Category: Comics & Books


Black Lightning is the latest character from Greg Berlanti’s DC Comics “Arrowverse” taking your TV by storm.  Cress Williams plays the new CW series lead character, school principal Jefferson Pierce by day, masked superhero with actual energy-harnessing powers when called upon.  Raising two daughters, divorced from their mother, and trying to lead the kids in his community in a world full of hate and prejudice, this superhero is very different from what we’ve seen from DC on TV.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  But this isn’t all fun and games superhero antics like the other CW shows.

The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning, Issue #1, forty years ago.  Writers Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by legendary artist Trevor Von Eeden.  Black Lightning is the first DCU major African-American superhero, and rounds out the key classic African-American male superheroes of decades past to make modern on-screen appearances, along with Anthony Mackey’s Falcon, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, all from the Marvel universe. 

Episode one of Black Lightning makes for a solid pilot, and is re-airing on the CW network tonight.  The stakes in the series are real, it’s more grounded in reality than the other DC Comics shows, more like the Netflix Marvel Universe television series.  The pace, choice of music, and tone are similar to Marvel’s Luke Cage, the other superhero based on a 1970s black lead comic book title in a current TV series.  Principal Pierce stopped being a superhero for nine years–he had originally become Black Lightning to fight a villain named Tobias Whale and a string of mobsters, to give people hope, but he made a commitment to his wife to stop the violent lifestyle.  But crime is worse now and when his youngest daughter is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he has no choice but to make his return.  He says he saved more lives as a principal than he could have as a superhero and he doesn’t want to go back.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Since the wonderful CJ Bunce mentioned Comic-Con last week, I figured I would work in a mention of its “wonder”ful cousin.  Next weekend marks my first time attending WonderCon (March 16-18 at the Anaheim Convention Center).  Last year, I planned to go in San Francisco, but I needed to move out of my apartment fast (never, ever, think that you can get a guitarist and a drummer to stop playing music at 3 am in the apartment below you) and it happened on WonderCon weekend.  So, now that it has moved to Anaheim, in my comparative backyard, I’ve already started to plan everything. I’ve found my train ticket.  I’ve alerted my hiking buddies that I won’t be available.  I’ve told people hosting a party on Saturday that I may be late due to a “wonder”ful engagement.  (I’ll stop that now.)

The next step: figure out which panels to see.  I know one that is easy.  Sunday at 3 pm is the Community panel.  I haven’t been able to catch it at Comic-Con due to long, long, LONG lines.  I missed PaleyFest.  Now, I hope that I get my chance to just sit back and enjoy sixty minutes and a movie-like clip.  (FYI–PaleyFest has a few days left).

Then I found Ruby and Spears and it looked pretty obvious as a must attend.  At first I saw the name and thinking of mash-ups (Have you seen The Charming Man-Video Games one?)  I thought it would be a Wizard of Oz, Game of Thrones mash-up and that would be awesome.  It turned out to be even more so.  This is a panel for Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.  I’m just going to quote most of the panel description so that you can jump up and down in place like I am doing:

“Since the sixties, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears have been the most successful writing, creating, and producing team in Saturday morning television. Among the shows they brought you were ‘Scooby-Doo,’ ‘Wacky Racers,’ ‘Jabberjaw,’ ‘Dynomutt,’ ‘Thundarr The Barbarian,’ ‘Plastic Man,’ and dozens of others.”

Raise your hand if you had Dynomutt or Plastic Man comic books?  I’m sure that if I had them, so did CJ Bunce, because I knew as soon as he mentioned Laff-a-Lympics that we were buying the same titles when we were comparative tykes and probably watching those same Saturday morning cartoons from this panel.

Next comes the “20th Century Fox: Prometheus and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…in 3D” panel.  You might think I’m going to see this because I’m a movie buff.  Well, that’s a little bit of it.  Mostly though it’s because of Damon Lindelof is the co-screenwriter of Prometheus and I’ve seen how well he did promoting Lost at Comic-Con.  So, I have high hopes for his performance at WonderCon.

Lastly, there’s this brief hint from DC Comics in the description of their panel.  “DC Comics: All Access Special Edition— Don’t miss this panel about the sure-to-be most talked about project of 2012!”  You had me at “DC.”

But, that’s all I have so far. I need help. Do you have any suggestions for any panels that I should add? I know if I can get over to the Marvel one at 4 pm on Saturday (after the DC one) that would be a good one as well.  The J. Michael Straczynski Writing Workshop could be cool – if I can find a late night train after it ends at 7 pm.  But, I know from going to Comic-Con that trying to cram in everything is just an exercise in frustration.  It never works that well.  The beautiful thing, it will be around next year.  These conventions are too big to go anywhere.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, relax and just take it all in.  Talk to a stranger.  Look at art.  Buy some new comics you’ve never seen before.  It’s all part of the fun.

Still, if you know of anything really cool, please let me know.  Rushing around to something cool is worth a little frustration.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Hi!  It’s been a while.  How are you?  I’m fine.  Now.  After a month long mourning period that we now have to address even though it borders on the very edges of what borg.com talks about.

It’s sports.  In particular, it’s Albert Pujols.

In fact it’s (censored)ing Al(censored)bert Poo(censored)holes (censored) (censored) chorizo-flavored (censored) (censored) pine-scented (censored) (censored) lump of (censored) (censored) stoat (censored).

I know, I know.  It’s not like the old studio days for movies or the old times in the land of baseball where the “owners” could get the “workers” to act or play for however little they wanted or ban them entirely.  It’s freedom.  It’s the free market.  It’s getting paid now what you deserved when you first made it big.

Doesn’t mean I’m not going to pout about it for a month.  So there.

Pujols rare Topps original sketch trading card

Since I write for this site it should be obvious that I’m not an owner.  I’m a fan.  I’m a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, science fiction, comic books, novels, thunderstorms, warm days at the beach, hikes in the mountains, sushi, large pizzas and tall brunettes.  With respect to the Cardinals, I’m going to miss Pujols being a part of my team.

There you have the magic phrase.  My team.  Substitute “team” for any piece of entertainment: “TV show,” “movie,” “book series,” “comic,” etc.  Once an artist has created a work, unless they don’t want to be paid, they release it to the public.  At that point, each person that consumes the piece of art owns it in some way.

Maybe “owns” is a bit strong.  How about “possesses”?  Fans possess the work with their own connotations and meanings that are representative of their life up to that point.

Autographed Pujols MVP ball

If I were to ask what Albert Pujols meant to baseball fans, I would get different answers from each one.  Some would say the greatest first baseman since Lou Gehrig.  Others would say the greatest first baseman ever, since Gehrig didn’t play in an integrated game, fWAR or rWAR be damned.  Others might point to an individual statistic like .328 (career batting average), 445 (career home runs) or three (number of MVP awards).  Some might point to his faith and his work with charities.  Every person would have a different point of view and none would be the same as Albert’s own.
Lou Gehrig autographed ball

Lou Gehrig autographed ball

What if I did the same for the Star Wars franchise?  What if I asked you about the career of Harrison Ford and how would your answer be different if I asked you in 1989 compared to 2012?  What if I asked you about the first movie you ever saw with your current significant other?  How do you feel about that movie and the actors in it?  What about the favorite TV show that you view with that special someone, once a week, when you sit close and enjoy the company of each other and those people on the screen in your living room?  I’m sure each question to each person would get a very different response. Heck, some people might say that they wish Harrison Ford had done more movies like Regarding Henry.  They’d be wrong, but they might say it.

Ford and beagle friend in Regarding Henry

Around the same time as Albert Pujols shot my heart through with a poison arrow (and you think sports fans aren’t just drama queens waiting to happen), I finished reading A Feast for Crows.  I’ve talked about the other books in the series that I have read so far, but darn it, you put thousands of pages in front of me with well-defined characters and at some point I’m going to get fed up like I have with Harrison Ford in his last fifteen years of work.  LIGHT TO MEDIUM SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

How is there no Tyrion?  Yes, I know, the next book, I read the epilogue, but still, Tyrion!  Tyrion!  I want my Tyrion!  Waawaaaaaaaaa.  You introduce about a thousand new characters to be subjects of chapters and no Tyrion?  Waaaaaa.  What about Brienne of Tarth!  She’s about to get hanged.  Are you going to kill everyone we love?  (With Mr. George R. R. Martin, it could go either way – so I won’t put it as a definite that she is dead.)  Come on!  She can’t die.  Waaaaaaaa.

I have no creative input into the series except for the consumption of it, if you can call imagining how the characters look, move and act in your mind as you read a creative act.  (I do.)  I possess the characters with my viewpoints, with my motivations and my love.  I want to spend time with them.  I don’t want to see them go.  I don’t write fan fiction (yet) but it makes sense as a natural outgrowth of the fandom that consumers of art have.

I’m sure that compulsion for fan fiction is even worse when there’s no hope for further adventures after the lack of a conclusion. For the TV show Terriers (available to watch instantly on Netflix) I will never get to see anything further from Hank and Britt.  Sure, after a few years, maybe the official people behind the series will get a movie like the folks from Party Down or maybe Netflix will reunite them to do the show again like for Arrested Development.  I’m not holding my breath.  The only thing I’ll hold my breath for is a return of Community.  I still hope there will be three more seasons and a movie.  But, I know there is a strong chance that it has already disappeared the same way as Jaye Tyler and Wonderfalls did.

We all really miss Jaye Tyler and Wonderfalls

Did you just notice what I did in those few paragraphs?  I just jumped the gulf between reality and fiction.  Is how I view Albert Pujols and Harrison Ford different than how I view Brienne or Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack?  Is getting weirded out by Tom Cruise after he jumps on a couch different from feeling a pang in your stomach when Peter Parker dies in Ultimate Spider-Man?  I know none of those people personally and doubt I’ll ever meet them.  Through media coverage of the real ones and the creative talents of writers and artists on the fictional ones, we feel we know them.  We possess them with our viewpoint and they can enhance our love or betray it with each successive appearance in the public eye.

Artists may think that the possession is strange, but without it, without those strong connections they created in us, would we consume their art?  Probably not.  Do we throw a hissy fit when the values we’ve ascribed to their characters fall by the wayside as the artist creates a storyline that diverges in tone but makes them creatively happy?  Absolutely.  The artist gets to do whatever they want as that is the beauty of freedom. As a fan, I’m free to give my entertainment dollars to other people and leave it at that.  Right or wrong, it’s how things work.  We trust the good artists though and we will stay with them to see what they have in mind as long as they don’t do something idiotic like sign with the Anaheim Angels or air a show that focuses on tattoos and Bai Ling.  Once we leave, we can find new things worthy of possession and maybe it will be the next best thing ever.  Until we find that next best thing, we just have to be sure not to move from possession to attempted ownership as I think that would be called kidnapping and is illegal in all 50 states.  But, is it ever tempting to try to drag Albert Pujols back to St. Louis.

To get to borg.com’s first anniversary it actually took us 366 days because of the leap year.  And what a year it has been!

So what do we have to show for 366 daily posts–our attempt to keep you up to date on what is going on in science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment news?

Jason McClain and Elizabeth C. Bunce

We interviewed some great people, like DC Comics artists Freddie Williams and Mikel Janin, writers Sharon Shinn and Jai Nitz, and Star Trek insider Penny Juday.  In our “Sneak preview” series we reviewed the pilots for new TV series ABC’s New Girl and NBC’s Awake before they were broadcast on TV.  We gave you our take on several opening weekend screenings of a big year in movies from Cowboys & Aliens to Green Lantern, from the last Harry Potter film to Daniel Radcliffe’s first big adult role in The Woman in Black,  to the day of Marvel Comics movies that led up to the U.S. premiere of The Avengers We shared the first images released of The Hobbit and Total Recall We reviewed new books and classic sci-fi books in our “Retro reviews,” from Philip K. Dick, Ian Fleming, Michael Crichton, Rex Stout, Ernest Cline, and Richard Stark, and several non-fiction books about the “behind the scenes” of movies.  We covered Comic-Con International, Wondercon, Planet Comicon, Free Comic Book Day and the early release party for Avengers vs. X-Men We reviewed dozens of new comic book series, from Morning Glories to Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising and a whole slew of DC’s New 52 reboot, as well as Marvel Comics’ limited series events.  Along with that we’ve kept tabs on our (and hopefully your) favorite things like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Walking Dead, Peter Jackson, baseball, Community, Benedict Cumberbatch, the Syfy Channel, USA Network, James Bond, Batman and Green Arrow.  We’ve posted lots of original comic art to get an eye on the creative process of the artist, and we loved discussing genre costumes, including the latest news about incredible screen-used prop and costume auctions.  We’ve also taken a closer look at science fiction movies with our “Anatomy of science fiction” series, featuring iconic images, and the evolution of space suits in film.  And to give you ideas for movie watching from the archives, we provided our “favorites” and “best of” series, revealing our recommendations for overlooked TV series, Halloween flicks, favorite fantasy films, best adaptations, favorite characters, and best art of Alex Ross and Frank Cho.  We’ve profiled favorite genre stars like David Warner, John Carpenter and Mark Sheppard.  We’ve reviewed new compact discs from some of our favorite celebrities, Hugh Laurie and Zoey Deschanel, as well as new fantasy video games.  And finally, we’ve talked about borgs from every sci-fi franchise out there, and even how borg technology as cutting edge science affects humans in real life.

Art Schmidt and CJ Bunce

We think we like what you’d like, so we’ve tried to help you get the most out of entertainment by recommending to you the best sci-fi, fantasy and entertainment out there.

A personal thanks to professional writers Elizabeth C. Bunce (fantasy author, intrepid TV reviewer and fangirl), Jason McClain (Hollywood columnist and master of myriad musings) and Art Schmidt (diehard genre fan and fantasy realm connoisseur) for their great contributions and getting us more than 250,000 site visits and hundreds of positive feedback comments in only our first year.

Thanks for reading!  Year 2 begins tomorrow…

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Ok, here I am looking at a list of twenty characters that I have to cut to a quarter of that for this list.  I didn’t even go crazy thinking about everything I’ve watched or read to find that one person that stood out above the rest.  I just really looked at my bookshelf, which should contain most, if not all, of my favorites.  But, is it everything?  Do I have everything I want to own in pop culture circles?  (No! I don’t own Firefly or Stalag 17 or every appearance of the Legion of Substitute Super Heroes!)

That problem aside, at least I had an idea from the beginning to focus the list.  When thinking of my favorite characters, I chose good friends.  I chose characters that support their friends and family, though sometimes it takes a little personal growth to do so.

To help narrow down the list, I made a choice not to include any of the characters from a previous borg.com essay on characters to make it more of a challenge.*

* Side note, the list I made then had three characters not on the list I made now.  I bet I could make this list every day and find five new favorites. Eliminating Sam Gamgee and Hermione Granger though, those were tough blows to a list about supportive friends.

I then eliminated childhood favorite comic book characters since I know I’ll probably mine that idea for future essays just devoted to them.

That eliminated ten names.  I still have to eliminate five more.  Well, one actor played two parts so I’ll eliminate one of his.  Nine.  Picking one character from Doctor Who (or from Buffy, I can’t believe I forgot Buffy) seems unfair, so I have to lop them off.  Eight.  Ditto for Community** and The Simpsons.  Six.  Lastly, I have to get rid of Supes from Kingdom Come because as much as I love the friendship between him, Wonder Woman and Batman, it’s not about any one of them, it’s about how they approach things differently and yet work well together (eventually).

** Though I will say that I have to write a little about eliminated choice Britta Perry.  She’s a hippie, she mispronounces things and she can be a bit awkward (though can’t they all be a bit awkward.)  So, in those small ways, I can see a female me.  The similarities start to fail once you realize that I don’t want to sleep with Jeff Winger.  Now, if there were a Jennifer Winger…

So, without further ado, here are my top five characters*** in no particular order:

*** As of January 2012.  It could change by February and I may put back in some of the eliminated ones.  A good list is just a product of its specific moment in time.

Frank Cross – Scrooged****

Niagara Falls.  Every time I watch Scrooged I always know I’m going to cry at the end.  I can just think of little Calvin Cooley tugging on Frank’s sleeve and I start to get a little misty.  Yes, it probably has everything to do with Bill Murray’s portrayal as he makes every scoundrel he plays lovable.  But, for this role, you get to see his choices that led to being a scoundrel.  It’s not like they are bad choices, just everyday choices that he doesn’t want to admit were wrong.  As a friend, well, he’s not much of one until the end, but I think it was always there as a possibility.  He just didn’t have an outlet for it until the ghosts showed him what was out there for him like Claire, the folks he meets at the shelter, the Cooley family and last, but not least, his own family.  The S.S. Minnow, James, the S.S. Minnow.

**** He was the actor with two characters, though about any of his characters would probably qualify for a part on a list. The one I eliminated was Bob Harris from Lost in Translation as temporary friends we meet when we travel can be very powerful in our memories.  I almost think I should go back and include Bob.  Maybe summer camp and travel friends are a separate list. It would give me a chance to go back and look at Meatballs and Wet Hot American Summer for great characters.  As an additional aside, I also think that credit should be given to Charles Dickens for his original creation of Scrooge that I feel Murray was born to play.

Jaye Tyler – Wonderfalls

Jaye.  Hmmm.  A good friend?  Maybe?  Well definitely, but not intentionally, which I think may be one of the points of the show.  You can do all the things that a good friend should do and still not be a good friend.  On the other hand, if you think you’re crazy and toys, stuffed animals and coins speak to you and you just do things to get them off your back, you can be a good friend by accident.  You stop thinking of yourself and how it works for you and instead you put yourself at risk for embarrassment just long enough to do something good for someone else.  The fact that it’s unintentional, does it mean it is any less good?

The Sundance Kid – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I think Sundance embodies the evolution of friendship.  At the beginning of the movie, Sundance defers to Butch because Butch is the smart one coming up with plans.  By the end, Sundance realizes that he’s the smart one that knows Spanish and Butch is helpless and he wonders why he ever believed anything different. Still, they’re friends and have been for many a year.  You don’t abandon something like that and at the end, as they hide, injured and desperate, Sundance has to have regrets, but I don’t think that their friendship is one of them.  Not going to Australia on the other hand looms large in the pantheon of regrets.

Rorschach – Watchmen

He’s crazy, but there’s one person that mitigates that crazy and that’s Nite Owl and I think that Rorschach knows that.  He’s at his best when he is with Nite Owl and he goes as far as to admit it, in a way.  He talks of the days that they used to patrol together as a team and he misses those days.  If Butch and Sundance would have made it to Australia, I think Butch would be like Rorschach and longing for the time that they were a team.  Without the tempering influence of Sundance, Butch’s plans would be left unsaid, festering into crazy at their unrealized potential to make his world better in his mind.  The friendship for Rorschach and Butch might be gone at that point, but it never really leaves, it just becomes a different form.  You can’t go back to going out night after night and fighting crime, the body and mind is not built like that.  Eventually the friendship matures and you find new ways to enjoy it.

Vladimir – Waiting for Godot

This one is personal.  Yes, the existentialist play is about two friends trying to pass the time and on that level it’s a fantastic look at all the aspects of friendship.  What elevates it to top five status for me is that I can’t think of the play without thinking of my good friend Jason Vivone.  We did an excerpt from it for a duet scene in high school. We saw a touring company version of it performed in Lawrence, Kansas.  We performed the whole thing as adults in Kansas City. It’s about friends and I will always associate it with a good friend.  I’ve known Jason for over thirty years and no matter what, when I talk to him it’s like we’ve seen each other every day over that time.

The reluctant friend, the unintentional friend, the friend who knows your faults and still hangs out with you, old friends that you may not ever be as close to again and the mature friendship that will never go away are all different ways to express friendship.  Believe me, there are many other ways out there as well and the good characters find ways to make that universal feeling we have with our fellow humans feel fresh again.  Like writing about characters and friends with the characters and great friends that contribute to borg.com.  See you next time.

Next up tomorrow–Art Schmidt’s favorite characters.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

American Gods is a pretty wonderful book and I can’t help but think about what a friend said after her husband read it.  He said, “I think this book would have blown my mind if I read it when I was eighteen.”

I can totally relate to that and I don’t mean it as a criticism, it’s just that it’s those years that really are the time when we explore religion.  We take the actual step into adulthood.  Eighteen is the age to go off to college, to find a job, to move out of the house and find your way in the world.  Faced with such a change in lifestyle, we all contemplate what it all means.  Is it money?  Is it happiness?  Money may not buy happiness, but it certainly makes it easier, right?  (I mean, how many of the fights that we saw between our parents were about money?)

If it is money, then we can measure how well we do in life by the amounts of money we make.  There is a measure to tell us how well we are doing.

Then after four weeks working at a campus snack bar, we hope that isn’t true.  Getting to the level of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Carlos Slim seems to be way out of reach.

So, maybe it is happiness.  Maybe we can find it and “win” at life.  So, we go to the local Christian church to find the joy, the power of an unconditional love and forgiveness.  We know that there will be trials and tribulations on Earth (and we’ve seen that first hand with that first paycheck that will never, ever come close to paying our rent), but if we love our neighbors, if we follow those commandments, if we turn the other cheek, we will find eternal happiness in about 49 years.

However, as teenagers, that seems way too far away and won’t help us at all with the possibility of missing our cell phone payment or a lifetime of chronic masturbation that faces us if we can’t get a date for this weekend.

How do other cultures find happiness?  Soon we look at the stories of heroes, of rebirths, of meditation, of inner peace and we can pick and choose what we like and what we don’t (or maybe we find a religion that suits us perfectly in every which way – though like a political platform, I find that less and less likely.)

Then we come to the realization that we’re the only person that believes in the combination Hindu-Buddist-Norse-Egyptian-Aztec-Judeo-Christian-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster belief system that we’ve described and defined in a three-ring notebook complete with commandments, tenets and a very liberating dogma.  That also means that the weekly prayer meetings are very lonely and dates for many of the following weekends look less and less likely if we keep following this path.

At that point, we look for things that help us to connect with more people.  Instead of being the only person under the age of twenty, thirty or even forty at an Audubon Society meeting, maybe we start to volunteer at the campus radio station.  Instead of constructing a really cool Dungeons and Dragons adventure that will probably never be played by another living soul, but if it was, they would get so many experience points, we sign up to go to football games with a big group from our dorm floor.  Instead of going home right after work, we think that a beer does sound like a good idea with the rest of our co-workers because they know the bartender and he’ll let us drink even though we’re underage.  Instead of living in a dorm, we join a fraternity, an organization that promises friends, lifetime bonds and the chance to meet girls on a regular basis.  Instead of staying home for the weekend, we go to WonderCon, DragonCon or many other trade shows/festivals where there are thousands of people with the same interests.

Soon our beliefs are that there is no way the Yankees will ever miss the playoffs, Batman is so much cooler than Superman and we have had enough dates to actually hold an opinion on the question of whether blondes are better than brunettes. (The answer is brunettes.  For now.)

We have found happiness.  We have surrounded ourselves with friends that like to do the same things, that love to talk about music, movies, comics and sports and we share the cool things that we find with each other.  We are no longer tied around a building where a lone figure talks to us from a stage on Sunday mornings, but rather a bunch of like-minded folks that we connect to on a daily basis, there for us when we need to keep busy to forget about money, break-ups or our other problems.  Sure, there are still those occasional Sunday meetings 6,000 strong in Hall H at San Diego’s Comic-Con listening to Steven Moffat, or the Sunday afternoon 30,000 strong in Dodger Stadium, because we all generally still have that day free to follow what we believe.

We believe in watching our DVR’d episode of Community.  We believe in community.  It may not include a promise of eternal life (or it may because we have just added our faith in the Christian God to our other beliefs) but it is a promise that our days don’t have to be spent in solitude, that as Kurt Vonnegut proudly exclaimed, “Lonesome No More.”

Would this book have been better as I transitioned to being an adult?  Sure.  Is it great now that I have become an adult and can look at all of my beliefs, my loves that I have brought around the world and thought about so furiously (please, please, please, let the St. Louis Cardinals win and let Albert Pujols hit three home runs for my fantasy team; please, please let Hurley survive the island; please, please, please let “Dogtooth” win an Academy Award) and wonder how they would effect the world Neil Gaiman has created?  Absolutely.

A book through the eyes of a child, a teen and an adult can be three very different things.  I may not know how American Gods would have affected my younger self, but I do know that it made for some really cool reflections and an enjoyable read right now.

Being a Total Fan

Comic-Con Panels: Fables or Being a Total Fan

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I love Fables.  How do I know that I feel that strongly about a series?  Easy.  If I read a TPB and can put it aside for a while, I liked it.  I may go back and buy the next one whenever it is convenient like Free Comic Book Day or the next time I’m browsing at Golden Apple, Meltdown, Secret Headquarters or House of Secrets.  If I love it?  I go buy it as soon as I’m done with the one I’m reading.  I’ll go to every comic shop and bookstore until I find the next book in the series.  It happened with Y: The Last Man.  It happened with Harry Potter.  (I didn’t start reading them until the fourth one was in stores.  I borrowed the first and second books from a friend.  I finished them in probably a little over two days.  Unfortunately, I finished the second one after 11 pm at night, so I couldn’t borrow the third one right away.  What did I do?  I bought a book at a Super Wal-Mart for the first time.)  It happened with Fables.


Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Because I love Fables, and have lent my run of TPBs to quite a few friends (they are currently on loan to my good friend Emese – I hope she’s enjoying them) to show them how good it is, I figured going to the Fables panel at Comic-Con would be a great idea. It was.  I had a great time.


Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book Two

Still, at the same time, I realized that my “love” and other’s “love” are two quite different things.  Before the panel started, an emcee ran around asking for Fables related items or answers to trivia questions.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a master of the trivial, but I had no clue on these questions.  I even tried punching a couple of searches into my smartphone, as it was an open book contest, and barely scratched the surface of the answers as the searches I entered were much more general than I needed them to be.  Still, there were people that had no problems and the man with the best knowledge ended up winning Boy Blue’s trumpet, a very cool panel prize if I ever saw one.  I came to the realization that my love for Fables is much different than some of the other’s in the room, the people that knew trivia, the people dressed in intricate costumes or dressed in any costume.  I have thought this before about different artistic endeavors and can break it down a couple of ways.

Single vs. Multiple Viewings

I understand the compulsion to watch something good again and again.  There are some things that I’ll watch multiple times like episodes of Community. I read Harry Potter novels again before the next book in the series came out at midnight.  I’ll stop to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Shawshank Redemption or Goodfellas if I happen to pass them by on the TV.

But, it doesn’t happen too often.

Sometimes, I wish I watched things again more often.  I’d be better with movie quotes, I’d better understand all of the pieces that make good novels, comics, movies or TV shows work.  I’d notice those small things that the creators put into their works that are a reward for multiple views.

I just can’t do it.

I always think there is something new on the horizon like a new author, a new movie or a new series that could be worth watching. Sometimes I’m right and I stumble onto a Terriers or a Wonderfalls. Sometimes I’m wrong and I’ve wasted thirteen hours on The Killing.  Maybe I’m just a short attention span person.  But, with all of the things I’ve yet to see, it’s tough to spend time on things I’ve already experienced.  Just this year, I’ve found for the first time Doctor Who, Veronica Mars and Sherlock and enjoyed each of them.

Sample vs. Complete

Speaking of those three TV series, I also watched every episode of each that was available to me through Netflix.  With so many streaming options it has become easier to do that with most TV series.  If you miss an episode, you can find it online, watch it instantly through your cable provider or just be sure to use your DVR so that you don’t miss a thing. You can wait for the DVDs and watch them all at once. It’s pretty easy to watch all of The Wire or to get current on Breaking Bad without too much cost or trouble.

Which is a good thing, because otherwise, I’m not good at seeing everything an artist has done.  I believe I’ve seen every Coen brothers movie, but I still have quite a few Hitchcock, Huston, Ford, Wilder and Hawks movies that I need to see.  I haven’t seen every Cary Grant, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino or Humphrey Bogart movie.  Heck, I haven’t even seen every Marx Brothers movie.

I guess I could be sure to see every thing an artist has done, but after the Coen Brothers’ The Ladykillers, or Pacino’s The Recruit I’ve come to realize that missing an artist’s work is not always a bad thing.  I guess I’m a sampler of artists and a completer of stories.

Festivals

Since I’ve gone to five Comic-Cons now, I can definitely say I’m a pretty big fan.  Still, there are some people that have gone to many more.  There are those that also go to Dragon-Con and Star Trek conventions in addition to Comic-Con and go to the convention I look forward to attending in February that I heard about this summer while waiting for the Torchwood panel, Gallifrey One.  I think if you’ve ever been to a festival or small show for whatever you love, you have definitely entered the realm of the big fans. I just know that I’m not the biggest fan, because then I would attend everything.

Lines

For my last word on Comic-Con, the truest sign of fandom is the ability to wait in lines.  Not just wait in them but also successfully wait in them.  I waited in several over the Comic-Con weekend and made a few panels and also missed a few.  To the fans that got out at 8 am to be sure they made it to Hall H, congrats.  I’m glad there are rabid fans like you out there, though I wish there were fewer so that my casual wake up at 9 am self could have gone to see more panels. See you next year super fans, and hold me a place in line if you can.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Nick Spencer, the writer of Morning Glories describes the story as “Runaways meets Lost.”  I think you could get better comparisons.  How about “Runaways meets Planetary” (Brian K. Vaughn and Warren Ellis!) or “Veronica Mars meets Lost” (Rob Thomas and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse!)?  All four have a strong fan base, the comparisons stay in the same medium and one side is based in the adventures of teens and the other side is based on mysteries in physics.

I’m picking nits as all four of those stories have compelled me to read more or see more at any given time.  (I just finished the entire run of Veronica Mars in a little under two weeks before Netflix could take it off the instant queue and I would have had to wait for DVDs in the mail.  I get obsessive sometimes).  I definitely think that Morning Glories could compel me in much the same way.

On each side of those comparisons though, there is a question that might not have crossed your mind.  I think it boils down to the simple question: how do you like your mysteries?

For example, take the final season of Lost and the “sideways” reality. (LOST ***SPOILER ALERT*** – which shouldn’t really be necessary as it has been a year since the finale).  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.  Desmond is there to help them realize what is happening and to bring them all together to see each other again.

Let me say that again, and just think about it for a while.  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.

I’m not sure about you, but the number of stories I can recall that deal with life in the afterlife is not that great. For comedy purposes, there is the wonderful Defending Your Life.  In myths there is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice that has been forever tainted by The Killing.  (I shudder to even mention that series in the company of actual good stories). Death appears in The Seventh Seal and later Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Off the top of my head, that’s about it. (I’m sure there are more examples and feel free to enlighten me about them).

Lost did it differently though.  The adventures on the island took up less than three months for some characters.  (I’m looking at you Boone and Shannon).  For others, it was several years of their lives as they went back in time and lived in the Dharma community.

So, what does the island mean in comparison to the rest of your life?

For Ana Lucia, it didn’t mean much as she didn’t join the rest of the survivors in waking up in the afterlife.  For others, it meant the world.  Waking up brought in a flood of emotion for the characters (and this member of the audience) as these people that meant so much to them for just a part of their life reappeared.

So, what is the afterlife?  How do you use your time?  Do you use it to become the father that you wish you were, that you wish you had?  Do you use it to come to grips with your own physical failings that resulted in your own emotional failings?  Do you beat yourself up over all the evil that you did?

In Defending Your Life the battle was against fear.  For Albert Brooks, as the writer, I’m sure that is a very personal battle.  For the characters of Lost they had different battles to face.  Finding justice, finding love, finding friendship, finding forgiveness or whatever they needed to find so that they could move forward.

(Thinking about that personally, I’m not sure what I would need to face in order to move along. It’s a mystery of myself that I will have to explore).

In those personal battles, what is more important, the previous 20, 30 or 40 years, or the time spent on the island?  How would you ever be able to work in the experiences of the island in comparison to the building blocks of your personality, your life that happened so many more times?

That is the question I have of the afterlife.  I’ve never met my grandfathers.  I know they played an important part of my parent’s lives, but they both died before I was born.

What happens in their afterlife?  I assume they link to the lives of their children who then link to their children and then we meet.  Or maybe they have directory assistance in the afterlife and instead of reaching a phone, you physically transport to that person.  No matter what is the way of the afterlife, the next question becomes how long do we see each other?  What about all the people we’ve met over the course of our lives?  What if a friend from elementary school that we remember as the person who first exposed me to video games doesn’t remember us?  With whom do we spend time in the afterlife?  What do we need to do to improve ourselves?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that Lost helped to create the questions.  Sometimes a good mystery doesn’t have an answer.  Yet.  Sometimes we don’t want answers as we don’t want to infect the hopes, dreams and prayers of our imaginations.  Whatever answer we get will pale in comparison to what we had created in our minds or it may be so big that we would have never thought to dream it.

The thing is mysteries are everywhere, we just may not see them.  In Veronica Mars only two people believed something different about the Lily Kane murder, everyone else just went on with their business.  In Lost different people discovered different things about the island that they decided to share or not share. (By comparison, Rose and Bernard chose to ignore all the hoopla and just live in the moment that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The mystery they got to solve was how they would grow old together).  In Planetary we find that the world doesn’t work the way we think and three “heroes” lead us to examples that wander into the fantastic.  In Morning Glories we see six kids that start at a boarding school.  We don’t know why they are there.  We don’t know the purpose of the school.

So, what kind of mystery do you want?  Do you want ones that are concrete and you can solve and figure out within a set amount of time, like a murder, or the existence of a polar bear, or why someone can talk to machines in some sort of origin story or why people born on January 1st, 1900 or May 4th are special?  (May the 4th be with you significance aside).  Or do you want what friendships mean, or how friendships start, or what the afterlife is like, or what relationships do we have with our parents, or how we need to fool ourselves to actually find our more about ourselves?  In other words, should mysteries reveal more about the soul of the person or the plot of the story?

Ideally, a great story gives you both as you explore characters and their environments.  I think Morning Glories is well along that path after only six issues.