No More Bible Stuff

I subscribe to a Christian comics group on Facebook, and there are some talented artists there. However, there is one thing I almost always notice about them. Either they show their art off doing secular subjects like Spiderman, or they almost always do Biblical themes.tenpack

Always.

I’ve been noticing the same thing in other genres. Animated movie? It’s either going to be about the heroes of the Bible directly, or it will just be a recasting of Bible stories with minor alterations. Live action film? The highest budget ones tend to be Bible stories, like the Son of God series, or AD. Manga? We get plenty of manga Bibles, but no real manga at all. Standard comics? Mostly Bible stuff again, although an interesting quirk is that black men tend to draw superhero comics, including once of the longest running Christian comics of them all.

It gets annoying, and it has to stop.

What set this post off was finding one of the infamous Wal-Mart 10 packs. You know the ones, the ones where their buyers find movies that are so cheap to acquire that they can slap ten of them or more on a single DVD and sell it for five books. Well they did this with Bible movies, and thereby putting them in the same category as public domain films, really bad thrillers, failed b-movies, bizarre family films, the Puppetmaster and Prophecy films, and various Z-grade crap that are so bad, you have to put ten or more on the pack just to convince people to buy them.

Seeing that crystallized something in me that had been forming for a long time. I don’t think it’s just annoying, but even dangerous, for many reasons.

The main reason is that when we depict the Bible in a form of art alien to it, like movies, art, or animation, we run the risk of “adding words to this book” spoken up in Revelation. Sometimes directly, but mostly in the sense that those forms of art often require the artist to select, emphasize, highlight, and prune due to the limitations of the medium. G-rated animated film? Well you’re going to be unable to show a lot of the violence of Judges, 1st and 2nd Kings, etc. You’ll be unable to show the prophetic books, because most of them have little to no action in them. The psalms are pure text, and usually skipped over. You wind up only getting a reduced Bible of the most memorable or visual stories; Noah, Samson, Moses, etc,

Adding words isn’t just directly adding things to the Bible. It can be in how we edit our presentation of it to reach an audience. We can emphasize family and child-friendliness, but run the risk of one day having kids read the Bible as teens, realizing that it’s incredibly violent in parts, and wondering if they weren’t constantly hiding that from them. You can create an image of the Bible instead of getting people into the real thing.

A second reason is that we already have an absurd amount of Biblical media. Whenever it’s Easter, Wal-mart easily displays an entire fixture of Bible movies alone. They’ve been doing illustrated/visual Bibles and Bible comic stories since I was a kid. Generations of Christian artists trying to reinvent the wheel.

Finally…um, look. I don’t think we reach people by shoving different versions of the Bible in their hands.

I think to a point, there was a need to have different version of the Bible in different media to reach people. But now all of these Bible stories are for believers, not for unbelievers. The same with movies like God’s not Dead-Christians want Christian culture of their own, but it seems they only can justify it if it theoretically reaches out to the lost. It winds up producing bad culture that doesn’t reach them and doesn’t really impact the believers whom it really is for.

So come on. Take a chance. Make Christian-inspired works, instead of remaking the Bible every two seconds. Or you’re just going to one day find your effort at reinventing the wheel as part of a ten movie collection or ten ebook bundle for 99 cents yourself.


New Mutants: Fall Of The Mutants

…or how I became disillusioned with comics for a long, long time.

FallofmutantsWay back in 1988, Marvel had an event called “Fall of the Mutants.” Basically it was three different storylines loosely linked under one title. The New Mutants part is what I’m concerned with, as it had impact far more than you’d think.

By this time, the Mutants had a new member called Cypher, aka Doug Ramsay. Doug’s power was languages; he could intuitively understand any written, spoken, or computer language that existed. However, this made him almost useless in a fight, and he was aware of that. Still, he had to learn to use his power like anyone else, so he was with Xavier’s team, and he befriended the mechanical creature known as Warlock. Things were good, until now.

The New Mutants discover a flying bird-human hybrid they call Bird-Brain. It turns out that he was created by someone who had close ties to Cameron Hodge, aka chief mutant-hater of the moment. The Mutants went to free his friends, and a really bad Island of Doctor Moreau pastiche happened. The Mutants get captured, and chained up, only to be freed when Hodge’s men go too far and the animals themselves have to choose between loyalties.

What happened next made me not want to pick up a comic for maybe five years.

People seem to dislike Cypher, but I can’t help if it’s because they are fake geeks. The thing about Cypher was, back then he was the insert character for the reader. He was a geeky kid with no cool talents or powers that was apart from society, and who got to be with a whole team of super-powered heroes. You identified with his vulnerability because in real life, it mirrored your own as a geek. Later on they tried to “fix” him, by defining what a language was to an absurdly wide degree. Body language is a language, so now he’s a martial artist! Etc.

However, once on Bird-Brain’s island, his lack of powers caught up with him, and  he died protecting someone. Shot in the back.

Yeah, these days heroes die all the time. But they wound up killing the one character you often identified with and who was our viewpoint into a mutant world, and they killed him pointlessly. Bird-Brain has never existed in a Marvel book since, and while Cypher has been resurrected several times, the shock that Marvel would kill someone you grew up with and cared about hit hard. In a way it was like they killed the reader too. Our everyman had died.

The storyline was ugly, too. The art was ugly, as done by Bret Blevins. He’s not a bad artist, but he has sort of a pin-up/kewpie doll style to his art that either works, or it doesn’t. Then it didn’t, clashing wildly with the serious, somber tone of the story. It didn’t help that Bird-Brain wasn’t even likable, and looked ridiculous. It’s odd-the Demon Bear storyline didn’t kill Dani, but it was intensely dramatic even knowing that. The FoM arc killed Cypher, and it felt like a waste.

But even that wasn’t the end. Soon, the New Mutants would turn into X-Force, the book which truly initiated the Dark Age of Comics, and brought us the Unholy Trinity of Cable, Deadpool, and Rob Liefeld. The team disbanded, with only Cannonball and Sunspot staying, and we were subjected to bad air, massive shoulder pads, unnecessary facial lines, stupid character designs, Sam Guthrie somehow being immortal, and the destruction of a series about teens using their powers by a lot of stabby/shooty characters with bad design and no appeal.

I think they killed the Hellions shortly after, as if that wasn’t good enough.

Oh, and yes Deadpool sucks. He sucked back then, he sucks now. Anyways.

I lost my desire to read comics about that time. I think I read others, but I could no longer trust Marvel. The idea that comics would completely kill off characters and books was alien at the time, and part of the fun in reading them was in knowing that the heroes would win even if the stakes were high against them. By doing this, some measure of trust was lost. More trust was lost when you realized that they’d completely upend a series to the point of killing members off and making an entirely new book out of an old one. Before that, there had been change, yes; but usually the people would go to another team (X-factor and Excalibur, Fallen Angels, etc) and still survive. A line had been crossed, and I think from the 90’s on Marvel had lost some of the magic that they had.

In time I went back to reading them, though now it was more keeping current on critically acclaimed stories. I think comics have gotten worse since then. There were too many crossover arcs and ludicrously dark/violent stories happening every year like clockwork, and less fun or wonder to the stories. Like they lost everything except the ability to push the envelope.

So, that’s my story. Any stories or media that turned you off a genre due to attacking something you loved?


Random Things, 4/29/15

Okay, maybe the next next post is on the New Mutants…

Listening to Miiro by Akino from BLESS4, which is on Itunes! What it this song? The opening to the Kancolle anime.

I love this song. I always got the sense of “being part of a company that fights evil” from both the song and anime OP. I wish sometimes we could get the same sense of belonging in church. There’s the idea of the church being part of a grand company of believers, an immortal army that stretches throughout time and that each member provides their own gifts and talents to the grand cosmic battle of the faith: it’s an idea that really doesn’t get much airtime as it should.

Horrified by Scooby Doo & Kiss: A Rock And Roll Mystery

Yes, THAT Kiss.

Warner Brothers has been suspiciously meta with some of its older properties for some time now. Both Scooby Doo and Ther Flinstones have had crossovers with the WWE wrestling federation, the former with John Cena’s animated likeness plastered on the cover. They had Scooby Doo meets Batman, but in a real sense, aka Batman as a voice actor (played by Adam West.) But this…

Look, I know KISS meets the Phantom Park is a thing. I watched it growing up. It’s not just the inclusion of them, because I’d be up in arms about the hilarious homage to them in Love Live of all things. It’s not them having superpowers. It’s not team-ups in general, or even in specific: 70’s Scooby teamed up with the Harlem Globetrotters for heaven’s sake. It’s the sheer soullessness of fusing them together when neither of them fit. Also, this:

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kiss2

RAEP CULTURE ON DOGS! NO INFORMED CONSENT!

Still Playing Final Fantasy XIV.

I want to talk about how that game views religion sometime, because it’s unusual how it does so.

Current jobs are Lvl 50 Conjurer/White Mage, Level 50 Leatherworker, Level 50 Miner. I’m leveling both Black Mage and Marauder to get a Tank and DPS class to help out the free company Im in. I’m still rough around the edges running instances with my classes, as it’s very fast paced and often more reliant on how much of the dungeon you memorize than skill sometimes. It’s fun though, especially since I’m finding I need to step up and lead.

Not talking about Baltimore. Not my place.

So what’s up with you all?


New Mutants: The Demon Bear Saga

I was lucky to find a copy of the graphic novel today. It’s 2/3rds modern sequels to the original tale; but the original story is one of the best of the mutant books of the 1980’s.

A little background. Professor X created Cerebro in order to find mutants and help them control their powers. One of the first groups of people he gathered were called the New Mutants, from the original graphic novel back in the very early eighties. The New Mutants were a group of teens from across the world who each had a special power. Sam Guthrie was a Kentucky coal miner could fly and project a field of invulnerability around himself. Dani Moonstar was a Cheyenne indian who could project illusions of a person’s greatest fears. Rahne Sinclair was a Scot who had powers resembling a traditional werewolf. Robert D’Acosta was a Brazillian who could store solar energy and convert it to physical strength. Xi’an Coy Manh could control other people’s minds. These were the original five New Mutants, and they were brought to Westchester Academy to learn how to control their powers.

Of course, trouble always follows any mutant who even mutters the name “Charles Xavier.”

(Oh and by the way lolSJW types? Notice the count of women to men on the team? Notice that they are all ethnicities? If you even read comics before they became trendy, you’d realize back then THIS WAS THE NORM, and you didn’t have to force people to include women.)

The first series was very well done, at least up until maybe the mid-thirties issues. The strength of the book was that they managed to capture the teen experience and the uncertainty of dealing with powers and talents that set you apart from mankind. Rahne especially was a welcome sight, as she was a devout Christian who often wrestled with the fact that she could turn into a werewolf, and feared her powers were from the devil; she made a great character for Christian geeks who often felt like werewolves in churches filled with sheep. The art wasn’t sexualized, and while there was a lot of the silliness of the comics of that era (cross-overs with the forgettable motorcycle toy Team America for one) it was a refreshing book to read.

It started picking up with issue 16 and 17, in which Emma Frost (who was a villain back then) tried to capture the team with her own team of superpowered youth, the Hellions. Once she did, she brainwashed them into serving her. But the real high point of the series was Bill Sienkiewitz’s run on the title, called the Demon Bear Saga.

The story is simple: a demonic indian spirit in the form of a bear comes back to take Dani just like it took her parents long ago. Dani tries to fight it, but is defeated, and only the rest of the Mutants can fight it off while she lies nearly dead under surgery. But, oh, the art…

demonbear1

demonbear2demonbear3

Sienkiewitz is up there with Barry Windsor-Smith as one of the best stylists of the eighties, and he turned was was a rather generically drawn book (although with charms of its own) into a masterpiece. The story itself was tense, with Dani clinging to life as her friends desperately fought the almost undefeatable bear. But the art elevated it to amazing levels, especially when the bear starts to corrupt people as soldiers for him, and transports them all to a blasted desert to fight.

The graphic novel includes the original arc, plus two modern sequels where the Demon Bear comes back, once to fight the New Mutants, the next to take on Wolverine. Despite being done possibly 20+ years after the original, they manage to look worse and feel dated compared to it. There’s a timelessness and power to Bill’s art that transcend the era it was in, and even at the time this was considered an incredibly risky move. But it flowered into rich fruit, and some of the best covers in the 80’s and even later could be found there. Like this one:

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The series was incredibly influential to me growing up, and to comics in general. In good, and in bad ways however. The next post will describe what happened to the New Mutants, with the result of turning me off of comics for a good ten years.


Random Things 4/28/15

d-fragReading D-Frag the manga.

What’s surprising is that D-frag works far better as a manga than an anime. The constant reaction shots and weirdness was annoying when watched for thirty minutes, yet comes across far better in a brief manga chapter or volume. If you haven’t seen it before, D-Frag is about wanna-be badass Kazama, who gets involved with a nutty game club comprised of four girls and led by weirdo “dark affinity” Roka. It feels a little like Baka and Test in its comedic style, but isn’t quite as good.

The manga however is much better. Puzzling is that the anime failed to adapt some really good scenes, mostly about Sakura the “water affinity” girl. She’s the pink-haired girl on the cover here, and she has much more of a scheming side to her even if for good reasons. Several scenes, including her rivalry with Noe, Kazama’s sister, show up in the manga yet were never adapted for the anime. They add quite a bit to the story in my opinion. The art is also a little better, as it portrays the scruffiness and weirdness of all the characters. Takao at first is more mean than the anime, Sakura is all fake shininess, and Noe is so bedraggled its funny.

If you haven’t seen the series yet, the manga is worth a read. There’s no overt violence or sexuality, although several characters have a masochistic fetish, and there’s theoccasional crossdressing for comedy and jokes about Takao’s huge bust.

snafu tooWatching My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too.

Look, go and watch it. Go and watch it right now.

This is one of the best slice of life comedies ever made. This is better than Hollywood movies. Even if you don’t like anime, this tale about a cynical teen named Hachiman and how he deals with the world around him is excellent, and the second season is just as good.

Hachiman is dealing with the fallout of his last venture, in which he made people hate him in order to enable the club to solve a near-impossible request. In a wonderful turn of events, it’s finally opened the eyes of all his friends. They want him to stop hurting himself all the time to save others, and they are starting to resist what seems like the inevitable temptation to let him bear all the hate of others in order to get things nice. But everyone else is broken in their own way, and they’ll have to confront the way they really are if they want to help him.

There was some worries about the art style change in this season, but they prove to be unfounded. Honestly, this should be the best show of this anime season; watch it and enjoy it.

Disliking  God.

Now we get to the reason why I haven’t been posting in a bit.

This didn’t start it, but recently there was a Facebook post in which someone made the very valid point that “We need more men in the Christian Bookseller Association market! Don’t give up or feel victimized, but stand tall and try to work in the system to change things.” There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s a fine point. It just made me wonder why we always seem to have to work in the system against our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

What probably started it was this post. 

Post content: 5% “I draw my inspiration from life”, 95% mommyblogger humblebragging about all the people she knows.

What this made me realize is that no way in heck could I ever write something to the audience of that kind of book. That if that book is in any way representative of Christians want (and apparently its been Christy nominated, so it must be) I have no place in that artistic world. It’s bad enough that approximately 75% of Speculative Faith comments are by female readers, and virtually all books listed on that site are by female authors; but if that kind of book is what the market likes, I’m wasting my time trying.

So I get a little mad at God, too.

There’s no reason why we as Christians need to fight against power structures other Christians have erected. We are in the middle of a geek renaissance, where even mundanes like the above mommyblogger can like fantasy, or it’s somehow cool to watch Daredevil on Netflix. Daredevil. Even Moon Knight was cooler than him, apart from Frank Miller’s defining run. Yet our lol Christian book industry can’t be bothered to make things to minister  to geeks. No, we need romance books and more of them!

amishy

I mean, why is God not raising up people to help us?

Look, there’s some great people trying. I know, I’ve met many of them. But it seems that increasingly only the broken or the mediocre are trying to serve God in art. Where are the people who have talent and real callings? Why is it that once you get to the pro level, Christians just disappear?

It feels like a bunch of infantry without any commanders, or worse, commanders actively working against them. The atheistic or secular geeks have no problem doing it; why do we? What are all the Christian colleges doing with the graduates of their art departments, sending them all out to copy the one model they use for their Amish book covers? Why is it that we can’t get a single Christian SF movie even on the level of a crappy Asylum pic?

Guys like me, we’re good at seeing things others can’t. but we aren’t always the best at making things happen, because they need talents and connections beyond with outsiders have. We can only do so much, and the problems we  have now need the stronger, more powerful, and wealthier Christians to step up. Heck, we don’t even produce kitsch anymore. The days of a Bibleman seem long gone.

It’s unfair. And I’m starting to blame God, because I’m simply not strong enough to bring about any real change. It’s starting to get really old to have dreams only to realize the church you belong to doesn’t seem to want them. Here, have a Jesus Calling-branded Bible with a pink leather cover instead. I’m thankful at least that God lets us blame Him and strive with Him; if anything, that’s one of the best legacies of Judeo-Christianity. You cannot rage against karma or atman; there’s nothing there to care.

So I just stopped, for a bit. Played some games. FFXIV in particular. Surprisingly, the world went on. It may have the air of a kid sulking in his room, but here’s the thing about FFXIV:

The game wants you to win it.

Christian geeks? Your own brothers and sisters are resoundingly meh. There’s a small crowd of people who care, but the rest? And God, I know you want us not to glory in ourselves, but make our talents an offering to you. But Lord, you gotta stop with burdening the broken and ignoring the rich. At least the old testament had judges.

Yeah I know. Complaining does no good. Another reason why I haven’t been posting. But this is my blog, and among the many many bots, weird people who click on a new article once, and the few real people who honor me with actual attention, I’ll say what I think.

Now I need to get back to gaming. Not like Black Mage is going to level itself to 50.


Pyuri-tan

In the facebook feed today, news about a new Christian manga.

Not really much info. It looks like a 4-koma published in Christ Shimbun, which can be found here. Unfortunately I think the comic is in the physical edition only, as I can’t see any link to it on the translated site. Pyuri-tan, a pun on puritan, is a glasses girl who might be a christian denomination anthropomorphized.

Interesting that secular sites are picking up on it, even though it’s obviously from the “how odd!” angle. Don’t read the comments on any of them, they’ll just depress you.


A-E-I-O-U

One of the best old-time radio horror series out there is Quiet Please! It’s given us some of the scariest episodes of audio drama I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, and Northern Lights happens to be one of the best of those episodes.

It’s a story about two scientists researching a time machine in a cold, northern location. Their goal is to send a cigarette lighter ahead a few seconds in time, but they also bring back an odd little visitor with them, one who perplexes them to no end. The rest you have to listen to yourself.

if you like that, some other scary episodes are “The Thing on the Fourble Board” and “Tanglefoot.” If you’re not keen on horror, National Public Radio did an absolutely wonderful audio drama of the Star Wars films that had much of the original cast, and expanded on them by including scenes not present in the movies. There are both BBC and American adaptations of the Lord of the Rings series for fantasy lovers. I think  audio drama is an excellent alternative for Christians worried about content, as you can’t visually display extreme sex or violence due to the nature of the media, and you have to focus on mood and atmosphere instead shock and transgression. It also forces you to engage your imagination more, and can be made at a fraction of the cost of a single television episode.

Unfortunately with the death of radio as a mass medium, it’s never really recovered. While the internet has acted as a big archive for the old programs, most of the new ones have no real distribution method outside of websites or the odd college radio station. Sort of like Christian spec fiction in a way; you need to have a distribution network that pushes content to people, not one where people have to pull content to them. It doesn’t even matter about the quality of the stuff pushed:

  • Tina Fey is spectacularly unfunny; compare 30rock to just about any sitcom made ten years ago, and prepare to cringe.
  • Family Guy is anti-funny, to the point of inducing pain.
  • Most geeky series can’t even do better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that series was fluff. Compare Arrow to it, and Arrow is a clunky, unrealistic mess.
  • Pretty much any “big” series in the last five years has been mediocre.

Yet TV keeps soldiering on. Same as movies:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy SUCKED. Hint: Rocket Raccoon is called Rocket because he wears rocket skates on his hindpaws. If you want a drinking game for that movie, take one every time the camera shows a shot of him looking down the barrel of a gun. Batista sucked as Drax, Zoe Saldana managed to make Gamora unsexy, “What a bunch of a-holes,” “Star-lord, man *whines*”, Ronan looking constipated, etc. I don’t know why its liked when it’s The Phantom Menace of Marvel live-action films.
  • Somehow, Michael Bay can keep making movies. In fact, he seems to be the most influential director out there. The Hobbit movies? Straight from the Bay playbook; overlong, absurd action sequences, etc.
  • It’s so bad that Oscar winners are movies no one cares about. It’s not a matter of passing over popular to choose less popular, it’s picking unknown or movies designed to appeal to critics over movies people actually spend money to watch.
  • It’s so bad that the shelves of most movie stores are lined with crap. Go into a Wal-mart movie section and you’ll see:
    • Five different Z-grade Syfy monster movies. The old B-grade films, the ones done by Corman of others, they were flawed but have charm. Modern ones? Blame Troma, who pioneered everything Syfy did, and made unlikable bargain-basement films without a hint of camp or art.
    • Multiple modern Chinese wuxia films. Buy cheap, bring over cheap, watch and they are a mess.
    • Endless indie horror flicks. Yeah, they had them earlier on too, but you had some real gems among the endless slasher retreads. Now it’s like we get endless retreads and precious few cult films. Where is our Evil Dead?
    • Tyler Perry, and much more.

The distribution network trumps all. It’s like a massive rock rolling down a hill; once its started, it can keep going indefinitely. Audio drama these days is impossible to start, because radio as a cultural force is dead. You know what radio stations are none for now? Spamming your Facebook feeds with stupid memes.

It’s sad because it’s really a wonderful medium. Quiet Please actually is BETTER than the Twilight Zone, because it uses a great formula of having a small cast with a single narrator to make intimate, chilling tales. I think I’d love to make Triune into an audio drama at some point, as well as write others. I guess it’s just me liking contrary things though.

This turned more into a rant than simply sharing a link, but here it is.


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