A quote from Kevin Smith, retooled into a comic strip that’s 100% true! Zen Pencils creates truly inspiring cartoon strips that are amazing and have more positive and moralistic storytelling then most 600 pages novels do. This latest strip shows how encouraging young artists is the best thing you can do. Sure, you need to make sure they understand reality, but you should never put up walls for a child’s ability to create! Thank you Zen Pencils!

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Superhero movies have been the hot thing ever since I was in middle school and X-Men came out. They’re my guilty pleasure that I don’t feel that guilty about enjoying really. People love them. I love them! And I have a sneaking suspicion they will always be loved as long as comics continue to be written. However, as much as we love them, we shouldn’t deny that superhero movies – specifically the ones spotlighting the DC and Marvel heroes – have a formulaic persona. Using the cliche phrase “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” hits it right on the head with accuracy. The only difference between superhero films now versus 20 years ago is the better writing – how writers can take the same old campy troupes and wrap better dialog and plot progressions around them.

Let’s take this a step further though and think about what the superhero genre actually teaches, to tries to teach. Much of what you see in superhero films tend to take relatable concepts and turn them in end-of-the-world ordeals that sound good because people love angst. Why are Iron Man and Hulk fighting each other in the recently released Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer? I’m sure we’ll figure that out in more detail once the movie comes out – but really, we can figure this out just by seeing the trailer can’t we? Hulk and Iron Man duking it out. That’s EPIC! That’s more than epic, that’s a “versus” fight all us fanboys want to see! I’m sure there will be reasons for the fight – not just between the playboy and the green meanie, but also with the God of thunder and other characters on the Avenger’s team. They did this in the previous film. Did they not learn their lesson and find out that working as a team is better than not? Of course they did. But this is the superhero genre. This is the traditional way superhero stories figure things out. Don’t talk about your issues. Just punch, or shoot, or throw the guy to the other side of the planet. THAT’S how you solve problems right?

I absolutely LOVE the Dark Knight, the older Superman films, Man of Steel, Punisher, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Captain America, the list goes on. But as far as using Superhero films and comics to teach real concerns, I would argue no. Physically fighting to defend yourself is, unfortunately, a reality that we can’t deny has to happen from time to time, but it isn’t something we do everyday of our lives. Physical altercations, however, are the ONLY thing Superheroes do. It’s one of the reasons we love superhero films – it’s action packed! But this isn’t reality, and the film makers don’t want to attempt at approaching REAL concerns spread throughout the world. No one wants to see Superman or Wolverine being civil with their enemies. We want heat vision blazing and claws a-slashing!

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to recognize it as a troupe naturally associated of the genre. While the real world says “talk out your issues,” the superhero movies say “HULK SMASH!” It’s a Hell of a lot of fun, but no one should be blinded by the notion that anything “wholesome” truly exists within superhero storylines.

The Avengers is a great flick. But it boils down to a story about an army of evil outsiders invading the world and only a handful of righteous asskickers being capable of stopping them. As escapism, it works. As character studies and thrilling adventure, it works. As a format designed to showcase a bunch of cool superheroes with amazing powers in cool fights, it works.

As a great way of dealing with real world problems, well, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Someone hates Batman. Big news right? It happens all the time – when a fictional goes viral, and seems to flood our social media networks with news and gossip, people begin to hate on that character. Here’s John Green, from the Vlogbrothers youtube page, opinion of the Dark Knight…

Not that John wants or needs my validation, but it’s perfectly fine if John wants to hate Batman. More power to him if he wants to send that hate out virally in a youtube video. He’s popular enough that anything he puts out there people will watch and enjoy. (he makes good videos.)

It’s hard for me to know how savvy John is when it comes to comics. Did he grow up reading them or watching the cartoons? Did he follow the comics religiously, or was it more casual? Or is he simply someone who knows only wants been portrayed in the films? Either way, there’s a very obvious hole (or many holes) in his argument about why he hates Batman, and all of it seems to be stemming from what’s been portrayed in popular media.

There does exist, within the Wayne Foundation, a side that’s heavily devoted to ensuring Gotham has what it needs to survive. This is a very prominent thing that’s explain within the comic world. Wayne Enterprises gives money, and lots of it, to certain causes – ones that maintain structures and roadways as well as bettering the longevity and health of the Earth. It’s also one of the main sources of financing the reconstruction of property damages due to Batman’s altercations with bad guys within Gotham’s borders. Wayne Enterprises also donates thousands of dollars towards charities that are trying to wipe out poverty, find cures for terrible diseases, and keep the Earth growing and green.

Now he’s not wrong that Bruce Wayne uses a significant portion of his company’s money towards funding his Bat-stuff, but it’s one of the reasons Batman’s adventures are so much fun. His assertion that we celebrate vigilantism is also a legitimate argument that I won’t refute in the least. We’ve done this for years. A male who saves lives under a mask and cape – it’s a common theme that’s been in the repertoire of American storytelling for a long time. Batman’s simply keeping with that tradition.

Of course, none of this really matters. It’s fun to debate comic-related stuff and I applaud John Green’s efforts in keeping the popularity of Batman alive and kicking!

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There’s always a huge debate amongst comic book fans about who’s better – Marvel Comics or DC Comics. Of course I’m biased being a DC reader, and my Marvel fandom only stems as far as watching the movies and some cartoon shows. This debate amongst fans tends to be elitist and baseless since, if you get down to it, most arguments center around things that each publishing company has despite what the nerd rage claims. The major differences between the two exist in on a thematic scale – DC delving into more mythologically based arcs, and Marvel sticking to the more scientific – which, in-and-of themselves, doesn’t make one better than the other.

Recently one of my favorite authors, A Lee Martinez, gave his opinion on some the current and past trends between the two power house comic book companies, and gave his two cents on what makes them significantly different.

DC has struggled for decades with something akin to an inferiority complex. Ever since Marvel rose to the top of the heap via the gimmick of being more mature and darker, DC has always been readily dismissed as the less sophisticated of the two.

It’s nonsense, but it is perceived as truth by the general public, the comic reading public, and sadly, even DC management itself. A lot of this is simply preconceived notions, insurmountable in their own way. Trying to convince someone to change their mind on an accepted “truth” is all but impossible.

(As a “fluffy, comedic writer”, I’ve experienced this prefabricated opinion often enough to know.)

So DC has gone darker and more gruesome than pretty much anything in Marvel. Seriously, there must be more mutilations, torture scenes, and general unpleasantness in DC than the average person would ever know. It’s something of a running gag in DC that arms get severed and a grimacing “Aquaman is grimdark!” aura is everpresent.

It doesn’t stop in comics. While Marvel has created a universe of varied characters and motion pictures, DC has elected to make everyone Batman. I suppose I can’t blame them. Most people hated Green Lantern (I liked it, but I’m the odd man out), and Nolan’s “realistic” Batman films (chortle, chortle) are considered awesome. (The Dark Knight is my contender for most overrated movie ever. Not just superhero, either.) Man of Steel received very mixed reactions, but in the end, sad Superman got people into the theaters.

But there’s even more at work here. Both Marvel and DC are obsessed with their glory days. The difference is that DC is stuck there. I’m not against a dark Batman vs. Superman movie. I’m against one based on a thirty year old story that was a bit ridiculous when it first came out and hasn’t aged particularly well.

The problem will always be that no matter how gruesome or dark DC tries to be, it’ll always be perceived as inferior. Marvel could release a Rocket Raccoon / Howard the Duck movie and probably get away with it. DC could drown the Justice League in blood and tragedy, and everyone would still be making jokes about how lame Aquaman is and debating on whether Wonder Woman should wear pants.

In any case, I think the heart of the problem is found in the management. Marvel has its problems, but it is free to experiment, to explore, and to take chances. It’s built up a ton of goodwill and shown non-superhero fans how wide-ranging the superhero genre can be. DC will always be perceived as runner up.

DC can’t be itself, and it can’t be Marvel. And there’s really nothing they can do about it.

So, a very interesting point of view, for sure. One I tend to agree with. What about you, faithful comic book readers? What do you think of Martinez’s thoughts on the subject?

Neil Gaiman’s novels are getting the audio book treatment faster than most! Next week Tuesday The Graveyard Book will be available for all to listen to! Audible has it available for pre-order, and Harper Audio is ready to take those pre-orders as well. If you thought hearing Neil Gaiman read his book himself was fun, take a listen to the talent flooding this NEW fully casted audio book!

I remember starting this book with my 4th graders in our morning reading groups last year. The kids loved it. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s about a boy who wanders into a graveyard and is raised by ghosts! About a week into the book, however, we had reached Chapter three and I began receiving some angry and concerned emails from parents that this book was too scary for their child, or was too inappropriate for 4th graders to hear. So, at some point in week two I decided to call it quits on The Graveyard Book. My class was upset by this, but they understood.

It’s hard for me to comply with parents who judge stories, not on their content, but on the little snippets of things that, ultimately, aren’t that important in the grand scheme of the lesson’s that the main characters learn before the story’s end. I understand that there ARE kids who do get scared very easily, and books like That Graveyard Book might be too much for them as a 9 or 10 year old. But it’s evidence that I grew up much more differently than the majority of students that attend the school I’m no longer employed at.

What I loved about this book was, amongst all of the hocus pocus, ghosty whosting, and demonic praising, the book is about kids growing up and how difficult it can be. I saw this in my 4th graders early on and decided they needed to hear a story they can relate too – about how tough growing up is. A story that doesn’t present the struggles of life in a simple way, but portrays it as honestly and horrifically as it should be. The Graveyard Book is about a boy who deals with his terrifying struggles on his own and triumphs. It doesn’t matter though, unfortunately. Parents only look for the bad and none of the good. All they could see was, at the book’s beginning, a man, with a knife, who came into a house at night and murdered a boy’s parents. And the little boy would have been a victim too had he not gotten away.

Wait, isn’t there a multi-million dollar selling children’s book that starts out just like this? About a boy who becomes a wizard?

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Next week, on Sunday the 21st, is Banned Books Week! This is a week to celebrate the freedom to read whatever the heck we want and not worry about what the censors say or what schools say is “good” or “bad” literature. Below is an excerpt from the Banned Books Week website explaining how it started and why…

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya. Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith. Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

So what about you? Will you pick up a banned book and read it? It’s a full week! If you have a chance to, you should! I’m happy Neil Gaiman, Weird Al Yankovic, and George R.R. Martin support the movement. I might give Bone a shot.

Hey folks! Sorry for the lac of posts! Something happened that didn’t allow me access to my WordPress account, but it’s all been figured out, at long last! And just in time to post some hilarious stuff! I do love IKEA, but I do wonder if some of their names for things are from a mythological realm. Enjoy!

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