What I’ve Learned from Super-Ladies

“All the super ladies, all the super ladies, all the super ladies… Now put your hands up!”

Let’s talk about women in comics. This can be a controversial issue: Are they truly represented, or are they just eye candy? Are they well-written characters or are they simply catalysts for the male hero’s evolution?

The answer of course is… Yes. It depends what you’re reading, as well as who was writing it and the era in which it was written. You might have a Wonder Woman comic form the ’60s that is oddly progressive and full of girl power. You might come across a recent comic featuring the alien princess Starfire and roll your eyes at her outfit (or, more specifically lack of an outfit).

The fact is, making a blanket statement about women in comics is like making a generalization about… sidekicks in comics. Or families in comics. Or villains in comics. Characters of all sorts have changed and evolved depending on when they were written and who was writing them.

In a weird way, comics are a microcosm of society: As we become more enlightened, so do comics. Of course, true enlightenment never really stops–we’re always learning and growing, and comics reflect that, too.

Is there still misrepresentation? Sure. But I’m happy to say that at least this female reader spends more time feeling empowered than rolling my eyes.

And today, I want to talk a little bit about that empowerment. Today, I want to share a bit about what I, as a fellow woman, have learned from super-heroines.

Batgirl

From “Batgirl, Vol. 4: Strange Loop

I described Barbara Gordon before in my “Top 10 Sidekicks” list. She’s strong and insanely smart, but above that, she has more perseverance than just about any other character. Not only did she decide to become a hero fighting for truth and justice, but after she was paralyzed by the Joker, she found a new niche for herself in the superhero community–as Oracle, the super-hacker and computer wizard. She eventually regained her ability to walk and returned to the mantle of Batgirl. And, just like you’d expect, she continues to tackle every problem and obstacle with grit and intelligence.

Ms. Marvel

From “Ms. Marvel: Teenage Wasteland

I adore Kamala Khan. She has strong family and community values, and she has the wide-eyed optimism that only comes with youth. And honestly… if we adults adopted just a bit of that kind of attitude, the world would be a better place. She stumbles and has doubts, but she always, always does what she believes in her heart is right. Her support system–friends, family, and the community of Jersey City–is a reminder to everyone that “lone wolf” is overrated. As strong as she may be, she reminds us all that we are ultimately, always, stronger together. She is a shining example of a comic book hero and a super-lady that I would be thrilled to have my future children see as a role model.

Squirrel Girl

From “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power

Oh, Doreen Green. I’m pretty sure you were created just to be a throwaway, comedic character… but with your spunk and optimism, you’ve found a way into comic book history. Though your stories aren’t always canon (they exist in a special place that connects to the larger story without actually impacting it), you teach us again and again that you don’t always have to fight to save to the day. SG’s motto is that she’s here to “eat nuts and kick butts,” but more often than not, she and her similarly punny friends (Koi Boy, Chipmunk Hunk, etc.) save the day by just… talking to the villain. Why are you doing this? Is there another option you hadn’t considered? She once even convinced Galactus–the Devourer of Worlds–to not eat Earth, not through an intense, nail-biting action scene… but because she found a planet of nuts for him to enjoy. And when that doesn’t work… then it’s time to kick butts. But SG never falls victim to the “doom and gloom” of superheroes. She’s here to save the day and love every second of it!

Mera

From “Mera: Queen of Atlantis

What isn’t there to say about Mera? She is–literally–a force with which to be reckoned. She can use her powers to control the oceans, and even though she could be terrifying… she remains selfless and strong. While her skills as a warrior are nothing to be ignored, her heart and moral compass are what set Mera apart from others. After all, she first met Arthur Curry (Aquaman) when she was sent to assassinate him. What happened instead? She fell in love with the genuinely good man and tried to help bring the surface and underwater worlds together. When that failed, thanks to a coup in Atlantis, she took on the mantle of queen herself to save, not only the man she loved, but also the two worlds he was from–whether she truly wanted that power or not. A woman who understand power and responsibility, Mera is the quintessential leader from whom we can all learn something.

Wonder Woman

From “Wonder Woman, Vol. 2: Year One

Speaking of quintessential…. Wonder Woman is the female superhero. Diana is an Amazon, raised on the island of Themyscira–where there are no men. She comes to our world when Steve Trevor washes up on the shore. After nursing him back to health, the Amazons decide to send a champion to “Man’s World” to help guide them. Diana is known most often as a warrior, but in truth she is a diplomat first. Her compassion and desire for the truth–specifically what truly makes up the hearts of man–compels her forward on her mission of peace. She fights when she must, but she ultimately believes that goodness is humanity’s strongest trait. And so she fights for it–endlessly and tirelessly reminding us that we can fight the good fight, too.

While writing these, here’s a crazy thing I just noticed: All of these lessons aren’t just for women. We can all persevere, support our communities, be optimistic, be a force of nature, and be compassionate.

Humans have a habit of wanting to label anything and everything. The universe is confusing and terrifying, so the more we can organize it the better, right?

Right?

Maybe. We are all unique and those special traits and differences should be celebrated. But when does celebrating become just another form of labeling? When is it best to celebrate that a woman did this–broke the glass ceiling, defied the patriarchy–and when is it best to simply celebrate that a person did this? That–regardless of gender, background, age, or any of the other million labels we assign each other–this one person, with their unique personality and skills, with their special brand of bravery and perseverance, has accomplished something great?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, however, is that humans have a habit of adopting an “us vs. them” mentality. So maybe saying that these super-ladies have taught me so much doesn’t matter as much as saying that these super-people have helped me understand, just a little bit more, what it means to be part of the human story.

Of course, female representation in comics–and in all media–is a debate that’s been going strong for decades upon decades, and I doubt it will end any time soon. And it should continue: We can’t get better if we don’t question. My only hope is that, above all else, people remember to be kind.

After all, as Wonder Woman once said:

“Because no matter how small an act of kindness or generosity or simple positivity you put out into the world, it will make a difference.”*


Sources:

Larson, Hope. Batgirl, Vol. 4: Strange Loop. Burbank, CA, DC Comics, 2018.

Wilson, G. Willow. Ms. Marvel: Teenage Wasteland. New York, Marvel Comics, 2018.

North, Ryan. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power. New York, Marvel Comics, 2015.

Abnett, Dan. Mera: Queen of Atlantis. Burbank, CA, DC Comics, 2018.

Rucka, Greg. Wonder Woman, Vol. 2: Year One. Burbank, CA, DC Comics, 2017.

*https://www.cbr.com/dc-comics-inspirational-quotes-wonder-woman/#:~:text=As%20the%20hero%20herself%20said,and%20be%20better%20for%20it.

Let’s Celebrate (Or: What Ferris Wheels, Pizza, and Bubble Wrap Have in Common)

These past few weeks, my Saturday blogs have been very… topical. Very based in the reality of 2020. So today, I thought I’d do something that was just plain fun.

Earlier this week, I wrote about today being Batman Day. But it’s also another special holiday. It’s…. International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

(For the record, I kind of love that Talk Like a Pirate Day and Batman Day are both happening at the same time. I’d tell you to imagine a Pirate Batman, but DC already did that for us.)

Meme found on Pinterest.

So… argh, me mateys! Batten down the hatches! Shiver me timbers! Um…. Polly wants a cracker!

Okay… I think it’s safe to say I’d make a pretty lousy pirate. (I can’t even swim.)

But today got me thinking about weird holidays. Because there are a lot of them. (We librarians know this very well; we tend to utilize unusual observances for displays. Nothing says “Read Me” like countless Italian cookbooks in honor of Cheese Pizza Day–which was Sept. 5, if you were curious.)

So, why do we make up these strange, oddly specific holidays?

Well, I think the answer to that is simple. Why not? Why not take a day to appreciate bubble wrap (Jan. 27)? Or to set aside time to eat what you want (May 11)? Or to celebrate apple turnovers (July 5)?

We humans have a history of doing what we can simply because we can. It doesn’t matter if the world if flat; if man will never fly; or if reaching the moon is a farflung, sci-fi fantasy. We hear the naysayers, and we say… “Nay!” right back to them.

Odd holidays are certainly a bizarre way to continue this tradition, but who says that everything we do has to be monumental? In fact, isn’t another part of the human story all about finding joy in the simple? Importance in the everyday? After all, it’s each of those tiny, seemingly insignificant cogs that keep us all going. Ferris Wheels might not be ending any wars, but we’d sure have a lot fewer romantic moments without them. (Ferris Wheel Day is Feb. 14, by the way.) And while they might not decide any fates, cameras do help us remember who we are and how far we’ve come. (Give cameras some love on June 29.)

So yes, we have plenty of oddball holidays. But it’s not really surprising: We love to do the unexpected, and we love to celebrate. And in a year like 2020, maybe we need a little bit of random fun now more than ever.

So, me mateys… set sail for one of these other bizarre holidays, coming your way this month!

September 20: National Pepperoni Pizza Day

September 21: Miniature Golf Day

September 22: Elephant Appreciation Day

September 25: National Comic Book Day

September 26: International Rabbit Day

September 28: Ask a Stupid Question Day

What’s your favorite crazy holiday? Have you ever celebrated any of these? Tell me all about it in the comments?


Info from HolidayInsights.com. Check them out for more wacky holidays!

The Good News and Bad News About Reading Like a Professor

Not long ago, I came across a book entitled How to Read Literature Like a Professor. As someone who minored in English (and only didn’t major because I was told again and again that I wouldn’t be able to find a job otherwise), I can definitely see the allure of such an idea. What voracious reader wouldn’t want to get every possible detail out of classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and 1984?

Well, as someone who learned how to do just that, let me tell you: There’s good news and bad news.

The Good News

You’ll gain a much deeper understanding of every book that you read. You won’t just read about favorite characters in an exciting plot: You’ll understand every nuance; you’ll consider things like development, allusions, themes, and symbols. A book won’t just be a story–it will be an experience.

The Bad News

You can’t turn it off. Seriously. Think back to when you were a kid at Easter: Did your parents ever hide an egg full of treats a little too well? And even after mom and dad said, “Oh well,” did you keep searching because, of course, that chocolate was going to be yours! That’s exactly what it’s like: Once you know there is more hidden within every book, you can’t stop looking for it. Your brain is constantly on the hunt for and analyzing the aforementioned development, allusions, etc.

So… do you want to read like a professor? Maybe. Because there is some more good news to follow the bad news: While you might not be able to turn off your inner professor, it is possible to find books that are so engaging they temporarily knock him out. In short: If you find a REALLY good book, you can be a critical thinker while still having fun with a story you can’t put down.

Here are a few books that did that for me:

(1) Across the Universe by Beth Revis

From Goodreads.com

The first in a sci-fi series that had just as much mystery and romance as it did space travel and speculative science. With a stunning grasp on human nature, this book was a page-turner at a time when I couldn’t stop reading like I was in class.

(2) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

From Goodreads.com

This book was a hot topic when it came out–and with good reason! While this isn’t normally my style of book (I tend to lean more towards sci-fi or adventure), I devoured this book. I remember staying up late and literally laughing out loud at… a certain part. (I won’t say more because… spoilers.)

(3) Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

From Goodreads.com

Unique, heartfelt, engaging…. I’d never read a book quite like this one. It chronicles the adventures of one boy’s imaginary friend and how that friend helps him out of a dangerous situation. I don’t want to say too much, but I can guarantee this: You’ll be captivated from beginning to tend.

How about you? What books have gotten you out of reading slumps? Share in the comments!

Holy Holiday, Batman!

I wouldn’t be much of a nerd if I didn’t take a moment to get excited about this upcoming Saturday. What’s so special about Saturday, you ask?

Well…it’s…. BATMAN DAY!

Which got me thinking… what is the best way to celebrate the Dark Knight? The Caped Crusader? The World’s Greatest Detective? (Wow… I’ve never realized before how many aliases the guy has….)

And, being the total nerd that I am, I came up with a whole list of celebratory options. After all, as Batman has said: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” So here it is:

Holy Holiday, Batman! 10 Ways to Celebrate Batman Day

(10) Make Bat-cookies! You can find bat-shaped cookie cutters online. Decorate them however you like, though I would recommend some dark chocolate ganache icing for the Dark Knight.

(9) Play a Batman-themed board game. Yes, there are Batman board games. But if I had to recommend one in particular, it’s actually an expansion of the popular DC Deckbuilding card game. This special “Rivals” set is designed for two players and pits Batman against the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. (For extra fun, use a Batman voice if you’re playing as Batman, and if you’re playing as Joker, throw in a few “Batsys.”)

(8) Action figures. If you have kids (and, heck, even if you don’t have kids–no judgment here), play out your own adventure. Or… just admire and/or catalog your collection. Mint-in-box, anyone?

(7) Cosplay. Another good one with kids: Have a costume contest for everyone in the family. See who can dress up as the best Batman character. The winner can pick the next Bat-activity.

(6) Say it with style. I’m not saying you have to wear your favorite Batman t-shirt today… but I am saying that a Batman t-shirt automatically makes someone 10-percent cooler.

(5) Brackets. Who is the strongest villain? Who’s the best actor to play Batman? What is the best Batman comic? This list can go on and on. Make a March Madness-style bracket and debate with your friends!

(4) Read your favorite comics. Whether you look back over your own collection, or head to the library and check out a compilation, today is a great day to revisit some of Batman’s greatest mysteries. (Looking for a good compilation? Try one of these: Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Batman Adventures collections, and Batman: Arkham collections.)

(3) How about a novel? Yes, there actually are Batman novels, too. Try out: Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman or Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu. (I’ve not had the chance to actually read either of these myself, but they’re both regularly checked out at my library… and also totally on my to-read list.)

(2) Cartoon Marathon: Batman: The Animated Series is a classic, but it’s definitely not the only choice. There are a plethora of DC animated movies. (Note: not all of them are for kids!) Whether you choose something more mature, or get nostalgic with a favorite from your childhood, you’re sure to get lots of Gotham action.

(1) Movie Marathon! Lots to choose from here: You could go for the hardcore Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, or you could opt for a lighter, funnier Caped Crusader with Lego: Batman and Adam West. You really can’t go wrong either way.

So there you have it–ten ways to celebrate Batman.

Here’s to the Dark Knight: The hero who teaches us that you don’t need powers to be super. You just need willpower, intelligence, (if we’re being honest, a lot of money), and the desire to do good.

Batman’s been around for over 80 years. Here’s to 80 more!

I Miss High-Fives (and 19 Other Things I’ll Appreciate Even More After 2020)

Last week, I made a list of the 20 things I discussed how “bogged down” 2020 can feel; so to lighten that feeling, I reminded myself of all the things I was still able to do. This week, I thought I would take some time to make a list of things that I miss, things that I realize now might have been taken for granted, and things that I will feel blessed to again have as a part of my life. (I’m also going to knock on a lot of wood; I’m not writing this list to jinx anything, I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate those things that maybe I didn’t appreciate enough prior to this year.)

Last week’s list helped to put life in perspective, but this week’s list is more like a reminder in optimism: If history has taught us anything, it’s that hard times don’t last. *knocking on even more wood* So let’s take a look at what isn’t a part of our lives right now and remember, when they come back, to appreciate them all the more.

20 Things We’ll Appreciate More

(20) Hanging out with friends. Skype has been a great tool and solid substitute, but it will be nice to actually be with people again. Bring on the movie marathons! The epic game nights!

(19) Hugs and high-fives. I’ve never realized before that my knee-jerk reaction for a job well-done is a high-five. And air high-fives just aren’t the same….

(18) Going out to eat.

This delectable dish came from Bubba Gump’s in Gatlinburg.

(17) Vacations and day trips.

St. Augustine, last year.

(16) Not thinking about germs 24/7. When was the last time I sanitized? Did I already wipe my phone down today? Should I do it again? I will not miss these incessant thoughts.

(15) Nerdy Camaraderie. This year, the Cincinnati Comic Expo was cancelled…. This massive event is a veritable “nerdvana” of fun that I’ve attended for the last several years. While I always have fun, I’ll relish it even more next year.

Cincy Comic Expo. Any other Blue Beetle fans out there?

(14) Theme Parks. *sigh* I miss roller coasters….

Universal Studios, last year. I was the only one brave enough to tackle this coaster! Now just going out takes a different kind of bravery.

(13) Trying on clothes rather than just guessing if they’ll fit.

(12) Going to the movies. There’s just something magical about being at a movie theater, especially if its with other fans. The last movie we saw before the pandemic was My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. Many moviegoers came dressed in costume. Everyone laughed at the same time, cheered at the same time. You just can’t get that sense of togetherness from streaming.

(11) Sending food to a friend who is sick or who has lost a loved one. This is a big tradition out here in the country. But, right now, with everyone worried about sharing germs, the best we can do are fast food gift cards or pre-made treats from the store–neither of which have as much love as your family’s famous homemade lasagna.

(10) Programming. As a librarian, I miss being able to do programs. In the past, my library has held “comic cons,” murder mystery parties, and has even featured live animals. We all miss seeing our patrons have fun!

(9) Flea markets. Buying things previously owned by someone else and touched by who-knows how many people before you purchase it? Yeah… that’s not a thing we’re doing right now. And that means countless treasures are being left undiscovered.

Found this “blast from the past” at a flea market last March. Obviously, this March was spent a little differently.

(8) Trying new things. Let’s face it… you can only be so adventurous at home.

A couple months before the quarantine, my husband and I tried a local Japanese restaurant. I’m eagerly awaiting the next adventure–culinary or otherwise.

(7) Being spontaneous. This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. But I miss waking up one day and doing something completely random. Last year, for instance, my family and I visited the Mothman Museum.

The Mothman Museum. A weird little treasure we have here in Ohio.

(6) Buying brands that you want–especially with toilet paper and paper towels–rather than just what’s available.

(5) Visiting family and friends in nursing homes and hospitals.

(4) Having a choice of hand sanitizer. I miss the scent of “tangerine dream”… though I’m getting used to “assault-your-nose alcohol.”

(3) Sporting events. I don’t even like sports, but I do miss seeing my dad and brother get excited about going to games.

(2) Any type of gathering. I already discussed the Comic Expo, but there are tons of other ways to get together and share in a sense of community: Festivals, fairs, graduations, weddings, Proms, birthday parties. Like everyone else, I miss these… a lot.

(1) Smiles. Masks are playing an important role right now, but I’ll be happy to see smiles again (and to smile back, too!)

The phrase “new normal,” has become prevalent, but remember this: Today is not normal. If you want to see normal, look back to the past or think ahead to the future.

Stay positive. Sending lots of love to everyone!

Is there something you’re looking forward to doing in the future? Share in the comments!

Perfection Doesn’t Exist (But That Doesn’t Mean Writers Won’t Try)

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve experienced one of these scenarios at least once:

(1) The blank screen taunting you. The idea in your head is bursting to come to life, but there’s just one problem…. How do you start the story? You type, then delete. That sounded cliche. Type again; delete again. That was just plain boring. More typing; more deleting. Ugh… that was just corny!

(2) The story is written. It’s been a wild ride. You feel relieved to be nearl at the end of the journey, but also a bit sorrowful and empty. You’ve spent months with these characters you created, in this world you created, on this adventure you created… and now it’s over. Or at least, it will be… if you can just figure out the perfect way to end the story!

Chances are, you’ve actually experienced both. Probably multiple times. Because writing is as much an excursion inward as it is outward, it’s easy to get bogged down in doubt. You can remind yourself over and over again that there’s no such thing as perfect writing… but that doesn’t mean your inner editor doesn’t keep whispering, “It can be better… it can be better… it can be better.”

So, here are the questions: What is ultimately more difficult? Finding the “perfect” beginning or the “perfect” ending? What matters most? Hooking your reader immediately? Or leaving them astounded?

The answer is that both are difficult, both are important. As a reader, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a book that drew you in right from sentence numero uno. Or you’ve experienced that magical elation of an ending that gives you chills.

So, as writers, how do we accomplish such a task?

Chances are, with quite a bit of frustration. Most stories have an idea, and then need written. Every once in a while, a great sentence will come to a writer first and they’ll construct the story around it. (That’s actually the case with a manuscript I’m currently editing.)

But let’s say you got the idea first. How do you dive into the story? Here are few pointers:

(1) Try some freewriting.

Just go for it. Bind and gag your inner editor in a far corner of your brain. Just write whatever comes to mind about your story. Set a timer. For five minutes straight, just let your creativity be in charge. Afterward, read over what you wrote. You might just find the seeds of a “perfect” opening.

(2) Get to know your characters.

If you haven’t already, you might find that developing your characters provides some insight that you hadn’t considered. Maybe a character is particularly snarky, and while brainstorming, you come up with a clever quote that would be just perfect for the opening.

(3) Consider different ways other books typically start.

Many books start with a quote. Or in the middle of an action sequence. Or with a characters’ thoughts. Or even with the description of an unusual setting. Do any of these work for your story? Remember, what you choose should be something that makes your book seem unique. If your book takes places in the far future, then maybe describing the protagonist’s home will grab your reader’s attention. The same is probably not true if the story takes place nowadays and stars an average teenager.

Alright, you’ve found your beginning. And you’ve been writing for weeks. Your first draft is nearly done and now it’s time to finish it. But… how? Try one of these:

(1) Step away and remember the point of it all.

You’ve spent a lot of time in the world you created. Depending the on the type of story, you’ve probably penned some sweeping romances or nail-biting battle scenes. Hopefully, you’ve been entertained while writing it–because if you have, the odds are good that your readers will be, too. But when you first sat down, you had a reason to write. Maybe you had an opinion you wanted to express. An observation about the world. Or, heck, maybe you just wanted to be an entertaining escape. Whatever the reason, reminding yourself of that will help steer you towards the best way to end your book.

(2) Ambiguity: Yay or Nay?

Ask yourself exactly how much you want the reader to know. Some stories are more satisfying when left open. Was the monster real, or was it all in their heads? Other times, the reader wants to feel rewarded for the effort they put into the story: So that’s who the killer was! Know what kind of book yours is and then write accordingly.

(3) Switch Your Role

Take a break from your story and then come back and read it–not as its writer, but as a reader. The closer you get to the end, you’ll probably start to feel how you’re hoping it ends. Do you want to be a nice writer and give your audience what they want? Or would you rather be a little diabolical–give them a twist, or maybe even a sad ending?

Of course, these are just a few ideas. How do you find your beginnings and endings? Any magic methods that work for you? Tell me about them in the comments!

It’s a Good Time to Be a DC Fan

A couple weeks ago, the teaser trailer dropped for The Batman (starring Robert Pattinson and directed by Matt Reeves). It wowed audiences and pretty much shut-up anyone who thought the former Twilight star couldn’t pull of a dark Batman. It was edgy and engaging… and is just one element of an onslaught of memes celebrating all of the many, MANY DC movies on the horizon.

From DC Universe Rocks My World (Facebook page)

Ah yes… it truly is a wonderful time to be a DC fan. While I’m particularly excited about The Batman (mostly because the antagonist is going to be my favorite Batman baddie, the Riddler!), here are a few other projects that have fans talking:

(1) Wonder Woman 1984

This film was originally supposed to come out in June, but… you know, COVID-19. It’s now set to premiere on Oct. 2. (Fingers crossed!) The first Wonder Woman movie was a record-breaker, making the most of any movie ever directed by a woman. Full of empowerment simply because Wonder Woman is a force with whom to be reckoned–as strong as she is compassionate, as much diplomat as she is warrior. Wonder Woman was a clear favorite among other recent DC properties. (Man of Steel had its haters; Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was divisive in the fan community; and Suicide Squad just seemed lackluster and typical.) Needless to say, Wonder Woman’s sequel has been highly anticipated, especially since it will include one of her most iconic villains, The Cheetah.

(2) Justice League Snyder cut

Unlike most people, I didn’t hate the Justice League film that was released in 2017. In fact… I kind of liked it. (*hides from the tomatoes being thrown*) I know, objectively, it’s not technically that good of a film. There are plethora or problems, but… I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel the world mourning Superman during the opening segment; or that I enjoyed the interactions among all the League members; or even that I wasn’t excited throughout the climax. Still… this movie was a production nightmare. Switching directors from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon halfway through, fans were certain that Snyder had more of his original vision filmed and that the result would be a far more engaging and complex story. Well… three years later (and endless cries of “Release the Snyder cut!” on social media), we’re finally getting Snyder’s version. With original actors returning to film, the cut will reportedly be four hours long–released in four, one-hour parts on HBO Max. Reportedly, this will be a film with a lot for comic fans to enjoy, including Black Suit Superman, an appearance from Darkseid, and more background set-up with the Flash and Cyborg. In short… this is going to be a passion project and magnum opus of a superhero film…. and all of us fans can’t wait!

(3) Suicide Squad 2

Like I said before… the first Suicide Squad movie was pretty lackluster. It felt like every other superhero/action movie, complete with a big shiny portal/hole in the sky. The teaser trailer for the new one just released and, as director/writer James Gunn says in it: “It’s gonna be different from any superhero movie ever made.” If the name James Gunn sounds familiar, it should: Gunn gave us the wildly popular and unique Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve never been a particular fan of the Suicide Squad, but the teaser–which promised action alongside something new and exciting–has me pumped and ready for this movie!

Sounds like plenty of excitement, right? No need for any more?

WRONG! Those are only three of the DC projects in the works–just the three that are getting the most attention right now. Also in the works: An untitled Black Adam movie, a sequel to Shazam! (which has me particularly excited; Shazam is one of my favorite superheroes!); a Flash movie which will introduce the multiverse, and also, reportedly, include appearances by Ben Affleck’s Batman AND Michael Keaton’s Batman; Aquaman 2; and the video game Gotham Knights.

All of that… and, honestly, I’m probably forgetting something. Or somethings.

With the way 2020 has been, we all need a reminder now and again of some good news. DC fans have gotten a WHOLE LOT OF IT here recently. I haven’t been following Marvel as closely, but I hope all of you Marvel fans have fun stories on the horizon, too. And if you’re not a comic fan… then I hope whatever fandom you love has some awesome projects coming, too.

Whatever you love, let’s all love it and “nerd-out” together!

Some Lifeboats in the Sea (Or: How Coloring, Books, and Pokemon Have Helped Me Survive 2020)

This year has been filled with a lot of “can’ts,” hasn’t it? We can’t have the graduations we wanted; we can’t go on the vacations we planned; we can’t even go out to eat without feeling like we’re in a post-apocalyptic novel.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the limitations that simply are 2020. After a while, your comfortable home starts to feel like a prison, and living vicariously through books seems like a cruel joke.

I’ve been feeling that way a bit lately, so I’m sure other are, too. That’s why I decided to make a list of all the things I was able to do in 2020. As difficult as it may seem, there have been some some “cans” among all the “can’ts”–like lifeboats in the tumultuous sea of this year. Writing them down definitely helped me; if you’re feeling a little shackled, give it a try. You might find it helps you, too.

20 Things I Could Do in 2020

(20) Revisit a favorite video game from my childhood.

10 points to anyone who knows what video game this is! (And yes, I currently have the high score!)

(19) Try out a local bakery I’d never visited.

(18) Discover new animes (and actually have time to watch them!)

(17) Read more books in one year than I ever have. (I’m at 205 right now!)

My first batch of books from the library during the pandemic. My husband took care of things like food… but I had the necessities covered!

(16) Organize my dining room, office, and “nerdvana” (a room where I keep my nerdiest collectibles).

(15) Start a blog! 😉

(14) Have time to really, REALLY write!

(13) Go on a really long hike. (With hopefully more to come!)

This tree might seem like it goes on forever, but this pandemic won’t.

(12) Bake! (Including…Bat-cookies!)

Holy sugar, Batman!

(11) Find some zen with coloring.

I sadly did not win the librarian coloring contest… but I still had a lot of fun with these flowers!

(10) Spend time outside: Whether it’s a walk in the country or some time spent on my front porch, sunshine and fresh are just beyond the door.

I loved taking these photos in the spring. Now I’m ready for fall colors!

(9) One word: Games. You don’t have to leave the house to be competitive.

My personal favorite… DC Deck Builders. (And yes… I did happen to win this game.)

(8) Evening walks around town (which also means… Pokemon hunting!)

Still trying to hit level 38. Only about a million points to go….

(7) Crafts! My 2019 vacation scrapbook is coming along nicely.

(6) Phone calls! Even if you can’t see someone, you can time travel to the ’90s when people actually spent time talking on the phone, rather than just texting.

(5) Learn a language! I’ve been trying to learn Japanese (which I’m finding out very quickly is NOT EASY!), and brushing up on the Spanish I learned in high school. Gotta keep that brain flexible, right?

(4) Quality time. My husband and I have busy schedules, but we’ve been able to spend more time together–never underestimate the power of just relaxing with someone you love.

(3) Stargazing–a nice reminder that the world will keep turning is to just look up and see the universe around us.

Maybe technically “moon-gazing” but the sky was beautiful that night.

(2) Laughing. Whether it’s a funny book or just being goofy, laughter is only a grin… a smile… a chuckle… away.

(1) Taking it one day at a time. Sometimes, that’s all you can do. You wake up and decide what this one set of 24-hours will bring: Reading? Nature? Being with loved ones? Learning something new? It’s a crazy year, but we still have one very powerful tool: Perspective.

Remember: Perspective is both a wonderful and dangerous thing. It can make the world around you a million times better, or even a million times worse. Even 2020, when so much seems far beyond us, perspective is something we can use to assert a little control in our lives.

If we stay positive and keep supporting one another, we’ll come out on the other side. We’ve got this!

What are some things you’ve been able to do? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Tell Me a Little About Yourself

“Okay… tell me a little about yourself.”

“Um… how am I supposed to do that?”

“Hmm…. good question.”

How does a writer get to know their character? It’s a bit like interviewing someone with amnesia. You have some context, but they know nothing about themselves, so you have to try and fill in the blanks with them.

And yes, with them–because, inevitably, characters will seem to take on a life of their own. I remember coming across an interview one time where J.K. Rowling once said that S.P.E.W. (the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare) was Hermione’s thing. She never intended for the character to be so passionate about elfish rights, but it ended up being a pretty decent plot point, even contributing to her and Ron finally kissing. (*insert awww*)

A character taking a bit more control (read: an idea that a writer has growing more than they intended) is actually a sign of a fleshed-out, complex character. If, the more you write them, the more they grow–sometimes even in ways you don’t imagine–that means you’re doing something right.

But you have to start somewhere. Like I said before: You’ll usually begin with some sort of context. For example, if you’re writing an action/suspense novel, chances are your character will be a bit of a tough customer. Or if you’re writing a coming-of-age story, your character might be a bit awkward and needing to grow into some confidence.

The next step, for me, is to establish some basics: Age, appearance, body type, etc. Again, like the interview example, you start with what you can see, what’s on the surface.

After that, it gets really fun. You start asking questions. First, more superficial stuff: What does your bedroom look like? What’s in your purse/wallet right now?

And from there, as you start to have more material to work with (as your interviewee starts to “remember”). You can now dive into deeper questions: What is your greatest fear? Who do you admire? What do you wish you could change about yourself?

Eventually, you start to have more than just answers. You start to form the actual memories that make this character who they are. For instance, maybe their greatest fear is water. Why? Did they almost drown once? Did someone they care about drown? What was that day like? What emotions did they experience? What emotions are they still experiencing?

Eventually, you have a rough outline of an entire life and you know what makes your character tick.

Now just do that with all the other major characters in your book, and you’re ready to start writing.

Yeah… it can be a lot of work.

Of course… that’s not the only way to develop a character. I’ve found it’s the most useful for me, but every writer (and every story) is different. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just start writing. You may begin a draft writing a character in a certain way, but as the story goes on, realize he or she is coming across too weak, unrealistic, unlikable, etc. So maybe you trash that draft (which always hurts; I once trashed a draft that was 100 pages). And so you start writing again, learning from your past mistakes, and making the character (and your story) more engaging.

I’ve done that before, too: Just dove right in and let the story just unfold and the characters interact naturally. However, I’ve found that when I do that, I tend to end up with unfinished manuscripts.

Of course, you can combine the two techniques: “Interview” a little, but leave some personality open for creative spontaneity.

Interviewing and free-styling, though, are only two techniques. I’ve heard that some writers actually start out by drawing their characters, getting to know them from the outside in as they bring them to life on paper. Others will spend some time actually trying to think and act like their character. Maybe they’ll clean the house or go run errands, all while trying to stay in that character’s mindset. Others will even use actors and actresses as a springboard to imagining their character. “He’s kind of a combination of Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Reynolds…”

There’s no right or wrong way to discover who your character really is. And, like I’ve said before, every writer and every story is different. What works when you’re writing a sci-fi series, might not work for an angsty YA novel. Or what worked when you were writing in college might not “click” when you’re an adult with a full-time job. We change, our stories change, so our methods must also change.

What method works best for you when you’re writing a story? Is there a new method you’ve tried recently that really worked for you? Tell me more in the comments!

Yes… That Actually Happened

I thought it would be fun to end August with a nerdy blog all about some of the strangest moments to ever happen in comic books! (Or, at least, the strangest I’ve come across….) If you have something that can top one of these–and with 80 years of material, I’m sure someone out there does!–then add it in the comments! I’d love to read some more super-absurdity!

(5) JFK once helped Superman keep his secret ID safe!

Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman, Deluxe Edition (2018)

In Action Comics #309, Superman was being celebrated and thanked in a TV special. The only problem… all of his friends were supposed to be there! How could Clark Kent and Superman appear in the same place at the same time? Easy–just call the president!

(4) Thanos really didn’t care about balance. He was just head-over-heels for Death!

The Infinity Gauntlet (2011)

Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame both paint Thanos as a villain who believes himself to be a hero: He truly think that overpopulation is causing agony and destruction. If no one else will fix that problem, then he will. In the comics, however… Thanos knows he’s the villain. In fact, his entire motivation is simple: He has the hots for Death (who, yes, is an actual character), and he wants to wipe out half the population just to woo her. That’s one way to be romantic, I guess…..

(3) Loki ran for president… and almost won!

Vote Loki (2016)

Deciding that, if the American people were going to be lied to anyways then they might as well enjoy it, Loki runs with a platform so deliciously political it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious: I’m going to be honest about being completely dishonest. He came pretty close to winning, too… but I won’t give away specifics because no one likes spoilers.

(2) Superman’s powers were all replaced with electricity!

Superman Blue: Volume 1 (2018)

A mishap leads to Superman developing energy-based powers. Because nothing says “Up, up, and away!” like an all-blue man surrounded by lightning. (In all honesty, this wasn’t a terrible storyline…. just a really, REALLY weird direction to take the character.)

(1) That time Joker became emperor of reality.

Superman: Emperor Joker (2007)

And it was just as chaotic and dark as you’d imagine. Despite the artwork being a bit more cartoonish, the story actually went to some pretty intense places. That dichotomy made for a strange experience while reading the story. Plus, you know… being trapped in a fantasy dreamed up the Joker. Talk about nightmares!


Sources:

Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman, Deluxe Edition. Burbank, California. DC Comics. 2018

Starlin, Jim. The Infinity Gauntlet. New York. Marvel Comics, 2011.

Hastings, Christopher. Vote Loki. New York. Marvel Comics, 2016.

Jurgens, Dan. Superman Blue, Volume 1. Burbank, California. DC Comics, 2018.

Loeb, Jeph. Superman: Emperor Joker. New York. DC Comics, 2007.