The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

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Elias Rosner

Elias Rosner has 14 articles published.

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Elias Rosner is a Senior English/Creative Writing Major here at Goucher. When he's not stalking the Goucher woods seeking serenity, he's writing feverishly in the hopes something interesting will be said. He's always on the lookout for a good puzzle or story and is still not used to writing about himself in the third person.

The Webcomics Vacuum

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The Webcomics Vacuum

Webcomics are amazing medium, filled will all sorts of experimentation, talent and a diversity of stories, people, and topics that make it wholly unlike any other sector of comics. These comics, though, are severely underrepresented in the wider comic journalism world. Webcomics just aren’t given the space alongside their print counterparts on sites such as IGN, CBR, or the site I work for, Multiversity Comics. The question remains then, why?

Well, that’s what I’m going to try to talk about in this article. Before I try to tackle that, I want to give you an idea of what the webcomic review landscape actually looks like instead of making broad, seemingly baseless claims.

(My Best Approximation of) The State of the Industry

Regardless of what my prior statements may have implied, webcomics are not invisible to comic review sites, as evidenced by the multitude of “best of” webcomic/digital comic lists, and even a category on NPR’s yearly summer series, “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels.” Yet, once the award season has come and gone, they disappear into the ether, with nary a discussion to be see. We hear all about the fantastic in blurbs and yet we come away knowing only a title, a small description and the knowledge that it has caught the attention of enough people. Where is the breakdown, the lengthier analysis of what makes them award worthy? For those that aren’t on the lists but are no less good, where are the highlights of these? Where is the coverage of the new, the strange, the historic?

On sites with recognizable names? Nowhere. Or, more specifically, nowhere prominent or dedicated. Gizmodo has a webcomics tag but it’s sparsely populated. One of its sister sites, Kotaku, has one as well, although it hasn’t had an article since 2016. Newsarama had a column called “The Wild World of Webcomics” which only ran for one, possibly two, years (2011-12), according to the tag on their site. The most recent, and most consistent, webcomics column is from The Beat, though even that one is inconsistent in its updates, with last year being an obvious push to cover more webcomics than in previous years as a part of the site’s “A Year of Free Comics” series. While it seems to have shifted to a bi-weekly schedule since the start of the new year instead of the wildly ambitious attempt at DAILY REVIEWS FOR A YEAR – an attempted feat to be commended – this still isn’t close to the coverage that “regular” comics get.

There are, however, a few dedicated webcomic review sites. These sites tend to be lone blogs run by one person or, in rarer cases, a small team of people. Some are now defunct, such as Wild Webcomic Review, while others, like The Webcomic Overlook, are still alive and kicking. These are also examples of blogs that take a broad, general look at webcomics while there are others take a more specific look. For example, the blog Yes Homo boosts and talks about webcomics that contain positive representation of queer characters.

The only problem here? As is the case with every other site I’ve highlighted, their output isn’t exactly consistent or wide reaching. This shouldn’t be surprising, as they are run by one individual, in their spare time; one cannot expect a single person to be able to comprehensively and consistently review webcomics. The methodology with which these blogs approach webcomics plays into this as well but that is a topic for another day.

As with everything on the internet, I’m sure this doesn’t even come close to touching on the wide variety of smaller blogs that look at webcomics or the scattered posts among other comic review sites. That being said, this is it. These are the biggest, the most comprehensive, the most…well, professional places to find webcomic reviews/analysis on the internet. Again, it’s always possible I’ve missed something but in terms of widespread coverage, there ain’t much.

So, What’s the Deal Here?

My best guesses, and yes, these are just educated guesses, are that there are five major reasons for this lack of coverage. One is that webcomics are a tough medium to review in any sort of regular capacity due to a lack of consistent methodology. Do you review it one chapter at a time? What happens if a chapter is hundreds of pages long? Do you do it by month? Or by number of pages? If something updates frequently, does that mean it gets reviewed more? These questions, and so many more, have to be asked by each reviewer and picking one changes the frequency one can review a webcomic or set of webcomics.

The second is that due to the nature of the medium – lone creators working in their free time on passion projects instead of professionals with an editorial staff – there is a resistance to taking a critical eye to these projects and rightly so. It’s one thing to critique a professionally published DC or Marvel or Image comic and it’s another to critique a single page of a new artist who may or may not be young and just messing around in the internet age.

Third, webcomics are the new kids on the block. They’ve been around in their “modern” form since the publication of Scott McCloud’s fascinating, divisive, and wildly, hilariously outdated yet still relevant book Reinventing Comics in 2001, according to The Comic Journal’s article “The History of Webcomics.” I do realize this article is from 2011 making it, much like Reinventing Comics, wildly and hilariously outdated near the end but it still gives a good, brief look into the webcomic world as seen from over half a decade ago.

But I digress. Webcomics, despite being new, have found their ways in my and many other internet denizens’ lives. Yet they are still fairly niche, more so than “regular” comics. This is in spite of having been around in a similar format for nearly a century and currently seeing a golden age in the public consciousness. The market for reviews of a niche part of a niche medium isn’t exactly a large one.

Hell, even indie comics, as in unconnected to a named publisher like Black Mask or Aftershock, have a hard time finding space alongside the other “floppies” on review sites. You have to have a big name – Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Carla Speed McNeil – to even be considered for the list.

Fourth, due to the lack of centralization I touched on earlier, finding webcomics, especially new webcomics, is a difficult task. There are, as far as I’m aware, nothing like the Diamond previews for webcomics. If a new series begins, you have to know someone who knows that creator in order to find out or be trawling through the web/hosting platform to find it.

There is also no list of past, published titles that can be easily searched. It’s all disseminated via word of mouth on the part of the reader, the creator or the collective/platform these comics are a part of. Each webcomic is its own world, sometimes a part of a stellar system comprised of many other worlds, other times all alone in the vacuum of space. Travel between worlds only works if you can see the other planets or take a long, hard look at the stars in the sky. Otherwise, you’ll never quite know what’s out there.

And, finally, it could simply be these sites just don’t have the desire to or the staff to cover a wide variety of webcomics. Here is my most speculative point. I do not know the staff numbers of other sites nor do I know the readership numbers on the sites I have cited in this article. However, based on the volume of articles and the number of different contributor names I’ve seen, I can make an educated guess as to the size of the various, non-webcomic focused sites.

Some sites have a small staff. Keeping up with news, “regular” comics and other content such as comics-adjacent TV & Movie reviews takes a lot of work and there may not be enough time in the day to cover them. Additionally, I’m sure a lot of these sites don’t make a lot of money, what with advertising and the way ads work on the internet being what it is, and so, unlike a newspaper/newspaper site, keeping staff members on retainer that work all day isn’t feasible. Again, this is just an educated guess. I don’t know how much money these sites make nor who is full-time nor who gets paid per post.

So, if a site doesn’t have the staff to spare to diversify their content to cover a notoriously tricky, decentralized and niche piece of a market, it stands to reason that there isn’t any desire to push for any consistent or comprehensive – an impossibility, I know – or critical webcomic representation. It isn’t worth it to delve into the history of anything webcomic related or do a retrospective on something like “Digger” or “8-bit Theater.”

If it sounds like I’m being too harsh on these sites, believe me I’m not trying to be harsh or critical of them. This is just the reality of the situation. I could also be wrong about these reasons, although I suspect that some combination of these factors is the truth. Motivations are a complicated and many times subconscious thing, guessing at them is a shot in the dark. Do not think ill of them for their mistakes, they are only human.

Photo credit: Google Images

Dining Hall Nearly Done, Meal Plans Get Makeover

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Come fall, the campus will be different. Fences will be gone, halls will be re-purposed and the center of on-campus dining will shift. What this dining will be like in practice is hard to say but there are plenty of concrete details that can be shared before the fall semester.

Meal Plan Changes

Current state of construction (top) and visualization (bottom) of the new dining hall, which will include a Mongolian grill station. Photo credit: Linda Barone

To begin, let’s talk about the new meal plans. For the upcoming year, the campus has shifted from a semester-long block meal plan to a weekly one. We used to have seven different plans (five if kosher and commuter are excluded) which have now been consolidated into four different plans (three if the commuter is excluded). The new plans are 10, 14, and 19 meals a week with $250 dining dollars and a commuter plan that is exclusively dining dollars although the amount is yet to be determined.

A quick comparison of meals (assuming there are around 15.75 weeks in a semester) shows that the old 100, 120, 150 Kosher and 190 plans have been cut, leaving just the 150, 240 and a modified commuter plan. While they are not exactly one to one, the 10 block is roughly equivalent in number of meals to the 150, the 14 to the 240, and the 19 to a new, 300-ish meal plan. In terms of money, the new 10 (at $2,550 per semester) is approximately equal to the old 150 plan, the 14 ($2,920) to the 190 and the 19 ($3,315) to the 240. All figures are from the 2017-2018 Goucher Meal Plan Information Sheet and the current Goucher Meal Plan website.

What this means is that, on the whole, prices per meal per plan are down, and those on the old 150 plan, if staying on the 10, will pay slightly less than last year. This does mean that the cheapest plan is now more expensive than it used to be. However, if you do need to change your meal plan, you will be able to change mid-year. Additionally, all first years will be required to be on the 19-meal plan. Norman Zwagil, a Manager for Bon Appetit, said this decision was made in order to reduce food insecurity on campus and to make it easier to manage meals week by week.

Dining Hall Changes

On the dining hall side of things, Stimson, Huebeck, and The Van will all be closed starting next fall, replaced with the new dining facility in the building that used to be Pearlstone. Alice’s will remain open and the Gopher Hole, a late-night hangout that has been closed since construction began, will re-open. There has not been any confirmation on the Gopher Hole’s re-opening date as it is not run by Bon Appetit.

Inside the new dining hall will be two areas to grab food, one requiring a meal swipe and one that takes dining dollars as well as meal swipes (during certain hours). The one that takes dining dollars will be located where the old bookstore used to be and will function like the old Passport Café (Pearlstone) used to and how Huebeck currently functions. There will be grab and go

Pizza oven in the new dining hall under construction. Photo Credit: Linda Barone

options, both hot and cold, as well as a full visible grill, a pizza station, an ice cream station, an entrée station, and an expanded deli/salad station. Two registers will service this section.

The other dining hall will be upstairs and there will be two stations where you can swipe to enter the food area. According to Norman, it will be all-you-care-to-eat and will contain a multitude of stations, such as the Mongolian Grill (which can make stir fry), the Bakery that is currently in Huebeck, a Kosher station, Global Bowl, Entrée, Allergen Free, Salad bar/deli, Breakfast, Piatti (pizza, calzones, pasta) and two beverage stations. How this will be laid out within the space has not been made clear as of yet.

Another new aspect of dining will be mobile ordering, which will allow a student to call up the dining hall and they will prepare the order for you. While details on this are still being figured out, it seems this will be useful for those with allergies and those on the go.

In terms of what will be done with Huebeck, Linda Barone, Associate Director of Planning, Design, and Construction, says that they’ll be able to open the wall back up and use it as a multipurpose space. “The thing that’s missing most right now on campus is general meeting space, spaces for presentation, so that space, when you open up the wall, can hold about 250 people. With the wall closed, each side can hold about 100. The lounge [in Huebeck] will become—what is currently now seating—will turn back into a lounge.” As for the Stimson dining hall, she says that they’re taking out all the equipment, all of the refrigerators will be gone and that the tables in the middle will also be gone.

 

 

 

Black Bolt Vol. 1: Hard Times Review

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While the Inhuman royal family’s live-action debut last fall was, erm, let’s be generous and call it hot garbage left out on a summer’s day, do not fret dear Marvel fans! The royal king of the Inhumans, Blackagar Boltington (yes, that is his real name) is fairing much better in the comics. Well, better quality wise as his solo-title sees him suffer quite a bit at the hands of the creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward and the villainous Jailer.

As an introduction to the character of Black Bolt, you can’t do any better than this volume. Collecting the first six issues of Ahmed and Ward’s twelve issue run, the volume is a thriller seeped in cosmic psychedelia complete with a jailbreak, a colorful cast of characters, a deeply flawed main character, and a heartbreaking redemption arc. If you’ve never had any experience with Black Bolt and the Inhumans, the first issue gives you all you need to know through some truly creative and beautiful panels. One such page is modeled after an MC Escher painting and sees Black Bolt walking through the interstellar prison he’s been trapped in. In the background are bits of who he is and how he got here and, later in the series, we learn more and more about his tragic backstory.

Upon first opening the volume, you are greeted by a fairly simple page. The first panel is a black box with some small, white text. It is short. It gives you all you need to know. The next three panels elaborate, slowly revealing that someone has been bound, chained, muzzled. He has no memory of who he is or where he is. The next page sees a voice yell “Name your crimes! Repent your crimes!” before the muzzled man is shocked.

He remembers that he is not a criminal but a hero. A king. He remembers this as he falls into unconsciousness… or something worse. Upon turning the page, the sequence repeats, albeit differently. We know more information this time and as the repetitions continue, we, along with Black Bolt, gain our footing. We began by being disoriented, stuck in the deep black-blue darkness but now, through the patterns, we are no longer confused, and we are ready to escape the cycle. From there the adventures, or more accurately the trials and tribulations, of Blackagar Boltington, the Midnight King, the Most August Ruler of the Inhumans, begins.

In just these few pages, Ward and Ahmed show their mastery of their respective crafts as well as what a truly magnificent creative team can accomplish. Christian Ward’s art is just gorgeous to behold, and Ahmed’s sharp dialogue manages to be funny, heartfelt, dramatic, and most of all, genuine, all at once. Every character is fully realized through Ward’s command of posing and facial expressions. The prison they are trapped within is ever-shifting, massive, and oppressive which Ward manages to capture and convey perfectly.

The comic is bathed in deep neons, both bright and dark, and Ward’s lineless digital art gives the world that constantly shifting feel I just mentioned. He turns every page into a canvas, from the largest battles to the smallest conversations. What is most impressive about his work, though, is his paneling. Let me give an example from Issue four. Crusher Creel and Black Bolt have been chained up and are just talking.
In this scene, Ward does something unconventional for the series so far – he sticks to a nine-panel grid for the Crusher focused flashback sequences. Anytime Black Bolt or present Crusher are in the panel, the comic breaks from the very rigid grid. Let me explain. On one page, the top three panels are laid out as you would expect for that grid: all the same size, all spaced out the same way. Then we get Black Bolt and Crusher talking once again in these skinny panels that are recessed into the center of the page more than the grid panels. Then, for the final panel of the page (which is a shot of a cop car from the past), it is back to the perfect grid panel, placed as if the whole page were a normal nine-panel grid.

The present is visually distinct from Crusher’s past, as one is constructed, a story that has neat delineations, while the other is the present, a messy and tense time. As such, as the flashbacks creep closer to present day, the grid starts to bend and break. There are still nine panels per page but by the second to last full flashback page, the grid morphs, growing to show the increasingly complex nature of Crusher’s life. When we get Black Bolt’s single flashback page, the panels are a jumbled mess, strewn about the page, reflecting Black Bolt’s own view of himself at the moment. Is he a good man? He does not know. Nor does he know how to arrange his past.

Honestly, issue four is probably the strongest of all the issues in this volume and considering all six issues have the same level of quality, that is high praise. This volume and this series is an analysis of Black Bolt, of what it means to be a father, of what it means to be a prisoner. Of what it means to be a good person and how one can reclaim goodness for themselves.
Beautifully written, beautifully drawn and heartbreakingly bittersweet, this is comics at some of its finest. Give it a read.

Featured Image Credit: Google Photos

The Shape of Water (2017): A Review

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Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: The Atlantic

Yes, I am aware that this is a review of a movie that is over a month old. Yes, I am aware that I have missed the zeitgeist of this movie by many weeks. And yes, I am aware that the initial hype that built through the limited release schedule over the course of December has long passed, having culminated in a wide theatrical release in early January. However, I was unable to see the film until recently and, considering how long it has been since it came out, I’ve decided to forgo a regular review in favor of a conversation about the craft of this movie and the commentaries it provides through its set design and character choices.
The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, is nothing short of a modern monster masterpiece. A spiritual sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, the film that directly inspired it, the movie takes all the tropes of a classic monster film and filters them for a modern audience. However, this is not a monster movie at heart. There is nothing horrific about this film, save for the small wounds that powerful humans inflict upon those who lack that power. There is no dark reflection of our fears contained within the monster. There is no cautionary tale about the dangers of science or nuclear war. There are only lonely people, trying to find comfort in a world that hates them for the things it perceives they lack. But perhaps that is the horror of the film.
Regardless, there is a theme to the film that is found in these thoughts: the theme of completion. The protagonist, Elisa, feels incomplete; she has been told all her life that because she cannot speak, there is something wrong with her. Her neighbor, and one of her only two friends, Giles, desires love but cannot have it – no man will give it to him in an age of repression. They both require companionship, and while they have each other, it is an incomplete match. They are two halves of a whole but, as the set design reflects, there is always a wall between them.
The Shape of Water also works within its setting to create a world that asks us to examine our fascination with the idealized time that was the ‘50s. Creature from the Black Lagoon came out in 1954, and the aesthetic of this film is a direct commentary on the setting of the original as well as the constructed version of the 50s we have bought into ever since. Our villain, Colonel Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, lives in a perfect 50s home with a perfect 50s wife and two perfect 50s children. It even has the pop art clock that looks like the sun exploding and bright, garish orange walls. He is representative of all the horrible things that mid-20th century (and present day) American cinema has swept under the rug – sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, racism, ableism, sexism, etc. The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the past but also does not revel in them.
We focus instead on the characters who would have been marginalized and trivialized in Creature from the Black Lagoon instead of the traditional sci-fi “hero” embodied by Strickland. Yes, Strickland is more villainous than traditional Hollywood monster movie heroes, but he reflects the worst aspects of those “heroes.” He is also couched in the “best” of the ‘50s, juxtaposing that which the American consciousness has deemed as “a simpler, better time” with the horrors those pastels mask.
In contrast to Strickland’s “beautiful past” aesthetic, the rest of the film is steeped in dark, art deco architecture and design. Yet, these are the moments and locations that provide the most warmth and humanity. In the dark corners and hidden locations, we find ourselves. We find our humanity; we find out where we stand. These locations are, however, still dirty, still imperfect. And there is no better example of this reflection than in Giles’ obsession with old Hollywood musicals. He needs them to bring meaning to his life, to bring companionship and to distract him from the world he lives in. He cannot handle the reality of the civil rights rallies, preferring to live in a world that is blissfully unaware of the socials ostracization he faces as a gay man. He wants to live within the perfect fabrication he creates with each Jell-O ad he draws. He is a fallible character, willfully complicit in a system that marginalizes others as well as himself because he does not want to see the harshness of the world. He wants, much like we often do, to see the world as an old Hollywood musical: “perfect,” simple, uncomplicated, and filled with problems that have simple solutions.
At its core, The Shape of Water is a romantic drama that just so happens to feature an amphibious man as the love interest. It is a beautifully constructed movie, unapologetic in its inspirations and one of the most fulfilling films I have seen in a long time. If you can, see this film in theaters. It has much to love and much love to give.

Argyle Tempeh

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God damn hipster restaurants with their god damned hipster food and their cutesy names for their cutesy dishes. Poison! Societal Poison! That’s what this place is! God! Ten minutes sitting on repurposed barrels and not a waiter in sigh- Finally! a waiter.

“Oh, welcome,” they say, as if I have a choice to be here. “I’m your dining facilitator, Graysen, note that’s with an A and an E. In that order. We do not use menus here. Instead, we present for you a dining itinerary with three experiences on it. You will not pay for the experiences. Instead, there is a suggested donation of $40 per seat.”

God damn hipster restaurants-

“Your food stylist, Moonstoneshadow, has prepared for you three different locally sourced dishes: A deconstructed Gerald salad, Zucchini spaghetti ala Mace, and finally Argyle Tempeh served with an avocado black garlic thousand island aioli.”

-with their god damned hipster food-

“The animals that have given up their freedom for your meal are Gerald, Mace, and Argyle. Gerald was an antibiotic free, five-year-old hen from the Jamisdale farm where they grew up happy and healthy wandering the vast fields. Mace was a grass-fed, free-rage, gluten-free, organic cow, prepared in a paleo-friendly style. Argyle was a puffer-fish, who lived their life roaming the vast Atlantic Shelf and caught in a humane, low-energy style and delivered to us through a fair-trade network and-”

– and their cutesy names for their cutesy dishes! Like I give a shit where my food came from, so long as it tastes good. Why did Arsonay drag me out to this place? And what’s with the décor? Taxidermy and black and white photos of spoons and half eaten food? Ugh. Fine. Fine. Calm down. You’re doing a good thing accompanying her here. Smile. It’s just one meal.

“-what would you like paired with meal: bitters or tonic water?”

Wait, shit, were they talking to me?

“Uhhhhhhhhhh, you got any coffee?” I ask. Arsonay raises her eyebrows in disbelief. Crap baskets. I guess that’s not a question you ask here. Greysan, or was it Graysen, looks mildly peeved but that could just be their vertical bridge piercing.

“Unfortunately, tonight we only have bitters or tonic water. Anything else would sour the experience.”

Shit on a brick. “Ok. Then I’ll take the tonic water without the tonic.” I flash a smile and fight the urge to scream. Graysen walks away and I turn to Arsonay, who has been playing with the candle in the center of the stump that acts as our table.

“Do you visit here often, cuz?” I ask, warming my face up with another smile.

“Nah. It just popped up in the last couple weeks or so but it sounded so quaint that I had to bring you here on your visit.”

“Oh. Joy.” I say, my confidence in this place waning even more than it already was.

An hour and two dis-, I mean experiences, later and I’m finally finishing the salad. As much as I hate to admit it, the food has been pretty damn good. Graysen appears, two short spears in hand, their tips flat and angled towards us. They take away the now-empty mason jar, replacing it with the spear. They also take the chessboard that experience two came on. On the spear is the tempeh in all its soy block glory. I take one bite of Argyle and suddenly the fish is living up to his name. Arsonay, the spears, the weird-ass taxidermy and black and white images of half eaten food – all are now fitted with a brand new brown and green diamond layer.

Arsonay is screaming something. I can’t tell what it is but I can tell it’s not good.

“Hey. Asshat,” a voice says. I look around to try to pinpoint it.

“Down here, chuckle fuck!” I look down at the spear, which is melting just a tiny bit, and see a whole puffer-fish smoking a cigar. I’d rub my eyes but I can’t seem to move my arms or legs.

“Yeah, the toxin’ll do that. But hey, look on the bright side,” the fish says, floating in front of me, “at least it’s not enough to kill ya.”

I want to yell at the fish but it’d do no good. I’m no longer in the restaurant. Instead, I’m under the sea, staring at schools and schools of silver fish. They’re all so pretty under the sparkling sun, surrounded by all sorts of creatures; pink coral, Acadian redfish, yellow-finned and green-finned tuna, not to mention the vast expanses of blue and black sea. Then, out of fucking nowhere, Argyle is back, but this time he’s suspended in the mouth of a Wobbegong shark. He speaks again, the cigar in his mouth still lit.

“Yeah, not scientifically accurate but what the hey, it’s your hallucination.”

The Wobbegong, a toothless, flat kind of beast, just swims away and I’m left floating. That doesn’t last long as I’m suddenly jerked back to the ground.

I wake up and I’m in the back of an ambulance, the sirens getting ready to murder my eardrums. Arsonay is sitting next to me wringing her hands. I clear my throat and the medic begins doing whatever it is that medics do while Arsonay starts to apologize.

“I’ll be fine,” I tell her, “but next time, I’m picking the restaurant.”

Stanger Things 2: Review

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Halloween: the time of spooks and scares, of tricks and treats, of strange otherworldly monsters and telekinetic girls. That’s right my friends; dust off those conspiracy boards and strap in for the second season to last year’s surprise Netflix hit, Stranger Things. I’ll be doing my damnedest to avoid spoilers, but there’s no guarantee. If you haven’t watched season two (or season one for that matter), proceed at your own risk.

Stranger Things 2 “was a little bit overstuffed…but there was a lot to love about it.” Credit: Google Images

For those of you who don’t know what Stranger Things is, it is a Netflix-original 80s-style small-town horror/sci-fi show. Think of it as a scarier, more supernatural version of Goonies or Stand by Me. Season One introduced us to our main cast and the central mystery/conceit of the show: the Disappearance of Will Byers, the appearance of a young girl named Eleven and her telekinetic/psychic powers, and the Upside Down. It was a tightly constructed season that resolved its main plot while leaving open the doors to expand the world and answer a lot of unanswered questions.
Now, over a year later, we have the answer to some of those questions as well as a whole host of others. Season Two does not possess the tight narrative of Season One, but it does have the advantage of knowing that it’ll probably get a season three. Therefore, it can afford to think on a larger time-scale. A lot of this has to do with the increase in the number of plot threads we get, along with the increase of characters in the cast.
We’ve got the main crew— Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will— and each of them get their own mini-arcs. Lucas and Max, Dustin and Dart, Will and Joyce and the fallout of Season One, and Mike….is pretty sidelined this season, but considering he was the main focus of Season One, that’s ok. It gave the rest of the cast a chance to grow and to expand, which is exactly what we needed, enabling us to finally see more of the other families.
The other plots are split between Eleven and  Sheriff Hopper (whose plots converge and diverge throughout the whole season), along with Jonathan, Nancy and Steve, who fulfill the fandom’s promise of “Justice for Barb” and resolve their lingering love triangle. I’m glad that the creators addressed both of those issues and hopefully this was the wrap up we needed on those plot threads before we move on to others. This season also brings back everyone’s favorite character: Nail Bat!
On a more serious note, I think this season was a little bit overstuffed with all of these moving pieces, but there was a lot to love about it. Steve’s character arc continues here, and I’m so thankful for the nuance they are giving his character. He could have easily been the shitty boyfriend that he originally started out as in the beginning of the first season, but this season gave him a slow arc of character growth. He isn’t perfect, exemplified by the advice he gives Dustin on how to get girls and his own thoughts on love; but he has moved beyond the sex-obsessed douchebag we were first introduced to.
Bob was also a fun addition to the cast and exemplified peak-Dad characteristics of any character other than Mike’s. But out of all the new characters, new girl Max was the best and a true joy to watch. Her ‘brother’ (whose name I can’t remember so I’ll just call him by his key traits: Toxic Masculinity & Creepy Charmer) was easily the worst part of the season. He served no purpose other than to be an example of the bad guy that Steve could have been, failing to bring anything new to the show; at best, he’s a plot device for Max and Steve.
Speaking of unnecessary additions, Episode Seven was most definitely a misstep for the series. It broke from the established format of jumping between plot points to slowly build tension; instead it spent an entire episode focused on Eleven and Eight, a new character who really irked me. By spending the whole episode on this, we don’t have the layered storytelling we’ve gotten throughout the rest of the show. There were at least three cuts in the first twenty minutes where I expected us to cut away to another storyline to give us a breather, but we never get that. Instead, we get more of Eight and her self-righteous attitude. She serves as a foil to Eleven, as someone who grew up without anyone to hold her back or to teach her anything about compassion. She has no remorse and pretends to care about Eleven, but her only concern is her own agenda (at least at the onset). By the end of the episode, it’s apparent that Eleven’s presence has had an effect on her, but what that effect is is left up in the air. However, the episode was necessary for Eleven’s growth as a character, so it can’t be skipped. While I applaud the directing of the episode and the decision to take a risk, it wasn’t one that panned out.
Beyond that and a few other, smaller pacing problems, this season is very solid. It’s not as focused on the elements of horror established in Season One (which is a shame) but it makes up for it with the development of characters’ depths. Check it out if you haven’t yet, and if you have, get pumped for season three… eventually.

The SPX Haul Part 3

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A couple of issues ago, I wrote about some of the super cool comics and artists I met at SPX back in September. Well, here I return, but this time I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of focusing on the objects and stories I acquired, I’m going to talk about one of the artists I met. I did not pick up any particular work of hers at the convention, but I did pick up a few collections that contained her work. I’ll talk about them another time (I still need to read all the stories in them); instead, I want to talk about the conversation I had with Carla Speed McNeil and her insightful comments.

But first, a quick biography. Carla Speed McNeil is an Eisner and Ignatz award winning comic artist, who got her start back in 1996 drawing a comic called Finder. It started as an ashcan comic (black and white, cheap paper, hand stapled, meant to be thrown away) and slowly grew an audience until the advent of the internet where, after thirty-eight issues, it moved online. More recently, Dark Horse Comics has been serializing the most recent chapters in its anthology magazine, Dark Horse Presents.

Finder was not a huge seller in its individual issues, but it created a sprawling, dense sci-fi world that sucks you in and immerses you deeply into its character’s life. It is widely considered to be a seminal science-fiction comic work.

Source: Carla Speed McNeil

More recently, she has worked with Alex Di Campi in creating a series called No Mercy. It’s a wild ride, and having only read the first volume, I can’t fully talk about it ,but go check it out if you can.

Okay, enough backstory. The reason I wanted to talk about her is because of her passion for comics and because of how much of modern comic history she has witnessed and been a part of. As I said before, she started with ashcan copies of Finder back when SPX was only two years old. From what she said, she’s been at the con since its inception in 1994 (hence the con grandmother comment last time). The con was just a singular room, only a few tables, and made up of a small number of independent comic creators and comic enthusiasts. They traded their zines and discussed what they had made.

Now, SPX is the size of a large hotel ballroom, packed to the brim with independent comic creators and comic enthusiasts. All sorts of creators are there and the amount of creativity, while always high, has only grown. Carla talked on how she had watched con guests arrive, become inspired by the work they saw, and a few years later, have a booth right next to hers.

She talked about how the makeup of the con is changing: diversity has increased and female creators are a large portion of the cons now (they were always a large portion of the guests). She sees independent comics as the future— she always had— and while the comics industry is still plagued with problems relating to its treatment of non-white, non-male, non-straight creators and creations, the future looks bright. There are so many new voices being shared by people who love the medium of comics; hopefully, as the years go by from here, more and more voices can be shared.

I began this article by saying that I would talk about Carla Speed McNeil and what she told me as we conversed. I lied. Well, not totally. A couple months can dull the actual words and parts of the conversation, but the sentiment still stuck.

The makeup of the people buying comics hasn’t changed all that much; it’s always been a diverse group of people. Yet, finding a platform from which to share voices that reflect that audience was difficult back before the internet. The internet has made it easier for people to be connected to the voices that would otherwise have been buried, ignored by the industry.

Now, having had time to make those voices loud and proud, artists can start to be heard by those who would have normally ignored them. They can continue the process of change and to inspire a new generation who will continue the fight and continue to produce amazing art.

These are those voices. Independent comics are the voices of the people and the place where unpolished, fresh, or even polished but still unknown talent can be found.

I do remember the last words that were told to me before I left her table. I had asked what was the best way to manage the con and really get the most of it. She told me to take notes. To pay attention to work that grabs me and catches my eye. To get contact info if, even for a second, I pause and stare at a piece.

“It means they captured something, something you’ll want to follow,” she said.

Welcome to the Jungle

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Welcome to the Jungle. Credit: Google Images.

Welcome back all ye writers, poets, and demons of the night. We have a poetic issue this time, with antoher poem from resident dream-master Talia, and the start of a new, non-fiction section, 6 Word Memoirs. At the moment, it’s short but I hope it will grow with the issues to come. I know there are many great voices out there; my desire is to provide a space for them to speak.
If you wish to submit a piece, a new name suggestion, a comment on our published pieces, or even a comment on me as curator/host, my email is elros003@mail.goucher.edu. If you do write in and you want to see me respond to it/publish it in the next issue, please write in the subject line OK TO PRINT.
Without further ado, I present this issue’s In the Corner. May it inspire and confound the imagination.
Sincerely,
Your horror host – Elias Rosner

6 Word Memoir

6 words. 6. Little. Words. That’s all that’s needed to sum up a life. What you love. What you feel. Who you are. Ca n it be done in six words? Maybe not. But we tried. Do you have 6 words that describe yourself?

Beck Fink: Paint, Animals, Words, Dye, Snow, Red.

Elias Rosner: Solitude, Cats, Stories, Woods, Chocolate, Libraries.

Books on Faith

KATIE MONTHIE

What is faith? Can one have it? Is it earned? Or is it something more? Something….tangible. Katie has her own set of questions and writes it down in her book on faith.
Faith is not defined.
It cannot be melted into a candle,
Then set aflame so as to permeate
A small room with a light scent
Of faith.
It cannot be added into a cake
Either cup by cup
Nor spoonful by spoonful.
Faith cannot even be placed in a jar on a shelf,
Only to be hidden amongst other
States of being or thought that simply
Gather dust.
Perhaps Faith is best measured in words,
And so Faith is best kept in books.
I cannot hold my Faith in one single book,
As so many do.
Instead I find my Faith in the words of many,
Which manifests in my mind
Like an odd collection of works
That don’t quite fit together.
But perhaps that is the nature of Faith:
Some disorder struggling to form
And creating a hope solely, purely
Human.

 

Dreamless Man

TALIA MILITARY

What is better, a dreamless night or one filled with them? Many would say a dream is the only thing that makes the night bearable but remember, nightmares are dreams too.
He woke up from a dreamless sleep
On a Thursday morning.

If he’d had a good dream,
He might have spent some time
Laying in bed, staring at the ceiling
Debating whether or not he should go back to sleep
And try to pick up where he left off.

Had he had a bad dream,
He could have possibly spent an hour
Wondering if life was worth living
When his fears could invade
The sanctuary of his own mind.

If he’d dreamt truly bizarre dreams,
He probably would have spent the entire day
Questioning his own subconscious
Desires and impulses.

But he hadn’t dreamt anything.
There was nothing to
Debate
Wonder
Or question.

He merely pulled back the bedsheets
And prepared for the Thursday
Ahead of him.

 

Closing

And thus we reach the end (so long as you forwent the usual column structure). So, I shall leave you with a riddle and, above, a puzzle.
Without fingers, I point. Without arms, I strike. Without feet, I run. What am I?
May your month be spooky and, hopefully, I’ll see you next time, In the Corner.

The SPX Haul Part 2

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Zen Kitty, Art Credit: Paulina Ganucheau

 

Last issue, I talked a bit about my experience at SPX (Small Press Expo), a wondrous con filled with many fabulous artists and storytellers, all coming to ply their craft and meet their fans IRL. This time, I’m going to get right down to the nitty gritty and tell you about a few more of the cool stuff I found and nudge you in their direction.

Let’s kick this off with something sweet and spooky (and something I teased last time).

Mary Shelley’s Franken Berry by Matt Hickey: A short zine (about four pages) that reframes Frankenstein as if it were a cereal commercial for everyone’s favorite gothic cereal, Franken Berry. It’s humorous and blends the serious tone and language of Mary Shelley’s original work with a rough, black and white art style. I saw the title and, without looking inside, purchased it. Worth every dollar I spent.
The art style, which is an underground comix movement style (purposely ugly and stylized), fits better than it should, and the framing as a cereal commercial had me laughing more than it should have. Matt seems to mostly have short zines like this up on his etsy store, which you can get to from his Instagram Clarissamansplains. Check it out if you’ve got the chance, and a few bucks lying around.

Mini Comics by Abby Howard: A collection of very short memoir style gag comics, all very funny. Most are three to four panels, featuring some aspect of the public personality of the author and her animals: Spoons the cat and Wednesday the snake. If you want to get an idea of what these are like, check out her series Junior Science Power Hour.
Abby is a master of creating humor out of the mundane and horrific. The very first webcomic I ever read, Abby’s The Last Halloween, just began book two and you should all check it out. It’s fantastically creepy, funny, not to mention the artwork is stellar. In all black and white, Abby’s love of horror shines through with her grotesque monster designs and dark storytelling, balancing it out with just the right amount of incredulous humor. You can find her on twitter @abbyhoward.

Innsmouth (Issue One) by Megan James: I’m just going to copy a couple sentences from the introduction to sum this series up:
“A modern day revisionist horror comedy featuring a diverse cast that would be accessible to newcomers and old fans alike. [She] wanted to pay homage to all the things [she] love about the Mythos, but [she] also wanted to take some good jabs at the more troubling aspects.”
And that’s what it is. We open on our main character, a resident of Innsmouth (and a member of its cult), going door to door handing out pocket Necronomicons.
Unlike Abby Howard’s work, which leans much more heavily into horror juxtaposed with humor, Megan James take the humor and leans the horror into it. It’s veers more towards the absurd (one character literally uses one of those wall mounted fish as a walky-talky), but I love it all the same. You can find digital copies on gumroad at sinkswimpress, physical copies from sinkswimpress.com, or follow her on twitter @meg_emmy_james.
“Isn’t the public domain a wonderful thing?”

eet their fans IRL. This time, I’m going to get right down to the nitty gritty and tell you about a few more of the cool stuff I found and nudge you in their direction.

Let’s kick this off with something sweet and spooky (and something I teased last time).

Mary Shelley’s Franken Berry by Matt Hickey: A short zine (about four pages) that reframes Frankenstein as if it were a cereal commercial for everyone’s favorite gothic cereal, Franken Berry. It’s humorous and blends the serious tone and language of Mary Shelley’s original work with a rough, black and white art style. I saw the title and, without looking inside, purchased it. Worth every dollar I spent.
The art style, which is an underground comix movement style (purposely ugly and stylized), fits better than it should, and the framing as a cereal commercial had me laughing more than it should have. Matt seems to mostly have short zines like this up on his etsy store, which you can get to from his Instagram Clarissamansplains. Check it out if you’ve got the chance, and a few bucks lying around.

Mini Comics by Abby Howard: A collection of very short memoir style gag comics, all very funny. Most are three to four panels, featuring some aspect of the public personality of the author and her animals: Spoons the cat and Wednesday the snake. If you want to get an idea of what these are like, check out her series Junior Science Power Hour.
Abby is a master of creating humor out of the mundane and horrific. The very first webcomic I ever read, Abby’s The Last Halloween, just began book two and you should all check it out. It’s fantastically creepy, funny, not to mention the artwork is stellar. In all black and white, Abby’s love of horror shines through with her grotesque monster designs and dark storytelling, balancing it out with just the right amount of incredulous humor. You can find her on twitter @abbyhoward.

Innsmouth (Issue One) by Megan James: I’m just going to copy a couple sentences from the introduction to sum this series up:
“A modern day revisionist horror comedy featuring a diverse cast that would be accessible to newcomers and old fans alike. [She] wanted to pay homage to all the things [she] love about the Mythos, but [she] also wanted to take some good jabs at the more troubling aspects.”
And that’s what it is. We open on our main character, a resident of Innsmouth (and a member of its cult), going door to door handing out pocket Necronomicons.
Unlike Abby Howard’s work, which leans much more heavily into horror juxtaposed with humor, Megan James take the humor and leans the horror into it. It’s veers more towards the absurd (one character literally uses one of those wall mounted fish as a walky-talky), but I love it all the same. You can find digital copies on gumroad at sinkswimpress, physical copies from sinkswimpress.com, or follow her on twitter @meg_emmy_james.
“Isn’t the public domain a wonderful thing?”

Zen Kitty by Paulina Ganucheau: Closing us out is not a comic, but a print. As it’s the title image, I don’t have to describe it, but I will describe Paulina’s other work for you. She’s an artist on Zodiac Starforce and Another Castle: Grimoire, both fantastic series that I highly recommend. She is the most “professional” of the bunch this time, as big publishers have put out her work, and I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about them, especially because the second Zodiac Starforce series is coming out right now and it is *chef’s hand on mouth, kiss motion* wonderful. It’s a western, magical-girl series; complete with a sexy, otherworldly prince villain, who spends most of his introductory issue posing half-naked. It’s a wonderful flip of the script and Paulina’s art sells the whole thing. She has such strong character designs and a great energy for fight scenes. Check out volume one of Zodiac Starforce if you can (the Towson library has a copy or two). She can be found on twitter at @PlinaGanucheau.

I hope these highlights spark something in you— maybe you’ll find a new series you love or a new artist to follow. Who knows. Maybe next time I’ll have another few recommendations from my SPX haul.And maybe I’ll talk about con grandma, Carla Speed McNeil. If I’m being honest, she could get her own article. Keep reading comics y’all!

ELIAS ROSNER

Star Trek’s Return to Television

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In the picture, from left to right: Saru, Michael Burnham, and Phillippa Georgiou (photo credit: Fortune.com)

Warning: Contains Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery

After a twelve-year television hiatus, Star Trek returned with a bang on September 24th, with new and old characters alike. Set roughly ten years before Star Trek:The Original Series, this fifteen-episode series tells the story of a cold war between the United Federations of Planets and the newly-united Klingon houses. Star Trek:Discovery is on a separate timeline from the J.J Abrams rebooted Star Trek film series with decidedly less lens flares.

Bryan Fuller, one of the show’s creators, continues his tradition of giving female leads typically masculine names. The main character is Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. In the first two episodes, Burnham, the First Officer of the USS Shenzou, is referred to as “Number One”, honoring the character of the same name portrayed by Majel Barrett in the original Star Trek pilot episode. The overarching premise of Discovery is the  Klingons’ finding of a messianic figure in the form of T’Kuvma. Following an ancient Klingon prophecy, T’Kuvma convinces his followers that the Federation’s goals center around usurping the individuality of Klingons, and that the ultimate goal of the Federation is to extinguish Klingon culture. Though T’Kuvma dies by the end of the second episode, his death (and Burnham’s actions) spark a cold war, indicating the beginnings of Starfleet’s militarization.

Discovery is one of, if not the most, diverse Star Trek casts to date. Many fans were thrilled to discover that Michelle Yeoh plays Captain Phillippa Georgiou, at the helm of the USS Shenzou. Georgiou is the first captain of Asian descent; Yeoh keeps her Malaysian accent for the part. Unfortunately, right as fans (myself included) fell in love with her, she was killed in the same skirmish that killed T’Kuvma. Many were incredibly disheartened at her death, claiming that she deserved better. However, I’m hopeful that Captain Georgiou will return. After all, Yeoh is slotted for the rest of the season. She could make an appearance in a  flashback— this is Star Trek— or return fully alive; the second episode makes it very clear that Georgiou’s body was never recovered. One of this season’s plots could potentially involve Burnham attempting to rescue her Captain  while keeping an all out war at bay.

Another highlight of the first three episodes was the preview of Burnham’s origins. Burnham grew up with three very familiar characters in Star Trek: Sarek, Amanda, and Spock. Sarek made an appearance in the first two episodes, to the excitement of many fans, especially at the end of episode three, it’s revealed that Amanda would read Alice in Wonderland to Spock and Michael. Some fans want to know more about Amanda’s relationship with Michael, and Spock’s relationship with her as well. Personally, I’m hoping to see more familial interaction. Furthermore, I’m interested in seeing the other ways Discovery plans on tying in with The Original Series, not to mention, why in the worlds the Captain of the USS Discovery has a tribble on his desk.

One character that caught my attention is Cadet Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman. Tilly is very clearly coded as autistic, and many fans are rejoicing in an onscreen portrayal of autism, outside of the usual emotionless man. Tilly possesses a friendly and open demeanor, despite her inability to read other’s emotions well or take basic social cues.

Undoubtedly, Burnham is the star of the show. Although the first two episodes depict her her as a respected Starfleet officer, she eventually goes against Captain Georgiou’s commands in an attempt to prevent a war with the Klingons, becoming the first mutineer in Starfleet history. She is sentenced to life in imprisonment for her crimes and blamed for the start of the cold war with the Klingons. However, in the third episode, she’s granted a position upon the USS Discovery under a captain who’s made it clear he will do anything to stop the war. There are many different ways the season could go, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to have viewers on the edge of their seats, riveted to the TV (or laptop).

JULIANNA HEAD

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