She Can Fly: Is It My Story?

Appropriation is a word that gets tossed around a lot in popular culture, and with good reason. Whether regarding dance, speech patterns, or musical riffs, the concept of essentially “stealing” someone’s cultural identity has fast become a wide-spread notion.

Often times, what appropriation comes down to is whether or not someone has the “right” to tell a specific story.

Look at Disney’s Moana, a visually stunning animated film about Polynesian mythology, which many people of Polynesian heritage have critiqued as having a tone-deaf, and white, interpretation of influential and significant figures to their culture.

On one hand, telling a story with more diversity, offering up representation of non-white characters, is hugely important in our current cultural atmosphere. On the other hand, many of the people telling those stories have no understanding of the culture and diversity they are trying to represent.

Even at a more “basic” level, comic characters like Riri Williams, the newly introduced young, black, female Iron-Man, are written (and, to a lesser extent, drawn) by almost exclusively white men. While Riri isn’t explicitly anything culturally but American, she is a black girl who is from Chicago, and that is vastly different from anything most white men will experience in their lifetimes.

Many of these men have “cultural consultants” who review their comic and content with the goal of correcting issues ranging from misuse of slang to black hair being drawn inaccurately (one of a few things that was critiqued a lot when the first cover for Riri’s Invincible Iron-Man #1 was released). Some writers, like Kelly Sue Deconnick in Bitch Planet, make specific efforts to include consultants in their book’s credits, as well as offering up the valuable commodity of page space to people who are not white, not straight, and have meaningful commentary on the topics covered in the comic.

Paul Jenkin’s AfterShock comic Alters, about a trans superheroine, specifically acknowledges its story consultants, and future issues promise to include interviews with some of the people who helped shape the writer’s understanding and research of representing a trans woman. However, many trans women have critiqued Alters for representing early transition inaccurately in the costume, body shape, and attitude of the main character, ultimately saying that the comic is an inaccurate cis telling of a trans narrative. Consultants don’t make something “your story to tell”.

 

“…that skirt is a little daring without any leggings, babe.” @MagsVisaggs

 

At New York Comic Con, during the Black Mask Studios panel, writer Tini Howard, who’s title, the Skeptics, features black women in the Cold War-era, stated that historical accuracy in historical-specific stories is important, that you can’t ignore what is going on that might effect characters of color, but, as a white woman, she also knows certain aspects of that are “not her story to tell.”

The delineation of what is “your story to tell” is not as fuzzy as what may or may not be appropriation. Ultimately, “your story” has to be something that connects emotionally to you as a human being. While a writer should not limit themselves to only straight, white, male characters if they are a straight, white man, they should also not tell stories that do not belong to them, that they don’t have an emotional, intellectual, intrinsic right to.

For a good example of this, look no further than MTV’s Sweet/Vicious, a dark comedy about rape survivors becoming superheroes. The small writers’ room has a mix of men and women, but they are exceedingly conscious about what aspects of rape culture stories are theirs to tell:

It was very important to us to never take anyone’s story and rip it from the headlines. That is not our story to tell. That is someone’s story of survival that they very bravely shared in whatever medium they shared it. It wasn’t our place nor did we want to go down that road.

I’ve written on writing race and appropriation in comics before, and it’s not a clean cut or easy subject. The truth of the matter is, comics need to represent the cultural atmosphere they are written in; this means they need to have people with a variety of skin colors, sexualities, gender identities, and body types. However, writers and artists also need to be sensitive of how they represent people who they are not like: they need to be aware of differences; they need to think before they act; and, most of all, they need to do their research.

She Can Fly: This Joke isn’t Funny

The Killing Joke has never not been surrounded by controversy. The almost 30 year old graphic novel by infamous author Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland attempted to portray the Joker as a sympathetic character, a man who had one bad day, but, in foil to Batman, it took him over the edge to insanity. Of course, the Joker’s backstory isn’t what made The Killing Joke the buzzword that it has been since its publication in 1988; the crippling, sexualization, and (possibly) implied rape of Batgirl.

But, in the nature of the comics industry, the stand-alone comic was considered a huge success, winning an Eisner, often being referred to as “the greatest Batman story ever told,” and being one of the few comics (of a certain age) that has never gone out of print.

In the original, the physical and sexual violence towards Babs was meant as a motivation for her father, James Gordon; it was the Joker’s tool to break him as a man, and the supposed illustration of Gordon’s moral superiority over both Batman and the Joker. However, in retrospect, Moore denounced the story as “[not] very interesting,” and later directly blamed DC editorial for poor decisions, including what happened to Batgirl, in a 2006 interview with Wizard magazine:

I asked DC if they had any problem with me crippling Barbara Gordon – who was Batgirl at the time – and if I remember, I spoke to Len Wein, who was our editor on the project … [He] said, ‘Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.’ It was probably one of the areas where they should’ve reined me in, but they didn’t.

So when DC announced in 2015 that they would be producing (what ultimately turned out to be an R-rated) animated feature of The Killing Joke, reaction was mixed. Fans of the original, and of Bruce Timm-produced DC features, were ecstatic, while others were skeptical, considering the subject matter.

Immediately prior to the release of the film, right around the time of San Diego Comic-Con 2016, leaks began to slip out.

First there was a bordering on explicit sex scene between Batgirl and Batman.

This decision was apparently made because the filmmakers felt they needed to have the audience become move invested and Batgirl, and create a “deeper emotional tie” between her and Batman. Instead of a mentoring or student-teacher relationship, instead of a coworker relationship, or a friendship, or even a familial relationship, Batgirl becomes, at best, a sexual object to ultimately motivate the male characters. “It’s her decision to engage in this relationship,” the creators state. However, Batgirl was canonically, and is likely, between 16 and 19 in The Killing Joke, so the sexual nature of her relationship with Batman becomes one of Batman abusing his age, status, and power over her, even unintentionally (also, Batgirl is a fictional character with no actual agency beyond what the writers write her doing). Brian Azzarello even later stated, “The thing about this is that it’s controversial, so we added more controversy.”

At Comic-Con, it was revealed that, after the sex scene, Batman spurns Batgirl, and the film leaves her to pine alone before being shot, kidnapped, and…well, you probably know the story.

Fans at Comic-Con reacted negatively in The Killing Joke film panel, including Bleeding Cool’s Jeremy Konrad shouting his response to the panel saying that Babs was written as a strong female character in the movie (“Yeah, by using sex and then pining for Bruce.”). Brian Azzarello responded in a way that really emphasizes his feelings on the presentation of female characters and fan reaction: “Wanna say that again? Pussy?”

Finally, it was recently revealed that the implicit nature of the Joker’s possible rape of Barbara Gordon is made much less implied, with a scene where a prostitute says the Joker has sex with prostitutes every time he breaks out of Arkham Asylum, but that he did not come visit her after his most recent breakout, saying “maybe he found himself another girl.”

Bruce Timm attempted to refute the assertion that Batgirl is raped by the Joker in an interview with Vulture, saying:

I don’t think that [he raped her], actually. I did not think of it as supporting that. If I had, I probably would have changed the line. I never, ever thought that he actually raped her. Even in my first read of the comic, I never thought that. It just seemed like he shot her and then took her clothes off and took pictures of her to freak out her dad. I never thought that it was anything more than that.

Here’s the thing: Whether he [raped her] or not, it’s still sexual violence. It’s still a horrible thing. So in my own head, I was already self-censoring the moment. Maybe just to make it a little more easier to get through. But it’s still a very horrible, horrible thing.

Honestly, all these snippets of information about The Killing Joke, which was just released digitally, makes me feel like we’re just living through this scene from BoJack Horseman:

Screenwriter Brian Azzarello and co-producers Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm are, at their core, three white guys writing a story about the destruction of a woman; a.k.a. something they have no singular, personal experience with.

That’s what The Killing Joke is at its core: the destruction of a young woman, barely in her prime, and the defacing of her body, her spirit, and her self-identity. It also uses this destruction purely to motivate male characters. Barbara is given no happy ending, no moral resolution.

The Killing Joke did not create Oracle, Oracle came over a year later, and only at the hands of editor and writer Kim Yale and her husband, fellow writer, John Ostrander. Kim Yale was notably disgusted by the treatment of the character Barbara Gordon, and ultimately made it her mission to prevent the character from listing in obscurity by turning her into an even more powerful hero, despite, and also because of, her disability.

I don’t own The Killing Joke–book, film, or memorabilia–and I never will. I won’t see The Killing Joke, and I never was going to, but with the treatment of Batgirl as a secondary character, taking the backseat to the men, in what could have been the story of her power, personal strength, and moral superiority over the Joker, I am verbally denouncing the film. And I’m not alone.

Don’t give The Killing Joke your time. It’s not worth it.

She Can Fly: Don’t Need a Cape to be a Hero

Lois Lane is a hero.

Lois Lane is a hero, all on her own, without the strength of Superman, or the speed of Flash.

Lois Lane is one of the strongest female characters in the DC Universe.

Lois Lane is one of the strongest characters in the DC Universe.

Being a hero isn’t about wearing capes or having super powers. Being a hero is about making hard decisions. Being a hero is about doing the right thing.

Lois Lane, the most enduring female character of superhero comics, should be a character that doesn’t need powers to be powerful. However, editorially speaking, Lois is usually relegated to the sidelines, depending on Superman either as his girlfriend, his wife, or that annoying girl he sometimes pines for. And when she’s not jettisoned to a supporting role, she is often forced into dream and fantasy scenarios where she imagines she will only ever be worthy of Superman’s love if she, too, has super powers and becomes some subsidiary of the Super-brand (“Supergirl,” “Superwoman,” and once, even, “Power Girl”).

But that perspective, that many writers rely on when they have no better ideas for Lois, is wrong. Ultimately, Lois is a character that should be written as smart, aggressive, and tenacious.

Even when the character arcs of Lois make missteps–relegating her to a “dumb broad” trope, focusing her entire character around wanting to marry Superman, trying to pit her against other Superman love interests–the essence of the character (from the beginning) remains the same: a woman who pursued an “atypical” and uncommon career for females in the 1930s (crime reporting); a woman who sought to beat her bumbling coworker to the punch; a woman who put herself in danger to get the story; a woman who wanted to do the right thing.

So, the DC Rebirth pitch of having the dying (New52) Superman give his powers to Lois Lane (so that she may become Superwoman), falls flat. While the creative team on board is a fantastic one, Phil Jimenez and Emanuela Lupacchino, the solicitation for the Superwoman series already seems to boast a plot-line akin to the current Mighty Thor, while pushing Lois to fight female villains (instead of Superman’s classic rogues gallery):

Imbued with the powers of Superman, Lois Lane pledges to use her powers to protect Metropolis as the new Superwoman. The only problem is, Lois’ new powers are killing her, and neither she nor her friend and confidant Lana Lang know what to do about it. Will Lois even survive long enough to find out the deadly secret of ULTRA-WOMAN?

Yes, there are all sorts of Elseworlds and imagined stories where Lois has powers, but DC always seems to revert her to human in the end. Why?

Lois classically represents humanity in Superman stories. The relationship between Clark and Lois is designed to have her as the rock that stabilizes Superman, the thing that epitomizes to him everything that makes humans wonderful. She is a grounding device for an alien that can fly and shoot lasers from his eyes. But Lois Lane is so much more than that. Ultimately, Lois doesn’t need an emblem to show her power.

DC’s Superman: Lois Lane one shot from 2014 (by Marguerite Bennett and artist Emanuela Lupacchino) not only justifies the character staying unpowered, but also exemplified how she can be a hero without putting on spandex. More recently, the young adult Lois Lane novels (Fallout and Double Down) continue the trend of giving Lois the agency to save the day, simply by being curious, intelligent, and pursuing the truth.

Lois Lane fights for the common man, whether by exposing stories, reporting truths, or by simply being a human with her feet on the ground.

Lois Lane doesn’t need a cape to be super.

She already is.

In memoriam Noel Neill.

 

She Can Fly: Oh What a World

Truly, we live in a geek renaissance.

Not only is it cool to read comics, play video games, and follow television series with bated breath, but all those things are absolutely in vogue. No longer do kids get shunned for being into roleplaying games. No longer are adults side-eyed for reading thick fantasy and sci fi novels. The most successful movies are superhero flicks; the best received television shows are based on books like Game of Thrones, and new game releases–be it video, board, or book–dominate conversation. Being nerdy, geeky, dorky is all the rage.

And on top of all those amazing things, we also have an influx of reboots, re-releases, remakes, and sequels that some thought would never actually come to fruition: Mad Max: Fury Road, another season of X-Files, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Twin Peaks (maybe), Baldur’s Gate: Seige of Dragonspear, Ash vs. Evil Dead, another Ghostbusters film…

The best thing of all, is all these sequels and reboots and recreations are, on the whole, surprisingly good. Really, really good.

So why are nerds so critical of them?

The truth is, it’s not simply nerds who are being so critical of these, it’s primarily male nerds (but not all men).

It was men who stated they would boycott Mad Max: Fury Road because a female character was featured just as prominently as the titular hero.

It was men who most actively reviled Star Wars: The Force Awakens for two of its three lead characters not being white men.

It was men who complained that the inclusion of a subtly transgender character in the newest Baldur’s Gate game was “political correctness,” “LGBT tokenism,” and “SJW pandering,” and subsequently attempted to flood the game with negative reviews and dox a one of the game’s writers.

It was men who have been most verbal about panning the Ghostbusters trailer, with their Youtube “dislikes” leading to the video being the “most disliked trailer of all time.”

(It’s also a man who says he won’t review–or see–Ghostbusters because…it won’t star the original cast? Because it “isn’t appropriate”? Because it has a majority female cast? Because it’s simply called “Ghostbusters”?)

These can’t all be a coincidence.

There’s an inherent thread of sexism tying all these “critiques” together.

This attitude of gatekeeping aimed at female and LGBTQ+ fans is nothing new, but since the rise of Gamergate, and the subsequent “Sad/Sick Puppies,” on social media, people who engage in that sort of discourse, regardless of gender, have become more courageous about speaking out.

The truth of the matter is many of these commentators are simply seeking to gain acknowledgement through ruffling feathers. These same people are often the ones to resort the death and rape threats when someone makes a less-than-positive comment about media they like, or even chooses simply to interpret a story element differently than they would. In some cases, these people will even go so far as to create multiple social media accounts on a single platform with the express intent to harass people who disagree with them.

There’s an inherent sense of privilege, whether it’s denied or acknowledge, that all men (but especially white men) have that makes them feel they are–or should be–the target audience for media. All media. In a lot of cases, companies encourage this attitude, like DC Comics’ skewed readership survey, used to affirm their choice of target audience (men 18-37), while other companies don’t actively dissuade it (think Marvel and Disney’s non-response to its lack of female toys back when Avengers: Age of Ultron came out).

New things, even when they are based on “nerd canon” standards, will always face negative commentary, but with the pervasiveness and anonymity of social media, negative comments can quickly turn down darker paths. Though it may be a minority voicing their dislike, it is often a verbal minority, and negative comments are more “news worthy” than positive ones.

When asked about the reception of the Ghostbusters trailer, director Paul Feig said, “Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life.”

He later clarified his comments to CBR, ending the interview with a celebration of what it truly means to be a geek: “the bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro-minority. God bless the true geeks of the world, and here’s to taking our community back from the bullies.”

It’s a beautiful thing that men are no longer the only audience when it comes to geek media. Now if only everyone could embrace that.

Top Ten Comics You Aren’t Reading (but Should be)

Everyone knows about indie darlings that have hit it big (think Image’s Saga, Bitch Planet, and Rat Queens), but there are tons of non-“big two” titles out there that are ripe for reading. This is my top 10 list* for the best books out there that you aren’t reading right now (but absolutely should start reading asap):

*To qualify for this list, books have to be: published in monthly, single issue format; are current published/have a promise of a sequel or an ongoing series; are not based on pre-existing properties; and are from a publisher other than Marvel or DC Comics. Bonus points to creator owned series!

10. Another Castle (Wheeler/Ganucheau, Oni Press)

Still a fledgling comic (which may explain why people aren’t gushing about it like they should), Another Castle is a beautiful play on the damsel in distress story. When the kingdom’s princess is kidnapped by an evil power, the handsome prince thinks it’s up to him to save her. Except he’s not very adept at fighting, where as the princess is an expert in all things combat, strategy, and sneaking. So while the prince bumbles about, it’s the princess, and her newly-made friends (a dreamy gorgon and a sheepish, wimpy demon), to plan her own escape and save the prince, her kingdom, and her father at the same time. The clean, colorful art compliments the energy of the storytelling perfectly.

9. Tomboy (Goodwin, Action Lab)

Definitely not an all ages title, Tomboy is part murder mystery, part slasher, only the heroine of the title is the one doing most of the killing. Tomboy plays with reader expectations by setting up a story about loss, but turning it into one of revenge. The teenaged hero takes matters into her own hands when her best friend and his father are murdered, but only becomes proactive after she begins to hallucinate her favorite anime character, who tells her how to go about exacting revenge. It’s a dark story, fabulously written, with unexpectedly cute (and, at times, gory) art. The disparate nature of the art and plot may be why people don’t initially pick it up, but it is definitely worth reading for just that.

8. Jonesy (Humphries/Boyle, BOOM!)

Just recently announced as an ongoing, Jonesy should be THE comic for the tumblr generation. From its zine-inspired art, to its referential voice, this comic is all about what it means to be a modern teen. The titular heroine loves donuts, ferrets, Stuff (a musician, not just “things”), and…she can secretly make other people fall in love with anything. Of course, this power is usually her downfall. Along with her friend, her father, and her abuelita, Jonesy lives the life of a normal teenage girl. Well, mostly normal.

7. Superzero (Conner & Palmiotti/de Latorre, AfterShock Comics)

Everybody who reads comics wants to be a superhero sometimes. But have you ever actually tried to get your own superpowers? The heroine of this comic is will to do anything, and does everything–radiation, bug bites, the death of her parents–yet she still can’t seem to achieve her super dreams. Unrelentless, she keeps pushing and pushing until…well, the comic starts off grounded, but ends up going pretty far out into the galaxy. The writing hits this concept out of the park, with the art playfully reflecting its references to a range of comic origin stories. One of many great series that launched AfterShock, I suspect it will gain more popularity as the publisher expands.

6. Henchgirl (Gudsnuk, Scout Comics)

While some people want to be heroes or villains, others just want to make a living. But sometimes, in a town full of capes and cowls, the best way to get money is by henching. The heroine of this title is lazy, funny, and a little bit dense, but also lives in a world where people can fly, lift buildings, and shoot carrots from their fingers, but can’t tell that someone is the same person when they put a pair of thick glasses on. The comic is a bit like if Scott Pilgrim slapped on a mask and stopped playing music, with fantastically rough art and expressive characters. The story is fun and light, but has an underlying depth to it. This comic slid under a lot of people’s radars, but is a must read!

5. Diesel (Hesse, BOOM!)

With the first volume wrapped up, Diesel has set up a wider story than it might initially seem. The comic starts off about airships, steampunk pirates, and a spunky heroine who can sometimes shoot sparks from her fingers, but turns into a world-hopping political adventure, with plenty of intrigue and a good does of humor. Though it sounds complex, Hesse exceeds at having the comic make sense. The cartoony art compliments the more comedic tone, but also gives the comic more powerful moments of darkness.

4. Zodiac Starforce (Panetta/Ganucheau, Dark Horse)

I love magical girl stories, but it’s rare that we get more than a brief epilogue of the heroines after the great evil has been defeated. Zodiac Starforce’s entire existence is a subversion of this trope. Taking place a year after the day has been saved, the girls still have their magical powers, but no evil to fight. Then something goes awry, and it’s up to the Zodiac Starforce to save the day. The comic plays with the tropes of classic girls’ cartoon characters, but features different body types and sexualities prominently. Although the first volume just ended (and came out in trade), Panetta confirmed to me on Twitter that a second volume is in the works, with a release date to be determined. This comic needs more love, as it is a standout within the magical girl subgenre.

3. Princeless (Whitley/Various, Action Lab)

I will never not take a chance to praise Princeless, a series all about princesses saving themselves. The most significant thing about this comic is how all the princesses are women of color. The story follows one of seven princesses as she escapes her tower by befriending the dragon that protects her, and then goes on a quest to save her sisters. The book plays with gender roles, but allows each character to be who they are without judgement. One of the best examples is when the eldest sister, a girly girl who is obsessed with her appearance, refuses to be saved from her “captivity” because she likes where she is, and she is helping the people in her own unique way. Princeless celebrates the difference in women (and men), while also being a fun-filled book of adventure and daring.

2. Shutter (Keatinge/del Duca, Image)

This comic is a hair’s breath away from being number one on this list. Since issue #1, I fell in love with the dreamy art, the modern take on a pulp story, and the fully realized characters (including a lead WoC and a supporting trans character). The comic has only gotten better since then, including meta-textual moments, a variety of beasts and aliens (all of whom co-exist with humans), and a sentient cat clock named Cassius (with all the implications that brings). Each issue of Shutter goes places that the others have never been, but always stays true to its roots and inspiration as an action/adventure comic that pays homage to the pulps of yore. Unlike some of its brothers and sisters at Image, Shutter has been quietly successful and has a very loyal fanbase, but I feel it is due much more praise and attention.

 

Before we hit my choice for number one, honorable mention shout outs to Insexts (Bennett/Kristantina, AfterShock Comics), Paper Girls (Vaughan/Chiang, Image), and Goldie Vance (Larson/Williams, BOOM!), which are just a few more great books out there that are definitely worth picking up if you haven’t already.

 

1. Public Relations (Sturges & Justus/Hahn & Marzán & Wilson, Devil’s Due/1/First Comics)

Public Relations has it all: dragons, damsels, scathing satire, dirty jokes, its own recorded music for the in-comic band Peter Smurfy, Garfield references…the list goes on. The reason this title is at number one is because I’ve yet to meet someone else who shares my passion for it. I text my friends random panels from Public Relations every time I get a new issue, hoping to share with them a fraction of the giggles I got from it. This is one of the best comics being published right now, with slick art, sharp writing, pop culture wit and awareness, yet no one seems to be reading it! This is the number one, must-pick-up title of 2016, if only so I can have someone to talk to about it.

 

Have you read any of these titles? What comics do you think this list is missing? Let us know in the comments section!

She Can Fly: What’s Truly Outrageous

I watched the Jem and the Holograms movie.

And I liked it.

The movie wasn’t mind blowing, but it was a sincere coming-of-age story that took cues from what it means to grow up in a world where you can post videos of yourself for all the world to see in a matter of moments. The cast had better diversity than a lot of popular films, focused on the interplay of almost exclusively female characters, and played off the source material without being tied to it.

In all, it worked well as an homage to the Jem cartoon series, but took plenty of liberties to translate the material to make sense in a modern setting.

So this got me thinking: why was it so reviled?

What about this simple, sweet film made people call it “a dud,” “terrible,” and a “box office failure”?

Well, when you look at the numbers, Jem and the Holograms, a wide-release movie, only made 2.3 million dollars, which absolutely does make the movie a dud, and a failure at the box office. However, the movie only had a budget of $5 million. Compare that to, say, Bill Murray’s Rock the Kasbah, a similarly music-themed movie that released in theaters around the same time, and you’ll see that Murray’s movie made only 3.2 million dollars, with a budget three times bigger to that of Jem’s.

You know which movie wasn’t called a “total box office failure”?

It seems to me, part of the negative reception of the Jem film, part of the reason people were so quick to dismiss and bash it, is because of a double standard in the film industry. Jem and the Holograms is female led, aimed specifically at young women, and directed by someone closely associated with dance movies, a genre that is stereotypically popular with women.

Film is already an industry well-known for it’s gender inequality, and studios and audiences alike are quick to disregard films starring female characters. Usually, women in film have to embody an ideal of perfection that often doesn’t make them much better than a sexy lamp.

Only in the past two years have we begun to see Hollywood explore a side of women beyond the perfect (but clumsy) romcom trope and the sexy “strong female character, with some female-driven (often female written films) starring semi-realistic, more fleshed out characters who are women; characters who are free to fart and burp, be strong, be weak, have sex, abstain from sex, be tight laced, be “loose,” without harsh judgement implied in the script.

But fans and critics alike judge this move harshly. Some critics even had the gall to argue that Jem and the Holograms is “implausible” and an “unrealistic representation of the music industry.” (I suspect these are the same critics who might say that Wall-E is an unrealistic portrayal of the future of humanity, and that positing robots might develop autonomy is implausible.)

The other reason for it’s lambast-ion is because Jem and the Holograms is not Jem the cartoon.

Fans of the seminal 80s girls cartoon were upset because the film lack glamour, glitter, fashion, and only had a small dosage of fame. And yes, it’s not the 80s show; but, frankly, how could it be? But the expectation for the movie to be exactly like the show, however out of place that would have been, remained. Ultimately, fans wanted the film to fail because it wasn’t the technicolored jaunt they remembered from their childhoods. Fans wanted to denounce the movie because it didn’t follow the canon.

Fans are the worst.

Fans are so attached to the specific image of a character of property that they have in their mind, that they remember from their childhood; this image is so colored in nostalgia, therein lies the true fault. Fans want something from the movie that probably never really existed; fans want perfection, but only the perfection they remember.

Everybody has a favorite version of something. Heck, I’ll admit I can be guilty of being too wedded to canon, too! But when canon starts to effect your enjoyment of other mediums, you allow your judgment to skew in a very specific way.

The beauty of adaptations, homages, and remakes is that they embrace what’s different about the era in which the content is being made: whether it’s improved graphics and CGI, restyled and revamped characters, re-imagined genders and roles, or setting the story in modern times with characters using modern technology.

Jem and the Holograms is a happily sterile movie, one without cursing or innuendo, and in the landscape of modern film, that’s a rarity. Jem and the Holograms is not shy about the influence of Youtube, and uses real Youtube videos to orchestrate points (whether it be building tensions with an interspersed video of a drumming prodigy or simply involving fans by using the videos they posted online where they talk about Jem), and sometimes this comes of as passe and hokey. But at the heart of it, Jem is a sincere movie. Though cautiously gentle, and clumsy at times, the film has a sweetness to it that has been overshadowed by mainstream media and, even more so, fans.

So, if you’re a fan of the Jem cartoon, maybe just pretend it’s someone else named Jem who is just a little less truly outrageous than the original?

She Can Fly: I Took My Mom to Comic Con

I sat on the bus, bag of newly purchased, unread Wednesday comics on my lap, suitcase underneath my feet on the luggage deck below. It was my yearly pilgrimage to the mecca that was New York Comic Con.

But this year was a little different; a little more filled with anxiety–not borne of my upcoming interviews with Greg Pak or the guys behind the Venture Bros or Leila del Duca and Joe Keating–instead, it was because my mother could be accompanying me to Comic Con.


I was in love with comics from childhood: Calvin and Hobbes and Liberty Meadows inspired me to learn how to read, I loved to illustrate my own stories, and the day I found out my older brother had a collection of X-Men and Spider-man comics under his bunk bed was the day I aspired to steal them and start my own collection.

My mom never really got it. My older sister never had a comic book phase (as far as I knew), and my brother grew out of his at the age of 13. So when I started reading comics and manga actively at 13, and kept reading them staunchly and stubbornly through high school and beyond, I think my mom started to get confused. On some level, I think she worried my reading comics was a form of arrested development; a desire to remain childish and detached from adulthood. In a word: immature.

What she didn’t know was that my love of comics made me grow and improve. I began searching for literary allusions in comic strips for extra credit in English classes. I relished in finding graphic novel adaptations of historical stories and “great literature.” I applied art history to pop culture, and examined the difference between high and low culture (and if there even was a difference to begin with). I started writing, and my writing improved because I was absorbing so many different writers’ styles, tones, and genres. All of this happened because of comic books.

But I never really told my mom about the intellectual side of my hobby. All she knew was I spent too much money on anime, manga, and comics, and she didn’t really understand why an adult would be interested in that kind of stuff.


The bus ride to New York City was uneventful. I read my weekly pull, checked Twitter for updates on who had already arrived at the convention, and fidgeted impatiently for my impending arrival at Penn Station. When the bus finally pulled in, I was quick to escape and make my way to the hotel, where my mom had already arrived.


My mother is a watercolor artist who is nationally, and internationally, known and ranked. She studied fine art for most of her life, and comics represented, for her, a baffling antithesis to John Singer Sargent and van Gogh.

The small pieces of anime and manga she witnessed me watch and read looked the same. The characters were interchangeable, and if you swapped their hairstyles, they looked like one another (which is a fair critique). She felt I was limiting my artistic ability by only drawing cartoons, and not participating in life drawing and classic art classes.


I met my mom at the hotel, and we spent the evening in the city, eating at a deli, seeing the sights, looking at off Broadway plays and comedy shows we could go to. When we finally returned to the hotel, we both readied our costumes for the next day, my first (and her only) day at the con.


Cosplay, another hobby of mine, was much less baffling to mom. In addition to being an artist, she was also a theater major in college, and did costume designing as a job. Mom helped me make my very first cosplay when I was 16, and didn’t question my enthusiasm or interest in learning how to sew. When I told her that part of my convention experience was dressing up in costume and taking pictures, she jumped at the idea. She loved it, and wanted to dress up along with me.

I began to share historical insight I had on different characters and costumes; I sent her emails with pictures of Catwoman’s different costumes, stories about the Black Canary mother-daughter legacy, offering up thoughts and ideas on different comic heroines and cartoon stars she could dress as.

She changed her mind (first Catwoman, then Supergirl, then the 80’s show Space Cats) until she finally settled on a her own design: a 50’s housewife-style Supergirl.


12144779_10208194810015093_1624722004017802763_nDressed in our finest, we made the short trek to the Javits Center, and both sorely regretted our choice of high heels as our footwear, and that’s when she saw it: the three block long line of people, in costumes and nerdy shirts, who already had their tickets for the con.

“Is the line always like this?” She asked.

“Yeah, New York’s numbers rival that of San Diego Comic Con.”

She nodded, amazed. “What’s it like inside the convention?”

I paused for a moment before I answered, “huge.”


In the weeks before the convention, she emailed me, concerned; “are people okay with their pictures being taken?”

I had to laugh to myself. “Absolutely! People love it, but do make sure to ask them, first.”


tumblr_nw6p6kVbnr1tvmnaho1_1280When we got past the line, and into the blacktop area of the convention, people began to stop mom, asking her for pictures. Every ten or so feet, another person asked her for a photo, and she glowed, pleased that her effort and hard work was being acknowledged. She gawked at a massive Hulkbuster Iron Man costume, and complimented a small child on her Supergirl costume.

She pointed to a group of men in the same masked costumes, “look at all those Spider-men!”

I snorted, “that’s actually a bunch of Deadpools, mom, but that was a good guess.”


The day was a blur. She was amazed at the size of the convention, even on its most docile day (Thursday), it was bustling with energy. The moment we entered the Artist Alley, something suddenly clicked for her.

As we passed the rows and rows of artists and writers, and I pointed out some of the people I had interviewed, or was planning to interview, she nodded, studying each artist’s banner and prints.

As we left the hall, she turned to me. “I finally get it now.”

“Get what?”

“I get why you like comics. It seemed like you always used to read things that all looked the same….same art, same color, same style. But looking at all those artists in there, the huge variety, I get it. I see how beautiful some of the art is, how many different styles and kinds of stories they are telling. I understand why you love comics.”


As an adult, I like to think I have a pretty good relationship with my mother. We talk openly and frankly, and I feel lucky to be able to be so honest with her.

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Taking mom to NYCC was completely intimidating and totally exciting. I wanted her to understand that I am truly passionate about comics as a medium and an art, but also as a piece of history and as a reflection of popular culture and society. I couldn’t think of a more perfect convention to take her to, with New York Comic Con’s strict anti-harassment policy, family friendly vibe, and variety of programming ranging from critiques on representation to artist profiles.

I think the experience helped her really understand the industry of nerds, and I got a chance to share a big part of my world with her.


A week after the convention, I got a phone call.

“So, do you think your dad would want to go with us next year?”

My dad? A smart, hugely nerdy man who wasn’t the biggest fan of crowds?

“Gosh, mom, I don’t know, maybe? I definitely think it would be fun to have him come.”

She laughed. “What do you think we could get him to dress as?”

Maybe that’s a blog post for next year.

Whatever Happened To… The Flaxen Femme Fatale

The latest offering in our short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence), and are gone now.

This week’s character is a bit of a black (or should I say blonde?) horse: the Blonde Phantom.

Originally created for Timely Comics (marvel’s predecessor), Louise Grant came into being in the mid-1940’s as an attempt to increase female readership. The Blonde Phantom released a few years after Wonder Woman made her first appearance, and offered stories within the vein of noir, a somewhat darker response to Timely’s other leading ladies like Millie the Model and Venus (who headed romantic comedy titles) and Namora and Miss America (who were in more straight superhero books). The Blonde Phantom echoed Quality Comics’ Phantom Lady, and is occasionally viewed as, on some level, the inspiration for the first Black Canary, as Louise was a mild mannered secretary in her day job who fought crime at night with her expert martial arts skills and a sexy ensemble.

Purportedly, the Blonde Phantom was created by Stan Lee and artist Syd Shores as a direct response to Wonder Woman’s popularity, although Al Sulman also claims to have been her originator, and the writer who was behind All Select Comics, the title in which she debuted (which was immediately renamed Blonde Phantom Comics after her first appearance).

As with other Timely titles aimed at women in the 1940s, the series only lasted about 2 years, but there were a number of crossovers and interactions between all the ladies of Timely. Blonde Phantom Comics eventually changed title and format to become an anthology series of romance strips titled Lovers.

But Louise Grant’s adventures as a crime fighter didn’t end there…

The case for:

–       Louise Mason (nee Grant) was a major supporting character in John Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk.

–      The only character other than Shulky able to break the fourth wall in Sensational She-Hulk, Louise acknowledged her storied history, as well as how aging works for comicbook characters in a charming and unexpected way. Not only did her inclusion in the series inspire some of the storylines in Dan Slott’s She-Hulk run, but with the success of characters like Deadpool and Harley Quinn, this bender of reality could find huge success in the current comics atmosphere.

–      Millie the Model dressed as the Blonde Phantom for a cosmetics company concurrently with the release of the actual Blonde Phantom’s first appearance. That kind of kismet is pretty rare and special.

–       Mark Mason and Louise had a reverse Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship; Mark was in love with the Blonde Phantom and though Louise was a bit of a bore. This subversion of the classic superhero romantic trope could resonate strongly with a modern comics audience.

–       Women are the majority audience for comics now, and with the success of oddball titles like Harley Quinn and female-led crime and mystery stories like Black Widow, Pretty Deadly, Spider-Woman, Sex Criminals, Elektra, Poison Ivy, Bitch Planet, Catwoman, and the upcoming Vampirella revamp, the Blonde Phantom could easily find a niche on the waterfall racks.

–       The Blonde Phantom is technically a female legacy character, with Louise’s daughter Wanda briefly donning the domino mask. Wanda was last mentioned in 2007’s the Initiative.

–       Howard Chaykin’s Avengers 1959 miniseries teamed up the Blonde Phantom with her old friend Namora, as well as Nick Fury, Sabretooth, Kraven, and Howard Stark, and was instrumental in defeating the Spider-Queen and Dieter Skul.

–       A native of Hoboken, New Jersey, experienced in legal proceedings, and an expert detective herself, the Blonde Phantom would fit right in with the current new and different Marvel universe pretty well (she could team up with Patsy Walker’s new company, or offer an old school perspective to Kamala).

–       With Marvel going back to their Timely roots, featuring Millie the Model in Secret Wars and giving romance comic star Patsy Walker her own solo title, Louise Grant doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched heroine to return to the pages, young or old.

 

 

The case against:

–       Louise has a lot of history, and last we saw her she was definitely not how you would imagine a superheroic leading lady: older, heavier, and not as interested in fighting crime.

–       Despite her most recent appearance only being a few years old, the 2011 mini series Avengers 1959 did not solidify her relevance in the Marvel U.

–      With the introduction of paralegal Angie Huang in the most recent She-Hulk solo series, Louise’s most successful niche was filled by someone else (with apparent supernatural powers).

 

The fact remains…

There’s still a chance Louise (or Wanda) could find success. While the Blonde Phantom doesn’t represent something wholly unique to modern comics (as a white, blonde woman), Louise does offer up an older perspective, a chance to show more body diversity a la Valient’s Faith, and a chance to have some real commentary on the condition of comics without it coming from a nutjob like Deadpool.

I could easily see Louise playing a Jarvis-style role to a younger woman who’s just starting out in the superhero business, or a woman who, while a veteran of the cape game, needs smart and sarcastic support…

Say, maybe Spider-Woman needs a secretary-slash-nanny?

Whatever Happened To… The Rabbit Of Tomorrow

The next in a short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

This week we take look at the lovable lapin, and Earth-C’s writer and artist for the JLA (Just’a Lotta Animals) comic, Rodney Rabbit, a.k.a. CAPTAIN CARROT!

Created by Roy Thomas, Scott Shaw! , and Gerry Conway, Captain Carrot made his first appearance as a preview in the top selling comic at the time, the New Teen Titans, and had a well-loved 20 issue series in the mid 80’s. But are funny animal comics even relevant anymore?

The case for:

–       Captain Carrot (and his Zoo Crew) parodied the DC Comic character roster at the time, telling fun, lighthearted stories that are much in the vein of current DC You titles like Starfire, Gotham Academy, Bizarro, and Bat-Mite.

–      Captain Carrot represented DC’s awareness to the relevancy of funny animal comics being produced for more mature readers, a big comicbook trend in the 80’s.

–       Rodney was a writer and artist at the DC Comics of Earth-C (think of the parody possibilities: Dan Dog-dio, the hounding co-publisher!).

–       He was a star in Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, and a clear favorite to draw for many DC artists.

–       Zatanna’s pet rabbit Lucky is actually Rodney’s son.

–       Captain Carrot was a big part of DC’s Final Crisis, even having his own miniseries during the event.

–       He’s a founding member of “Operation Justice Incarnate,” and helps keep the DC Multiverse safe.

–       Is basically Superman, but with the cutest buck-tooth grin. (And his greatest weakness is that his powers run out 24 hours after he chews on a Cosmic Carrot.)

–       Marvel has had recent success with two anthropomorphic animal characters headlining their own series: Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon.

–       Wizard Magazine #151 already imagined what a modern retelling of the Zoo Crew might look like:

The case against:

–       His original name (Roger Rabbit) was changed to Rodney partway through his first series in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit from Gary Wolf (and later, Disney), which led to a fair amount of reader confusion.

–       Though he’s sprung up here and there in the DC Universe prior to Convergence and Multiversity, references to Captain Carrot were made mainly as an in-universe joke…

–      Except for that whole Threshold comic, starring Captain K’Rot. Yuck!

 

The fact remains that Captain Carrot starred in both a Convergence series and in the Multiversity miniseries…

And, despite the number of times he popped up in the backgrounds of almost every issue of Convergence, he’s not in the new DC Universe.

It seems unlikely that Captain Carrot or the Zoo Crew would show up in an ongoing series, even with the new, more humorous tone that many DC comics are taking on. Captain Carrot was never a one-off joke like other funny animal superheroes of the 80’s, and he’s had about as many series as Power Girl, Stargirl, or other B-list heroes. The most frustrating thing about DC’s apparent lack of Rodney is the fact that he seemed to be played up as an important character in Convergence, yet his crossover title with Harley Quinn ended up with the clown blatantly killing our hoppy hero. That’s not such a dignified way to go for a rabbit who represented truth, justice, and the Animerican way.

 

Mhani Alaoui Interview: Dreams of Blue Boots, Orange Blossoms, and Feminist Heroines

Maryam TairNot such a long time ago, in not such a faraway place, and yet a world so completely different, a girl was born. This girl is the heroine of Dreams of Maryam Tair: Blue Boots and Orange Blossoms, a new novel by Mhani Alaoui (published by Interlink Books).

Dreamy and otherworldy, the novel takes its reader on a journey through Casablanca, Morocco, Earth, and to a world that lies in between reality and stories. Dreams of Maryam Tair boasts a number of storytelling twists, changing perspectives, interlaced stories, and also offers up something different from your traditional fantasy novels: a queer, disabled, non-white, female hero.

The titular Maryam is a powerful character in a way that contradicts fantasy hero archetypes; she is not strong of body, but strong of heart, and her words (and the words of the book) seem to hold much more power than anything else in the universe. The novel plays on classic mythos of tales from the Quran, the Bible, One Thousand and One Nights, and other stories, creating a narrative that is as much about storytelling as it is about telling the story of its characters. In a way, Dreams of Maryam Tair represents a new generation of fantasy novels that, in “deviating” from the norm, are creating a “new normal” one page at a time.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to talk with Mhani Alaoui about Dreams of Maryam Tair: Blue Boots and Orange Blossoms, storytelling, and creating feminist interpretations of ancient texts.

-Spoilers follow-

Acts of Geek: I’d like to start off by touching on the framing device you use with Sheherazade. The majority of her scenes seem to exist in a place outside time, and these chapters emphasizes how stories function in the rest of the book. Why did you choose to use this story-within-a-story style frame? What inspired your application of Sheherazade as both a major character and architect of the story?

Mhani Alaoui: Sheherazade, in Arabo-Muslim tradition (and this should be seen as encompassing North Africa all the way to the Far East), herself probably Persian or Indian, represents the Story Teller. She tells stories to stop a mad king from beheading her. I like that metaphor. Stories are a tool against uncontrolled, irrational power. And the storyteller, a woman, becomes herself the symbol of the resistance of words, imagination, creativity against brute, unthinking force and suffering. It’s nice, especially in a time like ours where violence threatens people everywhere.

One of the most beautiful stories I have ever read is the Mahabharata, one of the two main Indian religious texts. The Mahabharata uses the story within a story structure and I liked the immediacy, the ‘humility’ of this structure. It was also an enjoyable way for me to mingle the real and the magical, the past, present and future and allows the heroine ‘Maryam’ to acquire a knowledge no-one otherwise would have given her. Finally, it was a way, for me, to give a ‘cosmic’ dimension to the story of a ‘poor, little Arab girl’ whom everything in life predisposed to an inconsequential life but who acquires, through the story of a story, agency, power and meaning.

AoG: Another prominent story within the book is the biblical story of Adam, Lilith, and Eve, which plays out both in a more literal sense (with the given names of Adam and Shawg) and also in an interpretive sense (like Leila’s attempted divorce from Adam and the betrayal between the twins Shams and Hilal–who are parallel to Cain and Abel). However, you subvert the biblical story by presenting Lilith, in a sense, as the more heroic figure. What was your intention with having Maryam as the daughter of a traditionally “evil” (or at least witchy) character? Was this choice an intentional feminist interpretation/cooption of the Bible story?

MA: It was intentional. In fact, when the idea of this story first came to me, this was the initial part. It seemed to me that, whether we are atheist, agnostic or believers, those of us raised in Judeo-Christian cultures (and that, of course, would include Islam: people to forget the proximity between these cultures and religions), all know the story of Adam and Eve. And Eve, the woman, is, despite all progressive rereadings, the ‘temptress’ and inferior to a ‘purer’, corruptible man. In the US and in Europe, very broadly, the feminist revolution, the gay revolution and gender awareness all have contributed to advance women and minority rights. However, in my part of the world (the Arab/Muslim World), these revolutions have not yet happened, even though their premises are there. In fact, quite the opposite. For religious narratives continue to dominate and render inferior all other narratives and stories. As such, it is very hard for the ‘couple’ and the ‘individual’ to emerge as the core of society.

Lilith, in Jewish mythology, is both a she-demon and the first wife of Adam. She was his equal until she refused to submit. Her rebellion, in these myths, is what makes her a demon. It made sense to me, then, to trace the ‘new, first family’ from an equal, even though broken, couple. I wanted Maryam to have a mother she could be proud of, even if she was absent from her life.

AoG: Your book is an absolute sensory delight. There were moments when I was reading out where I craved the food described or felt the sensations written in the pages, like bread with olive oil and honey or riding a rickety bike. The sensation with the greatest emphases seemed to be smell. Why does smell seem to play such a major roll (like the scent off Maryam as opposed to Shams and Hilal)? And what made you choose orange blossom as the emphasized, titular scent?

MA: I had a dear friend, who passed away recently, who once asked me what was the most important sense for me. I answered ‘vision’. He said it was ‘scent’, it had to be ‘scent’. Without it, we could not be sensual or sensuous. There would be no pleasure or taste. We would not know nostalgia and would forget our past. And when I thought about it, I agreed. Very often, scent triggers sensations or memories we think we had forgotten. Scents allow us to day dream, in all senses of the word. A story, like this one, that is a kind of dream, would have been incomplete without the predominance of scent. Scent becomes the condition of being of the dream and of the story-as-dream.

I chose the orange blossom scent because it is usually associated with marriage, purity and innocence. Perfumes and scents are also associated with saints. Saint Theresa of Avila was said to have a
natural perfume that signified her presence to others, in special circumstances.

In a way, for me, Maryam both transgresses all these symbols and epitomizes them. Her quest is a ‘saintly’ one but her physical presence is disturbing, unchaste, may be considered by some as not
beautiful and not innocent. She is a superheroine. For me, a superheroine is the modern expression of the ‘saint’. He or she who fights for causes, despite all odds, and is there to protect the weak.
The powers of saints and superheroes ( and of Maryam) are in hiding, camouflaged. They only appear at times of great stress or need.

Maryam is a modern saint/superheroine.

The scent of Shams and Hilal (who are Cain and Abel) is the scent of the earth, of wet clay. They are of the earth, but an earth of violence and roughness. They are, also, the sculpted clay before it is
fully moulded. As such, they are imperfect. I chose their scent to contrast with the lighter, more delicate scent of their sister, Maryam.

AoG: That’s really beautiful, thank you.

I wanted to touch on the magical realism in Dreams of Maryam Tair. So much of the story is grounded in real-world happenings, like the 1981 Bread Riots in Casablanca, but supernatural demons play a major role in how the societal unrest is handled and punished. What made you choose Casablanca as the major setting, and why do demons play a co-antagonistic role alongside figures of male power?

MA: Casablanca is my city. I grew up here and spent the first 18 years of my life here. After twelve years abroad, I came back and rediscovered the city, its many paradoxes, beauties and terrors, anew.

In Morocco, whether in the countryside or in the major cities like Casablanca, there is an entrenched belief in witchcraft. People of all classes and education levels believe in witchcraft and sorcery. At various degrees, of course: from light superstitions (do not throw salt down the drain, you may scorch and anger a djinni living there, to the profound belief that adultery is the cause of a witch and financial problems the work of a jealous enemy). Anthropologists study witchcraft as though it were ‘real’. By real, I mean that because people and a society believe in it, they build a reality around it, and in that sense, witchcraft becomes real, a fact of society. This belief in witchcraft encompasses such diverse practices as talismans, the power of djinnis, witches, she-demons, omens and love potions. In a way, then, they become ‘real’ in so far as they are a part of people’s imaginaries, choices and actions.

AoG: How does the power of humans like Zohra, a sort of mystical midwife, figure into the magical landscape? What about the human/divine romance between the inhabitants of the Tair household and Hamza?

MA: In this novel, it seemed to me that magic realism worked well with what I was trying to portray. There is always a part of the ‘magical’ in the way people go through their days. But it’s also more than that, there is a political component to this choice. Demons are not just demons. They are the emanation of a repressive system. Whether the repression occurs through the police, the failing judicial system or society itself with its very traditional, bigoted, closed judgement of the world. The Tair household comes to represent a microcosm of Casablanca, of Morocco itself. It is a universe with its own cosmic laws and myths. In Morocco, we have a real problem with ‘child maids’, as they are called here. These are very young girls (they can be as young as 8 years old) who are sent to work as housemaids by their families, desperate for money and stuck in the poverty cycle. Zainab is one of these children whose childhood was taken away from her. By imagining a romance between her and the most powerful of beings, Hamza, I try to rectify the unfathomable injustice done to all the children robbed of their childhood. It may be silly, part of a fantasy, but it was my way of bringing in this aspect of our society without making Zeinab into simply a victim. Women like Zohra have always existed in Morocco collective imaginary. I think she may be one of the forgotten remnants of an African, matriarchal past. Morocco is as much an African country as it is a Muslim and Arab one, which people tend to forget.

AoG: And finally, there are moments when the book shifts tenses, most notably giving readers the first person perspective of Maryam or her mother Leila. It’s an effective tool to put the reader in the protagonist’s shoes, but you keep it from feeling jarring by having the transition feel like a natural journey into that moment. Why did you use first person on occasion, and was it meant to intentionally emphasize something about the passages where it is used?

MA: The shifting of tenses is linked to [the forgotten matriarchies of the past]. I believe that history is always among us, that we play and enact it daily, without even knowing it. We are both in the past and in the present.

Finally, I am not sure why the first person narrative popped up in the novel. It just seemed appropriate. Sometimes the characters want to have a life of their own, slip away from the control and authorship of the person writing the story… Maybe it’s like a play, where the story sometimes pauses to allow a character to put his/her own imprint on the stage.