IS THE COMIC BOOK FANDOM INACCESSIBLE?

Hello, darlings. This entry is not going to be accompanied by images, mostly because I’m not entirely sure what images could illustrate the points I’m trying to make here, and also because I’m writing this from my work computer and have no relevant images saved. I do hope you’ll forgive me.

With the recent release of the Wonder Woman movie, a lot of people, myself included, were inspired to get in on the comics. So we go to the nearest comic book store and head to the DC shelves, and see an entire shelf devoted to Wonder Woman, with dozens and dozens of series dating all the way back to her creation. Where to start? Well, we could go with publication order, but that’s kind of like trying to watch every episode of classic Doctor Who before starting on Nine. Kind of unrealistic. We could start at the beginning of a particular writer’s series, but when we crack open the first volume, we find characters and references from previous series that we don’t expect from a volume one. Surely picking up a first volume, or first issue, should mean we’re equipped to start reading the story and become engrossed without having to study for it.

But nah, that’s not how the comic book world works.

A more specific example. After the Wonder Woman movie, wanting to explore more of her world, I asked a friend who loves comics even more than I do (although we definitely love different genres of comics…) where to start. No other form of media requires this, by the way. You wanna start watching Game of Thrones? Start on episode one. You don’t even have to read the books first, they explain everything. Want to watch Fargo? You don’t have to have seen the movie first, you’ll know what’s going on. Wanna start reading Lord of the Rings? They pretty much cover the important stuff from The Hobbit so you’ll know where everybody stands.

Comics? Nope. When I started reading the series my friend recommended to me, I knew about three characters, and the rest were from previous DC comics that I hadn’t read. This wouldn’t have been a problem if they’d worked some sort of introduction in for these characters. I had no fuckin’ idea who Cheetah was, I didn’t know what the hell she and Diana were talking about. Some things I could gather, but others I was still in the dark about and had to Google. Call me old fashioned, but I for one think you shouldn’t have to have Google at the ready the entire time you’re reading something just to understand what’s happening. But maybe I’m an old soul.

When I saw the name ‘Rebirth’ on a bunch of DC’s new comics, I felt an instant sense of relief. Rebirth! That meant it was all fresh, all new! I would be able to read it and understand it because it was a fresh start!

Hahaha, I think the fuck not!

Turns out, as I learned reading the introductory volume of Rebirth, you pretty much had to have read Flashpoint beforehand. So I went and read Flashpoint, but there were plot points from previous comics referenced in that as well that I was in the dark about. So I sort of just shuffled through Flashpoint, and although I really did love it and got a lot out of it, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I would have if I had all that background info. But I’m assuming, had I gone after the background info, I would have been met with the same thing. And then more. And more. Until I was back in the days where Robin didn’t wear any pants and Harley Quinn wasn’t even a twinkle in Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s eyes.

And dammit, I just wanted to read some Wonder Woman comics!

Geekdom of all sorts has a sort of… let’s call it notoriety, when it comes to new members, particularly geekdom that revolves around the ‘classic’ aspects: comics, video games, tabletop games, et cetera. It’s a well-known fact that women and girls in particular often feel unwelcome from spaces dedicated to these, even and perhaps especially online spaces. We’re held to a higher standard than male fans of the same things, and a lot of the times saying we’re a fan of something is followed by an unsolicited pop quiz to see if we’re a real fan.

But the truth is, a lot of younger male fans can’t even pass these quizzes, because there are like twenty-five canons and everything has been retconned at least twelve times and there are ten Robins and like 200 people who’ve been in the Justice League and anybody trying to dip their toes into comics are either forced to stay in the kiddie pool or pushed into the deep end without any floaties.

Now Kell, you’re probably thinking, is there really any way to fix this? Surely you aren’t implying every current comic arc just up and STOP in favor of a true fresh start, beginning all the way back with origin stories and continuing from there?

Well, I’m not gonna lie and say I wouldn’t totally love that. Think of all the new faces we’d get in the fandom. Think of the kids, the tweens who’d be able to read these comics and wait anxiously for the next issue because they’ve traveled with Diana and Bruce and Clark from the beginning of their adventures as heroes! But yeah, I know it’s unrealistic. Comics are a long and well-loved tradition, and abandoning the history of these characters is a big thing to ask.

But I feel as if there’s a lot of things that can be done to make entry into the comic nerd club a little easier. Blurbs at the beginning providing info on past plots necessary for understanding the current one, for example, reminiscent of, “Previously, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Footnotes that actually say things other than “See Issue 5 of Justice League” as if that’s helpful and not just the beginning of a wild goose chase of complicated plots and character development.

As much as it pains me to admit this, since I’m a DC girl through and through, Marvel seems to have a better grasp on keeping new fans up to date. Maybe it’s because their media empire is bigger, maybe that makes reaching out to as many new readers as possible a priority. Either way, another series I started recently was Miss Marvel, and I had almost no problem keeping up with it. Even though I was new to the world of Captain Marvel and her history as Miss Marvel, so was Kamala Khan, the new Miss Marvel herself! We were figuring shit out together, she and I, and the only things that really needed explaining were who Captain Marvel was and that Kamala was a huge fan. Boom. Both things covered, let’s enjoy the ride. It merits saying, however, that this might be less of Marvel’s overall outlook and more of G. Willow Wilson’s writing. Thanks for looking out, girl.

And other comic writers, take note.

Are these the bitter ramblings of a girl too dumb to follow complicated plots? Eh, maybe. But I do think that we’re currently living in the golden age of superhero media, and that DC and Marvel alike could stand to make the origins of these superheroes more accessible to potential newbies. I feel like it’s not a radical concept, not having to do an hour of homework before settling down to read.

What do y’all think about this? Has being overwhelmed stopped you from reading any long-running superheroes? And if so, how do you think publishers could remedy this? Let me know what you think!

Meanwhile, I’ll be in the corner with my Image comics.

Love,

Kell

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An Excuse

Hey guys, I know I haven’t posted in a while, and that is 100% my fault. I really hate the term ‘excuse’ in regards to why someone didn’t do something, and much prefer the word ‘reason’, since I feel like as soon as you say ‘excuse’ people think it’s something you could have done and just didn’t want to.

I’ve been going through a lot of writer’s block in response to some weird mental health stuff going on. I’ve been having a hard time thinking of topics and such to write on, and I don’t want this to just become a Top 5 Wednesday blog, y’know? So I’d rather wait and write something good than force myself to write something shitty. Because if I force myself to do it, it stops being fun.

So I guess the point of this post is to apologize, and to say that I’m going to be crossing the line over to movies, TV, comics, etc, more and more often. It’ll probably end up being a cornucopia of different media types. So if you came here just for books, I apologize, but broadening my horizons will keep me enthusiastic, and make for better writing.

So I’ll see you all very soon with something new.

♥ Kell

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS

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Hahaha remember when I said I would continue updating about my vacation while it was happening? Yeah, total lie. Turns out that once you start actually hanging out and having fun on your vacation, you don’t want to sit on your computer and blog. Go figure. But I am home, back and better than ever, just in time to bring you a Top 5 Wednesday!

This is something I feel is weirdly pretentious about saying, but when I was a kid, I didn’t play video games. I didn’t do sports. I didn’t play on playgrounds and swing and go down the slides. When I was a kid, I was constantly doing one of three things: watching movies I probably shouldn’t have been watching, performing frighteningly involved Lord of the Rings LARPs in my backyard, or reading books.

(Did any of y’all have AR books when you were in elementary school? I lived off those things. What you did was, you read a book with an AR sticker on it, then you took a quiz on it, and then… well, honestly, I still don’t really know the point of those quizzes, but my point was, I loved them to death. And I was always incredibly depressed when books I wanted to read weren’t AR books.)

But that’s enough strolling down memory lane. Let’s get to the top five, shall we?

1. Holes

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Not only is Holes one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, to this day, it’s also tied with The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the best book-to-movie adaptation of all time.

Holes is the story of a lad named Stanley Yelnats who is falsely sent to a correctional camp for ‘stealing’ a pair of shoes that just so happened to fall on his head. Once in the camp, he realizes that his story, the camp’s past, and the story of another camper, the mysterious and quiet Zero, are all interconnected into an epic tale. Everything about this book is perfect to me, from its characters, to its dialogue, to the tangled web of its plot that somehow comes out perfectly fitting by the end of the story.

When I was younger, I pretended they let girls into Camp Green Lake as well, and begged my mother to buy me a hideous orange baseball cap to wear backwards like Stanley. I gave myself a nickname (Witch, of course, because I was a rather single-minded child) and went to dig holes in the backyard, which, of course, got me into a lot of trouble. I also had a large number of plastic lizards that all got garish yellow spots by the time I was finished with them. It was an exasperating time for Kell’s house.

And as I said, the movie was perfect, too. As I’m writing this, I’m longing to go watch it again. The only aspect that wasn’t a mirror-image of the book was the fact that Stanley didn’t begin the movie overweight, but I mean, it would have been both impossible and unhealthy for them to have Shia LaBeouf gain and lose all that weight in the time it took to film the movie, so I find this forgivable.

2. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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Ah, yes. The books that turned me into the creepy little psycho I am today. This series consisted of various urban legends and scary stories (duh) retold by Alvin Schwartz and accompanied with eerie illustrations by Stephen Gammell. They varied from creepy and witty to genuinely disturbing; Goosebumps was all well and good, but they still all had an underlying silliness that I sometimes lost patience with.

These, however, were genuinely terrifying, and some of them ended without any explanation to the horrifying events within them, which to me, only made them more terrifying. Why the fuck was that lady with stringy hair hovering over my bed? We just don’t know. Which means it could be for any reason. Which means it could happen at any time. Tonight, even. Horrifying! And the mix of stories, poems, and songs kept things interesting and varied.

And, of course, what would I be doing if I didn’t mention the art? The artwork that haunted hundreds of children’s nightmares for years to come, the art that inspired hundreds more to make their art spookier and spookier as they grew up. By far the story that freaked me out the most was the one about the guy flashing his high beams at the chick driving in front of him because there was a guy squatting in the back seat ready to kill her. I remember riding in the car with my mom while reading it and a tangible chill going down my spine.

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events

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We all knew this one was coming, didn’t we? I mean, I’m willing to bet this is on half of these lists, and that’s because these books had such an impact on my generation. In case you somehow skipped these as a child, they’re about three children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, who find themselves orphaned after a fire destroys their home. They’re passed from caretaker to caretaker, all of them horrible (with the exception of good old Uncle Monty, of course), while slowly realizing that the Baudelaire fire was no accident, and their parents weren’t who they thought they were.

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but to me, the draw of these was the fact that I didn’t feel as if I was being spoken down to, as both a child and an advanced reader for my age. Lemony Snicket knew that kids understood a lot more than adults gave them credit for, and he used that both in the stories themselves and in his writing. He taught us words without making us feel dumb that we didn’t know them. He showed us some of the darker parts of life, like death, grief, abuse, and he taught us that we can survive all of that, even if life keeps throwing them at us. The age differences of the Baudelaire orphans did a lot for that, too, speaking for three different generations (well, two, more realistically, since kids Sunny’s age probably can’t read them just yet).

Netflix’s current series based on it is also doing a pretty dang good job adapting it, although I didn’t think the movie was all that bad. It had Meryl Streep in it, for crying out loud! In any event, I think these books have possibly the most reread value of any of the books I read as a kid, if not only because the language isn’t childish and pandering, and I hope kids keep reading it even though it’s over.

4. Edgar and Ellen

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Speaking of A Series of Unfortunate Events, let’s talk about the series everyone thinks is a blatant ripoff of it! Which, for the record, I really don’t understand. Edgar and Ellen are as different from the Baudelaire children as is humanly possible, the only similarity being that they happen to be orphans. The art is much more Tim-Burton-esque than Brett Helquist’s, so it’s not even the art that inspires the accusation.

While the Baudelaire orphans were left so because their parents died in a fire, Edgar and Ellen’s parents simply… took off one day, probably because they realized their children were terrifying sociopaths. The two little demons now live alone in their huge house overlooking a cemetery, with a weird mop looking creature of indeterminate species and gender called simply Pet. Let’s get one thing straight, these kids are little assholes. In the first book, they kidnap everyone’s pets and make them look like weird freak show animals to get people to pay to see them. Genius assholes, but assholes all the same.

Don’t get me wrong, these books aren’t the pinnacle of good children’s literature, but I was ten when they came out, and I liked spooky things, and they were fun. So, not quite as packed full of meaning as ASOUE, but an enjoyable read all the same.

5. Goosebumps

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Here we are, the pinnacle of my childhood. While A Series of Unfortunate Events and Holes did a lot of molding for future me, and Goosebumps was more just for fun, it’s by far what I read most often as a kid. It inspired me to write my own spooky stories, even, although back then, I don’t suppose they were very good.

Do I even really need to explain what the Goosebumps books are? I feel like they’re so integrated into pop culture that they warrant no explanation whatsoever. But, for the sake of uniformity between bullet points, I’ll say that they’re a series of standalone (for the most part) scary stories, varying from quite seriously terrifying (The Haunted Mask, Night of the Living Dummy) to just silly and weird (My Hairiest Adventure, Chicken Chicken). When the new millennium came around, they released a series called Goosebumps 2000, which had some gems, too, as well as some choose-your-own-adventure stories called Give Yourself Goosebumps, which leaned slightly on the goofier side, although the covers were pretty damn awesome.

When I was a child, I briefly became obsessed with the Goosebumps 2000 book Cry of the Cat, because it was spooky but also involved cats. A match made in heaven for young Kell. My dad decided to take advantage of my constant reading of it and purchase a pair of walky talkies, hiding one under my bed and making demonic cat noises into the other one. In other words, there’s a reason nothing scares me now; I got all of that weeded out of me when I was a kid.


And that’s it for Top 5 Wednesday this week! Join us next week for… something else!

♥ Kell

THE CHICKS WITH DICKS TOUR: Day One

We have finally made it to Portland, though it was a long and arduous journey, filled with hot crotches and rude drivers. We ended up leaving at around 11 AM yesterday after hitting up Jiffy Lube for an oil change, then gas, then Micky D’s. Because what’s a road trip without a McGriddle, am I right? Armed with a bag of Trader Joes snacks and our trusty penis pals, Eugene and Marcel, we hit the road. Hence the name, Chicks With Dicks Tour.

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Our buddies Marcel (left) and Eugene (right).

Our first stop along the way was the Geiser Grand Hotel, which Penny promised boasted one of the biggest stained glass ceilings in America, definitely the biggest in the northwest. She also mentioned it having the fanciest bathroom she’d ever been in, and as a connoisseur of fancy bathrooms, of course, I had to take a gander. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. In the cafe, I indulged in some root beer (which I think is honestly going to be my signature drink on this trip) and her some strawberry lemonade.

 

There was also a rather creepy old staircase warning people not to enter outside of the hotel, so of course, we could not resist a picture.

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Marcel also had some fun at the hotel.

 

We left, and went on the road again. As we drew closer and closer to Portland, the scenery got greener and greener. They call Boise the city of trees, but let me tell you, we ain’t shit. There’s trees in Oregon like nobody’s damn business. We’re like, shrubbery compared to this sea of magnificent forest. We took a detour on the scenic route to appreciate the green, and stopped to see Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls.

 

Of course, Marcel stopped to admire the wonders of nature.

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After that, back on the road, though it was a short drive from there to Portland, only about a half hour. Eugene was getting anxious to get out of the car and stretch his little feets.

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But eventually, we did get here safe. We took a shower to cleanse ourselves of the sweat, plopped down, popped Monty Python and the Holy Grail into her aunt and uncle’s DVD player, and relaxed. We met some cats, as well, a true highlight of our arrival. We had our Trader Joe’s snacks for dinner, which probably wasn’t the greatest decision, but hey, there were granola bars, that’s healthy, right?

Anyway. We got a good night’s sleep and are now ready to face the day, starting with some dim sum. I shall report back tonight!

♥ Kell

PS: Here is a photo of Eugene on a dinosaur.

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VACATION ALL I EVER WANTED

Anyone else remember that song? Nah? Alright.

I skipped Top 5 Wednesday today for two reasons. One, and I make it a point never to lie, so this is just what I’m sayin’, I didn’t like the topic a whole lot and didn’t feel like writing about it. Hate-to-love ships? What does that even mean? I just don’t know.

The second reason is that the day after tomorrow I’m going on VACATION to Portland! Yes, that’s right, vacation. And so with that in mind, I will say that I intend to do a few blog posts about said vacation whilst I am on it, but there are some points we’re going to be camping, so probably not every single day. Still, I shall have many pictures to show you, plus the inevitable haul from Powell’s.

So that’s what’s happening. I haven’t forgotten about y’all, I’ve just been busy with work and getting ready for vacation and, admittedly, catching up on TV shows to relax in between. You guys watch American Gods, right? Shit, I hope so. And Preacher is back, so go watch that too. That’s your wisdom from Old Woman Kell for the week.

I hope to see you soon. If I don’t end up posting a lot of (or any) blogs, please do not be offended, it just means I’m a) having too much fun, or b) dead. That’s… that’s it. Those are the choices.

Until then!

♥ Kell

 

HEROES NEED DISPOSABLE WOMEN: The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

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My last non-Top-5-Wednesday post was about the Women in Refrigerators trope as a whole, so if you want some background about that, I suggest you read it. I’ll provide a Readers Digest version of the trope, but those that want a deeper understanding, as well as some examples, may want to check out that entry first!

The Stuffed Into The Fridge trope became famous in a Green Lantern comic storyline of old. Kyle Rayner came home to find his girlfriend chopped up by the bad guy and stuffed into his refrigerator. Well, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure she was chopped up, but it’d be kind of hard to fit her into the fridge if she wasn’t, right? I guess that’s beside the point. Anyway, this gave our friend Kyle enough man-pain to really get his ass in gear and beat the villain.

It wasn’t an ‘officially’ named trope back when it first started happening, and I say ‘first’ as loosely as possible. Women being killed, raped, paralyzed, put into a coma, etc, in order to provide the male hero with enough motivation to beat the bad dude has been happening for… a while. Since before comic books were a thing. Since way before that specific comic book was a thing. But Gail Simone, a comic book writer, coined the term ‘fridging’ based on that Green Lantern comic and since then, it’s stuck.

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Catherynne Valente, of Deathless and Fairyland series fame, and one of my favorite writers, wrote this book of short stories based on the unsettling feeling most female geeks get from this particular trope. With illustrations by Annie Wu that contributed to the comic book theme of each story, this short read was, I imagine, must like taking a bungee plunge off a cliff: sobering and jarring, but ultimately satisfying.

The stories are grounded in a sort of urban afterlife occupied by standard demon-esque monsters along with, of course, various dead people. The women telling their tales of heroic woe meet as a sort of club in a cozy locale, and are made up of several on-the-nose dupes of famous comic book women of today. There’s Paige, the Gwen Stacy, dealing with her boyfriend gaining superpowers from a scientific means. There’s Julia, the Jean Grey, doomed to pop in and out of the afterlife due to a shit-ton of retconning. There’s Pauline, the Harley Quinn, stuck to her evil boyfriend but ultimately disposed of by him. There’s Blue Bayou, the Mera, who takes a backseat to her human husband’s grief when they lose a child. There’s Daisy, the Karen Page, taking second fiddle to her superhero boyfriend even though she puts just as much work in. And, of course, there’s Samantha, the Alexandra DeWitt, who ends up stuffed into a refrigerator just like her Green Lantern counterpart.

When I first began reading this, I hovered between thinking it was genius and thinking it was just a big old ripoff. Pauline’s story particularly made my bullshit alarms go off, since she was so utterly transparently a Harley Quinn reference. That was the first time reading through. The second time, it was much clearer to me that these weren’t spoofs, or knockoffs, or dupes, they were accusations, and accusations that needed to be made.

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Valente pulls from both Marvel and DC, but still manages to develop a single world of her own despite the characters being thinly-veiled representations of the real (so to speak) fridged women in comics from both companies. The villain in one story is mentioned in another; the superhero team reminiscent of the Avengers or Justice League is composed of all the girls’ hero boyfriends and husbands, and exist in not only the same universe, but the same storyline.

I think that my favorite thing about this selection of stories is how bitter the heroines are allowed to be. None of them smile and take their fate with a scoff and a good-natured smile. They realize how unfair it was that they died in the name of their superpowered partners, and they aren’t happy about it. Some are more upfront about it than others, but none of them are complacent. Even Pauline, true to her Harley Quinn roots, who still feels a fair amount of affection for her puddin’, realizes how shitty it was that she died for him.

I’m aware that this is a short review, but, truth be told, I said most of what I had to say about fridging in the article I wrote exclusively for it, the article linked above. Before I leave, though, I do want to say that I think this book would be a drastically better experience if there was an audiobook of it, with each chapter read by different actresses. Seriously, that would be amazing, and I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet. If it weren’t for those darn copyright laws, I’d assemble some friends and do it myself, honestly. Quite frankly, I’m considering doing it just for fun and not posting it anywhere. Maaaaaybe.

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Anyway, like, go read this book. It took me about three hours the first time through and maybe an hour and a half the second time around. It’s amazingly insightful and filled me with so much feminist rage to direct at other things, I might just reread it before every rally.

Tomorrow I’m going to try something new, so stay tuned. We’ll see if it sticks or not.

Also, a small  note before I forget: this Friday I will be taking a trip to Portland, Oregon, and I don’t plan on taking my computer with me. So I will be gone for the week. However, I will probably write up my Top 5 Wednesday beforehand and just slap it in my drafts so I can post it from my phone. When I get back, I imagine I’ll have quite a book haul from Powell’s and Kinokuniya to show you guys!

See you tomorrow!

♥ Kell

 

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Favorite Unlikable Protagonists

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I am the literal queen of unlikable protagonists, but hoo boy, this is a tough one. Not because I can’t think of any unlikable protagonists that I enjoy, obviously, but because a lot of other people’s unlikable protagonists are actually… quite likable to me (Holden Caulfield) and a lot of protagonists that are incredibly likable to others are unlikable to me (Hermione Granger). But I’m going to do my best here.

You will notice that all of these hail from my favorite genre, my ‘home’ genre, if you will: horror. That is because if a protagonist is meant to be unlikable, and they are not a serial killer or crazed lunatic, I probably will find them terribly uninteresting or underwhelming. But that’s just me and my fondness for murderous protagonists.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my four fucked up asshole sons, Victor, Light, Herbert, Patrick, Andrew, and Jay.

1. Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein)

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Alright, I’m just gonna come out and say it. The reason Victor is an unlikable protagonist isn’t because he graverobbed his way to a weird human-quilt of a son and played god out of sheer curiosity. Nah, that ain’t it. What makes Victor difficult to read isn’t the fact that he’s a creep, it’s the fact that he’s so goddamn whiny and dramatic about it.

This little bitch brings a dead body back to life and is so utterly shook by it that he has to lie in bed and be coddled by his buddy Henry Clerval for four months. Yeah, you read that right. Four months. Like, dude, you’re the one who wanted to do this. You should have psyched yourself up more beforehand. You can’t go bringing things back from the dead for science and then getting spooked when it works.

Later, when he’s finally gotten over it, he discovers his little brother William has been murdered and he automatically assumes the creature he made is the thing that did it. I mean, he did, but way to assume. So instead of, y’know, taking responsibility for his weird undead manchild, what does he do? Runs away to the mountains to sit there and marinate in his guilt until the creature hunts him down to call him out on his bullshit.

Victor, my dude, you didn’t think this one through. Still, I can’t help but love the little asshole. He was basically the 18th century equivalent of a college dude fucking around in his basement. He’s like the annoying, disappointing son I will never have.

2. Light Yagami (Death Note)

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Look, another smart white guy playing god. Light Yagami is even worse than Victor, because he’s not even a college student, he’s a high school student. So he’s walking down the street one day and he notices this weird black book lying on the ground, so naturally he picks it up, and sees it says DEATH NOTE on the front in creepy letters. Cool. He takes it with him, which, if this were a horror movie and he was a stereotypical protagonist, would immediately mean the audience yelling at the screen what dumbass he is. But nah, he’s not a dumbass. Just a massive dick.

The first thing he does after he figures out what this book does is decide that he’s gonna be some sort of couch potato vigilante, extracting justice without even having to leave the comfort of his room. He vows to rid the world of naughty people, not even seeming to consider that murdering people might be a little naughty, too.

Light is the dickest of dicks. He basically kills anyone who even gets close to figuring out he’s the one magically murdering all the city’s criminals, he uses the only people who really enjoy his company to his own careless advantage, and (and maybe this should have been first on the list), he thinks it’s ultimately his decision who deserves to live and who deserves to die. He’s basically a lazier Dexter Morgan.

But, honestly, he’s pretty fascinating. Y’know, from a psychological perspective. And I can’t really bring myself to dislike him. Plus, he gave us this gem:

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Literally murdering people under the guise of eating potato chips. What a legend.

3. Herbert West (Herbert West: Reanimator)

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I will admit, my introduction to Herbert was via the movie version of Re-Animator rather than the story. But it did inspire me to go read the story, which… alright, I didn’t enjoy quite as much as the movie, but was still pretty good, cause, y’know, it’s H.P. Lovecraft. Now, Herbert is yet another white college guy playing god… hold on, could it be that I have a type? No, c’est impossible! Eh heh… heh….

Anyway, Herbert is like Victor in a lot of ways. He’s a college student, he’s weirdly obsessed with bringing people back from the dead, and he’s totally fine with robbing graves in the name of science. There are a couple of key differences between Herbert and Victor, however. The first is that, unlike Victor, Herbert is actually happy when he succeeds, and doesn’t cry about it like a little bitch. The second is that Herbert drags someone else into it, our narrator, who has no name in the short story but is named Dan Cain in the movie.

Herbert could not give a metric shit about anyone but himself and his lil science project throughout the course of the story (which is actually pretty meaty for a short story), and continually forces the narrator/Dan into his schemes. However, despite the fact that he’s a selfish, narcissistic asshole, there’s still something rather endearing about him, in both the book and movie versions but especially the movie.

4. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)

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I know people who absolutely despise Christian Bale solely for the fact that he starred in the movie version of this book and was such a dick the entire time. And honestly, I don’t blame them at all; Patrick is everything I hate about men rolled up into one shitty little package. He’s rich, self-obsessed, petty, shallow, misogynistic, violent toward women… basically, if he were uglier, he could be president.

But there’s one thing that saves the character of Patrick Bateman, and that is the fact that he is literally a spoof on the type of men mentioned above, written by a gay man, and presented as a social commentary (much like Chuck Palahniuk). There’s just something about Patrick that’s inherently hilarious, something that keeps me from being completely disgusted and horrified whenever I read the book. Bret Easton Ellis knows exactly what to exaggerate and what to leave fucked up, from Patrick’s obsession with his coworker’s business cards to the horrifying way he treats the prostitutes he’s hired (and renamed).

5. Andrew Compton and Jay Byrne (Exquisite Corpse)

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Okay these guys are the ones I have the least excuse for liking as much as I do. They’re god-awful people. They’re serial killers, necrophiliacs, possibly the worst couple to ever exist. But dude, dude. They’re such great characters. Villains are so often queer-coded without being made explicitly gay, gay characters are so often woobified and made to look perfect in an attempt to not offend. Having two genuinely horrifying gay villains (who are still protagonists; the entire book is from their points of view) is so cool to me.

Not to mention, serial killers in horror, especially this kind of splatterpunk, extreme horror, are usually misogynistic men who get off on raping and killing women, which, as a horror fan, I won’t go so far as to say is wrong to write about (the horror of it is quite clear), is still disgustingly common enough to make me groan whenever I encounter another one (which is why I stopped reading a lot of Edward Lee, even though I love his style, and prefer Jack Ketchum these days, who seems to have more varied protagonists).

The way Poppy Z. Brite (who, by the way, is my favorite author of all time) gets in these guys’ heads and shows us why they do the things they do, how they feel when they do it, what they get out of it, et cetera, is beyond fascinating. I’ll take these fictional serial killers over any true crime nonfiction, thanks.


And that’s it for this week! Tune in next time for another Top 5 Wednesday! I should have a couple more entries up this week, but if I get lazy and put them off, I’ll see you then!

♥ Kell

FRIDGING: A Serious Talk About Women in Fiction

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Mummy (2017), The Dark Knight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Thor: The Dark World. The last three have been out for a while so you probably have seen them already if you care. Still, just a warning!

Hello, everybody. Today I’m going to talk about something that’s only partially book-related. And quite frankly, that might happen more often. I love movies just as much as books. I’m a media person in general. So I’m sorry if people have a big problem with the concept of me talking about movies and TV as well.

Well… actually, nah, I’m not really sorry.

But I have to talk about this because it’s something that really chaps my ass, really burns my bacon, really twists my knickers. See, I had the misfortune of being dragged to see The Mummy yesterday, and let me tell you, that’s an hour and a half of my life I’m never going to get back. I could have been watching Wonder Woman again. I sat there staring at Tom Cruise’s ugly mug knowing that somewhere, in that very same building, people were staring at Gal Gadot and Robin Wright. It just wasn’t fair. At least I didn’t pay for it.

Anyway. The whole time I was watching the two (count ’em: two) female characters in that sausage fest of a movie, I was utterly bothered, and it took a while for me to realize exactly why I was bothered. These two women, both of them, they weren’t people. They weren’t fleshed-out characters with strong personalities. Ahmanet is a two-dimensional villain who spends the whole movie chasing after Tom Cruise so she can turn him into Set and have a buddy, or a fuck buddy, or whatever, and Jenny was a great character for probably the first minute and a half after she was introduced, afterwards doing a complete one-eighty and also becoming weirdly fixated on Tom Cruise and forgetting that she had her own agenda. I don’t even remember his character’s name, because there was very little acting involved. I’m not even sure they gave him a script.

There are spoilers for the movie beyond this point, but honestly, you shouldn’t spend any money on it, so I wouldn’t really care if I was you.

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TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Favorite Side Ships

Hey guys! Welcome back to Top 5 Wednesday.

Before I begin, I must gush at you. Last night I got to meet my favorite author in the whole world, Victoria Schwab, for the second time. She was touring with Madeleine Roux, author of the Asylum series, and she was a total delight as well. Talking with Victoria never gets old, and I don’t think it ever will. She’s a writer after my own heart. They took some questions from a local bookstore, then from the audience, and as a fellow writer I loved listening to their perspectives on writing and publishing. And Victoria remembered me from last time! It probably helps that I have the same name as one of her main characters.

Maddie: Do you want [the book signing] personalized?
Me: Sure! My name’s Kell, with two Ls.
Victoria: Hell yeah it is!

Anyway, if their tour comes anywhere near you, I highly recommend you high-tail it to the bookstore or library or wherever they’re speaking and have a listen!

Enough with my fangirling. Here’s Top 5 Wednesday!

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This week’s prompt is ‘Side Ships: Tell us your favorite relationships that don’t involve the protagonist!’

Now, I’m not entirely sure if this is supposed to be only canon ships, only non-canon, etc, so I’m gonna have a lil of both. You will notice a trend here, and that is the fact that I absolutely despise ‘will they or won’t they’ relationships. I usually either want them to be literally married and together forever, or never have a chance of getting together and have a ship composed entirely of fanon stuff (there is one, arguably two, notable exceptions here, but for the most part, this holds true). This is because I’m an immature little pissbaby and hate devoting myself to something that isn’t set in stone, at least in regards to fiction.

You will also note that most of these are het. In fact, all but one are het. This is because most, if not all, of my same-gender ships involve protagonists. Or are in shows and movies rather than books. Like, my Hunger Games OTP, Johanna and Katniss, is out, as is Rhy and Alucard from the Shades of Magic trilogy (Rhy being a POV character, I count him as a main character). As is Hannibal and Will from Red Dragon. And so on.

But let’s get started.

1. Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour (Harry Potter)

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Oh gosh, where do I even get started with these two. Bill was my favorite Weasley since the moment we met him. Harry was not the only one completely mesmerized with his coolness. And Fleur, I was utterly smitten with as a child. Pretty, graceful, and a badass who could hold her own in the Triwizard Tournament? Sign me up. But when it was revealed that Bill and Fleur were together, I was a goner. I couldn’t care less about Hermione and Ron, or Harry and Ginny. These two were where it’s at. I love their dynamic, a true beauty and the beast story (I choose to forget the part where the movies made Bill’s horrible scars just a couple little scritches across his face). And the fact that Molly hated Fleur so much, as did Ginny and Hermione, and fully expected her to be so shallow she would dump Bill as soon as his face wasn’t quite as handsome, only to have Fleur utterly insulted by the idea she would be so flippant about his looks. That she proved them wrong. A part of me, the part of me that never quite left my werewolf days, does wish that Bill would have been bitten and gone full werewolf, like Remus, but I guess that’s a dick move to wish on poor Bill. Also, I may have once written a fic where Bill was mesmerized by Fleur’s beautiful veela pubes. Maybe.

2. Esme and Carlisle Cullen (Twilight)

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I am unashamed to admit that I loved Twilight when it first came out. The first three books, that is. Once the weird baby stuff started happening, I was outie. But I have a bit soft spot for vampire lovers, and I mean romance between two vampires, not one vampire and one human, which gets old pretty fast. Another thing about me is that I love doctors. Medical doctors. So Carlisle was my favorite from the beginning, and that combined with my love of vampire couples meant I really wasn’t very enthused with Edward and Bella and wanted to spend all my reading time thinking about Carlisle and Esme. The fact that he sired her in order to save her life, after remembering her ever since he treated her such a long time before… I love it. And their decision to save many of their pseudo-children from near-death by siring them, continuing their tradition of sorts, it’s a type of familial camaraderie that I’m a sucker for in fiction. So yeah, Twilight sucks, but I liked it anyway. And I still have a soft spot for Carlisle and Esme.

3. Haymitch Abernathy and Effie Trinket (The Hunger Games)

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My first non-canon ship, of sorts, although honestly it’s so widely accepted by fanon that they put a lil reference to it in the last movie, which was very very sweet. But I fell in love with them in the books first, their bickering and complete opposition, the way they clashed so incredibly and yet completed one another in Katniss and Peeta’s lives as sort of parental figures during the games. The addition of their little kiss before saying goodbye in the movie adaptation of Mockingjay is honestly something I was actually happy they didn’t stay true to the book for. I think it added something valuable instead of just needlessly fleshing out what needed nothing extra. Admittedly, my favorite way to imagine Haymitch and Effie are in some sort of modern AU, giving them a situation to get to know each other that isn’t as awful as the Hunger Games. Maybe things would have been different for them if not for the games hanging over their heads. Who knows.

4. Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand (Game of Thrones)

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This, to me, counts as a queer ship because both of them are bi/pansexual. House Martell is my favorite by far (I have their sigil tattooed on my leg, after all) and one of my favorite things about them is that they don’t treat their bastards as less than. Oberyn isn’t looked down upon for having Ellaria as his paramour, and Ellaria isn’t looked down upon for having children with a man out of wedlock. Another thing I love about them is that they’re so secure in their relationship and sexuality that they have zero problem bringing other people into it, not quite polyamory, but plenty of sharing, even to the extent of choosing the participants of their threesomes and foursomes together, no less casually than a couple shopping for groceries. I love that Ellaria isn’t bitter toward the Sand Snakes for being Oberyn’s children with other women, and that she treats them as her own daughters. They’re just so comfortable and trusting with each other, and so undeniably in love.

5. Enjolras and Grantaire (Les Miserables)

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Finally, you say, some gays! What’s that? Tragic gays? No way, I want my money back! Oh, but I love them so much. I will tell you, Les Miserables is the longest fucking book I’ve ever read, and I was bored to tears for a good 75% of it. Victor Hugo’s writing is just so heavy and wordy and pointlessly detailed that I can’t bring myself to like it. But I did like nearly all of the dialogue points, and once you get to Les Amis de l’ABC there gets to be quite a lot of it, so it was easier to pay attention to without nodding off. But that’s when I read the gayest quote I’ve ever read in my life, from Grantaire to Enjolras, and I’ve not forgotten it to this day. It wasn’t intended as romantic (as far as I know), and yet it’s still the most romantic thing I can ever remember reading.

Enjolras: You don’t believe in anything.
Grantaire: I believe in you.

That entire conversation was gay as shit, but I won’t list the entire thing. Go… well, I can’t in good conscience recommend you read that entire book, but go flip through it til you find that line of dialogue and read the whole page.


That’s it for Top 5 Wednesday this week! I should have another entry by the end of the week, about the Women in Refrigerators trope. If for some reason that doesn’t get up before next week, I’ll see you then!

♥ Kell

 

THE QUEER GENERATION: Why is most LGBTQ lit YA?

DISCLAIMER: In this article I, as a bisexual woman, reclaim the Q slur many times (as may be obvious by the title). If the slur still makes you uncomfortable, you might wanna skip this one. If not, onward!

On Tuesday afternoon I stopped by my favorite local bookstore to pick up something I’d put in an order for (The Godfather. Don’t ask). When I walked in, an employee I’m relatively good friends with said he was glad I came in, because he was making a display for Pride Month and was having a hard time finding adult LGBTQ books to put on the display. He showed me the cart of books he’d picked out already and a good 80% of them were, indeed, YA. There were even more middle grade and younger books than adult contemporary.

I had a couple of suggestions, but, given that it is me we’re talking about, they were all horror. Side note: Queer Fear and Night Terrors, the two best queer horror anthologies you will ever read. Possibly the only ones. But I digress.

It got me thinking, even as I left with my Italian mobsters tucked under my arm. It was true; most mainstream LGBTQ literature falls under the YA category. Sure, there are some classics (Brokeback Mountain, Maurice, Tipping the Velvet) but those are getting on in age. There haven’t been many mainstream queer contemporaries for adults. Why is that?

Well, there’s a few things to consider.


Firstly, there’s the fact that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender is much more accepted in this generation than it has been in the past. And those four identities are just the beginning. We got our pansexuals, our homo, bi and panromantic asexuals, our nonbinary bretheren, and more. The concept of identity in regards to orientation and gender is much more open for my generation (millennials) and those that come after it.

So it really only makes sense that the lit marketed toward people my age and younger reflects our identities. After all, queer YA wasn’t always as big a subgenre as it is today. When I was in my early teens, a wee babe all the way back in 2007-ish, pretty much all I had were a few David Levithans and the Rainbow Boys trilogy. And while I loved Wide Awake and Boy Meets Boy with a passion, and Rainbow Boys was integral to my maturation as a queer teen, coming-out stories weren’t what I needed. Plus, I wasn’t a gay boy, I was a… well, back then I had no idea what I was, but I definitely was not a gay boy. And the majority of queer YA was centered around gay boys.

Now, LGBTQ teens have a plethora of books to choose from. Gay boys, lesbians, bisexuals… shit, there’s even a couple of ace and nonbinary books out there, and the variety and numbers are only growing. And the readers are gobbling it up, which makes publishers even more motivated to sell them. Which is amazing!


Another thing to think about is this: people like me, those kids who raked the YA shelves at our libraries, who drank up David Levithan and Alex Sanchez but wanted more… those kids, we’re growing up! And a lot of us are becoming writers! And what are queer writers who wanted more representative lit when they kids gonna write? Do I even need to answer this rhetorical question?

I mean, and I don’t mean to make this all about me, but take me for example. Something I really wanted when I was a teenager (and now!) were fantasy and sci-fi novels that weren’t classified as ‘queer lit’, just a fantasy novel that happened to have a same-gender-attracted character in it. Since then, I’ve had multiple sources of inspiration: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle and Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic series come to mind. Even then, though, the queer characters are supporting, not main. Well, you could argue that Ronan is the main character of The Dream Thieves, I guess.

The point is, I’m using that desire to work on a book of my own. I’m writing what I wanted when I was younger. And other LGBTQ authors are doing the same thing. And why wouldn’t we? Isn’t the point of writing to write what you would want to read? If you’re not writing something you would want to read yourself, you ain’t doing it right. We’re giving the next generation the gift ours didn’t receive. And all we ask for in return is that these readers grow up to do the same. Shit, who knows, maybe we’ll chase all the straighties out of YA by 2030.


Another thing to consider when thinking about why more people turn to YA for queer lit as opposed to adult contemporary is the fact that adult contemporary centered around gay relationships is just depressing! One of them dies, both of them die, they’re closeted and tormented, there’s a creepy age gap, the list goes on and on. I’m aware I haven’t read every single piece of LGBTQ adult contemporary out there, but I can’t off the top of my head think of a single darn one with a genuinely happy ending. Whereas I can think of plenty of YA queer stories with very happy endings indeed. Compare Brokeback Mountain to Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Compare Maurice to We Are The Ants. Compare despair to hope.

There are some really sad YAs out there. More Happy Than Not, for example. But it’s different, reading something sad when you also have the option of reading something happy. It’s more of a choice. So even adults like me gravitate toward YA when we want to read stories that reflect our own, because they give us hope. That we could have an ending like Simon and Blue rather than Jack and Ennis. And it doesn’t help that for a really long time, gay cowboys were the first thing people thought of when they thought of gay men. It was more than a little fucked up when “I wish I knew how to quit you” became a running gag for straight people.

There was a time I was self-conscious in regards to being an adult that still read YA more than anything else, until I really started thinking these things over. So if you’re a queer grown-up, and the target audience is stopping you from reading LGBTQ YA stuff, consider this me setting you free. Free to read what you needed when you were a kid. Because it’s not too late to get it!


I’ll see you guys next time, probably with a review of New 52 Wonder Woman, if I can finish it all before next Top 5 Wednesday! If not, I’ll see you then!

♥ Kell