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I’ll Have the Super-Heroes, Hold the Grim and Gritty

This is not an argument of era or audience sophistication. Sophistication does not negate sincerity, nor does it even deny it, as the Captain America movie proves. Sophistication demands better storytelling, clearer motivation, purer intention. “Gritty” is an apologist word in this sense, used in the place of “realism.” We don’t go to the movies for “realism.” This is why documentaries aren’t the major product in the theaters. Sophistication does not demand realism; it demands smart.
Greg Rucka

Today marks the launch of the New 52 at DC Comics.  I was stoked last night that the DC Twitter account retweeted my excitement… and a nice nod to The Great Escape Records and Comics in Bowling Green.

Since DC has the opportunity to start fresh, I hope they’ve learned some valuable lessons over the last decade about their characters and the industry at large.  They would do well to take Mr. Rucka’s reflections to heart.  Over the last few years, he’s made an important mark on the Batman family of characters and books.  Sharp, thoughtful, and a heck of a writer, he certainly knows what he’s doing.

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Michael Chabon on the Magic of ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’

Maybe all wondrous books appear in our lives the way Milo’s tollbooth appears, an inexplicable gift, cast up by some curious chance that comes to feel, after we have finished and fallen in love with the book, like the workings of a secret purpose. Of all the enchantments of beloved books the most mysterious—the most phantasmal—is the way they always seem to come our way precisely when we need them.
Michael Chabon

There’s something special about coming back to a book after a distant absence.  The summer after completing my Master’s, I spotted a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows at Barnes and Noble and decided it was time for a visit.  The book was one of many I devoured in fourth grade during our reading program.  We each had a paper kite hanging above our desk.  For every so many pages we read–the number is lost to me–we added another triangular tail to the kite.  My goal was to get my tail to touch the floor ten feet below.  Sports biographies, Sounder, Wind in the Willows, and many other titles contributed to the feat.  However, it was Fern that was most memorable.  Growing up on a rural farm, there was some resonance of the story of a boy and his dog.  Returning to the book all those year’s later provided moments of longing and nostalgia.  I had concluded my education (at least for the time being) and this was a brief journey back to childhood.

I’m reminded of those sentiments when reading Michael Chabon’s essay for The New York Review of Books on The Phantom Tollbooth. When I was in sixth grade, I had the joy of playing Milo in our class’ performance of the stage version of The Phantom Tollbooth.  From time to time in the year’s after, I would pick up the book and read it.  Unfortunately, it has been year’s since doing so, though I feel a visit is in order.  Even more so, since I can download it for Kindle.

If you have not read the book, I suggest doing so upon your first opportunity.  You may–if so desired–wait and pick up the special fiftieth anniversary edition upon its release this October.

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As Comic-Con Approaches, A Suggestion for Nerd Ladies

Haley Cuoco, of notoriety as the girl on that TV show who hangs out with all the geeky guys but secretly pities them and their backwards ways, offers a Nerd PSA that readers attending Comic Con in the coming days should take to heart.  Look, I’m all for clever, geeky cosplay.  Just be safe doing so.

Also, +1 to any lady willing to attempt the Chewbacca suggestion.

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Steve Buscemi Dress… For the Win!

Steve Buscemi Dress… For the Win!

Click the image above to view the full photo.

Black Milk has some interesting fashion sense at work in their products.

They’ve gained notariety for their geek-inspiring R2-D2 and C3PO swimsuits.  Just recently, they unveiled an 8-bit wonder in honor of Pacman.  I had planned on writing about that, until I got to clicking through their website.

Then I found The Buscemi.  Created in homage to one of the greatest character actors of this or any cinematic generation, the dress is a $100 wonder.  My question is this: what is the right occassion on which to wear such attire?

Movie opening?  Oscar party?  Hanging from a tree outside Mr. Buscemi’s house with a pair of night vision goggles?  Your call.

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RT @important_facts: “Harry Potter” combines all the innocent wonder of black magic with all the friendly camaraderie of elite private schools. #AccioFacts

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HP7.2 Week: Amazing Harry Potter 3D Paper Art

HP7.2 Week: Amazing Harry Potter 3D Paper Art

Artist Brittney Lee has designed two amazing works of 3-D papercraft art featuring Harry Potter.  Introduction to the Owlry and Expecto Patronum used cut out pieces of layered paper to recreate famous scenes from the novels. There is a certain electric energy in these pieces that really capture the storybook quality of the series.

You can also purchase various prints of her work–though sadly not these–in her Etsy shop.

Hat tip to Geeks are Sexy

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HP7.2 Week: Harry Potter, Fraud

In 2002, Slate called Harry Potter a “pampered jock, patsy, and fraud.

Seems fair enough to me.  For anyone who’s spent a moment or two with the Harry Potter novels, you’ll learn that J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard is actually one of the least likable characters in the series.  Personally, I contend the fifth book (Order of the Phoenix) is the most drudge-worthy novel because it’s Harry being moody the entire time.  Then you get the kicker that Neville Longbottom could have been The Chosen One and it’s just…gah. Lest you worry, there’s plenty more of Harry being moody in installments three through seven.

Think I’m wrong?  Here’s a sample of what columnist Chris Suellentrop had to say:

Harry Potter is a fraud, and the cult that has risen around him is based on a lie. Potter’s claim to fame, his central accomplishment in life, is surviving a curse placed on him as an infant by the evil wizard Voldemort. As a result, the wizarding world celebrates the young Harry as “The Boy Who Lived.” It’s a curiously passive accomplishment, akin to “The Boy Who Showed Up,” or “The Boy Who Never Took a Sick Day.” And sure enough, just as none of us do anything special by slogging through yet another day, the infant Harry didn’t do anything special by living. It was his mother who saved him, sacrificing her life for his.

What are your thoughts?

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HP7.2 Week: The Entire Potter Saga in One Massively Delightful, Incredibly Complex Comic

HP7.2 Week: The Entire Potter Saga in One Massively Delightful, Incredibly Complex Comic

It’s HP7.2 Week here at Chillax.in.  (HP7.2 = Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II…derp.)  We kick off the week with something truly magical!

Pages upon pages of narrative and frame by frame of movie wonder come down to the eighth and ultimate Harry Potter film.  Rather than slogging through the books or stapling your eyes open to watch each movie–though pop by the Alamo Drafthouse if you dare–check out these comics from French Milk creator Lucy Knisley.  Her talents offer an illustrated and impressive set of eight Harry Potter posters that detail the plot of the series. From the first owl to the final battle, the entire story is here… you just may need to supply part of the gaps in between the panels.

Obviously, there’s a lot packed into these, so it may be best to clicky clicky over to Lucy’s site — where you can download the posters for free at a higher resolution — and checking out the poster that combines all eight illustrations into one massive Harry Potter mega-story (featured above).

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Booyah! DC Comics is Finally Giving Cyborg a Shot at the Big Time

Booyah! DC Comics is Finally Giving Cyborg a Shot at the Big Time

I have a special place in my heart for what some people might consider the “second-string” characters at DC comics.  In many respects, Geoff Johns provide with his runs on Booster Gold and, most recently, Green Lantern, that a character given love, attention, and a proper mythology can find a welcomed seat at the table alongside Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

That’s why I’m pleased to note that Vic Stone, codenamed Cyborg, will join the roster of the Justice League during the DCnU launch this August.

Cyborg has been around is a lot of different ways.  He first appeared in the early 1980s as part of the New Teen Titans.  He even enjoyed screen-time on the Super Powers Team cartoon series.  Most non-comics fans will know him from the Teen Titan Go! series on Cartoon Network or from a handful of cameos on Smallville in Clark’s proto-Justice League.

When Brad Metzer relaunched Justice League of America in the post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe, he teased that one former Teen Titan would make the jump to the premiere super team.  While I personally had hoped for Cyborg, the spot went instead to Roy Harper (who joined as Red Arrow, though formerly went by code names Arsenal and Speedy).

What’s great about Cyborg is that he certainly represents a 21st century hero.  In the way that Booster Gold made his first appearance after Crisis on Infinite Earths, Cyborg now has an opportunity to embody this period in history.  Booster was about fame, greed, cashing in, and opportunism of the 1980s.  To place Cyborg in the context of this new decade: we’re all a bit of a cyborg now. Technology is so deeply rooted into our daily lives.  Heck, many of us benefit from various implants like pacemakers, artificial limbs, and other digital regulators.  Who is a hero that is more than just part machine?  What is it like to make that next jump away from humanity, and what is the cost in doing so?

The current miniseries Flashpoint is giving Cyborg his first moment in the sun.  In a radically altered DC Universe, Cyborg is the true American hero.  He is to the US what Superman is in traditional continuity.  In this altered timeline, we see a Cyborg doing everything in his power to make one final stand for the heroes.  Operating from his base in Detroit (a nice touch), he is the one, selfless hero amid figures that are radically different.  Johns even includes a close-up shot on his wrist with a stamp that reads “Made in America.”

Even more powerful, the Batman of Flashpoint makes this challenge to our hero:

You could be the single most powerful source of information on the planet.  A physical and digital tank. There’s not a firewall or a brick wall that can keep Cyborg out.

That’s the Cyborg I want to see come September.

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Sunday Fun Day: Boxcar Elliott

The most fun I had as a child with a toy was the time we got a new hot water heater and I spent a week turning the leftover gigantic box into (1) a rocket, (2) a house, and (3) a cave.  Here’s hoping Elliott one day has the imagination and opportunity to make good uses of boxes.  Until then, his mother will simply use them as (1) a bobsled, (2) a roller coaster car, and (3) a turntable.