Do You Have Angst?: June 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Man of Steel - Man of Angst

Before you start reading, please note that there are some spoilers in this - one of the reasons I waited so long before posting.

Everyone loves "Man of Steel", and everyone hates "Man of Steel", for completely different reasons. After seeing this movie twice, I actually scoured reviews to find the explanation I was looking for about the ending. My conclusion is that I now completely understand why Warner Bros. stuck to producing Batman movies all these years.

I tell people at conventions that Angst is about middle aged people trying to be heroes and it is funny - their response is always, "Oh, that's different." When I say, "but it's got a dark side," their eyes light up like I just let them peek in the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. I'm good with that, I believe in 'writing to your audience' and right now the world seems to relate to and enjoy things that are dark.

Batman is the dark. Want to sell more movie tickets, make him darker. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely fanboy over Nolan's run of the Batman movies. Were they a risk? Hell no. People revel in the fact that Batman is broken, they can relate to hardship and strife and the longing to right wrongs. Superman isn't dark at all, just the opposite, he's perfect - and who can relate to that?

"Superman" and "Superman II" were made for a different time, if you haven't seen them please do, they are just awesome films. Skip ahead to "Superman Returns". Had this actually been released in 1983 and been called "Superman III" it would be remembered as the perfect follow-up to I and II. I enjoyed Superman Returns for that very reason, it was totally the Superman I grew up with. The music I remember, the magic of Superman, the over-the-top evil of Lex Luthor with a little 'comic book' thrown in. "Superman Returns" fed my nostalgia, but unfortunately it didn't bring anything new to the party.

My younger friend Holly made a great point that there really has been no Superman movie for this generation. "Man of Steel" does this well. The first third of "Man of Steel" is a fantastic sci-fi film that takes place on Krypton and it was my son's favorite part. I have no issues with any of it, this take on Krypton was fun and Russell Crowe was amazing as Jor-El - throughout the entire film. Zod was introduced as a military savior instead of a power hungry despot, and I really enjoyed Michael Shannon's performance.

The second third of the movie was about Superman's struggles growing up. A brooding orphan finding his place in the world, not perfect thus more relateable to us. In some iterations of Superman comics, as well as "Superman I", Pa Kent died of a heart attack - something Superman could do nothing about. In "Man of Steel" he died protecting Superman's secret. I think that this is a solid update to the story, making Kal-El more 'the alien' instead of 'one of us with lots of powers'. I didn't like how Pa Kent died, but I understood the change and it didn't feel it ruined the movie. I also liked Lois Lane, played well by Amy Adams throughout this act. It makes complete sense to me that a good reporter would track him down.

The final Act was all Zack Snyder, and this was everything I expected, and hoped for from him. Robot space ships, bad guys, Metropolis - Superman beat up EVERYTHING! Was it too much? Was it sensory overload? Yes. But, if I had the money and held those reigns I would have done the same damn thing. Nobody wants to go to a Superman movie and see him hold back. He didn't. My Superman would have dragged Zod out into space, or over the ocean, or into the desert just to save lives and keep the city safe. Snyder's Superman fought in the heart of Metropolis and laid waste to everything. This also didn't ruin the movie for me, it was intense and was the Superman battle many fanboys and girls have always wanted to see.

Up to this point, I was fine. I'm not a critic, I'm a critic's nightmare - I'm easily entertained by bad sequels with mediocre special effects. I look for escape in movies not meaning. "Man of Steel" updated the story in some ways I didn't enjoy but could live with. There were plenty of plot holes (as my son pointed out, why terraform Earth?) but eh, summer blockbuster. That's when IT happened.

Superman killed Zod. Nope. I remember saying that out loud in the theatre. Nope. That's not Superman. Not mine, and not anybody else's. Fuck! This has been so hard to explain to people who don't get it, and I don't know what bothers me more, the fact that they made a Superman movie where he kills the bad guy, or the fact that so many think it's okay.

"The 'S' stands for hope." Um, "hope" doesn't fly around breaking bad guys' necks. "Look, it's Lex Luthor" 'snap', "Hi, I'm Metallo" 'snap', "Braniac will destroy you all" 'snap', "Wait, stop, it's just grafitti" 'snap', "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to check out Lois' butt" 'snap'. Where does it stop? Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan just loosed the great, relateable, murderer of justice!

If given that power, so many people would use it to kill. We can relate to that, right? But that's what makes Superman significant. He can, but he doesn't. Superman isn't someone you think you can become. With enough money and time and a really bad day at work I could be Batman (shh, I am Batman.) Superman is someone we can only strive to be. Friends have been harassing me all week about my post-"Man of Steel" nerd-rage, and I'm sure it seems over the top, but this was my hero. The S doesn't mean hope, it means hero. When Superman kills, all of that is stripped away.

Yeah, they put him in the no-win scenario, but you can't tell me there isn't a writer clever enough in all of Hollywood that couldn't have come up with something better. It would have been so easy to fix - a little remorse and a promise to the general that he would never kill again could have fixed it. Nope. Instead he destroyed a satellite instead. Huh. Maybe the trinity (Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan) thought this would be just the thing to spark controversy. It really worked, but it didn't. It may work to bring in $$, but this version of Superman has lost the higher ground.

I still believe in Superman. I still believe that the difference between superheroes and the bad guys is that the superheroes don't kill. Sure, I'll buy that the 'S' means hope. What I don't believe is that Superman kills. I'm not sure who that dude was at the end of "Man of Steel", but he wasn't Superman.

I'm not the only one...

"Someone Should Probably Tell New Superman People Live In Buildings" - The Superficial

'Man of Steel' Divides Comics Community - MTV Splashpage

What 'Man of Steel' gets wrong about Superman (hint: that ending) - Entertainment Weekly


As a side note, it was awesome that The Kansas City Star did a full page review titled "Man of Angst" by David Frese. (Seriously, how perfect was it to get that text from Allie while wearing my Superman cape waiting in line for the movie! My in-laws showed up soon after with a copy!)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

ConQuesT44 was all that and more!

If I could bottle up ConQuesT and take a sip every Monday, my weeks would be filled with dragons, lasers, aliens, and everything else fantastical that makes me happy. The con was that good for all the right reasons - a great staff, solid programming, fun room parties, and amazing guests. Last year, ConQuesT 43 was my 1st science fiction and fantasy convention with my fantasy novel Angst, so it was significant to me that I released the sequel, Buried in Angst, at ConQuesT 44. Best of all, they let me throw a party!

Friday at ConQuesT is always a little slow until we hit the room parties, which seemed especially good this year. I have to admit it was pretty cool seeing George RR Martin sitting around talking with people. It's also great seeing friends I met at last year's convention, and making new ones as well. I wrapped up festivities at 3:30am. A harsh reminder that I can drink like I'm young, but I don't recover like I'm young.

Saturday was really the day. My first panel was at the excruciatingly early hour of 10am (I'm somehow
reminded of college) and we discussed the fun topic of digital comics. I was mostly recovered by my 2nd panel at 3pm to discuss proper etiquette when traveling and promoting your book. My friend Holly attended, and laughed openly at me when the Guest of Honor, Patrick Rothfuss highly advised that authors never drink at cons. (He's a pretty amazing speaker by the way, he had everyone in stitches during the panel on writing humor.) It was worth a facepalm, but I admittedly go to cons to have fun, make friends, and have fun.

So, the coolest thing ever. I'm always mentioning on my blog about how amazing Cristi is, but I need to throw out some props to her equally awesome boyfriend Brandon. My lovely wife Angie attended the show for the first time to promote her Star Trek Craft book. For weeks she had been teasing me that since Cristi is my "booth babe" Brandon should be hers. What a perfect opportunity for a surprise, and Brandon was game.

I loaned Brandon one of my Captain Kirk shirts and we all followed him into the dealer room. The look on Angie's face was priceless, and Brandon made it great fun posing with her and with the book. Later on Facebook, Angie's friend Michael summed it up well "Lt. Biceps, please report for babe duty."

Everyone wonders why I have Angst, and a great example is the cake. For weeks I've been teasingly shouting out on Twitter and Facebook that we will have cake at the book release party. "Come for prizes, come for a dramatic reading, come for cake!" Yeah…so the party is from 6pm to 8pm, it's 5:45 and I'm frantically situating chairs and tables around the room. My kids are almost passed out from blowing up balloons. I'm receiving texts asking for directions 15 minutes late because we are in the basement. Suddenly it hits me, the cake isn't here yet. Yeah, panic. Why did I have to make such a big deal of the stoopid cake? I leave the room at 5:55 with the amazing Kat Donovan to find manager #1. Manager #1 brought me to Manager#2. (We aren't exactly moving at warp.) They tell me 'we will look into it' which sounds a LOT to me like 'we are slipping into our ninja costumes and sneaking out the back never to be seen or heard from again'. As politely as I could, I urged and pleaded and willed them to find it before rushing back to my party, now late.  I arrived 10 minutes late to my own party and am greeted by my wife who says, "thanks for texting me back". Bzzzzt…my phone buzzes in my pocket and it is her text. Yeah, sometimes I have

After shaking off the last minute scramble, and replying to my wife's text : I enjoyed the party. Honestly, it was great. I didn't do a head count, but the room was full of family, friends, convention guests, Angst supporters - I was more than a little touched. I promised a dramatic reading, and on a whim turned Chapters 33 and 35 into a script (the chapters upon which the cover is based.) I volunteered friends, my son (who hated me a little), Kat volunteered Nick Seddon (who was absolutely amazing), and without practice we read. The chapters may not have been perfect, way too much narration, but everyone in the room had a good laugh. From my friend Matt reading Crloc in his best bad guy impression, to Nick throwing water in his own face because his character was sweating - it really went perfectly. I can't thank them all enough, and after we finished, the cake was delivered. (It was damn good too!)

We finished up our evening celebrating at room parties, wrapping it up at 1:30am. I should mention that anything said, not said, or not remembered at these parties should completely be blamed on the Klingons and their blood wine.

Sincere thanks to everyone involved in putting ConQuesT together. A special thanks to Kat for the room party, and Nick for the reading. My Angst team consisted of Angie, James, Joanne, Holly, Brandon and Cristi - you guys are the best. I've said it before, but I absolutely couldn't do these without Cristi - she brings the awesome! I've also got to shout out that Holly was quite awesome for showing up in her Rose costume! Finally, I really do appreciate everyone who showed up at the release party; it really meant a lot. What an adventure…now it's time to write!

If you want to see more pictures, be sure to check them out on Facebook or Google+ !