Knowing Best

   If you hadn’t noticed I am pretty much a nerd. Now, I am not going to get into a silly argument about HOW nerdy I am or how OLD SCHOOL I am because really, who cares? What does it matter? What matters is I am nerdy. Beyond that it’s just trying to impress you and, again, who cares? Personally I lean more towards a movie nerd, and specifically a horror movie nerd BUT I love all manner of nerdery.

And what is nerdery, to me?

Nerdery is the deep seated passion for any old particular thing to which you border on obsession. You can be a sports nerd, craft nerd, comic nerd, whatever. To me it’s the passion, the obsessive passion to know that thing in and out that makes you a nerd. Keeping the word ‘pure’  by saying that it is only if you like comics or games or toys or science that makes you a nerd is silly. Being a nerd isn’t shameful, though it isn’t that cool to people outside of others interested in the same things. Come on though, you will never convince me that the person that knows sports stats and plays fantasy sports that they are not nerds. They are, they just act as if what they love is somehow more legit. It isn’t. It’s still nerdy.

The thing nerds want and need more than anything is to feel that their passion is not abused or taken advantage of – you hate to invest yourself into a thing only to have it changed to such a degree that it takes your interest out of it. That’s where a lot of drama comes up in the nerd realm – finding the line of how far something can be pulled from what you fell in love with before you walk away altogether.

I had a strange moment recently when I was watching IRON MAN 3 where as a nerd I felt that Marvel had gone too far. They had left the path and to such a degree that they left me behind. Now, the movie is a huge hit and beloved by millions, and that’s swell. I have no issue with that. And I am not the type that will cry SELL OUT when something gets popularized. I didn’t grow up on Iron Man comics so maybe I am not a great example here but I do dig the character and have read enough stories about the fella that I feel attached to him. The thing with IM3 was that it felt like Marvel felt so self conscious about fan blowback about the second film (some of that legit, to be fair) that they felt they needed to really up things for the third film. That’s fine. In doing so though they seem to have hired a director that didn’t want to tell an Iron Man story but wanted to tell a Robert Downey Jr. story and a Tony Stark story. Well, that’s fun, I guess, but when you start to play fast and loose with established tropes like the roles major villains for that character play it starts to bother me. It felt as if Mr. Black, the director, didn’t so much want to tell a story about the Mandarin but felt he had to. Just as Sam Raimi didn’t want to tell a Venom story in SPIDER MAN 3 but was compelled to so he did a lazy job of it. Same thing here. The main thing that the first two films had been building towards was barely touched upon to me, and thus created what felt like a waste of a story arc that had been established clearly from the outset of the first film. It was a wasted opportunity and a waste of two films.

I get the passion to want to tell your own story. To give things your own spin but you need to do so by taking into consideration the history of the characters you are working with and the fans that are invested in the work. And some of the failing comes from DC and Marvel themselves, who keep waffling on what they want their comic characters and stories to be and reflect. They want them to be fun fare for the fans but then they want to appeal to a new generation of readers. I can get that. But it seems silly to pander to people by changing the sexuality, the race, and the intent of established characters. ‘Hey, look, you’ll like this guy, he’s just like you now, he’s – fill in the blank’. Instead of creating new characters that can be NEW, that can start with a new slate and can be whatever color, creed, religion, sexuality, and gender you want the notion is to fake it by taking established characters and making them something they weren’t – which panders to the new folks and alienates the established fans. Just because you don’t like a villain don’t force them to be something you want them to be if they have an established past. Yes, evolve the character, add to their mythology, and make them reflect a modern world but to pull their teeth and change what and who they are and what they represent is like spitting in the faces of the fans.

DC and Marvel have no guts. They claim they want to make these GRAND and SWEEPING changes to their comics but never do. Not for good. No character is dead forever, no choice is ever long lasting, and nothing really changes. I love both companies and a lot of the work that has been done but they never make bold moves. Let some of the old characters go. Don’t kill them for a couple months for ratings but let them go. Let them retire. Let them die. You want to evolve? You want to grow? Don’t force change on established characters but create new characters that better reflect a changing world. A gay Batman doesn’t make you a noble company making brave decisions but a pandering company out to make headlines and with no respect for the established fanbase.

What Iron Man 3 represented to me, as fun as it was at times, was how fast and loose Marvel is willing to play with their long established tropes. I have read over and how Mandarin was a racist character that needed to disappear or change. See, the thing there is that if you are paid to write a film in a series you find ways to make the established themes, characters, and story work. Maybe you make changes, make you evolve them but you don’t throw those things out because it is difficult to make the things work. You think harder to make them work.

I love comics and have loved the current comic movies. There is some great stuff out there. The thing is that the films can be their own universe as long as they stay true to themselves. IM3 can be its own thing but it has to play by its own established rules and it didn’t. And there’s the problem with modern superhero comics in general – the rules are fast and loose and serve only to continue the money machine. There are some good stories still but the only surprises come when there needs to be a bump in revenue, not as a natural progression of the story, the character, and the brand. Maybe if the major comic companies put the same care into their comic franchises as they try to put into their movie franchises. Me, I’d set out a long term arc and retire characters and stories and work to create new brands to reflect ideas that are more modern.

Or don’t.

Whatever.

Just don’t spit in the faces of your fans, and your characters and then cross your arms and fall back on the old line of – fans just don’t want anything new. We do. We WANT to be surprised, but we want to be surprised within the worlds that YOU already established. By writing and rewriting and ret-coning stories it just alienates the fans and creates the deadzones that have plagued comics time and again in the past.

BOOM!

– c

www.meepsheep.com

Because Giving Up Is What We Do

Living in Flint, Michigan isn’t easy.

Ha.

Yeah, I know, run through your Open Mic Thursday stand-up routine for me about how crummy the city I love is and I’ll move on when you’re done.

And…

OK.

The thing about this area is that yeah, there’s a lot of things that are going on here that are bad, not ‘not good’ but bad. I am not going to belabor that point because the local and national media has a pretty good grasp on things here, at least the crime and all the bad things going on. It’s a drag. The thing is though that in pointing out all the bad things here the good is overlooked. Hope and all that stuff doesn’t make for engaging news, I get it, and I am not going to act as if the story of someone murdered or robbed is less important than the story of a festival or a new business. The math doesn’t work out, nor should it.

Tragedy, bummer though it is, is universal. Joy isn’t. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is. We all feel pain, we all know tragedy. Not everyone knows joy. And in a city that has a lot of struggle to overcome it doesn’t really seem reasonable to expect everyone to jump for joy at the small successes and the little victories.

Yet…

It’s so easy, so very easy to burn the world down.

All it takes is a match and something flammable.

It’s building things, things like hope that create a foundation for people and for the future, that are hard to do. Hard to make.

There is no glory or honor or true joy to be found in tearing things down yet we are a city that thrives on negativity. And again, some negativity is natural and reasonable but there’s a point where you start hurting yourself for attention and a point past that where you hurt yourself because it’s the only thing you know and that’s where we are. We just don’t know HOW to be hopeful anymore. So many have been waiting so long for the clouds to part that you begin to wonder if there was ever a sun at all. Ah, but the thing is that sometimes you have to make your own light. And you know what else fire is good for – creating light.

The same passion people put into their negativity can be put into doing things. And sure, an art show, a craft show, a concert, a bicycle tour, a car show, none of those things alone makes the city a better place but together they start to change perceptions. They start to change minds. Every little act, builds to bigger acts. Every small event opens the door for more events and bigger events. Events and ‘happenings’ lead to more people coming into Flint, spending money in the city and spending time here. The more good and fun things going on the better chance that all the young people that go to school here will spend time here doing more than just GOING TO SCHOOL. And the more people coming here, being here, spending time and money here the more attractive it is for businesses to come here to take advantage of all those people.

Simplistic reasoning?

Sure it is, but it’s HOPEFUL reasoning and there is reason TO it.

I’d rather be hopeful about Flint than to spout nonsense like it should be bulldozed and burned and ignored. It is just so easy though to give up because then you can’t get hurt, you can’t get disappointed, and you look like a genius when things go or stay bad.

Only, you shouldn’t root for the fall of a city and its people.

You shouldn’t root for destruction.

It’s petty. And small. And mindless. And childish. And it’s so black hearted that it makes you wonder what it is that gives those people any joy at all, because if watching people flounder and watching a city die is your kick then you’ve got way more trouble than Flint.

We’re at a point in Flint where we can burn the city down or light it up and I choose to light it up. I choose to believe that the small things, the small events, the small businesses, and the little bits of kindness and civility we offer one another can make a different and can change the tide. There are a million reasons why things got bad in Flint – jobs left, poverty grew, education fell, people moved away, drugs and violence grew, and apathy and frustration skyrocketed. Those are just SOME of the reasons things got bad but you know how they can get better – Hope. And yeah, it takes more than wishing on a four leaf clover to change the fate of a struggling city but it’s like kicking an addiction – if you don’t take that first step, no matter how small, you can never learn to kick.  You can never learn to run.

And who knows what will happen in the end? I know where I stand though and isn’t with a can of gasoline in one hand and a match in the other. No, I stand here blowing on the embers of the spark that makes Flint so special, hoping that eventually those of us who believe and work to make this a city to be proud of will be here to see the Phoenix rise from the smoldering ashes.