I’m fascinated by utopias. Thomas More’s 1516 novel Utopia coined this term for a perfect society. In the book, More explores the politics, religion, and culture of an ideal island nation. I’ll never forget learning More created “utopia” from the Greek words eu-topos, which means “a good place,” and ou-topos, meaning “no place.” The text was satire and the name a pun. That blew my mind…and made me a little sad as it inherently implies such a good place may not be possible. Part of what fascinates me about utopias is how little (comparatively) we envision them in our art. Scores of dystopias fill our films, TV shows, comics, and novels. It feels like we’re always imagining our end. But what a perfect society looks like? How it functions? We don’t create those as often nor celebrate them when we do (remember George Clooney’s Tomorrowland? …that’s my point). When it comes to the Marvel Universe, Wakanda has always been the shining example of a perfect society. But when writer Jonathan Hickman was given the keys to the X-kingdom in 2019, Marvel’s mutants settled on the living island Krakoa (a mutant itself), creating an independent nation and new utopia in the MU. As Thomas More did 500 years before, Hickman’s Krakoa gives readers a good place which invites us to consider whether no place like this will ever exist…and it got me hooked on reading and thinking about the X-Men again for the first time in twenty-five years!
My Trinity: The Three Comic Characters Most Important to Me
We have an interesting relationship with the fictional characters we love, don’t we? I can divide my life into eras with them. He-Man and She-Ra. The Ghostbusters. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer. Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus. The Gilmore girls. Sydney Bristow and all her aliases. The Doctor. Fleabag. The list goes on but they are the most important :). Loving comic books since I was three-years-old, there are obviously many superheroes who land on that list. Recently, my mind wandered to the superheroes most important to me. Three came clearly and quickly to mind and, as I thought about each, deep feelings of love and gratitude for all they’ve given me began to fill my heart. So with those feelings still moving within me, I figured it would be fun to examine why those characters are so important to me.
Jac Jemc’s The Grip Of It – When I’d Move Out of This Haunted House
It’s the age-old question of the haunted house genre, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t they just move? It crosses my mind with every haunted house movie I watch or novel I read. Sure, sometimes you’re snowed in at the Overlook and there’s no conceivable way to get out but most times, if I was in the protagonist’s shoes, I’d just up and move. I don’t care if I was financially in debt and didn’t have the money or means to sell and buy again. That’s what bankruptcy’s for! Getting away from ghosts! In fact, imagining when I’d move and the alternate story it would lead to as I watch/read a scary haunted house story is one of my horror coping mechanisms. So I thought, in honor of Halloween and all things scary and spooky, haunted and horrific, macabre and malevolent, I’d write a li’l series about this. I’d read haunted house novels and ruminate on when, if I were living within the events of the novel, I’d move the heck out of that house. First up, is Jac Jemc’s The Grip Of It which is simultaneously the best and the scariest haunted house story I’ve ever read!
This piece contains minor spoilers for certain incidents in the novel but the ending and all major twists are left out of the discussion. So read on based on your comfort with such spoiler territory ;D.
My Personal Literary Canon – A Self-Portrait in Books
There is great debate about which texts deserve to sit in the canon of literature – debates shaped by people far more informed than I. Sure, I’ll talk about canon in Marvel or Doctor Who or Star Wars but F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle? Et cetera and so on? I’ve opinions but few are fully informed by academic scholarship. Last summer I was reading one of my favorite blogs – I read that in a book – and I came across a post titled, “Personal book canon – a self-portrait in books.” I loved the post and I loved the idea and I immediately began thinking of what would make up my own personal literary canon. In the comment section of the piece, I talked of how I was eager to “steal” the idea and try it myself. This was something I could speak to in an informed way! I thought it a really fun idea, too, to look at the books which have most shaped my life. So today, in my 400th post (!!!!), I’m going to do just that :D.
The Great Gatsby: A Classic I Read in School and Ended Up Loving (Classic Remarks)
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation. Pages Unbound, founded and run by Briana and Krysta, is one of my absolute favorite sites. In addition to adoring their content, I love the sense of community they’ve built there. So I was SUPER EXCITED when I saw this week’s prompt because I knew I had something to contribute! Without further ado, who’s ready to chat about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby? Continue reading
Goodbye Squirrel Girl, Thank You for Everything
Once upon a time, Mom bought li’l three-year-old me a copy of Web Of Spider-Man #12 at the grocery store. So began a lifelong love affair with the character Spider-Man, the medium of comic books, and the world of superheroes. When I turned sixteen my comic budget turned towards gas money. But then, four years ago, I decided to return to my local comic shop and something magical happened. I rediscovered an old love and found something I never expected in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. This month Ryan North (writer), Derek Charm (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letter), and Wil Moss (editor) – with a surprise dash of Erica Henderson (artist) – have brought this remarkable title to an end. That leaves me with a lot on my mind. How do I say goodbye to something that’s come to mean so much to me?
There will be no significant spoilers for the final issue/arc here, just lots of feelings :). Continue reading
Spider-Man: Life Story – An Evocative Argument for Letting Superheroes Age
I’m not trying to be hyperbolic when I say, Spider-Man: Life Story is the future of the comic book industry. Now I don’t mean to imply the comics industry as a whole is going to follow Chip Zdarsky’s elegant lead with every comic. I’m just saying I think they should. In Spider-Man: Life Story, Zdarsky (accompanied by my all-time favorite Spidey artist Mark Bagley (yay!)) explores what Peter Parker’s life could have been like had he aged naturally, with each issue of this six issue miniseries touching on one decade in Peter’s life. For example issue #1 is set in 1966, four years after Peter was bitten by the radioactive spider (as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spidey in 1962 (see how that works?)). Issue #2 looks at the ‘70s and so on as Peter ages in real time. He isn’t perpetually stuck in his late 20’s or early 30’s. Four issues in, I’ll confidently say this will stand as one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told. It’s the most interested I’ve been in Peter Parker’s adventures as Spider-Man in almost twenty years too. In allowing Peter to age, Zdarsky has illustrated the hidden potential of the comic book genre. Continue reading
The Four Comics I Can’t Live Without
A few years ago, when I was counting down to my hundredth post on this site, I profiled the four comic books I’d found since my return to reading comics which had become indispensable to my reading life. These were the comics that, even if I stopped collecting comics again, I couldn’t imagine putting down. They showcased, for me, the best of what a comic could offer while doing things I never imagined a comic book could. They were (in the order I wrote about them in my countdown), Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, IDW’s Ghostbusters, and Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Thinking of those titles now, I can still feel the burgeoning excitement and awe that accompanied my return to comic reading. They also make me think of impermanence. Continue reading
Squirrel Girl’s Subversive Genius
Aaaahh! This is it! This is my 100th post on My Comic Relief. Yay!!! To mark such an important occasion, I want to take a look at the one comic book that’s become truly indispensible to me. If, for some reason, I could only read one comic book a month, Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl would be it. There’s no contest. No other comic is more enjoyable or more important to me. I could think of no better way to celebrate hitting 100 posts than by celebrating why I love this brilliant comic so much. Continue reading