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.

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!

Countdown To FCBD Day 3: For The Gamers!

Comics often crossover with other forms of media, and one of the most notable in the 21st Century would be video games.  So to all the gaming guys & gals out there here are some books to look out for come Free Comic Book Day!

Assasins Creed (Titan)

Call of Duty (Darkhorse)

Darkstalkers (Udon)

Dragon Age (Titan)

Injustice (DC)

Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition  (VIZ)

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (VIZ)

Megaman (Archie)

Megaman Megamix/Gigamix (Udon)

Mortal Kombat (DC)

Pokemon Adventures (VIZ)

Ratchet & Clank (DC/Wildstorm)

Resident Evil (VIZ)

Sonic Boom (Archie)

Sonic Universe  (Archie)

Splatoon (VIZ)

Street Fighter (Udon)

Street Fighter X G.I.Joe (IDW)

Swordquest (Dynamite)

Tekken (Titan)

World of Warcaft (Wildstorm)

Countdown To FCBD Reccomindations Day 2: Sci-Fi, Horror & Suspense!

In day 2 of our countdown we have a list of Horror, Sci-Fi & Suspense titles for older fans to take a look at come Free Comic Book Day!


28 Days Later (IDW)

Afterlife With Archie  (Archie)

Aliens (Darkhorse)

Animosity  (Aftershock)

AVP (Darkhorse )

Black Eyed Kids (Aftershock)

Blackest Knight (DC)

Buffy (Darkhorse)

Cannibal (Image)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Archie)

Creepy (Darkhorse)

Demon Knights (DC)

Future’s End (DC)

Ghostbusters (IDW)

Ghost Rider (Marvel)

Hellboy (Darkhorse)

Infestation (IDW)

I, Vampire  (DC)

Justice League Dark (DC)

Marvel Zombies  (Marvel)

The Normals (Aftershock)

Predator (Darkhorse) 

She-Wolf (Image)

Silent Hill  (IDW)

Tales From The Crypt (EC)

Walking Dead (Image)
  And there you have it, a list of terrifying & thrilling titles to look for come FCBD!

Black Cloud #1 Review

Publisher: image tumblr_oj8kbjohQp1r8ybe2o1_500

Written By: Jason Latour, Ican Brandon

Art By: Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson

Letters By: Aditya Bidikar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Cloud is a new indie series from Image Comics written by the same team responsible for Spider-Gwen (Marvel) and Southern Bastards (image).  If I were to try to describe what it is about just by going off what I had read I would undoubtedly fail at doing so, instead I will just quote the synopsis given for the book instead.

“Zelda was born in a world of dreams, and hers burned bigger than anyone had ever seen.

Now she’s on the run in our world, the dreams broken in her hands.

But the pieces are for sale, the rich and the powerful are buying, and suddenly her world isn’t the only place Zelda’s running from.”

 

In theory this sounds like an interesting story, however the execution is sorely lacking the book doesn’t do much to explain what is going on to the reader other than the vague bare essentials we Know the main character is running from something in this alternate world, but we don’t know why, we know she is strapped for cash and taking jobs for spoiled rich people, but we don’t know why.  Not that there is anything wrong withholding information to create suspense or mystery for a story, but the book doesn’t even manage to do that properly.  There is no feeling of suspense or tension throughout the entire book, not even when the lead character is confronted by a group of dream world inhabitants that are less than happy to see here.  The book also feels like it bounces around a lot which is always annoying in a story weather it is a film or a comic. Overall the first issue sadly seems to fall pretty flat for a concept with such potential.

 

On the art side of things however Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson do a solid job of bringing the story to life with nice color or sometimes lack of color palate and decent character designs for the cast of both the real and dream worlds.

 

Overall Black Cloud is a good story in theory but in execution it feels rushed and incomplete.  There is potential for this series to do great things in the future, but it will have to learn to take its time and flesh out its characters and world more if it wants to contend with other popular image titles like Saga or  The Wicked + The Divine anytime soon.

 

Final Grade

Story: 2

Art 6

Overall:  4 out of 10.