The Three Hundred and Thirty-Second Post: The One Where I Complain About Post-Modernism (again!)

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m getting old and set in my ways. Of course, I’m getting crotchety over all the wrong things. 

I am a Marvel fan going far back, and I am happy to see the heroes I grew up with on the big screen and done right. The effects, the story, the casting (somewhat…I would rather watch Robert Downey, Jr. as Dr. Strange, but that’s just me) are magnificent. I love the continuity and the “phases” that start and begin an arc. I’m as gleeful as a four year-old in a room full of puppies.  


I have an issue with the Skrulls, but the root of this is post-modernist villains. 

Here come the spoilers. If you have not seen Captain Marvel and/or Spider-Man: Far from Home, leave now and see those films. Right now. The blog will still be here, I promise – mostly because I’m paid through to November. I can entertain myself while you’re gone. 

Back? Cool. Here we go. 

When I was reading comics – Claremont was writing X-Men, including my favorite God Loves, Man Kills, and the Skrulls were utterly merciless. They were black hatted, dark hearted villains who thirsted after the enslavement of Earth and the utter destruction of the Kree. They were shapeshifters, cunning and perfect. The old man staring you down? Skrull. That over-friendly cashier? Skrull. Your parents? One of them could be a Skrull. You’d never know.  

I think I might have found the root of my cheerful paranoia. Moving on. 

The Skrulls in the movies are…squishy, soda-drinking, post-modern villains and I hate it. 

Let me explain. 

One hallmark of post-modern villainy is the humanizing of the villain. We meet the Skrulls in Captain Marvel and we’re told that the Skrulls are cunning, amoral and savage infiltrators. They aren’t dropping through the atmosphere with guns a-blazin‘. They steal in, take your face, uniform, memories and your life. Their first appearance was in 1962, so you can make the case that the Skrulls were the sci-fi face of the Red Menace. 

The scene with Talos calmly sipping on a soda (a subtle shout-out to Tarantino) and explaining what they were about: 

[Vers walks out of Maria’s office after listening to the Black Box recording and realizing that Yon-Rogg abducted her in 1989] 

Carol Danvers: He lied to me. Everything that I knew was a lie. 

Talos: Now, you understand. 

Carol Danvers: What? What do I understand now? 

Talos: Yon-Rogg killed Mar-Vell. He killed her… ’cause she found out that she was on the wrong side of an unjust war. 

Carol Danvers: No. Your people are terrorists. They kill innocents. I saw the ruins on Torfa. 

Talos: Ruins that the Accusers are responsible for. My people lived as refugees on Torfa. Homeless, ever since we resisted Kree rule and they destroyed our planet. And the handful of us that are left… will be slaughtered next, unless you help me finish what Mar-Vell started. The core that she found would have powered a light-speed ship capable of carrying us to safety. A new home… where the Kree can’t reach us. 

Maria Rambeau: Lawson always told us that our work at Pegasus wasn’t to fight wars, but to end them. 

Talos: She wanted you to help us find the core. 

Carol Danvers: Well, I already destroyed it. 

Talos: No, you destroyed the engine. The core that powered it is in a remote location. If you help us decode those coordinates, we can find it. 

Carol Danvers: You’ll use it to destroy us. 

Talos: [sighing] We just want a home. You and I lost everything at the hands of the Kree. Can’t you see it now? You’re not one of them. 


See? It’s not the Skrull’s fault. They’re just victims of the Kree antagonism. How are the Kree portrayed? Cold, emotionless and unified – marching in lockstep towards a bright, blue destiny. I wonder if they’re going to bring in the Kree Civil War? The original Captain Marvel (or Mar-Vell if you want to be accurate) was a pink-skinned Kree, which was the minority on the planet. I don’t see that being brought up, since MCU is heading in a certain direction as far as the Kree. 


Supreme Intelligence: You did good, Ace. 

[Supreme Intelligence grabs the Tesseract] 

Supreme Intelligence: Thanks to you, those insidious shapeshifters will threaten our borders no more. 

Carol Danvers: I used to believe your lies, but the Skrulls are just fighting for a home. You’re talking about destroying them because they won’t submit to your rule. And neither will I. 

Supreme Intelligence: We found you. We embraced you as our own. 

Carol Danvers: You stole me. From my home, my family, my friends. 

[Supreme Intelligence sighs. Carol charges and punches her in the face, but her fist is stuck in her face before she is thrown to an invisible wall] 

Supreme Intelligence: It’s cute how hard you try. But remember, without us… 

[Carol is absorbed through the wall, which projects images of her memories] 

Supreme Intelligence: …You’re weak. 

[Carol continues to watches flashbacks of her crashing in races and failing in physical activities] 

Supreme Intelligence: You’re flawed. Helpless. We saved you. 

[Carol falls back in the room] 

Supreme Intelligence: Without us, you’re only human. 

Carol Danvers: You’re right. I’m only human. 

[Carol starts remembering every time she got up from a fall] 

Supreme Intelligence: On Hala, you were reborn. Vers. 

[Carol holds a fragment of her dog tag that reads “Vers] 

Carol Danvers: My name is Carol. 


Post-modernism looks to muddy the waters, making the villain a little more tolerable, but at the cost of making the heroes a little less sterling. The Skrulls (at least these) are weary, fellow travelers just looking for a home free from Kree tyranny. The Kree take what they want because they are unchallenged by an unsuspecting Earth, but they do these things for their greater good.  My problem is not with the representation of Skrulls, nor with the Kree or Captain Marvel – who I can’t wait to see how they treat her run-in with Rogue now that Disney owns Fox, which owns the X-Men. My problem is with post-modernist villains. 

It was good ten years, or even twenty years ago. Not now. Not for comic book movies. Not for movies. It’s not daring, hip, new storytelling. It’s safe. It’s cliched. It’s tired. We need something new in villainy. What is it? I have no idea. Maybe we can go back to the white hat / black hat. Let’s dust that concept off. I’m not advocating moustache twirling villainy, but I’m no longer a fan of telling myself, “He’s got a point”. 

“But, Mr. Apathy!” I can hear you screaming at the screen. “The world isn’t like that!” 

I know. I know that people are complicated little things. That’s why I love writing about them. Maybe in my inky fumblings I can figure them out. I know that people do things for reasons that only makes sense to them. I’m just saying that your villain can be complex and engaging, but we don’t have to sympathize with them. 

As I write this, I know I am going to have to try to clarify my argument as I speed towards the deadline of before Thursday night. This might be as good as it gets. I’m going to try to expand on it later on. Right now, I am not completely caffeinated. More than likely I’m going to read this and wonder what was I thinking. 

Feel free to chime in through the comments, also check out the books on the right written by talented, good and charming people. Have a good day, and just remember: your boss is a Skrull. 

The Three Hundred and Thirty-First Post: The One Where I Try Really Hard to Maintain a Schedule!

I was going to try to continue writing my treatment for “God Loves, Man Kills”, but I can’t really come up with anything else. So, I erased it (I might get back to it) and almost launched into a rant about the lack of single books in fantasy, but I’m not really ready for that. I know that I need to maintain the schedule of something every Thursday. Don’t ask me about the cards – I’ve read ahead and they get rather dark. I might look for some other prompts. I can see why they were called “Hemingway Cards”. I almost expect to take out a card and read: “Pick your favorite way to kill yourself.” 

So – with that in mind, I am going to talk about something that you might not think I follow. 


I bought some at when it was at $5,000 and now it’s at $11,000. I’m going to double my investment from $50.00 to $110.00. I didn’t invest much, but it is nice to see a small gamble pay off a little. I’m not selling now, but I am trying to buy very little at this point. I know the bubble is going to pop soon, and when it does, I will hopefully have some money to buy more coin and sell it when high. I am a writer, not a good speculator. My stock portfolio will attest to it. There’s more red in it than a Crayola factory on fire. 

I’ve heard that the series “Chernobyl” is good, and I wonder if there will be any other attempts to mine Gen X nostalgia for stories. I think I know how my parents felt when they saw remakes of their series and movies. I wouldn’t mind a series based on the Challenger disaster. Hubris killed those astronauts. I mean – history now has become tearing down our idols, right? 

I hope you will forgive me rambling, but this is more about trying to maintain my schedule. In the rush and excitement of going to the Mall of America, I forgot to write a second posting to cover this week. 

The Mall of America. Holy cow. Is that place huge! On one of the walls is a series of statistics and one of them is that one lap around the mall is about 1.15 miles. Yes. Miles. I walked around each floor and I walked to the mall from my hotel. I walked 4.25 miles in one day. I walked more in two days (2.30 on the second day) than I have the whole month. Ouch…but I recommend going there. Shops for almost every taste – three different candy shops and a dealership. Yes. A Mercedes-Benz dealership. If I had the money, I could have had the ultimate souvenir: a sports car. 

One last thing: the final series of the show Legion is out. Thank god it has not lost any of its quirky weirdness, Go see it if you get the chance, It’s great. 

Well, I promise to write something a little more focused for next time. Thank you for your attention, and now I have to finish this screwdriver and make lunches for tomorrow. Good night, all. 

The Three Hundred and Thirtieth Post: The One Where I Make a Heartfelt Plea to Mr. Kevin Feige…

I’m going to give Disney some free advice about how to handle their incoming Fox X-Men properties. Let’s be honest – they need it because they’re going to do the same thing that Fox did (twice) and if this happens…I’m finished with the franchise. Mr. Feige – pay attention, please. This will be the only time I will give out free advice.




There are so many other stories that you can make. The great thing about the current MCU is that they’ve gone deep into the Marvel lore to find stories. Guardians of the Galaxy? Only the hardcore Marvel fans knew of it. Avengers? Holy cow…gathering a decade of stories, keeping everyone together and making an engaging, coherent storyline. Sheer genius, sir. Wrapping everything up in a satisfying way – giving the soldier the send-off he wanted? Gold.

Saying that…don’t do the Phoenix Saga. Yes, it is easily the most recognizable story from the X-Men. It is a great story. A tale of corrupting power, sacrifice and man’s place in the universe. It is the ultimate myth.

But there are others.

Allow me to introduce to you the one that is so relevant to today’s times and moral issues, even though it was in the 80’s (which says more about maintaining status quo than anything else): God Loves, Man Kills. Yes, there are some things in it that have come up in other X-Men films, but since we can all look away and mutter something about alternate realities. Now that the X-Men have come back home to the MCU, we can make this story as wide and as deep as we can.

For those of you who might have missed this, I am going to give you a quick summation lovingly cut and pasted from Wikipedia:


Magneto is investigating the murder of two mutant children who were killed by henchmen of the Reverend William Stryker. Stryker, who murdered his wife and newborn son after his son (a deformed mutant child) was born, seeks the wholesale extermination of mutant kind while presenting himself to the public as a fire and brimstone preacher, spreading a message claiming that mutants are abominations in the eyes of God. After a television debate with Professor Charles Xavier, Stryker (who knows that Xavier is a mutant) kidnaps him, forcing the X-Men to team up with Magneto to find their mentor.

Xavier has been hooked up to a machine that will use his psychic power to kill all the world’s mutants via cerebral hemorrhage. At a revival meeting, where a popular US Senator (who is a closeted mutant) is in attendance, Magneto and the X-Men confront Stryker and rescue Xavier. In the end, after Shadowcat and Nightcrawler successfully bait Stryker into admitting kidnapping Xavier and his plans for mutant genocide, Stryker is shot in the chest by a security guard when he tries to murder Shadowcat in public.

Magneto and the X-Men part ways, with Magneto politely turning down an offer by Xavier to join the X-Men and renounce evil. However, before he leaves, he reminds the X-Men that Stryker may have the final victory, as already his defenders rally to him as he awaits trial for his crimes.


Yes – there are a lot of things taken from this and glued on X-Men 2, but we can keep the base story: a demagogue playing to the fears of the masses and steering us towards the brink of war (civil or otherwise), people judged solely on appearance, the use of religion to justify murder – either of an individual or a group of people.  It’s sad that this comic is thirty-two years old and not a whole lot has changed.

We can make a lot of cosmetic changes – we don’t need William Striker. Call him Joseph Sparrow – Reverend Sparrow to his followers. He runs one of these mega-churches that dot the landscape like how grasshoppers can dot a wheat field, but his message is not right out of the Prosperity Playbook. Nope, he’s a Calvinist through and through. He believes that there are The Elect – people that God has set aside for salvation whether they want it or not. What makes them The Elect? Well, I can tell you what doesn’t. Shooting eye beams, reading minds and walking through walls is a quick and steady path to Hell. He preaches hellfire and brimstone that’s due to those that God has shunned. He calls them inhuman. He calls them minions of that Fallen Angel, that Wicked Serpent and the Prince of the Air. His message is getting out and getting more and more popular.

While the reverend doesn’t specifically say that the only good mutie is a dead mutie…he’s leaving a lot in between the lines. He’s got a follower who can read between those lines very well and has connections to people who think that the path to Heaven can be paved with broken skulls as well as gold. This will be our dragon and we’ll call him Peter. Peter is our holy head-knocker. His heart is on fire and his knuckles are bloody for Christ.

Professor Charles Xavier watches our Reverend carefully. Being a telepath, he’s aware of how powerful a group of people lined up for a common cause can be. He guides his pupils to try to be the better man. People like Reverend Sparrow will come and go, what matters is the community and that you serve it to the best of your abilities. There is someone else who is watching the growing popularity of the reverend.

Erik Magnus Lensherr, a.k.a. Max Eisehardt, a.k.a. Magneto. He’s like Xavier in that he knows the power of the mob, but unlike Xavier, it was a painful education.  He begins to make his plans, waiting for the trigger (literally) to be pulled. He gathers his own army of the dispossessed and the downtrodden mutants. We are coming to a growing, three-way conflict. One that will change how the U.S. and possibly the world deals with the growing Mutant Menace.

I won’t do the whole film treatment here, but I’m just going a little into it so that it can be demonstrated that this story can work. It can be the end of Phase 5 (?) and not only involve the X-Men. We can have something like this lurking in the background for the other films, along with the other mutants. Something that would make the ones that are in the know eager for the next film to come out and have the non-Marvel people watch the films again to see the breadcrumb trail leading to the last movie.

Mr. Feige – this movie can be done. Should be done. Needs to be done and done by your more than capable staff of writers (I’m also free if you want me to come in and be a story editor. Free timewise, but relatively inexpensive moneywise). Having the X-Men and their properties is the chance to widen the Marvel Universe and open so many little known and compelling stories (Illyana Rasputin, for example). Please do the right thing. Please, please stay away from Dark Phoenix.

Thank you for your time. All of you. Check out my books on the right side of the screen. Grab one and see how good I am to write “God Loves, Man Kills” the movie…or at least the novelization.

The Three Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Post: The One Where I Bare My Soul…

Card 2: Describe a time you felt lonely

I am going to include a trigger warning with this posting: there will be frank talk about depression and thoughts of suicide. If you feel that reading this will lead you down a dark path: DO NOT READ THIS. Close the window and come back next Wednesday. I promise to have something different. Also – if you are having issues with depression or suicide: GET HELP. GET HELP. GET HELP. Call 1-800-273-8255 or go here for suicide prevention services. Talk to someone. Get the help you need.

My time in college was a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time I was really far from home. I had a rather…tied down sort of life before I left for college. I was out of the house with no one to stand over me demanding attention. The freedom was giddy. As a theatre arts major, I didn’t have anything too hard for my first year. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have made a lot of changes.

At this point, I was feeling like I had finally come into my own. I knew what I wanted to do, I had friends and I was back engaging in one of my favorite hobbies without having to look over my shoulder out of fear. I was engaged with my work (even if it felt a little simple for me) and living on my own recognizance. If I wanted to stay up to 3 A.M., I could – by the way, I was a bit of a night owl (still am). This was it. It could not get any better for me.

Then I fell in love. It got much better. This was my first…adult love. I wanted to marry her. I was completely comfortable with her. We shared all the same interests – books, movies and TV. This was one of those “loves that define the age” sort of things.
Yeah…that lasted about two years.

Did I take it hard? Yes. Oh, yes. It was my first real love. It was hot. It was passionate. It was nothing I had ever felt before. It came crashing down over a summer. I scraped and scrambled to get the funds to come back for the penultimate year. Everything at that point starting drifting in black and white. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that I was entering a depression that I wouldn’t completely get out of for several years. It continues to affect me to this day.

When I got back, I thought that the friends I had made would have my back, as it were. That year of college taught me a lot. It taught me that in the end, you are the only person you can rely on. My friends – the ones that I thought could count on to at least tell me to buck up and that you’ll get better – ditched me just as quickly. She stole everything from me. Friends, joy and love – all gone.

The people that stepped up to try to fill the void – the other guys in my hall – did so, but did it in a ‘well, we have to’ sort of way. I might as well have had everything packed away and get sent to reside in the stables off campus. I got some booze out of what would be my final year on campus (the only love affair that continues on from college), but for the most part, it was just me on campus, muddling by and looking to end up being a fifth-year senior.

My family…well…that was a deeper betrayal. All my life, I had been told that I could always depend on family. I could always hang my hat in the chaos and feel that I was safe from the outside world. Surely – they would trip over themselves to defend me.
I am going to admit that I never wrote about this to anyone at home. I also understand that since the family didn’t know what was happening, they weren’t able to help. I get that. None of them are mind-readers. I get it.

However, when trying to reconnect with my family and speaking to my mom about what’s been going on. We drifted to what was going on with college. What she told me in the course of that conversation proved to me that one can only trust themselves.

“The dean called me and said to come get you. I told him that you were going to stay there.”

I was having a mental and emotional breakdown. I spent my last two dollars to buy razor blades to slash my wrists. I was sleeping away entire weekends. When I was awake, I was overeating and drinking to excess trying to feel happy again. I was joking with people to maintain the façade, but inside I was the walking dead.

For my final year of college, no matter how many people I surrounded myself with, I was completely alone.

There is a happy ending to this, believe it or not. I got out, got away from that toxic environment. I lost weight – diet and exercise, yada, yada, yada…. I’m not back to my high school weight, but I am far, far from 300+ pounds. I’m reading Marcus Aurelius (something I could have used earlier) and pursuing writing which is something I should have done from the get-go. I have gotten far more comfortable with the notion of being alone to the point where I prefer that state. I’m not whole and healthy, but I am doing better.

Well, thanks for coming by. Sorry that this was a bit of a downer. Hopefully, the next card will be a bit cheerier. I can write comedy – my book The Dreaded Day Job is still on sale through Amazon, along with my other stuff. Tell you what – regardless of the gravity of the next card, I’m going to find the comedy. It’s there, I just have to uncover it.

The Three Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Blog: The One Where I Try Something New and Non-disastrous!

Here’s the deal: I just got these Hemingway Cards, which is simply 100 cards with creative prompts for bloggers, writers and other creative types. I am going to take up the challenge of one card a day for the next 100 weeks. No skipping. No “this is a little too sensitive for me”. A ‘fearless inventory’, as it were. This is something to try to get me into the habit of writing a little something every day. Five hundred words a day for one hundred days. I’m not going to just work with the cards. I will interrupt this stream to either write about a movie (I haven’t forgotten about Black Panther. Still trying to get my thoughts together about it, but it’s a good posting and I can’t wait to show it to you all) or a book idea. 

So – without further ado. The first of one hundred cards: 


What Qualities Do You Admire In Yourself? 

facepalm pic

Well, this is going to be a good one. I’m actually uncomfortable about talking about just myself, but this was to be a fearless inventory. 

What do I like about myself? Give me a topic, a sentence or a picture and I will spin it into a story in about 20 minutes. The writer Harlan Ellison would do this on a radio program. Someone would call in and give him an opening line. The radio station would go to commercial, he’d come back with a finished short story. Right out of his head. For me to write a short story, I have to sweat blood, make a deal with the Devil on the Crossroads just to get it under 5,000 words. I like writing short stories, and I have some good ones. The format I enjoy is the novel. The slow build, the gathering of the threads and the reveal. 

My mind is always focused on storytelling. I watch a movie and see the beats, see where the acts begin and end, see the tropes and try to see how they get subverted (if it happens). I read a novel and examine the archetypes of the characters, see what’s been tweaked. I can’t stop it. Even on some of the New Media stuff – Critical Role and other things, I examine it and pick it apart. 

Is there a downside to this? Oh, yeah – there is a reason why TV Tropes opens with the sentence: TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Once you see them, you can’t unsee them. Once you know them, you’ll see them everywhere and now you know how the story ends. On the upside, now that you know how the blocks are put together, you can change things. Take the castle and turn it into a car wash. The princess saves the dragon. Work it. 

I just have ideas constantly. Not all of them are good. Heck, almost all of them are garbage, but much like my house I can’t bear to throw things away. One day, everything is going to be in a book. They’re all my children. My wonderful, hyper-ADHD and sometimes armed children. I’ve got many notebooks filled with one sentence notions and bits of dialogue that pop in my head day in and day out. 

Note to anyone getting into any writing: fiction, journalism or anything else – carry a notebook with you at all times. Even it it’s a flip up fifty-page grocery list maker. Carry it. Don’t rely on your memory. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down in front of a computer with a great idea only to have it flit away when I put fingers to keys. Worse thing ever to experience is that moment of emptiness. Please don’t suffer as I have. 

Are there any other qualities that I like? Any physical qualities? Umm…no…not really. I’m shlubby and trying to get better about that. I go to the gym (occasionally) and I try to eat a bit healthier (Domino’s counts, right? No? OK). Like the line goes: My body is a temple. Not a good temple – one of those temples over-run by monkeys. 

Well, thanks for stopping by – ignore the monkeys in the rafters, it’s their union break. 



The Three Hundred Thirteenth Post: The One Where I Remind Publishers About the Loneliest Number


I was trying to find a book for a friend of mine for Christmas. She’s into fantasy, so I thought this would be an easy matter of grabbing something from an online bookstore. I typed in a couple of keywords to narrow down the search. I privately clapped myself on the back for getting the gift-giving ball started relatively early (December 11th for those of you playing at home).

How foolish I was.

As I went down the list, almost every single book was part of a trilogy, quadrilogy or series of six or more books. I didn’t want to give my friend another series to keep up with. I hate to sound like that guy trying to get those dang kids off my lawn with their rock and roll music, but I miss single books. I want everything wrapped up in a single volume. I want to set a book  down when I am done and move on to something new. I don’t want to put a book down and must wonder when the next one will be out (Martin, I’m looking at you).

I understand why: having a series keeps readers coming back. I don’t really begrudge the publishers for this trick. With profit margins shrinking, they will do whatever they have to do to get sales.  Nothing wrong with that.


I would like to see some single fantasy novels, like I said earlier. Especially in fantasy or science-fiction where the field is wide open for such a thing. I wonder if this happens in any other genre? Is there an expectation for series in romance? Do agents ask their clients if they have a series for Harlequin Romance? I can’t think of many romance series…then again, I don’t read romance. I don’t think horror has such a problem with this. I can’t recall any series of the top of my head. Personally, I don’t count The Dark Tower series as horror. That’s Stephen King’s addition to epic fantasy.

Speaking of horror…I saw Bird Box. I don’t understand what makes it terrifying to people. I can understand the attempt at some Lovecraftian horror, and they gave it a running shot. Unfortunately, the peril didn’t seem to be…rising to the level the movie’s desire. It is adapted from a novel. I think I’ll get it later and read it. Maybe the novel is better. Books tend to be. Yes, I am biased. I might also re-watch the movie. I just never felt frightened. It wasn’t like The Thing, where we knew there was something out there…and it might look like us. It wasn’t like The Ring where technology made to serve us instead serves a deathless evil…and demands a sacrifice. They just showed up, threw everything in a tizzy because – reasons.

Well, I am going to sign off.  With any luck I will have some help in maintaining a regular schedule of posting – Saturdays will be when I scribble something (except for this one) for posting. I’ll put up something. Might not be storytelling or reviews, but hopefully it will be something.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good day.