Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Deeper Dive Into the Marvel Universe: It's All Geek To Me

I'm so fangirl.

We just got home from seeing The Avengers (in 2D... 3D often makes me barfy) and all I can think about now is how badly I want to read and eventually see Black Widow's and Hawkeye's origin stories.

To put it lightly, I fucking loved Avengers. It had Jossy elements all over it (witty dialogue, homage to origin stories) plus extra man-meat (142 muscly minutes!) and extra explosions. I was nervous about Mark Ruffalo replacing Ed Norton as The Hulk, but he played Dr. Banner in a very nuanced way, complete with a deep appreciation of Hulk's pure unadulterated smashiness. And I could just objectify the Chrises all day (That's  Evans and Hemsworth) - reprising their purely noble Captain America and Thor characters with plenty of abtastic ass kicking and no small amount of pontificating on the moral quandaries in which they find themselves.

Oh, and added bonus: Robin Scherbotsky is Nick Fury's right hand lady! She did not, despite us waiting through two after credits scenes, tell us who the mother is.'s_kids
Spoiler: there is no mother, and these children have been dead the whole time.

But back to the non-supers.  I've always enjoyed the pure vigilante superhero stories - Batman is first on any list of greatest non-super vigilante types. He has arguably the most extensive list of media credits (several tv series, countless film reboots, etc) and I don't want to presume, but I think we can all agree the Christopher Nolan Batman saga currently ongoing is some of the best superhero silver screen material ever.
I had to remove Mystery Men from competition  to ensure a level playing field.

But I'm aching for more of these two (new-to-the-big-screen) vigilantes. I admit, before Iron Man 2 and Thor, I didn't know Black Widow or Hawkeye at all. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye had maybe two lines in Thor, but he stole his scenes. Scarlett Johannson's Natasha Romanoff was more instrumental in Iron Man 2, and her role as a central SHIELD operative continues in The Avengers. In The Avengers, we get several allusions to her backstory (she was forced into servitude as a spy from a very young age, and potentially "deprogrammed" in order to train her in her "specialized skill set"). We get less from Hawkeye, but he is integral to the success of the team here (no spoilers).

A quick primer on these two.

Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Introduced by Marvel in 1964, Clint is an orphan who runs away to join a traveling carnival. He becomes a master marksman as a carnival attraction. It's actually Iron Man who inspires Clint to become a masked hero. In his first heroic outing, however, he's mistaken for a criminal and spends his first several comics as a reluctant villain. Additionally, he falls for Black Widow, then a spy for the Russians, and blindly follows her - thereby raising his villain cred. Yada yada, she abandons him, he realizes his folly, and decides to follow the straight and narrow from them on. So, potential for a super villain love story between two really attractive people?? I'm in. Please make this movie.

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff

Black Widow's origin is a little muddier, and actually there have been at least three different Marvel characters carrying the Black Widow moniker. Natasha was the first, introduced by Marvel in 1964. As noted above, she starts out as a Russian spy villain, taking on Hawkeye as her smitten sidekick. The Russian government actually supplies her first costumes and weaponry, but she defects to the US in 1966, becoming the 16th member of The Avengers.

Whoa, wait... 16th? That's right - the original Avengers team introduced by Marvel in 1963 included Iron Man, Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, and Hulk. Even Captain America (the First Avenger, remember?) doesn't get revived from his ice block until the 4th issue.

I don't care much about truth in film to comic books, really. Most of these stories have several versions, several characters have multiple origin stories, and a single superhero moniker is often owned by several different characters. It gives the film creators a lot of license to choose story elements from different parts of the Marvel Universe and piece them together to make a compelling movie. I'm only pointing out the difference in The Avengers because it makes me super excited to know that as this particular film franchise grows, we might get a whole lot more super and non-super heroes in the mix.
Like Ant-Man. He can make himself very very tiny in order to solve mysteries. He's the Rick Moranis of the Avengers.

All this to say, More Hawkeye and Black Widow, please! I might even order have already ordered the comic books featuring them that are actually available. This also gives me an excellent reason to stalk the comic book section at Comic-Con other than to get some breathing room. (Sad but true: On the exhibition floor at Comic-Con, the only place you can put your arms out and turn in a circle is by the comic books).

Am I going to start reading comic books at the ripe old age of 28? Ummmm yes. And since it took me until about 22 to start reading graphic novels, watching anime, and playing video games, we'll just count this as a continuation of my geek education. My nerducation. My pursuits in geekademia. My studies in geekology. I could do this all day.

Enjoy The Avengers!! (And stay all the way to the very very end, even if you think you've seen the after credits.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

If A Stick Man and A T-Rex Conceived a Marshmallow Baby: A Treatise on Webcomics

Many of the original geeks so call themselves because of their childhood obsessions with comic books. I, however, was a book-book kid. I was far more drawn to Anne of Green Gables than superheroes as an 8 year old. (and Anne of Avonlea, and of Windy Poplars, and of Ingleside... oh, Gilbert Blythe! *Sigh*  Er.... I digress)
MS Paint is hard.
It wasn't until the internets appeared in my breakfast nook when I was 9 or so that comics in their most appealing form could even be conceived.  And when I say conceived, I obviously mean that T-Rex and stick guy from XKCD made sexytimes and created The Oatmeal. I'm not stealing I love you webgeeks please don't sue me I'm not making any monneeyyy
Only in my wildest wet dreams.

I'm referring, of course, to the now-ubiquitous webcomic.

Some of these webcomic artist fellows (some ladies, mostly fellows) have gotten so internet famous that they can actually spend all their time devoted to their comic. The three referenced above (Randall Munroe of XKCD, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal) are able to do this. So, draw, post, and watch the money roll in, right?

Wrong. It's super rare to make it as a professional webcomic arist - i.e. someone who can completely sustain him or herself from the money brought in by the comic and its related enterprises. Most webcomic artists devote their free time to their craft and their funnies and still work day jobs or night jobs or the Tuesday morning shift at Cheetahs.
L-R, the creators of XKCD, Dino Comics, Cyanide & Happiness, The Oatmeal,
 and Penny Arcade before they made it big
And the ones who are able to sustain themselves on their webcomic awesomeness have a full-time job doing it. They're entrepreneurs. They are published authors, they create and market merchandise, and they travel to promote their funnies. I had the joy and honor of meeting Ryan North at Comic Con 2011 where he was handing out high fives, and he let me stand there and fangirl all over him for a good 20 minutes. Then I came back the next day and he let me do it all over again. And he signed some stuff for me.

Fangirling can get messy. Sometimes T-Rex just sits on your head in the midst of it all.
P.S. The best thing about Dinosaur Comics is that Monsieur North has proven you don't really have to know how to draw to be a good comic artist. You just have to be really funny and really, really verbose.

Also in the webcomics section (they have their own section at Comic-con!) were Jerry and Mike of Penny Arcade, the boyfriend's favorite:

They look mean, but that's part of the job
These guys have a whole team employed under their Penny Arcade brand. They have a director of business relations. They even had a video game produced based on their webcomic. They're mini-moguls. They're amazing.

And for my final excuse to show me meeting internet-famous people, here's the Cyanide & Happiness team drawing a big comic just for me. Which I accidentally left in the hotel when I checked out. And then I cried. I hope they're back this year and take pity on me.

the comic involved poop, a noose, and me being stabbed with a trident.
These guys have plenty of merch and a for-pay iPhone/iPad app. They also have a big enough following that it actually helped one of the artists, an Irish lad, get a work visa to come to the US and do Cy&H full time in 2010.

So all this to say, these guys have worked their asses off on their respective labors of love. But there are a lot of aspiring webcomic artists who are not yet able to focus all their time and energy on their craft, but who deserve your attention. Also, who are girls. Here are two of my favorites.

NPC Comic
-Mary Varn-

This comic is my life. I don't mean I just sit there reloading the page all weekend, hoping Mary will change her update schedule from M-W-F to EVERY FIVE SECONDS... although I have hoped that silently from time to time. What I mean is that Mary's comic about a gamer girl, her equally geeky boyfriend, and their two mischievous WoW-playing, gold-farming blue cats parallels my own life in a creepy way.

My very own Chloe and Bink, reading a comic about Chloe and Bink. So meta.
My friend Emma recommended this comic to me last year and I'm forever grateful. (You can read Emma's funny and intelligent thoughts on all kinds of current events at her blog, What's YOUR Deal?). One of the greatest things about Mary is how involved she is with her readership. If you post a comment to her either on Facebook or directly to the comic, she responds quickly and thoughtfully. And I'm such a big fan I always feel like I'm interacting with a celebrity. Her comic is actual art, the stories are cohesive and funny, and you should go read it right now. Here, I'll link it again for you. And I recommend you go back and read the older ones too, before Bink got fat.

Hyperbole and a Half

-Allie Brosh-

Girl's all, what if I write about my life, memories, struggles, and victories, just like every other lame blogger in the world? And then what if I make those stories super funny even when they're sad? And then what if I do MS PAINT ART? And then what if I become CHAMPION OF THE INTERNET?!??? So she did.

And she got a book deal. And she's still all like, fuck registered domains, I like blogspot.  And she became a Reddit darling.

You may remember this gem that went viral about two years ago.
The Alot is better than you at everything.

But she's been gone from the internets since October because she's super sad. You should go read her comics anyway, all the way from the beginning until last October, because she's hilarious and heartwrenching and she should still be champion of the internet.

(Allie did recently reemerge on Redditt thanking friends and fans for their support while she deals with depression. I hope she comes back to the internets soon, there's an Allie-shaped hole in it.)


So thus, my treatise on webcomics. Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) says he'll be at Comic-Con this year, so hopefully I can go fangirl his brains out. I'd love to see Mary and Allie there in the future, too. Please feel free to send me new and upcoming webcomics of all genres. What are you keeping up with? Who makes you hit F5 repeatedly on Monday mornings?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Existential Similarities Between Game of Thrones and Duck Hunt, or How Game of Thrones Alienates Women

Saying you're into Game of Thrones is like saying you totally ruled at Duck Hunt when you were 8. It's a given, and no one is surprised to hear it. It's hard to find someone who's just "meh" about Game of Thrones, and even harder to find someone who outright hates it. Essentially, there are two kinds of people in the world - Game of Thrones fans, and future Game of Thrones fans.

Because this is a real thing

Since I have a deep-seated need to know what people are talking about, I dived into Season 1 of the show with my equally nerdy boyfriend a couple months ago. He's read all the books and I hadn't yet read any. I found it compelling, and let's face it, pretty hot, and we finished it in a weekend. In the week between that and the beginning of Season 2, I found myself missing the characters so I downloaded the first book on my secret lover Kindle and got to work. Then Season 2 started.
And nobody's sister is safe. From her brother.
And the incest abounds! I'm not prudish and I get that the show is provocative, I mean, it's HBO and the explicit sexytimes are one reason why I watch at all. I'm also aware that most of it is in the books so HBO is just adapting those storylines. Plus, sex is essential as a catalyst or complicator to many of the plotlines. Most of the story couldn't even happen without the catalyst of Jaime and Cersei's relationship, for example. King Robert's whoring is also rather vital, as he begat several sons, thereby gumming up the chain of succession. I get all that.

But here's where I'm annoyed.

All the women suck. "Wait!" You exclaim, "Cat is strong! Arya is resilient! Yara will command an armada!" All true. But while there are strong women characters (+1), they are all treated like absolute garbage by every other character on the show (-1 million). When Theon flips his conquest over so he doesn't have to look at her face, it's not written in such a way as to make us disgusted with him, it's written to make us laugh at the girl. You could argue that Cersei isn't treated poorly, being the queen regent and all, but she was in fact for the entirety of her marriage to Robert treated as second to a dead girl. That treatment manifests itself as her being an outright bitch. So our options are strong, kind women (and weak, passive women like Sansa) who are powerless to their circumstances and are objects to be used or pawns to be traded, or slightly more powerful women (Cersei, Catelyn) who have to be calculating bitches to be respected (but who are still utterly reliant on their husbands and/or sons).

And then there are the whores.

Oh dear god the whores. 

As Erik Kain at Forbes notes, the brothel scenes are "sex as decoration." Little Finger's monologue in the brothel during the second episode of the season has spurred much discussion across the web (google anything like "game of thrones brothel scene" for a taste) but the best argument against the gratuitous and lengthy scene I have read is that there are only 10 episodes per season, and whole lot of story to get through. Wasting loads of screen time on men treating women like crap, of which we get plenty in all the other scenes,without moving the plot forward, is kind of reprehensible, just from an economy-of-storyline point of view, don't you think?

"Well, besides the brothel scenes, most of those scenes are pulled from the book." I'll agree that the necessary ones absolutely are. But fueling my annoyance and discomfort is the scene from Season 1/Book 1 in which Daenerys and Khal Drogo consummate their marriage. In the show, it's a very uncomfortable and almost scary scene for a woman to watch. Daenerys is a teenager and the Khal is forceful. She has stated several times to her brother that this is not what she wants. We the viewer get to watch her essentially be raped by moonlight. I actually thought this scene was well done at the time, because the viewer understands the terrible position Daenerys is in. Then I read that scene in the book. For those who haven't read it, you may be surprised, as I was, to learn that the scene is written very sweetly. Daenerys sees a softer side of her new husband, and helps him please her. This pretty much solidifies to me that HBO is using rape as a shock tactic.

Either that, or a 13 year old boy has been in charge of the show this season.

My last hope is in Daenerys, the Khaleesi. Of course, without her husband, she's just the ex-Khaleesi. Good thing she's dragonborn. I'm betting on her to Fus-Ro-Dah her way through the seven kingdoms, free the whores, and stab Joffrey in the brains. (Please please stab Joffrey in the brains?)

So maybe I'm that third kind of person out there who is not in love with Game of Thrones.
But I also sucked at Duck Hunt, so this is to be expected.

Tim Burton Will Not Barf On This Blog - A Reimagining of the Paradox

I'm reimagining this blog. If Christopher Nolan can reimagine Batman and Marc Webb can reimagine Spiderman...

Wait, the Amazing Spiderman's director's name is Webb?? You just know he has felt destined to be Spiderman since he was 5. But then he turned out all schlubby and geeky and made 500 Days of Summer and then he said, "Hm, perhaps I will direct Spiderman instead."

I'm just spitballing here, but I assume that's what happened.

Anyways, if those guys can reimagine some classic franchises with long histories and their own successes and failures, then I too can reimagine my own humble little political blog into more of an everygeek experience blogapalooza. Hopefully it's a Batman scenario where the result is super great and not a Willy Wonka situation where the "reimagining" is more like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp jerking each other off for two hours and then barfing all over what is good and holy.

Was Charlie even in this movie?

It's not that I'm not still into politics. It's just that they kind of suck and are super depressing. I want to write about the things that make me happy - namely, geeky pop culture. It's my wheelhouse. As a con-going (Comic- and Blizz- so far), Whedon-worshipping, board-game playing, fantasy reading/watching gamer girl, my wheelhouse is pretty diverse.

What's the paradox, you ask? Well besides the pointed reference to the Gilbert & Sullivan gem The Pirates of Penzance, it's regarding the fact that I am an extroverted geek. And that doesn't just mean that in conversation I'll look at your shoes instead of my own. It means that I often enjoy leaving my house and doing things with large groups of people. The funny part of all this is that I'm really not so unique in this. Ever been to a ren-faire? How about a con of just about any sort? Loads of geeks in one place who think they're introverts but who in actuality love being around and interacting with lots of people, as long as they all have something in common. Not so paradoxical at all, when you think about it. Whatever, I'm keeping the name.

So henceforth, herewith, thus, and ergo I do decree this blog a blog of geek proportions. Go forth and do what we're all doing on Sunday nights (watching Game of Thrones, natch), then return later for more geekery. And follow me on twitter @ParadoxDaily.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

North Korea Claims 2nd Successful Nuclear Test

This just in, and lookin pretty legit: North Korea says it has conducted a successful nuclear test, this one possibly 10 kilotons (the last less than 1 kiloton) - why do i think it's legit? Because Lee Myung Bak, the president of South Korea, has called an emergency meeting - you don't really do that when waving the bullshit flag.

My buds stationed in Korea have undoubtedly all be recalled from their holiday weekend. NK always pulls this crap over American holiday weekends just to fuck with us, FYI. (TD 2 launch: July 4th weekend 2006, for example).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beyond Tribute

General Wes Clark and Jill Biden are promoting an excellent cause this week in the runup to Memorial Day. It's called "Beyond Tribute," and it encourages businesses to sign on and donate a portion of their proceeds from Memorial Day sales to veterans' care. I think it's an excellent idea. The link to the page is here:

and you can read General Clark's
promotion of the cause here

Unfortunately, there is no LIST of businesses that have signed on... you have to search for businesses or by zip code. Not the most user-friendly format. Regardless, you can also give a direct donation from the page.

Hopefully this sentiment catches on and more people find that there is more to Memorial Day than an excuse to barbecue.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reasons We Should Still Be Nervous

I've noticed a disturbing trend among Dems in the last 6 months or so. Ever since we won the White House and a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there is a new wind blowing among liberal and progressive pundits, personalities, and comedians. Dare I call it smugness? I dare.

I understand it is a tactic, or even a grand strategy, to dismiss the GOP's efforts to reinvent itself as silly and futile. As long as we make everything they're doing seem pointless, maybe it really will be. This is dangerous. How do you think the left blew the right away last November? It was sheer grassroots organizing, that "Yes We Can" mentality, that was underestimated over and over by conservatives, until it was far too late for them to do anything about it. Here are some examples:

Tea Parties: During this craze about a month ago, conservatives and independents took to the streets in a purportedly "grassroots" organized effort in about 300 cities nationwide. Many protesters went way off-message and many didn't seem to know what the message was in the first place. Detracting from the tea partiers credibility were offensive signs such as "Obama's Plan: White Slavery" and "Barack Hussein Obama: The New Face of Hitler." (Why yes, fascism and socialism ARE diametrically opposed ideologies, thank you for noticing!) The parties were also wildly promoted by and even, in many cases, funded by Fox News, taking away a bit more of that "grassroots" credibility. They could have fizzled on their own but pundits and personalities on MSNBC, CNN, and other networks and blogs, couldn't help themselves but dismiss them with frat boy humor. Admittedly, when I first heard the term "teabagging" in conjunction with these parties, I laughed hysterically, thinking those silly right wingers just didn't know what they were saying. Like pulling out your brass instrument that had been caught in the rain and saying, "oh no, now I've got a rusty trombone!!!"... for example. Here's an example of tea party dismissal using the teabag joke that went on a bit too long on my dear Rachel Maddow's show:

I found this quite funny at the time. But then I got to thinking... had I heard any credible right-wing pundit or tea party supporter use the term "teabagging"? (Okay, other than the one guy in the crazy hat Rachel showed..) The answer is... probably not. If you did, send me a link and I'll retract. But it really looks like we took the term used in a couple of emails and on a couple of signs (and I am pretty sure they are using it tongue-in-cheek as well) and put it in their mouths, assuming they weren't in on the joke, which certainly doesn't lend anything to our own credibility.

I could go on forever about the tea parties... people somehow believe that they will have drivable roads and bridges, disaster relief, pell grants, and national security without taxes? And they decided to protest after one of the biggest middle class tax cuts in recent history? And they do so by displaying signs indicating that our president's bow in Saudi Arabia was him "sucking Saudi Jewels"? Give me a break... but dismissing them as a bunch of crazies getting together to yell is dangerous. A bunch of crazies in one place can do a lot of damage.

Miss California: Sure, Carrie Prejean answered Perez Hilton's question on her thoughts about gay marriage in a rather bigoted way, IMO. However, she is by no means alone in finding homosexuality to be "biblically" wrong, and as messed up as that sentiment is, she was bound to gather the masses in her rallying cry that "in my family and in my country," homosexuality is wrong. Perez, you're an idiot - not for asking the question, but for attacking her afterwords as a "bitch" and "the c word." Essentially, attacking Miss California for her (uninformed, less-than-thought-out, poorly delivered) opinion allowed the right wing anti-gay masses to rally around her. And guess what, she's pretty. So she wins this round, unfortunately.

GOP Listening to people?:
Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor gathered at an Arlington pizzeria earlier this month to discuss a new way forward for the GOP. A mostly republican crowd packed the pizzeria and the parking lot out front to ask questions of the 3 party leaders and discuss new ideas. I don't know what they talked about, but listening to people in a diner in a non-election year can't be a bad idea. The news was broken by HuffPost, however, with a picture of a giant pizza at top-center-front page, and the word "GOPizza" - essentially gloating that the Republican Party has been reduced to pizzeria sitdowns to strategize their way-ahead. While that's true, and it sure is fun to gloat, it's completely unproductive and dismissive. In fact, maybe these guys should have been applauded for their effort - what they were doing before sure didn't work for them. (Since then, those gentlemen organizing the "listening tour" have had to deal with the wrath of party boss... erm... radio personality Rush Limbaugh who didn't like the idea one bit. Mr. Cantor retracted his previous comments about the listening tour and essentially apologized to Daddy Limbaugh.) If they learn not to bow to Boss Limbaugh, maybe they'll have a fighting chance next time around...

Which brings me to my next scary right wing specter...

Rush Limbaugh:
My daddy taught me very early, perhaps at the age of 5 or 6, to say the eternally truthful words "Rush Limbaugh is a fat windbag." He also taught me that the true difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants eat cake at church, and that "Bill Spencer" (the local weatherman at the time) "is always wrong." My dad is a genius. Rush Limbaugh is, indeed, a fat windbag, and there is indisputable proof. When he opens his fat mouth, fat wind rushes out along with his bullying, pig-headed, narrow-minded vitriol. Unfortunately, he carries a great deal of sway within the Republican Party, and any time a republican says something that makes a modicum of sense (for example, going on a listening tour as noted above, or calling Limbaugh himself "an entertainer,") that party member must grovel at the Boss's feet or be pummeled on talk radio by the fat windbag. Come on guys... have some friggin balls. This is not 5th grade and he is not the school bully. Unfortunately, while he is in control of your minds and words, he is a threat to you and to the sanity of all of us.

Rick Perry's Texas Secession Threats:
Yes, Texas secession is a ridiculous notion. Or is it? I know lots of Texans who are very proud of the "Republic of Texas," and who talk a big game about how it could be a standalone nation bigger than many European, Asian, and African countries both in geographic size and economic output. But most of those people speak mostly in jest... Texans love America in a rather basic way, with a gun in one hand and a cattle prod in another. Regardless, Texas Republicans (the "patriotic" ones, remember?) are split right down the middle on the idea of secession. Texas Democrats (we're the unpatriotic ones. Oh, by the way, I'm a Texas resident) disapprove of secession by 80%. Silly unpatriotic Democrats, hating America so much they want to remain a part of it... they should be more patriotic and want to split. Wait, what is going on here???

Keith Olbermann put together a nice segment on how SOL Texas would be if it actually did secede:

Excellent. That settles that... there's no way Texas could survive on its own! Except that Governor Perry is running for reelection, and with half of his constituent base favoring secession, he may be running his mouth a lot more about it in the near future. I hate throwing around the "treason" word, but it's starting to look that way. And after all that talk in the last 8 years about how speaking against the war is dangerous to the troops, dangerous for morale, dangerous for our unity as a country... what the heck do you think serious talk about a whole freakin' state leaving could do? And P.S. I like Texas. I think it's a beautiful state with some awesome cities and friggin' awesome barbeque. I have absolutely nothing against Texas. But Governor Perry needs to pull his head out of his ass before this thing escalates into crazy groupthink... note what I said earlier about lots of crazies in one place. Never a good thing.

So there you have it... five reasons why we Democrats/liberals/progressives should NOT be so smug and dismissive toward the GOP. They're down but not out and it's this kind of dismissive attitude they displayed toward us that got us riled up enough to do something about it. Just FYI.