Hello again. My brief life update is that my collaboration Nando’s and Nandon’ts recieved its second draft performance at the Y Theatre, Leicester, which was enormously helpful, and I look forward to working it up into a full piece with Will Breden. Also, DSMing Curve Young Company’s The Tempest turns full-on on Monday, as tech/show week starts! Strange to think exactly a year after the Shakespeare Marathon (if I didn’t write about it this time last year prod me for details), I’m doing another many-hours Bard project.
For this entry I thought I’d go a little more into what I’ve been putting into my brain, since it will out itself eventually in my writing. Also, I have many thoughts about some things. I’m going to look at a book, a comic, and a film. Then there’s a poem I happened to write for those who scroll to the end. UPDATE: I’ve also renovated the poetry and prose sections.
The book is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The following is cribbed from my Goodreads review, which is the place for you if you want to know my thoughts on books I’ve read. I aim to read 25 prose books this year, and the site’s a great way to track/incentivise this.
Gaiman’s novel is the perfect thing to devour in a sitting. It’s novel about life, and stories, and the place inside us where the two meet. Its climax contains best extended metaphor I’ve read in a while, and it feels astonishingly personal as well as wildly imaginative. It’s the sort of book makes you want to write, and write now, or pack the whole thing up and go grow kittens or something.
If you don’t like Gaiman’s usual fairy story narrative style (Stardust etc.), you may be unconvinced, but this short novel is a full demonstration of his gifts as a writer. Highly recommended.
Next, the comic. I’m fairly addicted to the new Young Avengers series, which is smart, fun, funny, and better than it has any right to be. As such, it was inevitable that I look into a series that is its predecessor, Journey Into Mystery.
Journey Into Mystery was originally an anthology series published by Marvel Comics. Then, it was taken over in the 60s by a superheroic version of Norse god Thor. This injection of existing mythology into a typically SF-based genre makes for an interesting mix, and Kieron Gillen’s 2011 run on the revived title interestingly delves into the fantasy side of the Marvel Universe. It also deftly positions itself in this universe, and the comic titles that comprise it, weaving itself around crossovers and such in a way that makes them seem like the important events they ought to be, whilst telling a decent standalone story in its own right.
The protagonist of the series is Loki, a de-aged version of the classic Thor villain. The series plays with this, raising questions of destiny, the essential nature of people, and expectations of story and reader. Part of these expectations is the illusion of change. To some extent, mainstream superhero comics need to remain static – deliver the versions of the characters people desire, but still provide the growth and change needed to tell a decent story. Thus, characters evolve and change, but sooner or later snap back or even evolve right back round to the version people love. An interesting discussion of how this comic makes this trope part of the dramatic conflict of the book is here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2012/10/the-house-always-wins/
(Further, the writer’s exploration of his work, including an observation of Loki’s “his final defeat and final victory as being pretty much identical” is here. I’m sure I had more to say on this, but this potsr has been in draft too long: http://toobusythinkingboutcomics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/part-2-of-interview-with-kieron-gillen.html)
As an addendum to this, it will be interesting re-reading Young Avengers now I’ve read this. The fifth issue summarises the situation, but that’s nothing compared to the investment placed in the character of Kid Loki. For more on the “feels” created by this series, see: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2012/10/kid-loki-and-the-braek-haerts/
I think mostly what shocked me about this series is the extent to which I liked it. I was expecting to enjoy it, but I didn’t expect the Chekhov’s Gun formula to be joyfully defended by the firing of tens of them in the final arc of the series. I didn’t expect to be yelling at the comic (internally) for characters making the wrong decisions whilst also understanding why they made them. I didn’t expect the skewering of fantasy tropes, or that heroing through bargaining would be so compelling, or that a comic that springs from one corporate necessity to another would be such a complete, satisfying text, with not only an ending (rare enough in a shared universe title) but a great one. Again, if you’re into comics, highly recommended. The fact I originally wanted to write thousands of words on it just after finishing speaks volumes. Young Avengers volume 2 also highly recommended. First Journey, then that.
One final note on comics is that digital comics are a joy to read, even on a laptop turned sideways. They bring the epehemeral nature of the individual issues into the modern age, which definitely has a positive effect on the reading experience of many comics. However, I wish there were more and more inventive digital-native comics. So much potential for the medium, wasted.
Now, the film. Man of Steel. If you follow me on Twitter, you have some idea of my feelings towards the film. As an alien invasion film, it’s fairly good. As a Superman fan, I hated it. I necessarily need to spoil the film to explain why. Scroll past the dashed line to read my poem instead (it’s not related to the film in any way).
Man of Steel takes great pains in dialogue to say Superman is a symbol of hope, but the movie is utterly devoid of hope, with a somber tone and a bleak outlook. Superman is an aspirational character – for children, for *everyone*. The text of the movie argues even this symbol of hope cannot find a better solution than murder – that murder is the *only* acceptable solution.
The movie is filled with physical, visceral, and brutal violence, depicts uncountable meaningless deaths (few of which Superman even tries to prevent), and one of Superman’s most famous powers is used as a weapon against the people he is meant to be protecting. It is a movie filled with thoroughly bad writing – overt philosophising, overcomplicated structure, far too great an emphasis on action over character – that fails to engage with the character it purports to depict.
I did enjoy much of the film before Zod broadcast his message to the world. I then spent much of the rest of the film wishing I was watching a film *about* Superman, rather than just featuring the character. After the endgame, I wished the film had Superman in it.
Never before in a superhero film have I seen a character in a costume and not believe them worthy of it.
For further discussion of the moral issues of the film (it has other issues, but its rejection of the lead character’s moral viewpoint is key to my disgust with it), see: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2013/06/21/man-of-steel-moral-superman-review-zack-snyder-david-goyer/
Finally, here’s a poem I happened to write. The effect of studying form so thoroughly is that free verse makes me nervous, so any feedback would be gratefully received. It is called:
I want to listen to you talk as I’m falling asleep
I want to hold you in my arms when the nights are cold and long
and when the days turn bright and hot and shining
we will hold hands, and just chatter
not even chatter
mumble sweetness to each other as we walk by running water
I want to hear your voice in the morning, sleepy, high-pitched
as you roll over to look at me
tangled up in your hair
smudging your make-up
laughing at my morning hair as if it were the first time
the sticky-uppy thing it does had caught your eye
even though we both know that isn’t true
And when you walk home, and I am left alone again
I want to smell your perfume on my pillow
I want to remember the curves of your back against my hands
the press of your hips against mine
the press of your lips against mine
your soft warm breath
I want to
I want to
I want to find you.
That was the post. More soon.