Tag Archives: comics

To my fellow nerds, I say, be better!

I am reaching out to a specific group with this post. I want to talk to the men and women of geekdom. If that is you, I ask that you please pay close attention to the following plea.

Ahem…

Geeks, dorks, countrynerds. Lend me your ears!

We have lost our way. We were supposed to be the nice people. The ones who accepted the bullied and the underdogs. We were supposed to be the ones who encouraged learning and tried to build confidence in each other. And if someone wanted to be part of our community, we didn’t chase them away.

What happened?

I’m seeing far too much nastiness in the geek community. Admittedly, this is a problem that is present all over society. I don’t know what the big answer is, but I can at least try to talk to those with whom I should have some common ground. So I am addressing you, my people. I speak to those of us who have at some point been punished for loving the things that we do. That is the common thread of those who have earned the geek and nerd tag. We got shunned or called names or physically attacked. In many cases, it was a combination of these things. But things have changed and it’s a little more mainstream. You can love sci-fi and fantasy, comic books and games, cosplay and computers and science and mythology and all kinds of stuff. It’s not 100 percent ridicule free, but it isn’t seen as that unusual either.

The problem is we’re attacking each other now. We’re being our own bullies. It needs to stop. We can all do better.

What happened to the whole idea of treating people like you want to be treated? It’s bad enough that so much of the larger world tends toward nastiness. We don’t need to get sucked up into that shit when it comes to geek culture. We don’t need nasty cliques in the cosplay community. We don’t need online trolls attacking women and kids from behind a gamertag. If someone posts some fantasy-themed artwork or a picture of themselves in a new costume we need to be supportive. Don’t rip apart their work. Don’t mock the artist’s technique or choice of subject. Don’t body shame the cosplayer or question their “nerd cred” on the character. If being kind is too difficult then try silence. You don’t like what you see? Fine. Move along. If you can’t be supportive, don’t be destructive. There is no need to harm anyone.

Is it because the old stereotypes blended? Are people angry because you have athletes that like comic books and nerds who watch sports now? Hey, I’m the classic sports-hating nerd and I’ve got no problem having friends who are football fans. We aren’t the authority on which person gets to like what fandom!

I think we can be better. I know we can! We are a small portion of humanity. If we can’t fix our own shit, how can we expect anything else to get better? So please. Try harder. Be kinder, smarter, more accepting. Be the nerdy, geeky champions I know we can be. Humanity needs us to be better. The multiverse needs us to be better. We need us to be better!

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Blue Lantern

Sitting down to write this particular post has proven difficult for me. I think there is a possibility that I may anger some folks and lose a few readers after this, though I’d prefer if that isn’t the case. But I’ve also made a promise that I would do my best to be open on this platform. So let’s do this.

Lots of things have been happening in this country since the election. I think I echo the sentiment of many when I say the 2016 Presidential Election was a nightmare process. For many people, the nightmare is continuing. Donald Trump hasn’t even been president-elect for a month and things aren’t looking good. Hate crime is increasing (some fake instances, but mostly not) and that is wrong. Violence has occurred from some of his more fanatical supporters and detractors. The latter only seems to be helping orange narcissist. He has stated he hopes to be a president for all Americans, but this seems to be another lie from one of the country’s biggest cyber bullies. He’s looking at Washington insiders (the people he claimed to be against) for cabinet positions. He campaigned on a platform of fascism, racism, misogyny, and fear. Trump offered snake oil to people who are financially hurting and they bought it. Now he’s planning to put known white supremacist Stephen Bannon into a key power role. Another guy on his team has called the Japanese internment camps a precedent for how they should treat Muslims. Then you have the nightmare that is Mike Pence and his belief that gay people should be jailed for wanting to get married. The damn KKK is glad Trump won!

I now have a huge number of people in my life who are upset and terrified. I know barely any people who voted for Trump, with those that did claiming it was because of economics or a belief that Hillary Clinton is a criminal. They fact that this other stuff wasn’t a deal-breaker for them is disappointing. Most of the people in my life either voted Clinton or went the third-party route. The point is there are a lot of very scared people, wondering if they will be attacked for just being themselves. I’m scared, though not for myself. I’m a straight white guy. But I’m worried about my wife and daughters. I’m worried about the other women of my family and many of my friends. But worrying isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking about the people who aren’t worried because the things the Trump campaign promised didn’t threaten them. I’m thinking about the people on both sides who are taking the attitude of just giving up and moving on. The election is over and we can’t do anything for the next four years.

I don’t agree with that. So I’ve decided I am embracing the Blue Lantern Corps. This will be a symbol and attitude for me going forth.

There are probably some of you who have no idea what I’m getting at. Permit me to get my geek on and briefly delve into comic books. If you need more detail, get thee to a search engine! The Blue Lanterns are from the DC multiverse and are allies of the more famous Green Lanterns. There are multiple Lanterns, most emerging just before or within the “Blackest Night” crossover story. Each gains power from a specific emotion tied to the color spectrum. Green Lanterns have willpower. Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns have fear, and so forth. For Blue Lanterns, their power comes from hope.

Hope. One of the most powerful, yet easy to forget, forces in existence. I have forgotten about it myself. Being prone to depression, it’s any easy thing to do. Then one of my Twitter friends made mention of the Blue Lanterns in a tweet. It was a slap to the back of my head that I desperately needed. So I am going to embody that symbol as best I can. I need to be hope.

What exactly does this entail for me? It means doing what I can to show everyone who is scared that I’m still with them. It means I’m donating whatever money or time I realistically can. I’m signing the petitions against the hate-monger appointees. It means making the phone calls to senators and representatives. It means wearing the Safety Pin and doing my best to be an ally. We are quickly seeing that this is an administration that will not unify people. Those that think it will are choosing to remain ignorant. And in case I haven’t been clear, this doesn’t have anything to do with who didn’t win the election. I have yet to see a candidate who I didn’t have doubts about in any election I’ve voted in, and that includes the often deified Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump is the first person I’ve been absolutely adamant against. Frankly, I could have lived with most of the other options. But I am hoping that those who did vote for Trump are realizing it was a mistake. I’m hopeful that most of those people will not stand by and ignore the harassment or the hate crimes. I hope, like me, they plan to call it out and hold those embracing the white nationalist poison accountable for it. We are in for a very long four years. This is not the time to pretend we can do nothing or blame everyone who isn’t ourselves.

The first Blue Lantern is an alien called Saint Walker, who repeats the phrase “all will be well” as a mantra. If we do what we can to protect each other, all WILL be well. But the effort must be made.Doing nothing is only going to guarantee our problems will get worse.

It occurs to me that in the Lantern breakdown, orange is the color connected to avarice. Has Trump has actually been Agent Orange this whole time? Are the lines between fiction and reality blurring that much? Talk about scary!

Enough now. I’ve made my mind known. Time to focus. Stand against the hate. Speak against the fear. Be a safe space. People need you.

All will be well.

 

For the lady geek

Let me play Captain Obvious for a moment. I’m a great big pile of nerd in the classic sense. I love board games and video games. I like superheroes and fantasy and science-fiction. I read about folklore and mythology for fun. I love Muppets and books about wizard detectives. I have no interest in sports that aren’t Quidditch or Calvinball. When I was a kid, these are all things that would get me picked on. Now, it has become a little more acceptable and mainstream to like at least some of these things. That’s not to say I still don’t get some crap for the things I love. I do. But when it comes right down to it, I don’t have things that bad. I’m a geeky guy and this is fine.

For geeky girls, it’s another thing entirely.

I’m probably not the best person in the world to talk about this, if for no other reason but the existence of my Y chromosome. I may identify as a nerd, a geek, and a beta male but I’m still a MALE. I live in a world where that gives me a bit of an edge on most things socially. But I’m also a guy who has had a very large number of female friends. I married a woman who is a great big geek like myself. I have two little girls. And I’m not stupid. I know society overall gives women a hard time and in comparison, I have it easy in many ways. Patriarchy exists and, whether I like it or not, I benefit from it. But for the moment, I want to focus on this particular struggle that the lady geek deals with. Because I see it frequently. I see it in person, online, and in various media. And it pisses me off to see the crap that these women take just because they like the things I do. So we’re going to talk about it.

Comic books:

I’m not the world’s greatest sage of comic knowledge, but I like to think I can hold my own. I’ve met more than one person who can easily outclass me in this category, however, and some of them happen to be women. So I get irritated when I hear stories of women going into a comics store and being treated like idiots. Here’s the thing, guys. If a girl is looking at comics I, for one, am going to assume she’s at least INTERESTED in it. Chances are that she’s also got some background knowledge to boot and does not require my assistance. And even if this is her first time checking them out, why would you want to crush that by being a bag of douche?

My wife is fairly new to things like superheroes and graphic novels, but I love that she’s interested now. If my girls show interest in them, it’s something I plan to encourage. Gender does not mean you get a monopoly on liking certain things. It also doesn’t mean you’re necessarily any good at playing Monopoly, either. This brings me to the next point of discussion.

Gaming:

This is a subject that seems to go different ways, depending on what game we’re talking about. If we’re taking about video games, this is a big issue for women right now. It has been for awhile, even if it’s only recently gotten attention. I am not going to waste my time talking about the assholes involved in the whole “gamergate” debacle. If you don’t know what that is, go to Google and look it up. Not a proud moment for those who love video games.

The video game industry caters to males. That’s a fact. What is also a fact is that there are a huge number of girls and women that play video games. Do both genders play the same games? Yes, a lot of the time they do. I’d say that the interest varies in type among girls just as much as guys. I am not a big Call of Duty fan, but give me something like the Dragon Age series and I’m all in. I also spent plenty of hours on Skyrim, but not nearly as many as my wife. We’ve also played a good number of the Lego games together. I also know there are a lot of women who play MMO games, like World of Warcraft and League of Legends. So when women are asking to be given more consideration by game developers, I think they more than deserve it. What they don’t deserve is guys giving them shit online, or in some cases, rape threats. How the hell is that okay? Let me rephrase that. It’s NOT okay! If you think there is any scenario where that behavior is acceptable, I question both your sense of morality and your sanity.

I do have to say that the tabletop gaming world seems to be a little more accepting, at least in my personal experience. Board games seem to be making a comeback for both genders. I’ve also met a fair number of women who previously or still play D&D. Again, my wife is the current Dungeon Master for our game. It also has a mix of men and women playing. I’m hoping that my girls will be interested because I can’t think of a better thing for a family game night.

Cosplay:

This is a pretty new world for me. It’s only in the past year and a half that I’ve come to appreciate the art form. Yes, I consider cosplay an art form. Really passionate cosplayers put just as much work into what they do as any dedicated artist. Not surprisingly to me, there are a large number of women who cosplay. I’ll take a brief moment to acknowledge that there are really talented guys who cosplay as well and deserve to have their work appreciated, since this is an area where ladies do get more attention. I follow a few cosplayers and that includes both genders. But I’m focusing on lady nerds right now, so back to them.

Cosplay is something that is very expensive and very time consuming. The cosplayers I follow online put an insane amount of work into what they do. For many, this isn’t how they make their living. Some sell prints and take donations, but appearing at a convention seems to be more of an expense than it is a payoff. So why do this? Because it’s a passion and they care about it. I follow quite a few lady cosplayers and they are all different. These are women of different ages, body types, and a few from different countries. I admit, I find all of them physically beautiful but that is honestly easy to find. One thing these women have in common, and the reason I keep following them, is they all do beautiful work. Another common factor, unfortunately, is that they get an unnecessary amount of hate. For all the compliments they are given on a picture they share there seem to be at least a few things that are less than pleasant. It probably happens the most with sexy cosplay, but I’ve seen it with cute cosplay and cosplay designed strictly for character accuracy. They get told that they have no idea who the character they dressed at is. They get told they’re too skinny or too fat. They get told by men AND women that they look like a whore. Sometimes it can be the other extreme. I’ve read posts when these women beg people to be respectful, saying they’ve had to block men who send them dick pics and vulgar messages. I’ve seen comments on pictures that are only about boobs and asses, even if the outfit has full pants and no cleavage. Really classy stuff, morons. I mean, I enjoy boobs and butts just as much as anyone else attracted to women but I know how to be respectful. It isn’t difficult to do. And it doesn’t just apply to online. I’ve chatted with some cosplayers who’ve talked about being at conventions where, while most people are cool, some guys have tried to do “upskirt” photos or reach out to cop a feel. That behavior, in my opinion, is just flat out asking for a swift kick to the jellybeans. It’s also part of a bigger problem. What a woman wears does not give you permission to insult them. It does not give you permission act to like they are beneath you. Also, and I can’t believe I live in a world where I have to say this, it does not give you permission to ASSAULT THEM! So to all the would-be and current online trolls, body shamers, and outright assholes of both genders I say this: grow the fuck up!

I look back at each section and realize I had more to say as I progressed. It’s because I’m kind of fired up about this. I don’t get why more people aren’t. Maybe it’s because we’ve become complacent to things like rape culture, gender subjugation, and the whole “that’s the way it’s always been” mentality. It’s definitely a huge global problem, not just one limited to America. I guess this particular facet gets to me because it is MY world. The geeks and the nerds. We’re the ones who got crapped on for the things we loved. We aren’t supposed to do it to someone else. We’re supposed to want other people to be excited about the things we love. I’m thrilled that I found a woman who wants to do nerdy things with me. There are a lot of women like this out there. They should be appreciated and respected, not tormented. It’s the way I want to be treated. So I will now speak directly to the lady nerds out there. I am a great big geek. I’m an imperfect guy and I make a lot of mistakes. But I’m so happy you’re out there. I’m happy you love games and cosplay and comics and Star Wars and Tolkien and all of it. Please don’t go away. Continue being who you are. It’s awesome. I see the crap you take and will do something about it where I can. I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’m trying to be an ally.

I’m a geek. I’m a man. And for what it’s worth, I’m with you.

 

 

 

Supervillain

Hollywood seems to be continuing their love affair with superheroes. I’m not surprised. Despite the current supersaturation, they are a big deal to people. I’ve talked about superheroes before. Specifically, in the following post if you didn’t read it yet:

https://theballadofabetamale.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/superhero/

It seems fair that I now give some time to the other side of the coin. Supervillains are just as important as their heroic counterparts. On some days, what they do makes a little more sense to us. At least it does as we get older and a little more jaded, and if we’re honest with ourselves. Not that we’re anymore likely to behave like villains than we are like heroes. We do, sometimes, like to root for the bad guy. A lot of them do seem to be having more fun than some of the heroes do.

Have I ever thought of myself as the villain? I’d be lying if I said that I saw myself as the paragon of good. I’ve got flaws and a lot of the time they get the better of me. So as much as I’d like to think I would be the next Spider-Man if I did get super powers, I don’t think I’d handle power very well. I’m just a little too human.

Let me now take some time to focus on a few of my favorite supervillains. I do find that I’m drawn to a few particular rogues galleries (Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men) but, for the sake of focusing on different motivations, I’ll try to mix it up a bit.

THE JOKER: I have to start with the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime. This character, more than any other, has a grip on pop culture with no signs of letting go. People are fascinated by the Joker and have very strong opinions regarding him. Look at the many interpretations of him in comics and other media. He’s been portrayed differently in television and multiple films (with another on the way), and they’ve all focused on specific aspects of the Joker’s personality. He is a crime lord, a prankster, a psychopath, and a violent anarchist.

He is chaos personified and is guilty of numerous horrors in the Batman canon. The Joker has crippled people, committed physical and psychological torture, and flat-out murdered more than once. And perhaps the most terrifying thing about him is that you can never be a hundred percent sure about the reason. Is it an obsession with Batman? Is it revenge for something we don’t know? Possibly, it may just be the reason given in the Nolan interpretation. He just wants to watch the world burn.

VENOM: While the Joker is definitely Batman’s arch-nemesis, Spider-Man has other villains who could make that claim before Venom. Doctor Octopus and, more notably, the Green Goblin. But Venom is my favorite because it’s a little more personal. Peter Parker gets a new costume that turns out to be an alien symbiote. He rejects it. The symbiote now feels hatred for its former host and merges with ex-journalist Eddie Brock, himself a man with a grudge against Spider-Man and Peter Parker. They become Venom, consumed with desire to hurt and kill Spider-Man. Now Spidey has an enemy who has more intimate personal knowledge of him than any before.

Venom is a psychotic, obsessed, force of destruction. He knows Peter’s secret identity and can bypass his Spider sense. But at the same time, he’s a little conflicted. He’s actually had the occasional temporary alliance with Spider-Man to go after bigger threats. It never lasts, but it has still happened. In recent years the alien has moved on from Eddie and joined up with others, sometimes in a partnership and other times taking full control. However, Venom is a walking time bomb. The symbiote will always explode into violence at some point. It is just a question of when.

DARKSEID: While he’s not the most recognized foe of Superman and the Justice League, Darkseid is serious bad news. I mean, you pretty much have to be when you’re one of the New Gods and rule a place called Apokolips.

Much like another favorite of mine, Doctor Doom in the Marvel Universe, Darkseid is obsessed with domination over destruction. But Victor von Doom has somewhat pure intentions corrupted by his arrogance. No so with Darkseid. He wants to break the universe in both body and spirit. All must be subjugated and worship the power that is Darkseid. And the thing that makes him dangerous is that he could do it. He has THAT much power. With an entire destructive world under his control, Darkseid himself is damn near impossible to take down one on one. The Man of Steel hasn’t really done it. This is why when Darkseid shows up, Superman tends to call for all hands on deck. It usually takes the combined efforts of members of the DC Universe to put the ruler of Apokolips down.

When you are dealing with hatred personified, you really can’t hold back.

MAGNETO: The last villain I want to talk about is Magneto, and I was a little torn about including him in this post. One of the primary foes of Charles Xavier and the X-men, Magneto is complicated. He has been defeated by the X-men countless times but, at the end of the day, they are still not able to accomplish one thing.

They haven’t proved that Magneto is wrong.

The Master of Magnetism is motivated by anger. He has seen firsthand the atrocities that mankind is capable of, having himself been a survivor of Nazi persecution. He sees his fellow mutants facing the same. And unlike Xavier, he does not see peaceful coexistence as even a possibility. The only way to save his people is by force. Humans will never change, and so they must be struck down. If it is truly humans or mutants, then Magneto will see that mutantkind prevails. He doesn’t see himself as a villain, but as someone who is making the hard decision to protect his people by any means necessary.

It’s hard not to sympathize with Magneto. Look at the world we live in. Racism still exists. Homophobia still exists. People get killed far to frequently due to fear and hatred of a difference. The same thing that Magneto sees happening to mutants.

What if he’s right?

The quest for cool

I am a few months shy of my 36th birthday. For better or for worse, I am considered an adult. A grown up. A somewhat productive member of society. I like to think that I’ve had some success in my life to go along with some of the failure. For instance, I have never left the house without remembering to put on pants. Hey, I didn’t say I always set the bar high! You try walking around town with no pants and see how far you get. I dare you.

Anyway, one thing I don’t think I ever quite reached was that point where a person becomes cool. That’s right. One of the holy artifacts of high school. The mantle of cool. That point when you look in the mirror and not only think it yourself, but you KNOW that everyone else thinks the same thing. You are deemed to be cool. It’s a quest everyone starts in their youth, whether we realize it or not, and it never seems to go away.

So why am I not cool? For starters, this is not a word I’ve heard others use to describe me. That’s not to say I don’t ever get compliments, all of which I appreciate. Of course I’ve heard some less flattering things. Self-described beta male, remember? We kind of invite a certain level of mockery. But even that isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes just teasing from friends (or a loving yet snarky wife) that is meant in fun. But the point is, I can’t say I get told that I am cool.

I’m pretty sure I don’t dress cool. When I’m not dressed for work, I wear jeans and a T-shirt I likely purchased from ThinkGeek . Maybe a flannel shirt or sweatshirt over that. My style hasn’t changed much since the 90’s. I just like to be comfortable.

The things I like tend to lean towards nerdy. I enjoy fantasy novels and I play Dungeons and Dragons. If you haven’t yet read it, my last post was dedicated to superheroes. I have an undying love of all things Muppet. Seriously, you don’t know how excited I am that I get to watch Sesame Street with my kids. I own an R2-D2 bottle opener. I make up songs about our cat. Now, I realize some of these things are more acceptable to love now than they once were. Saying you like comics or the Lord of the Rings won’t make you quite the bully target that they used to. Neither will playing board games. But are they considered cool. I doubt it. I’m pretty sure making up a song about the cat to the tune of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” will always be very far from cool.

The funny thing is, I’m not quite sure what would make me cool. What is the current standard? I’m pretty sure that by the time I caught up to it, the definition will have changed again. Is it about confidence? If that’s the case, I think there are fewer cool people in the world than we realize. I don’t know many people who are void of insecurities. The ones who are may very well think they are cool. Those few people also happen to be totally oblivious to their flaws or the consequences of their actions. If that is what it takes to be cool, I don’t know that it’s worth the trade. I like that I am capable of introspection. Sure, I sometimes do this to a fault, but I think it proves that I’m still able to learn.

One last thing. I am the father of two little girls. One day, they will be two teenage girls. There is no way in Hell that they will think I am cool. What teenager really thinks that their parents are cool? So I like to think that I have one up on any parents who, unlike myself, are of the opinion that they are cool. I have the benefit of saying to my kids, “You don’t think I’m cool? That’s fine. I’m used to it. Now help Daddy find his dragon coffee mug.”