Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ink and Paint: In Which I Get Angry at Magical Girls

The last couple of seasons of Precure have been... rough.  Doki Doki was a carnival of wasted ideas that were thrown out throughout the series (Cure Sword's world having a standing army of Precures to defend it, the existence of Cure Empress & her unnamed teammates spring most readily to mind), and it chose to focus on a main character in Mana who was dully infallible.  And while Happiness Charge started strong & has addressed many of the character problems with The Mana Show (along with giving fandom a gift on a silver platter as far as creating new fan Cures), one character & said character's impending story arc has more than soured me on watching the rest.  But then I encountered this translated interview and one quote in particular:

...Speaking of which, Pretty Cure is separated into three periods by which producer is doing the show. 
First is the Washio era, starting from Futari wa to Yes! 5 GoGo.
Second is the Umezawa era, lasting Fresh to Smile (currently, the producer of Sailor Moon Crystal, if you are curious). 
Third is Hiroaki Shibata's era, which is also what we are currently in and began from Doki Doki onwards.
Okay, this explains quite a bit.  I would argue that Washio's signature is how grounded his three continuities feel; everything in there feels like an attempt to reflect the lives of the audience, aspirational or otherwise, while still telling a fantasy superhero story.  Umezawa seems to focus more on character showcases, either by highlighting growth or just letting the fully-formed characters react in dramatic situations; notice how two of his seasons, Fresh and Suite, have major redemption arcs, how the "minion" villains in all of these seasons turn out to be decent people by the end, and how much these series are remembered for their characters and drama as much as, if not more than, anything else.  Shibata's theme is simple - characters who put Mela's teeth on edge.

You think I'm kidding?  Until his run started, there was never a character I actively hated in any Precure season.  No matter how whiny Nagisa got, no matter how bratty Milk was, no matter how much Kanade was sidelined into being Hibiki's naggy girlfriend, I didn't hate them; sometimes they made me laugh, and sometimes I even related to Nagisa's "why me" annoyance or Kanade's eternal frustration.  But Doki Doki gave us Cure Ace, a joyless scold of a 10-year-old whom everyone just rolls over to obey & who straight up wants to murder her "dark" sister Regina until Mana talks her out of it.  And then there's Cure Fortune, a.k.a. Cure Bully, a.k.a. Cure Selfish Asshole, a.k.a. Cure Lack of Basic Empathy.  Horrible character.  She wages an out & out harassment campaign against a girl who is the last survivor of her people, both as a Cure and as a civilian, and actively tries to turn Hime's friends against her.  Why?  Y'see, the villains who are causing chaos & destroyed Hime's homeland/people were accidentally released by Hime in a Pandora's Box sort of situation; Cure Fortune's sister was another Cure who tried to fight them but got caught by the villains.  So in Cure Fortune's rat brain, her pseudo-dead sister trumps everything Hime has lost & any/all efforts at making amends that Hime is doing; it also justifies trying to drive her into alienation.  That they're setting her up to be a proper member of the team and have everyone just... forget her complete & utter lack of empathy/decency/heroism/redeeming character traits has made me rage quit a Precure season.

A bit of perspective.  I didn't quit Max Heart or either Yes! season because they were boring.  I didn't quit Smile when I started to lose patience in the stock attacks.  I didn't even quit Doki Doki when it was clear that the showrunners weren't going to do anything with their best ideas and continue to dwell on their worst instead.  But none of those have a character who is downright offensive.  Anyone who has ever been the subject of bullying & gossip campaigns or knew someone who was will recognize Cure Fortune's behavior and should be appalled that Shibata & Co. are basically giving it a pass.  I know Japan has some... wrong-headed ideas about bullying, but this is beyond the pale.  Hopefully this showrunner will move on relatively soon, because if he stays longer than either of his predecessors, I will not hanging around.  It's clear that the "character who sets teeth on edge" will simply increase in unpleasantness if this continues.

Life's too short to hate-watch, in my view.

Friday, May 16, 2014

X-Nonsense: Three Headcanons I Refuse to Drop

So I'm home sick, and I've been catching up on a great new podcast: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men.  Their last episode talked about "Deadly Genesis", and it reminded me of one of three things that, no matter what the actual books say, will always be considered 100% true in my nerd-heart.  I'm going in order from when the stories/characters affected were first introduced.

Wolverine is a father who outlived his young daughter:  One of the things I always liked was that Wolverine always has a surrogate daughter figure, no matter what era.  This led me to believe that, somewhere in his then-unexplained past, he had a like-aged daughter who died young.  Maybe illness, maybe not, but either way, he outlived a daughter he loved & now he doted on surrogates to make up for that loss.  Now that so much of his past has been revealed I don't think it's likely that will ever apply, but it doesn't change the fact that I find Wolverine's fatherly behavior towards Kitty, Jubilee, & Hiroko (among others) any less endearing.

The real Monet is dead, with the twins taking her form out of self-loathing:  The origins/story of Monet St. Croix are, putting it politely, a mindfuck.  I never liked the explanation we were given for her or for Penance's origins, especially since after it was all resolved a third Penance just sort of... showed up.  It was a total mess.  My theory was that the Monet that signed on with Generation X was the twins merged into her form, but they did this because the original Monet was murdered by their evil brother.  Why would they do this since it would mean the St. Croix would now have to deal with two missing children?  Because the twins were the unfavorites - one was a locked-in autistic & the other refused to leave her side.  Whereas Monet was beautiful, smart, and confident - clearly, the family would rather have her back than have the twins.  Any family that could spawn both Marius & Monet would be that shallow & heartless.  And they keep up the ruse because, with them as Monet, everyone seems to be happier; whether the twins themselves are, that remains to be seen.  I'd be miserable playing a masquerade my whole life, though.  As for Penance, she is exactly what her initial origin was - a Bosnian refugee & deaf-mute with zero ties to the St. Croix family.

The Krakoa at the Jean Grey School is Petra:  Here's one that came to me while listening to Rachel & Miles.  In "Deadly Genesis", we learn that four earlier students trained by Moira MacTaggart were killed by Krakoa in a failed rescue attempt before the canon second X-team showed up.  Naturally, not everyone actually was dead but of course, the two girls - the ones who had the most interesting powers & potential - stayed very dead.  Even a "What If" storyline where a writers' interview showed that they put some real thought into how Sway & Petra would work as characters failed to deliver on that, making the story yet another Kid Vulcan tale.  But after the "good" piece of Krakoa showed up that guards the Jean Grey School, I realized something - that piece of Krakoa houses Petra's consciousness.  Petra basically had the same powerset as Terra, and as she was dying, she burrowed herself & her surviving teammates into the soil to try & protect them; instead of dying, her body merged with the soil & her consciousness with it.  While her ability to communicate - and maybe much of her human memories - were lost, the fragment where she was merged landed on where the Jean Grey School would be built.  Driven by an instinctive desire to protect her fellow students, possibly out of a form of survivors' guilt (since this would be the second time she lived when others didn't), she takes it upon herself to guard the school in her new form with only a vague inkling that she may have once been human.

So yeah, those are my headcanons.  Even if what was printed contradicts it, I don't care.  I just like these better.  If anyone wants to share their own, feel free - these are usually more interesting than what we get.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

List-O-Rama: Top Five Game Franchises That Need Sequels

Day off equals time for another list!  I've been enjoying lots of videos about nostalgic gaming lately, and it made me think that there's a bunch of franchises that I'd love to see get a new entry.  I don't mean another brown & grim "reimagining" - I mean a proper revival.  Some are existing series that have strayed far from their old format, and some just sort of vanished.  There's some series that I would welcome another entry in even though I think they've reached a good end point (i.e. the Mother series), and there are some that I haven't played enough to really judge beyond a single game (such as, I've played Chrono Trigger but not Chrono Cross, so I can't weigh in on it at all).  Others I'm not sure I'd want another game but I would like to see the characters again (such as wanting to see Liddell as DLC for a Disgaea game but not necessarily wanting a sequel to A Witch's Tale - although I'd happily play it if it showed up).  So these are franchises I played in my youth, even relative recent youth, that have either vanished or turned into something else that I'd like to see return to their roots.

5.) Eternal Champions/Fighting Vipers:  These were two Sega fighting game series that were shut down around the time of the Saturn's mid-life due to an executive decision to concentrate on Virtua Fighter as their premiere fighting game.  That's fine - Virtua Fighter is an excellent series.  But these were both unique series that could've stood on their own and wouldn't eat into VF's audience.  Eternal Champions is a game made by Sega of America with a very comic book-y style, an interesting hook (all the players are capable of changing the world for the better but only one can be revived), and gory end moves that would shame Mortal Kombat.  The characters were interesting & creatively designed, and the universe of the game was pretty clever, too.  I think the punishing nature of the CPU (which was just cheap), the first game being designed for the awful Activator peripheral, and the second being on the Sega CD kind of doomed it to obscurity.  Fighting Vipers, meanwhile, was an arcade game and a 3D fighter in the style of VF.  Its hook was that all the characters had a sort of armor, and it could be knocked off to make different limbs or their torsos easier to damage.  What's more, there were moves built entirely around slamming characters into walls - no ring-outs here.  Characters ranged from a kid in skater gear to a fetish lady to a bear (my personal favorite was Grace the rollerblader).  But unless you had a Saturn, odds are you either stumbled on it randomly in an arcade (like me) or never played it at all.  Both were very different from Virtua Fighter, and it'd be neat to see what they'd look like with updated game engines.

4.) Rival Schools:  Another fighting game series, this one was from Capcom and was structured around the students at different themed schools (one for sports, one for delinquents, one for foreigners, etc.) fighting to stop the takeover of their schools (or, in some cases, advance it) by a sinister conspiracy.  It's a tag-team fighting game, where the characters can perform different attacks in pairs or even as a trio.  One of the more unique elements of it is that the first player campaigns advance the story with light novel-esque scenes, so you get a lot more characterization and plot than you normally get from fighting games.  A few characters have popped up in Capcom's crossover games, but this is another one that would do well on modern consoles.  Think about how much fun a three-on-three fighting game would be with online versus capability.

3.) Old-School Phantasy Star:  I've played & enjoyed mobile versions of the post-PSO Phantasy Star games for PSP & DS, but I've always enjoyed the more JRPG-structured entries from the Genesis era a lot more (especially III & IV).  If there was a game done in the new style or using the character archetypes from PSO onward but with the old-school play style, I'd be super excited.  Just don't do what II did and take all the decisions out of my hand; I like JRPGs because I like the strategy, dammit.

2.) Golden Sun:  Probably the second most forgotten-about Nintendo franchise after Mother, and at least Mother has protagonists that were playable in Smash Brothers beyond assists.  Starting late in the life of the GBA & being largely forgotten since then, this series had a game on the DS that vastly expanded & changed its universe, and even worse, it ended on a massive cliffhanger.  Even if it's just to wrap up the series, I'd like to see Nintendo put out one more entry.  It's an enjoyable, surprisingly deep JRPG that has plenty of action-RPG puzzle solving mixed in and surprisingly complex job/summon systems.  It really doesn't deserve the sort of dismissal the franchise has received.

1.) Darkstalkers:  My absolute favorite fighting game franchise.  It pisses me off so much that Capcom has allowed it to languish in obscurity outside of the occasional Morrigan cameo in a crossover fighting game.  Again, we have a fighting game series with a unique, colorful plotline and absolutely fabulous character designs.  An evil zombie metal rocker?  A mafia assassin who looks & acts like Little Red Riding Hood?  An ancient Mayan robot that guards the orphaned son the archaeologists who found him?  A Chinese-style zombie with sleeves full of weapons?  Add them to well-designed standard monster archetypes, and it's just a wonderful game.  The first time I played the last entry in the series was in an arcade; I selected BB Hood on a lark, and my laugh of disbelief at how ridiculous she was (she's the assassin) made the attendant laugh & earned me a free play.  It has a loyal following among Capcom fans & fighting game enthusiasts, but that doesn't change the fact that there's been no new game since the PS1 era.

So yeah, those are the games I'd love to see revived from franchise limbo.  As you can see, I have my genre preferences, and unfortunately, they're genres that are becoming more "fringe".  But as Double Dragon Neon has shown, you can revive a moribund genre (in that case, beat-em-ups) if you just put enough time, talent, effort, care, and respect into it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Omnicommentary #9: Subplotapalooza!

Legionnaires #9: Skin Deep

Creative Team: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers); Chris Sprouse (penciller); Karl Story (inker); Adam Hughes (guest artist pp.16-20); Brian Stelfreeze (guest artist pp.21-22); Pat Brosseau (letterer); Tom McCraw (colorist); December 1993

Legion Roll Call: Andromeda; Catspaw; Cosmic Boy; Dragonmage; Inferno; Invisible Kid; Live Wire; Matter-Eater Lad; Lifetime Lass; and Shrinking Violet.

Miscellaneous Notes: From here on out, we'll be seeing a mix of artists for several issues.  Chris Sprouse does a little in each, however, and it's not until #12 that you get a lousy artist.  Until then, at least they all feel "of a piece" and blend well.


Summary: How boy, this is more a bunch of subplots than a single story.  First, we've got Andromeda, Catspaw, Dragonmage, Tenzil, & Vi tracking some Khunds to an isolated planet; after a crash landing, they encounter mysterious natives that resemble people beloved to the Legionnaires & that lead them to another downed ship that the Khunds are seeking.  Elsewhere, Lyle & Leviathan (who was shafted out of the roll call) learn that some much-needed food stores have been stolen by Sklarian pirates.  Finally, back on New Earth, the founders are called away from another open audition to quell a food riot in Acapulco; after Lifetime Lass is hit by a brick & his own moxie is insulted, Live Wire tries to kill a rioter - only to hit Cosmic Boy instead, who's doing what heroes do & not trying to kill civilians.  The issue ends with Lifetime Lass declaring that Cos must be dead because he's not breathing, with the thought of CPR never crossing anyone's mind, diagetically or otherwise.

Continuity Notes: The crash scene finally gives us some backstory on Catspaw & Dragonmage via their scenes with their loved ones.  Catspaw is visited by her ex-boyfriend Ansis, the man who turned her over to the Dominators for experimentation, and she is torn between her justifiable anger & her raw attraction.  Dragonmage is visited by his sorcery teacher Chu Hua; judging from his comments, she always treated him coldly, so he welcomes her warmer & more maternal treatment at their reunion.  Tenzil & Vi have some sweet scenes for my deeply-buried-Tenzil-and-Vi-shipper heart to enjoy... until he finds the real Vi passed out on a log while "his" Vi is still by his side.  If you're wondering where Andromeda is during all this, she flew off to punch the Khunds that shot down their ship.

The one-page Sklarian pirate plot will play a larger role in future issues.  Of course.
Inferno's sole role is macking on ladies again.  Though much like the pirates' plot, the Khundish girl he's wooing will turn up again in a plot that ultimately goes nowhere.

We Get Letters: Oh, hi, fellow Emerald Empress fan from Camden!  I hope you got to somewhere better.  Anyway...  This issue has a good number of international letters, which is cool.  Simon Del Monte from Queens echoes one of the elements I like - the feeling that New Earth is doomed to failure & youthful idealism will only help so much.


I Love the 90s: Anyone want a Skid Row Video Collection?  Complete with free 3-D glasses?  You can watch the video for "18 & Life" in 3-D AND on Laserdisc!  Tellingly, no prices are provided.

DC Commercial Break: There's a "Superman Trilogy" called "Spilled Blood" advertised with 3 genericky villains surrounded by too much neon yellow.  The token girl, Hi-Tech, is kind of neat - she has Rocket's haircut, a Cyberwoman's metal bikini, & what appears to be the Technarch virus from New Mutants.  If a character with that design was a hero, I'd probably love her.


Commentary: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of this issue.  It starts a run where each issue is half-main-story, half-setup.  The main story with the crash ship is good, since it's basically a character showcase in service to a mystery, but I feel its coming conclusion could easily have been done in one issue instead.  As it is, my thoughts on the cliffhanger & where it is destined to go should be clear to everyone, and I am not looking forward to that.

As much as I appreciate finally giving them a spotlight, the character of Catspaw makes me feel weirdly uncomfortable.  The Legion has a spotty record as far as diversity, and I understand that they wanted to add new non-white members that could fill a niche not already occupied on the team.  But Computo's practically an extra, and Dragonmage is swathed in really stereotypical "mystic Chinese" trappings.  But at least they're treated like actual people.  Aside from her scenes with Ansis, Catspaw is a pure joke character; she's either in "ha, ha, she thinks she's a cat, not a human" scenes or "ha, ha, she's horny for every guy she sees" scenes.  It just feels really wrong to treat one of your few black characters like an easily dismissed oversexed housepet.  It makes me really uncomfortable, and while Tom Bierbaum's LJ suggests he was aiming for a comic relief, light-hearted character, it went down an unpleasant path he probably never intended.
Let's close out on a positive note and give some props to the guest artists.  Adam Hughes has some serious fun with the background action at the audition, which makes me wish yet again he still did interiors.  And while I hate the ending scene & the forced cliffhanger, the panels where Brian Stelfreeze shows Garth's face going from concern for Pseudo-Imra to raw, irrationally murderous rage almost make up for the inherently flawed writing.  It makes something that's normally a distraction while reading - an art shift - feel enjoyable & appropriate.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Overthinking Everything: Creepypasta Platter

Last time I was sick, I started cycling through my favorite YouTube channels. One of them, Tats Top Videos, had a Halloween video listing their 22 Top Gaming Creepypastas, and thus was I introduced to this corner of the internet. Creepypastas are amazingly creative, and the best of them do what the best horror movies & novels do, which is worm into your brain and refuse to leave.  Thus, let me share some of my favorites by general category.  (Be warned – I will be posting some SPOILERS.)

Overall Favorite: Candle Cove.  Brilliantly executed, this story by Kris Straub takes the form of a forum thread wherein a group of people reminisce about a half-remembered low budged local show, and where said thread comes to an abrupt end thanks to a bizarre, eerie revelation.  The conversational nature of the story being told and the slow reveal of this incredibly odd show (that I’d still watch) is very effective, while the open nature of the ending leaves one with questions.  Why did these people see “Candle Cove” where others saw only static?  Who was responsible for the show?  Has this experience changed them in any way?  It’s probably the most effective way any creepypasta has used a dim childhood memory as a starting point.

Most Terrifying: The Russian Sleep Experiment.  By being built on the notion that enough sleep deprivation will eventually negate not only your sanity but also your humanity, this story hit a nerve.  When I was in my 20s, I had bad insomnia that left me on the verge of a breakdown; even recently, during the hurricane-caused blackout, my lack of sleep affected my behavior that had people concerned for my health in ways I didn’t notice until they addressed it with me.  So I firmly believe that if you keep a person awake long enough, they’ll become an abomination.  Every time I hear it, part of me thinks that even if the tale itself isn’t true the end result certainly could be, and I am scared.  Sadly, guess what the side effect is.  Yep.

Favorite Video Game Creepypasta: Ben Drowned.  This takes a trope that appears in a lot of video game creepypastas – the haunted bootleg game – and makes it work simply because of its choice of game.  Majora’s Mask is a very eerie game on its own (a popular & plausible theory is built around the game being structured around the five stages of grief), and having our narrator be stuck playing through a glitchy copy that drives him to a breakdown thanks to it being haunted by a child’s spirit – or maybe what killed the child whose name it has now taken – makes it all the more horrifying.  Add to that the footage that doesn’t look even remotely faked with that Elegy statue, and you have a story that is justifiably hailed as one of the best game-centric stories.

Favorite Lost Episode: Squidward’s Suicide.  Most “lost episode” stories leave me cold for two reasons – they require the cast of the affected show to act out of character, and they try to explain it by having the creators act oddly as well.  What makes “Squidward’s Suicide” work is that it really doesn’t do any of that.  It builds on an existing character trait (Squidward being a perpetual failure & being frequently depressed) and takes it to a logical extreme.  What’s more, there’s no explanation for why it happens – the creators are horrified by it, the network & the narrator viewing it are all horrified, and there’s no clue as to who or what is responsible for (apparently) switching the tape.  The gore gets to be a bit much at parts, but the essence of it as the one lost episode that doesn’t require ridiculous hoop leaps makes it the best of its bunch.

Favorite Poke-Pasta: Pokemon Dead Channel.  Poke-pastas are a genre in & of themselves.  Lots of ROM hacks, lots of bootlegs, lots of bizarre instances, but this one is the best because of the theme in it.  The narrator is a socially isolated kid whose main social contact is through the game with a Pikachu she names BRVR, who is abandoned in turn once the narrator starts to make real friends.  When a falling-out with the narrator’s best friend occurs, she returns to the game for familiarity & comfort... and discovers that BRVR is still there & has not handled the separation well at all.  What makes it so eerie is that the narrator is maybe a step away from sharing the same broken psyche as BRVR, her isolation & solitude mirroring its in turn and leading to a story filled with uncomfortable parallels.  For having a deeper theme than “that thing you liked as a kid was really evil” and executing it so well, this is probably the finest Poke-pasta written.

Favorite Story about a FUBAR Kids Show: Happy Appy.  This tells of a show that aired on Nick Jr for a hot minute before it was yanked.  What makes it so good, though, isn’t so much the show itself but the meta story.  In the story, the narrator who is investing why the show was yanked finds himself tormented by the show’s insane creator; every person he turns to for information winds up mysteriously dead, and his house even more mysteriously burns to the ground.  That a creator would still make a show, hoping to sell his unnerving & horrifying vision to an unsuspecting world once again, while going to such insane lengths to torment a person trying to expose it is more compelling than “hey, this predicted 9/11”.

Favorite Brony Pasta: The Luna Game series.  It makes sense for a rather large, vocal fan community to have its own collection of creepypastas, most of which take the form of scare-fics like “Cupcakes”.  The Luna Game series, however, is a string of fan games filled with jump scares and, in the later entries, play elements that mess with your mind.  From speedily creeping shadows to seemingly endless pits that build tension to platforms that dissolve into MissingNo clusters, it really makes for an enjoyably terrifying play experience.  And if you’re a fan, you get the feeling that you’re watching the title character trapped in her own private Hell after falling back into villainy.  I recommend at least watching a playthrough.

Best Crazy Conspiracy: Abandoned by Disney.  Look, I like to think I know my abandoned building lore and my Disneyana.  So logic would say that there’s no way the tale of Mowgli’s Palace in Guana Key could possibly be real, especially once you get to what happens in the Character Prep Room (nope, not gonna spoil it – it’s so well-written I want you to read it for yourself).  But given the sheer detail in the story along with the fact that Google Maps absolutely refuses to un-blur Guana Key so you can see any structures, you can’t help but wonder if there’s actually some truth to it...

Most Believable: Robert the Doll.  I thought I dreamed this; years ago, I saw a show on Discovery Channel or one of those other formerly-educational channels that detailed the story of the haunted doll known as Robert down in Florida.  He terrified me then, and knowing that he’s still there, in a museum that keeps letters of apology from guests who learn the hard way not to cross him, makes be terrified all over again.  If you look him up, you will immediately see why.  I never, ever, EVER want to run across Robert in my travels (should they happen) for fear of what might happen.

Most Horrifying Despite All Logic: Smiledog.jpg.  This thing freaks me out every time I see it.  Just... go look at it.  It’s a pure, primal reaction of horror, and I can’t justify it.

Best Hook for a TV Series: The Holders series.  I’m not talking specific entries in the series itself – I’m talking about the concept in general.  A handful of items that promise power to those who seek them, they will almost inevitably twist these Seekers into monstrosities.  The desire to use them as a hook comes straight from Tats Top Videos, where the narrator of the segment said, “One can only hope that one with a just heart prevails over these threats”; being a fan of old-school hidden-ancient-artifact stories, the thought of having a group devoted to stopping Seekers before they can find any Holders and pose a threat to themselves & others is pretty appealing.  (In fact, I do have a series ripe for revival in mind, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Most Overrated: Dead Bart.  Look, I get the appeal of “lost episodes”, of ferretting out something horrible about something you loved as a child.  There’s a weird thrill to it.  But when you have to jump through logic hoops like you’re a trained poodle to make them work, it’s hard for me to maintain enough willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy it.  I discussed this earlier – it has to work with the characters as they are & it has to not have an explanation at the creator end.  “Dead Bart” requires that the Simpsons be explicitly stated to be acting horribly out of character, with Homer being violently angry & Marge being oddly depressed among other things.  It has the creators being either overly reactive or weirdly cagey & going through a “troubled” period to explain why it exists, when the unknowable horror of the altered tape in “Squidward’s Suicide” is so much more unnerving.  Add to it a tech incident that’s more hilariously stupid than anything and a “prediction” ending that sounds like something from a History Channel show, and it’s hard for me to see why this is so beloved other than the warped nostalgia thing.

So that’s just some of the creepypasta universe.  There’s the tales of favorite figures like Jeff the Killer & Slender Man, there’s the “series” stories about the Holders & the SCP Foundation, and many, many alarmingly altered games.  There’s the short but sweet “Mother’s Call”, which I love to share just to see reactions.  For those interested, there’s...

The Creepypasta Wiki;
YouTube narrators like Creeps McPasta and Mr CreepyPasta;
And the channel that started me down this wormhole, Tats Top Videos (please note, they have some good non-scary gaming videos, too).

Enjoy, and try not to lose as much sleep as I have.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Overthinking Everything: Nostalgia Is Not a Contest

So I've discovered Tumblr...  Like most social venues online, it's equal parts awesome & awful.  One thing I've noticed, though, is that there is a definite age division, and being in my 30s, I'm practically a senior citizen on the site.  It's weird to see stuff from late high school & college being described as "part of our childhood", but it's also an interesting perspective.  One thing I have noticed, however, is a resentment towards non-90s nostalgia, and that bothers me.

I first saw this during a discussion about the novel Ready Player One, a really enjoyable sci-fi story that is built around crazy levels of 80s nostalgia.  Some people who read it appreciated it for what it is and posited what a 90s-centric version of the novel would include.  This quickly deteriorated into people hating on the book for not being about 90s nostalgia and wondering why anyone would be nostalgic for any other era.  I understand why that generation resents others' nostalgia - for the longest time, until we started becoming parents with disposable income to help turn a profit, GenX & GenY's nostalgia was largely written off as worthless.  The feelings kicked in at least a decade before it became seen as (in an apt yet crass term) a viable market.  So eventually we'll be getting NatGeo specials (that are the last watchable thing on that network) about how the 90s shaped us and novels where there are immersive VR games involving reenacting Jurassic Park.  It's really just a matter of time.

I understand the impulse to hate on others' nostalgia; for the longest time, like I said, we were force-fed Baby Boomers' 50s & 60s nostalgia and told that any we felt was inherently worthless.  But I think there's a difference.  The Baby Boomers' nostalgia is very disingenuous; where we feel that the 70s & 80s are worth remembering even though they weren't perfect, the Boomers' nostalgia is devoted to whitewashing away anything negative about the 50s & 60s (and that's quite a bit).  So for the longest time, we were told that our honest views of our past were worthless, while their super-super-dishonest views of theirs were the only way to view nostalgia.  It was quite annoying, and it's only started to ebb thanks to the earlier mentioned earning power our nostalgia now has.

I mention this because I understand the resentment you feel when you're told that all the stuff that made you happy as a child was worthless crap.  I appreciate the value Baby Boomers' nostalgia holds for them, even as I wish it was more honest about the world from which it originates.  As for the book that started all this, I do feel that Ready Player One brings a little too much of that "rose colored glasses" view to the 80s for my tastes, but it's still a fun read.  I don't want 90s kids to be as resentful to our nostalgia as our parents were.  Nostalgia is supposed to be a fun escape into a happier past, so it has no reason to be a contest.  Just enjoy your past, appreciate its good AND bad aspects, and be willing to see what holds value in others' pasts as well.  It's not like there's a "Best Nostalgia" trophy to be had.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CASB: What Part of 'Visual Medium' Don't You Understand?

Hello. My name is Mela, and I write. I'm not a writer, per se - I've given up on that pipe dream of ever being published. But I write an essay or review or a (in all honesty) fanfic there, and it's a hobby I enjoy. One thing I most definitely am not, however, is an artist.

That is simething that makes me sad. Art legitimately amazes me, and since so much of the media I enjoy is visually oriented, I wish it was something I could create. Painted, digital, pixel, line work... I love it all. And even if I think it's bad, I still respect the time & effort that went into making it.

It is because of this that I am really bothered by this trend in comics press & fandom to ignore and downplay the artists. As much as I love & respect & enjoy many comic writers, it bothers me when they're exclusively mentioned in reviews. For example, let's take Saga; there's a legitimately great series with amazing talent behind it. But mark my words, if you read the reviews, they'll emphasize Brian K. Vaughn's writing over Fiona Staples's gorgeous art. And that's if she's mentioned at all. It's not an isolated example, either. Comicdom has entered a sort of "celebrity writer" period that, while it recognizes some truly great talent, it does so at the expense of that talent's equally skilled partners.

Now, the heart of the question is "why". I think it stems from an effort to make comics seem more "literary" - if we downplay the fact that the pictures exist, maybe people will magically start taking us seriously! Well, no. You'd think by now comicdom wouldn't need constant validation, but it's probably never going to stop. We'll always deny what makes comics... well, comics by trying to "be taken seriously".

A comic is a partnership between the narrative and the art, and that's how it's designed to function. Think about how many times you've been bitterly disappointed in a visually beautiful comic with bad writing. Or (in an experience I'll be discussing in future reviews) how a really solid story is turned to mush by ugly, incomprehensible art. Think of how many times, especially in the 90s, when we were excited to see a book written by a favorite artist, only to learn that they needed that writer back at their old company they'd been dissing. Or how a beloved writer's work suddenly became a perfect storm of their worst tendencies because the new artist couldn't smooth them out like the old one.

Art is important to comics. Art is important period. Art requires just as much hard work and thought, if not more, than writing (look at how many great artists die young or get ill from overwork - it's more taxing on a body than you'd think). If I could make lovely art, I would; hell, I'd probably be enjoying my ultimate pipe dream of making my own comic. I may not be an artist myself, but it bothers me greatly that half of the necessary ingredients for a comic are considered optional, and I really wish it would stop.