TOM AN

Upon hearing the news that J.J. Abrams will be kicking off the new trilogy for Star Wars and the Han Solo and Boba Fett spin-offs, I needed to pick the brain of the sharpest SW fan I know. Mr Paul Shin (now mister Paul Shin), it’s been quite some time since we last fenced with words. During those 40+ months, the nerd movement has been strong in the movies. The epic Dark Knight trilogy wrapped up, Marvel Studios broke box office records, Star Trek got rebooted and so many strange sequel/prequels (Tron, Alien, LotR, X-Men, Planet of the Apes).

But this, this has got to be the biggest movie news of the last decade. First, Disney buys Lucasfilm and announced the new trilogy. Then they pick Abrams as the director. And the solo character spin-offs?? So many questions here! Those two parties account for so many nerd blockbusters… is this a sure thing?? Do they stick with the Skywalker storyline that ended so well, then started so poorly? And, most importantly, who do they cast!

Mr. Shin, we meet again, at last.

PAUL SHIN

I have to be honest here. I didn’t know Disney had helmed Abrams to run the show until I read this email. That might automatically disqualify me from further discourse. Regardless, it’s a great way to resuscitate new life into the franchise – albeit three films tardy.

We’ll address all of your burning questions in due time, but indulge me on a more philosophical matter. WHAT makes a movie Star Wars?

If you have any story, in any setting, with any characters, is it Star Wars as long as the hero and antagonist wield lightsabers? If you have the yellow text crawl over a star-dotted black background at the beginning of the movie, does that make it Star Wars? I’ve convinced myself that this is so. Throw in John Williams’ original score, and you have the only fundamental components that matter.

It’s a well-known (and highly profitable) recipe; Abrams and the screenwriter’s responsibility is simply translating those elements into our current pop zeitgeist. Don’t give the viewing audience a golden boy like Luke, introduce an anti-hero such as The Dark Knight, perhaps a protagonist with a comical bite a la Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. There are many failures to the prequel trilogy, and Lucas’ inability to articulate that narrative through a more modern lens was the backbone to it all.

AN

That’s a great philosophical question. The thing is, the movie franchise of Star Wars is actually quite different from the rest of the Star Wars universe. The animated Clone Wars series doesn’t have the scrolling yellow text. The Knights of the Old Republic video game barely even has the Star Wars font. And actually, The Force Unleashed video game doesn’t center around lightsabers. Albeit, none of these take place after Episode VI, so its moot.

SHIN

Abrams and the studio can steer this ship in any which way they’d like. But I fear that continuity with the existing trilogies will be a core (lame) constraint.

Are you familiar with the Extended Universe story lines of Episodes 7-9? Basically, Luke is seduced to the Dark Side, and his redemption comes at the hands of his twin niece and nephew, Leia and Han Solo’s children. I don’t want to watch this story. I already hate it. Some version of the source material will most definitely be inspiration for the next trilogy. That’s fine. But I’d personally prefer to get an introduction to fresh characters. A new culture. Non-robotic dialogue. A New Hope (ha).

What about you? Are you excited at the prospects of seeing Han Solo’s children on screen? There must be some cool story lines they can extract from the video games? How about take it all the way back to the year they discovered The Force (I have no idea if there is a story like that). Does the lightsaber choose the Jedi or the other way around? I’m getting this confused with Harry Potter.

AN

A good point, 7-9 doesn’t have to carry on the theatrical cliches and has some liberty to branch to another (not new) hope. I’m actually not aware of the Extended Universe, but it sounds like it has potential. Will Han Solo’s son be played by Shia LaDouche? Will his alleged bang, the newly renewed Megan Fox, have a spot in the film? Will all of the acting be as horrible as 1-3 or more dynamic like Abram’s Star Trek?

Ok, no more questions. Back to lightsabers. I’m actually very intrigued by the next evolution of this galaxy far, far away from a long time ago. We finally have a reason to introduce some new technology, better lightsabers, and new element of the Force. ILM has the chance to redeem themselves after Battleship and Transformers (though I don’t know if you purposely referenced Harry Potter because they did all of those films too). So, if the story line is disappointing (though extremely unlike since J.J. did Alias, Lost, and Felicity), at the very least we’ll have ILM and the support of Disney to fund some awesome graphics.

After all, wasn’t that the foundation of Star Wars? Some groundbreaking effects from the 80s? You try to make this philosophical, but I argue that the real appeal of SW is the simple fact that nerds wanna geek out on fantasy, hot girls in gold bikinis, and a mix of aliens and weapons.

SHIN

You’re helping me make my case. If many Star Wars projects don’t include scroll text and the like, the only essential elements are references to the Force and inferences that the story takes place “far away”. Let’s rip everything else apart shall we? I don’t want to state the unthinkable, but I am compelled to share what I really want to watch – a remake of the prequel trilogy. Sadly, I’m certain there’s a clause in the merger prohibiting any middle fingers at Lucas. They (Lucasfilms) completely botched the most interesting narrative imaginable. If not a remake, then let’s at least inject some new blood into the work that doesn’t rely on the Anakin-Luke continuum.

I found it so infuriating how Lucas tried to stuff as many parallels between Anakin and Luke’s arcs. There was zero subtly. He kept bludgeoning us over the head with it. If they go with Luke’s turn to the Dark Side, they’ll repeat the repetitive circumventing circuitous, um, circle. Maybe it’s what we need but it’s certainly not what we deserve. Actually, maybe it’s the story we deserve but don’t need…I’m confused. Can somebody please call the Nolan brothers to explain what we deserve?

And here’s something out of left field. How about new characters for diversity’s sake? Don’t mention Samuel L. Jackson. He practically begged to be in the prequels, and his character was pretty useless throughout. Maybe it’s my old age and racist, curmudgeonly nature revealing itself but I’m pretty tired of white dudes saving the day (Batman not included). Star Wars is a galaxy with an abundance of diverse cognitive species. But it’s always a band of English-speaking white boys that keep the universe from going to hell? Show me something more Abrams, please.

AN

I hope they don’t continue with Luke’s story. I bet they go more along the lines of a new generation of Jedi – I imagine classrooms and more master/padawan sub-plots. Where does the “dark side” really stem from? Does it course through everybody? Does it require Sith Lords and Emperors to turn a Jedi? I’d be pretty damn interested in seeing more youthful actors to symbolize a refresh and also to tap back into the raw essence of The Force and The Dark Side. I was going to mention Hermione Watson here, but that’s another English-speaking whitey. These movies need some diversity… hm, bring back Jar-Jar?

SHIN

I do love the idea of new technologies, or “new” in the sense that they have not been realized in the Star Wars universe. I’d love to see a lightsaber bow or lightsaber axe/sickle (basically I’d like to see some sort of Star WarsLord of the Rings hybrid). Also, where can they take the Force, exactly? It’s inconsistently powerful and conveniently usable / unusable. If Force Lightning, why not Force Fireballs (think “HaDoKen!”).

I think that the Abrams hire ensures that sins of the father (Lucas) won’t be repeated. So what are the pitfalls that he must avoid in your opinion?

AN

I’m happy to name pitfalls to avoid (too many CGI characters, stagnant relationship development (the whole Padme-Anakin relationship stalled after Episode II), relying on secondary characters like R2D2 as comical relief), but I’d much rather emphasize how much HAS to happen for these movies to work. There are great responsibilities that Episodes VII-IX need to uphold. With its dedicated nerd base, it must rival and/or respect the official canon of the Thrawn Trilogy. With its growing base, it must appeal to yet another younger generation – it’s got to remain the single largest pop culture property in terms of staying power. And while Abrams and Disney are the two powers to make both of those happen, I feel like there’s some conflict and concessions that need to be made. So do they appeal more to the kids (like I, II, III) or their cult following? Keep in mind that the Ewoks were introduced in Episode VI, so one could argue that Star Wars sold out a long time ago.

You know, I find it difficult to discuss the idea of Star Wars because of how far-reaching it is. It surrounds us and penetrates every conversation in this non-specific way. When we chatted about Batman, it was focused on the man, the lore, and the movie. But Star Wars also encompasses TV, games, merchandise, and the punchline of all sorts of web junk now. Have you seen these? I don’t know if these movies could possibly fail. Nor do I believe they can truly rise above all of the hype. These movies aren’t the next step for Star Wars, they’re just another arm of this goliath.

SHIN

We seem to be doing a whole lot of agreeing and maybe our conversation has run its natural course. At the end of the day, we don’t want the Skywalkers but new Jedis. And if I was slightly racist in my last rant, allow me the chance to balance that out with some unadulterated sexism. I need a male lead. But to your point about Emma Watson, I’m certain a Jedi heroine will be instrumental in the next film. The potential to capture the Twilight and Hunger Games’ audience is too lucrative to pass up. And thinking about it more now, I would bet money that there will be two young (white) Jedis who fall in love.

AN

Kaley Cuoco is pretty hot right now. If not a funny girl, Lyndsy Fonseca? Classy with Rooney Mara or younger with Chloe Moretz?

SHIN

I don’t read enough Tiger Beat magazine to know of the hottest teen sensations du jour, but it would be totally rad if one of these actors dawned the cloak as a mentor-type Jedi/Sith: Christian Bale, Damien Lewis, Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale. Did I mention Christian Bale? And look at what Hollywood has done to my brain? I can’t name one black or Asian actor who I would find compelling. Terrence Howard? Ken Watanabe?

AN

I thought we were talking about girls, a Jedi heroine…

SHIN

At the end of the day, I trust that the Abrams brass will write, film and produce an entertaining movie. We are adults; it can’t be what we want it to be. But watchable? Enjoyable? Those goals are certainly achievable.

You’ve focused on the negative. For what it’s worth, here’s a list of some prequel trilogy decisions/sequences that I enjoyed in no particular order (um, spoiler alerts I guess if you haven’t seen the movies):

  • John Williams new operatic score used throughout the prequel. You know which one I’m talking about
  • Ewan McGregor. This is probably #1 on anyone’s list and the only salve in countless scenes of poor acting and horrific dialogue
  • Lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul. It’s utterly pathetic that the Obi-Wan/Darth Vader duel does not make this list
  • Opening sequence (maybe first 30 seconds – or until Anakin opens his dumb mouth) of Revenge of the Sith. It shows the breathtaking scale of a space battle during the Clone Wars. If you haven’t seen it recently, check it out
  • First scenes with Jedis in The Phanton Menace. What can these guys NOT do?? Apparently a lot; they all die
  • Jar-Jar Binks. Meesah kidding!
  • Jedi assassinations. I thought that this was done pretty well given the constraints of a PG-13 movie and limited emotional capacity of the audience
  • Darth Vader’s attack on the Jedi Temple. I’m speaking particularly of the scene in which a Youngling informs Anakin that they’d been attacked and he immediately springs his lightsaber to the astonishment of the child. It’s a pretty impressive turn towards a darker tone

AN

The thing is, we kinda knew what we wanted to see with the prequels, right? Half of the scenes you mention above, we were just waiting for them to happen. We knew Jedis would be annihilated. We were waiting for Annakin to turn into Vader. And classic lightsaber duels and epic clone wars were already part of the storyline.

With a blank slate, I’m not certain, but I’m definitely excited for the possibilities. More extensive, if not better choreographed, battle scenes. Awesome technological toys (forget the lightsabers, I can’t believe you don’t have General Grievous on that list). We originally talked about the recipe for a Star Wars movie – despite the failure of Episodes I, II, III, I just can’t see how these won’t be awesome.

We never removed the gloves in this one, but great shot kid, that was one in a million.


Tom An

I’m excited to have this chance to talk with you about this graphic novel.  Your writing has always been full of intrigue and wit and I’m sure Preacher could only have piqued both of those qualities.

Let’s get right into it… I wanted to get your opinion on the subtle heroism displayed in this story.  True or False: when an individual is granted awesome power, he or she will take up the responsibility and use it right, as the Preacher says we should.  Do we really have a responsibility to our fellow brethren?  I guess those are two separate questions, would we and should we.  I’ve got my own thoughts, but I’ll hear yours first.

Daniel Oh

The word “protagonist” should be taken in the most purest sense of the word; it is simply the character that presents the main force of the novel. The antagonist is the element, be it a character or otherwise, that provides resistance against that main force.

Through conflict, we get the development, and we get the context necessary to draw out the themes.

It must also be said that the protagonist does not necessarily have to appeal to our sympathies, or even pull them out forcibly. Our ability to connect with the protagonist is irrelevant to the intentions of the writer; sure, it might allow us to more efficiently drink in the deeper meanings within the text, but to be honest, the main focus is on that conflict. We don’t need to sympathize with the protagonist, but we do need to understand his motives and his trajectory before we can draw our own interpretations within the words.

That being said, here is what separates the heroes from the fallen.

They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the only ones untouched are the vanguard of heroes and anti-heroes that push through their own personal demons to try and liberate mankind from its baser elements. This graphic novel really seeks to explore the deep chasms of human potential, and to really prove man is truly capable of committing demonic acts without demonic influences. Heroes all have a reason to fight, whether it’s a sense of justice, or obligation, or whatever. One of the things that tethers our preacher from reaching absolute corruption is a simple desire to hold our God accountable for his children. The heavens and the earth differ only in the types of images we were created in, the corruption, the greed, the resentment, the loathing, the discrimination, every dark force within our psyche is translatable in both Angelic and English.

I don’t know if our reverend seeks to restore the lofty ideal that God cares, and indeed does have a master plan for all creation. I can’t even discern whether or not these motivations are solely from his soul, or from the sentient influences of Genesis, but there is one thing I can draw within this cesspool of bullets, repressed sexuality, and face pulling. We as a people should be held accountable for our actions, and the greater our power, the greater our responsibility. It’s sad that we have to label those who properly use their powers for the betterment of men as heroes, because I see some non-heroic shit coming from our world leaders and corporate cabals every day.

Are we bound to help our fellow man? No, with our free will, there really is nothing physically binding us from exploiting everyone we meet. Should we help our fellow man? The novel tells us yes, and it even tells us that we don’t have to be Superman. We don’t have to bind ourselves in complex moral codes that may even inhibit our abilities to bring about true change. Our reverend doesn’t give a damn about traditional dogma and doctrine when it comes to his mission; all he cares about is holding God up to his responsibilities as the master creator. In the process, he holds everyone around him accountable for their actions as well. A serial killer is unmasked and finally brought to justice. A homophobic detective finds his true desires immersed in a marsh of bigotry. A vampire is given the room to show his own sense of honor and loyalty.

In a world where lofty ideals like justice, truth, and God don’t always hold water, this book tells us how to address that. Don’t fall, but be a hero. The fallible nature of our reverend makes him an everyman, and as every man has the potential to leave his mark on the world, every man also has an implicit obligation to bring about justice, truth, and God. If you don’t, you just might find your own penis in your colon when you wake up from a trance, where the only words you hear are “Go fuck yourself.”

So to answer your question in not so many words, are we bound to be heroes? No. The fact that cigarette companies still exist is evidence against that. We’re not bound to shit. Should we be heroes? Yes. Karma does exist, and whether or not it’s based on the celestial powers or as an entrenched tapestry of satisfying grudges and debts, it will find its way to boomerang back to you. At least in Texas anyway.

Tan

Talk about responsibility is so depressing.  Is that what life is about?  Doing good because you want Karma to come back?  Avoiding bad simply out of obligation?  Action -> Reaction.  Crime -> Punishment.  That’s so Old Testament.  So fatalist.

Where’s the breathing room?  What about freedom of choice?  How does innovation and creativity fit in?  See, those are the things that keep the world turning.  Order and law might keep the world from blowing up, but the stuff that moves us is desire and emotion.  The non-extremes.  The grey stuff in the middle.

This book is extreme, for sure.  It’s a straight line from judgment to execution.  But there’s a ton of grey stuff too.  You might read the book and see our possessed preacher as being on a mission to set things right.  That’s simple.  Very black and white.  When I read this book, I see a dude still searching for meaning and purpose.  Well, perhaps both of those exist.  Perhaps every man has that dichotomy about him: one part power/responsibility and one part I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-to-do-with-this.

Where does all your talk about accountability fit when people are still trying to figure themselves out?  How do we be heroes when we don’t know how to be human?  It sounds like you’re saying that we should all be held accountable for our own actions, but doesn’t God forgive us for being inept?  Like that one church song, “Come as you are, as you were… as a friend, as an old enemy.”  Wait, that’s a Nirvana song?  Huh, the leader singer OD’ed on drugs and alcohol?  Whatever, it’s still a good message.

By the way, I like your explanation about conflict in a story.  It’s true, an audience is mainly focused on that conflict and not on the characters around it.  For several months now I was conflicted as to why I enjoyed 500 Days of Summer when a) I think Zooey Deschanel is a bright-eyed idiot and b) I really disagree with a lot of the “lessons” in the movie.  Was it my man-crush on Joseph Cobra-Levitt?  I don’t think that’s big enough to sway my opinion of a movie.  I realize now, after your comment, that I liked that movie because it had a fantastic grey area.  The conflict was all about discernment and raw maturation.  Nothing was extreme in that movie, except for Zooey’s inability to act.

Doh

I actually liked Zooey Deschanel’s performance.

Of course life is not about extremes. Life is way too complex to box into simple fortune cookie one-liners. The gray areas is where we show our true nature in full. When a decision isn’t so clear-cut, we have a tendency to show what we’re really made of when we finally decide.

Responsibility is depressing, but really, I don’t find it to be that burdensome. We all have a responsibility to our fellow man, to our families, to our friends, our God. It’s our choice to follow these responsibilities or cut our own path. Life isn’t defined by this responsibility, it’s defined by the decisions we make. It’s just that these responsibilities, more often than not, are called that because if we do not fulfill them, we usually run into consequences.

But does that make life defined by our avoidance of consequence? No. It’s human to avoid pain, but sometimes, we make decisions to further ourselves in spite of whatever problems that may follow after.

And as always, it’s not so clear cut on how we should live, or what decisions we should make to define ourselves. I totally agree with you, definite statements such as “you should do this” and “you should do that” limit the scope of life tremendously. We run into gray areas all the time. Every day we’re faced with a decision that may not be so clear-cut, and ones where we have to truly dig into our souls in order to find the answer. “Should I eat a burrito or a falafel?”

Throughout the book, the characters develop themselves by being thrown into action. Decisions are made, and the reader finds what type of character they are. It’s parallel to life. We never stop learning about ourselves. There will be times when we do things that we never thought we had the capacity for. This is the essence of heroism, and as always, heroism is a decision.

God forgives all our transgressions. At least, the God we know. The Machiavellian and apathetic God of The Preacher does not, so speaking in terms of the novel, there’s nothing holding us accountable but ourselves. But in the end, shouldn’t that be the ONLY person that matters? No matter what we do, if we are repentant and truly willing to accept God’s forgiveness, all of our sins are washed away. God is the constant, it is us that is the variable. Sometimes we’ll run from our responsibilities and our accountabilities, but in order to achieve true and complete reconciliation, we must come to terms with the consequences of our actions.

Because if we forgive ourselves, God will already forgive us. But forgiveness is never achieved if we never feel repentant about it. It’s the catch that prevents us from being so flippant about our actions. “Eh. I fucked that bitch. I don’t really care. God will forgive me.” He won’t, because you still haven’t forgiven yourself. A crucial ingredient in reconciliation is remorse. Without remorse, there is no reconciliation.

It doesn’t matter what we do or don’t know about ourselves. We will never know what we’re truly made of until we make those decisions. Even if we never knew the consequences of them. We make them, and then we must live with them. That’s what I mean about accountability.

Tan

“life is way too complex to box into simple fortune cookie one-liners.”
Not that that line needs any more counterpoints than the line itself, I’m gonna find some great one-liners in your response and rebut with my best attempts at fortune cookie wisdom.

“The gray areas is where we show our true nature in full.”
– Be comfortable with the gray, because life is too vivid for it to be stuck in black and too eventful for it to remain white.

“We all have a responsibility to our fellow man, to our families, to our friends, our God.”
– No man is an island. But if he was, he might be like a piece of Pangea, where eventually several more islands form and he is no longer just his own island.

“It’s human to avoid pain.”
Actually…
– It’s human to chase pleasure. It’s natural to avoid pain. It’s stupid to think one comes without the other.

“We never stop learning about ourselves.”
– The more we learn about others, the more learn about ourselves.

“Heroism is a decision.”
– Love is a decision. Heroism is a byproduct.

“God is the constant, it is us that is the variable.”
No one-liner. I like this line. More people need to realize this truth and take ownership of the good and the bad in this world.

I think we both agree here. Bottom line: people need to understand the weight of their actions. Not only how it affects others, but even the simple fact that it has an effect at all.  Whoever doesn’t know this is either taking advantage of their “denial” or is just plain stupid. That lack of accountability is detrimental to our progress as a civilization.

Doh

“Not that that line needs any more counterpoints than the line itself, I’m gonna find some great one-liners in your response and parry with my best attempts at fortune cookie wisdom.”
I like “Man who wears cologne ends up smelling himself for the rest of his life.”

“Be comfortable with the gray, because life is too vivid for it to be stuck in black and too eventful for it to remain white.”
So you’re saying it’s a mixture of vivid eventfulness? I’m inclined to agree though. Without a level of understanding about the gray, you become blind to the subtleties of life. And as Zombieland pointed out, it’s all about the little things in life.

“No man is an island. But if he was, he might be like a piece of Pangea, where eventually several more islands form and he is no longer just his own island.”
No man is always a gentleman. But if he was, he’d drink Dos Equis.

It’s also good to point out that the world was the result of the disintegration of one united land mass. So that’s what social interaction is. The disintegration of self to allow others into your view as well. Community, or at least a large element of it, is about the degrading of the ego and the strengthening of empathy. Strangely, that’s similar to the formula for loving someone, but I digress.

“It’s human to chase pleasure. It’s natural to avoid pain. It’s stupid to think one comes without the other.”
Well noted. It’s also a social instinct to limit pleasure. It’s why we label sex as an addiction.

Just kidding. I know that too much sex can hurt you and others. Especially if your partner isn’t faithful to you, or you aren’t faithful to your partner.

“The more we learn about others, the more learn about ourselves.”
Indeed. Nothing is more affirming than meeting a loser. It lets me know that I am doing ok with my life.

Again. Kidding. But while it’s always good to learn about humanity and yourself, through other people, is it always good to define ourselves in relation to other people? Shouldn’t we, at some point, take other people out of the equation and define ourselves according to our self-calculation?

“Love is a decision. Heroism is a byproduct.”
Nice edit.

We could write a series of novels on what people should do. What people should feel. Why they do this. Why they do that. But would we be any different than any other self-help hack that swears they’ve found the answer to life? The answers to life are all in front of us, we just need to interpret them in ways that fit. Note the danger in doing so.

People should realize the weight of their actions. That is a lesson most everyone will learn after fucking up repeatedly and in patterns.

But how will we ever know the fullest consequences of our actions? How was I supposed to know that by littering on the freeway, the plastic wrapper got caught on a tire, causing the car to lose traction, and creating a 54 car pileup on 280 North with fatalities and injuries? How can we comprehend the butterfly effect of everything we do?

We can’t. It’s mentally impossible to calculate every possible outcome of each action we undertake. Only God and really really really really advanced supercomputers can do that.

So I guess what people should learn is the intention behind their actions, hope that they can accurately predict the weight of their actions. Be good, and good will come to you.

But then again I hate telling people what they should know. They can read what I say, learn something from it, but in the end, they learn best from their own experience, and not mine.


I’ve had these nights before… I’m outside, lost in the darkness somehow, even though I’m just minutes from home.  I can’t even recall how I got here.  The events that led to this point are a blur.  And now, time stands still.

It’s cold, but I can’t feel anything.  I’m floating over my body, not quite comfortable in my own skin.  My arms are wrapped over my chest to keep in the warmth, but more to hold in any remaining sense of self.  My feet walk, but the movement is automatic.  My chest heaves, the breath is heavy.  My mind wanders, the thoughts are fleeting.  Finally, my heart breaks… the feeling is all too familiar.


Half-Life

Tony brought this to my attention.  There’s only one day in your life when you’re exactly half your parent’s age.  From that day forward, you are closer to your parent’s age than you are to age zero. As he explains it, this half-life is momentous because on that day, you are the same age as your parent when he or she gave birth to you.

Let that sink in a bit.  Someday, you will reach the age at which your parents gave birth to you.

That day for me is 10/16/2014, just 4.73 years from now.  That’s when my dad had me.  I am fast approaching the point in my life where I am no longer a child, but rather a full-blown adult primed to have my own boy or girl.  Shrug off this veil of purity!  Clear away the safety nets!  I’m a fucking grown up now.

Lucky for me, my half-life is still a lifetime away.  No growing up yet, not quite.  But, when I do reach that age… When I reach my half-life, I will do so responsibly.  Not modestly.  Not unself-consciously.  Not with hopes that someone else will set right my wrongs.  As Doh once told me, “I
wait at the side of my door, hoping for the opportunity to knock and I’ll answer with full force.”  You see, it’s all because I believe in Superman…

Superman

I grew up believing in Superman.  Somewhere out there, a greater power was fighting the good fight and making sure the world was in order.  I need not fear bad guys or natural disasters or apocalyptic chaos because a very capable man was watching over everything for me.  My young world was a brighter, bluer place knowing that Superman was around.

As time passed, my faith in the Man of Steel only grew stronger.  His example empowered me.  His stories filled me with ambition.  My childhood hero turned into my modern day idol and soon enough, I didn’t just believe in him, I wanted to be like him.  Then, when Superman fell, I realized I can be like him.

We’re all human, fallibly human.  As humans, as mortals, we are challenged to leave an everlasting mark.  How do I rise to that challenge?  Who’s going to leave my mark?  Nobody but me.  I cannot be saved, so I cannot neglect my responsibility.  I have an obligation to know who I am and where I am and what I can do.  Who’s going to leave my mark?  Nobody but me.


It’s been a while since I’ve written something in the key of wonq.  This drought has actually been quite frustrating for me.  I’ve been eager to put something down on paper, but my mind has been rigid and empty.  I read Maus and journaled a couple of pages, but nothing was coherent or worth sharing.  I reread Watchmen, but couldn’t find any depths to explore.  Daredevil and The Phoenix Saga were both great novels, but nothing moved me enough to blog.  Regrettably, an entire autumn season came and went without any fruit from my blogaphorical tree.

Then, funnily enough, in the middle of a real winter (the coldest winter I’ve ever experienced in my life) my brainfreeze finally begins to thaw.  Tucked away in a café on the other side of the world, I find some words to share… from a city of snow, here are my thoughts about City of Glass.

***

In my opinion, there’s a formula to mystery novels: you start by setting up the questions/abstracts/intangibles/generalizations, then you focus in on something solid/concrete/real/true.  Mysteries often follow a cadence; they progress and have a sense of completion by the end.  In many ways, mysteries have the ideal story arch that we hope our own lives will have, eventually ending with answers to all our questions.

City of Glass starts off like a typical mystery novel, with promise to answer questions and solve a mystery, but before long we’re tail-spinning into a narrative that we’re unsure of.  Nay, I say I was downright creeped out by the narrative and the direction it was headed.

In this mystery, instead of clues and revelations, we witness the deterioration of the main character, our hero, Detective Quinn.  The man slowly loses everything – his detective case goes cold, his home becomes residence to some stranger, and quickly he loses his grasp on reality and sensibility.  All throughout the book, we are led through sequences that only end in darkness.  Again and again, the pages are terminated by black frames, incomplete thoughts, and more questions than answers.

Yet, still we follow the hero to the very depths of his inane and insane dribbles.  Why?  To be entertained?  To try to find some deeper meaning?  To hopefully find some answers?  That happy ending?  Whatever the reason, we are never consoled.  Alas, at the end, instead of anything concrete, we are literally left with nothing but memories and desperate hope.

This graphic novel did not follow the formula of a mystery.  It followed the formula of something else – real life?

I guess that depends… what do you expect from life?  Do you approach each new day like a storybook: full of characters and adventures eventually culminating in a happy ending?  What happens at the end of each day when nothing has really concluded?  Are you happy, then, with incomplete thoughts and more questions?  After everything, can you be content with just memories and hope?

Thanks to d’oh for the recommendation.  I hope you find your voice and then lose yourself in the city of bright lights.


“I’m not finished yet… and you’re not finished with me.”

There’s the name we’re given, and then there’s the name we’re meant to make for ourselves. Our destiny is to discover and fulfill that fated name. It’s there, waiting to be made, often requiring hard work and sometimes even requiring the sacrifice of our given name. For the length of this novel, we slowly say goodbye to Bruce Wayne and witness the vehement return of Batman. The transformation is frightening, but undeniably gripping, and when we finally see Batman embrace his destiny, we are at his corner, rooting him on. “You’re not finished yet!”

We all have a powerful destiny. It exists and unfolds whether we help it or not. But when we choose to take on that challenge, we have the potential to become heroes, like Batman and our favorite Fate Assassin, Amelie. Another great hero from the Batman universe is the butler, Alfred Pennyworth. He takes full ownership of his destiny, tending to “Master Bruce” (not Batman, mind you). All throughout Batman’s injuries and struggles, Alfred is there to serve the Bruce Wayne under the mask. Knowing all well the futility of his efforts, that his master is slowly dying and his services will no longer be needed, Alfred continues to fight the good fight, continues to fulfill his destiny. Not until Bruce Wayne passes away does Alfred finally relinquish his duties, with his own death.

And those are the conditions of this constant battle with Destiny: you can’t ever win unless you completely give yourself up. It’s a matter of fighting for the sake of fighting, and being able to proclaim that you’re not going down. Destiny’s never gonna let up, but we’re not finished…


V.V.V.V.V. – Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici

“By the Power of Truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe.”

About a week ago, a Korean-American girl was freed from North Korea. I call her a “girl” because she was stupid enough to try and sneak across the border… while filming everything. Anyways, I reference this because I completely missed the news. Here is my brethren (my sister!) being pardoned from twelve years of hard labor (thank you Bill Clinton) and I had no idea. God, my NY Times iPhone app is dying of atrophy.

In the quote above, V could not be anymore more clear. Knowledge is power (it’s also half the battle).

NBC has had PSAs on this since I was a kid. It’s okay to be a little educated! Being disillusioned is never a bad thing! Ignorance, though it may be bliss, is not happiness. No, happiness is knowing. Happiness is being comfortable with the truth, and with the world.

The news of that American, it was a joyful ending, but let us not forget the horrible alternative. That is what will remind us of what really makes us happy. That is what we need to know. And now you know.