Author Archives: Rebecca M. Horner

About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...)

Review: Top Ten Childhood Favorite TV Shows

Here’s a dallop of nostalgia for your Monday. I thought about doing Inktober, but I hadn’t done enough prep work, and we’re heading into NaNoWriMo anyway. So instead, I revisited the top 10 TV shows from my childhood that I still enjoy and think influenced me. They aren’t in actual 1 being the most influential order, 10 least, or anything like that. I just made a list of ten.

Hey Arnold!
With a completely bonkers cast of characters, I think what I loved the most was how complex some of the personalities were allowed to get. And just when you think you have it figured out, and it’s just a kid’s show again, they come out with something that really makes you thing. It also was very real about some of the family lives that kids have, and about some of the unique problems that come from living in the inner-city. Plus, the craziness of the boarding house always seemed super real to me.

The Wild Thornberries
Mixing a lot of fun with some education on animals and conservation, Eliza and family hit a lot of buttons for me. Goofy family? Check. Girl who talks to animals? Check. Various shenanigans due to those two worlds combining? Double check. The only thing that got me was the “wild boy” character. I hated him then, kinda hate him now. I wish we had just gotten to have these two sisters and their parents, rather than this random thing to keep the parents or older sister busy as needed. Hello plot devise disguised as a character.

ChalkZone
I saw this originally as part of Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and it’s always been pretty dear to me. I mean, come on, a whole world that has come to life due to the imagination of an artist. It’s a great concept, and it was executed very well. Plus it was just memorable. I can still hear Snap yelling, “RUDY, YOU GOTTA DRAW SOMETHIN’!” and the ridiculous situations that sometimes landed them in. The limit was really on what the artists could come up with. I just wish it was possible to see them easier, right now they are hard to find in a way that is easily viewed by those of us who are…broke. 😛

Tiny Toon Adventures
This is one of the few shows growing up that my brother and I could agree on. I think he preferred Animatics and Pinkie and the Brain, but it always came back to Tiny Toons for something for us to watch together. The humor and characters, while gendered, actually fairly represented them–there wasn’t the problem of five male characters to one girl, for example, like we ran into with shows like Power Rangers. Plus, it was legitimately funny and clever. Some of the jokes were meant for an older viewer like Taylor (five year age difference, ya’ll) and some were more on my level. Either way, it remains a very fond memory for me.

Madeline
I think this is what kickstarted the French for me. And this was just a really smart TV show aimed at a much younger audience than…just about everything else on this list. It was simpler, it was more about understanding societal rules and girls fighting for agency (or scheming for it, okay, maybe it kickstarted more than my French). Most other cartoons for that age focus so much on basic skills, such as math and color and shape recognition and such, but Madeline really goes, “Nope, you learn that in school. Here’s some of the things you don’t.” Plus, feisty female protagonists for the win!

Gargoyles
Now this list turns towards the “serious” as you all know, comedy is not my thing most of the time. Gargoyles had an amazing story, varied character designs that were still easy to tell apart to my kid brain (though when I first saw it, the episode was far enough in the series for me to be a little lost on the story, oops), and combined the mystic with the tech and the modern. It also addressed things like racism, hate groups, inter-racial relationships and how hard they can be, and dealing with the past so you can embrace your future. Heavy stuff for a kid’s show, but they were so sly about it, it wasn’t like they were preaching at us, it was just a natural, organic way for the story to go.

Batman: The Animated Series
Another one that Taylor and I could agree on, Batman feels like this universal childhood constant for my generation, even if you are now a Marvel fan more than DC (with the way the movie verses are going, I don’t blame anyone on that front). There’s been a lot better discussions on the series than I have space for here, so I’ll stick to the personal. I loved the snark, the smarts, and the action. The animation of the earlier seasons was very eh for me, I much prefer the last when it changed to match the rest of the DCAU, though the Bruce/Barbara relationship is WEIRD YA’LL. But I have never lost my love for the DCAU and that’s partly to thank because of this series. It showed me how the comics don’t have to ruin everything and make it far too complicated.

Sailor Moon
The beginning of the anime invasion, I used to wake up at six a.m. to watch this show, I was devoted. And that’s even with Serena and Rini driving me absolutely bonkers in the anime episodes, though the movies that were more manga-toned in their characters helped save them. I just loved seeing the girls getting in on the action and the fighting, on the stories of the prince and the princess, of the guardians and the way these people had to grow up. I grew up with the Dub, which is…an experience, due to the weird age differences and translations. But without it, I wouldn’t have gotten into the rest of the fandom, and considering how much I relate to Makoto/Lita/Sailor Jupiter, that would have been a damn shame. She really gave me someone to look up to growing up. She was tall, brunette and green-eyed, and tough, but also romantic. Not a lot of those to be found.

Escaflowne
This show confused the hell out of me when I first saw it. (I was too young, admittedly.) But the mystic levels to it, and the relationship of Hiromi with the rest of the world, really stuck with me for some reason. It took several rewatchings for me to understand the story, to track everything. And you know what? That’s part of why I think I enjoyed it so much. It took time and processing and lots of re-examining of information for me to completely understand. But not everything needs to be spoon fed to kids. Sometimes, they need challenged. Especially kids like me, I figured it out and then I’d get bored and moved on. Shows like this helped engage them, and as long as there were elements they didn’t understand, they’d keep coming back to it until they did.

Cardcaptors
On the other end of the spectrum entirely… Yeah, I watched the dubbed version of this too. But you know, I’m not complaining, apparently there is some downright weird stuff in the original and I think I’m better remaining ignorant. XD But this hit me in some of the same ways as Sailor Moon and Madeline. It had the magic/mystic elements of Sailor Moon, but it had confronting personal issues and struggles that elementary school students start going through. It was also about figuring out how to do things your way, rather than what was expected of you, and for someone like me who tended to overthink, it actually showed me other ways to view the world. For Sakura, everything was seen through her emotions, an empathetic way of seeing the world and how to react to it. It was a lesson in other view points that really stuck with it…and along with Sailor Moon, cemented my love of celestial themes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my childhood. I might come back and touch on some of these later–I think my hero-worship of Jupiter could be cool to dive into, for example, and you know, sibling exploits are always fun. But for now, I hope you had fun revisiting the 90’s and early 2000’s.

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Character Study: Carol Danvers

Okay, for the record, this is my version of Carol for my X-Men RP. We obviously don’t know what direction the movies are going to go in, so I can’t make commentary on that yet. But since I play her on the RP and have for several years, with the drop of the new trailer, I thought it a good idea to talk about what I love about the character, and what some of the pitfalls are.

My first introduction into Carol Danvers was actually the animated X-Men cartoon from the 90’s, where she was in a coma and a spectra in Rogue’s head that first hinted at Rogue’s backstory. And that was a really baaaad intro to her, because that version of Carol, for sake of plot, was angry, vengeful, and not very understanding. It was all of her bad traits, and none of her good ones. Many of my early fanfic readings concurred with this interpretation of the character, so I obviously wasn’t her biggest fan.

But then we were figuring out how to do Carol’s plot for our X-Men RP, and since the original plan was to kill Carol, I decided I had better play her in order to avoid upsetting someone. This required me to figure out a lot more about this character and what her overall personality was like. Some of the other cartoons I saw didn’t help much, they fell right in line with what I already knew, but then I started to finally hit a groove that helped me understand the character better. (Reading the Mockingverse fanfiction for the MCU has helped confirm that, the writer does an excellent job with Carol.)

What I found was a very confident and yet self-aware person. She had to be, in order to thumb her nose at the idea that she wasn’t going to have her parents’ help to go to college because she was a girl, which got her into the Air Force and finding her love of flying. It was really easy for me to weave in a fear of being found out about being a mutant into that background (we have a firm no-alien policy in the RP, so her powers became a mutation rather than alien shenanigans). Her confidence and leadership abilities are a completely unapologetic part of her personality–she will take control of a situation if someone else doesn’t beat her to it, and even if they do, if they are going to be a dumb ass about it, she’s going to stage a coup.

So bossy and vengeful is how an outsider would view this character if they didn’t like her, right? Except that still wasn’t the complete picture of Carol, and boiling her down to just that isn’t fair. It’s part of why she comes across as either a great character or a pretentious bitch, the latter happens when writers stop at the worst of her personality traits and her leadership capabilities. Because while she is all these things, there is also a layer of humor and playfulness that while we only see flashes of it or too much of it in other heroes in Marvel, Carol has it in this perfect balance with the rest of her personality that knows when to be serious and when she can relax with her friends.

Mind, Carol’s humor also usually lines up with mine. It’s sass and sarcasm, teasing and ruffling feathers in ways that won’t offend someone to having a fit, which requires a very good perception of personalities. I’ve also made her an absolutely outrageous flirt if she’s interested in someone, something that she’s currently been keeping toned-down for her interest’s sensibilities, but since he’s being a doofus, she’s going to have to take the lid off and push him a bit.

Alright, now to some specifics here to the RP. What part of Carol’s power set stayed? I wanted to avoid overpowering here, since we are working with the idea that mutants come in classes, with Class 5 like Phoenix, Rogue, and Remy being very rare, and that’s normally where Carol’s powers would lump her. Of all the classes we had (err, I had, I world-built like a nut), we really didn’t have someone with a Class 2 mutation–something completely totally passive, with Class 1 being a purely physical mutation such as Hank’s blue fur or Kurt’s appearance. So I kept her super strength, flight, and six-sense of immediate danger/threats for her mutation, sending the rest to the trash bin, and made them all passive mutations. What that means is Carol doesn’t know when her physical, muscular strength turns into her mutation’s super strength, and that if she goes to jump, she might also fly.

(Yeah, I cut all her energy absorption/bolts/redirection. It was way too similar to other X-Men powers that we already had, and like I said, Carol can very easily lean towards overpowered, so some nerfing was required.)

I mentioned a love interest up above, but I highly recommend not looking too much into it. Carol Danvers doesn’t have much going for her as far as romance is concerned, which you know, I’m actually okay with? She’s had a lot of bad luck, but I think it’s great that she has all of this story going on for her without romance being a key part of it. But I’ll be honest, romance is what saved her from death in the RP. For some bizarre reason that I can’t remember, I decided to give her an unrequited crush on Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Beast. And now this has blossomed into a whole THING, and while I am about crying in amusement over what happens to get them from Point A to Point B, it is also the crackiest of all crackships, and I’m okay with that.


Writing: Thoughts on Love Squares and Other Shapes

Maybe it’s because I was sucked into Miraculous Ladybug Season 1 like the sappy nerd I am, maybe it’s the fact that Caley (through no fault of her own) ends up in a love-shape drama. But I’ve been pondering on this trope, and why it is awesome and yet awful all at once (because it can be both!).

Why are these things so friggin’ popular? Well, some of it is that I believe we (both the writers and the audience) like to see the characters suffer before they get their chance at happiness. Otherwise, there isn’t much investment in what happens in the end. There is also the fact that no matter how well you do your job to convey the characters, they are still moderately malleable to the reader, who may see the protag better with Love Interest A or Love Interest B or the random character in the diner in chapter three–which is how shipping wars are born. It is the reader’s prerogative and can’t really be argued with (George Lucas tried).

The hardest part about writing a love-shape comes in two parts. On one hand, you have to keep the feelings conveyed as being sincere. If the reader/audience stops believing the love interest really cares for and about the protag, the ship is sunk. This can, however, be a useful tool for the second part–resolving all sides of the love-shape-of-choice. No one can be left hanging alone and heartbroken, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. You also have to either ease the audience into getting in the same OTP boat (fat chance) or use a shocking event to drive a big wedge between participants.

I am very cautious about the shocking event part of the trope. It can be a good plot point, or it can come out of left field entirely. A good example of the latter is the original Star Wars trilogy, thus my digs at Lucas. The shippers weren’t letting Luke/Leia go, so she was turned into his twin sister (and the writer has since tried to retcon this as being his original intent, which makes it worse really). Did it make Han/Leia easier? Yes. Did it make a  lot of sense? No, but it’s Lucas. Lucas can’t keep any of his shit straight.

As much as it kills me to give the series any good press, the sparkle-vampire series actually did a better job of the surprising event. The wedding put a nail in the werewolf-shippers’ coffin, and while its way of resolving all the sides was full of ick, she did resolve them. This doesn’t comment on any of the other numerous problems, but the writer knew how to manage the relationships to milk the drama. I will say her stand alone book (last I checked it was stand alone, anyway), The Host, actually handled the resolving the sides a lot neater, and in a way that was both sad and satisfying.

This gives shows like Miraculous an interesting twist. One of the sides is suddenly two, and makes things so much more complicated. But this can quickly go from humerous and cute to stressful and frustrating for the characters and audience members alike. I think ending the love-shape is a clear sign the series is ending as a whole, because it resolves a plot-line and eases some of the tension. But you could phase it into new drama, depending on the situation, making it more of a season-ender than series as a whole.

Now we get to the worst example of that. Comic books. I don’t care if it’s DC or Marvel, they are notoriously bad about breaking up characters in established relationships on a whim, whether it’s by killing characters for emotional impact, moving the survivor on, and then bringing the victim back to life, or just causing really dumb out of character responses to drama, it’s a vicious cycle. Now, I will say that some of the characters, they make it actually work–Remy and Rogue have never exactly been “easy to handle” in terms of personality, and both are hot-heads. Them going hot-and-cold makes sense. And if the Bartons had divorced much earlier (rather than the shitty timing of it, especially with Bobbi coming off of a form of PTSD and the list is a mile long on the bad set up here), they also would have made sense–they got married within days! Obviously that didn’t happen, but you know, benefit of the doubt here this once.

But others are just flash fiction for no reason. Why? Because some writers just don’t know how to keep the tension going if they are in a long-running series. And that’s fine! If you don’t know how to handle them, you don’t know. But that’s what blogs like this for, and others who are more knowledgeable than me. My biggest advice is this: remember that love squares are tricky to manage, so plan accordingly. Know how it’s resolving, and when and in what way/fallout if you can. If you get an unexpected extension, evaluate what happened previously with your love square. Are there still underlying trust issues? Did someone go from attracted to one person to another, because that’s grounds for serious jealousy problems. Does someone have bad habits or experiences that are coloring the relationship? Falling in love and winning their affections in return isn’t the solution to your problems–it’s only the beginning.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 3)

Here we go, the last one! Last time, we touched on Phase 2 and the first of Phase 3, and the last of the sequels that aren’t part of the Avengers. Now to finish what’s left of Phase 3. Starting with the same base I started with last time: This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

Civil War tore our team into pieces. Following any one of the pieces would lead to problems, as it wouldn’t be fair to the other and give unnecessary biases. So the next movie went completely separate from them, picking up a new hero: Dr. Strange. Now, Stephen Strange can go one of two ways. He can be too much like Tony, so cue lots of repetitive nonsense, and now we’ve got a new style of magic involved, one that is–by nature of the comic source–Asian in influence, and with him being white, this can cause problems. The studio…actually made it worse by casting most of the major “good” characters as white. This hung like a shadow over the film, tainting what is otherwise a fairly enjoyable movie. Strange is a jerk like Tony, but he’s less of an idiot than him, so it’s more watch this self-absorbed man being forced to care about someone outside of himself rather than taking responsibility for his lax behavior.

That being said, I love how they made his magic so different from Thor’s and Loki’s, or even Wanda’s powers, and it really adds layers to the powers of this world. At times, the environments seemed very much like Inception, which got kinda dizzy for me, but at the same time, it was cool. At least until the end when they turned into bad kindergarten drawings, but you know, only so much they could do. I felt the same way about Ant-Man when he just kept shrinking and shrinking, that sort of thing is just really hard to conceptualize.

…Ya’ll, I still haven’t seen Spider-Man: Homecoming. My usual streaming sources don’t have it because of how hard-core they are being about only certain services having it, my Contour doesn’t have it available to rent but only as a digital copy, and I’ll just be honest, I am waaay too Spidey-ed out to want to invest 25-30 bucks buying a movie I may not even like. This is sort of the pitfall they are going to run into with this character. I love watching him in the ensemble films, but I just don’t have the emotional energy to watch his solo films in theaters, and then if I don’t catch the super narrow window where I can rent it… I just don’t see it. But that being said, I’ve heard it was great, and whatever happened in it seems fairly contained. (There was apparently some Tony/Pepper drama that I missed, but it seems somewhat resolved by Infinity War, sooo relevance doesn’t seem high. Yet.)

So now we come to my least favorite of all the Avengers. I just have so many problems with Black Panther. He’s hardly ever written well, which is a problem shared with Thor, and probably how he got on to my dislike list. But then they just do things with his character that just…squick me out, like the betrothal aspect of the Dora (it’s a harem, ya’ll), and the way his relationship with Storm went down (which felt very….”these are two black characters from Africa, of course they should get married!” rather than anything I could invest in), and then his token goddess is BAST who is a predominantly FEMALE worship goddess… You can see why he started leaving a bad taste in my mouth. As did the fact that Wakonda had to be this huge-ass secret from the rest of the world, leaving the rest of Africa to carry on with a pretty huge economical burden, which I am not touching on in this review because that is a mess I don’t know all the details about.

Civil War gave us our first look at this character, and he was…surprisingly tolerable to me. I was very much on the fence, but because he was actually written well, and that fixed half of his problems, I gave the film a chance. And I’m honestly really glad I did. All the parts of his character that I hated got either removed or twisted to make so much more sense, and that includes the side characters and Wakonda as a whole (in fact, it was part of the major plot of the film). The women characters were built up, and allowed to do so much that I really wish it would carry over to the rest of the franchise. My only critique is I think it was released at the wrong time. I think we should have gotten Black Panther right after Civil War, or at least closer to it (like flipping it and Dr. Strange?) because Dr. Strange didn’t do a very serious death-fake-out, and while Black Panther did it, it was when trailers for Infinity War were already out with T’Challa yelling, “Get that man a shield!” Sorta…takes the wind out of their sails.

Whelp, last one. The first part of Infinity War. (Call the next Avengers movie untitled all you want, it is effectively Infinity War Part 2, I can see the elements that they pushed into this movie and Ant-Man and the Wasp to get around doing a two-parter.) I’m not sure what’s left to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. I mean, I’ll be honest, I was cringing my way through 80% of the Guardians and Thor, with the remaining 20% being the big fight scenes, Gamora and Thanos, and Thor at the forge. But I don’t like those Marvel movies, so those sections weren’t for me. The rest of the movie was meant for the people like me, who came for the snarky, action movies.

I loved the dynamic between Wanda and the Vision, as well as with Rhodey and trying to bridge the gap between Steve’s team and the U.S. government. Steve coming in and taking charge filled us with relief, and Tony, Dr. Strange, and Peter Parker working together was a barrel of fun (especially the Aliens joke). The ending conflicts filled me with terror and heartbreak, and it was such a brave choice, I applaud them for it. I think Peter Quill was an idiot…but Peter is always an emotional idiot, so I’m not sure why people are shocked by it. I found the lack of Hawkeye until the end credit scene as a name drop to be a cop-out, though, and… I have strong feelings about Black Widow in this movie, but that’s going to have to be another blog post where I dissect some of the female agents of SHIELD. They barely nodded at this reunion between Natasha and Bruce, which was mildly infuriating. I also feel like this movie made Thor: Ragnorak completely pointless, and that just seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

Now as the last of Phase 3 wraps up, the MCU is at it’s big turning point. Most of the original Avengers cast wants out, due to either wanting to work on other projects or wanting away from iconic characters that are now typecasting what type of movies they can get work for or just an age thing, in addition to some of these characters’ just wrapping up what limited plot was available for them in the initial set-up. The plan (or so I’ve been told) is for Captain Marvel to be the new “center” of the MCU, and that’s…daring. Not because of a female anchor, I am all for that, but because of Carol Danvers. I love Carol, but she has two modes depending on who writes her–she’s either just as awesome as Steve, or she’s a self-righteous bitch. There is no in-between. So either everything is going to keep going on, full-steam ahead, or it’s going to fall apart.

For now, all we can do is wait and see.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 2)

Alright, we are going to TRY and keep this from becoming a three parter. Last time, we touched on Phase 1, as well as most (and I emphasize most) of the sequels to those films. Now we’re on to the rest of the series, so lots of ground to cover. Starting with the same base I started with last time: This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

We’ll just skip Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World, I already gave my impressions of those, though I will add a mention that at this point, those two franchises were starting to show their weak points. Not past the point of redeeming, but fraying. We were still lacking in strong female heroes, and we were relying purely on the momentum of the first Avengers movie to get our way to the next arc. And then we got Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Ya’ll. Black Widow and Agent 13 live!

Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes are a joy to watch, there is no doubt about that. But we finally got introduced to two fairly powerful female agents: Sharon Carter in her debut, and she was minor but fun, and then Natasha was finally able to escape her Every Woman shell. We got to see an actual personality to her, her sense of priorities which are wildly different compared to Steve’s and even Sharon’s, because this Natasha is first and foremost an assassin who now works for the good guys. Finally, Natasha could stand on her own. Add in the welcome dynamic between all the boys, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

And then Joss wrecked it. I told you all, I don’t like him anymore, and you are about to find out why. Short answer: Avengers: Age of Ultron. On the more minor, personal level, he confirmed the Ultimate Hawkeye route, which you all know that I am so hardcore on the Bobbi/Clint train, this is a betrayal of the highest order. But even if you push past all of that… This movie was a mess, and it had a lot of potential. Ultron was a great villian, and for all the obstacles of Pietro and Wanda due to them technically being X-Men, they did a great job in-story of modifying them. Pietro’s death even hit me hard!

But it was so much just throwing one-liners at each other, some of them working and some of them not, and with massive plot holes. I guess they just relied on people watching all the side shows and everything else for some of the small things? But I barely kept up with any of it at this point besides knowing some of it existing, so I felt like I was constantly missing something. And Black Widow, who had just come out of Winter Soldier as a better character…was the love interest? And a kinda shitty one at that. (Traci called this, I was shocked that my canon ship somehow became the crack ship and her crack ship became canon. Still am.) This movie felt like a pretty big step backwards for me.

Ant-Man did not help matters. It felt like trying to combine Iron Man and Thor, so not only was I getting the “My main protagonist is an idiot, ugh,” issues, but also second-hand embarrassment like I got from the other. Add in that I don’t like bugs, and yeah. This felt like a wash for me. Not even the fact that, for once, we weren’t focusing on a romantic interest as a reason to change but instead a family including a cute daughter, was enough to pull it back. I was crossing my fingers and praying for something to try and save this universe for me.

And as much as it broke my heart… Captain America: Civil War did it. There weren’t just a bunch of snappy one-liners going on, but an actual heart happening. And yeah. It hand-waved some hard set facts–such as the fact that there is no way the governments were able to create those Accords that fast–in order to make it work. That had to have been something waiting in the wings for years. But I bet that’s still waiting to be fully played out. I love the idea of these heroes trying to wrestle with their accountability. I loved how letter of the law versus spirit of the law had to be discussed, and like real life, no one was able to stay calm about it. And even when they are finally all on the same page again… Tony Stark dropped the sarcasm and the guilt and the need to be the smartest guy in the room to admit that he couldn’t let this go, because of his mother. It was raw emotion, and I left the movie wanting to cry.

Thank God, at this point, the MCU started to pick up again. But darn it all, I’m not going to be able to cover it all here. So I guess we are going to get a third part to this mess, so look out for that this weekend when I wrap up the rest of Phase 3, at least that’s been released.

…You know, this gives me time to finally watch Spiderman: Homecoming. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 1)

This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

Let’s go back to the beginning, ya’ll. The Hulk movies…were not the greatest start to this franchise. In fact, there were arguments that the first one isn’t even meant to be tied in with the series. I can see either way on this one, but you gotta admit, this was the early foundations for trying to figure out which way to approach the MCU. It is hard for me to have an opinion on these, they are so fragmented from the rest and the characters just aren’t consistent all across. I vaguely remember enjoying the second one with Ed Norton at least a little, and I wish we hadn’t lost all of it when he left. There were some shards there of something that could have been cool.

But the definite marked beginning of what we know as the MCU was with Iron Man. It was literally all we could ask for out of a Marvel movie. And it helped prove that if you film it and make it good, they will come! And honestly, I didn’t mind Iron Man 2 as much as other people seem to, in fact aside from addressing PTSD, I actually think Iron Man 3 is the weakest of the films. Tony is an idiot, this is a well established fact. I do think they’ve done an excellent job of trying to not only modernize it, because let’s be honest, Iron Man needed some serious help to appear like something of the current century, but also helping with some of the culturally insensitive areas. I do think there are issues with it going so hard-core to the Middle East and portraying them as an enemy, but it also tried to cushion that at least a little. Do I think it was enough? No. Also, Tony is still an idiot, and I cringe my way through some of his moments. But he is so brilliant and so much fun, I can’t help waiting for the next part.

I went into the MCU with two least-favorite Avengers. And Thor was the second-least-favorite, so his movie coming next was definitely my make-or-break with the series. Again, I’m the opposite of normal people. Most people don’t like how serious the first two Thor movies are, and the last one is usually the hand-over-fist favorite. I’m the other way around. Thor and Thor: Dark World were amazing in my opinion. I laughed without feeling like I was dealing with a big blonde idiot with the power of a god, though sometimes I still had second-hand embarrassment issues. And then the third movie was one giant second-hand embarrassment issue at times. Thor has gone the way of the goofy doof from the first two movies, and this brings me great personal pain.

Mostly, the Thor movies provided me with my favorite side-characters. Like so many girls my age, I love Loki, if only because of what crazy amount of character they’ve given him. But I also love Sif, who represents so much to me personally, and feel like she got gipped. (I understand, Jamie Alexander moved on and has a tricky schedule for filming, still not helping!) And of course, for a short scene, we got the premier of my favorite Avenger of all under normal circumstances: Hawkeye. There is a story about the three of us sitting on a sofa, because like hell was I going through this pain fest on my own if the movie was bad, Aubrey was trying to defend herself from Tsuki who was still young and ornery at the time. And we see Barton get the bow. And I lost it. Much to the confusion of Traci and Aubrey, who had no idea who Hawkeye was. We had to pause and rewind.

Captain America remains Aubrey’s favorite of the films to my knowledge, and you know, I can see why. This was almost the perfect movie. (Howard was a little annoying and not enough women, but otherwise, perfect movie.) And while I went in with this boot-laced, stick up his butt image of Steve Rogers in my head, Chris Evans really helped me relate to this figure from comic book history so much better. He’s part of why I was able to feel such outrage during the Hydra snafu that happened a couple years ago (that I’m still mad about), because I now care about this character and I am invested. Chris really helped a lot of people who wouldn’t normally be able to get into comics find something to connect to…and he has a lot of fun, and you can tell. I’m going to miss him. (I’ll get to the sequels further on in this conversation.)

Now we hit the first Avengers movie. Back then, I still liked Joss Whedon…my change of heart will become apparent as we go. But we got to bring all these strong characters together, which means interactions and conflicts as different priorities mix. It soft reset Hulk which I think is for the best because Mark Ruffalo has done some great things with Bruce Banner that have helped modernize him and he has some great chemistry with the rest of the cast. He really brings the sense of humanity to the Hulk that makes him less ridiculous of a character. It brought in some of these side characters we’ve gotten glimpses or short interactions with to help show that hey, us normal people had things handled. We got to see this team come together…and we loved every second of it. I cheered, I wanted to put Tony and Steve in a get-along shirt, I snorted in laughter, it was a great film.

And yet, this is also where some of the big, glaring holes in the MCU started showing. The only female of the original core group called the Avengers is Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, which puts the character in a sucky spot that she’s been in the comics for years too. She has to be not only Every Woman, but Every Spy, Every Assassin… They share the last one a little with Hawkeye this time, but now we have a new problem. This is where the costume reflected the decision right away that we were going Ultimate Hawkeye. And that’s a tricky spot to be in considering what happens with him, not to mention that aside from some stuff at the end, we didn’t get to see any of Clint’s personality due to the story construction, so Hawkeye fans (including Jeremy Renner, if I understand correctly) were vastly disappointed, and female fans continued to feel under represented.

Whether or not those holes will be addressed… Well, look out for Part 2.


Review: Cloak and Dagger Season 1

I swore off the television/Netflix side of the MCU after Agents of SHIELD went down the Bobbi/Hunter road. It was the nail in the coffin for me, partly because they kept bending if not outright breaking their own rules for Rule of Cool. I mean, if Bobbi is good enough to be undercover at HYDRA forever, with no mention of her being former SHIELD that converted, then it’s really dumb to have her get caught a few episodes later by a HYDRA plant within SHIELD. (Not to mention my inner shipper noped out. When Bobbi and Hunter were making tentative steps to become friends after their ugly divorce, I was fine, but then they rekindled their romance and I was just…done with it.)

But Cloak and Dagger have always been a soft spot for me. They used to make guest appearances in X-Men fanfics as filler characters, usually as kids that Rogue and Remy had in class or on trips, and when I started messing around with the MCU for RP purposes, I loved getting to use them as future Avengers. I mean, there’s so many ways that they as characters could go wrong, and there is such inconsistency with them in the comics, that doing them right has always been something I wanted to see. So when I heard that they were getting a series on Freeform, as soon as I knew what the time and days were going to be, I set up my DVR to make them my weekend splurge while I ate brunch.

And I gotta say, I don’t regret it at all.

They managed to make some much needed modernization to the premise. Rather than making them experiments or mutants, both of them usually homeless, they instead decided to focus on more modern (and less stereotypical) living situations. Tandy, rather than being straight homeless, instead uses an abandoned church as a halfway house of sorts rather than live with her mother’s problems, and possible questions as Tandy is an established thief by this point. Tyrone lives in a nicer part of New Orleans, though he grew up in a poorer area before the death of his brother. He attends a Catholic school, where he is part of the championship basketball team, and he tries to keep his head down. Their powers were caused by an accident that cost Tandy her father and Tyrone his brother (sorta), though the exact specifics of what caused the change are still unknown, even at the end of the first season.

Speaking of New Orleans, oh my God. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the series being set there. I mean, it helps the show have some separation from events like the Invasion and the Spider-Man conflicts, not to mention the events of Infinity War, and that gives the series a lot of wiggle room. But it was also only very vaguely tied to the world as a whole till towards the very end, which for fans like me can be annoying. But then they started to weave the culture of voodoo, of Mardi Gras celebrations, of the division between the wards, and the rich history of the city itself. And I was instantly sold, especially as they began to tie in with this concept of the Divine Pairing. It was some brilliant writing and creative decisions. My only complaint is we don’t see as much of what we, culturally, associate with New Orleans, but you know, they wanted the focus on the characters, so I can respect that.

For the main characters, I loved what the two actors brought to Tandy and Tyrone. There were times where they both felt a little flat to me, but then they didn’t have hardly any moments of levity so the flatness was probably caused because we saw pretty much the normal and then the drama/anger, with nothing on the other end of the spectrum. I can’t say I miss it, though, because the story was so intense. I also liked how they balanced power, and how the characters had to discover those powers. Towards the end, I wished we saw more of how Tandy was figuring out her hope vision like she was, but I was also so happy that Cloak finally ate somebody and what that means for season two, I instantly forgave it. (…I don’t know WHY I love that aspect of his character, okay? I just do.)

One element that really modernized the series is the elements of what happened to Tyrone’s brother and where Tandy’s father worked. Racial tensions and police violence/prejudice has always been an issue, but it’s definitely gotten worse or at least we’re acknowledging that it is a bad thing and needs changed. Having Tyrone, who has moved out of the gang’s territories, still have to be afraid of police and his history with them really adds some needed depth to the character. As for Tandy, we get questions of environmental concerns while continuing to have our way of life, the balance of power, and where is our civic responsibility and where does it become a matter for something bigger than us? She also addresses domestic violence, and at least a little on the violence against women. Both also tap into how do teenagers deal with grief and pressure.

One thing I do have to harp on, at least a little. I think too much focus was put on Tandy and her mother wanting to go back to their rich, opulent life style. They tried to back track a few times and have Tandy focus on the loss of her father, but it kinda got undercut by her focus on money. I mean, this could be a character flaw, but I don’t think there was a strong enough comparable flaw in Tyrone to make it buyable in Tandy. I also wish they had focused a little more on the fact Tandy was assaulted, defended herself before she was gang raped (if I’m remembering the episode right), and yet was told that it was considered even basically because they weren’t going to arrest the boy who attacked her after she agreed to talk to police. This is a huge thing! I wish it was discussed more, for the sake of the teenage girls watching the show if nothing else.

My last note is on side characters. They weren’t the focus of the series, yay, but I loved to like some and hate others, so they served their purposes well. I wish we’d had a little more time with the actual head of Roxxon if only because I wanted more info about what they were digging for, but I’m hoping those answers will come up in season 2 despite what happened to the guy. Similarly, I was super iffy on O’Reilly’s boyfriend and was so sure he was working for the dirty cop until the end, so there definitely could have been some more work done to make us sure that we are supposed to like him and be as devastated by his death as O’Reilly. (Who, btw, I am super excited to see what happened to her in season 2 and what it’s going to be like for Cloak and Dagger to fight against her…if they are fighting against her.)

Overall, this series was definitely amazing. I wish they hadn’t tied it to Iron Fist via O’Reilly and Misty being best friends, but eh. I can shoulder aside my issues with that particular part of the MCU, and I can hope to see some more great things and ties to the rest of the overall universe. I definitely hope Cloak and Dagger continues to have several seasons, and doesn’t go off the rails like some of their compatriots.


Writing: Unicorns Need a Publicist

…Okay, stay with me on this one.

While I spent the last weekend sick, I had time to do some musing on my novel getting type-casted as being middle-grade, despite knowing my prose is at 9th grade reading level, my main characters are seventeen (if sometimes decidedly immature, but…teenagers), and while the goblins are ridiculous, the hobgoblin is a real threat. I also knew most of the elements I used in my query/first 10 appear in other YA and even adult fiction books, so it couldn’t be them. What did that leave me with?

Unicorns.

Now, I don’t know about all of you, but I grew up watching The Last Unicorn on repeat from the ages of 6 or 7 till…present. I love that movie. I can quote that movie from memory, and I’m due for a rewatch. And I can quote most of the Butterfly’s speech at that. Around 10, I found Bruce Coville’s A Glory of Unicorns and then his Unicorn Chronicles series. (I discovered The Unicorns of Balinor too young for it to click with me, the shortness started driving me nuts.) As a teenager, I kept hoping unicorns would feature more prominently in the Harry Potter series or in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books since they keep getting name-dropped along with the werewolves. I read the Acorna series by McCaffery, but it wasn’t the best thing ever since it was very much sci-fi and that isn’t my cup of cocoa most of the time (plus I got bored about the time the lead got a girl and gave up).

And now as an adult writer who keeps getting told her YA book is too MG in sheer concept, I have to wonder. At one point was it decided that after the age of 12, we no longer like unicorns? That they are meant to be cutsey and wootsey and pretty, but we have to grow up and start liking “serious” books that talk about the world around us, or that if we must do fantasy, shouldn’t we read about dragons, who can be both good or bad or neither and be beasts or companion?*

When I googled unicorns, I didn’t pull up images of Amalthea. I didn’t pull up pictures of fantasy artwork featuring them, like the poster that was in my childhood bedroom up until my mother sold her house four years ago. I didn’t even pull up pictures from old medieval texts, where they were trying to hash together what a unicorn looked like, and boy, were those a mess.

I pulled up My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters. I pulled up cute, stout little chibi figures. I pulled up rainbow and glitter silhouettes. I even pull up a couple of collections of Unicornos, a collection of figurines big out of Asia with different crazy designs that reminds me of MLP in a lot of ways. Or I pull up the horn with a smile and big eyelashes underneath, which is the latest fad, particularly for these “unicorn” cakes. Worse, I pull up super cheap figurines and stuffed toys that are fine for those about age 9 and younger, but any older and you will get some funny looks.

This strikes me as odd. Now, I liked the first two seasons of MLP, but let me tell you, I’d have never admitted to that in high school. (Especially since the show got increasingly juvenile after Faust left.) And as for what I did have… Amalthea faced hardship, and had to change the fundamental core of what she was in order to save the others. Lightfoot and his people went to war, so people could continue to be happy, could continue to have art and music and joy to their lives, for without them, humans were a sad, miserable lot. I wasn’t embarrassed about enjoying those characters, because I knew that they could withstand the scrutiny. Yes, I was able to immerse myself in a fantasy about unicorns, about creatures called to young girls mostly, but they weren’t these one-dimensional ideas, they were actually people with personalities and flaws and growth.

So that now leaves me with a question. Has the world changed? Have teenagers decided they are too old for unicorns, that they don’t need the ideals but instead need the dark and the gritty reality of their world, or only knights and dragons? Or have we, the adults, just decided that they don’t need it anymore? That it’s just a security blanket of childhood, and that there is no depth to be found there?

I hope it’s the latter, and that we can change it. Because I don’t know about you all, but I still need unicorns. I still need to believe in something fundamentally good…even if some of them are jerks, like Moonshine, or a little too interested in fighting, like Sunny will grow up to be.


Tabletop RP: 3.5 versus Pathfinder

My group had mostly been playing Dungeons and Dragons v 3.5 when we first started out. And like any game, you play it enough times you start finding holes in the nuances of the game. Not necessarily flaws, I hesitate to say that, but rather places that because the writers/creators were so deep in the woods, they couldn’t see the trees. (Hey, it happens to all of us, even me! That’s why I have a dev-partner.)

But when the difference in classes (some of it admittedly on my shoulders, I didn’t do as much in-depth research on classes, I just picked something fun to try) started biting us in the butt and making the power balance between players kinda funky. So after a couple campaigns, we decided to try Pathfinder. There was a bit of a learning curve, because not everything is the same, but we quickly fell into using it.

So what are some of the key differences between the two? Like we moved over for, the big thing is classes. Things progress a little faster–you get more feats in general, there are more traits to classes to try and balance them out. They also introduced archetypes and variations, so you don’t have to bounce around and multi-class, take prestige classes, and God knows what else in order to build the type of characters you want. Fighters, rogues, and some of the other fighter based classes got evened out with the sorcerers, clerics, and other magic classes in later levels.

Bad side: prestige classes are basically useless at this point. I haven’t seen a single one that was worth the buy-out for advancing through a prestige rather than continuing into the upper levels of the class I was already in, at least in my current campaigns. (I made a character to deliberately aggrevate one of Ginny’s werewolves who hosts a DnD session.) And if you do need to do a multi-class character, you are screwed, the new system is so messed up. We honestly homeruled it out and said just to use 3.5, because otherwise it’s almost impossible.

What about races? There was a somewhat complicated way of figuring out if a race was playable in 3.5, I rarely messed with it because it was all the eww. I wanted to keep things simple for my own insanity. Pathfinder makes it much easier, helping identify what creatures are possible player characters as well as introducing a bunch of new races to play. I played several outside of my elven standards, and had fun with them all, for different reasons, in different settings.

That being said, some of it seems…random? I remember certain creatures being playable in 3.5 that aren’t available in Pathfinder, I guess to prevent being over powered. But the big one (my silver dragon) wasn’t that powerful with her base classes helping her out, not when you weighed in how much she paid in levels in her class in order to be that race. And some of it is very…weebo. I mean, I enjoyed playing a kitsune, don’t get me wrong, but in combination with a lot of stuff that was added to Pathfinder, it definitely feels like it is catering more to anime, I want to play a ninja/samurai/whathaveyou like out of such-and-such show, rather than the more traditional fantasy crowd of usual Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t mind the representation, I mind that it seems more like catering to a particular fanbase instead of acknowledging another world culture.

What about the worlds in general? Well, general rule of thumb, we tended to play Homebrew worlds for 3.5. I don’t think I even ever learned the “official” canon of the world for 3.5. And while we sometimes headcanon something or adjust a rule to suit our playing styles better, for the most part, we are playing Pathfinder a lot more straight to the actual information in the books. So I can’t really comment on whether the world-building/religion is better or not.

As for mechanics, not a lot has changed, and even if one thing is easier, something else is more difficult. On one hand, yay, there isn’t this ridiculousness of seeing something but you don’t hear it, everything is tied to Perception. On the other hand, I have no idea what this CMB or whatever it’s called is. (Which is bad, I am currently playing a rogue!) So for every step forward, there was a step back in terms of general mechanics. I prefer elements of both…and still hate non-spontaneous spell castors, so really, there wasn’t a huge enough difference for me to reconsider how things work and slate my preference.

So what is the end result? Well, we haven’t fully converted. My solo campaign with the rogue is being run Pathfinder, as is a future campaign with another rogue-variant type. But my silver dragon is being played in a campaign that mixes elements of both 3.5 and Pathfinder together depending on what is easier/suits the character better, which I think is brilliant, though there are obviously still issues. That one is also being run with Greek mythology for the religion, it’s awesome. And as for me… I’m going to look into Dungeons and Dragons v 5 to see if it’s any good for running a short campaign.


Writing: My Thoughts on Twitter Pitch Events

I am not a huge social media person. If I tweet more than once or twice a day, it’s a weird day, and my Facebook is even worse, both personal and for the blog. I am slowly getting into it, but you know, I also am crazy busy with a crazy level of commitments. Including query, which hasn’t been going well. Lots of, “Not right for my list,” not a lot of feedback, though some have said that my writing is good.

Thankfully, Ginny is much more active than I am trying to engage as she promotes her own books.. She clued me into two different pitch events–#pitmad, which is open to all genres of fiction, and #sffpit, which is specifically for science fiction and fantasy.

What are these? Basically, you including the hashtag in your tweet along with specific tags for your genres and give a short description of your current book that you are trying to get representation for. The book has to be finished and fit in the specified genres. If an agent likes your tweet, they usually previously tweeted special instructions to help jump your query to the front of the slush pile. There are a ton more types, though, but I stuck with what was relevant to Sun’s Guard: Ten.

Now, both are pretty upfront. Mostly this is getting your book out there, and the odds of getting a like by an agent aren’t very high. It’s more of a community exposure sort of thing, and a roll of the dice. But I figured it couldn’t hurt, right? The answer is no, it didn’t hurt, but it did show me how these events tend to run.

Pitch events are very dependent on what agents are showing up, how interested are they, and what events have recently happened in the publishing world. Example, right now the big thing in publishing is “own voices.” They want minority writers, of race or sexuality, telling stories about similar people. This is…awkward for me. Yes, I’m a girl and plus-sized and one form demisexual…but even with Caley being also white and demisexual (all the way down to asexual at the moment), it wouldn’t count as own voices. They are very specific about what they want, and I am not it. Until that rush of wants fades a little in the pitch events, I’m fighting up river.

The other side of it is it’s possible for some people to get forty or thirty likes…and almost everyone else gets nothing. That irks the part of me that considers fairness important. Like, I’d understand being in the teens or twenties, because sometimes, you think you’ll like a book and then you don’t. But it is very hard and discouraging for other people to receive nothing and someone else is just swamped in requests to be queried, especially with how competitive this industry is and how hundreds of writers are shouting to be heard at all.

Which really got me to examine how I felt about these events. I thought about all of the queries I’ve sent out, and how some of them took months for me to get a response on, and I wondered how many times my query had been skipped over because a pitch event query had just come in, and those get priorities. And it just felt weird. On one hand, you want to take every advantage you can in this industry to try and get an agent. But on the other, that feels crappy and doesn’t seem fair to me.

Will I do any more pitch events? I don’t know. I didn’t get much feedback (though hey, my follower count on Twitter doubled and I got a few small publishers reach out to me), and no likes from any agents because I am not currently in the fad. It also rankles against what I consider fair, and I know that there are plenty of agents who don’t even participate in such events. I’m also nearing the end of the agent list on Query Tracker, soooo… I don’t know. I’ll probably play it by ear, decide what I want to do as I go.

Would I recommend it? Again, I don’t know. I haven’t had an intensely positive experience. I haven’t had an intensely awful experience either. I just had very little experience at all, which is the chance you run, and like flipping a coin, it resets with every event, there is no increase of chances of being noticed each time. So I say if you are going to do it, be prepared, have everything set up, and try it. But I also wouldn’t pin your hopes on being one of the few success stories either.