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102

God of Comics – Wonder Woman / Conan #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 22, 2017

Wonder Woman / Conan #1 (DC Comics)

We stumbled across the announcement for this title about a month back and could scarcely believe it – it’s not a crossover that has happened before but you’d think it would have. These are two characters that compliment one another quite a bit, though their origins and creators are vastly different.

William Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, was a psychologist involved in a polyamorous relationship back in the twenties and invented the lie detector. He was a fascinating man who gave us one of the most enduring characters of the medium and one of the cornerstones of DC Comics as a whole, even though a lot of the people that have written her since haven’t gotten what she’s about.

And what she is about is Truth and Mercy. We go on about this quite a lot, I think, but we go on about it because so many writers don’t seem to get it, but occasionally someone does and the character just clicks. Gail Simone is one of those writers. She gave us a seminal run with the character that has informed pretty much everything that came afterward, the equivalent of the Walt Simonson run on Thor.

Both of those runs – Simonson’s Thor and Simone’s Wonder Woman – have been collected in trade and they are well worth hunting down and reading. They’re pretty much the best way to get a feel for either character.

Robert E. Howard, on the other hand, is the guy who pretty much invented the sword and sorcery genre. He published anthology stories and invented Conan the Barbarian as his central character, a wandering warrior who was as much about clever trickery as swordplay. He also had some… well, his views on race and gender were pretty standard for their time, but they haven’t aged well.

Interestingly, his stories have. Like the best writers, his characters took on a life of their own and Conan often seemed to oppose the views the author held – he was as much liberator as conquerer. It’s interesting that while Robert espoused views that denigrated civilization as a whole, Conan himself took for granted the social cues of civilized society and Robert was a massive patron of the arts in general and writing in particular.

For example, Robert was a huge fan of Lovecraft and helped develop the Cthulhu mythos. Conan existed within that world, too… and so did Red Sonja. To the best of my knowledge, Gail Simone hasn’t written Conan in the past, but she did write one of the best runs on a Red Sonja comic you’ll ever read and that gives us some pretty high expectations going into this title.

So, it’s with all this in mind that we see these two character crossover – the Amazon princess who works with philosophy as much as strength of arm and the barbarian savage who whose philosophies serve his own aims in all things. There’s a lot to work through here and Gail immediately seizes the throat of her narrative by asking what makes these characters legendary? Why do they endure when other characters fall by the wayside and are forgotten? Is it the will of their in-world gods that they succeed or is it in spite of them, and does that spite make them who they are?

We don’t know yet. We haven’t read the comic, but we’re going to.

And we know it’s going to be gorgeous – Aaron Lopresti and Matthew Ryan are on art duties. The former has done some incredible work with Wonder Woman in the past, and this project sees him reunited with Gail Simone to further that aforementioned legendary run. Matthew Ryan is another Wonder Woman alum with both Simone and Lopresti, and he’s done some incredible color work that should serve this story well.

This has been a really good week for comics, and this title is the one we’re most looking forward to.

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137

God of Comics – Wolfenstein #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 21, 2017

Wolfenstein #1 (Titan Books)

Feels like we were just talking about writer Dan Watters last week. What was he working on? Little Nightmares? Assassin’s Creed? No, no, it was the Shadow.

I want you to take a look at that list, though. Those three comics and what the narratives of those games deal with. Little Nightmares is about the grotesque rich and an all-consuming gluttony resulting in the loss of soul and eventual destruction. Assassin’s Creed is about a war through time between religious zealots and those that have sought to stop them. And, of course, the latest iteration of the Shadow deals with finding out what evil lurks in the hearts of men and causes greater degrees of evil, the root causes of the symptoms that are killing every living thing on our planet.

Combine the darknesses inherent in those three villains and you have Nazis, which means that Dan is well equipped to deal with the horrors of this comic.

For those of you that don’t know, Wolfenstein is a video games series about a Jewish soldier named B.J. Blazkowicz who was captured by Nazis, taken behind enemy lines, and then killed his way through every last bastard that wanted to make the Fatherland Great Again, because you cannot talk to people who are advocating for genocide. Ask anyone that spoke with the Nazis about peace treaties how well that went… or take a look at the American South, and the cancer that is now killing the American Dream because someone decided they did not want to hurt the feelings of fascists and slave owners.

It’s interesting: the Nazi party borrowed some of their ideas and culture from the American Confederacy, those traitors that went to war to keep slaves and who used the slave trade to bolster their economy. The Nazis then used the inertial constancy of European antisemitism to advocate for genocide and made the world complicit in their action when they offered to send the people they were going to exterminate to anywhere that wasn’t Germany.

Germans know about this. They’re taught about it in school. They learn about their history, the good and the bad – and there is good there, a manic genius that has informed much of the world for the better. Americans do not because they edit out the parts of their history they don’t like. This is why Neo-Nazis are allowed to exist, why people think the Confederacy turned traitor for reasons other than slavery, why Republicans are the way they were – if you don’t understand where you come from you cannot control where you’re going.

Recent Wolfenstein games have been brutal on this point. They dig into the horror of Nazism, the sheer vicious inhumanity of it and still come up short because it’s hard to fully capture the degradation that genocide entails. Still, they try as best they can and the most recent version decides to expose the horror in a whole new light:

Makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?

This is the world that Nick Spencer and his ilk are fighting for, the one that moderate liberals will let happen because they would rather talk when someone is calling for the execution for African-American and LGBT+ and Romani and Jewish and Hispanic lives, among others. This is the world that Dan Watters will look at unblinking, and ask you to do the same. It is not an easy task, or a pleasant one. We do not want to fight but there is little choice when you have actual Nazis pushing actual genocide into the public discourse.

Dan is working with the art team of Piotr Kowalski and Ronilson Freire, the former a resident of Poland and the latter a resident of Brazil. Poland was the home of Auschwitz and the worst of the Nazis’ offenses, while Brazil is next to a place where many of the Nazi leadership fled after the war. Both countries have suffered the taint of that evil, and both of them understand the importance of this comic.

This war should be over but it isn’t. Look into what America being made great again by Trump and his ilk looks like. Take a good long look by reading this comic and decide of that sort of fear and murder is something that you can stomach. And then, for the love of the morality you claim to love so much, go out and punch a fucking Nazi.

It’s up to us.

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443

Fowl Play – Interview and Review

Culture, Events, Interviews, Performance, Performance, Reviews, Showcase, Tech

September 20, 2017

Interactive theatre pieces are amazing. It gives people the chance to be creative and think outside of themselves to get to the final goal. Entertaining others while entertaining yourselves.

Interactive theatre is also hard to do. You have to account for a bunch of variables, those variables have a name, and that name is audiences.

Telling is a story that is compelling enough to entice your audience enough to participate but having a narrative that doesn’t NEED them to do the most important tasks is important. Making sure that what your actors do makes sense in the context of the narrative is paramount. Matchstick Productions did the important things and left room for you to play with the characters in their production of Fowl Play.

Photo Credit – Luke Redmond – Fowl Play

“Fowl Play: a Search for Odd Behaviour and Even Odder People,” is an interactive theatre performance that will be presented at the Anvil centre as a response to the New Westminster New Media Gallery’s current exhibition “Dominion.” Come join us with your smartphones and be on the lookout for some pesky birds in this one-of-a-kind scavenger hunt!

I was invited to participate on an audience level with this production by Judy Hamilton from TerraTap who we spoke to on the Living Myth Magazine Podcast about their app neartuit which was used as a method of quest messaging throughout the interactive art piece. Your quests are to help “The Birds” do things and interact with them on a personal level. The birds you will encounter are actors stylized to look like the birds they are imitating with anthropomorphized behaviours and styling.

All in all, I enjoyed myself, I appreciated the tandem play aspect of some of the tasks and authentic interactions with the rest of the tasks. I appreciated the improv aspect of the interactions too.

Photo Credit – Luke Redmond – Fowl Play – Flirting Peacock

If you are in New Westminster on September 20th and 21st and are near the Anvil Centre at 6:30PM stop by Fowl Play and play! The show is an hour long and definitely a joyful experience and best of all FREE! FREE PUBLIC INTERACTIVE THEATRE! SERIOUSLY! HOW CAN YOU NOT!

Photo Credit – Luke Redmond – Fowl Play – Graceful Swan

Below we have an interview with Matchstick Productions about the show and we will also include a link to our podcast where we talk about neartuit.

_____________________________________________________________________________

LM: Can you give a history of the project?
MP: The show started out as a response to the current exhibit at the New Media Gallery. This exhibit, titled Dominion, explores themes of human domination over nature. It also heavily incorporates birds, with its mainstay piece showing birds of paradise and hummingbirds in a dazzling zoetrope. We have integrated these themes into a game style show.

LM: How long did it take to have the performers ready? 
MP: We started seriously workshopping about 2 months ago, but only took its final form about a week and a half ago. A piece like this evolves constantly and we hope it can adapt to audience needs.
 
LM: Who did the costuming and the writing? 
 
MP: Costuming was a collaboration between Jess Redmond, Emily Matchette, and Zakk Harris. They included birdlike elements and colours into each costume. The writing was a team collaboration mostly but was headed by Isaac Caverzan.
 
LM: Can you tell us on how iBeacon/neartuit was integrated into the piece? 
 
MP: We used the iBeacon technology to help augment the information given to the audience. As they go through the show the neartuit app will help locate and also give additional information on the various birds. It is, however, not mandatory, and the show can be completely navigated using pen and paper!

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279

God of Comics – The Wild Storm #7

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 20, 2017

The Wild Storm #7 (DC Comics)

There’s got to be something immensely satisfying about giving Warren Ellis the keys to your kingdom.

We’ve read what he can do with forgotten characters and concepts (Nextwave), read what he can so with meta-narratives (Supreme: Blue Rose), read how he can take old characters and modernize them (Injection), even taken established characters and rebuild them into something recognizable-but-new (Moon Knight). We’ve even seen how he can take a bare-bones video game story and turn it into something awesome (Castlevania). It’s Warren Ellis. No one can touch him.

So, let’s talk Wildstorm. The imprint was the embodiment of the nineties – flashy and kind of stupid but groping towards maturity and surprisingly deep. There were some very serious questions about god and mortality, some quiet meditations on personhood and evolution and the true nature of power, on expectation meeting reality. Some of the very best comics spilled out of the Wildstorm imprint (for Emp’s sake, read Sleeper).

The nu52, with its weird nineties obsession, tried to marry the Wildstorm imprint in with the DCU – and this didn’t work. The DCU is about opera and all that entails, while Wildstorm evolved into stories about shades of gray and conspiracy. The two could crossover with one another (and frequently did!) but not co-exist because they are so thematically different.

When the powers-that-be at DC Comics decided they wanted readers again, they rebooted their world with Rebirth, and that ended up being an insanely wise decision that has seen their whole line meet widespread acclaim. Good for them. The Wildstorm imprint got left to one side, though, its characters and mythos abandoned in that moment.

I like to imagine Warren Ellis as more of a force of nature than a mere mortal. I have pretty wild head-canon about how Nextwave came into being and I’ve got a similar head-canon for this comic: the DC Comics editorial board gets ready for a meeting against a window sunset. The room is locked, protected, sealed – and yet, when they gather, a single chair slowly turns around. The chair is empty.

The door closes. Warren Ellis is behind them.

I have an idea,” Warren says, and the whole room panics. They catch glimpses of the unknown realities that dance in the frame of this one man. They fear him, the small hairs on their arms standing up from the sheer electric creativity he brings with him.

So do I,” says Jim Lee, the lightning infecting him. “You should re-write the whole Wildstorm universe.”

And Warren smiles because the idea he had has permeated reality. He is an ascended being, you see. He, along with a very few masters, has loved the written word so much that he has become the very spirit of Writer.

He’s gone slowly with this, introducing the complexities and concepts of the Wildstorm he’s envisioned. We’re just now getting into the aliens that circle the world and live within it, devoured the concept of covert action teams and the human division of heaven and earth. A small cast thus far, but a promise of more to come as the story demands them. This is what the Wildstorm imprint looks like all grown up, building to the sword of Damocles hanging lightly overhead.

Artist Jon Davis-Hunt has a knack for expression and structure that serves this story well, underlining the underlying text with subtle cues. He’s plotting out soul architecture here, and it brings a sense of realism to the ground-level identity this comic craves. Colorists Steve Buccellato and John Kalisz work with varying shades of being, painting a world into hues that seem light but bleed shadows.

This comic is the perfect echo of the nineties having found the maturity a decade spent groping for. It’s immaculate, quick and lethal and thoughtful, prone to eerie revelation, terror, and resignation mingled with a chance that things might be okay again someday, if only we are willing to fight right now. Find your halo, pick up this comic, and get ready for the war to come.

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216

God of Comics – Glitterbomb: The Fame Game #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 19, 2017

Glitterbomb: The Fame Game #1 (Image Comics)

The Industry is vicious.

Let’s get that out of the way now. It’s vicious and arrogant enough to call itself the Industry, and anyone that works in it knows exactly what it looks like. You get offered good money for work but it devours you, eats you up and leaves you with nothing but the Industry. For those of you both lucky and unlucky enough not to know, we’re talking about film here – television, movies, web series, all of that.

You will get paid and you will create but it will cost you. Life, dignity, maybe your soul. It might leave you a broken hollowed excuse for a life, but it will laugh and whisper and dare you even as you heed the warning and the call: if you never try, it whispers, how will you ever know?

The process is corrupt. We know this and we see it and that corruption had hollowed out even the industry itself: in the wake of this year’s blockbusted failures, a few luminaries stand out and Hollywood will learn all the wrong lessons from what little worked and the tired tripe that did not. We don’t want white-washing, we don’t want sausage fests, we don’t want caricatures or tired rehashes or blatant fascist misogyny masquerading as legends worth our time.

And here’s the thing: that’s what we know. That’s the end product we see. The stuff that goes on behind the silver screen? The terrible ways people are treated and keep silent because the Industry whispers you keep your mouth shut or you’ll never work in this town again. The town is the Industry. It sounds like an empty threat, it sounds silly, but then someone opens their mouth and the Industry recoils from them and that’s the end of it. Keep silent. Keep your head down.

Let Britney be a joke, Kesha be an afterthought. You think that only happens in music, where starlets are drugged and contracted? Those are starlets. Smiling for the camera, out in public. What about the camera people, the makeup people, the ones struggling to find a break in any part of the Industry? What are their lives like?

Jim Zub wanted to know, and he asked a woman named Holly Raychelle Hughes about it. The two of them talked and put out one of the most brutally honest stories about what Hollywood does to the people it feeds on you’ll ever read, a little title called Glitterbomb. Holly used to work on a number of productions but has since been erased from the Industry.

It’s okay, though. Holly will tell you what happened. In detail. And then she and Jim will spin a tragic horror for you that deals with all that anger and toxicity that the silvery sheen of flickering fiction tries to hide.

This is the second of the Glitterbomb stories. The first followed a single-mother and former sci-fi actress struggling to find her dignity in the aftermath of the Industry. She made contact with some thing and it nestled itself in the hollowed space where her heart had been. It found other people the Industry had hurt and then took a terrible revenge on all of them before dying.

Now, there were survivors of what happened there. One of them is a girl named Kaydon Klay and she wants to be famous more than anything in the world, and the horrific tragedy that just happened might give her the in she’s looking for. All she has to do is explore the twisted gutters that lead some to fame and others to failure and sometimes both. The Industry laughs in the dark and urges her onwards, playing to insecurity and desire and fear – not knowing that there is some thing lurking and waiting for its turn.

Djibril Morissette-Phan and K. Michael Russell both return, the former with a clean sketch style of inks that speak more to silhouettes, and the latter with washed out colors that bleed into shadows. Both of them are the perfect choices for a story this heavy and rife with monsters pretending at humanity.

Some of us are fighting to tell stories outside the horror the Industry has become. Some of us even manage that within it. It’s a fight, though, and if you’re looking to see what that fight is all about this is the comic you should be reading.

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249

God of Comics – Bloodshot: Salvation #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 18, 2017

Bloodshot: Salvation #1 (Valiant Comics)

Jeff Lemire returns to one of Valiant’s best characters and some of the most inspired writing he’s done.

Sure, his work on Sweet Tooth and Moon Knight and Descender are all fantastic – especially that last one – but there’s some aspect of Bloodshot that clearly speaks to Jeff and he’s done some impossibly cool things with the character for about three years now, starting with the self-contained event Valiant put out called, uh, the Valiant.

In it, a person in touch with the life force of the planet faces off with an evil older than time. All the heroes in Valiant come to the fight to throw down and all of them lose until Bloodshot steps up and saves the day and kind of dies in the process – I say kind of, because Bloodshot was already kind of dead.

See, Bloodshot is a weapon that was designed to kill god. He’s part of a program wherein various soldiers were injected with nanites that allowed them to heal through the consumption of meat, gave them enhanced strength and reflex, the ability to tap into and use local technology, among other things. What started out as a simple super soldier program got a huge upgrade when a man named Harada showed up.

Harada is a psiot – Valiant’s version of a mutant – who is basically god and wants to move the world towards a post-scarcity economy that focuses on individual creative efforts and the betterment of the planet as a whole. The greedy bastards that run the world saw him as a threat and turned to Bloodshot to take him down, which led to all kinds of fun.

One of the upgrades Bloodshot got during this period of time sort of maybe caused him to gain a soul, which became a huge problem. He faced down Harada, decided he didn’t need to kill him, but one god is as good as another and so Bloodshot killed himself and the god that would have killed everything on the planet.

In the process, he lost all his power, but his power comes from little machines. The machines spread and he ended up having to go across North America to collect them all, a process that turned one of the best pure action comics we’d ever read into one of the best action horror comics we’d ever read.

More secrets were unveiled, with Jeff Lemire using the character to explore everything from identity politics to corporate greed to political corruption to body horror. Seriously, his run on this character is the kind of stuff that should be fucking legendary, and it bothers me that more people haven’t read it.

Anyway, Bloodshot saved the world from his nanites when they got out of control, uncovered a conspiracy that hid the previous versions of himself, and earned his freedom. He also earned the one thing that has been driving him from the very first issue: his need for a family.

During his trek across North America, Bloodshot met a woman named Magic and the two of them became a couple. She’s seen him at his worst and the two of them came by their love honestly, and it’s weird how much they make one another better people. She’s preggers and Bloodshot is all excited and…

… and it seems Magic’s family has a thing or two to say about the whole thing. Seems Magic was also running away from something: her original family, a clan of backwoods criminals who aren’t about to let their Magic go.

But Jeff is unwilling to let us focus on the present. No. Valiant, more than any other comics company, has been very careful about how the consequences of their characters’ actions develop. With this in mind, we’re given a look at the future, where Bloodshot and Magic’s daughter, Jessie, has inherited the power and is on the run from the terrible corruption that has taken root in the American soul.

Jeff’s not alone in this. The heavy lines and tenebrous shading of Mico Suayan and Lewis Larosa compliment the story he wants to tell perfectly, resulting in a comic that deals in horror and dread and action, full of thrills and well-built surprises. This is one of the best superhero comics on the shelves, and if you want to see what mature superhero comics look like you would be hard-pressed to do better.

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324

God of Comics – Wonder Woman #30

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 15, 2017

Wonder Woman #30 (DC Comics)

Yesterday, we talked the Shadow. Today, we’re talking Wonder Woman.

It’s interesting to draw the parallel between these two wildly different characters: they are both champions, they both kill, but the single most important thing about them both is where their power comes from.

Both of them draw their power from the Truth.

The Shadow knows only the evil that gnaws at the soul of all humankind. Diana has things a little better, but her iconic lasso allows her to know the truth of any person or situation, full and unbridled. Given this, she has seen more than her fair share of evil, of misunderstanding, of projection and hate. Her power comes from looking down into the core of the individual and the group, but she bears a second power that makes all the difference.

For all his fury, the Shadow can only answer evil with evil. Diana’s second greatest power, however, is mercy.

She is as strong and fast as Superman, a warrior born of clay and literal divinity. She was trained from childhood for war and philosophy, away from the world of men and their bickering, away from the dystopia we have made of our world. Upon meeting a man for the first time, however – the demon of her childhood stories – she rescues him and nurses him back to health. She knows his subjective truth and the objective truth of the world around him, and she shows him mercy.

Diana makes the world a better place in much the same way that Superman does, but from a different angle. Superman is above most worldly concerns and has to think and remember to care about them. Diana, on the other hand, is intimately tied to the world and is very much a part of it. She has the capacity to know the absolute truth of everything going on around her and has the capacity to show mercy to everyone, even the worst of us. She can find what makes monsters of humanity and, thus, how to make it better.

And all of that is what makes this latest storyline so interesting. Like the Shadow, Wonder Woman is dealing with some real world issues. Someone has been after her for some time now, trying to have her brought in for reasons unknown. We now know that the person behind these attempts is a doctor and religious man who believes that he can use her blood and DNA to heal several diseases, including cancer. He thinks he can use her to save kids.

Superhero mathematics often speak of sacrificing the needs of one for the needs of the many. Wonder Woman herself has used that metric, saving groups when needed and letting the lonely ones go when necessary. How can she do anything else when applying that same metric to herself? Remember, she knows the truth of the situation and how best to apply mercy, so she surrenders herself to the process.

Diana is not, of course, an idiot. Truth and mercy being her powers doesn’t make her stupid and she lets her allies know where she’s going and why. She’s a diplomat for a semi-divine people and so has government ties, but it probably surprises her to learn that the government is well aware of who this doctor is and what he’s been up to. He’s rich, religious, and makes a lot of noise about being a good guy, but we haven’t seen much evidence of it – but Diana is face to face with him now and only the truth stands between them… and after that, mercy.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Shea Fontana pens a worthy follow-up to the work Rucka started and plays with concepts that would do the likes of Gail Simone proud. This is very much the Diana we saw in the movie, which is the best decision that anyone could have made given that the movie has been the best thing out of DC is a very long time. She’s backed up the deft lines and shade of Inaki Miranda and the bright colors of Romulo Fajardo, Jr, and if you dug the movie you should do yourself a favor and check this out.

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468

God of Comics – The Shadow #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 14, 2017

The Shadow #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)

This comic has me conflicted.

Not about reading it, or loving it. This is definitively something I need to read and recommend, and I know I’m going to feel strongly about pretty much every page. Rather, I’m conflicted about where to start this diatribe. There’s a choice, see, two starting points that are equally valid and important. I’ve been staring at my computer screen for minutes, silent and static before even writing this much. All this was meant to do was quiet the terror of the blank page but now I’m lost in the mire.

Let’s flip a coin.

Okay.

I knew this comic was going to be good the moment that Si Spurrier was writing it. He’s the genius behind some of the deepest, most complex, and politically charged comics of the modern era – and, yes, he’s British and so there also a stint on Judge Dredd and the associated stuff, but coming out of that he’s done the Spire and God Shaper and Weavers and Cry Havoc and… listen, if he’s working on something it’s going to be great and full of a simmering anger at social injustice and the complacent idiocy that allows corruption to fester.

Mind you, Dan Watters is not a writer to pass over, either. He lives and breathes in the darkest parts of the human imagination, having written Limbo and Little Nightmares and Assassin’s Creed. Each of those titles speak of the societal ennui that has murdered the soul of a generation that knows there is nothing for them, that the lies of their parents have led to a nightmare from which there is no waking.

Lastly, there are artists Daniel HDR and Natalia Marques, the former of whom adds moody inks and ghostly lines to the latter’s eerie color palettes and love affair with shadows. Something this bright should not be this haunting, and yet…

And yet.

With that in mind, could there be a better character for them to write than the Shadow? You’d be hard pressed to think so; the Shadow stares unblinking into the evil that lurks in the hearts of every living thing. Traditionally, this means that the Shadow fights gangers and thieves and the like, the symptoms of crime rather than the causes. Is this truly what the Shadow, above and beyond any other hero, would be fighting?

Yes, there’s anger and hate and evil in the gangs and thieves and all the rest, but the police are all too happy to shoot and kill people they even suspect of doing bad things, regardless of whether they do them or not. We have all sorts of fictions dealing with crime lords and their lackeys finding judgment at the hands of some reckless madman with a gun, which only leads to more madmen and more guns.

The question is often asked: why don’s superheroes deal with real world problems?

The answer is that superheroes deal with the real world problems of their worlds, but the Shadow is unique in that his arch-rival is literally the evil that lives in the heart of every living thing. He’s shooting gang members, sure, but that doesn’t actually fix the problem of institutional racism and enforced propaganda and media compliance that makes those gangs look like the only way out of a terrible situation.

Street gangs, terrible as they might be, are still only a symptom. They’re victims of generational abuse that are lashing out, a reflection of the pride and greed and wrath that have hurt them and degraded them and demeaned them time and again. The same pride and greed and wrath that feeds false narratives and pushes for border walls and thinks racism will make anything great and looks back at false histories and believes in alternative facts.

The real causes are the people that hide behind corporate personhood while crashing national economies to make themselves rich, that ignore the health and suffering of the people they steal from to make themselves a little wealthier, that believe that an accident of birth gives them the right to a pride they have done nothing to earn. The real causes are the people that are killing the planet and everything on it to feed a strange death cult that venerates the worst impulses of the human soul.

And who looks unblinking into the heart of human evil?

The Shadow. The Shadow knows.

He is alone in this, sad and evil. Sad because he is alone and immortal, more force of nature than anything human. Evil because he has stared into the abyss too long, his laughter tinged with the madness he found there, an insanity he uses to keep the evil at bay as much as he uses his guns to cleave the cancer out. There is no forgiveness for some things, and salvation has always been the lie those who do evil use to abdicate responsibility. The Shadow knows all of this and is terrifying because of it.

So bring him into the modern world, bring him into reality and turn him loose. Burn him and steal his memories, lock him away and try to forget he exists. The Shadow knows. Give him the chance to recover and he will come for you, a righteous madman full of anger, written by two writers and an artist that understand the broiling rage of eight billion suffering souls that have been lied to in order that they might feed a paltry few. Their work comes down from the highest authority.

Jack Kirby once said, “You fellas think of comics in terms of comic books, but you’re wrong. I think you fellas should think of comics in terms of drugs, in terms of war, in terms of journalism, in terms of selling, in terms of business. And if you have a viewpoint on drugs, or if you have a viewpoint on war, or if you have a viewpoint on the economy, I think you can tell it more effectively in comics than you can in words. I think nobody is doing it. Comics is journalism.”

Who are any of us to doubt the King?

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361

Blood Countess at the Vancouver Fringe Festival – Review and Interview

Culture, Events, FRINGE!!, Interviews, Performance, Performance, Reviews, Showcase

September 13, 2017

Western culture is obsessed with gore and violence and torture. We love it in our media, we love it in our history and we love it in our folklore. I have a deep love of  Gothic literature from man made monsters to the romantic nobility that seduces women and then drains them of their blood and their mortal souls.

Vampires are the most popular mythical beings. They are more popular than fairies, unicorns, and leprechauns. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Misunderstood and completely feared.

The most famous vampire ever is and will always be Dracula, but if we were to root around into history you would find that Dracula was based on a Romanian nobleman Vlad the Impaler. The facts around his life are absolutely horrific, however, he didn’t drink blood and wasn’t a serial killer.

The second most famous “vampire” is a woman and her name is Erzebet (Elizabeth) Bathory, a pure blooded aristocrat from Hungary. Her family was the Kennedys of the time. Rich, educated, attractive and powerful. She married a well respected nobel who was also the head of the Hungarian Army and with that much power and responsibility one will always have a target on your back and that is where Blood Countess lives.

Written, directed and performed by Sharon Nowlan, this one woman show dives deep into the misogyny and misinformation surrounding “The Blood Countess” and the circumstances around her life of torment and eventual death.

It is gripping and intimate and visually striking. Employing minimal set but historic costumes and impressive poi and whip skills Nowlan will make you feel the betrayal and pain that one feels when you are centre of scandal and rumor.

It is not for everyone, you have to love history and you have love vampire to really get this show at its core. If you are thinking you are going to see torture porn at the Fringe you are going to be gravely mistaken. If you think that you are going to get Twilight or Interview With A Vampire, you should go to Netflix. This show is meant for us folks who are folk lore nerds.

You can see Blood Countess Friday September 15th at 8:40pm and Saturday September 16th at 4:15pm and tickets are available here.

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We were able to have a quick talk with Sharon about the project and her goals for Blood Countess and her future plans.

LM: Can you give us the history of the project?

SN: About 9 years ago I was working on a production of Dracula. At a party, the lead actor told me that I should play Elizabeth Bathory. I was unfamiliar with her, so I began looking into her story. Over the years I became more interested in the story, ordering every book I could find on the subject. Most portrayals of her supported the accepted legend: She was a prolific murderess, obsessed with her looks, who would kill young virgin girls in order to bathe in their blood.


Yet, when I focused my research on facts, and what could be proven with documentation, another portrayal emerged. She was educated and intelligent, spoke 5 languages (including the language of her peasants). A mother. A woman who managed a large amount of properties, worked in her community, started a school for young women, and supported war widows.

 

It was this contrast that kept compelling me to come back to the story.
Of course, it would have been quite easy (and fun!) to portray the legend in a bloody horror show. But it was after last year’s US election when I realized that I could not do that. I would not use a sensationalized story to portray this powerful and intelligent woman as a monster.

LM: What are your plans for the show in the future?

SN: That’s a tough questions to answer, at the end of a six city tour! It’s been challenging.
But, I think after I integrate my experiences of this summer, the Countess will rise again. I believe the subject matter, and the esthetic of the show, might appeal to a European audience. I would love to continue to tour it.

LM: Given that history is written by the winners do you think that women’s stories in history usually need to be retold later on in years to add context and nuance?

SN: I love the saying, “don’t believe everything that you think”. It’s so easy to except historical record as fact. But if you’ve ever been a subject of gossip, you know how quickly stories can get muddied. Women have not fared well in history. If we are to learn from it, it is worth re-examining.

The ‘facts’ behind the legend of Elizabeth Bathory–650 girls murdered, bathing in blood–didn’t come into documentation until 100 years after her death. But that is the story that many people prefer to stick to.
If you don’t find my interpretation plausible, you aren’t paying attention.

LM: Can you tell us if you learned any skills for the show or how you incorporated skills you had into the show?

SN: I have used whips and LED poi in most of my shows. When I saw that there was a new LED whip product, I immediately ordered it. I was excited to be able to integrate this very modern product into my 16th century world, in a way that I think is very effective.

LM: Do you have other projects that are in the works?

SN: Not at the moment. But I see as many Fringe shows as I can while I can. I am always inspired by the work of my fellow artists.

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Fifty Shades Of Dave at The Vancouver Fringe Festival – Review and Interview

Books & Writing, Comedy, Culture, Events, FRINGE!!, Interviews, Performance, Performance, Reviews, Showcase

September 13, 2017

I am going to clue you into a loosely kept secret around here… I am an American. I was raised by NPR listening hippies. I watched Public Television a lot and I was brought up with the voice of Garrison Keillor lulling me into a peaceful amusement about the people and crazy antics of the fictional town of Lake Wobegon via the very popular radio show A Prairie Home Companion. There was even a movie about the radio show itself starring Keillor as the romantic interest of Meryl Streep, and Lindsay Lohan who was just starting to tip over the precipice of highly successful child star to a tragic train wreck of a young adult who used to be a child star.

Now, we had a family cherished Christmas album, even though we were Pagans who celebrated Yule, and on this CD was one story. This story was Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party and it was cooed to me annually by Stuart McLean and his beloved story telling experience The Vinyl Cafe.

So, now that there is context and nostalgia we shall begin to talk about Fifty Shades of Dave the delightful and sexy show written by Happysad Theatre‘s Nico Dicecco and Kyle Carpenter and performed by Nico Dicecco.

Dicecco, sounds so amazingly accurately like Stuart McLean that I would find myself closing my eyes and pretending that I was wrapped up in a blanket, sipping hot chocolate and smelling our Christmas Tree/Yule Bush… but then our host would say phrases like, “The ice cream is a metaphor FOR EATING PUSSY” or “Put your hands up and spread your legs… Officer Morley was naked” or “I came four times that night” and I was immediately snapped out of my warm, safe, innocent childhood to my lurid and sex positive adulthood and I sat at the edge of my seat falling in love with Dave and Morely’s very amazing and heartwarming adventure into spicing up their sex life.

I really could not love this show any more than I do and I really feel so much pleasant joy and amazing gratitude to have seen it.

Please go see it, you have two more chances Sat Sept 16 at 6:25pm and Sun Sept 17 at 3:00 pm. You can purchase tickets and your membership to the Fringe here.


We also got the chance to have a few words with Nico Dicecco who plays Stuart in the play and who is also a co-writer of this gem.

LM: Can you give us the history of the project?

ND: It started as a party trick that my co-writer Kyle Carpenter and I would do years and years ago to make friends laugh, just saying the dirtiest things we could think of in Stuart McLean’s voice. Eventually, we decided it would be funny to write a full story and record it as a podcast. As we were writing that, we discovered that the whole thing worked best if we pulled back on the really dirty humour and tried as hard as possible to capture what it would actually be like if Stuart McLean revealed the intricacies of Dave and Morley’s sex life. We managed to record one story, but then we decided that the project was strong enough to work as an hour long live theatre performance. We applied for a few fringes and got into Vancouver and started writing more stories to fill out our time. By January of this year, we had a full draft. Then, in February, Stuart McLean passed away. We were heartbroken. We took a bit of time to think about whether or not we still wanted to go ahead with the show. We reread the script, and it was chock full of love and admiration for The Vinyl Cafe, so we were confident that audiences would receive it as the tribute that it is.

LM: Can you tell us more about your love of either Vinyl Cafe or Fifty Shades of Grey or both?

ND: Hearing The Vinyl Cafe on the radio is the earliest memory I have of realizing how incredible storytelling can be. I was listening in the car and when we got home I refused to let my mom turn off the radio until the story finished. I was enraptured. Since then, I’ve been a fan of Stuart McLean, usually listening to his CDs on road trips. There’s a way that The Vinyl Cafe has of weaving itself into really great family memories.

As for Fifty Shades of Grey… I really don’t know much of anything about it. I read two pages once and didn’t care for the writing. We just liked the title.

LM: How long did it take you to get Stuart McLean’s voice down?

ND: I’ve been doing a Stuart McLean impression since at least 2008, but it kind of started out as more Jimmy Stewart than anything. We first started crafting material for this show in 2013, and that’s when I got more serious about perfecting the voice and the rhythm of his storytelling.

LM: What are your plans for the show in the future?

ND: We’re booked to take it to the Montreal Fringe in May, and I’ll be applying to a ton of other festivals for the 2018 season.

LM: Do you have other projects that are in the works?

ND: I’ve had a lot of people come up to me after shows and comment that I look a fair bit like Justin Trudeau, so I’m starting to work on my impression of him, and Kyle Carpenter and I are brainstorming ideas for what kind of Trudeau show we might want to do.

LM: Have you thought about touring this to sex positivity conferences?

ND: I haven’t, but that’s a great idea! Our top priority, next to honouring the spirit of The Vinyl Cafe, was to offer a sex-positive portrait of Dave and Morley. We worked really hard to shape the stories so that they are celebrations of sexuality and human connection, even when Dave is causing calamity in the bedroom.

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