Marvel Comics

If you read my last post you probably learned that I am a great fan of Marvel Comics and comic books in general. I’ve been reading and collecting comic books since I was in tenth grade and I still have a ton of subscriptions. I spend more money than I should on comics and am constantly falling behind on them because I have so many. I think there’s another reason I’ve been falling behind though. I think I’m really starting to lose interest in certain kinds of comics.

There are a lot of flaws with super hero comics and I could blog about them for ages. One of the problems, the one that is affecting my interest in them at the moment, is the fact that in a big way they can be really repetitive. Most of my favourite super heroes (Thor, the X-Men, Spider-Man) have been around since the 1960s. I read Avengers comics fairly regularly and they usually feature Captain America and he’s been fighting Nazis and super villains and super villainous Nazis since 1941. That’s 74 years of stories, ret-cons, re-writes, and reboots. Most of my faves have been around for 50 years at least. That’s a lot of material and I have definitely not read most of it. Despite the fact that I’ve only been reading comics for around 9 years I’ve already started to notice some patterns. When I go back and read comics from before I became an avid reader I notice even more patterns. I’m not talking about patterns in the way characters act or react in their stories necessarily. I’m talking about the fact that story lines and even the actual titles of events are being reused every year. One of the recent major Marvel events was Avengers Vs. X-Men. It was the 3rd time, I think, that the Avengers and X-Men pissed each other off enough to fight. Although this time around it was for different reasons the reasons that did exist in the plot were rehashed from other plots. This time the Phoenix Force showed up and tried to latch itself to another red haired mutant and this freaked out all the non mutants. The Phoenix Force has also been the centre of at least three major Marvel plot lines in the past. Now the big event happening is called Secret Wars. Once again this is the third time there has been an event called Secret Wars published by Marvel. Again this version is slightly different than the others but it is still quite similar.

Even when the ongoing story lines of characters are happening (the ones not disrupted by major, universe shattering events) I find myself kind of bored. Don’t get me wrong though. When you get the right writer behind a character there can still be some really refreshing and interesting stories in the Marvel Universe. Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye (which I am guilty of not having read) has been praised by fans and critics alike. Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men got me excited in a really big way. Aaron has written two separate Thor series that approached the character in a few very exciting ways. These comics are the ones that have kept me interested this long. Unfortunately these cases aren’t as common as I would like. I wind up subscribed to a lot of X-Men series that are the same boring old “humans hate us, but we must persevere” storyline that’s been running for 50 years now. Spider-Man is still trying to balance Work/school with his love life and crime fighting schedules. So many comics are still about the characters fighting the same villains they have for literal generations. Overall super hero comics are starting to get a bit boring for me. Like I said, there are a few really great series that come up now and again but there’s far more of the same rehashed material coming out every week.

I am currently subscribed to Secret Wars. I have absolutely loved the Avengers series leading up to Secret wars but I have this feeling that the series itself is going to be another tired old comic book trope. It looks like there will be some massive universe shattering event that causes everything to get wrecked. In the last issue something amazing will happen that will cause everything to work out fine but somehow restart everything bad that’s happened since the last time Marvel tried to reboot. (They don’t like calling it a reboot, but it’s essentially what it is.) In the way Avengers Vs. X-Men was AvX crossed with Phoenix Rising I think Secret Wars is going to feel a lot like Secret Wars crossed with the Heroic Age. If that’s the case I think it may be time for me to bow out as a Marvel fan for a little while. Rather than subscribing to all my favourite characters I’m going to wait for reviews and plot synopses before I read a story. Image Comics has been publishing some really amazing stuff that’s incredibly fresh, unique, and very not super hero oriented. I don’t blame anyone for loving super hero comics the way they are! I hope people keep loving them for a long time. I know I will. I just think I’ve just been through the cycle enough times to feel comfortable moving on to something new. Maybe read some of the older stuff I’ve never had the time for. Maybe read some good old non graphic novels. Whatever I do with my extra reading time, I hope it’s something as enthralling as comic books were for me when I first started reading them.

MURPG

I’ve been an on again off again (mostly off) tabletop RPG player since I was in tenth grade. I started with Dungeons and Dragons and eventually played GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System). After high school I gave World of Darkness and the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game a try. All of these games are a lot of fun, but MURPG is probably my all time favourite.

It’s a sin against the gods of classical nerdiness to ever admit you like an RPG more than D&D (or Pathfinder, post 3.5) but I’m going confess something here. I absolutely hate how dependant so many games are on dice. The point of a game is to have fun, not to do math. This is absolutely a subjective, personal opinion, but a strong one. GURPS makes it a bit better by designing the game around a bell curve but even in that game there’s a chance to roll a critical miss. There is nothing more frustrating and boring than playing an entire game of D&D and failing to hit an enemy or pick a lock simply because you have crappy luck. I remember playing whole games where I never landed a hit. Blame luck, shitty dice, or whatever you like the fact is those games were frustrating and boring. One way around this is if your Dungeon Master (or Game Master) is one of the types who doesn’t always “play by the numbers.” Someone who plays by the numbers will always tell you, 100% honestly, when you missed or hit and when their monster got a triple crit and murdered you in the first session. Sometimes, if they’re feeling merciful, a friendly cleric will show up and resurrect you out of pity. Just once. Or they make you create a new character and try to find a way to awkwardly cram you into the story. Some people like to play this way. The rules are there for a reason after all. I for one am the polar opposite. When I GM I will lie about my really great rolls and invent numbers on the spot in order to let the players live just one more turn. Then, when they make their last desperate attempt, I’ll give them some unexpected bonus and let them absolutely wreck my creature in a single blow. When it comes down to it, a last minute miracle victory is way more fun than a miserable failure at the hands of the dice. With the Marvel Universe RPG, however, you don’t have to worry about any of this.

I won’t bore you with a detailed explanation of the rules, but here’s the basics. You have action numbers that represent your competence in a task. If you have an action number of 5, you can put 5 stones of energy into that task. If the difficulty of a task is 4, you have to put 4 stones into an action to succeed at it. So if you put 3 stones into this task, you fail. Next turn though, you can try putting 4 or 5 into the task and you’ll succeed. There is guess work but very little chance involved. If you fail at something it’s either because you can’t complete the task on your own or you didn’t try hard enough. I love this so much because the players know exactly what they’re capable of and don’t have to waste turn after turn waiting for a great roll to succeed. If they max out their attempt and still fail they either move on to a different plan or try to do something new. They’re forced to get creative rather than lucky.

The other aspect of this game I love to bits is the fact that the character building is not only straightforward but it allows you to create a fully fledged super hero right off the bat. My players were reasonably capable of taking on Magneto with a crew of Evil Mutants in their first session. Many RPG systems start you out quite weak and pits you against goblins and kobolds at first. Then you gain experience and build up. I honestly do find level based games very fun and will always play them, but MURPG provides something a bit different. Players can immediately lift buildings in one hand, travel to other dimensions, command the elements with great ease, or do whatever other things they can think of. It lets the players kick ass and take names the second they walk through the door.

This system fits my play style so well it’s ridiculous. Luckily it’s also based around my favourite comic books. I’m not necessarily the best GM out there but of the systems I’ve tried this is the one my players have had the most fun with. I wrote a campaign based around the X-Men franchise and I was ridiculously impressed with some of the things my group came up with. They came up with some of the most creative solutions to their problems I’ve ever experienced in an RPG. I’ve found with systems like D&D it is easy to just make a balanced team consisting of Tank, Healer, Ranged, Spellcaster, and just fight it out the way most parties do. In MURPG I saw a team made up of Teleporter, Telekenetic, Humanoid Mouse with a Shotgun, and a Giant Stretchy Rubber Man. They didn’t build characters with a huge amount of strategy in mind, but they managed to accomplish some insane and fun things regardless.

I could ramble on about this game for days. I’m about to start working on a new campaign for it and am ridiculously excited. Despite my high praises it is flawed in a lot of ways. There are ambiguous rules and the books are a bit disorganized. If the game would have lasted more than 3 ish years it might have been ironed out by the designers more. Regardless of all this I love it and am very exited to get back into it. I may post more about it soon!

As a quick PS, I want to be clear that I get a lot of joy out of playing dice based games like D&D and GURPS. I seem super critical of them here, but it’s more so that I love the idea of a non random system WAY MORE. I’d really dig a levelling system that didn’t depend on dice based actions. Anywho. Toodles!

There Was an Old Woman

I missed a couple days of posts. But this time I’m pack with a bit of flash fiction! I believe the exact rules vary, but  when I first had it explained to me flash fiction was described as being 500 words or less so that’s usually what I shoot for. This is the first piece of fiction I’ve written in a while but I had fun with it! I played with an old nursery rhyme in a story I wrote a couple years ago (I’ll post it here later) and thought it would be fun to try that again. It wound up being more like the first section of a larger story so maybe I’ll write the rest some day. I haven’t edited it much, but I may come back and touch it up later. For now, enjoy!

There Was an Old Woman

I was tall and thin and she was short and fat. We looked like Jack Spratt and his wife while she busied herself in the kitchen. She wore an old tobacco stained apron and was covered from her snow white hair to her bare chubby toes in cooking flour while she rolled a crust for a cranberry pie. This could be the interview of a lifetime if what I had heard was true. Of all the epic tails and rhyming legacies in the Magical Kingdom all she was known for was her home.

“There was an old woman, who lived under a hill. And if she’s not gone, she lives there still.”

Storytellers have nothing more to say about her. King Charming calls her a madwoman and a liar. She claims to be responsible for half of the great heroes being who they are. I just wanted to hear her side of the story.

“Where should we start?” I asked, clicking my pen and hovering it over a notepad.

“Why not with my rhyme,” She spoke with a deep, gravelly voice. She poured a thick, red filling into a crust and placed it in the oven. “That’s what anyone who matters in this kingdom is known for, right?”

She sat across from me at the table and pulled a stubby cigar out of her pocket. Taking a match from her apron pocket and striking it on her forearm she lit the cigar and inhaled deeply.

“That’s the thing,” I smirked, “you’re known for your home, and a tautology. Nothing more. If you’re truly an interesting person, why did the royal poets even bother?”

“They bothered because it’s tradition, I guess. They don’t like to tell you this but it’s the law for them to memorialize heroes with at least a rhyme, if not an entire tale.”

“Heroes?”

“Yeah. Heroes. You don’t buy it?” She took a long drag from her cigar and coughed a phlegmy cough.

“If you were a hero, why wouldn’t they write more?”

“The ROYAL poets,” she croaked, “Were obligated by tradition to write about me. But the ROYALTY didn’t want to admit what I did.”

I looked up at her through my spectacles while scribbling on my paper. “And what was that?”

“I saved Charming’s sorry ass from witches, trolls, and dragons on a damn near weekly basis. He doesn’t like admitting that some little fat chick did all the heavy lifting on his quests.”

“I don’t know about that. He seems to be an honest king. Why would he want to hide the deeds of a great woman?”

“I’m gonna tell you a story that’ll blow the top off your little paper, skinny.”

She took another long drag from her cigar and blew a thick cloud of smoke into my face.

“I’m the whole reason that old son of a bitch is sitting on that throne” she croaked, “and it should’ve been me sittin’ on it to begin with.”

Numbers in Norse Mythology

One of the aspects of religion and mythology that I find strangely fascinating is the use of very specific numbers. One of the most common examples is the use of the number 3 in many cultures and religions. The three parts of the godhead, 3 wishes from a genie, and even 3 roots of Yggdrasil in the Norse Myths. At first it may seem rather trivial and maybe coincidental that a specific number comes up a lot but many scholars and mythologists would argue otherwise. I like to think that the writers and creators of these myths new what they were doing when they wrote about things in specific quantities. It is not a coincidence that the numbers three and nine appear over and over again in the Norse myths. The obvious question to ask though is why are these specific numbers used so often?

No one is really sure why the number 9 is so prominent in the Norse myths. Kevin Crossley-Holland mentioned in his introduction to “The Norse Myths” that it may simply be that it was the last single digit number. We can’t really say why this number became culturally important but one thing does become clear about it. When this number is used it is often used to note how important something is. The same can likely be said for the number 3 since there are many instances of threes in Norse writing. When you analyze old writing like this it is safe to assume that if the author took the time to specify something it was for a good reason and the Norse myths did this quite a lot.

The most well known example of nine in Norse mythology is of course the cosmology itself. There are nine realms. Asgard, Vanaheim, Svartalfheim, Alfheim, Jotunheim, Midgard, Muspellheim, Niflheim, and Nidavellir. Since some sections of early Norse myth sources are missing or ambiguous it is possible that Nidavellier, the Dwarf world, and Svartalfheim, the Dark Elf world, are one and the same where Hel, the land of the dead, would then considered its own world separate from Niflheim. The presence of nine realms seems like a way to emphasize the importance of the cosmology. Another popular example is when Odin hanged himself for nine days and nights in order to learn eighteen magical runes. Even the number eighteen is seen as significant in this case because it is 9×2. One of the artifacts made by the dwarves for the gods was a ring called Draupnir. Every nine days Draupnir magically drops eight rings (for a total of nine) of equal size and weight. This is an interesting case because Draupnir is only mentioned one other time in the recorded myths but it is never fully explained what its purpose is. Since many of the myths are missing or may not have been recorded their could have been references to Draupnir that we have never and will never see. This is the tricky thing with some ancient mythologies. With so much source material missing there is so much that is left up to speculation.

I’ve only listed a handful of examples of the number nine in the Norse myths but I do find this, and the use of other numbers in other religions, very interesting. In part it is fun to learn what the popular numbers are in a culture and wait for them to pop up in their religious writings. Whenever I read a Norse myth or poem and see the number nine I have a wonderfully geeky moment as I discover a new piece of trivia. I also know to make note of whatever objects or events are associated with the number in that context because they’re obviously considered important. Myths and even contemporary writing of all sorts are a great way to learn about a culture and what that culture considers important. When reading these myths anything grouped in groups of nines was likely, for whatever reason, considered very important to the Norse people. I don’t know if anyone else thinks this is even remotely interesting, but it’s something that captures my imagination for some reason. I hope to do a bit more research and learn more about the importance of certain numbers in other religions.

For those who may be interested, here is a link to the wikipedia article on Numbers in Norse Mythology! It lists all of the instances of 3 and 9 in the myths. It’s really fascinating when you look at the list and see what events and objects the writers were emphasizing. It really was an interesting tool for storytelling!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_in_Norse_mythology

Late Nights

Yesterday I discussed writing a bit about Norse Mythology today. I think this is going to wait because I didn’t have as much time to prepare a post like that. Unfortunately that means another slightly rambling free write. This time I’m thinking about my strange sleeping habits.

I seem to go through a large variety of sleep patterns. I am definitely a night owl so I am almost never in bed before 1 am. Depending on what job I have my schedule will change slowly. My last job was at a liquor offsale so I generally worked from 6 PM until 2 AM which resulted in me not getting home until close to 3 o’clock some nights. 4 o’clock if the manager decided to stay for drinks after work. Since I didn’t have much to do before 5 PM I rarely got out of bed early. I slowly edged toward a later and later bed time and got up later and later in the day. Near the end of my tenure at this job I was going to sleep around 6 or 7 in the morning and sleeping until 3 PM. Since I quit and moved back to my home town I have been unemployed and my sleep schedule is slowly getting better.  I tend to go to sleep closer to 5 am now and am up around 1-2 in the afternoon. One thing I have been noticing lately though is that I feel tired and sluggish. I think it’s about time I got into more of a regulated sleep pattern. Maybe even more of a “normal” one. I’ve never been a 9-5 type person but I think an adjustment is definitely in order. I am definitely in need of more of a structured day as well. Not having a job has resulted in me spending much of my time playing video games and watching Netflix. So tomorrow I am going to try to get up earlier and get more done! No more lazing around and procrastinating! I also promise I will write about something much more interesting. Maybe interesting enough that I’ll actually share this blog on facebook.

Procrastination

Procrastination is something I seriously struggle with. Which is why I am writing this post at three in the morning after telling myself I was going to work hard at writing today! One thing I’ve learned as a veteran procrastinator is that I can’t let this get me down. I am, through this small post, exercising my writing muscle! I’m definitely going to set time aside tomorrow for writing though. I tend to work better when I set a specific schedule and stick to it.

Though I didn’t make quite as much progress as I had hoped today I did wind up working on my upcoming web serial a bit. I’m currently writing short chapter outlines for a web serial that will be based on Norse Mythology. I love the narrative that exists in the Norse myths because of the fascinating destiny that awaits all of the gods. This serial is going to play with Ragnarok (the Norse apocalypse myth) and destiny in a big way. In a sense it is going to be a collection of Norse fan fiction. I love these characters and myths and am looking forward to messing with their stories a bit. I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, just in case someone who reads this winds up checking it out. I think it is going to be a lot of fun. After it is all posted it will be about the length of a novella containing around 18 chapters.

Tomorrow I think I’ll post something a bit more coherent instead of a short, rambling, free write like this. Maybe I’ll take a moment to discuss some aspects of Norse mythology that I’ve been reading about! Thanks for dropping by!

Welcome!

When I was in high school I became very interested in writing. I took the few creative writing courses I could and and wrote quite a few short stories, poems, stageplays and screenplays. I hardly put any effort into pre-writing or editing most of those projects but I did complete quite a few. The year after I graduated high school I moved to the city and got a full time job. That November I succeeded at writing a NaNoWrimo novel. By that point I had learned enough to at least have some character sketches and a loose plot outline before diving into the project. The next year, however, I started university. I studied film and video production at the University of Regina and minored in religious studies. During this time most of my creative writing took the form of screenplays as well as a one act play or two. Amongst all of the assignments and exams I didn’t have as much time to write like I used to though. The year after I graduated I made a short film and struggled to motivate myself to edit it. In the end I screened it at a friend’s screening to a small audience and had quite a lot of fun doing so. Now that I’ve completed my first film outside of film school I’ve discovered that I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of making narrative films. I still quite enjoy the idea of making short documentaries but as far as fiction goes I’ve been much more interested in diving back into the world of prose. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written any short stories and I have been itching to get back into it. Which is why I’m here, trying to start up what feels like my millionth blog. This one serves a very specific purpose though.

I recently read an article written by one of the screenwriting profs at U of R. He discussed his firm belief in a “writing muscle” that you need to exercise every day in order to keep your writing skills strong. I absolutely agree with this idea and am going to exercise this muscle, hopefully every day, right here. It doesn’t really matter how many people read this blog. I doubt many people will. I just need a place to put my writing and, if anyone feels inclined to give some, receive a bit of feedback. Some of the posts will be non-fiction blurbs about the projects I’m working on and some will be micro fiction or short stories. The most important thing is that I write every day and keep getting better! If you drop by and read, thank you so much for doing so! I can’t guarantee that any of the posts will be entertaining. I can promise that they will be consistent though. I’m holding myself accountable and making myself the best writer I can be!