I Fell Down a Hole

I have always considered myself an organized and responsible person. In college I never missed an assignment or flunked a test. After graduation, I worked diligently until I found a job and had a steady income. Nowadays, I rarely miss work deadlines, show up at least five minutes early to everything, and never run out of clean underwear.

I have also always believed that life is all about balance. No one can be organized and regimented all the time, me included. I am very responsible when it comes to work, exercise, and other household chores, but I am definitely not organized when it comes to my hobbies.

When it comes to my main hobbies, like reading, writing, crocheting, and horror movies, there is absolutely no gray zone. I swing between being completely obsessed with a book or project for days at a time and having zero interest in even thinking about it.

I recently came up with a name for my habit. I call it falling down a hole. giphy
A few weeks ago I was sitting with my coworkers outside, enjoying the sunshine and talking about books. We were talking about our favorite genres and, of course, I brought up my obsession with scary stories.

My coworkers, Stephen and Meredith, said that they had read some Stephen King, but can’t read a whole lot of his work. For every book of his they read, they have to read something light-hearted to “recover.”

In my entire life, I’ve never had to do that. When I finish a scary story, I don’t try to find some way to escape from my terror, I revel in it. I finish a scary story and then immediately search out the next scary story I can find. I can’t get enough. I need more, more, more. A few years ago I read my first novel by Jack Ketchum. It was gruesome and terrifying and stomach-turning and I immediately wanted more.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. That’s basically my policy when it comes to my hobbies.
Well, it is until the switch in my brain is suddenly flipped off and I lose all interest. And when I say a switch if flipping, I’m being very serious. It’s not a gradual thing. I put something down and then just don’t pick it up for months and months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll finish a book if I start it and if I’m crocheting something for a friend I’ll always finish it. But if it’s something I’m just goofing around with then there’s a good chance I’ll put it on a shelf and just forget about it. I have so many partially finished novels and crochet projects just laying around.

You’d think for being the most organized person in my office I’d be more organized when it comes to my own hobbies, but nope! Apparently all of the energy I use to stay on track I use at work.

Fuck everything else in my life I guess.

-EMS

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The Malazan Book of the Fallen

We moved to Washington in the year 2000.  It was a rough journey for me because I had just found my stride in school.  Then we moved and I had to start over.  At this time I was reading a lot of books because I just couldn’t be arsed to try and make friends again.

In 2001, our family drove back to Wisconsin.  On the first day we stopped at a Barnes and Noble.  This was fortuitous, because I had just crushed the current book I was reading.  There was one of those tables near the fiction aisles with ‘recommended picks’ on it.  And front and center, with a vibrant red cover was Gardens of the Moon: a Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.

I liked the blurb on the back, and the introduction inside on the dust jacket, so I asked mom to pick it up for me.   I dove in hard, and the book smacked me around.  It was nothing like anything I had ever read.  Up until that point I had only been reading young fiction.  I powered through series like Tamora Pierces Circle of Magic series and the Song of the Lioness.  Quick little books that tackled stories such as growing up and being the most possible special.

Arguably Gardens of the Moon was my first adult series.  The writing was complex, the story was rich and vast, and characters were defined by their actual character instead of the arbitrary arc of the book.  I think it took me an entire year to finish it originally.

The core series finished in 2011.  It’s ten books in its entirety.  It stands as my favorite series to date.  Pretzel and I are currently listening to them on audiobook.  And they are as good as I remember.

Currently Steven Erikson is working on finishing a new trilogy that is a prequel to the core series.  And its a pain to read.  Several times I’ve considered putting the book down and reading something else.

Civil war has broken out in the land of the Tiste, a noble people who have been introduced to gods and magic.  A rift is growing between the highborn Tiste nobles and the lowly soldiers that fought their wars.  Read the book for the full story thus far.

The current book, The Fall of Light, starts out with something close to 350 pages of talking.  Steven Erikson loves to expound at length about expectations versus reality.  And its a big part about why I love his books!  But 350 pages of people talking about the civil war that’s brewing, the cause of war, why humans war, the sides of the civil war, the philosophy of war, cause and effect, life and death, bravery versus survival.

Fucking shit dude, shut up!  Let the war begin before you bog me down with the intellectual stuff.

You, dear reader of this lonely blog, might recognize 350 pages as the length of other goddamn books.  I just got to the part where real things are happening.  When I say they are talking and expounding at length, I don’t mean like they are on a battlefield spouting philosophy at their enemies.  They are literally sitting around the citadel in the capital city, sitting around campfires, sitting around temples, sitting in front of a hearth, sitting around mansions, et-fucking-cetera.

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Sorry I nodded off there.

Its so annoying to me that this book starts off so dry.  Like a big bowl of steel cut oats served on a hairdryer.  His books have this quality to them that’s hard to explain, and this book is not delivering what I’m looking for.  I look forward to his books, and it bums me out because it took him approximately 3 Big Bang’s ago to write this one.

Steven Erikson loves to subvert expectations normally found in high fantasy.  And that resonates with me so very deeply.  He creates his own races with their own cultures.  His pantheon is vast and varied.  His books don’t rely on existing tropes to come flesh out his narrative.  There are no elves, and there are no dwarves.

Tolkien fantasy is still fine, I don’t hate it, but so many novels use it as a crutch.  Elves are ageless, beautiful mystics.  Dwarves are hardy, drunk Vikings.  Orcs are ugly, stinking, cannibalistic warriors who respect strength.  Seeing a book, or idea, or setting that uses Tolkien fantasy always feels so assumed.

Why do the elves use the bows in your book?  Why do dwarves use axes?  You know dwarves all live in mines, so of all the tools they could use as a weapon an axe that is used to cut down trees in a dark, deep cave makes senseElves use a weapon that traditionally needs great visibility and lines of sight over a battlefield.  You know what place doesn’t typically have those things.  A forest.

I mean- it’s a very contrived argument to have against this stuff.  Tolkien fantasy is classic and established.  People can use the setting as a backdrop for a quest line or a story and the rest sort of fills itself in.

Its not the only way Erikson subverts what the reader expects.  Characters aren’t all dashingly handsome or strikingly beautiful.  I’d say a majority of his characters are intentionally described as plain or ugly.

Some personalities are grating.  Some hobbies are disgusting.  There is a dude who frequently spits phlegm into his hands to smooth his hair back with it.  There is a character who wears and unwashed shirt made of his dead mothers hair.   There is a dude whos nose was mutilated and has to constantly wipe snot away with his arm.

The way Erikson describes events is equally unexpected.  People don’t die on heroic manners.  There are no characters that have a graceful, glorious death.  You know the scene with Boromir from Lord of the Rings?

A heroic death.  He slays orc after orc, takes arrow after arrow, but he is filled with such magnificent purpose that he fights until he cannot stand or hold his sword.

Characters in Steven Erikson books don’t die like that.

Death is ugly.  Its bloody, smelly, and is a wholly singular experience.  You don’t die surrounded by friends.  You don’t die fighting and struggling.  War is random.  Battle is unforgiving.  You are lucky if anyone remembers your name.  Soldiers are a number.  Thousands get sacrificed for a different regiment of a thousand faceless soldiers can have the chance to achieve the greater goal.  War is never noble, and the results are never worth it.

Its this divide between being beautiful and being hideous, or being heroic and being no one, that Erikson loves to play with.  He creates this negative space in his books; so when a character is beautiful, or when a death is heroic, you take notice.  Granted, its fewer and farther between, but it makes you appreciate the beautiful moments.

Not to mention there is a lot to explore in the interim.  Soldiers understand their grim purpose and lo, we get some of the best gallows humor I’ve ever read.  The dialogue isn’t sad, its not happy, its a completely believable comradery that Erikson manages to capture in these snapshots of marching soldiers.  It makes you feel.  It makes you understand.  Sometimes squad mates don’t like each other, but they are all they’ve got.  You’ll get characters bickering for chapters and chapters but then in the end they absolutely work together, or grieve for the other.  Its an army of brothers and sisters.  War isn’t about glory.  War is about survival.  You fight for that next dawn, and that is what makes it beautiful.

Will I convince you to read these books?  No.  Would I recommend them to everybody?  No.  Hell, I’m currently reading one of his books and I’m struggling with it.

Listening to the books again reminds me of what I appreciate in the literature I read.  It helps me understand what I should be looking for in a book.  It gives me a sense of direction of the types of things I want to write myself.  I have played with the idea of writing a book, and just as soon as I have an idea I’ll get started.  The Malazan Book of the Fallen series stands the test of time to me because it doesn’t walk the paths of other fantasy books before it.  It doesn’t rely on tropes.  It doesn’t rely on what’s expected.

And I love it.

Except the parts of the book I’m currently readying that suck.  Fuck those parts.

-DTM

Going Camping

This week, I had planned to write the beginning of a short story that we would both contribute to. I was really looking forward to kicking this off and even had a few ideas for how I would start things.

And then camping got in the way.

This weekend, I’m camping in Dworshak State Park with a group of friends. I’ve been looking forward to this for months and months, and yet it still managed to sneak up on me. So much for being the organized Smudde child. So, instead of kicking off our fiction writing collaboration, I’m just going to talk about why I love camping.

When we were kids, we would go camping every summer. Sometimes we would camp with our neighbors, the Mesners, and other times we’d invite people from the Smudde clan to join us. I remember swimming and biking and roasting marshmallows. Some of my favorite memories are of us sitting around the campfire, blowing bubbles over the flames and eating scotcheroos.

When I was little, I think I liked camping because it felt like an adventure. Looking back, I honestly wouldn’t really call what we did camping. We had running water and flushing toilets and sometimes even electrical hookups so we could watch videos on our tiny TV. But, to a seven-year-old, it felt like we were really roughing it and it was exciting. I felt like I was in one of my fantasy novels, the young heroine searching for a lost treasure or some mythical woodland elf presiding over her kingdom.

Twenty years later, I still love to camp. Even at 26, I still feel like I’m going on an adventure, but now it has the added benefit of getting me away from my responsibilities. Nowadays, I have way more on my plate than I ever did when I was a kid and every year it becomes harder to de-stress. After work, I go home and try to relax, but inevitably find myself looking at my work email or thinking about an upcoming project that I need to tackle. On the days where I don’t do that, I sit around and worry about finances, about my career, about literally everything in my life. The only time I can seem to shake this off is when we go camping.

When we arrive at the campsite, the very first thing I do is shut off my phone and put it away. Basically when I go camping I disconnect from everything, but not just to relax. While camping I physically cannot connect so I’m never tempted to look at work email or poke through social media.

Going camping is not only an adventure, it’s also the easiest way to get away from everything that causes me stress.

I am so excited to head out to Dworshak this afternoon. I’m looking forward to drinking a beer by the campfire. I’m looking forward to finding a sunny spot by the water to read my book. I’m looking forward to waking up to birds chirping rather than a noisy alarm. I’m looking forward to spending time with people I love away from the stress of real life. It’s going to be a kick ass weekend.

Sorry I didn’t start our short story this week like I promised, Daniel. I’ll try to kick it off on my next post.

-EMS

 

All I Read is Stephen King

There’s something magical about reading a horror story. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching horror films. Some of my favorite movies are horror films. I am always down to watch Descent and House of 1000 Corpses, but given the option I would rather read a scary book than watch a scary.  

There’s just something wonderful about experiencing horror through the written word. I absolutely love Stephen King and have actually been on a binge this past month. I’ve read It, Christine, The Dead Zone, Dolores Clairborne, Desperation, and The Regulators to name a few. And let me tell you, it’s been great! I’ve literally been knocking out a book a week because I can’t put them down.

You asked me what my passion was and honestly, horror novels are it right now. When I think about what I’m looking forward to the most it’s hanging out with my baby ferret and reading. I can write about Fijit the ferret in my next post if you really want to know more about her.

Anyway, I think it’s because in my opinion horror novels are scarier to me. Now that I’m older, horror films don’t give me nightmares like they used to. My nightmares are usually about realistic fears, like finances and my career and crap like that.

But, I have had nightmares from a few scary novels. Salem’s Lot, Dolores Clairborne, and The Regulators are the ones that immediately come to mind. Now, none of these are about extremely scary things. Salem’s Lot is about vampires, which if you were a teenager in the early 2000s you know all about. Dolores Clairborne is about a woman who murders her husband, not incredibly groundbreaking. The Regulators is about an ancient god that takes control of a suburban neighborhood, which although it’s unique isn’t exactly realistic. Why did they give me nightmares? How could they give me nightmares?

Because, by reading these stories, I had the chance to create my own worst nightmare. In horror films, the monster is there. Someone else created it. It’s their worst nightmare, not mine. I talked a little bit about this in my last horror post. Horror really works when you give the viewer the chance to add their own spin on things.

stephen_king_salems_lot_01In Salem’s Lot, a tiny New England town is overrun by vampires. The people of the town keep disappearing and then mysteriously reappearing at night. I specifically dreamed about the little boy who was taken in the night. He reappeared in his friend’s window late one night, pale as a ghost with dead eyes, and asked to be let in. He didn’t demand anything, he asked if he could come hang out with his best friend.

When I read that scene, I could picture my old childhood room and I could see my elementary school friends, pale white and monstrous, hanging on my window. I couldn’t tell them no, they couldn’t come in. I loved them and I wanted to be with them. That’s what scare me.

alb-008In Dolores Clairborne, the main character murders her husband by getting him drunk and leading him to an old well. He fell down, but didn’t die instantly. When Dolores looked down, he was looking up at her and his eyes looked black. He was calling her name and, at one point, climbed up the side of the well, covered in blood and grinning.

I read that scene in bed and I got goosebumps. I could see his bloody, dirty face. I could see his creepy smile, a dead man’s smile, as he climbed up. I could feel Dolores’ panic as she thought about what to do next. What could she do? This wasn’t part of her plan. That feeling. That’s what I dreamt about that night.

theregulatorsLastly, in The Regulators, a little boy wanders down an abandoned mine shaft and stumbles upon the sleeping place of an ancient evil. A miner follows him in with a flashlight and when he finally catches up, his light falls on the boy’s face. The boy is grinning a freakishly big grin. His eyes are bugging out and the corners of his mouth are pulled all the way up to his ears.

When I read that, I could see his smile. I could picture a normal little boy’s face becoming freakish and deformed. I could see the way the whole space was in darkness and the way the flashlight bounced off the walls before landing on his face. Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

If I had experienced these stories are movies, I doubt they would have had the same effect. I would’ve been able to brush off the child vampire in the window as an actor in make up. I would’ve known that Dolores’ husband was just a guy covered in mud. I would have seen through the fake smile on the kid.

That’s what I like about reading horror. It gets under my skin, which is exactly what it should do.

-EMS

Making Friends as an Introvert

Shall I jump from one semi-angsty topic to another? I think I should so for this post I want to talk about how difficult it is to make friends when you’re an adult.

This week one of my friends and coworkers left Pullman to work in Eugene, Oregon. Of course I’m thrilled for her and wish her all the best in her new adventure, but I’ll miss her. Over the last year we’d become very close and I could count on her for spontaneous coffee runs at work and after work happy hour parties. Now she’s gone. What do I do now?

I, of course, have other friends here in Pullman, but her leaving has made me think about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. A majority of my friends are through work because I am pretty much forced to spend forty hours a week in the same hallway they’re in. So what about outside of work? Can I just go up to someone and decide “you’re my friend now”?

I wish. There are so many societal rules about what’s okay and what’s not okay and what friendships should look like, and they drive me nuts. I can’t do this because it’s creepy and you have to keep work and personal life separate. Blah, blah, blah…

As an adult I also feel like I’m saddled with a lot more self-doubt. Every time I meet a new person, especially at work, I’m worried about making a good impression. Basically, my entire life is spent wondering when I can let the crazy out. Will they find my tabletop gaming hobby cute or weird? Should I tell them my reading consists of Stephen King novels and slasher fiction? I want them to like me, dammit! How do I make them like me?

Friendship shouldn’t be this hard!

Also, as an introvert, meeting new people is impossible. A majority of my close friends I’ve either met through work or through my husband because he’s an extrovert. If I want to make friends on my own I have to go out and meet people and that just sounds unpleasant. I want all the benefits of friendship like trust and companionship without the awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase.

My introverted-ness also means maintaining friendships is really hard. I’m just not a very social person so maintaining the friendships I have in Pullman is already hard enough. Maintaining the friendships back in Vancouver or from college is pretty much impossible!

I’ve only ever actively ended a few friendships. Most of the other ones fizzled out because we physically moved away from each other. I’m not trying to ignore them, but unless I see them on a day-to-day basis, they’re just not on my mind. I know that sounds horrible and I don’t know how to stop myself. When did being a low-maintenance person become a burden? Oh, that’s right, when adulthood struck.

I feel like as an adult there’s a certain idea of what being friends means. It no longer means people that you get along with and talk with. It means people you go out for coffee with and text on a regular basis and actively go out of your way to make plans with. Honestly, that’s not who I am. I’m an introvert, a home body by default, and I would rather spend an evening reading or watching Netflix than going out for coffee, so where do I find the motivation to plan these outings? Oh, that’s right. My friends do it for me.

What I really enjoy is friendship that doesn’t have specific expectations. A friend in my mind is someone I get along with and have fun with and if I don’t see them for a few weeks, that’s fine. We’ll pick up where we left off when we reconnect. I also like friends who are as introverted and laid back as I am. One of my best friends will just show up at my apartment and let himself in so we can watch TV. I only see another one of my best friends every other week and we can hang like nothing happened. My third best friend also likes Netflixs and we’ll share what we’re watching via Snapchat. It’s no big deal. No activity needed.

Sorry if this post is a little jumbled. This has been on my mind for a while and it’s something that I struggle with. Thankfully, as an adult, I also realize that having a handful of really close friends is way better than having a wide net of casual acquaintances. I also realize that making friends through work and through my husband are nothing to be ashamed of, as long as those people make me happy. Yeah, it sucks when I meet cool people and have no idea how to turn out casual meetings into a full-blown friendship, but that’s okay. I still have a lot of love in my life.

-EMS

Batgirl Part 3: Batgirl of Burnside

Day 14 Since the Disappearance:

Leaked photos of the mission made it back to HQ.  Massive spiders, blood-thirsty sharks, and ferocious kangaroos were scene with the team.  We fear the worst.

It is time to begin training my other sister to take up the mantle of the Successful Child.  The training will be long and hard, but hopefully with time we will heal.


Batgirl of Burnside.

To get properly mad be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Batgirl of Burnside picks up after Gail Simone’s ends.  In the end, she fights off the group Knightfall from blah-blah-blah destruction of Gotham.  At the end, Batgirl bursts out with how she is going to leave.  She needs to get away.  It felt so out of character and out of nowhere that I already began to worry.  Then I saw the cover art:

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We’re fine.  It’s fine.  EVERYTHINGS FINE, GODDAMNIT.

To give it credit, the art style is really good.   I like the bright colors, the style, and the heavier line weights.  I love to encounter new art.  Batman Detective Comics have a new artist every single panel (or so it seems).

It finally came out and I rushed to it like someone rushes to see a catastrophe.  I was still hoping.

First fucking panel we see Batgirl and her friend Alysia seeing her off in her new apartment.  Her one friend who was her rock in many situations.  She’s smart, attentive, charming, and she’s transsexual.  While she does appear from time to time in the Burnside comic, its alarming that the cast of Batgirl characters essentially gets thrown out.  I’d be less mad but neither her dad, her mom, Batman, or any of the other Bat family show up in the entire first volume.

More on that on that later.

Second fucking page we see Barbara wake up hungover.  She tromps out into the living room in naught but a t-shirt and panties to find out she passed out after having made out with a stranger.

Think I’m kidding?

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I’m glad to see she so recovers so quickly after her dad shoots her previous love interest.

Yes, please tell me more.  Strong, responsible, and smart Barbara Gordon gets totally blackout hammered and makes out with strangers.  It’s like watching my little girl grow up and date terrible people.  I’m not crying.  Fuck you.

When she wakes up she notices her laptop is missing.  How are we going to find out who took it?

Instagram you fucking idiots, duh, how else do young hip people learn about people who may have stolen their laptops?  They call it Pixtagraph but its fucking instagram.  She lives with a girl who is a programmer for Hooq, the newest and hottest dating app that apparently everyone is swooning over.  According to the writer its impossible for young hip characters to interact correctly unless its over some level of an electronic device.

As a note, I’ll mention that I haven’t memorized the writers name like Gail.  You earn the right, and this one fucking did not.

I’ll mention now that much later she mentions that the app is still in beta and won’t be ready for a big Hooq party.  Its not really important to my point, but it shows the level of writing that the app is simultaneously in beta and used enough that they want to throw a huge Hooq concert?

The reason she is so worried about her laptop is that her thesis was on it.  Her thesis is using a scan of her brain to create pattern recognizing algorithms.  She scanned her own brain to do this, which is apparently a lot of data.

Talking with various people she meets up with she finds out that some guy named Riot Black is likely in possession of it.  He has people steal electronics and then he scraps them for their secrets and uploads them to his website for likes or something.

This seems so very clearly against several laws.  So with everyone knowing he does this, surely they have called the police right?

Right?

Please?

Also- he’s a DJ.

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He speaks only in his native language: hashtag.

Turns out he has cybernetic implants in his eye that he can use to directly connect with electronics and upload them immediately to his site.  Pretty cool villain concept.  Wanna know how she defeats him?

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NO!  MY ONE WEAKNESS?

She finds out during the fight about his implants.  So she makes him a deal, she’ll reveal her identity if he deletes all the stolen data he’s been compiling.  He agrees and instructs her her to send her pic via Snapgab.

She sends the picture to the right.

Batgirl loaded a worm onto another phone that he uploaded into his brain.  When he sees that photo, it activates the worm and it deletes everything which leaves him…

They never actually say what happens to him.  Smash-cut back to the apartment?

Turns out her laptop was wiped and everything is mostly lost, and now she’s without her thesis.  How can you re-create it?  If only she had an eidetic memory!  Or maybe if she was super tech-savvy like Oracle?

Don’t be alarmed.  It might sound like pleading, but it’s only a despair sandwich.

With something so important and secret as her brain scan that- ya know, contains the identities of the Bat-family members- why didn’t she lock it up somewhere important?  Wouldn’t it be cool if she could store these things on something with like Turbo-Bat-Encryption?  Like in a cave or something?

Being seen at the Riot Black concert gives Batgirl a celebrity status.  People all throughout Burnside are excited about her!  It gets so bad that we actually see a couple people impersonating Batgirl.  So Barbara Gordon’s crime fighting role comes down to hunting down catfishes.  This is what I wanted to see.  The iconic Batgirl!  Fighting…crime?

Barbara Gordon ends up at an art show.  The topic of the art show?  Batgirl.  The artist Dagger Type did an entire show on our intrepid hero.  Barbara is furious!  Dagger is going to ruin her reputation!  Barbara will see an end to this.

Turns out that Dagger Type is a cross-dresser or transsexual; its never really clarified.  Dagger is attempting to become Batgirl by luring the real one out and killing her.  Dagger Type then throws a finale show where its revealed that Dagger is Batgirl!  No one buys it, a gun is drawn, blah-blah-blah arrested.

After this she realizes she needs to take control of her persona and her reputation!  What scheme will she come up with to show the public that she’s not a twit!?

Pixtagram.  Instagraph.  Facegab.  I don’t know anymore.  Fuck it.

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I’d like to note she hasn’t fought any non-personal crime yet.

On a side note, why does a vigilante, a person who’s inherently breaking the law, care about reputation?

Also- where is Batman?

In any of these situations he would’ve intervened.  It has nothing to do with how capable Batgirl is.  Batman does not tolerate impersonators, and even when they are actually trying to be crime-fighters he tries to shut that down.  His crusade is his own and he rarely lets people join him.

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Batman values and prioritizes his Bat-families safety and their identities.  Under no circumstances would he allow Batgirl to be so prevalent on the web.  As readers, we can sort of gloss over the fact that the mask and voice aren’t going to trick anybody who knows them.  We know this, and we ignore it.  We cannot ignore that when she’s posing for photos that someone is going to figure it out who she is.

With her media presence, by now Batman would’ve noticed she’s not wearing a Bat-approved suit.  Her old comrade in capes Dinah Lance (Black Canary) comes to visit because her gym burned down.  Turns out that even though they weren’t really talking, or even currently friends, Batgirl was storing her stuff in that gym.  Her suit and all of her crime-fighting equipment went up in flames.  After that fact, she makes her own Batgirl suit.  While very charming and resourceful, Batman would not tolerate this.  He acknowledges that crime-fighting is dangerous and helps fund new fighting suits.  Batman wants you to be safe and up-to-date.

The other reason he would get himself involved is that the the missing scan of Barbara’s brain isn’t exactly a private matter.  His entire legacy and the lives of everyone he cares about is stored in that scan.  He would’ve seen the pictures of her at the Riot Black concert, figured out what Riot Black does, and would probably be curious as to why Batgirl is there.  Put two and two together and he’ll probably figure out that something important is at risk of being exposed.

Black Canary actually points this out to her, and she goes full 16-year old.  Waaaaah Batman can’t tell me what to do.

Bitch.  He’s Batman.  When he says anything, God listens.

Batgirl and Black Canary have a falling out after that.  Would you be so flippant about one of your closest friends just leaving you?  Nah man, Batgirl actually explains how with her celebrity status she has friends and a real life.  Those are her words.  I can’t find the panel on the web but she says that.  Being a celebrity as Batgirl gives her a life and friends.  She doesn’t need a superhero ally.

She’s not too upset about Canary ditching her because she has a new cop boyfriend!  The cop often goes on rants about how being a vigilante is disrespectful and damaging, which Barbara coyly tries to refute.

During his rant the cop talks about a dude who’s totally not Justin Bieber.  Barbara asks why the cops don’t take him down for his illegal racing and driving under the influence.  Barbara takes this upon herself to prove a point to her boyfriend.

She goes to a bar to take down Not-Bieber, but he’s having none of it and gets in his car.  I’m not sure how he made it all the way to the car when Batgirl could have restrained him, but uhhhhh…

So she’s chasing him through the streets.  They almost hit several people and it ends with him crashing his car into an old Burnside diner called Cuppa Joes.  This pisses everyone one off because he wouldn’t have been provoked to drive like an idiot, and Batgirl caused him to crash.  She actually says to the police when they arrive that she did it for the safety of the people and the city.

Somehow the bright Barbara Gordon doesn’t realize how stupid this was.  Thank got Instabook was there to give her clarity.

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There would be at least one billion “Kill yourself” tweets.

So we’re at the low point of the arc.  There is a Hooq concert happening and everyone’s going because the app is… coming out of beta or something.  When it comes out of beta it’ll be huge.  I dunno.  This is what hipsters and startup companies do right?

Barbara’s scan is still missing, she’s losing her real friends, and she’s no longer popular.  There is sort of an interesting subplot where Barbara is worried that something is going on behind everything else.  She receives a phone call from herself and many of her recent friends and villains have weird tidbits of information she doesn’t recall passing along.

The day before the concert, her roommate who works for Hooq is missing.  No one can find her and she isn’t responding to texts?  Did you try and call her?  Barbara tries (she’s the smart one) when she finds out.  It turns out her roommates’s phone was vibrating like 10 feet away from the people texting her because YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO INTERACT WITH OTHER PEOPLE EVEN IN AN EMERGENCY.  FUCK WE ARE SO GODDAMN HIP.

Sorry.  Ahem.

She befriends Black Canary again because consequences are for pussy-ass bitches and they go to the Hooq headquarters where the concert is being held.  Batgirl goes to the top of the tower and finds her roommate going through some files that reveals her to be Batgirl.  Then, from the shadows the real villain appears.  The person that’s been orchestrating all the other events to lead to this mome-

It’s the fucking dating app.  Her glorious first overarching villain from the shadows is a dating app.

A dating app.

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So last year, swipe left.

Turns out her brain scan was… put into the app somehow?  My guess is that Riot Black loaded it up and it got into Hooq servers.  And because of the power of sexting it became… sentient?

I mean- it is sort of a cool concept, but why the dating app?  Why not anything more serious?

Turns out the app used itself to determine which people are at risk of committing crimes.  Since everyone ever ever ever is on Hooq, it set up this concert to attract all of the potential criminals into one spot so it can use space lasers.  Not sure why not one person from Hooq Headquarters had a problem with this.  Setting up a huge concert must be fucking cake and also cost no money.

Sooooo… they defeat it with the power of friendship and the volume ends.

Man.

I wanted something to salvage.  The stories are forgettable and the villains are caricatures of what someone who heard about hipsters second hand.  Dagger Type was supposed to be a transsexual or a cross-dresser, but was portrayed so poorly that there was public backlash.

The dialogue is shit.  It’s written in a way that no one actually talks like.  No one has ever in total seriousness ever ended a sentence with “Whaaaaat!”  No one has ever had a group photo and told everyone to say “Kawaii!”  No one thinks being 32 years old is ancient.  People don’t seem to be able to exist outside social media.  All of Batgirl’s equipment is essentially stolen from the local college.

She fucking forgets how to be Batgirl.

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No seriously, she’s fighting two girls on two motorcycles who are supposed to be cosplays of villains from an anime she watched when she was seven.  How can she possibly defeat them!?Why she’ll flashback to when she was a kid and remember how the anime protagonist beat them… then do the same thing.

You are fucking Batgirl.  You are smart, resourceful, and strong.  Or at least you used to be.

She isn’t fighting crime or solving mysteries.  This is a series of events involving her life as Barbara and her status as Batgirl.  I’m not saying she shouldn’t fight crime that directly involves herself, but the only one that really threatened human life was the Hooq app and its plan to maximum-over-swipe with space lasers.

To give credit where credit is due there is a varied cast of characters that cover different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders.  Especially since they don’t try and throw it out there too far.  The cop that Barbara dates brings some nice tension to the situation and humanizes Barbara a little more.  The art style is fucking delightful.

After you find out the Hooq app is swiping left on all of Gotham there is a nice little bit where you see the events of the brain scan becoming sentient.  You see it remembering her past, her trauma, and her efforts to overcome herself and her obstacles.  And then it sees the current Batgirl essentially devolving into a tween-y mess and it becomes enraged seeing her body go to waste.

Man, how fucking redeemed would this comic be if the Hooq app actually defeated her and returned to her body to become Gail Simone’s Batgirl again?  Like- switch back to the old art style and everything.  Holy shit.

Well there you have it.  My three part arc about Batgirl and why I love her, and hate how she changed.  Change isn’t a bad thing, they were trying something new and its just not jiving with me.  That’s my problem, not theirs.

At the very least I still have Batman.  He’s tried and true.  They wouldn’t try something-

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Note: I will kill myself if the villain turns out to be Spotify.

 

Batgirl Part 1: Barbara Gordon

Well as I’m sure our dedicated reader(s) has already read, Emily is going to die.

She also left me the keys to the blog while she’s gone.  I’ve got your attention for three straight Friday’s so sit down and shut up.

Lets talk about Batgirl.

Wait, wait, wait… first we’re going to talk about Barbara Gordon as a character.  And then Gail Simone’s New 52 series.  And then we’ll end on Batgirl of Burnside where I’ll be angry for 900 something words.

So.  Barbara Gordon.

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Barbara Gordon is a strong, charming, and human character.  She is a centerpiece in the Bat family, and for a while was literally the core of their team.  Barbara is the daughter of a cop, and because of this she has a strong sense of justice.  She has an eidetic memory and is incredibly intelligent.  Barbara cares deeply about the people she’s helping and feels tremendous guilt for her failures: professional and personal.  She doesn’t fight to solve murders or avenge them.  Its not simply about solving crimes.  Batgirl embodies the idea that life is worth preserving and people are worth saving.  Her duty is to protect the people who need it, to help the ones who are hurt, and to be the guiding moral beacon for many of those around her.

In The Killing Joke she is shot in the spine by the Joker and she becomes paralyzed.  He uses her to try and corrupt Commissioner Gordon.  After the fact she has to retire from being Batgirl.  She is upset that so much was taken from her, but she also hates to see those around her so distraught.  With the help of her friends and family she makes it through a nightmarish time, and as a hero moving forward she does everything she can to do the same for others.

She reminisces later that even though she was in pain and her life had changed forever, she was worried about what Batman would do and say.  She reflects fondly that Batman doesn’t yell or get angry, he stands over her, holding her hand quietly.

That’s the kind of person she is, more worried about how things effect others than herself.  She is more concerned about others, even in her darkest moments.

Can you imagine?  Being that strong and talented and having a chaotic villain show up at your door and take it all away from you?

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Barbara deals with this frequently.  It’s a reoccurring nightmare to her, thinking that one day the Joker might come back again.  Or worse: that he’ll come for someone else. It’s this nightmare that makes her focused and strong.  She fights harder for her friends and family because she doesn’t want any of them to lose what she has lost.  Barbara is vigilant and relentless.

There is a bit in Batman Eternal where Jason Todd says that she was better than all of the Robin’s.  Stronger than him, and stronger than Dick Grayson.  They all see her as the bright and shining hero she still is, and she uses their belief to become something stronger.

Finding strength in her weakness, she became Oracle.  Oracle was the digital and informational center for all of her superhero allies.

Oracle was one of the central characters in Birds of Prey.  With her ability to fight and move limited, she uses her mind as her most dangerous weapon.  She uses her eidetic memory and technological finesse to work over even the most dangerous of villains without leaving her computer.  This is what makes her such a strong part of the Bat-family.  She is a genius, she’s clever, and she’s ruthless..  All of the heroes call upon her, and even Batman depends on her more than he’d probably like.

All I’d do if I became paralyzed would be make excuses like, “My fucking legs don’t work.”

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As Oracle, she rarely went into the field.  Instead, she worked with her team through earpieces and computers.  She often feels frustrated because she can’t be beside them, but she makes the best of it by using her strengths against her opponents weaknesses.  Barbara understands herself and her team members, and is able to maximize their abilities by being the strategist in the background.

We see this quite a bit while she’s the mentor to Stephanie Brown.  Stephanie was originally Spoiler, a girl who was bent on justice but unable to truly manage the role.  Barbara tries to talk her out of it because she’s likely to get hurt.  When she realizes that Stephanie won’t stop, Barbara steps in to help her as Oracle because she doesn’t want to see her get hurt or worse.

But to me what really makes characters interesting is their human side.  She is still vulnerable inside all of that badass.  She has an on again off again interest in Dick Grayson.  I’ve never read an arc where it gets serious, but there are definitely points where she gets hurt because Dick is into another woman.  There are moments where he approaches her, but their lives as heroes interfere too much to have a relationship.  As much as she is strong, she belies a girl who yearns to be normal.  Its a struggle to be Batgirl, to be Oracle, to be a daughter, and to be herself.

This gets especially hard because her dad is Commissioner Gordon.  The hero cop himself.  There are many times when she has to work with him as Batgirl, but to be Batgirl she must inherently undermine and work against her father.  One time she actually attempts to take her mask off, but he stops her because he doesn’t want to think about a young girl on the streets risking her life.

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Its a complicated situation being a superhero.  Many superheroes have a reason to work or be alone, but Barbara chooses to be close with people.  Barbara works to support the people and support her friends.  She is strong because she has people to be strong for, and she worries that her failures will take them away from her.  What makes her the one of the greatest heroes is that her greatest superhero power is that she is a human.  She is flawed, she is vulnerable, and she is brittle.  Even after surgery cures her paralysis, she is still paralyzed for a long time trying to re-find herself.  Its a careful balance to be everything she wants to be while balancing the expectations of others on top of it.  Her story is one of overcoming; of perseverance and duty.  She can’t let things get in her way.  Barbara can’t be a normal girl trying to find herself.  Shes a hero, a daughter, and a friend.  To be all of this and still find strength within she must be more than a woman, she had to find herself as Batgirl.

In the next post I’ll discuss Gail Simone as the writer for Batgirl.  I’m going to re-read the comics I own so I can be extra pumped to write it!

-DTM