No matter how nerdy you are (and we’re all at least a little nerdy now) there is always going to be something that seems just beyond your own level of nerdom. The thing that makes you say no, that’s just too nerdy. For me, that boundary has always stood at tabletop gaming.

As a kid, I knew one person who played D&D. He was an decent guy, a little irritating sometimes but pleasant enough. However by that time the stigma around D&D had already been built up in my head, and he never asked me if I wanted to play, so my reasons for never giving it a go were twofold. I’m not even sure where this stigma came from, it was likely to have seeped into me by osmosis from various shows on TV in the 90s. Thinking back, I can’t directly remember anybody badmouthing D&D, I just knew it was something too nerdy for me.

I ran into a couple of other people who played it in the interim years, but only in passing. At Univeristy I almost accidently joined a tabletop gaming society when on the look out for a videogaming society. I didn’t insult them, I just didn’t want to join something that I thought wouldn’t be right for me. One summer I worked with someone who was a hardcore LARPer, and while he did invite Georgia and I to join in, it was far too expensive, and seemed like another step up from the nerdyness of tabletop gaming.

Then, a couple of video series appeared online making D&D seem like a lot of fun, at least with the right people. One was a show called I Hit It With My Axe, a show with a bunch of alternative models and porn stars getting together to play a game. Don’t look at me like that! They were actual players, their profession was just a fun fact. The other I only came across recently, and it’s Noah Antwiler’s series Counter Monkey. Here, he retells fun tales from his time playing tabletop games and also gives advice to other players.

These two shows have made the hobby look like a lot of fun, but I’m still not sure I’ll ever try it. First is the fact that the people I currently know who play it are not the people I really want to spend 5 hours a week with. Second, is the fact that my close friends are unlikely to try it with me and thirdly, if they did, none of us know how to play or run a game, so it would inevitably be really rubbish.

D&D now sounds appealing.

My boundaries have shifted.

I’ve got nerdier.

-Will

My original title was this article was going to be ‘Why the New 52 Wonder Woman Series Gets Everything Right’.

But last week issue #7 was released, and while I really enjoyed it, many other readers did not, objecting to new revelations in the Wonder Woman mythos. Reading their criticisms me question myself, made me wonder if I’m a hypocrite calling myself a feminist.

Ever since I first learned about feminist theory (in particular, modern 3rd wave feminism) in college, I have self-identified as feminist. Essentially, it seems crazy to me that women are still seen as inherently less worthy than men by many people, when women have many strengths than men could only dream off. 3rd wave feminism particularly appealed me, as it brought to light the problems caused for everyone else under white western patriarchy, such as the problems of people of other races, people who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered and even the burden of expectations it applies to men.

When it comes to comic book fandom, it is the feminist or female perspective criticism I pay most attention to also. Superhero comics are traditionally a teenage male endeavour, but they can work so well as power fantasies for everyone. The female centric criticisms tend to push against the norm, asking for something good in general, not just what is is expected of the medium. So, think of my shock when they were deeply offended by an issue I really enjoyed.

Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman series has been reminding me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods quite a lot, and I’ve been loving them for it. Heavy emphasis on the mythology, and showing how the Gods of the Greek pantheon fit themselves into modern day society.

Eros (Cupid) has traded his bow and arrow in for a pair of golden pistols and is helping people hook up at clubs. Hades is a petulant child with crown of candles. Zeus is being a womanising and sleazy as the myths always portrayed him, also butt naked. Wonder Woman herself is pushing 7 foot tall, and is drawn and written with no attempts to titillate teenage boys.

She is also revealed to be the daughter of Zeus, a new wrinkle in her backstory.  I don’t mind the change, its led to a hell of a story of an almighty family falling out, but it turned out to be the first change to split opinion, and not the last.

In issue #7, we are introduced to Hephaestus, and through him we get an explanation of how the Amazons manage to perpetuate an all female society. They rape sailors for their sperm, kill the donors so word doesn’t spread, keep the female children and trade the males with Hephaestus in exchange for his superior weapons. Yeah, you can see why this didn’t go down well with some people.

Personally, I still think its a great addition. It makes sense to explain where new generations come from and it links back strongly to the Amazons’ mythological origins. Of course, it does make them rapists, murderers and liars too, but the mythological world being set up in Wonder Woman is a brutal one, where this type of Amazon fits well.

But my feminist writers? They hated it. This gave me a crisis of feminism! Could I call myself a feminist when all the feminist writers I followed had the completely opposite view? I actually asked one of them on Twitter and they had this to say:

Kelly Thompson @79SemiFinalist

@iWillBattle Absolutely not. We all see & absorb stories differently. If this doesn’t bother u, it’s ok. U can still be a good feminist.🙂

So, yeah, I gave it some thought, and I’m still happy with what Azzarello and Chiang are doing with the series, and I’m still happy to call myself a feminist. The fact that the audience’s eyes for this series, Wonder Woman, is disgusted and shocked too means that they thought about the implications of what they were doing. I think the Amazons are in for some redemption and rebuilding in later issues. I also don’t think we’ve heard all the sides to Hephaestus’ story. This isn’t the first time the Gods haven’t told all the truth…

Finally, I’d like to quote one of Kelly’s commenters, “Jay” who sums up my opinions of the hero herself quite well:

To me, the icon of female empowerment and feminism isn’t the Amazons, but Wonder Woman herself–the curious adventurer who escaped from isolation and not only lived in the world of “Man,” but thrived, and fought along-side men as an equal, sometimes even their better. THAT seems more in line with what I consider to be feminism than the Amazons.

Couldn’t have wished to say it better myself

BluesTimes like these when there’s the impending doom looming of an essay over my shoulder I feel a bit downtrodden. I find that I have the time to look at the world, I procrastinate in my dislike of mankind. I look at people and I hate them. But I don’t hate the individual I hate the mass.

I find myself disgusted, bemused and isolated. I want to reach out and touch people to make sure their real. I want to shake them and tell them they’re killing themselves. I want to poke out their eyes, dance with them, scream at them.

It’s no secret I suffer from pseudo-nihilist/ existentialist tendencies that arch towards my misanthropic state of mind. I can only swallow a short amount of human count before my mind shrivels with repulsion.

Why? I don’t know. I think it’s because really I’m an optimistic after being a realist and a pessimist. I want to believe that people want to change and make things better. But I know they won’t and they never will.

The biggest testament to this is Kony 2012. A whole global campaign to make the world slightly nicer, and well, we all know how that panned out. Suffice to say the inherent human greed won out, as is pretty much always the case.

I don’t believe in riots, demonstrations or rallies. Because I know they don’t and won’t work. Someone else will always come along to oppress us. We as a species aren’t happy unless we’re unhappy. We’re not idle, we need to be keep out hands busy by wringing someone’s neck.

Al Pacino in HeatI had a lecture on Existentialism where the lecturer quoted Heat in which Al Pacino says “A guy told me one time, ‘Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.'” This struck a chord with me. I feel like this is a really naive claim as human’s are selfish. We could give up possessions and people, but when someone dies you don’t cry because their gone, you cry because you’ll never see them again. Also me and coblogger Will have been together now for three years (no congratulations needed thanks) and I don’t believe I could give him up in 30 seconds without losing something inside (not supposed to be romantic).

But if life has no meaning and humanity will never change, what does that mean? Should you kill yourself? Should you despair? No. Do what you like (within reason). I find this idea entirely liberating. I am free, though the freedom comes with some weight of responsibility, but I am free nonetheless.

One thing I know for certain. I could definitely walk away from this essay in 30 seconds. ‘Cause I got the essay blues.

-Georgia

There is something a little off-putting about the way the Tumblr community discusses issues of race. I have felt awkward bringing it up in the past, for a variety of reasons, but I’ve been thinking about it so much, I just wanted to get my opinions off of my chest.

The dominant term on seemingly intelligent and liberal Tumblogs for anyone who isn’t white seems to be ‘person-of-colour’, and it really just rubs me the wrong way. Sorry, but have we gone back to the first half of the last century all of a sudden and no-one told me? Since when was it ok to use the word ‘coloured’ to describe a non-white person, as long as you say it in the passive form?

I remember, back in primary school, we were read a poem on race. It was meant to make us all think about the words we use, and even then the main crux of the poem was out of date. Here is the poem below, from an anonymous poet:

When I was born, I was black,
When I grew up, I was black,
When I’m sick, I’m black,
When I go out in the sun, I’m black,
When I’m cold, I’m black,
When I die, I’ll be black,

But you,

When you’re born, you’re pink,
When you grow up, you’re white,
When you’re sick, you’re green,
When you go out in the sun, you go red,
When you’re cold, you go blue,
When you die, you’ll be purple,

And you have the nerve to call me colored!

Doesn’t it seem wrong that the ‘proper’ term seems to have returned to one that seems to exclude rather than include, and seems to make white seem like the norm? It’s being lazy and unspecific, just wanting a socially acceptable term for ‘everyone else’.

If you really want something like that, why not use ‘non-white’? At least that includes white people as a potential race, rather than an ‘uncoloured’ norm. Why do we need a catch all term? If you’re discussing issues of race, splitting it into white and non-white is too simple a definition anyway. With things like this there isn’t just one racism, there are multitudes of racisms.

It might just be a cultural difference, and such terms are more acceptable in the US or other western nations, but from my perspective, as a white, middle-class man who grew up in an incredibly multicultural area, the phrase ‘person-of-colour’ just seems insensitive, perpetuating a misleading and misguided concept of an ‘us-and-them’ separation, whether its intended that way or not.

– Will

People have a multitude of ways to describe a sunny day. For a lot of people, its t-shirt weather, or maybe beach weather. For some, its cricket weather, or jumpers-for-goalposts weather. Little kids dream of the day when its paddling pool weather or water-fight weather. A bright sunny day could be barbecue weather, gardening weather or even fishing weather.

For me, a bright, sunny day like today has always been one thing, Pokémon weather.

Eevee uses sunny dayAs a child, on a nice sunny day I could think of nothing I’d like to do better than go sit in my back garden (or my local park if I felt very brave/stupid and didn’t mind the sort of people who hang around in parks in East London), Game Boy in hand and sit for hours immersed in the regions of Kanto or Johto and my little team of elemental critters. Through the years, the console and the regions have changed, but through Game Boy Advance or DS, Hoenn, Sinnoh or Unova, my concept of Pokémon weather has stayed true.

It wasn’t always the easiest way to play the games, that’s for sure. The bright sun glared off the screen unless you found just the right angle. Finding shade was tricky, as I’d play for hours, and that meant the sun was constantly shifting. Playing anywhere outside of my garden brought danger of muggers and thieves, who would snatch my precious game away from me if they had the chance. The sun brings everyone else out too, for sports, gardening or what have you, so distractions were rife. So why did I do it?

Maybe its because in the games, and in the animated series, bright and sunny was the dominant norm. Later games put more emphasis on weather, or night, but these were special times and conditions, things that were new and interesting because at its core, Pokémon has always been a bright, sunny game series. Maybe the weather made me feel immersed, feeling the sun on my back just as imagined my little digital avatar was feeling.

Maybe that immersion spread to the grass and trees around me, making me feel like I was a part of the  nature filled Pokémon world. I could sit in the long grass, where the Pokémon hide. If I sat in the shade, I’d sit under a tree, which in the games were home to even more of the colourful creatures, and at times could even be used as a secret hidey-hole to store your treasures.

WingullMaybe it was the wildlife that surround you when you sit still for long enough in the great outdoors. In London, that pigeon could be a Pidgey,  that seagull a Wingull, that ladybird a Ledyba. After all, the brainchild behind Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri, was a bug collector, and was inspired to create Pokémon when he saw two beetles cross by each other on a table. I could sit in that long grass too, and be inspired by beetles just like him.

Or, it just might have been that I was a nerdy child, more happy playing videogames than football or cricket, even when the weather was perfect for them. When convinced to go outside and enjoy the weather by my parents, I still had a great big digital world I could take with me in my pocket.

I like to think that all of the above played a part, but thinking about it, it was just the perfect excuse for handheld gaming. Playing a Game Boy or DS indoors seems to be missing the point, and missing a great opportunity. These are devices that can fit in your pocket and can be played absolutely anywhere, you’ve got no excuse to play them sitting indoors. It’s a bright sunny day, go do something fun! It’s Pokémon weather!

-Will

The female of the species is more well-read than the male.

It has recently come to my attention about the lack in enthusiasm for reading in the male populous especially in young boys. So dubbed the ‘reluctant readers’ boys in general read far, far less than their female counterparts. The argument I want to put forward today is that this is the case because there clearly are no more books for men/boys.

We can clearly known and see that women/girls read, in general, a lot more than men. There is a whole area of books just for women. There are ‘Girl’s books’ like The Worst Witch or Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson (and everything else she has ever written). However there are not ‘Boy’s books’ as such anymore. There used to be. Books such as Scouting for Boys or Horrid Henry etc. But now I can’t think of any book expressed as being for boys that girls haven’t or wouldn’t read.

Take for example Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell, which is a classic example of a boyish book. Well I’ve read it and I know loads of girls who have read it. Another example is the ‘Alex Rider’ series by Antony Horowitz. Read those too. Lord of the RingsMortal EnginesHorrible Histories, The Famous FiveHarry Potter, you name it and a girl as read it.

Therefore it is clear that this so called ‘books for boys’ genre doesn’t exist anymore. The genre has become unisex. However the ‘books for girls’ genre remains strong. The distinction is that a girl will read Scouting for Boys but a boy will not read Girls in Love. 

Does this mean that girls are more open to reading or does it mean that the stereotypical gender roles have been blurred and no longer matter? I think not. I have only expressed the case in the area of fictional novels. In graphic novels and comics there is a huge gap between comics for boys and comic for girls. My point is there shouldn’t be.

-Georgia

Once upon a time there was a boy.

This boy’s name was Billy Batson.

He was homeless.

He was an orphan.

He had a heart of gold.

He was more popular than Superman.

He was also Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal.

Captain Marvel Young Justice

Chosen to be Earth’s champion against the seven deadly enemies of man by a Wizard, he was granted the abilities and blessings of six of the greatest men and gods to have come before him. Billy Batson had only call out the magic word, “SHAZAM” and transform from a ten year old boy into a fully-grown, super-powered man.

This has been the origin of Captain Marvel since he was created by writer Bill Parker and artist C. C. Beck  in 1939 for Fawcett comics, and while he gained sidekicks, family and villains, very little of his core has changed. Everything else him has been less stable.

Fawcett Comics went under in 1953, and Billy was stuck in limbo. Marvel took this opportunity to create their own Captain Marvel and trademark the name, so by the time Billy and his family were picked up by DC comics twenty years later, they couldn’t name the book after its hero any longer. But they still wrote about him, changing the title to his magical catchphrase, Shazam!

He has been changed many times since his conception, Billy became the Wizard, his sidekick became the new Captain Marvel. His sister became evil. Then 6 children were all Captain Marvel combined, but renamed Captain Thunder.

Then, in August 2011, DC comics hit the reset button on their entire superhero universe. Everything changed in a flash, Billy and his family included. In Justice League #7, Captain Marvel returns in a back-up feature called “The Curse of Shazam”, and what DC have announced so far is leaving me with very mixed feelings.

Lets go with the good news first. He’s still Billy Batson, he’s still an orphan, and he’s still a cute-as-a-button ten-year-old boy. He still gains his powers from a wizard, and he still transforms in to an adult form when he becomes a superhero. They’re playing up the magical elements too, which seems like a really nice take on a character whose history includes wizards, talking tigers and super-genius worms.

Then again.. there’s this:

New 52 SHAZAM

Meet Shazam, the new name for Billy Batson’s alter-ego. The legal troubles with Marvel comics have risen again and so one of the first ever superheroes has now lost his name. The military jacket and side cape are gone too, replaced with a scowl and a cowl.

It leaves too many questions. How will he introduce himself if his name is also the word he has to call to transform? What will the Wizard be called, if who was once Captain Marvel has taken his name? What will his sidekicks, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. be known as? Why is he hiding his face if his civilian identity is unrecognisable from his superheroic form? The creators have tried to explain themselves, artist Gary Frank being the most revealing:

The first thing is that the cape is now more of a cloak but, beyond that, the magic power is now a part of the look. The idea is that the lightning is always crackling around him, the power barely contained. He is, in effect, a conduit for the power.

Constantly being surrounded by lightning just seems silly to me. Superman isn’t burdened with a downside like that. Maybe they can do some interesting things with it, but I’m doubtful.

I am, yes. The family is getting a makeover but the idea of “family” is so central to the story that we couldn’t possibly leave it out. And you’ll see Mr. Tawky Tawny in Chapter Two in “Justice League” #8 (sort of)

Mr. Tawky Tawny is the name of Captain Marvel’s pet talking tiger, so its nice to see they aren’t ignoring the wackier elements of the character’s history. The emphasis on family is good to hear too, for a set of characters most commonly known as the ‘Marvel Family’.

Hmmm. There is darkness but I wouldn’t say it is grim. This isn’t a gritty version. It’s very much a fantasy story about a group of kids and designed to be enjoyed by kids. That doesn’t mean we need to have rainbows and pixie dust everywhere but it’s not exactly Frank Miller.

I‘ve got mixed feelings about this, just because you’re not going Frank Miller dark doesn’t mean you aren’t going too dark for the character.

I’m worried that they are missing the point. Captain Marvel is the ideal wish-fulfilment hero for children. He is a good little boy becoming the powerful, heroic, noble father he never had. He is the idealism of the 40s and 50s writ large. Apart from Shazam, Billy Batson has always had a second catchphrase. I know most comic readers are teenagers now, and I’m not asking for rainbows and pixie dust. I just want to see the wonder in a big, bright superhero’s eyes as he says exclaims ‘Holy Moly’.

Is that too much to ask?

-Will

Jason Russell's Invisible Children

Okay let’s be honest here. Kony 2012 have succeeded. Everyone, by now, knows exactly who Joseph Kony is. However the media is trying to do its best to besmirch the campaign and its leaders. How many of these allegations against Kony 2012 are true? More importantly: How do we know who is lying to us?

The short answer is that we don’t. The propaganda machine that is cloudier than the British summer. Yes, I sound like a conspiracy theorist but it is true nonetheless. But that isn’t what I want to talk about.

No doubt you have probably read a multitude of articles claiming about the spending of Kony 2012, saying both that there are not forthcoming with their expenditure and that, shockingly, only 30% of Kony 2012’s donations go towards their main objective while 70% lines the pockets of their leaders. Which is it?

Pictures of the founders of Kony 2012 posing with guns have circulated all over the internet scary fast. Articles repeating the same vague ‘facts’ about Kony 2012 litter in newspapers both online and offline. Charity organisations throwing stones about Kony 2012’s charity rating being one of the lowest ever. Kony 2012 is being labelled as a CON.

Let’s get one thing straight. I do not and did not support the campaign. I watched the viral video, I read the articles and testimonies and I did not buy it at all. Their veiled objective seemed well founded with good intentions but to me selling t-shirts and bracelets to ‘save the world’ was too naive and consumerist.

Kony 2012 has done itself no favours though. No response to the allegations nothing. I do not trust Kony 2012 and here’s why. The co-founder of this blog, Will Battle’s little sister was pulled in by the bravo. She wanted to help, naively but honestly wanted to make a difference so she ordered and paid for the ‘starter pack’. After hearing on the news and through social media about how it’s a con she is desperately trying to get her money back. They are pretty much refusing to give it back to her. That, my friends, is shady.

The only thing I can think of that is shadier in this story is how the leader of Kony 2012, Jason Russell, has been officially arrested for ‘running around the streets screaming in his underwear’. He was detained and is now in hospital.

This seems like the government trying to silence him and his campaign by making him look crazy (conspiracy alert). They’ve got him on some (bullshit) allegation that seems too much like codswallop to me. Yet the real question is how would we know if the allegation is true? Or just a fabrication from the media?

The final truth is that we probably won’t ever know.

-Georgia

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