Giving History a Better Ending: Marvel, Terrorism, and the Aftermath of 9/11

I’m going to state that the idea of being crushed beneath a building is fundamentally different for New Yorkers than for most USians. People’s minds go to different places based on what they fear. In Florida, I feared tornadoes and hurricanes in the way that Californians fear earthquakes and Hawaiians fear tsunamis. Now I live in New York (and work in a historic building no less) and I fear building collapses in that same way—a dull throb behind all of my conscious thought, occasionally bubbling up into a nightmare.

It’s this aspect of New York that has marked the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and set it apart from the DCU. Marvel is New York. As was said over and over again at the Defenders SDCC 2017 panel, New York is another character in the MCU. As was made clear by Spider-Man: Homecoming, changes to the city itself reverberate through ...

Finding Your Way in the World: Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart

Studio Ghibli is known for making coming-of-age films, and for films with complex female characters, but there are two in particular, made 6 years apart, exemplify these traits better than any of their other work. One is considered an all-time classic, while the other is a lesser known gem. One gives us an alternate world full of magic and flight, while the other stays purely grounded in this world. But taken together, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Whisper of the Heart celebrate the single-minded passion of the artist, and the need for young women especially to ignore societal pressures in order to create their own destinies.

 

Historical Background

Kiki began life as a children’s book written by Eiko Kadono, a much simpler, picaresque adventure story compared to the film, which stresses Kiki’s emotional growth and existential crises. When Miyazaki chose to adapt it he also added Kiki’s struggles with ...

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The Horror of Home Ownership: Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It

Obviously the best haunted house novels are not about ghosts. The best ones are about, for instance, the constricted role of women in US society in the 1950s (The Haunting of Hill House), the constricted role of women in US society in the 1890s (The Turn of the Screw), the horror of slavery (Beloved), the trap of capitalism (The Family Plot). The cool thing about Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It is that she knows that we know that, and introduces us to what the book is really about almost immediately. Then she scares the hell out of us anyway.

So what is it about? A young couple, Julie and James, decide to leave city life for a suburban home. James is in therapy for a gambling addiction that drained his personal back account, and was just about to nibble at the couple’s ...

Fables for the Modern Age: Osama Alomar’s The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories

As a writer, fables have always eluded me. I am not a pious person, but when I try to write a fable, I try so hard to make it meaningful that it comes out pious, pretentious, overwrought. Osama Alomar does not have that problem. His book, The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories, is a delicate, sometimes hilarious, and often starkly heartbreaking collection of modern fables. Alomar worked with C.J. Collins to translate his Arabic stories into English, and while some of them seem like they could be from land in any time, others like “The God of Virtues” dive into hypermodern questions—“What if Satan joined Facebook?”—and many wrestle, either directly or obliquely, with the ravages of war.

No matter the topic, however, Alomar manages the trick I never can: his parables are never didactic. They’re warm, human, occasionally terrifying, but at no point do you ...

Spoons, Hammers, and Mighty Pogo Sticks! 10 of the Best Superhero Parodies

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years studying heroes, and what our cultural heroes say about society. Much is made of gritty vs. fun, Man of Steel vs. Guardians of the Galaxy. But one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of parody to this discussion—these unsung heroes do as much to dismantle and deflate the superhero archetype as anything Frank Miller wrote. Not to belabor this too much, but clearly the people behind these works were commenting on the pervasive hero-worship of characters like Supes and Cap, and often jabbing at the broodiness of Batman and Punisher. There is also a very real message in many of these books: normal people can be heroes, too. So here’s a by-no-means exhaustive list of some of the greatest superhero parodies—be sure to join the discussion in the comments! The first two parodies I found are, appropriately ...
Spider-Ham
Goose Rider
The Flaming Carrot

Spoons, Hammers, and Mighty Pogo Sticks! 10 of the Best Superhero Parodies

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years studying heroes, and what our cultural heroes say about society. Much is made of gritty vs. fun, Man of Steel vs. Guardians of the Galaxy. But one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of parody to this discussion—these unsung heroes do as much to dismantle and deflate the superhero archetype as anything Frank Miller wrote. Not to belabor this too much, but clearly the people behind these works were commenting on the pervasive hero-worship of characters like Supes and Cap, and often jabbing at the broodiness of Batman and Punisher. There is also a very real message in many of these books: normal people can be heroes, too. So here’s a by-no-means exhaustive list of some of the greatest superhero parodies—be sure to join the discussion in the comments! The first two parodies I found are, appropriately ...
Spider-Ham
Goose Rider
The Flaming Carrot

Finding Horror in the Details: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa Yoko Ogawa has been gifting Japan with dark, obsessive fiction for over thirty years, but only some of her work in currently available in English. Ogawa’s debut The Breaking of the Butterfly won the 1988 1988 Kaien literary Prize, and since then she’s written a number of bestselling and award-winning novels and short stories, two of which were adapted into films. In 2006, she teamed up with a mathematician, Masahiko Fujiwara to write a non-fiction work about the beauty of numbers titled An Introduction to the World’s Most Elegant Mathematics. She won 2008’s Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection for The Diving Pool. Revenge, which came out in 1998 in Japan, was translated into English by Stephen Snyder in 2013. It’s what’s referred to as “a collection of linked short stories”—but here the links tend to be macabre hinges that hint at a darker and far more frightening ...