Thoughts on: What Steven Universe Teaches us About The Human Condition

 

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Unless you have been under a rock for the past three and a half years you have most likely heard of Cartoon Network’s original series Steven Universe.  The series which features the adventures of a young half-alien boy named Steven and his family The Crystal Gems as they fight to protect the earth from all sorts of magical and alien threats.   At face value that may not sound like enough to drag you in, but if there is one thing that the current decade of animation has taught us is that you cannot judge a show by its appearance or its synopsis alone.  Over the past three or so years we have watched Steven Universe grow from a series about a young boy trying to learn to use his powers to one of the most progressive, complex and emotionally in-depth and mature series to ever grace our television screens.  And what really makes the series hit home for many is how human the characters are despite being magic alien gems.  So today we take a look at what Steven Universe can teach us about the human condition.

 

I. Dealing With Loss/Living up to Expectations

One of the key elements to Steven Universe’s lore is how Steven’s mom Rose Quartz for all intensive purposes passed away while giving birth to him.  Because of this we have seen characters such as Rose’s husband Greg and her confidant Pearl deal with the loss over the course of the series in different ways.  Pearl especially had been the main focus of this story arc as we saw how overprotective she was of Steven early on in the series and acting like a surrogate mother of sorts and all the while holding a silent grudge against Greg for taking the one she loved away from her, we saw this all come to a head in season 3 when Greg & Steven take Pearl on a vacation with them to the big city where we get various musical numbers one focusing on how Pearl still laments over the loss of Rose and ending with Steven serenading the two with a ballad about how he loves both of them and they should talk to each other about the loss of Rose Quartz.  The episode ending with some sense of closure for the two.   Loss of a loved one is also what drives the remaining Diamonds to have such a hatred for Rose Quartz and in some cases the Earth.  Rose was the one responsible for shattering Pink Diamond leaving her sisters in either a state of constant rage like Yellow Diamond or sorrow like Blue Diamond.

Another important element of Steven Universe is how Steven constantly feels the need to learn more and live-up to the example his mom had set for the Crystal Gems.  Over the course of the show we see him lament not being as strong as her, and even as his powers grow we see him struggle to fine that line between respecting his mother’s legacy while still trying to be his own person.   And Steven is not the only one dealing with this struggle as Amethyst, a character who is basically a big sister figure to Steven also views herself as inadequate, an aspect which was first touched on when she and Steven first visited the Kindergarten and Amethyst admitted to Pearl she felt like the others saw her as a mistake and later on when she realized she was falling behind even Steven in terms of ability.

 

These two tropes while not solely unique to Steven Universe are used in a very well done and natural way, and they show us that even though loss and self-doubt are part of life that they do not define us, and they can in the end make us stronger as long as we do not let ourselves be controlled by them.

 

II. Friendship

Like many lead characters in animation Steven has an uncanny knack for being able to make friends.  While this cliché is usually pretty aggravating, in Steven Universe it has been used organically for the most part, as Steven doesn’t just become friends with every new person or gem he meets, but slowly bonds with them over the course of episodes/seasons.  The most notable use of this was when the Homeworld gem Peridot was captured by the Crystal Gems after months of chasing her and falling prey to her traps.  While the rest of the Gems would have been just fine leaving her unconscious and imprisoned in a bubble, Steven freed her and over the course of several episodes formed a bond of friendship with her that eventually lead to her defecting from Homeworld and joining the Crystal Gems to help them stop the planet destroying geo-weapon “The Cluster” that had been placed deep within the Earth’s core.   We also see Peridot her self attempt to and at times fail to befriend her fellow refugee Lapis Lazuli and a sentient pumpkin-dog Steven created for them to have as a pet as well.

As for Steven himself we do see how his relationships with both the Gems and his fellow Beach City residents evolve over the course of the show, as they all essentially work off of each other to slowly grow and become better people.  We also see the difference in the way the various friendships work, some characters being more social or asocial than others, some being more eccentric or more talkative, over the course of the series we learn more about the Beach City residents and we see how their friendship with Steven effects them both positively and negatively.

 

III. Dealing With Negative Emotions

Over the course of the show we have seen various subjects like Anxiety, Depression, Anger, self-doubt, fear, jealousy and sorrow all put on in full display and how the various characters have dealt with these emotions.  The show helps the audience accept that these feelings are part of life, but they do not define us and can only destroy or control us if we let them.  From Connie or Steven dealing with the fallout of Anxiety or Lapis being Jealous of a potential new roommate we see how these characters in both good ways and bad deal with their negative emotions and how these things can help or harm them in the long run.

 

IV: Love

While the word itself has become a bit of a cliché, Steven Universe uses love very well, from Platonic to Romantic to undefined relationships, love is a key part of why the characters do what they do. Ruby and Saphire’s love for one another allows them to remain fused as Garnet, Steven’s love for Connie allowing him to fuse with her in battle, or Pearl’s love for Rose causing her to remain dedicated to the Crystal Gem cause and protecting the Earth, or Steven’s love for his father and the of the residents of Beach City being a big reason for his desire to both befriend and protect them.  While it may be cliché, Steven Universe shows that love can be a positive and powerful force in our lives if we let it in and use it properly.

 

 

Overall this is just a light touch on the level of emotional depth and complexity the series has come to portray over the years.  Like with many modern animations there is much more to it than meets the eye and if you are willing to have an open mind and open heart you might just learn a thing or two from Steven and his family.

 

 

Steven Universe: Wanted special premiers tonight @ 7 P.M./6 P.M. Central on Cartoon Network.

Thoughts On: Building Better Fanbases

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One of the most common complaints in the digital age and even before is how insane and down right toxic fandoms for everything from Comics to Cartoons, Film to television to video games can and have been.  One thing I always find myself wondering is why things are like this and really there is no easy singular answer to this question but today I will be doing the best I can to from my perspective point out the various flaws in the way we as both groups and individuals portray ourselves as fans.  So without further hesitation I ask if you will please humor me and see what you think, am I spot on or way off the mark?

 

 

I. The Psychology of A Fan

1: Fulfilling A Need:  Before one can ask what is wrong with fandom we must first ask why we become a fan of something in the first place?  There is of course no right or wrong answer, different people gain or lose interest in things for different reasons.  However in base psychological terms one could argue that we become a fan because we feel the thing we gain interest in fulfills a psychological &/or emotional need that was previously missing in our lives or was not present to a degree that we were satisfied with.  Whether it is  being inspired by superheroes, letting animation tug at your heartstrings or satisfying your adrenaline rush with certain scifi and horror franchises we all have our own reasons for partaking in the fictions we choose as they give us something we feel everyday life doesn’t and if we like what we partake in well enough, and if we feel it can help fulfill what we see as a gap in our emotional and psychological needs we will justifiably become a long time fan.

2: Obsession:  This is one step that every fan enters to some degree during their lives and it is arguably the most dangerous one to navigate through.  After we get our first hit of something we keep coming back for more, like an addict we can become increasingly obsessed with a character/series/franchise of choice to where it can consume every facet of our lives and we think about it every waking moment of our existence, we branch out from just casual enjoyment to a more hardcore endearment towards our new found obsession.  While this in and of itself is not always a bad thing and may just result in joining a forum or two, occasionally drawing some fan art, watching some Youtube videos and getting a couple of knick-knacks here and there for others and can become an extreme it can result in doing everything you do, every action being about or for this thing you now love to a point to where like any other addict it can interfere with your real life and the relationships with in it.  If left unchecked obsession can lead to an individual being unable to handle any form of criticism towards the thing they like taking a general critique of it as a personal attack on their honor and person which can lead to never ending ever increasing extreme and ridiculous arguments between different factions both within and outside of fan communities.  This is the most dangerous part of the fan life because it can easily lead fans to extremist levels of overreliance of the thing the love and lead them to be so out of touch with reality that they would openly threaten the life of another person for merely having a different opinion or viewpoint than them on it.  Thankfully though many of us grow out of this phase and slowly learn that not every negative word given is an attack on their person.

3: Control & Reconciliation VS Submission:

If you manage to wade through the sea of obsession you will eventually find yourself at the shores of sanity once more.  You can acknowledge that you are a fan of something, accept you may be a fan of this thing for the rest of your lifetime, but you also accept that it is merely an interest a hobby, just one part of your character and psyche and not the totality of your being.  You realize that it is OK if not everyone else has the same interests as you and that it is OK if people like the things you like for different reasons. You learn to control yourself and only indulge in excess content related to this thing you love in moderation over reasonable periods of time and within reasonable expense.   You know there will always be people that both like and dislike your thing and that’s OK.  However if you don’t eventually get to a point where you break free of the bright and shiny lights of obsession you in a way are submitting to something, letting this thing that doesn’t even exist on the same plane as you, letting a mere idea and dream, a metaphysical existence control you and your actions.  Instead of being a mere fan you are now a servant to this force with no will of your own and like a cultist you blindly follow it wherever it goes and whatever the hive mind of the community says.   This is a very dangerous path to tread down as it can stunt personal growth not only as a fan of something but as a person as well.  At the end of the day we have to stand tall and say that we control our interests and that they do not control us.

 

In closing while being a fan can be a very satisfying experience we need to like with any other aspect of our lives practice these things in moderation and sensibility.  We are the ones responsible for our actions both good and bad while participating in a fan community and no level of delusion or obsession can ever justify treating a fictional character or creature with more decency and respect than a living one.  We must learn to keep ourselves in check and not overact to every thing said about our interests we dislike.

 

II. Fixing The Cracks

 

  1. Acknowledging Alternative Views:  While it is true that many sites and critics will be purposely overly negative or unprofessional to rile-up controversy just to get easy clicks and advertisement we should realize that not everyone who has a view differing from our own is out to harm or demonize the things you enjoy, in the wise words of the great sage Linkara “Get over yourself internet, not everyone has the same interests as you!”

2. Putting The Pro Back in Professional:  The advent of the digital age has arguably caused critics both young and old to get a bit lackadaisical in their practices, far too many critics online and in print form have taken a more hostile and troll like approach to their job.  Given this smug sense of elitism has always existed in the profession to a degree but we have known for decades you can dissect a film or any work of art and storytelling without being cruel even if most of your conclusions of it are negative ones.  Critics may be getting paid or praised for their word but at the end of the day they are also a type of fan and it is important to be aware of ones own confirmation biases both positive and negative when going into a review and still trying to give everything you view an even shake and letting each individual work stand or fall on its own legs.

 

3. Talking about the issues:  Whether we like to admit it or not things like Toxic Masculinity, Mental Instability,  Exclusivist mindsets, Sexism, Racism, Homophobia and every other nasty part of human nature can and do butt their ugly heads into fan communities.  It is important we continue to discuss these issues and call out those guilty of these practices to help make a better and safer fan community for those from all walks of life.

 

III. Final Thoughts

Overall the points and topics presented here are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of human interaction and how fans and fanbases/communities view one another.  In truth you could write an entire series of books about the psychology of the various fanbases on the internet and it could take a lifetime to even get everyone on board to consider addressing the problems inherent in their communities but I do believe that if we are willing to acknowledge the faults both within ourselves and the communities both online and off that we partake in we can make better more professional, mature, caring and empathetic fans in the future.  Or who knows maybe i’m just a madman.

The Flash #22: The Button Part 4 Review

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Published By: DC Comics

Written By: Joshua Williamson

Art by Howard Porter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next chapter in the DC Universe Rebirth Saga has finally come to a close.  Did The Button meet expectations, or was it not quite fast enough to make the cut?

 

To do a brief recap of the third part of the event Bruce & Barry ended up in the Flashpoint timeline where Bruce got to have a short heart to heart with his father Thomas Wayne before they were attacked by the Amazonian and Atlantien forces, during the fight they world begins to vanish and Bruce and Barry are forced to head back into the speed force where they encounter Thawne before he dies with the mysterious button in hand.

 

Part four of the story picks up where part three left off with Batman & Flash following Thawne through the speedforce via the cosmic treadmill while a mysterious voice narrates.   Thawne boasts that after he gets the power of the being behind the time/space manipulations he will go back and mess-up Barry’s childhood even more laughing at all the sadistic things he has planned.  However once Thawne finally arrives at the edge and faces the mysterious entity his bravado quickly becomes fear as he begs for his life and is destroyed by the mysterious force.  The ripples cause Barry & Bruce to be flung off the Cosmic treadmill but Flash finally here’s the voice that has been calling him and says Jay Garrick’s name which allows Jay to temporarily break free from the Speedforce and help get Flash and Batman safely back to the Batcave .  Barry attempts to stabilize him the way he had before with Wally but he fails and Jay is pulled back into the Speedforce.  Barry says he must not have been the right person that he wasn’t Jay’s lightning rod.  The issue ends with the button floating in space and Superman’s shield shown front and center in one of the panels.

 

In terms of story The Button does move the overall narrative of Rebirth forward, however at the end of the day it does feel a bit more like a mean tease more so than anything else.  The book does concrete that we will eventually get teams like the JSA and Legion of Superheroes back and does do some things that will most likely have some long lasting effects on the characters, such as the Death of Eobard Thawne The Reverse Flash, and Bruce having a heart to heart with his father Thomas making him doubt his purpose for being Batman.  Otherwise the story just seems to be a set-up for this Fall’s Doomsday Clock storyline.  On the Brightside however Howard Porter’s art is just as great as ever and his Jay Garrick is a nice mix of the traditional and the John Wessley Shipp version we see on TV.

 

Overall The Button is an interesting story that is just one more piece in the gigantic puzzle that is Rebirth.

 

Final Score

Story: 7

Art: 8

Overall: 7.5

  

BUG! The Adventures of Forager #1 Review

Publisher: DC Comics608

Written By:  Lee & Micael Allred

Art By: Lee & Laura Allred

Letters By:  Nate Piekos of Blambot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever since last fall when DC Comics launched its new Young Animal imprint fans have been eagerly awaiting to see what would come from it once it expanded beyond its initial four premiere titles.  Well this week the fifth series and first mini to launch from the line has begun and it is a rip-roaring adventure through time, space and the Multiverse with the best hero you’ve never heard of Bug The Forager.  So get your mother boxes ready and let the journey begin.

 

The book starts out by giving us some brief flashbacks to Bug’s previous and supposedly final adventure before having the titular hero wake up and find himself encased in a cocoon inside of a basement.  He looks around and finds a mysterious talking teddy bear that is quickly snatched by an equally mysterious ghost girl whom he follows up the stairs until he runs into a group of monsters that he must fight off before meeting up with the girl once more in a room full of dominos that mimic a motherbox switchboard diagram.  The dominos drop and our hero is given multiple vision of other heroes in need of help throughout the Multiverse.  After this ordeal Bug is found by two more creepy creatures who happen to be servants of the silver age Sandman.  He explains there are here to find “The Dreamer” whom he believes Forager to be and that he needs BUG to wake up if he isn’t already dead that is.  The reason for this is because he needs BUG to help him find one of the rarest metals in all the Multiverse, one that can make dreams reality.  Shortly after being awoken the group is attacked by General Electric a mad scientist in search of the same power as Sandman & BUG.  The first issue ends with BUG stepping through a dimensional portal to parts unknown.

 

 

Overall in terms of story the book is the highly enjoyable retro surrealist kind of tale we have come to expect from both the Young Animal Line and Allred himself.  The book pays tribute to what has come before while still paving the way for something new while setting up an interesting story and mystery for the rest of the series to follow-up on.  The inclusion of lesser known characters like the Silver Age Sandman are a nice plus and really help showcase the scope of the DCU even when the majority of your book takes place in a dream house.  General Electric while a somewhat cheesy villain is introduced in a very fun and bombastic way and the magical McGuffins of the metal and dream whistles actually fit into the story quite well.  The art is also fantastic as it to features Allred’s unique form and style that manages to make the characters feel lively and dynamic and making each one feel unique while still being a working homogeneous part of the same story and world.  If there are any complaints to be had it would be the book does seem to jump around a bit but that only adds to the surrealist feel and style of the work.

 

Overall I would say BUG! The Adventures of Forager is a worthy addition to any DC/Young Animal fans collection.

 

Final Score

Story: 8.5

Art: 8

Overall: 8.5

  Predator: Hunters #1 Review

Published By: Dark Horse Comics

Written By: Chris Warnar

Art By: Fransisco Ruiz Velasco

Lettered By: Michael Heisler


    Dark Horse Comics has been publishing Predator Comics for decades and from Aliens to Batman to Terminators the celestial hunters have gone against many worthy foes, however in this latest series humanity fights back and the hunters become the hunted.
  The book starts out as usual with a group of humans being hunted by the predator with all but one being killed by the beast.  We cut away to a gas station where our main character Nakai is being harassed by his racist redneck boss as he repairs a car.  Shortly after a mysterious trio arrives at the station and confronts Mr. Nakai.  They ask him what experience he has with Predators and he tells them his story.  The trio run by Jaya Soanes then reveal that they are Predator hunters and that they have also survived encounters with or descend from those that hunted the monsters and would like Nakai to join their group.  At first he is reluctant, but eventually he decides to tell off his racist boss and join the team.

 In terms of story the first issue is unsurprisingly primarily set-up and while we do get some brief predator action at the start and via flashbacks most of the issue focuses on setting up the characters and their relation to the extraterrestrial beast.  It isn’t the most entertaining read but it is well executed and gives us decent backgrounds for our human cast and the Predator moments are fairly well done.

 The art by Valesco seems a bit on the genaric side of things but it is done well enough to where the story is fairly easy to follow and the Predator is still intimidating.

  Overall this is a decent start to the mini-series, if not a somewhat subdued one given the premise of the story.

Final Rating

Story: 7

Art: 6

Overall: 6.5

Thoughts on: Everything Wrong With GOTG Vol.2

 

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In 2014 Marvel Studios released the first Guardians of The Galaxy movie which took a lesser known team of space ferrying Marvel heroes as well as a director previously known for what many would consider B-movies and skyrocketed them both into the mainstream with a surprise hit.  Like with most films the movie ended with a promise that some day the titular Guardians would return and as of this past Friday that promise was kept, though despite a fresh rating on the extremely overrated Rotten Tomatoes and lots of fluff pieces from mainstream media outlets the film itself fails to live up to the precedent set by its predecessor and makes for what is arguably not only the worst film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but perhaps one of the worst films of 2017 so far.  So hold your Baby Groots tight dear readers because we are about to take a deep dark look at the multitude of problems with Marvel’s latest theatrical outing.

 

 

 

  1. The Excessive Juvenile/Toilet Humor:   The original Guardians did arguably have a fairly simplistic and zany Saturday morning cartoon style of humor however it was innocent enough and balanced out well enough with the action that it managed to work fairly well.  The sequel however throws all of that out the window as it fills the movie with nothing but base sex and dick jokes nearly every five minutes, there is even an extremely awkward and cringe worthy scene where Drax asks Peter’s father Ego about his dick in front of quill and the rest of the Guardians.  This movies sense of humor is basically the equivalent to a 13 year old screaming penis over and over, it is genuinely grotesque, off putting and makes watching the film nearly unbearable.

 

2. The Casual Sexism: From beginning to end the film is filled with casual sexism.  From the start portraying Star Lord’s mother as a complete idiot  to having Gamora be a more subdued version of herself from the previous film and making Mantis a stereotypical “Submissive Asian girl” the film never lets up on its blatant and casual sexism. Oh and lets not forget that Yandu’s first appearance in the film is with him and his crew  on a planet of sex robots.

 

3. The Racism: As mentioned previously the portrayal of Mantis is horrible.  The character is portrayed as dull and submissive, referred to as Ego’s “pet” and takes whatever verbal abuse characters throw at her, especially from Drax.  It doesn’t help that she is a vary blatant stereotype of an Asian woman, which is just bone headed and disrespectful on Gunn & Co’s part.

 

4. Everyone is a sociopath!:  From Yandu killing his whole crew after a failed mutiny to Nebula’s obsession with killing her sister and Ego wanting to wipe out/assimilate all life in the Universe Guardians of the Galaxy is filled with violent and vile sociopaths! Even our heroes come off as huge jerks for most of the film and not even in a lovable rouges kind of way, just in a generally disturbing and unsettling kind of way

 

 5. Exacerbates its tropes:  Everything that made the previous film work so well is back and on steroids, twice as many classic rock songs, twice as much Rocket & Groot, twice as much blue-collar comedy.  It is almost as if the old saying “less is more” was completely ignored by this film as it takes what made the first film so enjoyable and throws it in your face to the point that you can’t help but be annoyed and aggravated by it.

 

6: This is NOT A kids/family friendly movie. Guardians was heavily marketed on kids networks like CN, DisneyXD & Nick, but despite the adorable Baby Groot this film is not kid friendly, the core audience for this movie is obviously 13-16 year old boys who still think that dick jokes are funny and that girls are icky and only good for bullying and sex.

 

In closing Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is one of the most shameful pieces of comic book film making to be put on the big screen in well over a decade and that fact that all it takes for main stream media to celebrate or deem something fresh is to slap a Disney/Marvel logo on it is just flat out disappointing and insulting to both the art of cinema and professional critique and criticism everywhere.  So do yourself a favor and skip this one, you’d have a much more enjoyable experience just copying the films playlist and staring at a tree in your backyard while listening to ELO.

Countdown To Free Comic Book Day 2017 Finale: True Heroes!

Free Comic Book Day 2017 is Almost Upon us!  And to close off our list of books to look out for at this years FCBD is the classic superhero!  So get your tights, capes & utility belts and get ready to hunt down these heroic books & events! 

52 (DC)

Action Comics (DC)

All-Star Batman (DC)

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (Marvel)

Armor Wars Deluxe Edition (Valiant)

Aquaman (DC)

Batgirl (DC)

Batman (DC)

Batman Beyond (DC)

Birds of Prey (DC)

 Black Canary (DC)

Black Panther (Marvel)

Black Panther & Crew (Marvel)

Blackest Night (DC)

Blue Beetle (DC)

Bombshells (DC)

Bloodshot (Valiant)

Brightest Day (DC)

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye (DC)

Convergence (DC)

Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC)

Cyborg (DC)

DC Universe Rebirth Deluxe Edition (DC)

Detective Comics (DC)

Doom Patrol (DC/Vertigo/YoungAnimal)

Earth-2 (DC)

Earth-2: Worlds End (DC)

Earth-2: Society (DC)

Faith (Valiant)

Final Crisis (DC)

The Flash (DC)

Flashpoint (DC)

Forever Evil (DC)

Future’s End (DC)

Generation Zero (Valiant)

Green Arrow  (DC)

Green Hornet (Dynamite)

Green Lantern (DC)

Green Lantern Corps  (DC)

Green Lantern: New Guardians (DC)

Green Lanterns (DC)

Hellblazer (DC/Vertigo)

Infinite Crisis (DC)

Infinity Gauntlet  (Marvel)

Invincible (Image)

Justice League 

Justice League of America  (DC)

Justice League Dark (DC)

Justice League: Generation Lost  (DC)

Justice League Unlimited (DC)

Kingdom Come (DC)

Legend of Wonder Woman (DC)

Multiversity: Deluxe Edition (DC)

Ninjak (Valiant)

New Super-Man (DC)

Nightwing (DC)

Old Man Logan (Marvel)

Omega Men (DC)

Red Hood & The Outlaws (DC)

Robin: Son of Batman (DC)

Savage Dragon (Image)

Secret Six (DC)

Secret Wars (Marvel)

Shade: The Changing Girl (DC/Young Animal)

The Shadow  (Dynamite)

The Spirit  (Dynamite)

Supergirl (DC)

Superman (DC)

Super Sons (DC)

Swamp Thing (DC)

Teen Titans (DC)

Telos (DC)

Titans (DC)

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel)

Vision (Marvel)

Wolverine (Marvek)

Wonder Woman (DC)

Wrath of The Eternal Warrior (Valiant)

X-Men (Marvel)

X-O MANOWAR (Valiant)

Youngblood (Image)
And there you have it a go to guide to superheo comics for FCBD tomorrow! Hope you have A great one!