written. Not when it’s about people. It can always be crossed out.”

Witty blog title followed by explanatory subtitle


Me: This looks horribly familiar.

HBO: You’re seeing it now for the first time!

Me: If you say so–wait! I know exactly where I’ve seen that before!

Yeah…HBO’s ripping off one of my favourite comedy duos, Britanick. I got the news on Facebook earlier today as Nick posted the HBO video with this tagline: Veiled statement casually accusing a TV Network of plagiarism while at the same time expressing flattery.

Well, he’s never not funny, that’s for sure!

Anyway, this sort of irritates me (a lot), but the flood of fan support for Britanick in the HBO video’s You Tube comments ALMOST makes it worth the theft.

A few of the best:

And a thousand voices will be raised, crying, “NOOOOOO! They ripped off BriTANick, and did a p*ss-poor job of it, to boot!” And people everywhere will condemn the big network for ripping off brilliant artists without so much as an acknowledgment. (via allegritah)

“Watch something you haven’t seen a million times before”?? Really??? How about 2,555,334 times before?

Besides, Nick Kocher is MUCH more devastingly handsome. (via QuiteOrdinary)

And on Facebook:

“expression of sympathy followed by vague question about copyright law?” (via Roxanne Palmer)

Wait. When did this blog become me quoting other people’s humor from social media networks? Sorry guys, clearly there’s something hinky going on with my funny bone. That, or I just wasn’t funny to begin with. Yeah, it’s probably the latter. Go watch some Britanick. They’ll entertain you.