Embarrassing Things that Happened to Me in 2015

Mixed up my coworkers who have the same first name or similar hair (and didn’t recognize some people I’ve met multiple times)

Got on the subway going the wrong way, switched to correct line, was so lost in my own thought that I missed my stop by TWO stations, switched again, finally got off at the right place, and got lost. Was 20 minutes late to a half-hour appointment

Came dead-last in a casual axe-throwing tournament, was too bad at it for the instructor to give me advice for improvement

Facebook arguments

Left my bag checked an event, left the event, was about to get on the subway when I remembered

Ignored people at a party to blog angrily about superheroes

Started but completely stopped going to the gym

Loud, extended crying over the phone – in a Second Cup

Bought my 7th copy of Frankenstein

Verbal diarrhea

Nearly died after inhaling a cookie laughing at something on Parks & Rec

Coworkers astonished and slightly offput by my knowledge of sci-fi (which is like, the least intense genre for my geek love, although it’s ahead of video games)

Celebrity crushes

Dragging my mom to see a figure skating show because no one else would come with me NO you know what, that was awesome

Got some trivia questions wrong

Cut my hand trying to close a standing banner because I was doing it super wrong. Continued to injure my hand throughout December for some reason

Bought Penny Dreadful magnets, maybe the most useless thing I’ve ever spent money on (#noregrets)

Apparently miscommunicated with the person leading a Ghost Walk, ended up missing it after organizing my whole birthday around it (I state again that I am 24)

Broke my favourite mug at work by inadvertently smashing it against the counter. The replacement I bought briefly disappeared after I accidentally left it in the kitchen for a couple of hours (it was returned)

Got a bunch of wrong-number texts because the dude who used to have my phone number never updated anyone, and the ridiculousness hit its apex when a stranger texted me a picture of his dog without comment, so I said he had the wrong number but asked if I could pet the dog, and he called me angrily so I had to explain all of this to him over the phone

But some cool things happened in 2015 too.

Jason Loo’s The Pitiful Human-Lizard, which I edit, is now being published by Chapterhouse Comics. I wrote some mini-comics for the series, and started working editing (and writing for) The Toronto Comics Anthology Vol. 3, due out in 2016. I became the Art & Lit editor at Paper Droids.

I got a new job and new glasses.

I went on awesome trips to Seattle and Montreal and Los Angeles with fabulous friends.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (B) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (A+++) weren’t horrible disappointments like The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (F—) was in 2014. I really liked It Follows, Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, What We Do in the Shadows, The Witch, and Magic Mike XXL. I didn’t see Tangerine, Sicario, Clouds of Sils Maria, Spring, or Ex Machina but I would like to. I wanted to like Crimson Peak more than I did. I marathoned all 3 Lord of the Rings movies in one sitting for the first time with another superfan and cried a lot about hobbits.

(Edited to add: I also loved Jupiter Ascending and I won’t apologize for it).

I saw some cool shows including The Roots, The Fratellis, Possible Worlds, 3 Beckett plays, Guillermo Del Toro give a lecture on the Gothic, and Marvel Universe Live (IT’S FOR GROWN-UPS TOO). I sang in a drop-in choir and painted a picture.

I made a point of reading some biographies this year – I enjoyed them and learned a lot. Some of my favourite books that I read this year were Wagner the Werewolf by George W. M. Reynolds, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter, The Hair Wreath and Other Stories by Halli Villegas, Posthumous Keats by Stanley Plumly, The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather, and Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson.

I liked iZombie, Gravity Falls, Orange is the New Black, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Steven Universe, Rick & Morty, and the 2 Marvel Netflix shows, but I liked Penny Dreadful most of all.

I made new friends who are unreasonably talented – seriously the comics talent in Toronto blows my mind – as well as being kind and smart and supportive.

I was published on The Toast and one of my blog posts here, on crediting artists in comics criticism, went viral on Twitter and appeared on Freshly Pressed (my second time!).

And even though I sucked at it, axe-throwing was kind of amazing.

Here’s to 2016. I’m going to keep learning (starting with some basic coding and then some tech and design) and try to keep a more generally positive/glass-half-full outlook. I’m going to get back to the gym, and have my name on my first comics anthology. I’m gonna kick 2016’s ass and not let it kick mine.

I hope that your 2015 was more up than down, and that 2016 is even better.

Shakespeare adaptations I would stage that would still be better than some productions I’ve seen

Romeo and Juliet but with gangster zombies and all of the music from West Side Story

The Cyberpunk Merchant of Venice (Shylock is a lender of Bit Coins)

Pericles, Prince of Tyre but with Muppets

Sci-fi Julius Caesar. Juugron Caesar has big plans for the Shaafl’zar Galaxy, but a band of rebels led by B’rutus see Caesar as a threat…

I Henry IV but everyone is dressed as a dog

A re-imagining of The Taming of the Shrew where Kate and Bianca kill all the men at the end

Othello where everyone is black except Othello

King John but in Nazi Germany

A production of Lear (Second Folio version) where one actor plays Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia

A 2-night crossover event between the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Love’s Labours’ Lost

A groundbreaking examination of the ways that consumerism is rewiring our brains and the media is turning us into pacified, unthinking, and uncritical children in The Comedy of Errors

A one-man-show of The Tempest, by David Bowie

Antony and Cleopatra but in Nazi Germany

A re-focused version of Twelfth Night that takes a grim, hard-hitting look at Sir Toby’s alcoholism

Goth Richard III

A big-budget Titus Andronicus musical featuring the greatest hits of superstar American rock band Journey

 

This seemed worth reposting here – I’m published on The Toast today! Enjoy!

#ArtCred: Tips for Properly Crediting Comics Creators

The past week or two has seen the comics Twittersphere abuzz with discussion about credit – specifically, giving artists the credit they deserve for their work. One of the main instigators of the conversation was this retailer survey, particularly the note that people are almost 7 times more likely to buy a comic because of a writer than an artist. There are a number of reasons that this could be the case; mainstream superhero comics are far more likely to see a long-term writer supported by rotating artists than the other way around. Writers are seen as the masterminds behind the story, while artists are treated more like visual translators than storytellers in their own right. Writing takes much less time, so a writer can be working on multiple books (for multiple companies) at once, while artists tend to be confined to one or two. Listing multiple people on art duties (pencillers, inkers, colour artists….) leads to confusion about what a person at any of these stages actually does. It doesn’t help that publishers give far more credit to writers than artists (and many books still don’t put inkers or colour artists on covers). Covers will almost always display the writer’s name before the artist’s, although there are exceptions – starting with issue 25, Saga co-creators Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan alternate top billing with each issue. It’s a start.

33.3% will order a book for a writer - 4.8% for an artist

33.3% will order a book for a writer – 4.8% for an artist

None of this is new information; the fight for creator rights and credit has been going for for decades, but it’s been a hot topic lately. If you haven’t been following it, I recommend checking out the #ArtCred tag on Twitter, and reading this post by Matt Fraction about collaboration (incidentally, this came a week after Fraction was left off the ballot when co-creator of Sex Criminals Chip Zdarsky was nominated for a Harvey Award for the series and refused the nomination unless his partner was included too). I don’t have anything to add to this conversation that hasn’t already been said, but I think this is an important topic, particularly as I meet more artists and see how hard they work.

It’s one thing if individual fans get more excited about writers than artists, but it’s a different matter for comics journalists. Publishers, retailers, and journalists help curate conversation around comics, and it’s important that we give credit where it’s due. I know that’s easier said than done – I’ve been writing about comics steadily for about 2 years now, and I don’t always properly credit everyone involved.

Artist Fiona Stapes is credited before writer Brian K Vaughan.

Artist Fiona Stapes is credited before writer Brian K Vaughan.

I grew up reading voraciously – but not reading comics – and graphic literature was barely present in my university English studies. So it’s easy to talk about the story, characters, and plot, but I’ve had to teach myself how to discuss art. Once I started reading comics, I immediately latched onto the work of particular artists since I quickly found that their distinct styles (as well as their interests) tend to lend themselves to certain kinds of stories, and I follow their books the same way you might follow the work of a particular actor or director. Still, I know a lot of readers who find that the writing impacts their enjoyment of a book far more than the art – and that’s okay! We all have preferences! But in a setting that requires a balanced and informed opinion (such as a review), it’s important to balance personal feelings with educated critique that recognizes all of comics’ components. If you like or dislike something, you should be able to articulate why, and you’re hardly supporting your argument if you ignore or discount such a huge component of the visual storytelling (and one that frankly takes a lot longer).

Learning on such a broad topic can be daunting, but I’ve tried to put together a list of tips for improving conversation about art in comics reviews and journalism. As a newbie, these are all things I’m still learning too, but I hope this helps anyone else who struggles to talk about comics art in a meaningful way:

1. Do research! If you’re going to be reviewing comics, you want to have at least a basic understanding of what you’re discussing, and there are tons of people out there who are willing to help you! This post by Matt Romeo at Multiversity gives a great overview of how to talk about art in comics reviews. Here’s a brief how-to on colouring by Amy Reeder, and the basics of lettering from Todd Klein. The internet is full of resources put together by professionals for amateur artists, and they’re just as useful for new journalists. There’s also Scott McCloud, whose Understanding Comics should be required reading. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from a few Google searches!

2. Learn your vocab. This is easy enough to do by reading other reviews and conversations on social media, but it takes some getting used to (here’s a list of basics on Wikipedia). I’m surprised how often I see folks generally use incorrect terms, so if you’re unsure, look it up! Learning proper terminology will also help you credit people correctly, another issue I see frequently, especially on books with bigger teams. It’s easy enough when you’re looking at a comic by one cartoonist, or by a single writer and artist (such as the team on Saga), but things can get complicated, particularly in cape comics – what does “finishes” mean? How about “layout assistance”? And don’t forget the trusty letterer, they’re doing important work, and you should at least know how to consider how the letterer’s job affects the whole.

Bedlam

Ryan Browne’s erratic lines, Jean-Paul Csuka’s intense colours, Riley Rossmo’s character design, and Kelly Tindall’s fractured captions collaborate to create this panel’s sense of paranoid terror. From Bedlam.

3. Know the difference between art that’s bad and a style that you don’t like. I won’t name any names, but there are artists whose work I’d argue is bad; artists who steal from other artists, or don’t seem to grasp basic human anatomy. But there are also artists who encompass the facets of good art, but whose style doesn’t work for me. It’s important to consider the difference if you’re going to be critiquing.

4. Read a wide variety of comics. If you’re only reading Marvel and DC superhero books, you’re only being exposed to a tiny sliver of what comics can look like and can be. Read comics from the other major publishers, like Image and Dark Horse and Boom! Read indie and self-published comics. Read experimental comics. Read web comics, and manga, and European comics – these will all expose you to different art styles, and while you’ll have preferences, the more you’re exposed to, the wider your idea of what “comics” means will be.

Frazer Irving is responsible for the storytelling and emotion for silent Black Bolt.

Frazer Irving deftly handles the storytelling and emotion for silent – and masked! – Black Bolt. From Silent War.

5. Understand how the art impacts the storytelling. Now this one’s tougher, and could come as a sub-point of my first one. It’s also something I’m still learning myself! What I’m trying to do is look at artists whose work I really like (or really dislike), and try to determine what differentiates their work. I try to look at how panels are arranged, how characters are placed in relation to each other (and to the reader), and how the colour and font choices contribute to mood or character. Also look out for striking or unique choices – creative page layouts, odd angles, or more detailed panel borders, for example. More than the other points, I’ve found this one comes with time, and will also benefit from research. It’s vital that journalists treat the art as an integral part of the storytelling, not as window dressing for the story. If other people have recommendations for this, I’d love to hear them!

This is just a start – there’s a lot more you can do, and that I have to do to improve. This is a visual medium, so the visuals are important. Storytelling relies heavily on the artist, and it’s important that they start being recognized for their work. Unfortunately, there’s no guidebook or lesson plan for being a comics journalist, so we’ve got to figure it out as we go along, but the more we do to learn, the better our writing will be!

Knocking Down the Geeky Gatekeepers

Hey guess what this is – yep, another post about being a geek girl and all of the frustration that comes with it! I might sound like a broken record, harping on this topic, but gosh, it never ceases to be relevant…

I read this article about the “Tumblr fans” who ostensibly go to conventions out of love for things they’ve only seen in pictures on the internet. That article and recent conversations have got me thinking about gatekeepers in geek culture. In this context, the term refers to people with certain credentials who attempt to control access to certain media and decide how everyone should consume and appreciate that media. Within geek culture, gatekeepers have traditionally been dudes, but that’s not always the case.

Image via this fantastic article at Comics Alliance

Image via this fantastic article at Comics Alliance

I’ve written before on my experiences being quizzed on my knowledge of something before being allowed to be a “fan.” I was talking to a cosplayer recently who told me that she went into a comics shop and was asked if she needed help finding a gift for her boyfriend. This woman was the picture of the kind of cosplayer who gets derided for making sexy “attention-seeking” costumes, but I never once wondered whether or not she was a “real fan” or any crap like that. We just wanted to talk comics. In contrast, a guy in my office has superhero toys on his desk and we argued about superheroes, but he admits he’s never read a comic. Yet he still calls himself a fan; a guy can do that, but a girl can’t be a “fan” of something unless she’s read and researched extensively, even in the eyes of other girls.

The cosplay community can be terrible with this, and that includes people of all genders. I constantly see people talking shit about cosplayers like the one I was talking to, who make costumes that show off their bodies and seem to get the most attention from photographers – I guess the work they put into their costumes is less valid because the end result shows more skin? And if your end goal in making a costume is to get lots of attention for it, I don’t know why you wouldn’t do whatever you could to increase its appeal to a large audience. This attitude seems fueled by the idea that some ill-defined prerequisite reading comes along with cosplaying – since intimate knowledge of a character is necessary to sew and build and create a costume. And that attitude extends into all areas of geekdom.

I get that it’s weird sometimes, when you assume a person shares your love for something based on what they’re wearing or saying, but they turn out to be a more casual fan. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can just walk away. Ultimately their fan “level” doesn’t have to have any affect at all on your life. Still, I feel that impulse too, that desire to maintain some concept of what being a fan does or doesn’t mean, although I don’t know that I can explain why. I guess we feel like it’s a part of our identities, so we want to see the label only go to people who have somehow “earned it.” But when I see fans’ love or knowledge being questioned, the targets are almost exclusively women.

This kind of fandom policing is so common that even though I know my shit, I find myself embarrassed when I think I might come across as a “fake geek girl.” I found some Daredevil comics at a used bookstore the other day, and I hesitated to pick them up because I knew how it would look, a girl getting into the comics because because of a popular TV show. I could imagine the guys at the counter (who, I’m not even making this up, were talking about all the porn they’d just gotten in) laughing at me after I left, “she probably just thinks Daredevil is hot.” And they would be RIGHT, Charlie Cox is a beautiful dude with perfect lips and a physique right out of a comic book. But more importantly, enjoying the show seemed like a good prompt to finally start reading about the street-level heroes, a huge part of the Marvel Universe I don’t know much about – but I couldn’t even take the books off the shelf. (Ultimately I didn’t buy anything because they didn’t have any trades labelled “Vol 1” and I’m not about to start in the middle okay). Now I’ve had plenty of great experiences in comic stores too, where I was treated as an equal and wasn’t shamed for things I didn’t know. I’ve even debated which Marvel hero would have the best butt with male pro artists (since everyone knows that it’s Nightwing at DC). But I’ve also argued with guys behind the counter about the name of a comic I was looking to buy, and I once watched a male artist at a con try to convince three women that women don’t buy or care about comics.

I should pause to acknowledge that this experience is even tougher for people with less-privileged identities than mine; they often have to deal with being completely excluded from the stories in question, and are silenced or bullied when they try to express frustration. As a privileged white cis-lady I don’t have as much to complain about. Thankfully, online spaces like Tumblr give us the opportunity to create safe spaces where we can have frank conversations about media that might not be possible elsewhere. My first experience going into a store to buy comics was fantastic (thanks, The Beguiling!), but it’s been Tumblr that’s ultimately helped me become the comics fan I am today. I’m now editing comics (even writing a bit!) and I would never have gotten here without connecting with other fans on Tumblr.

While I’d rather discuss social issues on Tumblr than Facebook or Twitter, the site has its own set of problems, especially where emotional, immediate responses tend to be louder than more thoughtful, nuanced commentary. And while it may be portrayed that way sometimes, Tumblr isn’t a hivemind – it’s made up of thousands of people with different opinions stemming from different life experiences, and because this is the internet, people loudly and violently disagree. There are tensions and contradictions even within “Tumblr fandom,” which itself isn’t free of gatekeepers, and this time they’re largely not men. I’ve witnessed the harassment of the so-called “Tumblr Fan” firsthand, posts where people were told to (and I quote) “fuck off and die” if they call themselves fans without doing some arbitrary amount of reading first. No matter where you go, unless it’s your own living room with some close friends, you’re likely to encounter these attitudes.

So let’s get some discussion going. Are there benefits to gatekeeping when it comes to creating and maintaining a safe space? Why do we get so angry with people in geek spaces who haven’t “earned” a space there? What separates a “real” fan from a “fake” one? What does being a fan or a geek even mean these days – how do we decide?

Saying Goodbye to Leslie Knope

I knew I was going to have a pretty strong emotional response to the finale of Parks and Recreation last night, but it ended up hitting me harder than I expected. Alasdair Wilkins captured my feelings in his review of the finale for The AV Club:

As the episode moved back and forward in time to plot out the rest of its characters’ lives, I felt keenly aware of how tonight was just one small moment in my life, one built on past experiences both good and bad, and one leading to some unknown future destination. Don’t worry, I’m fully aware of how silly that sounds, and my own presence in this observation is beside the point.

Part of the reason the episode resonated with me, I think, is that I’m on the precipice of changes in my own life. I’m less than a week away from starting a new job, possibly a new career, in an industry that’s completely foreign to me. I’m excited for a new start and the opportunities this job will bring, but I’m also anxious – as anyone is when trying something completely new. Add on all of the editing and writing I’m doing on the side, and I could really use a flash-forward to assure me that I’m going in the right direction. Even if that’s impossible for me, it was comforting to see that the characters we’ve come to love after 7 seasons of Parks and Recreation will go on to be happy. And I appreciated that not every one of them has a straight path to success; April isn’t entirely confident that she wants to have kids, and Tom has to lose everything once more before he can find his true calling. This being a sitcom, there was never any doubt that thing would turn out just fine for everyone, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying to watch. Even if only briefly, I felt like everything in my life might be okay too.

sobEven beyond resonance with my specific current situation, Parks & Rec has always seemed much more real to me than most sitcoms, despite its often broad humour. I think that this is largely due to its heavy reliance on character growth and relationships, and even under the cartooniest characters lay grains of recognizable emotional truth. Much of modern comedy relies so heavily on nastiness, whether that be raunchiness or plain mean-spiritedness, that the essential optimism of Parks & Rec has always felt refreshing. This last season was careful to give happy moments even to the hapless Gerry/Larry/Garry Gergich, a character who in some ways would have been more at home on a more cynical show like 30 Rock. The source of that sense of heart has always been the characters and the variety of unique groupings of character relationships the show produced. As someone who has largely grown weary of romance being shoved into every story out of some sense of obligation, I appreciate how organically most of the Parks & Rec romances developed. Even more than that, I loved the friendships on the show. Ann and Leslie mirror friendships in my own life (to the point that Ann’s departure last year and her reappearance in the finale had me weeping uncontrollably), and I value the different forms that friendships could take between, say, Ron and April, Donna and Tom, or Chris and Ben. These were characters with different goals and personalities (not to mention the diversity the show incorporated), but they found ways to support and relate to each other.

leslie and annIn a show that gave us Galentine’s Day, the “child size” soda (it’s the volume of child, if liquified), and Knope compliments, the most important thing Parks and Recreation gave the world was probably Leslie Knope herself. Moving past the first season, Leslie was an optimistic and determinated machine, and nothing could stand between her and what she wanted (and what she wanted, much of the time, was to make her friends happy). She had her flaws, of course, but in the end she was a woman who never took “no” for an answer. Given their real-life friendship, it’s difficult not to compare Amy Poehler’s character to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon. We can all see ourselves in Liz Lemon, but it’s often ourselves at our worst, especially as the series progressed. As much as we love the idea of shotgunning a whole pizza, Liz’s poor dating skills and alleged unattractiveness were frequently invoked, although anyone with eyes can see that Tina Fey is a bombshell. I love Liz Lemon, and I don’t mean to be down on her, but the show frequently emphasized her flaws more than was maybe necessary for a woman struggling to hold together a team of unmotivated weirdos and have a life on top of it. As this article at Medium points out, Parks and Recreation gave us more that that. Leslie had her own flaws to make her relatable (who hasn’t desperately wanted to intervene when we think our friends are making bad choices?), and if you can’t relate to her, maybe you see yourself in Ann (who shares Liz’s awkwardness in the dating scene, although not to the same extent), or in April or Donna, or maybe Ben or Tom. Even if Leslie’s manic ambition isn’t her most relatable characteristic to everyone, she gives us something to aspire to – you can bet your ass she never held her bra together with tape.

This could be another case of right timing, but Leslie Knope is probably the most important TV character to me since Buffy Summers. I watched Buffy when I was 16, which was the perfect age to get caught up in her supernatural melodrama, but Leslie leaves our screens while I’m an adult. Unlike Leslie, I wasn’t writing my career aspirations in my kindergarten dream journal, so I’m still looking for direction, but this new job is a start. I felt a bit guilty leaving my old team in the midst of organizational changes, but Leslie reminds me that when I find something I want, I should go for it and shouldn’t apologize for my passion or ambition. Beyond that, she would tell me not to take shit from anyone, especially dudes who don’t like what I have to say (her brief shut-down of some men’s rights activists in a recent episode was truly inspiring). But on the other hand, Leslie is always there for her friends to help them problem-solve with detailed binders, or just to give them the best birthday present ever. No matter what, Leslie will support the people closest to her. I see myself in Ann’s awkwardness and Ben’s nerdiness, but Leslie is the person I want to be. I may not share her political ambitions, but I strive to emulate Leslie’s enthusiasm, her compassion, and her perseverance.

yes on knopeYes, I am aware this is a fictional television program, but as Wilde once said, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” We are far more affected by the plight of our favourite fictional characters than some of us might like to admit, but if that means that I absorbed even a little bit of Leslie Knope, I’m perfectly okay with that.

11 Questions – Liebster Nomination

WordPress user alyssabethancourt nominated me for a Liebster! Wow! I’m late on this, so I’m just going to answer the questions that were posed to me and leave it at that:

1. What is your favorite book, and why do you love it?

Frankenstein probably takes that cake (although Les Misérables and Lord of the Rings are up there too). I’m a bit obsessed with the second generation Romantics, and I love how steeped in that tradition the novel is. I love that a lady wrote it. I love that every time I read it, I discover new motifs, new images, new questions to ask. I engage with it on a different level every time I read it, and I’ve read a number of different adaptations and interpretations (to say nothing of the films, many of which I also love). There’s so much going on in that book and I love unpacking it in a different way every time I read it.

2. What book did you chuck across the room (or want to chuck across the room) because it was so terrible?

People will hate me for this, but the last time I can remember being aggressively angry at a book for being bad was the first book in the Dresden Files series (I don’t remember the title but I’m not even going to look it up). I think the issue wasn’t so much that it was terrible, but that people had been telling me how great it was for years, which made it seem more egregious – that said, it’s one of few books I put down halfway through and never again picked up. I love anti-heroes, but I found Dresden so far from likeable (especially in his interactions with women) that I gave up reading his smarmy internal dialogue. I wanted the series, if it wasn’t good, to at least be readable, but it ended up reading like a shitty watered-down Hellblazer without any of the charm that makes that series’ protagonist likeable.

3. What common word or expression drives you up the wall every time you hear it?

Any permutation of “Menism” or other MRA bullcrap. There are so many men’s rights issues that should be addressed – the rarity that fathers get custody of their children, the wage gap between white men and men of colour, and the unwillingness of society to acknowledge male victims of sexual assault – but these guys are too worried about having to pay for a woman’s dinner or hold the door open that any actual problems that men face get completely drowned out. Men’s Rights Activists will argue that they should be allowed to hit women. That’s messed up. Feminism attempts to dismantle the flawed system that is the source of problems for women and men so we should be working together to create a new system that’s truly equal, and stop giving any of our attention to these GamerGate manchildren.

4. If you could live with any kind of pet, assuming as given all of the necessary permits, supplies, housing, training, cleaning crew, etc. to make it happen, what animal would that be?

A bulldog. I love dogs so, so much so I really just want to live with dogs forever. Bulldogs (French and English, equally adorable) have a lot of health problems, so I don’t know if I could get one from a breeder unless I felt like they were bred to avoid common issues, but even then I’ll probably end up rescuing a dog when I am able to take care of one.

5. Ideal vacation: go.

I can’t find it now, but I found a bike trip through the Alps from Chamonix to Geneva, which would be scenic and also be a route taken in Frankenstein, so that’s cool. I don’t know that I have one ideal vacation though… I want to go back to England and the UK, I want to visit Australia and New Zealand (Hobbiton!!), I want to go to New York Comic Con, I’d love to see authentic Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico (if actual Mexicans invited me to participate, of course). I like traveling.

6. Where do you come down on the all-important chocolate vs. vanilla question?

Chocolate. It’s the most delicious.

7. What musical instruments do you, or would you like to play?

I sing, and yes that counts. I’ve been singing ever since I was a kid, doing musical theatre and I directed an a cappella choir in university. It was more of a social club but we had a good time, and from what I’ve seen my girls are a million times better now, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

8. Do you think dolls are cute or creepy?

CREEPY. You’ve probably heard of Annabelle by now (the real doll was way spookier than the film version) but have you heard of Robert the Doll? I love spooky things, but creepy dolls makes me poop my pants.

9. What particular smell never fails to evoke a specific fond memory for you?

Probably baking? It says holidays and nice times and nice things. Baking means friends and family. So I love that stuff.

10. Have you ever cosplayed, or would you ever? As what?

Lots of times! The one I’ve worn most is still my Scarlet Witch, of which I’ve shared pics before, but if you’re curious, here’s a great gallery of a photoshoot I did with Hey Bad Cat Studios. One of my cosplay goals for 2015 is Cruella De Vil!

11. Do you think you would have made a dashing pirate, and what would your pirate name have been?

Oh I would have, and my name would have been my own.

—-

So that’s that – if you have any questions you’d like to ask, please do! Now that I’m writing for other sites, I don’t this blog as much to express my many, many opinions, but I still have them and I still will share them from time to time.

One more new and hilarious thing that’s new in my life – I am now cited on the Hellblazer Wikipedia page. So even if I’ve neglected this space, something good came of me rambling on elsewhere on the internet.

As always, follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook for more frequent updates on my life. I’ve also got Instagram if that’s more your jam.

May 2015 bring you all productivity in your work and fulfillment in your personal relationships.

And hopefully more than 2 updates on this blog?

It’s Alive!

“This blog is probably dead,” you say to yourself. It looks that way, but fear not! I’ve just been incredibly busy! I have a few ideas for eventual posts floating around in my head, but unfortunately I haven’t had that moment of manic inspiration that leads to most of my best content. Still, you lovely people deserve an update, so here’s what I’ve been up to:

I’ve got a new full-time job! And a new apartment! Being IN Toronto proper makes a huge difference, I’ve been going out and socializing, which hasn’t left as much time as I’ve wanted to get other things done. 2013 was a rough year for me, a sort of quarter-life crisis, but I’m so happy to be where I am now. I sometimes feel like my head might explode from all of the things I have to plan out at any given time, but comparing that to where I was this time last year, I can’t be anything but grateful. Everything has sort of fallen into place and I’m feeling optimistic about the immediate future! Hooray!

In the real-life sphere, I’ve also joined the X-Men of Toronto, a cosplay-based charity organization. Come on out to our events if you live in the GTA!

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The X-Men of Toronto. Photo by Derek Cutting.

Additionally, I’m proud to announce that in addition to frequent contributions, I’m now an editorial assistant for Paper Droids!

Haunt of Horrors is now defunct, but my reviews are still up if you want them. I’m still writing for Pop Culture-y, and will continue one day, hopefully, be able to write for a fully-operational Nerdstock. If you like pictures, you can also check out my Frankenstein-themed Tumblr blog.

I’m also editing dialogue for the new Toronto-based comic series, The Pitiful Human Lizard, and I’m helping the owner of weirdshitblog with an upcoming short story collection.

Unfortunately, all of this meant that my YouTube channel died as quickly as it was born, but check it out anyway if you like books! When winter hits I might update it again sporadically but I don’t want to make any promises on that front…

There’s still my Facebook page and Twitter, where I try my best to update whenever I write something new, plus the odd observation or article shared.

I’m trying to do as much writing as I can, and if you can believe it, I’ve got my eye on a few more opportunities! I’m sorry I don’t post very often, but I hope that infrequent but (mostly) quality content is preferable to frequent hollow updates. I’ve had some notes on werewolves and how much I love them in my drafts for months, but I might end up publishing that somewhere else. We’ll see! Is there anything you’d be curious to get my thoughts on? Want me to discuss anything in particular? Been reading anything interesting?Shoot me a comment and if I’m inspired maybe you’ll get a post out of it.

Thanks for following, everyone.

Elitism and Film Hierarchy

Last week, I won tickets to a free advance screening of I, Frankenstein in Toronto. The theatre was peopled entirely with other contest winners – not one of us paid to see this movie – and yet the two dudes sitting next to me spent the whole movie complaining about how “stupid” it was. A movie they didn’t have to pay for, and yet decided to come down to an advance screening for people who mostly, presumably, did something to win those tickets. And all I could think is where is your sense of fun?

Do I think that I, Frankenstein should sweep the Oscars next year? Should it be recognized as a cultural milestone? No, of course not, but this is completely unfair criteria by which to judge a film. I get really frustrated when people dismiss genre films (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc) for failing to be… well, serious. Sure there are the exceptions to that rule, but in general, “geeky” movies aren’t taken seriously by more sombre film critics.

Award-winning films have become so predictable that sociologists have found a way to measure “Oscar bait.” Terms like “family tragedy” and “domestic servant” play well, and obviously these are meant to be the best films of a given year – but does anyone really think that Crash deserved to win? And as much as I adored The King’s Speech, The Social Network is probably going to be more clearly remembered in a decade or two. I feel like a lot of people don’t take these awards too seriously – if I watch at all, it’s for the dresses, not the awards (but that still won’t stop me from screaming if Lupita Nyong’o doesn’t win). But they dominate cultural conversations for a few months every year. Award season is a cultural touchstone where the dark, gritty seriousness of Nolan’s Batman films was apparently deserving of recognition but the fun romp that was The Avengers was mainly overlooked.

I guess the question is whether or not “entertainment” is a noble goal to have when setting out to make a film, and in my book, it is. That doesn’t mean that a purely entertaining film should be free from criticism, but I think that we have to adapt our reference points from film to film; we should judge the success of a film based on its ability to achieve what it sets out to do. I, Frankenstein knows that its audience is here to see some goofy action sequences, so it develops its characters and mythology only to the point that the plot is possible, and puts most of its effort into fight choreography and special effects. Last year’s Pacific Rim was slammed by some for lacking subtlety – but its tagline was “Go Big or Go Extinct,” so it seems to me that the problem with that assessment is with the reviewer, not the film itself.

And you know what these films have in common that is absent from many award-nominated films this year? Minority representation. Pacific Rim, while having one of the most boring white dude protagonists in the history of film, was really about Mako Mori – it’s no 12 Years a Slave in terms of examining race relations, but it has some cultural significance for having a leading lady of colour who isn’t an exoticized caricature. Geek spaces are dominated by white straight male voices, but sub-genres and cult films are havens for minority groups – look at something like Hedwig and the Angry Inch. That film will never be remembered for mainstream appeal, but that doesn’t make it culturally insignificant.

If I go into a horror movie, I want to be scared, and that’s going to be the standard by which I judge the film. I don’t think that all horror movies are worthy of widespread accolade, but I don’t think either that they should be summarily dismissed for not meeting some kind of film standard that’s skewed toward emotionally manipulative dramas. Movies can be art, but they can also be pure entertainment, and not everyone wants to leave a movie theatre feeling like they’ve changed as a person. If goofy action flicks aren’t for you, that’s fine, but don’t put them down because they aren’t Quentin Tarantino movies.

Which, by the way, wouldn’t exist without the B-movies he lovingly imitates.

I’m a film lover because I know the heights that films can hit, in terms of emotional resonance but also in engrossing me in a story. Some of the most engrossing stories are told in faraway galaxies, about people accomplishing the unfeasible. Oscar Wilde once said that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, so give me stories where people beat impossible odds and good prevails, I don’t care if it takes a plothole or two for us to get there.

Looking to the Future: A Panel Discussion on Superhero Films in 2014

I participated in this panel about superhero movies, for those interested. Watch me go off in a completely different direction from the other panelists on 2 of the 3 questions. The fact that I forgot that The Wolverine was a thing this year probably didn’t lend me credence either. OH WELL.

A. A. Omer

I love superheroes and this year was just one giant present filled with costume clad characters. I’ve already counted down and commented on the 5 superhero movies of 2013 over at Paper Droids but while that was about looking back, I decided to look forward.

I got 5 people who love superheroes and superhero movies to discuss the films of 2013 and what that’ll mean in terms of the expectations we’ll have for the 2014 batch. They come from all walks of life. They either reside in the United States or Canada. Some read comics while others haven’t. They do share one thing in common and it’s superheroes on the screen so let’s hear what this panel has to say…

What’s your most anticipated 2014 film and why?

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Allison O’Toole: 

I can’t confirm that it will happen in 2014, but there seems to be a John Constantine show in development…

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