Posts Tagged ‘magic’

 

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Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

 

Music: Peter Gundry “Faint Spirit (Yurei”

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Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!

Over the summer I started reading more prose fiction to shake things up between comic book trades and I was fortunate to come across a spectacular, mostly coming-of-age, story of magic, music, and the harsh reality of growing up: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set in Mexico City and jumping between 1988 and 2009, Signal to Noise follows Mercedes “Meche” Vega who discovers her love of music, and the right vinyl, can cast magic spells. Roping in her friends Sebastian silviaand Daniela, the trio use magic to change their lives for the better, but the consequences of their actions result in a decades long estrangement.

The book comes highly recommended by io9’s Charlie Jane Anders and I couldn’t agree with her more. Signal to Noise is an intimate look at a young woman searching for a solid foundation, something she can believe in, trust in, but always comes up short. Meche’s exterior and interior turmoil makes for a complex and nuanced protagonist who is as frustrating as she is sympathetic.

In light of my new found book to gush over, I reached out to Silvia Moreno-Garcia and she was kind enough to answer several questions, via email, about Signal to Noise and her forth-coming anthology, She Walks in Shadows, which looks at the works of H.P. Lovecraft through his female characters – or lack thereof.

 

Maniacal Geek (MG): Though Signal to Noise is a coming-of-age story, the magical elements are secondary, acting more as a catalyst than being a consistently present force. Is this how you perceive the role of magic in urban fantasy or did it just serve this specific story?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (SMG): For many Anglo writers and readers magic must work as a system, a kind of D&D system. I wanted to play with this notion, with how much you can systematize magic, versus the magicwhich appears in Latin American fiction which works in a completely different matter. So that the result is this is not quite magic realism and not quite urban fantasy.

MG: Meches grandmother doesnt mind telling stories about magic but shes reluctant to use it and only does so to save Sebastian from Meches recklessness. In your opinion, is magic the folly of youth?

SMG: I leave it up to the reader to figure that out.

MG: Music is the connective tissue that keeps Meche tied to her father and becomes her means of casting spells. What is your relationship with music and how did it influence Signal to Noise?

SMG: My parents both worked in radio stations. Thats the kind of environment I grew up in. We had a lot of albums stacked around the house. I used my fathers professional tape recorder to make mixtapes. That kind of thing. My son now has a portable record player. My grandfather was also a radio announcer so the fear is its genetic.

MG: (Silly question alert!) Which album would be your object of power?JoshJoplinGroup-UsefulMusic

SMG: Josh Joplins Useful Music.

MG: Coming from a comic book background myself, theres been an ongoing discussion about the flawed female protagonist, which Meche definitely fits. Were you worried that people might not be able to relate to Meche? Do we have to relate to a character like Meche? How do you feel Meche has grown as a character by the end of the book?

SMG: Ugh. Relatable, likeable characters, eh? There are so many famous characters in books you cant relate to and the books do just fine. You have criminals like Tom Ripley and Dexter in multiple novels. And in the romance novel the brooding hero is a staple. I dont find Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester to be relatable since Im not a white billionaire living in the age of carriages. Theyre not super likeable either, mad wife in attic and all. But women. Ah, we are much harder on women. Women better be fucking perfect and relatable.

Look, Im Mexican, I grew up without a lot of the bells and whistles Americans take for granted. Theres not a lot of people I can relate to in books. Not Holden from Catcher in the Rye, not Bella in Twilight. So *I* can relate to Meche.

So no, I didnt worry that Meche was likeable or relatable, although Ive heard from many people that they can relate to her.  If people find her interesting enough to follow her through the book I think thats enough.

As to how shes grown, I went to visit my friend who is now living in NY this year and I hadnt been there in about 14 years. At one point he said something which sounds pretty accurate. He said: Silvia, we are older but not more mature.Ill leave it at that.

MG: Do you believe Mexico has a greater cultural connection to magic? To music?

SMG: I grew up with a lot of folklore in my life and folk magic, but I believe this is unusual and certainly much more unusual for people younger than me. But you do see magic more openly, there is a witchs market in Mexico City where you can buy ingredients, there was an esoteric plazain a shopping mall near my home, and theres the witches in Catemaco who are quite famous. Some people still might visit the curandero, the healer, or believe in the evil eye. Things like that. But the influence of Anglo culture is erasing a lot of that.

MG: Youve edited several anthologies with horror themes with many specifically focused on H.P. Lovecrafts mythos. What attracts you to Lovecraft and the horror genre? Do you have a favorite Lovecraft story?she walks in shadows

SMG: “The Colour out of Space.My thesis work focuses on Lovecraft, eugenics and women so Im interested in him on an academic level and at a visceral one. I like all kinds of genres and read indiscriminately, from cheap, old pulp crime novels to modern dramatic lit. As a writer, horror is just one tool I can employ. As a reader, Ive always had a basic interest in terrible things.

MG: The latest anthology, She Walks in Shadows, explores Lovecraft through the feminine perspective and the explicit or ambiguously defined female characters. In your opinion does Lovecraft have an inherent feminist slant or did you see his writings as a challenge, something to meet head on for the anthology?

SMG: He barely has any women in his stories, so its a challenge. The writers are all showing a variety of visions of Lovecraftian characters, Weird fiction, and women. Women for Lovecraft exist as an absence, an unnamed presence, they are the lurking fear of his stories and we are bringing them to the forefront.

 

If you’d like to get your grubby mits on all of Silvia’s work currently available for purchase:

Signal to Noise: http://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/books/signal-to-noise/

Love and Other Poisons: http://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/bibliography/love-other-poisons/

You can also pre-order She Walks in Shadows and follow Silvia on Twitter!

Sam is joined by her friend Nathan for a discussion about TNT’s The Librarians.

The Librarians

Intro and outro music “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl.

vixen-alrge

During the Television Critic’s Association (TCA) event that took place on Sunday it was announced that Mari Jiwe McCabe, aka Vixen, would be the next DC hero to join the CW alongside Arrow and The Flash. Expected to debut in the fall, Vixen will be the first animated series produced through the CW’s digital platform, CW Seed, which is probably most well-known for featuring Jane Espenson’s web series Husbands. Marc Guggenheim, one of Arrow‘s executive producers and co-showrunner, will oversee the project as well as the Supergirl television show for CBS. At the TCA, the CW provided promotional material for the animated series featuring Vixen staring down from the rooftops with Flash and Green Arrow flanking her as well as some character background:

Originally from Africa, Mari McCabe’s parents were killed by local greed, corruption, and wanton violence. But the orphaned Mari refuses to succumb to the terrors surrounding her. Inheriting her family’s Tantu Totem, Mari can access the powers of animals — anything from the super-strength of a gorilla to the speed of a cheetah. As Vixen, she fights valiantly to protect the world from the threats like those that claimed her family.

The dossier neglected to mention Mari’s day job as a model or that she can only use the power of one animal at a time, but it’s not exactly the job of a flyer to delve into all the little details, though Guggenheim did provide some additional information about the direction of the series:

It’s a six-part origin story, but characters from “Flash” and “Arrow” are prominently involved. It’s in the continuity and the world…The other thing is, it’s a strong African-American hero who’s, like I said, a former Justice Leaguer. It’s set in Detroit, as a nod towards those Justice League [Detroit] stories. It’s done with the same love of the source material that we bring to everything.

Vixen_JLoA4There are, however, a couple of things worth noting. One, the art style of the promotional material is the same as the animation used for Warner Bros. most recent DC Animated features, Justice League: War and Batman and Son, as well as Justice League’s forthcoming sequel, Throne of Atlantis. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of what appears to be WB’s new signature style for the DC Animated movies mostly adapted from the New 52. It’s just not my cup of tea, especially since I wasn’t all that into Justice League: War or the book from which it was adapted. I’d ask if that means Vixen, Arrow, and The Flash all take place in the same universe as the current DCAU, but then we’re getting into Cool World/Who Framed Roger Rabbit? levels of continuity. Probably best to just keep it all separate for now.

Secondly, if Vixen is supposedly in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash, as evidenced by the characters on the promotional materials, then why is Vixen – arguably DC’s most well-known black female superhero – being introduced in animation instead of live action? Assuming Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell will lend their voices when their characters eventually show up, can we also expect Mari to make her live action debut on either Arrow or The Flash? Guggenheim has apparently been fielding this question as well, saying:Vixen_dc-comics

We always say “never say never,” and if the character resonates with people, that would be wonderful. I would love to be in a position where CW said to us, “Hey, we want a ‘Vixen’ live-action show.” That’d be wonderful. We’ll have to sort of see how things play out.

It’s not exactly the most definitive answer and it still raises the question of why Mari can’t go the way of Barry Allen or even Supergirl? It’s not like we’re lacking for superhero content in media, so I’m pretty sure the viewing audience will accept anything at this point. I mean, people are still watching Gotham, right? Animation, however. has been woefully underutilized by Warner Bros. considering it used to be their bread and butter. I’ve seen other websites speculating that Vixen could be the CW’s version of The Legend of Korra, which dealt with far more mature storytelling than anyone expected for what was deemed children’s programming. Vixen wouldn’t necessarily have the same hang-ups since the viewing audience siphoned off from Arrow and The Flash would already have an expectation for more mature content. How far do they intend to push those boundaries? Hard to say. There’s still a brand to maintain with the DC properties, but, then again, this is the CW so we shouldn’t rule out anything that could potentially draw in the 18-35 demographic.

Vixen character bioVixen will serve the secondary purpose of introducing magic into the CW/DC television universe, but again, why not bring that into the fold on a live action show? Meta humans seemed like a stretch during the first season of Arrow, but by season two we were itching for The Flash spinoff. Why not do the same for Vixen? Normally, I wouldn’t push this since the news is so fresh, but with rumors also circulating that Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer, soon-to-be the Atom, may get a spinoff show as well, bringing Vixen in as an animated series feels like a very sluggish step forward.

Hopefully Guggenheim and the team working on Vixen prove me wrong. Really, I want them to succeed. Mari’s been sorely missed in the DCU. It’s been a couple years since she was last seen in the Justice League book and, aside from some guest spots and cameos on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Teen Titans, it’s been over a decade since her last major appearance on television in Justice League: Unlimited (voiced by Gina friggin’ Torres!)

So, for now, let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic.

Batman-On-Film.com-bannerI’m going to start this with an apology to Bill “Jett” Ramey from Batman on Film. Mr. Ramey, Jett, I apologize for jumping the gun. I’ll admit it, I fucked up in my own personal reaction to your speculation on how Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer would try to incorporate Wonder Woman and the Amazons into the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU). I can’t speak for the rest of the internet, but I can speak for myself: I’m sorry.

For those of you wondering why I’m apologizing to a person I’ve never even met or spoken to, the last two days have been a bit weird, yet strangely familiar, if you’re part of the fanboy/fangirl community. In his Batman on Film Mailbag article from January 4th, Ramey answered a series of questions from the website’s fans regarding any number of things, but what’s on many a Bat-fan’s mind is the still unnamed Man of Steel sequel that will feature not just Batman, but also Wonder Woman, The Flash, Lex Luthor, and possibly any number of other characters from DC Comics. In answering a question about how big Wonder Woman’s role would be in Batman vs Superman, Ramey responded:

Personally, I’d say it’ll be about on par with Scarlett Johansson’s first appearance as Black Widow in IRON MAN 2. I believe that it’s a cameo-plus type of role that will (hopefully) serve as a springboard to a solo Wonder Woman movie.

With all that said, I’d bet a year’s pay – in MONOPOLY money, of course – that the “Amazons” of this cinematic DCU will be descendants of those “ancient Kryptonians” who attempted to set up Kryptonian outposts throughout spacedom thousands and thousands of years ago. Furthermore, I say that Wonder Woman will be powered-down, if you will, relative to Superman because these Amazons have evolved and adapted to living on Earth for hundreds of centuries. And since Kryptonians are produced without any “He’n and She’n” – Jor El and Lara excluded – couldn’t this original Kryptonian on Earth have used this reproductive science to create an all-female race? I say yes!

And then the internet blew up.

justice-league-superman-batman-wonder-womanThe problem is, a lot of us, me included, missed the key element of the response. Ramey was speculating on the “Kryptonian ancestry of the Amazons” based on how he perceived the projection of the DC Cinematic Universe as depicted by Snyder and Goyer. None of it was based on actual information acquired from any inside sources. Unfortunately, a lot of websites started to report his answer as though it was fact, prompting another round of internet flame wars over the supposed rewriting of Wonder Woman’s origin.

What this ultimately comes down to is Ramey struck a chord in the nerd/geek community, one that will continue to be sensitive to any piece of information, rumor or otherwise, simply because what he said isn’t that far off from what could happen in Superman vs. Batman, or Batman vs. Superman. Reactions to his speculation are representative of the community at large, specifically those who’re invested in Wonder Woman and her place in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe or the DCCU as a whole. And like Ramey’s speculation, all roads lead to Superman and Man of Steel, because, more than likely, responses to this “news” were based on whether someone loved, hated, or meh-ed the film, which also indicates their level of trust in the filmmakers and probably Warner Bros. To be fair, expectations have been high not just from fans, but from the studio as well since Warner Bros. has made The Avengers their personal Moby Dick, driving the DCCU, at break-neck speed, towards a Justice League movie. On the other hand, Goyer and Snyder, under Christopher Nolan’s aesthetic umbrella, are still responsible for the final product, which has left the foundation of the DCCU uneven at best.WonderWoman

Then there’s Wonder Woman, a character who has continually been put on the backburner, finally making her big screen debut. Given what we know about Snyder and Goyer and their need to justify/rationalize/ground DC’s comic book characters in “reality”, the stakes are very high as to how she’ll be portrayed and how DC’s cinematic equivalent of Thor will fit into this universe. And when I say she’s the equivalent of Thor, I’m not endorsing the whole “magic and science are one and the same” angle that Thor did and applying it to Wonder Woman. That’s what worked for Thor because that was the actual comic book origin of the character. Wonder Woman is different in that her origin is intrinsically tied to Greek Mythology, which, for some, could be perceived as too “out there” for the reality of the DCCU. So, based on what people seem to think are Goyer’s brilliant strokes of “tweaking” the mythos, Ramey’s speculation appears to be a plausible alternative to Wonder Woman’s comic book origin.

And while Ramey was only speculating, the acceptance by a lot of people of this adjustment to Wonder Woman’s origin, feeds into the same ideas shared by DC Comics’ president, Diane Nelson, and executives at Warner Bros. who continue to claim Wonder Woman is “tricky”. We can suspend our disbelief over alien colonizers from Krypton but entertaining the idea that Greek gods, goddesses, and monsters are real or that a heroine can be molded from clay is a step too far? Maybe it would clash with Space Jesus, a.k.a. Superman, and his message of hope? I’ve also talked to or seen people point to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their science-based approach, using Thor as the example of how the fantastical was grounded. There was also the alteration of the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, which was itself a divisive adaptation amongst Iron Man fans. What we’re looking at, though, is a comparison of apples and oranges. Most of Marvel’s characters started in the Silver Age, an era where science-fiction stories were dcue_promo_magic_show_by_tombancroft-d30700zthe bread and butter of the industry. Not only is Wonder Woman an enduring character from the Golden Age, which also spawned Superman and Batman, but she’s a surefire in for the magical community of the DC Universe who will also be making their big screen debuts either through Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Neil Gaiman, and Goyer’s Sandman or Guillermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark movie. If Goyer and Snyder squelched Wonder Woman’s fantastical origins in favor of whittling the square peg into the round hole, how would they explain The Endless, Zatanna, Etrigan, Deadman, or John Constantine? The Kryptonians can’t be responsible for everyone’s origin and if you can’t embrace the fantastical elements that make Wonder Woman special, then clearly your approach is in jeopardy.

So, yeah, I think this started off as an apology and then spiraled into my reasons why that speculation is both plausible and problematic at the same time. Yep, sounds about right. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit in the corner and rock myself back and forth for comfort while I debate how Ramey could be right, why I want it to not be true, and how I secretly think he’s on to something.