Review: ‘Space Match’

We are a gaming family. We love ’em, all four of us. Card, board, RPG, you name it, we have at least one example of the type; we’ve even played most of them at least once. Our six year old is patient enough for Doctor Who RiskGloom, and the Imperial Assault training missions (we haven’t tried the longer missions yet). Even our rightfully shorter-in-the-attention-span three year old will play Trouble, Surprise Slidesand King of Tokyo.

Finding time to game as a family can be challenging, however, with my weird and irregular nurse schedule, which includes a fair number of weekends and evenings, and the boy being in school full-time plus attending Hebrew School on Sunday mornings. In an effort to increase playing opportunity, nights we’re all here, we’ve been trying to take the half hour between dinner and bedtime once devoted to the day’s non-educational television (except on Dinner and Rebels night; nothing shall replace Dinner and Rebels night so long as there are episodes of Rebels to watch) to play a family game. Not that there’s anything wrong with TV. There isn’t. I love the stuff, probably too much, but it’s more fun for the four of us to spend that half-hour engaged with one another when we can, especially since we don’t have that time as regularly as many families.

Continue reading Review: ‘Space Match’

The Original Genrenaut: An Interview With Mike Underwood

Mike has circumnavigated the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20.

He is the author the several series: the comedic fantasy Ree Reyes series (GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, ATTACK THE GEEK, HEXOMANCY), fantasy superhero novel SHIELD AND CROCUS, supernatural thriller THE YOUNGER GODS, and GENRENAUTS, a science fiction series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he plays video games, geeks out on TV, and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show as well as Speculate! The Podcast for Readers, Writers, and Fans.

Full disclosure, dear readers: I’ve interviewed Mike once before and it was a blast, so I knew this was going to be fun. That he was generous enough to allow me to do so again speaks to his being an utterly rad dude and one who has a lot of really interesting stuff to say.

Give us the basement to penthouse elevator pitch for the Genrenauts concept.

A. The Genrenauts are a group of storytellers that travel between dimensions, each the source and home of a narrative genre (Western, Romance, etc.), to find and fix broken stories. Because if they fail, the damage from those broken stories ripples over and causes disaster on earth.

The series starts as struggling stand-up comedian Leah Tang is recruited to be a probationary member of the Genrenauts. The team heads to the Western story world to fix a story where the posse of heroic gunslingers was killed by the black hats, leaving the town defenseless. And it just gets wackier from there. Continue reading The Original Genrenaut: An Interview With Mike Underwood

Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Thirteen) — Kanan: The Last Padawan Redux Boogaloo

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars

Okay, not strictly speaking true, although the various Star Wars properties are serving to remind me of many important lessons I’ve picked up along the way many of which, to my mind, are those most important to pass along to my children.

I’ve tried to delve into different parts of the universe, the illustrative characters ranging from Ezra Bridger to Vader, the books from Obi-Wan & Anakin to those featuring the original trinity.

I find myself returning for the third time (and no walking carpets have torn my arms from my sockets to make it happen), however, to Kanan Jarrus (featured, for those following or catching up, in both part two and part six).

I guess Kanan has a lot to say, as do the writers responsible for bringing him to both screen and comic.

Property of Marvel Comics
Property of Marvel Comics

As a reader, I’m bummed that there’s only one issue left in Kanan: The Last Padawan (though I’m grateful it was extended to twelve from the originally intended five). Good news: Rebels has already been renewed for a third season, and I don’t see the journey ending anytime soon, so there are many more journeys on which we’ll be accompanying the Ghost and her crew.

I think anyone who’s been following Kanan in print will agree, however, there’s something very special about this glimpse into the past of one of the few Jedi to survive the execution of Order 66 and about the character himself who, by all rights, should have ended up a depressed hermit on some crappy border world or in thrall to the Sith.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Thirteen) — Kanan: The Last Padawan Redux Boogaloo

Kitchen Witchin’: Magic Shell

Remember this stuff?

ProdAdminImage.ashx
Image via smuckers.com

It was truly magical when you were a kid, wasn’t it? I remember watching, eyes wide with awe and wonder as we squeezed that liquid goodness over ice cream and, almost immediately, it became another form of chocolate-y goodness you could crack with a spoon and crunch between your teeth.

Then, there was that time in college one of your friends bought it for erm… off label purposes only to discover, much to her disappointment, it didn’t harden at all at human body temperature?

What? Only my friends did that? Fair enough, we were mostly humanities people, we didn’t know any better. Pays to always have a chemist in your crew though I have been warned never to play pool with physicists.

I honestly didn’t give much thought as to how the various “shells” transformed until decided to introduce it to my kids. I made my own because I didn’t particular want them eating paraffin wax, food grade or no. I’m a tox nurse and I’m well aware that a little bit of wax isn’t going to hurt anyone, but if I wanted to eat it, I’d recycle those used birthday candles, thank you very much. Some commercial grade products have already replaced the wax with a plant based oil (Carvel, for example, has done this per Chowhound.com. Smuckers, the grocery store brand I see most frequently, declined to discuss their proprietary blend which makes me think they’re either still using wax or some sort of soylent something), but then you have to stand in the aisle and read ingredients and one kid is making a break for some sugar based Star Wars cereal and the other has decided to teach himself to juggle with the eggs…

The chemistry behind the wax and oil emulsifiers is essentially the same, which is why it’s easy to substitute the later for the former. Provided you use the right kind of oil.

You ready for me to lay the science down? Here we go:

Chocolate is the other constant (there are other flavors but why screw with a classic?) in the various ice cream shells. Chocolate, by its nature, contains a fair bit of fat, milk more than dark, but even dark has a goodly bit. Why is the fat already in chocolate not sufficient for our shell purposes? I’m taking a leap here, but after some research, it seems to me that shell needs the additional emulsifier for two reasons: 1) the fats native to chocolate are are of the more stable sort and don’t change phase easily or quickly enough for the shell to be fun rather than an eternal waiting game and 2) chocolate doesn’t have enough emulsifiers to add “tenderness” to, well, itself. Chocolate melted on its own does change state but it eventually dries out and get lumpy and/or gritty. The additional emulsifier in magic shell, much like the cream in ganache, keeps it it from dehydrating and congealing.

Per Paula Figoni’s How Baking Works, oils are, “any lipids that are liquid at room temperature,” (pg. 215). Oils are usually vegetable based (canola, corn, olive). Most are liquid at room temperature. Tropical oils (coconut, palm, etc), however, are solid at room temperature but melt quickly and within a relatively small temperature window: solid at 70 degrees F, liquid at 74.

image via http://www.foodgroove.co.uk/info/?p=75
image via http://www.foodgroove.co.uk/info/?p=75

 

Chemically speaking, all oils are trigylcerides: three fatty acids attached to a three-carbon glycerol molecules. Fatty acids are made up of carbon chains that have anywhere from four to twenty-two carbon atoms. Saturated fatty acids are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms (they can’t hold any more) which means all of the carbon bonds in the molecules are single bonds. Unsaturated fatty acids contain carbon atoms that are not fully saturated with hydrogen; carbon atoms that are not saturated form double bonds in order to maintain structural integrity. Double bonds create stronger atoms, stronger atoms create stronger molecules and stronger molecules create stronger substances. Due to the aforementioned, double bonds are also more difficult to break and if you want to split them to force a change of state, you have to use more energy than you would to break a single bond.

That’s why coconut oil, which is high in saturated fats, is frequently used as the emulsifier in Magic Shell; single bonded as it is, it can be broken down from a solid to a liquid with very little expenditure of energy – or just a four degrees of heat. The bonds reform with a proportionately small drop in temperature, allowing the shell to harden almost upon contact with a frozen dessert (or an ice cube if you’re just testing for funsies).

image via science-all.com
image via science-all.com

When I made my shell, I subbed olive oil because that’s what I had around. Coconut oil is a little spendy and I was hesitant to shell (heheh) out for a whole container; oils do go bad and odds of that happening before I used the whole container, even a small one, were good. Because vegetable based oils are lower in saturated fat, and thus carry double bonded carbon atoms, however, it takes more energy, and hence a greater temperature differential, to force a phase change. It worked, to an extent, but it was really cold in my house at the time, cold enough to solidify even the olive oil, which meant I had to re-melt every time I wanted to use the shell (which eventually lead to dehydration and grittiness) and then the kids had to wait a good five minutes from application to re-shelling. And, as we all know, things are only magical when instantly gratifying. They thought it was cool, but not as cool as I’m sure they would have if it had been essentially immediate.

Lesson learned.

Yay for books!

Yay for chemistry!

Yay for Chef In Training for posting the recipe I happened to see!

Yay for shell!

How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science is by Paula I. Figoni. It was originally published in 2004 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. I have used, quoted from, and now purchased the 3rd edition, originally published in 2010. I’d be happy to share.

Have other cooking or baking questions? Shoot me a line. I’m always looking for new topics.

 

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Twelve): Deadpool

This Padawans is not so much like the others in that, in this installment, we’re talking about a comic-based media property rather than source material documents. I like how academic that sounds, don’t you? Especially given the subject at hand.

Property of Fox Studios
Property of Fox Studios

It’s been a while since I saw a movie opening weekend. A movie that wasn’t Star Wars anyway. Spending more time than I already do away from the kids, ticket and babysitter investment… there are a lot of moving parts and it’s rare there’s a movie I want to see enough to make the effort to coordinate all of them. I’ve been waiting a long time for Deadpool, though, so I made an exception, really, really hoping it as going to be worth it.

It was. It was so worth it. Deadpool met and exceeded all raunchy, foul-mouthed, hilarious, bloody, anti-heroic expectations.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Twelve): Deadpool

What’s Killing MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER?

Peggy Carter is one of the best, most fully realized, complete characters to grace our television screens in recent years.

Characters, full stop.

Don’t get me wrong, she was great on the larger screens as well, but in Captain America: The First Avenger she was, at least hypothetically, a secondary player (though I think we can all admit she stole every scene she was in). Marvel’s Agent Carter has given us the pleasure, nay the privilege, of having Peggy as our primary protagonist.

She is also one of the strongest, most well-rounded, well-defined, well-written female characters… well, ever.

Season One of Marvel’s: Agent Carter was epic. Nothing is flawless, of course, but Agent Carter was fabulous enough for me, even as a critical viewer, someone who is often watching comic book property media as a reviewer/podcaster, to overlook the occasional slip or SNAFU and just enjoy.

Season two started out strong.

Over the last three episodes, however, Agent Carter has been dying a slow, agonizing, painful death.

Why?

Two words: love triangle.

That oft-mishandled, often desperate, writer’s device intended to “build dramatic tension” and “heighten emotional impact” and which usually just makes everything bland and lame and gag inducing.

Property of Marvel
Property of Marvel

Note I said “love triangle,” not “love story.” Let me clarify: I in no way think Peggy should spend the rest of her life pining for Steve Rogers. Beyond the fact we know from Winter Soldier that she doesn’t, eternal unrequited would make a deep, complicated, complex character a one-dimensional trope and doing that to Peggy, of all people… the mere thought of it makes me want to burn things with fire.

First of all, Peggy is far too British for such nonsense. Said cultural proclivities have been played largely for humor, especially in her interactions with Jarvis, but beyond gags, I simply can’t see Peggy wasting away for want of a man, even if that man is Captain America. She spent time in Season One grieving and I can get entirely and absolutely, one hundred percent behind the inclusion of that piece of her story. Humans grieve the loss of someone they care about. They grieve the loss of love. The loss of what could have been. Grief makes Peggy a stronger character (not in the ass-kicking way, though she is certainly that and I love watching it, especially when it shows off her fantastic wardrobe to best advantage) because it shows us her depth, her growth, her progression. It shows us that the writers have thought about who she is and what moves her, what motivates her.

Second and far more importantly: She is Peggy. Flarking. Carter. Not some cliched vestal virgin snared by the unrequited. If watching her mourn Steve establishes her character, her personality, her humanity, then watching her fall in love again adds even more details to the portrait, humanizes her even further. Because most people do fall in love again. Most people do find someone else and even if that someone isn’t who they imagined themselves with, had dreams of living a life beside, well then they find something new to adore in that new person. She will always miss Steve (well, until he gets unfrozen anyway) and that is part of human nature but the grief will dim, the mourning period will end. Peggy deserves love and she deserves to be in love.

Property of Marvel
Property of Marvel

I want to watch that happen. I want to watch her find that remarkable person and I want to watch a relationship and an emotional connection develop. I want to discover, along with her, the individual who loves her for everything she is: agent, warrior, soldier, highly intelligent, determined, stubborn, capable, and yes, woman, and who earns her devotion in return.

The stupid love triangle is ruining that opportunity for all of us, Peggy and her devotees all.

I can see her with Jason Wilkes. I can also see her with Daniel Sousa. They both respect her, feel drawn to her for all the right reasons (see above). They both see her as a woman and as a person. Neither of them falls into the trap of being intimidated by her or wanting her to be anything other than what and who she is. They both have faith in her, support her and both show it in a million ways, large and small.

So why do I think the love triangle is killing Agent Carter?

The love triangle cheapens both men and it cheapens Peggy. It makes her into their object rather than allowing her to remain her own subject. It cheapens the genuine emotion and the emotional respect Wilkes and Sousa have for her and that which she has for them.

As Jarvis would say, “That simply won’t do.”

Not all love triangles are, by definition, devices. If the three points were Peggy, Daniel, and Angie, for example, or Peggy, Wilkes, and Angie, then this would be a completely different article; either of those triangles would give us insight into a new aspect of Peggy’s person-hood. As it stands, the triangle has nothing to do with her deciding between a black man and a white one; Peggy has made it clear from episode one that she doesn’t give a fig for the color of Jason’s skin and it has no bearing on her feelings toward him and no effect on whether she is going to choose him or Sousa (if she chooses either). She’s in the middle of two men, one of whom will probably get the girl and one of whom will likely fall on the overused, blunt, and rusty blade of dignity, sacrificing so that “Peggy will be happy,” thus using her to make a point about their own characters instead of allowing her to make the choice based on her own.

We are also being robbed of watching Peggy’s life to continue to develop. In Season One, we got a glimpse into her immediate post-Army, post-Steve period. I want to see how things spin out. Triangles are often thought to be the most dramatic of narrative shapes but, quite frankly, I don’t need angst to be engaged. I would like to see Peggy find that new part of herself, to find her new bliss and happiness. Case in point: I love watching Mister and Missus Jarvis. They don’t quarrel, they don’t fight, they don’t storm around and throw things. They don’t negate one another’s worth by making decisions for each other. They are a lovely, wonderful, honest couple and they are a joy which proves compelling romance does not require ennui

Agent Carter is a grand adventure with more than enough drama in its various narrative arcs and character play: Jack Thompson being sucked into an organization I can only assume will somehow be associated with Hydra; Dottie Underwood running amok; shades of the Black Widow Project, settling disputes with SSR scientists; going behind enemy lines with the Howling Commandos; finding remarkable toys; saving the world; keeping Howard Stark in check; flamingos. It is wonderful, impossible madness and it is so, so much fun. Peggy’s potential love life should certainly be a part of the story but it doesn’t need to be all flarked up by pathos. Love, for Peggy, should be another wonderful adventure, a part of who she is, a piece of her puzzle but not the whole of her being. Seeing her in a burgeoning, somewhat sane relationship would only make the drama of the huge action set pieces even more intense and enjoyable.

I get plenty of conflict and ennui from Daredevil and almost more than I could handle (in the best possible way) in Jessica Jones. Agent Carter is an entirely different animal and the writers should trust us viewers enough to know that, to know that we don’t need it to remain engaged with Peggy because we love her the way she has been.

She knows her value. We know her value. This thing the writers seem to feel was necessary this season, this thing that takes away the very essence of what makes Peggy so amazing? It devalues her.

Which gives me rage bees. Soooooo many rage bees.

There are rumors of Agent Carter‘s imminent cancellation because ratings, because Hayley Atwell has a new pilot, because, because, because… Remember this whole thing was spawned from a short created because the fans asked for more Peggy Carter. Remember that Hannibal got three seasons despite its ratings because there was a vocal fan base, that John Constantine popped up on Arrow this season because the Hellblazers, myself among them, asked for more Matt Ryan. Remember that Agent Carter is only eight episodes and, as something of a vanity project, can be planned around the rest of Attwell’s schedule if she is so inclined or can swing over to Netflix if ABC doesn’t want to foot the bill.

Agent Carter isn’t dead yet.

She can be resuscitated. The writers need to recover that last spark, to tighten this thing back up, to stop relying on typical tricks for a remarkable character. We, as fans, need to demand Peggy put on her red lipstick and red sunglasses and remember she knows her value. Flawed and human, a woman who could simultaneously found S.H.I.E.L.D., research particle physics, convince Howard Stark to keep it in his pants, stare down senators, earn the respect of Dum Dum Dugan and Mister Jarvis, and fall in love after Captain America.

Her value. Not what she’s worth to Daniel. Not what she’s worth to Jason.

What she is worth to herself.

Property of Marvel
Property of Marvel

I’ll hashtag for that Peggy.

#SaveAgentCarter

Property of Marvel
Property of Marvel

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

It’s interesting, considering the medium of choice, that all the Gather ‘Round Padawans have, thus far, dealt with human characters. Superhumans (Spider-Woman), Inhumans (Ms. Marvel), and formerly human (The Spectre) perhaps but all, at their core, humans.

Time to remedy that.

This time, I’m delving into the world of synthezoids or, rather, one synthezoid in particular. One who wants nothing more than to be human. To be one of us. To feel what we feel, to form the bonds we form, to connect to that greater thing we apes have by privilege rather than by right (and which a good many of the ants in the colony really don’t deserve): the human race.

In this, the eleventh Padawans, I want to focus on The Vision. Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 11): The Vision

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 10): OBI-WAN & ANAKIN

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars.

Well, okay. Not all. If you’re still following the Gather ‘Round Padawans series (and if you have, or are, thank you), I’m hoping I’ve convinced you to, at the very least, consider the idea of comics as medium rather than as superhero sub-genre and that comics across age and subject spectrums have a lot to teach us about life, parenting, and everything.

If you’re new to the series, welcome. Warm up your brain salmons because this time, I’m taking a look at the Marvel’s new Obi-Wan & Anakin title and one honking, important parenting lesson to be found therein.

Property of Marvel Comics
Property of Marvel Comics

Take a close look at the text in the panels above. Then take a look at what Obi-Wan is doing. Whose lightsaber he has.

Do you see what I see? Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 10): OBI-WAN & ANAKIN

The Normalization of Domestic Violence in ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

A few months ago, I wrote about the normalization of domestic violence in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. There were a couple of comments on the article, one of which was to the effect of, “Well, Anakin is a bad guy, what do you expect?”

I don’t typically engage over stuff like that; through experience I’ve come to realize it’s unlikely I’ll change the minds of the close minded. People are entitled to their opinion, I suppose, even if I strenuously disagree.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for moment, however. Let’s leave the others out of it and pretend Anakin’s inherent seed of evil predisposed him to abusive behavior towards his wife. For the record, I think that’s a load of crap, but I posit it here so I may counter it.

I am going to counter it with Carter Hall as he appears in DC’s Legend’s Of Tomorrow.

I’m going to say at the outset that my only previous frame of reference for this character is the Justice League cartoon. I’ve done some research on him for a hero profile over at the Last Chance Salon, but I’m not super familiar with his comic self. What I am writing here is based purely on my observations of the first two episodes of Legends. Clear? Cool.

We the viewers are supposed to believe Carter Hall is a good guy. A hero. He has, for multiple lifetimes, been holding back the forces of darkness. He has given his life over millennia for the afore mentioned cause. He is also a lover, holding fast to Shayera whether they are together or separated. We’re to believe their love is true and enduring and has survived not only death but any possible extenuating circumstances such as: distance, personality changes, and other people.

In the Legends of Tomorrow framework? I’m not buying it. Continue reading The Normalization of Domestic Violence in ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’

I Used To Be A Musical Purist (Mostly) But I’m Not Anymore

As someone who stuck with band through college, and even got a little bit of a scholarship for doing something I loved and would have done anyway, I’ve played all kinds of music. I was in concert band and, since George Washington doesn’t have a football team, also in what we called “pep band.”

I put on my black and whites for stage performances and my rugby to play at every men’s and women’s home basketball game for four years (and even a few away games with a notable trip to Orlando for the first round of the NCAA tournament).

Thing was, even when we did a Pops show in concert band, it was a very different sort of music than we played in pep band. The former is as you would likely suspect. The later was mostly pared down, high-energy arrangements of things like Paul Simon’s Call me Al or Europe’s Final Countdown. Two very, very different worlds. Both monstrously enjoyable, but never did the twain meet. Continue reading I Used To Be A Musical Purist (Mostly) But I’m Not Anymore

‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’: A Lot of Potential & Some Potential Problems.

I have pretty much given up on the DC TV-verse. I didn’t want to. But now that we’ve had a taste of genuine rogue John Constantine, even one of my favorite characters of all time, Green Arrow, can’t keep me engaged. Mostly because our dear demonologist reminded me this Green Arrow is a whiny, dour, paternalistic, douchebag.

The Flash, which has kept itself alive on my watchlist as the goofier, younger sibling went *splat* with the midseason premiere. The reasons are legion and previously ranted about by myself and others.

See that Ray Palmer face? That's the one. Property of DC/WB/CW
See that Ray Palmer face? That’s the one. Property of DC/WB/CW

After the above debacles, I considered, even having been rather excited previously, skipping Legends of Tomorrow all together.

In the end, I watched.

And in the end I was pleased.

Mostly. Continue reading ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’: A Lot of Potential & Some Potential Problems.

“Comics” Doesn’t Always Equal Kid Friendly. And That’s Okay.

(Herein lies some disturbing imagery. It is intended to make a point. I tried to keep the grosser stuff to comic panels that aren’t terribly realistic and toward the bottom. You have been warned.)

Continue reading “Comics” Doesn’t Always Equal Kid Friendly. And That’s Okay.

Kitchin’ Witchin’: Why Does Yeast Make Things Rise?

“Why” is a common question in our home as I’m sure it is in yours. Right now, the kidlets still think I’m a genius because I can read more easily and faster than they can, though I know those days are rapidly coming to a close. And thank goodness for the internet and the quick Google… I think their tiny little heads would explode if they had to wait for me to look something up in a book.

One of the activities we enjoy most is baking and both kids, but Stinky 2 especially, is starting to express an interest in why things happen the way they do in the baking process. So, this is really me crib sheeting various answers before the fact. Hopefully, they’ll come in handy for you too.

Why Does Yeast Make Things Rise?

Yeast is a single celled fungus. That’s right, a fungus. For those of you who hate mushrooms but love bread, I have news for you.

Fungus. Continue reading Kitchin’ Witchin’: Why Does Yeast Make Things Rise?

Be at Peace Among Your Stars, Ziggy

Death is always sad. Someone has always lost something precious and dear. Even the largest of personalities, the biggest of stars have a mother, a father, siblings, a spouse, friends. People who loved not the personality but the person. Though there are many celebrity passings that have affected me, about which I have felt grief and loss, I have, for the most part, tried to remember that, tried to reserve the deep pain for those who knew the person underneath.

Leonard Nimoy was an exception.

David Bowie is another.

This one hurts. Continue reading Be at Peace Among Your Stars, Ziggy

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 9): Spider-Woman

Property of Marvel Comics
Property of Marvel Comics

Jessica Drew had no intention of ever being a mother.

During Secret Wars she got pregnant.

Jessica isn’t revealing the father’s identity, not even to her best friend, Carol Danvers. She reminds the rest of the crew it’s none of their damn business when Tony Stark makes a not-so-polite inquiry; Jess zaps him and dumps her food over his head. If you’ve ever been eight months pregnant, you know how pissed a girl has to be to give up her dinner at that stage. Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 9): Spider-Woman

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Who among us has never dreamed of being a superhero? If you clicked the link to this article, I imagine you have done so at least once in your life. I have done so many a time. I am thirty-seven and I still do it. I even wrote a superhero novel because if I can’t do it, my imaginary friends can.

When you envision yourself as part of the cape and tights brigade, are you being you or are you someone else? In fantasy land, I’m usually at least three inches taller and definitely fifty pounds thinner, I have ringlets instead of barely tamable frizz, a much cuter nose, and I can run in heels while brandishing my rapier wit. And a katana.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Eight): Ms. Marvel II

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

Captain America. The quintessential all-American hero. Nice Brooklyn boy willing to subject his body to medical experimentation to win the opportunity to fight for the little guy, freedom, and your grandma. Always has been. Still is even though someone else has taken up the title, the mantle, and the shield.

Steve’s thoughts on his chosen successor? “When I handed that shield over to Sam, it didn’t come with a rule book. I trust him to do what he thinks is best for our country.”

A large sector of the population, however, isn’t willing to accept the new Cap as “their” Cap despite Steve’s endorsement. Why? A questionable past? Does he booze it up with Stark? Go on shooting rampages? Run people down with his car on the sidewalk in Vegas? Sell drugs? Do drugs? Embezzle SHIELD funds? Play his music too loud? Kick puppies?

Nope.

Sam Wilson is daring, daring, to Cap while African American.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part Seven): Sam Wilson: Captain America

Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Six): The Kid, The Cowboy, The Devil, and Foggy Nelson

The crew of the Ghost has been through a lot in their two seasons of existence. There has been discovery and triumph, victories and the forging of a family. There has also been tragedy and loss, frustration and shattered hope.

This week’s episode, Legacy, was well and truly heartbreaking.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Six): The Kid, The Cowboy, The Devil, and Foggy Nelson

Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Five): The Spectre

In this edition, we depart the galaxy far, far away and return to our own. Well, sort of. An alternate own. The one that contains Metropolis and Gotham.

We’re talking DC this round, friends, and a very old, oft neglected character: The Spectre. Wearer of the green cloak the divine Speedo. Spirit of Divine Justice. And as so many of us are, a terribly conflicted person in a great deal of pain.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round, Padawans (Part Five): The Spectre

Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 4): Star Wars: Princess Leia Gets the Shaft

There is no question of Leia Organa’s importance to the Star Wars saga.  She’s the heart of the rebellion, uniter of farm boys and scoundrels, a brilliant tactician, a brave soldier, and a survivor.

She is, at age nineteen, when her brother is still moisture farming and whining incessantly on Tatooine, already a senator and spy.  She faces Darth Vader down when the majority of others (mostly grown men) are quaking and mewling and scraping.  She retains the ability to quip under torture.

And somehow, she still ends up with the most boring comic of the bunch, and that’s a cautionary tale for women in comics, and for all of us.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans (Part 4): Star Wars: Princess Leia Gets the Shaft

Gather ‘Round Padawans: Lessons From Star Wars (Part Three): Darth Vader

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars. Well, okay, not everything, but a lot of stuff, most of which I didn’t consciously realize had penetrated my cortex until the hubs and I launched Operation: Engeekify Spawn.

Darth Vader by Kieran Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Lenil Yu, Joe Caramagna, and Jordan D. White is a phenomenal book.

It is definitely not aimed at kids and you may want to pre-screen before sharing it with yours to decide if they’ll be comfortable with some of the tougher subject matter. There is a lot of killing, though very little blood, and a couple of seriously sadistic droids, lying, cheating, stealing, bounty hunting, and many other unsavory and potentially upsetting things.

But there are things we can learn from the Dark Side.

Continue reading Gather ‘Round Padawans: Lessons From Star Wars (Part Three): Darth Vader

The Rogue Is Dead. Long Live The Rogue.

While I have enjoyed decent sized swaths of the CW’s Arrow, it has, since the very beginning, been missing one key component: the roguish Green Arrow who was my second comic book crush. Gambit was the first, in case you were wondering. It’s possible I have a type.

I was beginning to think we were going to be forever bereft of any rogue on what has recently become the most dour of superhero shows until this past week when, much to my delight, and that of Hellblazers everywhere, along came John Constantine. Continue reading The Rogue Is Dead. Long Live The Rogue.

‘Star Wars’ Lessons Part 2: ‘Kanan: The Last Padawan’

All I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars.

Well, okay, not everything, but a lot of stuff, most of which I didn’t consciously realize had penetrated my cortex until the hubs and I launched Operation: Engeekify Spawn

Now at the ages of nearly six and three, they’re experiencing a great many things for the first time, some geeky, some just life-related. Many of them good, some of them less positive, and all parts of the human experience: friendship, independence, moral ambiguity, conscious motivation, exclusion, uncertainty, and even death. Hubs’ grandmother, with whom the boy was very close, passed a couple years ago. And the son really did love (absolutely no sarcasm intended) his first fish, George Bluefin.

I wish I could protect both of them from the difficult bits, but I can’t. That breaks my heart but it doesn’t change the reality of the thing and, reaching the ripe old age of thirty-seven, I can see how those bits, both the positive and painful (you’ll note I’m not using the terms negative or bad, though it certainly does feel that way sometimes) shaped me. Though it took thirty-six of those thirty-seven years, I’m generally pretty happy with who I am.

I’d like that to happen for both of my children a little earlier in their lifespan. But these are huge, complicated topics and are difficult for many adults to verbalize to themselves and one another.

How do I explain them to beings who have, in the grand scheme, barely been evicted from the womb?

Star Wars helps.

Continue reading ‘Star Wars’ Lessons Part 2: ‘Kanan: The Last Padawan’

The Normalization of Domestic Violence in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’

I’m working on a series for GeekMom about the positive emotional/social concepts the new spate of Star Wars comics has helped me introduce to my younglings. I’m excited about both the sharing of the comics and the writing of said bloggy bits.

I’m interrupting myself, however, because the evil Spock mirror lessons (yup, mixing my fandoms) are important as well, perhaps even more so. Because the other night, I was finishing up the last season of The Clone Wars and was presented with a chilling reality (figurative reality): Even a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, domestic violence is present and accepted by the majority.

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“Mommy, Where’s Leia?”

My three-year-old daughter has recently discovered a love of princesses. The pink, frilly, sparkly kind. This particular addition to her fandoms has been a little difficult for me as princesses, at least of the traditional variety, are not so much my thing.

That said, after a little creative maneuvering, Z and I have discovered our mutual love for one princess in particular. One who is addressed as “Your Highness” but has little use for talking animals or salvation by male. One who sometimes wears flowy dresses and always has fantastic hair, but also possesses deadly aim with a blaster.

Little did I know the world would make every attempt to thwart our two person Princess Leia Organa Admiration Society.

Now, apparently, if she were a dog, we could go all out.

Yep. I said, “If she were a dog.”

Allow me to explain…

Continue reading “Mommy, Where’s Leia?”