Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

Yes, yes, an envelope and a mix-up, and blah, blah, blah. That’s not important. What’s actually important is that Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, written by Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, won three golden statues during Sunday’s broadcast. The night kicked off with Mahershala Ali winning for Best Supporting Actor, then Jenkins and McCraney won for Best Adapted Screenplay – the movie was adapted from McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue – and the night ended with the now infamous envelope mix-up.

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Nevertheless, Moonlight still won the Oscar for Best Picture. That’s what you need to know. A movie chronicling the life of a gay black man navigating the harsh world of his Miami neighborhood that deftly treats its characters and subject matter with love, respect, and honesty won Best Picture. It is no small feat considering the movies it was up against and the less than stellar record of the Oscars handing out Best Picture awards to less deserving films over, shall we say, more deserving films. And while people often shirk the Oscars and go on about how award shows are irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that the visibility gained by Moonlight‘s win on an international broadcast will bring more eyes towards the film than its initial run in theaters. That boost in viewership has the potential to give Jenkins, McCraney, and all those involved greater opportunities to tell more stories (big or small) through the medium of film. And the more stories they tell, the more black and LGBTQ movie-going audiences have the chance to see themselves reflected in those stories.

It matters.

But it’s not my place to wax poetic about Moonlight anymore than I already have. Instead, you should watch the movie and then read some or all of the links provided below to give you more insight on the movie from those whom it affects most.

Firstly, you can stream Moonlight via the A24 website. Hopefully the film returns to theaters after its win, but at the very least there are plenty of digital platforms from which to watch.

Secondly, read these pieces below:

Renée Graham – ‘Moonlight’ in Donald Trump’s America, The Boston Globe

Michael Cuby – Why Moonlight‘s Oscars 2017 Win Is So Important For Queer Black Men, Teen Vogue

James McConnaughy – Moonlight & The Handmaiden: Two Very Different Takes on Intimacy, The Mary Sue

Vernon Jordan, III – How ‘Moonlight’ Looks Out For the Humanity In Us, The Establishment

Shane Thomas – Moonlight isn’t just a part of the conversation, it is the conversation, Media Diversified

Amanda N’Duka – Tarell Alvin McCraney On ‘Moonlight’s Message: “I Think People Were Hungry For That,” Deadline

Kristy Puchko – Review: Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ Is Beautiful, Brutal, and Rare, Pajiba

 

Thirdly, congrats to the cast and crew of Moonlight! You earned it and you deserve it!

 

moonlight-poster

By the end of this week the United States will have sworn in a fascist, narcissist demagogue as the next President. Despite overwhelming evidence that our political system was compromised, my country and its elected representatives will allow this farce of a human being to take the highest seat of power where his ego will likely swell and consume the swamp he’s so eager to flood.

So unless there’s some master plan to begin the impeachment process the second after he’s taken the oath of office, I’d just assume the rest of us prepare for the fight ahead because the next four years are gonna be a doozy.

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the current state of national and international politics, know that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the exclusive group known as Everybody. We’re scared and we’re angry, but we’re also unapologetic in our desires for equality, representation, and compassion. If human decency must be the battleground, then we’ll make sure the fight is hard-won. We will not turn the other cheek. We will not “give him a chance.” We will not “get over it.” If Putin’s pumpkin puppet expects capitulation, then he’s in for a rude awakening.

We will not comply.

Easy to write, I know. It’s equally as easy to say. It’s the execution, the action, that requires the will and the energy necessary. Some have been fighting their whole lives while the rest of us have only now caught up. Weariness coupled with vigorous outrage ebb and flow depending on the day, the hour, the tweet. We question our place among the multitude. We stutter trying to find the right words. We stumble in our attempts to walk in the shadows of icons. But we keep walking. We pick each other up and offer comfort and understanding. There will never be an equity to our pain and suffering, but in this moment, at this point in history, we know one truth to be extremely self-evident:

We will not comply.

There’s a long and time-honored tradition of civil disobedience that is characteristic to more than just the United States. Revolutions have been built on the backs of people willing to stand up when everyone says, “sit down.” And if anything can be spun as positive coming out of the tangerine troll’s inauguration it’s that we are renewed in our intentions, reinvigorated in spirit, and determined as all hell to rock the fucking boat.

In five days the world will watch a racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, narcissist, bully swear on a Bible that he will protect and defend the United States and its Constitution. He will do neither. Those watching, however, will also notice that the thin crowd of paid participants will be dwarfed the following day by the Women’s March on DC and its sister protests within the United States and around the world. And in the days to follow there will be swells of people marching again and again while others call on their representatives to do their job and serve. We will push. We will pull. We will question. We will cry and shout and scream. We will create.

But we will not comply.

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a Republic that was usurped by an Empire. In turn, the Empire was felled by a Rebellion. The warring factions, however, made use of the one tool proven to bolster despots as well as topple political regimes: Archives. Yes, the galaxy is populated by space wizards, space Nazis, and useless bounty hunters named Boba Fett, but it’s a known fact that lightsabers can’t rewrite the public record and a blaster can’t provide the essential plans to take down a moon-sized machine of death. For that, and more, you need a space-archivist and a space-archives.

Interestingly enough, two movies in the Star Wars franchise have made use of the archive as an important setting within the narrative. Not only that, they’ve inadvertently highlighted the importance of archives as institutions of memory and accountability while simultaneously showcasing the shortcomings of archives to protect the people they serve. For such a brief amount of time featured on screen given the expansive nature of the franchise, the archive still manages to make a large impact in the ongoing battle between the Jedi and the Sith. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the small yet important relationship between Star Wars and the Archive.

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While I’m usually hesitant to mention or even think about the Star Wars prequels for more than a few seconds, it is actually due to the events of the most recent installation of the Star Wars canon, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, that we must travel back to the halcyon days of Episode II: The Clone Wars. A former professor of mine, Randall C. Jimerson, used a pivotal scene in The Clone Wars as an example of the power held within the archives and the power held by archivists. In his Presidential Address to the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in 2005, Jimerson writes:

George Lucas presents a more confident view of archives. In Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi visits the Jedi Temple Archives seeking the location of the planet Kamino. Archivist Madame Jocasta Nu, a frail elderly woman, provides reference assistance, but Kamino does not appear on the archives’ star charts. She concludes:

“I hate to say it, but it looks like the system you’re searching for doesn’t exist.”

“That’s impossible – perhaps the archives are incomplete.”

“The Archives are comprehensive and totally secure, my young Jedi,” came the imposing response, the Archivist stepping back from her familiarity with Obi-Wan and assuming again the demeanor of archive kingdom ruler.

“One thing you may be absolutely sure of: If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” The two stared at each other for a long moment, Obi-Wan taking note that there wasn’t the slightest tremor of doubt in Jocasta Nu’s declaration.

It turns out, by the way, that the existence of the missing planetary system had been erased, in an act of archival sabotage. The Jedi Archives may seem “comprehensive and totally secure” but even this futuristic vision shows the limits of archival control. The archivist’s pose of omniscience is truly an illusion. However, as Eric Ketelaar points out, the fact that Obi-Wan must physically enter the Jedi Archives in his search shows the power of the archivist, who must mediate “between brain and source.” The role of the archivist is crucial and powerful. [Source: SAA]

It’s a lot to glean from a small scene, but the implications of how much power actually exists within the archives remains important to the Empire’s plans. That Obi-Wan even suggests the record may be incomplete is met with immediate reproach by Jocasta Nu. She’s a woman of age and experience, no doubt, and with that age and experience comes a confidence in the institution she serves. We never learn if there are other archivists serving the Republic, but if we’re to assume Jocasta is the lone archivist, then it makes her complacency and confidence far more worrisome.

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An ongoing issue among archivists and users is the assumption that archivists are intimately aware of everything they have in their repository. To put it bluntly: that simply isn’t true. Depending on the institution and the circumstances by which the archives were developed, some archivists don’t learn about the majority of what’s held in their stacks until it’s requested by the user. Time management, low funds, and little manpower are the typical culprits, but it’s still worth noting that even in the highly advanced world of the Old Republic, the archives can still be manipulated. If an archivist is unaware of everything under her purview, then it’s easy to see how information vital to the emerging Empire’s elaborate schemes could disappear without incident.

That doesn’t, however, absolve Jocasta of her role in aiding the Empire. Though she’s confident in the security afforded the records, there’s a distinct lack of scrutiny and curiosity in Jocasta that’s endemic throughout the Republic. It is, therefore, it must be true. Why keep searching when we already know the answer? Oddly enough, this has become true of our current political system.

Turning now to Rogue One, we have the story of how the rebels acquired the plans to the Death Star that jump-started the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. The climax of the film occurs on the planet Scarif where the records and activities of the Empire are housed. There, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and K-2S0 infiltrate the facility to retrieve the plans knowing that Jyn’s father, the Death Star’s architect, left a means by which the planet destroyer could be stopped.

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From an archival perspective, there’s a brilliant look at the Scarif facility by David Portman at Preservica. As a digital archivist, he breaks down all the ways the Empire failed at records management, which all but led to their downfall. Of the many errors, Portman cites:

–  The failure to replicate critical data to a remote location, preferably a galaxy far far away, which is not effected by a similar death star event

–  An authentication system that allowed the hand of a dead archivist to be used to gain entry (not generally recommended by the archiving community)

–  No encryption at rest – physical asset could be removed and re-read on another device, without even the need for the dead archivist’s hand

–  No metadata to prove the provenance of the plans – how could you be sure you were looking at the right death star plans?

–  A file format policy that relied on the Evil Empire and Rebel Alliance using the same software [Source: Preservica]

As Maddy Myers points out in her article covering Preservica’s critique, the blog post is done very tongue-in-cheek, but still manages to point out the importance of digital preservation and the work of archivists to protect born-digital records. That and the Empire seems to have learned nothing from the system they exploited back in Episode II. The assumption remains the same: how could anything possibly go wrong since we’re all super powerful and awesome?

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As in the film, so in reality, the archive has long been used as a tool to legitimate tyrannical regimes. Control of knowledge means control of society and powers such as the Empire always go for the public record in order to justify and perpetuate their existence. They also tend to be record hoarders, meticulously documenting every action and decision as more proof of power. That the Empire chose to store all of their records in one facility effectively plays into the paranoia of an illegitimate regime making damn sure no one has a chance to dethrone them. If the knowledge is secure, then so are we. Fitting, then, that the unraveling of the Empire would originate from a monument to their inflated sense of power.

Dear Indy,

Yes, Harrison, that name will be sticking around and by the time you’re old enough to read this, I assume I’ll have called you it enough times that it won’t be weird or embarrassing. But who cares what other people think, right? Right? Right.15179008_10207740993223781_4279690723091371069_n

Oh, baby boy, you’re only four days old as I’m writing this and I honestly don’t know how the next fours years of your life are going to be. I thought I’d be proud that you would only know a black man and white woman as the President of the United States for the first few years of your life. Now, whenever you look at those God-awful history books they’ll likely try to alter, you’re going to see the face of a neon cheeto smiling smugly at you like he owns the world. He doesn’t, sweetie. He just thinks he does. Trust me when I say, I will and have spent those four years pushing back in every way I can because you deserve better than what this country gave you. You deserve enlightenment, harmony, and peace of mind. You deserve an education. You deserve the freedom to express yourself. You deserve love, sympathy, and empathy in abundance. You deserve the simple basics of humanity. But you have to give it back as well.

You’re white, sweetheart. Shocker, I know. You’re white and you’re a boy/teen/man/gender fluid/undefined (whenever you’re reading this, pick the one that applies), which means you’re still going to have more chances to succeed than your friends in school who are of a different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. It may not seem like it, but the system you were born into currently favors you above anyone else. People much smarter and braver than your Auntie Sammy are trying to fix that, but progress is always slow so I can’t rightly say this paragraph will be irrelevant by the time you’re reading and comprehension lessons start. I like to err on the side of caution and assume the worst. By now you probably know that and find it to be an endearing quality. Don’t roll your eyes…unless it’s something your grandfather said, then roll away!

The point is you’re going to have a lot more privileges by virtue of the sex and race you were born compared to others. This means you’re obligated to do the following things:

  1. Listen
  2. Learn
  3. Experience
  4. Elevate

First, listen to voices that aren’t your own. Talk to people who aren’t like you. There is so much more to be gained when you offer a sympathetic ear. We’re social creatures, humans, and we’re more inclined to talk and share our experiences, our knowledge, and our wisdom. Trust me, sweetie, I’ve learned more by listening to people on my podcast (which I’m sure is hugely successful!) than any previous endeavor or project. My music, reading lists, movies and television preferences have all been influenced or altered because of the people I’ve talked to and I intend to keep expanding those horizons because it’s the only way to grow.alana-02

Secondly, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to educate yourself. Teachers and school administrations have their own agendas, their own quotas to meet, and that can sour you towards the institutions of higher learning, but believe me when I say that the greatest investment of your time will be in developing your mind. And I’m not just talking about reading a lot of books (we’ll get to that), I’m talking about engaging with the written word; questioning everything and critically thinking your way through the loftier questions. You may not always find the answers you were looking for, but getting there is half of the adventure. The other half is writing a dissertation, but we’re not there yet so we’ll put that on the backburner for now.

Above all else, though, you need to read about the world outside of yourself. It’s easy to retreat and find everything and everyone that’s like you, but it’s important to read about people who aren’t like you, places you’re never been, and things that are completely foreign to you. Read every genre of fiction, non-fiction, plays, and poetry. Read the classics, essays, comic books, and biographies. Read the dictionary. Seriously, read the dictionary. And get a thesaurus. The more words you have available to you the better. Like I said about listening, learning and self-education will do wonders for your ability to understand and empathize with others. It also gives you the confidence and wherewithal to engage others with whom you disagree. Words are powerful weapons, my dear, and I intend to make sure you’re suitably armed.

Thirdly, experience the world. Reading – and probably video games – will only get you so far, my love. The rest is gained by stepping outside your door. Go to the theater, museums, arts and music festivals. Do extra-curricular activities like drama, debate, and one of those sports-ball things. Play an instrument. If you’re anything like the rest of our family you may give up after a year or so, but at least you can say you tried. Eat foods you’ve never eaten before, but don’t rush it since it may take a while before you’re beyond the peanut butter and jelly sandwich only phase. Go hiking, rock climbing, fossil hunting, anything your heart desires as long as it brings you closer to appreciating what you have and what the world has to offer. The more you engage, the more you’ll care about keeping this ball of rock, water, and gas spinning.

Lastly, and most importantly, use your education, your experiences, and your empathy to elevate those who struggle to make their voices heard. Be an ally by giving everyone a chance to contribute and speak up for those who are being drowned out by the din of ignorance. That’s where you can do the most good. And don’t expect a thank you for it. No one is going to throw you a parade (maybe your mom and grandmother) for being decent. Just do what needs to be done because it’s the right thing to do. hyperbole

I know it’s a lot to take in, sweetie. It seems unfair and overwhelming that this burden is being placed on you, but worry not because you come from good stock. Your parents, grandparents, and I are resilient and I firmly believe you will be/are too.

And with that, I leave you with some simple truths that should carry you through the dark and the good times:

  • You are and will always be loved.
  • It’s okay to cry and be sad sometimes and you can always talk to me when you’re feeling blue.
  • Hamilton and Les Misérables are the greatest musicals of all time. Period. Don’t fight me on this.
  • Apples and peanut butter are the best combo snack ever.
  • Grades are important, but not so important that you drive yourself crazy.
  • Han shot first.
  • Sometimes the movie is better than the book. It’s rare, but it happens.
  • The Simpsons was the greatest cartoon of all time until Season 14.
  • Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

 

Love,

Auntie Sammy

Dear Readers,

Good Lord, I don’t even know where to start, but here goes nothing.

If you’ve never looked at the “About” page on this site, then you might be interested in the origins of the name “Maniacal Geek.” When I was in graduate school, I was writing a paper on women during the American Revolution and one of the articles I read was about the marginal conversations of John Adams with the works of Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley). Separated by an ocean, there wasn’t a lot of immediacy where the mail was concerned, so Adams didn’t have the luxury of telling Wollstonecraft, in real time, how he felt about her ideas on the French Revolution, Democracy, or the status of women. Instead, he wrote in the margins of her printed works, engaging with her ideas by writing down his own reactions, thoughts, and diatribes. One piece of marginalia stood out the most within the article wherein Adams had written, “Maniac! keep within your Limits!”

When I saw that quote, it stuck with me. I wasn’t shocked considering the era of history I was studying, but there was such vehemence in those words that I couldn’t rightly ignore them. Here was a man of his time, one of the Founding Fathers, basically telling a woman that she had no place talking about politics, that her “limits,” her sphere of influence, was in the home raising children and whatnot. Going beyond those limits was a social infraction Adams couldn’t overlook.

So when I was coming up with ideas for a blog a few years back, I wanted something that could be relatively broad and yet speak to the less than better angels that I tend to follow. I’m also a sucker for a maniacal laugh now and again, so the name Maniacal Geek stuck. The intention was to give myself room enough to write about everything that interested me (which is a lot), without limiting myself to one genre or medium of discussion. I rant, I analyze, I opine, and I rationalize all for the sake of processing the world around me. No boundaries, no limits. Take that, Mr. Adams!

And yet, in light of the recent results of the 2016 Presidential election, I find myself questioning if I ever did that at all. Did I push back enough? Did I call out atrocious behavior enough? Did I fight? I can’t confidently say yes, and that hurts because I wasn’t raised to sit on the sidelines. I was taught to stand up for people when they needed help. I was taught to speak my mind regardless of authority figures. I was taught to have empathy and sympathy for those whose lives were not my own. I don’t know if I’m a leader, but I’m a damn good champion for a cause.

Going forward, then, means being that champion without hesitation. Compromise doesn’t mean shit if the other side has only shown open disdain and hatred while daring to ask that we work towards “unity.” Acts of racism, bigotry, misogyny, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia will not be tolerated nor will they be normalized. As a white woman, it’s my responsibility to make sure my actions speak louder now more than ever. I know who broke the world and I don’t get to ignore it. I assumed solidarity where there was none and it’s on me and mine to fix it. So that’s what we’ll do.

That’s the point of this article, Dear Readers. I want and need you to know I’m on your side, but I don’t expect you to take it on faith or trust me. I haven’t earned the right to ask that of you. Just know that I have no intention of going anywhere. I may just be a woman writing about comic books now and then, or a host voicing her opinion on a small podcast, but you’d be amazed at what kind of power is found in the places you least expect.

Love and Kisses,

Sam

 

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In case this is the first time you’ve ever read one of my articles or listened to That Girl with the Curls podcast, let me tell you that I have a tremendous love of cartoons and animation in general. I was on a steady diet of them as a child and I indulge myself in them regularly as an adult. Part of the fun of cartoons is picking out the voice actors involved because, if we’re being honest, its those voices, those performances we remember most. The last five years have seen a rise invoice actor visibility thanks to social media and comic book conventions branching out into all aspects of geek/nerd culture, giving all of us the opportunity to exclaim to many of these actors that they were the voices of our childhood. I can say that I’ve personally made that statement to many of the voice actors I’ve had the opportunity to meet. I smile, they smile, there’s so much smiling!

Maniacal Geek and Jess Harnell

Maniacal Geek and Jess Harnell

The point, though, is that we’re invested in voice actors because they’ve managed to, on the one hand, reinvigorate our nostalgia or, on the other hand, excite us based on a recent performance. And because they’ve worked that magic on us, we turn that emotional investment into actual money, paying to meet them at conventions, take a photo, or just buying something they happen to be involved in because we want to support their work.

So it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to extend that same love and devotion to voice actors involved with video games, mostly because the overlap is pretty substantial. Odds are, you’ve finished a video game that may have had some iffy game play, but still managed to win you over with its characters. Or, miracle of miracles, you’ve sat through 60 hours of phenomenal game mechanics, stunning visuals, on top of falling in love with the characters involved in the story. It’s true that the writing contributes a lot, but it’s the voice actors that seal the deal and make those characters memorable.

I say all of this because, as of Friday, October 21st, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have been on strike against 11 video game companies. As sited on the SAG-AFTRA release statement, the actors are on strike, after 19 months of negotiations, to rectify their treatment under an outdated contract that keeps the actors from earning secondary compensation as well as demanding more transparency from producers in interactive media regarding the information provided to voice actors prior to acceptance of the job. Voice actors are frequently kept in the dark about the project, role, and the nature of the performance required by the studio, which prevents them from making an informed and meaningful decision about the roles they take. If on-camera actors can curate their careers based on jobs taken, why not voice actors?

As for the secondary compensation, there’s a great breakdown of what SAG-AFTRA is asking for and the impact it would actually have on the game industry. To put it bluntly, what the voice actors are asking for – additional bonuses for every two million copies, or downloads sold, or unique subscribers to on-line games only, with a cap at 8 million units/subscribers –  would barely make a dent in the overall profits seen by the companies. Considering a game like Grand Theft Auto V made $2.4 billion, on unit sales alone, the bonuses based on the cast size of 840 with the eight million cap only adds up to roughly $3.5 million in secondary compensation. That’s not even factoring in additional profits made off of downloadable content (DLC) or special collector’s edition. So, yeah, not exactly breaking the bank.

Maniacal Geek and Susan Eisenberg

Maniacal Geek and Susan Eisenberg

The backlash against the strike, however, has been focused on framing the voice actors as greedy and ungrateful, which seems to be the standard operation for most companies when money is on the line. Believe me, my family has gone through its share of Boeing strikes, so I know how this can go down. What’s more disheartening are the gamers/consumers who appear to agree with the producers, calling out voice actors for making a big deal out of nothing because their job is the “easiest” part of game development. There’s also a “meh” mentality to the issue and how it’s being reported on, as if the problem will blow over eventually, and speculation on whether or not consumers would even notice if voice actors were taken out of the equation.

As a blanket objection to consumers and journalists, Jennifer Hale aptly states:

Let me hear the sound you’d make if you were slashed in half by a sword? How about you’re struck in the heart by a bullet? How does your throat feel? … I have friends who have had to have surgery because of the vocal stress they incurred in the session and they’ve been out of work for months. [Source: NPR]

 

In one go, Hale has pointed out that not only is voice acting a skill, it’s also an intensive and strenuous job. If you’re putting your all into the performance, your voice could, and probably will, suffer, which could prevent you from getting work down the line if medical attention is needed. And if the game you sacrificed your voice for sells, shouldn’t you be entitled to some money since it was your voice that contributed to the overall package that is the game? Again, on-camera actors negotiate back-end deals all the time – getting a piece of the merchandising or a straight up bonus from the studio if the movie performs well. That’s on top of pretty high salaries depending on what type of movie they’re working on, so why aren’t voice actors given the same consideration? A lackluster performance in a movie can kill the box office numbers just as easily as a lackluster performance can kill a video game’s enjoyability. Both can live or die by word of mouth, so the better the performance the better the sales.

And if you’d like a visceral example of how deeply a voice actor can affect you, go watch Critical Role on Geek & Sundry. I’m not kidding. The entire cast of players is made up of voice actors and they manage to, without visual prompting, animatics, or blocking, deliver nuanced and tremendously affective performances. If that doesn’t make you realize how valuable voice actors are to storytelling, I don’t know what will.

If you have the opportunity, please go on Twitter to show your support with #PerformanceMatters. Even if it’s just sharing an article or showing solidarity, I know the actors will appreciate it. And if you have the time, go check out I Know That Voice, or listen to me interview some voice actors on That Girl with the Curls Podcast!

 

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75 years ago, the world was introduced to Diana of Themyscira, Princess of the Amazons, and the superhero known as Wonder Woman. Debuting in All-Star Comics #8 in December of 1941, Wonder Woman – created by William Moulton Marston, with help from his wife Elizabeth – soon achieved the status of lead character starting with Sensation Comics #1 in January of 1942. A Nazi-fighting Amazon blessed by the gods of Greek mythology, Wonder Woman was the embodiment of Marston’s ideal woman and his personal philosophy of utopia in which women were the dominant power.

Art by Nicola Scott

Art by Nicola Scott

Smart, strong, athletic, kind, loving, beautiful, and peaceful only describe some of the traits Wonder Woman has been associated with over the last 75 years. She’s worn many hats as DC Comics’s most well-known superheroine, and certainly her solo title and character progression have taken some roller coaster rides, but like Superman and Batman everyone has a version of Wonder Woman they can call their own. Hero, Princess, Warrior, Diplomat, Demigod, Daughter, and Friend, Diana has been many things to many people. Today, however, she’s an honorary ambassador of the United Nations.

The premiere feminist icon in comic books, it makes sense that Wonder Woman would be honored by an organization that has been making a much needed effort towards gender equality. From Marston’s original appropriation of suffragette garb to her appearance on the cover of Ms. Magazine in 1972 to her newly appointed status, Wonder Woman has and remains a champion for the equality of women. She has inspired millions and served the purpose of bringing feminist values to the forefront. As Gloria Steinem wrote:

 

Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of “masculine” aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.

 

As part of the celebration, the U.N. invited Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot to speak on behalf of the character both have brought to life on the small and big screen. Carter, though not the first to play Diana, certainly had the longest live action run on, naturally, Wonder Woman, which ran from 1975 to 1979, and Gadot recently appeared as the lasso-wielding demigod in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with her first ever solo film set to premiere in June 2017. They were joined by the 2017 movie’s director, Patty Jenkins, as well as DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, though I suspect there were plenty of artists and writers invited to the ceremony if Twitter is to be believed.

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While this is certainly not the first time Wonder Woman has been part of campaigns for women’s rights or had her iconic image used to make an impact, this does mark her first official sanction as the Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. One of the ways DC Comics plans to fulfill that responsibility is by producing a comic book for release in 2017, distributed via the U.N., and translated into the six official languages of the organization; namely Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Also ready for release next week, DC Comics will release a 75th Anniversary book next week featuring the writing and art work of well known comic book pros like Rafael Albuquerque, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Renae De Liz, Brenden Fletcher, Adam Hughes, Karl Kerschl, and Gail Simone.

It’s a good cap to a celebration for such an iconic character who is finally getting her due. Hopefully, next year we’ll be talking about how amazing her solo film was and speculating about its inevitable sequel. Fingers crossed.

 

It’s been a pretty bad week and the year hasn’t been all that better, so this is my contribution for something a bit more positive within the sea of heart-breaking negativity in the world. I’ll be brief, and it’ll be back to my usual critical self soon enough, but I managed to experience the most wonderful and life affirming moments as a geek while at this year’s GeekGirlCon.

At the booth! Catherine Elhoffer (foreground) and Sam Cross (background)

At the booth! Catherine Elhoffer (foreground) and Sam Cross (background)

It started as a volunteer opportunity helping friend and past guest Catherine Elhoffer at her table. It was her first time exhibiting at GeekGirlCon and I was more than happy to lend a hand. Having never worked a booth before, I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, I rarely left the table and it was the greatest two days I’ve ever had at a con!

It didn’t take long for people to notice Elhoffer Design‘s table. Catherine had all of her dresses laid out on the table, as well as sample pre-orders on display for everyone to see. By pure chance, the table happened to be right near the women’s bathroom, which gave women of all ages and sizes the opportunity to either try on the dresses in front of the table (no zippers, just over the head!) or in the bathroom should they need to remove costumes or clothing to get a better idea of the fit. Catherine, however, was pretty spot on regarding sizes and more often than not I saw a lot of women, and men, walk away with the right size, perfect fit, and huge smiles.

The biggest selling point on the dresses? Pockets. Not even kidding. I saw more faces light up when they discovered all of the dresses had pockets. Catherine and I even joked about having a camera pointed at people – mostly women – when they found the pockets while trying the dresses on or after we told them about the pockets when it looked like we hadn’t quite sold them on the dress alone. It may seem like a small thing, but trust me when I say women’s clothing has a severe deficiency when it comes to the inclusion of pockets. There have been a lot of studies about the gender politics of pockets, which I won’t go into now, but Catherine believes firmly in the equality of fashion. As she frequently said to anyone perusing the booth, “They [the dresses] have pockets because I’m a fucking adult.” Turns out, women don’t always want to lug a purse around. Sometimes we want to carry our shit in functional clothing. Go figure.banner_geekgirlcon

But above all else, the best part of working the booth was the people. Everyone was welcome to try on the clothes. Everyone. And with each person a new conversation occurred. Fandom, politics, clothing, you name it and we were talking about it. I couldn’t be happier and more proud to have been part of those conversations while seeing so much joy and passion come through. Seattle is a nerd/geek friendly town and they came out in droves to GeekGirlCon 2016. It’s getting bigger and better and I can’t wait to see what happens next year! And I can’t wait for more people to discover Elhoffer Design and Catherine Elhoffer. This lady deserves our support, so, if you can, I encourage you to check out her stuff!

If you’re local to the Seattle area, you should also consider helping Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique. The shop is opening in Fremont and they’ll be carrying Elhoffer Designs as part of their stock. Every little bit helps.

 

And, as always, Cosplay!

Booth Day 1

Booth Day 1

Han Solo

Han Solo

Eliza!

Eliza!

Belle with Tattoo

Belle with Tattoo

Gaston and Belle

Gaston and Belle

Queen/Senator Amidala

Queen/Senator Amidala

Spider-Gwen

Spider-Gwen

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

Cool Korra

Cool Korra

Link

Link

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer

Enchantress

Enchantress

Cap and Peggy

Cap and Peggy

Uhura Squared

Uhura Squared

40s Unicron w/ disco ball

40s Unicron w/ disco ball

Princess R2-D2

Princess R2-D2

Powerpuff Girls

Powerpuff Girls

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli

Left to Right: Rebel Fighter, Catherine Elhoffer, and Alexander Hamilton

Left to Right: Rebel Fighter, Catherine Elhoffer, and Alexander Hamilton

RainPoe Dash

RainPoe Dash

Rey

Rey

Steven Universe

Steven Universe

 

It’s no secret that Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne is, along with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, one of the brighter aspects of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is saying something considering the somber and dreary coloring ofbenaffleck the film perpetually existing in the twilight hours of the DC Cinematic Universe. So of course no one was surprised when it was announced that Affleck would be starring in a Batman solo movie. Better yet, Affleck is also co-writing the script with President of DC Entertainment, and DC Comics writer, Geoff Johns as well as directing the film, which again makes sense given Affleck’s rise in Hollywood as a director for critically acclaimed films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and the Oscar award-winning Argo.

With Affleck’s deep and unabashed affection for all things Batman, this seems like the perfect fit. The only thing standing in the way of success for the film is what story Affleck and Johns want to tell and how they plan to move the character forward after the still lingering fallout from BvS and whatever happens in Justice League. Recently, Affleck leaked test footage for the Batman solo film featuring Deathstoke, a villain who’s had several run-ins with the Justice League and the Teen Titans in the comics and cartoon. Additionally, there was the series-changing appearance of Manu Bennett’s version of Deathstroke/Slade Wilson during Arrow‘s second season that likely put him in the sites of WB executives. Earlier this month it was announced that Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike) would be playing Deathstroke, likely making him at least one of the main villains going up against the Dark Knight, if not a challenging opponent for the burgeoning Justice League.

Bringing Deathstroke into the DC Cinematic Universe is an interesting move considering he was mainly a Teen Titans villain, but his inclusion does open up some possibilities for Batman and the greater DC universe of films. So, using the information provided by rumors, speculation, and actual confirmations, I’m going to walk you lovely readers through how I would approach the Batman solo film. And if someone working on the film happens to read it **cough**Ben Affleck**cough** all I ask is a story credit because that’s how that works, right?

Also, remember that this is the roughest of ideas. Just thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain. So…

Being true to itself, the internet is full of speculation as to which storyline(s) Affleck and Johns could pull from the comics. One theory is an adaptation of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which would give the film room to include a ton of cameos from Batman’s rogues gallery as the Caped Crusader fights his way through a riot at the questionably effective psychiatric facility. More recently, it’s been rumored that Deathstroke could take the place of Bane as the main antagonist of a Knightfall adaptation. The story by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo is most well-known for the moment Bane breaks an exhausted Batman’s back, leaving the vigilante paralyzed from the waist down and Gotham City without its guardian. You’ll recall The Dark Knight Rises used aspects of the story as well, which could deter the solo film from using it. The third big contender is the Hush storyline by Jeff Loeb and Jim Lee that features a lot of cameos by prominent characters in the DCU. Like, a lot of characters. The story, however, generally follows a noir narrative as Batman tries to uncover a plot by a villain only known as Hush who seems intent on taking the Dark Knight down.

None of these books would be a bad choice for an adaptation. They all require Batman to have been operating for a joe-manganiello-as-deathstrokesignificant amount of time, which the previous films already established with Bruce’s 20-year long crusade, and they feature a large supporting cast of well-known and not-so-well-known allies and villains. What makes the possibility of one or all three stories providing some structure to the movie so exciting is how they could easily tie into the previous films and service the character going forward. Batman may be a loner, but he’s the most sociable recluse in the DCU.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to proceed with the idea that the Knightfall storyline would be the backbone of the movie’s narrative. Deathstroke is either hired to take out the Bat or he takes it upon himself to go up against the Dark Knight based on pure ego. Bane’s original plan was rooted in besting Batman on all fronts, mind and body, so it wouldn’t be too out of left field to say that Deathstroke’s reasons have a similar basis. His tactical prowess, intelligence, and enhanced skills make him a formidable opponent, so pitting him against another man at peak physical condition and extreme intelligence would make for some killer fight scenes.

Okay, moving on!

With Batman’s lengthy timeline of operation in tact the solo film would get a lot of leeway when it comes to bringing new characters into the fold. This works in Batman’s favor because, according to BvS, Bats has been on a bit of cruelty streak in the wake of the destruction in Metropolis and the loss of a building and some people he may have cared about. Possibly. We could also lump in the death of a Robin acting as lingering trauma on top of the ever-present Mommy and Daddy issues Bruce has bouncing around in his head. This all goes to say that by the end of BvS, and most likely after the Justice League two-parter has concluded, Batman’s attitude towards teamwork will have shifted in a more favorable direction. Eager to mend fences and reestablish old connections, a significant chunk of the story could be devoted to building the Bat-Family, or rebuilding it where the characters are concerned.

One of the more frustrating things about being a Batman fan is the lack of Bat-Family within the film adaptations. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy only made the slightest of nods to Robin in the final moments of the third film and the less that can be said about the Joel Schumcher version of Dick Grayson the better. There’s an aversion to including the extended Bat-Family in the film adaptations, which I can mostly understand but still find aggravating. Yes, a teen sidekick brings up a whole slew of issues – mostly the lack of child protective services in Gotham – but the purpose of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, etc. is how they contrast and compliment Batman in his endless war on crime. Just having Alfred around to chastise or wax poetic keeps Bruce in a strangely infantilized state where he’s constantly answering to his surrogate father. By giving him a sidekick, or a partner, Bruce is now the father-figure doling out advice, training his “children,” and making tons of mistakes along the way.bat-fam

And it’s those mistakes, plus his renewed appreciation for teamwork, that lead him towards reconciliation in the solo film. If we make the assumption that the Robin suit featured in BvS belonged to Jason Todd, it would go a long way towards establishing the additional trauma Bruce has experienced in losing a surrogate child. That loss would feed his rage and guilt, which would then cause him to push away anyone else he feels could be harmed because of their association with him.

Enter Nightwing! There have been quite a few retellings of the hows and whys of Dick Grayson’s transition from teen sidekick to standalone hero. Sometimes the split is amicable, a natural progression as Dick matures into a young man, and other times their fighting causes a rift that takes years to repair. In the case of the solo film, why not combine both? Prior to the events of BvS, perhaps Dick decided to become his own man and help Bruce as Nightwing, leaving the position of Robin open to a new recruit, Jason Todd. Jason’s death at the hands of the Joker (sneaking in a Death in the Family reference) would then cause Bruce to take his rage out on Gotham’s criminal underground. Dick being the out-going and sympathetic guy that he is tries to help, but Bruce pushes him away. Instead of sticking around to receive more of the same, Dick leaves Gotham City for the equally corrupt Blüdhaven, barely talking to or seeing Bruce for several years. When Bruce arrives to make amends, it adds a layer of tension to the characters that could be worked out over the course of the film or carryover into the inevitable sequels.

The presence of Deathstroke could even build off the tension between Batman and his fractured family. In the comics, Slade was also the father of three children – Grant, Joseph, and Rose – all of whom could join him in his fight against Batman. It would actually go a long way to show how off his game Batman is if Deathstroke and family (at the very least Rose and Grant who shared the name Ravager) overwhelmed him. A first encounter might send him towards Blüdhaven to recruit Dick and upon returning without any allies in tow, because Dick isn’t going to forgive him or help out immediately, a second encounter would result in Deathstroke delivering a nearly fatal blow. Barely escaping with his life, and probably with the help of some gadgets, Batman is defeated and exhausted in body, mind, and spirit. What can he do now? Who can he trust to help?8e5tqlw

Enter Tim Drake! There was a video going around of actor Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6) “auditioning” for Ben Affleck with a choreographed fight scene. At the end he entreats Affleck to consider him with the closing line of, “Batman needs a Robin.” Potter isn’t wrong and using one of Tim’s lines from the comics works in favor of at least considering the importance of Robin’s place as Batman’s partner-in-crimefighting. Again, using the angle of the fractured family of heroes versus the united family of villains, Tim’s role is elevated by his drive to see Batman and Robin back together. Timeline wise, Tim’s a young man – probably mid to late teens – so he’s grown up with the Dynamic Duo as a constant presence in Gotham. And because Tim is a studious person with plenty of ambition, it would make sense that he’d try to seek his heroes out. An early encounter with Batman could start the film, showing off Tim’s martial arts skills, as well as his talent for technology, but Bats discourages Tim from being like him. Tim counters that he doesn’t want to be Batman, he just wants to work with him. Typical Batman, “I work alone.” Tim fires back, “You didn’t always. And you shouldn’t now.”

Is it subtle? Nope, but it works to establish where Batman is and why Tim becomes a much more important character as the film progresses. By the time Batman has reached his lowest point, Tim returns to help the Bat-Family reunite. Comic book Tim already figured out the secret identities, so movie Tim could as well, seeking out Dick Grayson or communicating with him via the Bat-Computer and filling him in on what’s happening in Gotham. As Bruce prepares to go back out into the fray of Gotham City, now overrun with criminals from Arkham Asylum that Deathstroke released (moving parts of Knightfall around here for my own purposes), Dick shows up to join the fight, standing by Bruce as his ally once again.

Fight, fight, fight. Heroes win, Bruce is as happy as he can get, and Tim is eventually recruited as the new Robin with Dick’s approval and Alfred’s endorsement. Not everything between Bruce and Dick is resolved, nor is it the last they’ll have seen of Deathstroke and family (because superheroes!), but it’s a step in the right direction with plenty of story fodder for the sequel.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Barbara Gordon/Batgirl yet. This is a trickier subject because Babs could be utilized in a couple of ways. In one scenario, she’s still Batgirl. With Batman still playing the loneliest loner type, we could see Batgirl operating solo or introduce the Birds of Prey as a splinter group trying to pick up the slack around Gotham despite Batman constantly telling them stop. Things could come to blows when Batman threatens to tell Barbara’s father, Commissioner Gordon, about her nighttime activities and she in turn threatens to reveal his secret identity to the world. She’s also good with technology, she helped build the latest version of the Bat-Computer, the one that broke into Luthor’s super secret thumb drive in BvS, so it wouldn’t be hard for her to plaster his face all over the internet and the nightly news. She’s not proud of the threat, but again, Bruce is pushing her into a corner. It eventually culminates with the Birds of Prey or, at the very least, Batgirl showing up to help.i-will-end-you

In the second scenario, she’s Oracle. For this to happen, there would have to be some acknowledgement of The Killing Joke, or a new backstory created to explain her forced retirement as Batgirl. Being Oracle has its advantages within the story. It would add another example of the Joker’s mark on the Bat-Family in the wake of Jason’s death and serve as a constant reminder to Bruce that he failed another person he loves. The connection between Babs and Tim in the realm of technology, however, would be useful in giving the supporting cast more interactions with each other. Babs could even be living with Dick in Blüdhaven (Babs and Dick shipper for life!), helping him fight crime as a nascent Oracle, which pits her against Tim as she blocks his attempts to hack the Bat-Computer from afar. What’s important, and necessary, is that Babs is a character in her own right. She fights regardless or her circumstances and she lets everyone know it. Even as Oracle she can get some licks in, so the wheelchair shouldn’t feel like a limitation. Would it be simpler to start her off as Batgirl? Yes, but there would be just as much meat to her character as Oracle if handled correctly.

So those are my lengthy thoughts and ideas about where the Batman solo film could potentially go. Like I said, WB and Ben Affleck, a story credit will suffice. And maybe a set visit…

byrneWith his latest Animated Adventures trailer for Firefly sparking flames of rekindled love for the short-lived Joss Whedon sci-fi western, artist Stephen Byrne has gotten a bit of a pop culture visibility boost with a multitude of websites praising his work while demanding his trailer become a reality. He takes it well, though, celebrating the outpouring of love with his own earnest gratitude and humility. A man of many fandoms (aren’t we all), Byrne infuses heavy doses of joy and energy into his work, bringing smiles even to the grimdark worlds of some more notable characters we’ve seen grace the big and small screens. I reached out to Byrne recently and he was kind enough to answer some questions about his work, fandom, and the “infamous” kiss.

 

Maniacal Geek (MG):  For those out there who may not be familiar with your work (i.e. those living under rocks and in caves), could you explain a little bit of your background as an artist and animator?

Stephen Byrne (SB): Sure, I studied animation in Ireland at the Irish School of Animation. I’m from Dublin originally. I studied there for 5 years and then did some work in the animation industry, before falling into games and now moving more into the comics industry.

 

MG: What was the first fandom that inspired you to make fan art? Was it the world itself that inspired you? The characters? Both?

SB: Power Rangers!! I was drawing Power Rangers comics at age 8. I think my tiny brain wanted to draw things and tell stories but didn’t really have the capacity to come up with anything new at the time, so I would draw out Power Ranger comics, which I was obsessed with at the time. I made like 60 of them! Still have them somewhere…

 

MG: The Animated Adventures of Firefly has gotten a huge response from fans, media outlets, the original cast, etc. What has surprised you the most about this outpouring of love for the trailer?

SB: Maybe Nathan Fillion retweeting? Although I was hoping for that because I know he’s pretty active on social media. Actually more the fact that he sent me a tweet that indicated that he found the whole thing quite meaningful. I look at it as a bit of fun, but the amount of comments and messages I got from people having intensely emotional responses to it was surprising, but that’s down to what Joss Whedon did, not what I did.

MG: You’ve done a few Animated Adventures trailers (and a tease for Harry Potter), but what’s the most difficult aspect of distilling such expansive worlds into videos that last less than a minute? What do you try to focus on?

SB: Uhhhhh it’s kinda all over the shop. I usually have a basic outline of what I want to do overall. I want to put in a few time-consuming shots that will be challenging to do. But then it becomes more like ‘what can I do quickly that will look shiny?’. Because I work full-time, the whole thing is pulled off in evenings and weekends over a long period of time, so it’s easier to do a spaceship with some zoom lines flying past than it is to do River doing acrobatic insanity.

 

MG: Gushy statement: I love the way you use lighting and bold colors in your work! So much is captured in a page or a headshot with the moods and tones you create. Actual question: Do you like to challenge yourself with technique? Was there ever a project that pushed you to change how you approach your art? Or have your style and methods been pretty solid and steady?star-wars-episode-7-5

SB: Thanks! Funnily enough, color used to be a trainwreck with me. I was like ‘grass is green, sky is blue’ and it all looked very garish. I was determined to figure it out but it developed over many years and is now probably the thing I get noticed most for. As for challenging myself with technique – always. Every thing I do is an attempt to improve on the last thing I did, in some small way. I’m always looking for improved approaches.

 

MG: Your fan art comics for Spider-Man, Star Wars, and the DC Trinity have caught a lot of attention as well, the Trinity comic especially for the “surprise” ending. Do you go in with the intention of subverting expectations or do these stories write themselves as you go along?

SB: The ending to Trinity changed halfway through. And it wasn’t even my idea. A friend in work said it would be funny if Batman was actually jealous of Wonder Woman. I was like ‘yep that’s way better’ and rejigged the story from that point, so it became a little longer, but better.

Star Wars Episode 7.5 was all built around the Jar-Jar reveal. That’s the whole reason I did it. I was thinking it would be fun to do something Star Wars-y. I had really enjoyed the new movie. And I was envisioning the story in my mind and I got to the moment when Kylo Ren turns around and I was like ‘wouldn’t it be interesting if it was some else?’. That was the moment I actually decided to go ahead and draw the thing. I have lots of ideas flying through my brain at any given time, but only a limited amount of hours to do them, so yeah, I do pick things that I think will get a reaction.

 

MG: And because I’m morbidly curious, what was the overall response to the SuperBat kiss? Did you experience backlash from the dark side of fandom? How does that aspect of fandom push you creatively?batman-superman-kiss

SB: Naw it wasn’t too bad. There were some commenters that were like ‘WTF? GAY.’ Very astute people. There were only a couple of vitriolic hateful comments, which I will delete or block or whatever. But I enjoy negative responses generally, because they are either rooted in some sort of fan outrage, which means they care about what I’ve done, or they are constructive criticism (less often) which means you can learn from them.

 

MG: You seem to live and breathe superhero and sci-fi genres with a good portion of your work, but is there a genre you haven’t really tackled that you’d like to?

SB: I’m a superhero comic nerd. That’s my jam. I could see myself doing an indie ‘real world’ comic but I think you can say more about the world and speak more honestly through a genre filter. I may get tired of it but it hasn’t let up in the last 20 years.

 

MG: Your first of two Green Arrow issues came out last week, so congratulations! What challenges and triumphs do you find working on mainstream books vs indie or creator owned projects? Any other DC characters you’ve always wanted to tackle?

SB: Challenges and triumphs: With mainstream books the schedule is tighter and the money is… Existent. Which is great. Lots of DC characters I would love to draw yes. Watch this space 🙂

 

MG: You’re also working on a creator-owned sci-fi book with Dan Slott. Any information you can give about it or is it still a bit hush-hush?byrneslott

SB: Nope I can’t say anything about that at all! Sorry! Except that it is gonna be AWESOME.

 

I’d just like to say thank you, again, to Stephen Byrne for being gracious with his time despite his busy schedule.

Links to Stephen Byrne: