Saturday, October 22, 2016

No More Body Shaming Wonder Woman

October 21, 2016 is a milestone in women's history, as well as history overall, because Wonder Woman was named honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. At an event at the United Nations, Under-Secretary General for Communications and Information, Cristina Gallach, introduced three powerful women, and two of them have officially worn the garb of the Amazon princess. Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment and of Warner Bros. Consumer products introduced Lynda Carter, television's first Wonder Woman, to speak, followed by Gal Gadot, the latest woman to wear the Garb of Justice.

I'm not going to rehash the events of the day yesterday. My focus is on something altogether different—the body shaming of Wonder Woman. Some of the concerns or complaints about having Wonder Woman be this ambassador revolve around how revealing her costume is. A petition against this declaration stated:
Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a “pin-up” girl. 
By the way, "Google" pin-up girl, and this is what you see:

How do those women look like the one above? Easy—they don't. Diana's not a pin-up girl.

Ever since her inception in 1941, Diana of Themyscira (or, Paradise Island), has been chastised by men and women alike for her costume/armor. Derided as a "star-spangled bating suit," Wonder Woman's garments have received more than their fare share of criticism. In additon, Wonder Woman herself, the pinnacle of Amazon training, has been shamed for her body.

Diana's costume began as a bustier/cuirass and a skirt back in 1941. Over the decades, the skirt became culottes, then shorts, and it even became a skimpy bikini-style bottom when Mike Deodato drew the character in the 1990s. No superhero costume seems to have received more criticism than this one. The question I am left with is why?

People who see Diana see her as a role model, a strong woman who can handle herself, and someone who guides people toward peace, understanding, and compassion. It seems to me that if someone has an issue with what she wears, the issue isn't about Wonder Woman: it's about the idea that a woman's appearance will diminish her power. Diana's costume started out as a representation of her connection to the American cause during World War II. Now, in the picture above by Nicola Scott, it's a stylized version of Greek armor with a cuirass or breastplate and a leather skirt that takes its inspiration from the pteruges of ancient Greece. Since when is showing thighs a bad thing? In fact, in the full image by Ms. Scott (see below), notice how much skin actually shows—very little. While it is true that other artists may raise the skirt a little in their own style or may show more arm or leg, nothing about the costume she wears is "skimpy" or "revealing." In fact, Superman wears a skin-tight costume that reveals every muscle or other "bulge" on his body. Yet, I rarely ever see any comments about his blue suit.

Why is a part of the human body a cause for shame or ridicule?

Wonder Woman has never used her bare arms, thighs, or exposed collar bone/cleavage to intentionally play on sexuality or seduction (which some might see as a poor role model for people). She has always been comfortable in her own skin, as it were. On Themyscira, women are free to do as they see fit with expression. Some have been shown to wear traditional robes or tunics, while others wear less clothing. I'd even imagine that, "off panel," many Amazons are naturists. Is there something so disdainful about a woman's body—or any body—that would encourage girls to act inappropriately? No, and to say so speaks of misogyny and a patriarchal view that women should be covered for modesty's sake.

Diana's message to the world is not "wear as little as you wish" or "let's show men our bodies." Her message is about equality of the sexes, empowerment, compassion, love, truth, and wisdom. In this most recent incarnation of her costume, the colors and pattern have less to do with the "American cause" and more to do with empowerment in general: they are bold colors—red, blue, gold.

Another thought I had was this.

Let's say the plus-size hero, Faith, had been a cultural icon for 75 years. Let's also assume that the United Nations wanted to make her the Ambassador for Empowerment of Women and Girls. Once that announcement would be made, you better believe people would cry out, "Wait, a fat girl is a role model? Wouldn't she show kids it's okay to be overweight?"

Yes. And, so what? If people are happy being who they are, then who is anyone else to criticize?

I, of course, applaud that Faith exists in a world of men and women heroes whose bodies look like Greek sculptures. We need representation of ALL types in the world of superheroes. I think it's wonderful that children can look at Faith and see a woman who is making a difference, and that her size doesn't matter.

People will criticize because they think it's their right to be heard, ignoring all the good that Wonder Woman has done in her 75 years. 

Has Wonder Woman's costume gotten her attention? Hell, yes, it has. But, it's become an icon of the power of the individual. When women wear this costume as cosplayers, they walk prouder, stand taller, and look more confident. That's what the costume gives them.

People need to stop body shaming Wonder Woman for having an athletic, honed, Amazonian physique and wearing a costume that shows it. People also need to stop being afraid of what a body looks like and start thinking about what it can DO to change minds and change the world.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sculpted by Hands of Clay—Diana's Legacy on Me

In the comics, Princess Diana of Themyscira—Paradise Island—was sculpted in clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyte, out of a yearning for a child to love. Her maternal hands moved the clay into a human form, shaping it with care, and the goddess Aphrodite breathed life into it. When that child—that Wonder child—grew into womanhood, she earned the mantle of Wonder Woman through training and tournament.

I was brought to life because of my mother and father. But I came to life when I found Diana. It was she who sculpted me through love, compassion, strength, and wisdom. By reading of her adventures, by following her journey, and by learning from her example, I have become my own man.

People don't understand how a fictional character can have such a profound effect on a human being, but aren't we all constructs in a world that existed before we did? Who is to say human, sentient beings are the only things that guide others down life's path? Since 1941, the character known as Wonder Woman has been a part of the world, challenging gender stereotypes and breaking down barriers. That's part of my path, too. As a gay man, I, too, don't conform to what some believe a man should do. But—I am a man as much as any other. And, like Diana, I had more than one mother.

I reached a crossroads in November 2015, when my partner and I split. I was disoriented, unsure of my path, and—like a newborn—needing guidance and direction. At that moment in time, Diana rescued me. I reflected on how she stands strong during adverse moments, how she plants her feet and endures, and how she understands and adapts. When I needed her the most, she was there for me.

Like her, I have endured a tournament of trials. I have walked the gauntlet where my ego and spirit were battered and assaulted by forces beyond my ability to stop them. I was put through my paces. Like Diana, I had to embrace Truth. I fought my inner demons with the grace and splendor of any Amazon warrior. My bruises and scars will forever remind me of my struggle and my victory over the darker moments.

I feel prepared, armed with my own Bracelets of Submission, to deflect the projectiles thrown at me through every day experience. I submit to myself, and my own acceptance of truths. I submit to the fact that I am not like other men (or women, for that matter). I submit to the ideals I have learned from both my birth mother and by sculpting mother. I lovingly submit to both of them.

One of Diana's foes is Ares, god of war. While I don't have a definitive "Ares" against whom I must battle, I do fight through my Doubts and my Inadequacies as if they were personifications of conflict. Those have become by adversaries. I am armed with Truth and shielded by my own virtual bracelets. I have embraced who I am, and I am happy with the man I have become. The path before me is one I walk with confidence and courage. I have no other choice but to do that.

I was born of a woman's womb, and I was sculpted by hands of clay.

I bring Diana's legacy with me every single day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rucka and Scott do it again in Wonder Woman #4!

Nicola Scott cover
SPOILERS—Just saying...

I'm just going to come out and say that Nicola Scott and Greg Rucka couldn't be better suited for Wonder Woman. I had been anticipating Wonder Woman Rebirth #4 ever since I finished #2, and this issue AGAIN brought the tears. I'm going to work through the book panel by panel, and page by page, because I see so much greatness in the Rucka/Scott paring. Here we go.

The first panel (with conversation from the Council of Themyscira text from Philippus overlaid on the images) shows the Amazons having shrouded the dead soldiers and other women taking parts of the plane from the sea. Next, we see an Amazon tending to Nick, Steve's friend, who died in the crash, and the woman is showing gentle compassion in preparing the body for the underworld. Even Nick's wedding ring sits on his chest, presumably to be wrapped with his body. For women who haven't seen men in many years, and considering the past the Amazons and men have shared, it would be difficult for some of them to deal with men again, even the deceased.

The third panel made me giggle with delight: the Purple Healing Ray is being used on Steve Trevor. Epione, the chief healer, tends to to his wounds using perhaps the best known piece of technomagic of the Amazons.

An interesting parallel in the last panel of the first page emerges when we see Amazon weapons against the wall, meticulously arranged, and Amazons are cataloguing the weapons and other belongings of the men—arranged in similar fashion, their faces showing curiosity. If these women harbor any resentment toward men, it's not apparent on this page. All I see is compassion and curiosity.

On this page, we also hear the Amazons refer to "Man's World" in a way that suggests they had never called it that before. Why would they have needed to, having been removed from it for so long? The term shows separation, not disdain. The voice also says that Steve Trevor should make a full recovery—these are not the New 52 Amazons who used men for breeding stock and killed them.
• • •
Frank Cho variant
The second page shows the aforementioned council (Catalia, Hippolyta, Philippus, an unnamed Amazon, and Areto, the Amazon who spoke to her sisters in #2 about the stars) trying to understand the men: they are warriors, armed with insignia. Areto demonstrates how a pistol works by shooting a vase. This is obviously weaponry they have never seen before. Again, their level of curiosity remains constant. They do not dismiss anything because it belongs to the men. Rather, they seek to learn and understand.

When Areto and Castalia discuss whether the men's intentions were malevolent or not, Hippolyta makes an interesting revelation: the eagle on the insignia has a bowed head, "the bearing of one who will meet battle does not seek it." This is a queen who pays attention to the finest of details. I love her.
• • •
The next page shows Diana seated in the window of a chamber watching the sleeping Steve recover. Her eyes show concern and inquiry. When Steve wakes up, she tries to soothe his mood and introduces herself, even though they don't speak the same language. Diana can tell from his words that he's concerned for his men, and the page ends with her consoling a crying soldier weeping for the loss of his men. One of the most touching scenes I've seen in comics, and a side of Steve I have never seen before: emotionally vulnerable. Well done, Greg.
• • •
In further discussion with the council, Castalia tries to convince the others that the gods have allowed this all to transpire, and that Diana's viper bite in issue #2 was "the gate," something we do not yet know. Again, curiosity dominates. No desire to cause Steve harm in any way has been mentioned.
• • •
Hippolyta then says that a contest must be held to determine an Amazon "armed with the perfect [lasso]" to bring Steve back to his world. She is sure that Steve is the key to whomever is the enemy of both Amazon and man. Areto comments that the Amazon who leaves would be "damn[ed]... to exile," she "can never return." Castalia finishes with "...the men of the world best beware, I should think" of an Amazon in a world of men. In other words, whoever goes, she would be one to be reckoned with. I loved this entire scene—calm, decisive, and strategic.
• • •
Atop the next page, we learn that the Amazons have the means to teach Steve's plane to return to its home. Whether that involves science or sorcery, we have yet to learn. At the bottom of the page, Philippus and Hippolyta stand forehead to forehead, and Philippus comments that "She may not win, Lyta." This certainly shows a level of love between the two that goes beyond sisters. especially calling the queen by a derivative of her name, a "pet name," as it were. So sweet.
• • •
Diana and Hippolyta speak, and Diana sees how Steve thought of his brothers (as she comes to learn the word) with great fondness, much like the Amazons think of one another as sisters. This parallel was made plain in #2, and I love seeing how Rucka makes Steve this soldier but also someone who cares deeply for those in his regiment. We haven't seen a Steve like this before. Also, the sweetness between mother and daughter is comforting, even though Hippolyta refers to Diana as "Princess" instead of daughter, and Diana uses "Queen" instead of mother. The formality of the situation makes sense here.
• • •
The following page changes how Diana's sojourn into the world of man happens. In most stories, Diana wants to participate in the tournament to select the champion, but Hippolyta vehemently refuses, saying she doesn't want to lose her daughter. This later prompts Diana to enter the contest disguised. Here, however, the queen says, "You are still recovering from your illness, Diana. No one would think less of you if you stood down." Hippolyta expected Diana to participate, and she held no apprehension toward it. WOW. This was usually a moment of great tension in the tale of Diana, but now, it shows Hippolyta has resolved that her daughter could participate.

Diana's response is priceless. "I would think less of me. I could not profoundly call myself your daughter if I did not try, Mother." We started the scene with a formal greeting, and now we have a more familial one. Diana's concern is not feeling worthy of being the daughter of Hippolyta if she didn't try. The queen responds, "You always make me proud, daughter." We start with a royal connection and end the scene with a softer, more heartfelt one. What a stunning transition.
• • •
The next page shows Amazons forging the armor that will be worn by their champion: the eagle/=w= breastplate, the insignia, the leather skirt, cuirass, and boots. Steve's plane is being fitted with what looks like fish scales. Hippolyta's voice over talks of encouraging her people to rise up and support this new venture, how this one woman will be their ambassador in Man's World and a "protector of all who dwell beyond [their] shores." Hippolyta knows that Diana will be the compassionate and strong Amazon who will defend others, even those she does not know. Castalia retrieves the lasso from the statue (as seen in issue #2), and Steve is summoned. The contest is about to begin.
• • •
The next two pages show Diana on horseback, using a bow, competing with ropes, and engaged in swordplay. It's worth noting that Nicola Scott shows a closeup of an Amazon whose headband looks exactly like one used in the Wonder Woman TV show during this same contest. Clever. Three Amazons remain (unlike two in prior versions), but three is an important number in Greek myth: the Fates, the Graces, and even the Triple Goddess of Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate. Here, we also have Hippolyta, Philippus, and Castalia. Sofia, Io, and Diana are all who remain viable from the combatants. Hippolyta uses the handgun from the earlier scene (similar to George Perez's use of Diana Trevor's handgun in the 1980s series) to shoot at each woman, telling Epione to stand ready in case of injury, but telling her Amazons to "parry my shot."

Steve thinks that Hippolyta is going to kill the women, again showing compassion to total strangers. Sofia gets shot with the first bullet, Io deflects one before getting hit with the second, and Diana stands—arms crossed—ready. Hippolyta's eyes seem to show a sense of duty to finish this part of the contest, but she also knows it could wound or kill her daughter. All we see is Diana, wrists crossed, eyebrows furrowed... ready.
• • •
An assembly of Amazons and Steve stands by what looks like Steve's plane made invisible. Diana emerges, garbed in her new armor, with Castalia behind her, holding the golden lasso. Diana receives the lasso from her mother, and she tells her mother, "I shall use it with wisdom and love." No better words needed to be said. And, in a scene reminiscent from issue #2, again Hippolyta and Diana refer to one another as "Queen," "Princess," "Mother," and "My daughter." They embrace, in tears, at the bottom of the page.
• • •
Diana tells her mother she will return, but Hippolyta believes she will not be able to do so. In her parting, she tells Hippolyta, "I love you, Mother. I will make us proud." Us. Mother and daughter. Amazons.

The Amazons watch Diana fly off in the new invisible jet, and Hippolyta, Philippus, Castalia, and Io look hopeful as their sister departs for Man's World.


Again, I finished a Wonder Woman book in tears. These Amazons are thoughtful, loving, nurturing, and compassionate, not only for their sisters and princess, but also for the outside world. They hold no fear or resentment for one of their own venturing forth, except that Diana will lose her immortality and ability to return home. But, they have obviously made peace with that. Nicola Scott's art invigorates the story that Rucka tells, one that feels epic, like that of a Homeric tale. Romulo Fajardo, Jr.'s colors bring an exuberance to Scott's pencils, like a co-mingling of two creators who were meant to be together. 

The intricacies of the storytelling and the art show myriad connections to many concepts and little nuggets that people familiar to the story will smile at when they see them, and new readers will simply be awash with joy at this part of the origin story.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Download: Getting dating off my mind so I can write!

Ever have a thought in your head that just lingers, so much so that it blocks other thoughts? Well, lately, I've wanted to get some substantive writing done before the school year begins again, and I have papers to grade, but something has been lingering... in my waking moments, in my dreams, and I feel that if I write it out, perhaps I can dislodge it from my mind for a while. So, here it is:

I can't stop thinking about wanting someone in my life in a semi-/romantic way. Not necessarily long term (although who knows?), but not for casual encounters, either.

I've been single since November 2015, and I've basically been through the mountain range of emotions, the kind of mountain range you need a sherpa to navigate. I am in a much better place now, and I'm good with being on my own. I just can't shake the thought of wanting someone special in my life. I'm talking more about the occasional coffee date or dinner and a movie. A walk through a park (when it's not hotter than Hades outside). A whimsical romp through an antiquing district. Just something that two people can do to enjoy one another's company. I'm not against romance or a relationship, but I'm not sure I'm 100% ready for something BIG just yet.

I've been in relationships (two, to be exact) for about 20 years. Being "me" for a while isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's been a very good thing. I can decorate my house how I like (in my Mid-Century Modern aesthetic that I love so much), and eat what I want (which usually revolves around Mediterranean-inspired cuisine or Sweet Tomatoes because who doesn't love a salad bar?), and do what I want (if I want to binge watch Star Trek: Voyager, I can!).

So, one might ask, "David, who do you envision to play the part of a companion?" If I were a casting director for a film, it'd be easier, but I am not. But, here's who I see:
  • He should be my age (49. No really, I am. The big 5-0 comes next year), give or take a few years, or younger.
  • He should have at least a college education if not more. I don't care if it's a B.A. in Waste Management or a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, but I do want to be around someone who thirsts for knowledge. Being literate would be important, too. Knowing how to use there/their/they're would be a plus! OH! And he should like to read. What can I say... intelligence is sexy.
  • He should be employed. It'd be nice if he liked what he did, but he should certainly have a job. Ideally? He should make as much as I do or more. Hey, I'm being honest.
  • He should love culture: music, art, drama, literature... you name it. He doesn't have to have the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude memorized or know how to play the score to Sunday in the Park with George in its entirety, but he should have a diverse palate.
  • He should like to talk. It could be about inane subjects or philosophical ones. He can wax about the words now in the OED or he can opine about different kinds of wine. Did I mention that intelligence was sexy?
  • He must be fitness-oriented. I go to the gym and run, and I'd like to have the chance to share that with someone. We can even like different activities, as long as it involves movement. Who doesn't like to sit on the couch and watch a movie, but when it's time to get outside and MOVE, I want to know he's willing to join me.
  • He should appreciate my decision to keep kosher, although he doesn't have to. Should things progress into a longer arrangement, he'd have to be willing to be eat kosher foods or be vegetarian in the house. Outside, he can gnaw on baby back pork ribs if he's so inclined, as long as brushes first.
Now, religion wouldn't matter for this person who would take me to dinner or Starbucks or go running with me. More than that? Well, let's just say I'd prefer someone Jewish. Being observant and kosher, I couldn't have a crucifix or a cross in my home. But, this is for another blog entry.

Anywho... I know this sounds like an OKCupid profile (I no longer belong to dating sites for a multitude of reasons), and that wasn't really my intention. I just needed to get this out of my head. Now that I have downloaded all of this, maybe my brain can focus on things like writing The Archer's Paradox, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter, or Of Mortal Bonds. 

I would love that.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Commentary on Wonder Woman Rebirth #2 (Spoilers)

Wonder Woman Rebirth #2
GREG RUCKA has restored my faith in comics. He writes the two storylines for the Wonder Woman Rebirth books: the current timeline (with art by Liam Sharp and colors by Laura Martin) and the Year One story (with Nicola Scott doing the art, and with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. doing the colors).

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 issue, with its look at a transitioning Diana reconciling the differences in her own mind about who she is. But, I wanted to spend a moment to talk about the second issue in this series, one that evoked a strong emotional response from me today.

The book opens with the words:
"Tell the truth, Steve..."
These words connect back to the first issue, where Diana is in search of the truth of who she is. She senses that lies have been told, and she yearns to find the answers. The idea of truth and lies connects well into Diana's story because, as the bearer of the golden lasso, she has the power to bring truth into the light. That Steve (Trevor) is connected to truth on this first page links the two characters together.

The follow up words, from Trevor's friend, Nick,
"...We're lost."
also tie into the larger story, as the idea of Diana's place in this "rebirth" is unclear, and she is lost as well. By the bottom of the first page, Steve has told his friend that he knows which way to go because of the stars, something that connects to the second page when we see Diana sitting with her sisters and Areto, an Amazon astronomer, who seeks to teach them.

Wonder Woman Rebirth #2 Variant
Diana looks out at the horizon, rather than the stars, and this bothers Areto, but this begins the foundation for Diana's sojourn into Man's World which we will undoubtedly see in upcoming issues. For me, this ties into George Perez's first issue of Wonder Woman (post-Crisis on Infinite Earths), when a young Diana sits beneath Athena's statue, yearning for purpose. She wants more from Paradise, and indeed, this Diana in Rucka's tale does as well. The horizon holds possibilities while the sky holds both stability and also unreachable ideas.

I must add here, before I go on, that when I first read Wonder Woman #1 in 1987, I literally cried tears of joy. After having seen Wonder Woman devolved by the Anti-Monitor, and not knowing her fate, I was devastated as Wonder Woman has meant much to me growing up. Her new beginning then helped me dig deeper into my own writing. Rucka's story now evoked tears as well. It wasn't just that my eyes welled—I cried joyful tears. I felt like waiting for MY Diana to return ended with something I could never have dreamed for, but one that I will cherish.

Rucka brings up the idea that the Amazons are, as Perez said, reincarnations of women whose lives had been struck down by men. This past for Kasia, Diana's friend, demonstrates that the past, while important, does not define who someone is. I believe Diana's past will do the same thing: provide her with support, but not define the scope of who she is. Her actions will do that. This is not a new tale of an Amazon looking for more beyond her own island home, but Rucka brings it new life.

Diana returns to the palace and engages in an intriguing conversation with her mother. The queen addresses her as, "Princess." Diana replies, "Queen." Hippolyta says, "Daughter." And, Diana comes back with, "Mother." In these four words, Rucka has established a two-fold relationship between these two women, one that will undeniably resonate throughout this story. This page, as the ones before it, shows Nicola Scott at some of her finest work. This mother/daughter moment radiates warmth and love.

The fact that Hippolyta wants Diana to engage with her and Phillipus in shooting arrows speaks to the hunting aspect of their culture, rather than through swordplay, a more warlike endeavor. That detail alone makes me think that Rucka doesn't want to focus solely on the idea of the Amazons as warriors. The next page brings yet another parallel to Steve's story as he is on a firing range with Nick. Finding a target seems to be a common element, one that will bring these two characters closer.

The scene returns to Diana, Phillipus, and Hippolyta on the archery range, and Diana misses her target. When Diana offers her mother the opportunity to shoot, Hippolyta replies that she's happy to have Phillipus criticize someone else's archery skills for a change. At that, Diana shoots two arrows simultaneously into two separate hoop targets. Clearly, this Amazon princess should not be underestimated. At the slightest hint of a challenge, she rises to it, and surpasses it.

The next two pages show alternating panels of Diana's life with Steve's, and Rucka establishes Nick as a brother to Steve while he shows Diana with her sisters. It seems clear, too, that time passes differently on Themyscira than in the mortal world, as we see Nick meet a woman and then marry her all within a few panels. Diana's life, by contrast, seems to be one of sisterhood, prayer, and even a discussion as to Diana's possible romantic relationships among the Amazons. Time is less of an obvious factor, which reinforces their immortality.

The last panel shows Diana staring off at night while her sisters socialize. Truly, this one Amazon has her eyes on a different target.

Next, we see Diana riding Kachi, her horse. I would certainly love to see her ride a kanga, but perhaps the menagerie of animals will show up later. Diana sees a gnarled tree that she doesn't recognize (a symbol of life perverted? a portal in the trunk to some other place?), and when she reaches toward it, a snake strikes her wrist. It's worth noting that Diana is not wearing any bracelets, and has not been, so she has no protection from what this snake's possible venom might be. I am not clear as to why Diana's wrists are bare; even in Perez's version, the Amazons wore bracelets as a reminder of their imprisonment by men. But, time will tell. This page is particularly striking because, other than Diana, it lacks the vibrance of the life of Themyscira—certainly, a deliberate (and successful) artistic choice. Diana is found by her sisters, notably Io.

The following page shows Nick and his wife, who has just given birth, and Steve enters. His kinship with Nick is broadened by being named Nick's child's godfather. Steve's brotherhood with Nick becomes augmented by this.

Diana prays to the healing gods—Asclepius, Aceso, and Panacea—and Castalia, an Amazonian healer, talks with Diana of her experience with the snake. Castalia shows Diana a statue of a warrior in a closet or niche, and at its waist hangs the golden lasso. Castalia tells the princess,
"...This reaffirms my faith. The gift of the patrons to us, we daughters of Harmonia and Ares. Their promise to the Amazons."
It would seem the promise of truth. Castalia tells Diana that when the gods give, the Amazons must be willing to give of themselves as well, and that time is coming. Truth and lies are interwoven between the two storylines (modern day and Year One), which makes sense since the layers of truth or deception build over time, sometimes becoming harder and harder to discern from one another.

Next, we see Steve and Nick board a plane with others, presumably bound for somewhere where they will crash (as would be the case for Steve). Diana has her eyes to the sky with Areto and her sisters once more, and they see the wrecked plane descend from the sky (with no idea of how it was destroyed). Areto's three words carry much weight, especially for an Amazon who has seen her share of conflict one can imagine:
"We are discovered."
That is an interesting word to use. Discovery will be yet another motif of this story, for all involved, and while Areto's words are dipped in concern, discovery can bring about truth. The Amazons discover many dead among the wreckage, but then Steve's bloodied hand reaches out to Diana's foot, and his last words to her are, "Please help us."

What I found intriguing is that, despite his life-threatening situation, he asks the Amazons to help "us" not "me." That tells me much about Steve: he cares about his fellow soldiers more than he simply cares about himself.

I must take this time to speak of the art. Nicola Scott's renderings of emotion throughout this book are extraordinary. A range of feelings comes through on every page, and the younger princess goes through her share. Romulo Fajardo, Jr. complements Nicola's pencils with precision and highlights each nuanced feeling with much detail. Tone, color, and shadow create the beginning of an epic tale, one that I cannot wait to see unfold. All of the characters have life and, if you listen carefully, you can hear their hearts beating.

As of yet, we have not learned about Diana's origin, so whether or not the Nu52 story of Zeus being her father is still relevant is unknown. But, this beginning of the classic tale breathes a different kind of breath into Diana's story, one of hope, compassion, love, strength, and wisdom.

It bears mentioning, too, that Hippolyta is dark-haired in Year One, so the blonde Hippolyta we see in the Nu52 must be a twisting of the truth, perhaps a part of Dr. Manhattan's machinations we learn about in the Rebirth #1. While the fair-haired Amazon queen was a lovely nod to the Silver Age of Wonder Woman's history, Hippolyta has had darker hair since the 80s (and even earlier), and it is that image which most fans would recognize.

I, for one, cannot wait for the truth to rise to the surface so we can see just who our Amazon princess is. With Rucka at the helm, I have no doubt we will be in for a glorious ride.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We have choices...

We have choices.

We can hide like timid mice in the corners.

We can walk hunched over, with our eyes toward the ground, so no one can look into our souls and see who we are.

We can stick to the shaded side of the street, keeping the light from our faces.

We can stay in our homes, order in food, watch Netflix, and watch as life moves beyond us.

We can stay in our cubicles, our classrooms, our offices—doors closed—hoping no one will see that we are different from them.

We can remain silent. Or soft-spoken.

We can nod and smile when people speak of our people, shedding internal tears that drown our soul.

We can teach our children to fear the loud voices, the venom-dipped words, the fiery ones who want to tear us down, one scythe-strike at a time.


We can stand in the light, shoulders back, our faces unmarred by a furrowed brow of despair.

We can walk with pride, our eyes on each other, not afraid to look at the shining souls of others—or at those whose souls are tarnished with prejudice and hatred.

We can be outside, in the world, making sure people notice we are not part of the darkness.

We can engage others in intelligent discussion, whittle away at misunderstanding, teach people how to accept—not simply tolerate—our existence alongside theirs as sisters and brothers.

We can speak out, speak UP, and make our voices heard in any way possible.

We can cry, but when we do, we do it because these are tears of strength, of perseverance.

We can teach our children to use their voices, to dip their words in compassion, strength, and wisdom.

We can block the scythes of those fiery ones with our identities.

What we didn’t choose, however, is who we are: gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, gender queer, lesbian, or anywhere else on the rainbow spectrum.

We’re not simply red, orange, yellow, or blue, but rather all of the hues.

We’re not just a rainbow, but rather a prism.
A prism takes in the light, and it shows all the colors, splashing them on everything they touch.

We can choose to shine our light on everything because light reveals truth,
Or, we can choose to flip the switch, and live in shadow.
- David Berger
...because he'd rather shine than be a shadow.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Saying Goodbye

This post is my way of voicing my feelings about the end of my relationship. It has nothing to do with books or writing, but it has everything to do with me.

Being single after fifteen years feels like I've had the wind sucked from me. I have told people and myself that the break up was mutual; it wasn't. My ex told me after he came back from visiting his family that he wanted to move on. The mutual part was that I didn't disagree. We both had been living as friends—good friends—for a long time. We had tried to fix the problems, but neither one of us really tried all that hard. It was because we knew that we didn't really belong together anymore. I want only the best for him, and I hope that he finds someone who can be the person I couldn't.

After he told me he was leaving, we were going to live together for about two more weeks until the closing of his house (He had arranged this while he was home). We spent many days not really talking, mostly on our computers. To be honest, that was what most nights had been like for a while. With the finality of everything coming, I had a hard time talking to him about anything. Even though we are friends, this transition pushed so much front and center for me. I felt inadequate. Impotent (in a life sort of way). Regretful. Apologetic. I wished I had either been the man he wanted or had had the guts to pull off the proverbial Band-Aid and end the relationship years ago when it probably should have ended.

It's been three days since he moved out. I took off work the day before to help him pack and load the truck, and to achieve a little closure. After Friday morning, I wouldn't see him again for G-d knows how long. That day I was there was so hard. I fought back tears all day. The fact that this was an amicable parting made it harder. I had no reason to be angry, not really. He was doing what he needed to do for himself. It would be for the best for both of us.

That night, after we picked up another piece of furniture that he was taking, we grabbed dinner. More awkward silence. Then, the most punctuating moment happened. When the server came to bring the bill, he brought separate ones. We've always received one bill or been asked (to which we replied "Same check.") We just looked at each other when the separate bills sat on the table.

It really was over. Two separate bills. Two separate lives.

The next morning, before I left for work, we had a few hugs with tears. He had to move the truck from the driveway so I could leave. When he was about to step into the truck, I gave him one more hug. More tears. That was the last time I would see him. If only I'd had a reason to be angry at him. I could have cursed his name as I drove to work. Instead, because we left things so amicably, I was inconsolable the entire 12 minute drive to work. I almost had to pull over I was crying so hard.

That night, I spent the evening with friends at a winery. That meant so much to me. It helped raise me up a bit since I had been dangerously close to losing it throughout the day.

I know the road ahead of me will be one of new adventures, new people, and perhaps, someday, a new love. Right now, I need to figure out just who I really am, what I truly want, and what I need to work on. Perhaps it's because I'm older, but the idea of self-discovery isn't that scary. I welcome it. I need to learn what it is that makes me who I am. In the process, I need to let go of the sadness little by little and replace it with hope—for me, and for him. He spent almost a third of my life with me, and he's left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. I can never forget him. I wouldn't want to. Right now, as I type this, tears are trickling down my cheeks. I still love him, and he loves me, but it wasn't meant for us to be. I can only hope that he can forgive me my failings. I'm not to blame for this—we both are—but, I have to take responsibility for what I did and didn't do. Only then can I prevent this from happening in the future.

Coming home to an empty house (well, there's always my cat, Shayna), when it's quiet, makes it obvious that he's never coming back. I have to be okay with that. I have to say goodbye, so that we can both move forward. It's just hard.

Charles Kettering said, "You can't have a better tomorrow if you're thinking about yesterday all the time." I have to move beyond yesterday and focus on tomorrow. I want better for myself.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lowering the Mask—Showing Your True Self

I had lunch with a friend and former colleague over the weekend, and he talked about "lowering the mask" with regard to school (he's a teacher, too) and, to some degree, his personal life, but after we finished lunch, that phrase swam around my head for a bit. I have to admit, it still clings to my cranium.

We all wear masks. Every single day of our lives, even when we say we're "like an open book." For people to be completely open to everyone all the time seems a bit unrealistic. We need to have that moment when we smile at others when we'd rather be by ourselves in quiet meditation. It's a human thing to do. But, I do believe that it is necessary to lower the masks we wear if we want to have any meaningful relationships with people, including ourselves.

A mask, to me, is a persona that I wear that gives me a thin veneer behind which I can be someone else or at least have that hint of experience where I can be an expert on something, like teaching. Or, it can be that shield I put up when I have to be in a setting where I am entirely uncomfortable. My masks come in many forms, and for the longest time (27 years, to be exact), my greatest mask was as a straight man. I lived behind that opaque, porcelain shell, hiding my true self to everyone, perhaps even to myself. When it was time to lower that mask, I endured a maelstrom of emotion and psychological upheaval that changed me forever.

To some extent, as a teacher, I wear a mask, too. I can't very well go into work feeling bedraggled and overwrought from whatever's been happening in my life—my students see me as their English teacher whose life is much less complicated than theirs. If they only knew. I walk into my classroom every day with a smile and buoyant spirit, hoping that it becomes infectious. Occasionally, I do lower that mask when I speak with students individually or when I know my personal experience will help someone. I have to show them that I am, indeed, a human being, and not some automaton or holographic projection that comes to life when the school opens. It's this mask that is sometimes hard to maintain, especially when I see students in crisis or feel the Atlas-like burden of bureaucracy pressing down upon me. Unlike the mask of "straightness" that I wore to protect myself growing up, my professional educator mask will remain a part of me as it's a vital part of who I am.

I'm sure my proverbial closet has what I would consider a collection of masks I wear from time to time, and they can be crucial to maintaining my sanity. Lowering these masks can be helpful, especially when among friends who understand. One of my most commonly used masks is, "How am I? I'm fine."

How many times have we been asked that question, only to put on a smile (i.e. mask) and lie? Is it worth taking that mask off and allowing that person to see exactly how we feel and what we feel? This mask removal comes with risks. Taking it off to too many people weakens its efficaciousness. Not taking it off enough leaves us miserable and lonely. It's not bravery to deny feelings to those who care about you. It's fear. "What if he doesn't understand?" or "What if she judges me?" or "Do they really care, or was that just a gesture?" The only way to find out just what's on the other side of that mask is to lower it and wait.

Scary, eh? Sometimes, I'd like to superglue the mask to my face, so to speak. Other times, I can't take it off fast enough. But, in either case, I have no idea what will happen when I make that choice.

Ultimately, I believe in my heart that lowering a mask we wear, at the appropriate time, can bring us peace and love, balance and strength. We just have to okay with what we look like without it.

In most cases, the one whose judgment we fear most is our own.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vance Bastian—Author, Voice Artist, and Odin

Vance Bastian has an impressive résumé: author, podcaster, voice artist, and—yes—I do believe he is Odin, the All-Father (more on that later). Ever since we met, we've both determined that we should have become friends in kindergarten.

When we connected on Facebook, we discovered we had many commonalities including—but not limited to—D&D, writing, and fitness. In fact, his About page for the podcast (see below) had words that caught my attention: gym, "werewolf shaman, a wizard, or mischievous sidhe," "gay superheroes in a D&D game"—I knew he was a brother.

Once I knew he was an author, I HAD to check out his novel Slumberscythe (Outré War Book 1). I'm not finished yet, but it's a story that takes you prisoner right away, but you don't want to break free. You're held captive by his story, and the adventure that unfolds is mesmerizing. I'll have a review when it's done, but I feel like I'm reading a kindred spirit's work. I'm excited for book 2 in the series, Styxgate, as well as another book he's working on, Caesar's Shadow.

In addition, he's "got skills" in the voice department, first as founding host of the 3 M/Musketeers podcast, and his voice work for audiobooks.

That brings me to him being Odin. Here's why: in many of his posts, he makes reference to two corvine advisers, as it were, named Huginn and Muninn. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who lays claim to that except the All-Father himself. Plus, if you check out this photo from his website, isn't this body of a Norse god? Just sayin'.

You can certainly learn more about him via Twitter (@VanceBastian), Facebook, and his site.

In his own words, "[he] writes mostly fantasy, urban fantasy, historic fantasy, horror, and paranormal fiction. When nobody's looking, he's a complete sci-fi geek."

I'd say that's pretty kickass.
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