Wednesday, January 28, 2015

T5W: Favorite Anti-Heroes

Completely missed last week because I was working on my website, but I can't miss the opportunity to talk a bit about my favorite anti-heroes. I have a particular fondness for anti-heroes and surprise, surprise, most of these are from comics, so without further ado:
  1. Deadpool. Absolutely Deadpool. I think a lot of anti-heroes have a reputation of being way too serious, but Deadpool is anything but.  He’s absolutely crass, constantly toeing the line between offense and humor. I also love how his humor breaks through the fourth wall. He’s absolutely insane, definitely morally gray, but still weirdly relatable.
  2. V. I feel like V falls in the more serious side of anti-hero characterization (although he does have a certain gritty humor to him). You’re really called to question if he’s fighting for his cause in an ends justify the means sort of way or if he’s just insane.
  3. Curtis. Oh man, Snowpiercer was one of my favorite films from last year and perhaps one of my favorite things about it was seeing Chris Evans playing someone who is such a contrast to Steve Rogers. Everything about Curtis is grim from his current situation to the backstory that brought him to that position, and at the climax of the film, when his trust and morals have shattered once more, you really don't know what he's going to choose.
  4. Grendel. This one really doesn’t make sense if you haven’t read Grendel by John Gardner, which adds an insane amount of characterization to the monster that terrorized Beowulf. The humanization he undergoes, while it completely doesn’t justify his actions, leads a sympathy to his situation that seems really key to anti-heroes.
  5. Don Quijote. I feel like I’ve gone super dark with this list, so I’m going to end it on a lighter note. Don Quijote is absolutely not your typical hero, and although he’s not morally gray, his sense of reality (or lack thereof) propels him into the anti-hero territory and a parody of the traditional hero in chivalric romances.
When making this list, I was really dismayed not to have many female characters come to mind. I feel like we more readily cast female characters into good vs. evil categories without allowing them the possibility to be morally gray, but then again, I could also be missing some really obvious ones (I suppose from some angles characters like Katniss and Tris can be seen as anti-heroes). Who are some of your favorite anti-heroes? Since the definition of anti-hero varies so much, I always love to hear arguments that allow me to see characters in completely different lights.

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

T5W: Series You Want to Start This Year

I’m absolutely horrible about finishing novels in a series, so I was stuck on the topic of this week’s Top 5 Wednesday for awhile. Luckily, being relatively new to the whole comics thing, there are so many series (some old, some new) I’m really hoping to get to this year. So here we go!

  1. Ex Machina, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Tony Harris. One of my favorite professors in college (who happened to teach the comics class I was lucky enough to take one semester) recommended this series quite a few times, but I still haven’t picked it up. I should probably fix that.
  2. Rat Queens, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe, art by Tess Fowler. I’ve heard this series has some amazing female characters and I’m completely here for more (and better written) females in comics.
  3. Lumberjanes, written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, art by Brooke Allen. Another series with what seems to be really dynamic female characters. I also love the art for this series so much; it seems a lot of fun!
  4. The Fade Out, written by Ed Brubaker, art by Sean Philips. I absolutely love the covers of this series, and I’m really looking forward to the Hollywood film noir premise of it. I’ve also enjoyed previous Brubaker/Philips collaborations, so I’m hoping I’ll like this as well.
  5. Satellite Sam, written by Matt Fraction, art by Howard Chaykin. I’ve enjoyed all the titles I’ve picked up by Fraction, so far, which makes me really interested in reading more of his work. This seems quite a bit darker from Hawkeye and Sex Criminals, but darker can be good too.

Do you have any comic series that you want to start this year? I'm sure knowledge of awesome titles is spotty at best, so I'm always looking for more!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Agent Carter: The Hero We Deserve

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been over the moon about Agent Carter since it was officially announced by Marvel. The Captain America films are my favorite MCU installments, so I was eager to see a continuation of the story with Peggy at the helm. The premise promised three things I love: the Captain America universe, early Cold War era spies, and a female narrative.

I was not let down at all. Not in the slightest.

There’s a lot that I loved about the first two episodes of Agent Carter, but one of my favorite things, by far, was the fact that it addressed the sexism of the 1940s without falling into the common trap of actually becoming sexist.

A lot of this is because we’re experiencing the story told through Peggy, which shifts the focus through a female-centered lens as opposed to the typical male-centric one. This shift allows Peggy to take control of her agency as a character. She’s not a perky sidekick to a male protagonist; she’s not a forlorn love interest; she’s not another in a long line of two-dimensional “strong female characters.”

From the beginning of the first episode, it’s clear that Peggy isn’t out to prove herself to her male coworkers (as as well intentioned Sousa is, she doesn’t need male coworkers championing her cause, which would undermine her further). She’s irked by their misogynistic comments (and has subtle digs on the tip of her tongue), but she’s fine letting her coworkers underestimate her and her femininity as long as that means she’s free to operate and complete missions on her own terms, away from an overbearing male presence.

Unlike other female narratives in man-dominated fields, Peggy doesn’t need sacrifice her femininity in order to succeed; instead, she embraces it as an asset, simply another tool in her spy arsenal. She seamlessly incorporates traditionally feminine items and situations into her spy work: she uses the excuse of making coffee to get herself into a meeting, disguises herself with a blonde wig and a low cut dress, knocks a guy out with her lipstick (while also making a premature ejaculation joke), pretends she’s looking at Steve’s old file for sentimental reasons while also grabbing another item to use out the box, uses an outfit from one of Howard Stark’s sex fantasies as another disguise, picks a lock with her brooch, uses her stove as an extra weapon in a fight, and (my favorite) diffuses a bomb with household cleaning supplies and a perfume bottle. Even better, she doesn’t back down from her femininity for the sake of making men comfortable (for instance, when she uses “ladies’ things” to be excused from work).

Underneath all of Peggy’s femininity, though, is a very finely concealed anger that is poised to break through at any instance (we see this in the first Captain America movie when Peggy decks Hodge and also when she fires a gun at Steve). Her fighting style isn’t the graceful and acrobatic agility of Natasha Romanoff or Melinda May, who both use the momentum of their opponents against them. Peggy is absolutely brutal in comparison. She bulldozes in, barreling into her opponent full-stop and using every and an item in her reach: guns, knives, stove burners, briefcases, staplers. She’s absolutely unapologetic, and it’s definitely a sight to behold, especially in her quieter moments of rage like threatening a guy in the diner with a fork because of his misogynistic behavior towards Angie.

Even though Peggy is one of few women who has a secure job in man-dominated field, she doesn’t lord her specific set of privileges above other women; she welcomes the companionship (even when her job forces her to push them away). Peggy and Colleen’s relationship echoes, in a way, Steve and Natasha’s friendship in the first part of The Winter Soldier — Colleen chiding Peggy about dating and Peggy giving orders. She and Rose, the telephone operator who is in direct contact with the SSR office, seem to be on a friendly basis with each other (I would actually love to see this explored more in a later episode). I really enjoyed the protectiveness and playfulness of Peggy’s friendship with Angie, and I can’t wait to see Peggy interact not only with her new neighbors, as well as her landlady, in the upcoming episodes.

The most notable relationship that Peggy develops throughout the course of the show is her working relationship turned friendship with Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis.

First off, Jarvis himself is a wonderful character. He isn’t traditionally masculine, but he also isn’t coded as gay (his major concerns besides butting his way into aiding Peggy are making soufflés and washing the linens for his wife). He wants to help Peggy (and is very insistent in offering his help), but he doesn’t want her job or claim that he can do it better than she can. He’s there to challenge and support Peggy, not as a rival or a love interest, but as a friend (side note: I love how much of Peggy’s interaction with men isn’t laced with romantic undertones, with the possible exception of Sousa, who might develop into a love interest?).

This friendship, cemented in the scene at the end of episode two where Jarvis is giving Peggy a pep talk very similar to the one Peggy gave Steve before he decided to do something more with his Captain America persona, is such a positive one as we see Peggy begin to transform into her own version of the Captain America legend (albeit on a deeply personal, very private level). Jarvis gives Peggy a very safe outlet to discuss her private life that she can’t disclose with her coworkers or her other friends. From the earliest moments of the show, it’s clear that Peggy’s grief and her past relationships don't define her, but, in her moments with Jarvis, they don't become cast aside or minimized; they become shared.

Perhaps my favorite scene across both episodes was one of Peggy’s fight scenes which brilliantly paralleled a fictional fight during the Captain America Adventure Hour, the in-universe radio show. Bookended by her fictional counterpart’s entreaties of “If only Captain America were here to rescue me!” and “Captain America, what would I ever do without you?”, it really sunk in: Peggy Carter can do everything Captain America did, except backwards and in high heels.

Overall, the first two episodes of Agent Carter were everything that I could have hoped for and so much more! I feel neglectful in my analysis that I didn’t discuss the actors, but Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy are wonderful and I can’t wait to see more of them as well as Enver Gjokaj and Lyndsy Fonseca in future episodes (also woah Chad Michael Murray). I also really appreciate that so many people who worked on the Captain America films are also writing/directing episodes. I really really loved the premiere, and I can’t wait to see how Peggy’s story unfolds!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Better late than never?

I initially wasn’t going to make a list of New Year’s resolutions because, by the end of the year (or the end of the month), something has always gone by the wayside. But I like making lists; it’s sort of my thing, so I’m going to make one anyway. Here are some things I’m hoping to accomplish this year; I have 5 goals that are reading related and then a few that have to do with crafting.
  1. Create and regularly update a blog. Well, I’ve already halfway checked the box in making this blog, but actually maintaining it will be a challenge. I’m hoping to keep up with the Top 5 Wednesday topics every week, along with book, comic, television, and movie reviews every so often.
  2. Read 75 books. This was my Goodreads goal last year, and I ended up reading 139 books (plus a few audiobooks I forgot to track). While I almost doubled my book goal last year, I want to keep the same goal number this year because I’m hoping for a few changes in my personal life later on in the year that might affect how much I’m able to read.
  3. Catch up on Marvel NOW! titles. Ever since I subscribed to Marvel Unlimited last year, this has been a background goal of mine. I’m caught up on a few titles: Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and Young Avengers, but I really want to gain a better understanding of other current Marvel titles. I’m reading them as they came out as opposed to reading straight through specific titles. Currently, I’m on the April 2013 issues.
  4. Finish Fables. Fables, right now, is about 3 issues away from being finished, so this year is the year I really want to focus on finishing the series. I’m 25 issues in, so we’ll see how this goes, especially paired with my heavy Marvel reading.
  5. Go through my physical book collection and donate the ones I don’t want. Besides select comics and graphic novels, I do the majority of my reading digitally now. Most of my books are actually in boxes right now between a house move and college), so I want to go through them and really minimize my physical collection.
  6. Design teddy bear and plushie patterns. I received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift, so I really want to put it to use making adorable plushies for my Etsy store.
  7. Have a table at a local con or craft fair. I’m hoping to have a table at 221B Con, an Atlanta-based Sherlock Holmes convention this April (I started my Etsy store last year crocheting BBC Sherlock inspired dolls), but even if I don’t get a table there, I want to look into having a table at the Marietta Square craft fairs this spring.
  8. Make Peggy Carter cosplays for Dragon Con. I’ve done so many cosplays over the last few years, but I haven’t constructed a costume from scratch. I’m hoping to make two Peggy outfits to wear at Dragon Con this September.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

T5W: Anticipated 2015 Releases

In order to get into the habit of regularly updating a blog, I've decided to keep up with Top 5 Wednesdays. The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here. Today's topic is my top 5 anticipated 2015 releases, so without further ado, here they are:

  1. Operation S.I.N. by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis. The first issue of this title comes out today (there will be 5 issues total), but I’m so excited for it, I’m going to include it on my list anyway. Cold War spy stories are some of my favorite and with the amazing Peggy Carter as the lead, I’m completely sold. I was completely blown away from the first episode of Agent Carter yesterday, so I’m more than pumped to start reading this (while this does follow Peggy recovering Howard Stark’s stolen tech, I believe it’s quite separate from its MCU counterpart). The story is written by Kathryn Immonen, who wrote one of my favorite Captain America one-shot issues Captain America and the First Thirteen, and the sneak peaks of Rich Ellis’s art for this title look so incredible.
  2. Royal Wedding: Princess Diaries Volume XI by Meg Cabot. I (re)read my way through all of the Princess Diaries series last year in anticipation for this book. The Princess Diaries was one of the stories that prompted my first forays into fandom (as strange as that may seem) and was a super important series to me when I was in middle and high school. I can’t wait to read the series conclusion (I’m assuming?) and see what Mia’s been up to. And, of course, who could resist the lure of Michael Moscovitz?
  3. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. I read The Diviners last year around Halloween, and while I was totally late to that party, I’m actually super happy I waited that long to read it because it means less of a wait for this book. I’m usually not too big on supernaturally, paranormal type books, but the cast of characters in The Diviners completely had me hooked, and I eager to learn more about them (especially the ones that were more in the background of the first book). I also loved how real the 1920s aesthetic made everything feel, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to contribute to the believability factor of the story.
  4. Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger. I’ve enjoyed all of Kody Keplinger’s young adult books that I’ve read, so when she announced that she was coming out with a new book, set in the same universe, I immediately added it to my mental list. Based off the premise, I assume it’s going to deal quite a bit with online vs. offline identities, and I’m so down for that, especially combined with Kody Keplinger’s fun writing style.
  5. Fairest and Winter by Marissa Meyer. I actually haven’t finished reading Cress yet (despite starting it in the first half of last year), but I love the world-building and the whole cast of characters, so I’m looking forward to see how both are furthered in the prequel as well as the conclusion to the series.
What books are you most looking forward to this year? Are they based heavily on favorite past reads (like mine are)? Or are you looking to branch out with debut authors?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Then how should I begin

As I write these words, I'm perfectly aware of the cliché of the twenty-something blogger. And because I like to one-up clichés, I start my (new) blog New Year's Day. How delightful.

But if there's one thing I learned in the year I've graduated college (with an English degree, of course), it's that I really do miss the writing. I miss the discussion. I miss the unraveling, the decompacting of ideology. Sometimes, I even miss the almost ironic levels of pretension that echo through analysis and argument. Language as the cornerstone of performance. Performance as identity.

This past year, with a permanent break from school and no long-term obligations (and the echoing refrains of "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" in my head), was supposed to be a year for me to reflect and find my center. In actuality, it's felt more like a lost year. A year of knowing what I want to do, where I want to live, but not having the means to do that yet. A string of open-ended objectives with no set schedule, sitting stagnant as close friends pass GO and collect their $200 (and their associated benefits!), wondering when my time to cross, to begin, will finally come.

I've never been particularly good at starting things, or, rather, I've never been particularly good with dealing with the pomp and circumstance that surrounds something brand-new. Not when it's directed at myself. Not when it's something only for me. I like being behind-the-scenes, moving the pieces, involved but not in the spotlight. My second degree is in public relations, but while I have no problems developing and talking about the objectives and tactics of others, when it comes to my own, I stumble. I lose myself.

Myself. My identity.

I am an amalgamation of my family, my friends, the people I meet, the stories I consume. I am an amalgamation of ideology. I am problematic. I am working at becoming better.

My inner reality is in a constant state of flux.

I think about this a lot. The conflict between inner and outer realities. How we view ourselves versus how others perceive us. Variable versus static. The lenses never really match up. Intentions are missed and misconstrued. And so we cling to the traits that we feel define us in the eyes of others, perfectly aware that "In a minute there is time/
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse" (pretentious English major that I am, the words of Prufrock reverberate through me).

This has always been the crux of my hesitancy in starting and regularly updating a blog (it's the crux of my hesitancy to ever speak up about myself). With every word I type, every word I say, I begin to collapse the void between my inner and outer selves just a little bit more. My words spiral out, creating and compounding new meanings over which I have no control. Sharing my inner realities publicly (even through the faux safety of an impersonal digital screen) and having them conflict with the outer reality others have already constructed for me, terrifies me. I'm not as great as you think. I'm not as good. I'm not as smart, as clever, as whatever. I am entirely too pretentious.

I've probably gotten far too extisentially self-analytical for an introductory post on a blog that was mainly going to be about books, but, as I mentioned, the stories I consume are innately tied to my construction of myself, both internally and externally. I can't promise I'll wax philosophical in all of my posts (you'd probably prefer if I didn't), but, hey, thanks for reading the ramblings of yet another twenty-something. Welcome to my blog.