Diversity in the Comic book work place

I have never been a comic book person. Sure I’ve picked up an issue here and there, but overall the medium isn’t something that I’m really into. A lot of the time when I am clicking around the internet I come across random news from the comic book world. The other day, through a string of Wikipedia articles I came across a character I had never heard of, Jessica Jones. Jones is a character from a strip called Alias and she’s and in and out member of the Avengers from time to time. Jones has had a pretty rough life, like most comic book heroes and she’s been dealt a fair bit of heartache, including apparently getting beat nearly to death by Iron Man.

But the thing that made Jones stand out to me from other characters I see a lot of in other media is that Jones has a bi-racial child with Luke Cage. That’s just something you don’t see often in movies and shows, at least not ones where the whole plot isn’t centered around it. Bi-racial people are everywhere. We’ve got one for President here in this country and many celebrities: Lenny Kravitz, Derek Jeter, Freddie Prince Jr—are bi-racial. But it seems that a lot of mixed race couples are absent from most television shows and movies.

577610_10100433648931115_25402396_43574103_1882729492_nMy primary cause for alarm in this picture? Someone letting Wolverine that close to a child.

That got me thinking: Comic books have been a pretty progressive art form for a while now. Stan Lee and Marvel’s X-Men is basically a giant allegory for the Civil Rights movement. There are many gay characters, in fact DC plans to bring one of their long time heroes out of the closet here soon, and many things that are seen as too taboo are handled rather well in comic books from what I know of them.

While women haven’t always been presented in the best light, there have been chances for them to shine early on with them coming up to take center stage later on. There’s such a diverse array of heroes from diverse backgrounds that there’s enough there for anyone to find someone identify with in more than one way.

As someone trying to make a book that accurately depicts a diverse group of women working to fight…well the forces of evil in general…it’s interesting to me to see how someone else is doing it. Though it’s not always handled perfectly, you have to applaud them for trying to be progressive in a way that most people shy away from. 

Video Games As Art

It’s not every day that a new medium (visual or otherwise) comes along that one can actually call art. Sure the word has been bastardized by relativism and much like I can say “I love Sour Cream and Onion Pringles” someone can say that anything is art.

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But for those of us stick to a slightly more restricted definition of what art is, it’s not very often that something new comes along a way that you have to start a new classification. The film medium was probably the last major one before this, but I would have to say that despite what people think of videogames they’re art.

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One of the most impressive, awe inspiring things about Diablo III when I first started to play was the fact that it was beautiful to look at. Not in the way that the graphics were crisp, but just in the style of the settings. The huge crumbling temples with water cascading down through them, the glowing radiant blue scars of a fallen star marring a cathedral. There’s something ethereal and arcane and very gothic about it all. Even when there is bloody body parts arcing across the screen there’s some beauty to be found in the visual aspect of the game.

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Sound wise, the game is just as stunning. But before I ramble on about all of this, the story is pretty damn crisp too. Videogames had a meager beginning and they’ve come close to being film like in the last five or so years, but when you think about it they borrow some of the aspects of so many different areas, some games taking more than others, to compile it all and make something completely different for the player. Games have to have writers, programmers (which some also see as art), graphic designers and people to draw the characters and someone else to sculpt them in 3-D. Long before games had merit or stories, they were seen a toys and pass times. Now they tell stories, scare people, make them laugh or cry and hold a huge audience world wide.

I’m sure no one had this vision for them going into it, but I can be sure that video games are solidifying themselves as an artistic medium right now.

Hacked

Since I have decided to use a Hacker character and some hacking elements in the story, I have bee doing research on hacking and different aspects of the culture. The results have been really interesting. If you thought that the hacker was a social pariah with no people skills who sat locked in a basement on a strange looking computer, you’re going to be surprised if you dig just a little into the life of very real and famous hackers.

I would suggest watching some of the videos on you tube from Def Con, like What Happens When You Steal a Hacker’s Computer.

The character that turns out to be the Hacker is actually from the Keep Austin Weird Safe e-book.

Keep Austin safe

A few weeks ago I posted here about e-mailing the person who coined the phrase Keep Austin Weird, Red Wassenich. He replied back then that I could use the phrase as the title, but that it wouldn’t be wise to because there was already a book out, written by him, using it. I thanked him in my reply and told him that I already had planned what to do if it wouldn’t work and in some ways I think going ahead with that might distinguish the book from the phrase itself.

The title I decided on, if you couldn’t tell already from what’s right above this post, is Keep Austin Safe. If I can, I’m probably going to have the word ‘Weird’ appear with a strikeout line through it. All of this fits the basic flavor of the e-book.

As far as the work on the project is coming, I’ve had some critiques lately that I’m taking into consideration. One thing I don’t like about critiques is when they judge something before they’ve even read one word. Someone spoke of there being a prologue before even getting the chance to see it and there’s no way they could have known any of what it would imply. Other times it seems that the reader is only partially paying attention because they question little nitpicky things that are explained right in the text.

I am going to keep at it though, I have a lot of work I plan to do on this tonight and hopefully I get things to a position where I can finish up the last act of the book and start really editing it soon.

The Problem with Guns

Guns and fantasy aren’t strangers. We frequently see guns used in modern fantasy and some of the time time they’re used effectively. Rarely are they written realistically, but many of the fantasy authors have probably never fired a gun. The issue of guns and realism was handled beautiful by the people over at Writing Excuses last week.

The thing that I wanted to address in this post was more about the stupidity that often times follows guns into fantasy. If you’ve ever seen the role playing rules in a game for guns then you know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re almost never desirable in any way, expensive, hard to use and too costly to make effective for the person using them unless they specialize in only that. In books and movies there is this problem of guns being so mundane. All of these magical artifacts and weapons will be running around and no one seems to think to combine magic and firearms. This same problem extends back to role playing games too.

The prime example from that area of interest is the gun rules in Pathfinder. A normal revolver pistol costs more than a minor magic item, does less damage than a long sword and decreases in damage after you’ve moved twenty feet from the target. Couple with that the fact that a character has to be specially trained to use them (even though the same thing isn’t the case with crossbows and longbows, which are much harder to use in real life than any gun—in the case of a crossbow you’ve got to be pretty strong just to load some of them). Then to top it all off the gun has a chance of misfire where it injures the user and anyone standing near them.

While guns are cool, who want’s do deal with all of that when in game you could just use a bow and do more damage? It’s purely a flavor thing.

Frequently we’ll see things in fantasy about people deflecting bullets with swords multiple times or someone with a sword being equal match for someone with a gun. Let me tell you right now, if you had some hardened, gun trained hero and a sword wielder fifty feet apart there’s no reason that sword user should ever get anywhere near the person with the gun unless they’re blind.

One of the stupidest arguments I think I ever got into with someone about writing came from a man named Jeremy. I don’t mind saying his name because he should be embarrassed. He whined about how my characters in a modern day fantasy story were using a gun to fight demons. What else would a regular person use against something faster and stronger than them? You mean you want me to Rule of Cool something that makes no logical sense? People aren’t going to let themselves get killed trying to fight something that has a strength advantage over them with a melee weapon because you think ‘guns are for pussies’ as he said.

What I don’t understand is where all of this comes from. The idea that one weapon that clearly replaced another is somehow not better than it is just stupid. I don’t think there’s any sense to it besides the silly idea of honor that people sometimes like to tote or in some cases they’re victims of too much anime. Whatever the issue, I’m not going to sacrifice logic for what other people think is cool.