Category: Books

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Reading on Writing Tools

It’s funny. After spending three-or-four hours locked away writing this ten-page paper for my Mass Media Ethics class, I looked outside and thought it was so late that I missed my window to write something substantial on my blog.

But then I realized it’s only 7:00 p.m. (as of the point where I started writing anyway) despite looking like 11:00 p.m.

Welcome back Winter. How’s it going? Persephone doing alright down with Hades right now?

That’s good, that’s good.

All joking aside, I am actually pretty tired of writing after banging out an extensive essay on ethical philosophies when publishing graphic images in newspapers.

Plus I’m having a pretty fun time watching my dad get real annoyed at the T.V. while the Dodgers seem to be choking out during seventh inning of game five in the World Series.

So I won’t write too much here today. I’ll save some energy for another small Evolution and Creation paper I have to do next probably.

Certainly I won’t bore you all with the particulars of applying concepts like Utilitarianism and Communitarianism to national news publications — go ahead and watch NBC’s “The Good Place” if you want any of that. The show does it in a far more entertaining way than I could.

Instead I think I’ll briefly talk about my next “for fun” reading project. If you want to consider supplemental materials to help with my novel a “fun” book.

Professor Rizzo suggested I take a look at Roy Peter Clark’s book here as a way to pick up on some extra skills for more literary writing.

So far this kind of thing has been one of the early benefits of having a mentor for my Honors Project. Not only do I have an instructor to grade me in classes over the next year, someone who’s willing to read whatever I write and give me advice, but I have someone in my corner with a wealth of experience to be able to recommend books and connections that may help my writing in the long run.

It’s super cool, and I eagerly ran off to Amazon to pick this sucker up after she mentioned it last Tuesday.

Now that is has finally arrived, I’m excited to crack it open and see what I can learn. Thought that was worth sharing with the world, at the very least on the off-chance that you too are looking for some supplemental materials to help with whatever you might be writing.

However I’ll have to personally broach the subject another day, because for now I’m off to homework land once again.

Wish me luck.

A Shining Blast from the Past

A Shining Blast from the Past

With the latest Tag Duel Tournament ending in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links soon, I wanted to take the chance to talk about something regarding the event I’ve been interested in since it started.

It has nothing to do with the event itself, as I quite like how Tag Duels work in balancing two duelists fighting on the same team.

No, what I’m interested in is the new reward cards that came from the event. Namely, this one:

Say hello to Elemental HERO Shining Flare Wingman.

This pretty cool looking card right here, for all intents and purposes, is kind of useless when you give it a critical eye. It’s attack and defense stats are okay, but underscored by the fact that it’s a fusion monster that requires a second fusion monster just to summon it.

That’s a fairly difficult summoning condition for the uninitiated, as it means you need three different monster cards and two copies of polymerization just to get him out. His inherent abilities do help him stand out, as he gains at least 1200 attack instantly from all of the HERO monsters in the graveyard just required to summon, then everything he beats over inflicts damage once sent to the grave…

But still. The summon is a tough sell when he has no real protection from any kind of destructive spells or traps.

I’m not here to discuss the merits of this card as a viable battle strategy, however. Even if seeing him added into Duel Links has inspired me to try building a deck around him.

I’m here to discuss the reason why seeing Shining Flare Wingman brought a huge wave of happiness and nostalgia running through my system. Check this out:

Welcome to 2006, where a young nine-year-old Jason vaguely interested in Yu-Gi-Oh! card collecting decided to buy this magazine because the monster on the front looked so god damn cool.

I mean that too, I don’t think I ever seriously read through this thing. I just loved looking at the cool monster pictures on it and inside of it.

To this day, the Shining Flare Wingman edition of Beckett’s Yu-Gi-Oh! magazine is still the only one I own, and seeing his arrival in Duel Links brought the memories of it flooding back. Luckily it just took a quick dig through my 2006-ish era comic books to find the thing.

But those are a story for another day.

Now that I’m older and actually interested in the world of media, I actually perused the magazine with a more analytical eye.

As it turns out, Beckett is an online marketplace for card games and their accessories. Primarily sports cards, but also other trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh!

That’s probably not a surprise to many of you, but I seriously never bothered to look it up before now. I just always thought of this magazine as “The Yu-Gi-Oh! monster thing.”

At its core, the magazine as a whole is just a conduit to show off what cards are available for what prices online.

In 2006 anyway.

Obviously that’s not all that useful for me anymore. So instead, the really fascinating thing about this magazine is what they fill the rest of this thing with.

It’s 88 pages long, and honestly a perfect feature-writer handbook for how to built an interested following with content related to what’s being sold.

Seriously it’s got everything. News about the card game:

Profiles on cards and decks, much like the Shining Flare Wingman deck that’s advertised on the cover:

But then there’s the more fun stuff that shows how interested whoever put these things together was in not only the card game, but the culture surrounding it.

There are articles all about things like the anime throughout the magazine, which I’m sure appealed to me because the anime was my route into Yu-Gi-Oh!

Top tens and episode reviews.

Seriously, this thing is like the perfect analog representation of exactly what you’d expect to see from fandom-driven sites online today.

It’s like Buzzfeed before Buzzfeed. Except all about Yu-Gi-Oh!

And much more my speed.

Of course there’s also other magazine mainstays, like this section all about reader-submitted fan art:

Shout out to Michael from Utah for truly capturing the anime mood.

Seeing this part of the magazine in particular reminds me a lot of the old Highlights magazines, those book-centric ones everyone would get from book fairs in elementary school.

All it needs is a few hidden object games and I would be 100 percent down.

On the bright side, in place of those kinds of games, this magazine also talked about Yu-Gi-Oh! video games.

So hey, it’s got my best interest at heart.

Most of the rest is just advertisements and and pages upon pages of sales figures for individual cards.

While those are interesting in their own right just to take a glimpse back at early 2006, as it seems these things came out bimonthly, I definitely think my biggest takeaway is how awesome all of the extra surrounding content is.

Seriously, looking through how much fun the creators must have had pulling together all of these feature-y articles kind of inspires me to be a bit more interested in the features side of the journalism spectrum.

And all because a mobile phone game dropped a somewhat useless monster that gave me a rush of nostalgia 12 years after a seminal moment in my youthful development.

Isn’t life just a crazy thing?

‘Redshirts’: My latest spark of inspiration

‘Redshirts’: My latest spark of inspiration

This isn’t exactly something I’ve done before on my blog, but it has admittedly been a long time since I’ve personally done anything like this so I figured it would be worth a mention.

Today I read an entire book in one sitting.

One sitting minus a lunch break, but disregarding that I’ve been enveloped in John Scalzi‘s Redshirts from about 10:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. or so when I started writing this.

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I have become intimately familiar with this novel in the last 12 or so hours.

It’s been forever since I’ve gotten to just focus on reading a good book, and I thank Spring Break for giving me the free time.

If you’re a fan of science fiction television, or interested in metanarrative fiction in general, this is a story for you.

Redshirts posits a very specific, interesting question and runs with it fast and hard: What if the “redshirt” characters, those who are the ill-fated attractors of death on shows like Star Trek, become cognizant of the fact that their lives and their fate are inexplicably woven by forces beyond their control?

In essence this is a simple concept, but it goes way deeper within the novel and has certain unexpected twists that make it a truly worthwhile read. It’s hilarious throughout and described as a piss-take at science fiction television tropes, but there are also very emotional moments that extrapolate the experiences of the characters into serious and inevitably positive messages for the human experience.

It’s an uplifting piss-take in the end, even if you may shed a few tears along the way.

I learned about the book from the podcast “Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project,” which if you can’t tell from the title stars former Mythbuster’s star Adam Savage alongside Will Smith (not that Will Smith) and Norman Chan.

That podcast is also worth a listen I might add, as I’m still currently working through the backlog in my morning commutes.

With all this said, I’m obviously burying the lede a little. If I were just reading this book off of a podcast recommendation, why is it worth annotating the hell out of like you can clearly see I did above? In fact, why is it worth talking about on my blog beyond just the slight humble brag of having read all 300 pages in one glorious sitting?

To make a long story short, I’ve been working on my Senior Honors Project at Cal State Fullerton. The project is a multi-year long undergraduate thesis of sorts within the University Honors Program, and one of many distractions I have this semester.

The project I’ve decided to work on is based on Redshirts, in that I’m hoping to write a subversive genre trope novel with an underlying message of sorts about humanity. Except I’m imagining a story based in medieval-esque fantasy genre tropes along the lines of what you’d see in Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, the Legend of Zelda and so on.

Part of my self-driven work in the class preparing to start this project has been to read through the book and annotate it up so I can have a good idea of how to base things when I approach a potential mentor to oversee my writing.

I haven’t exactly had a lot of time to read it until now, and boy do I regret waiting so long.

Thus, if you take anything from this suddenly weird and indulgent life-update post of sorts: Go read Redshirts. I promise you’ll thank me for it.

Oh, and stay tuned for that honors project hopefully getting worked out eventually. Once I begin the actual writing process for my novel, I might start putting out chunks of it here on the blog to garner feedback and log my progress.