The Cosmic Do-over

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Some of you may be old enough to remember the prime time soap, Dallas. Everyone remembers the famous tagline of ‘Who shot J.R.?’ but Dallas was also famous for a cosmic do-over. During the beginning of their third season, Pamela Ewing woke up to find her husband Bobby taking a shower. This simple encounter completely negated the previous season where Bobby had been shot and killed. The entire season had just been Pamela’s bad dream.

Daytime soaps have done this to varying degrees. Speaking with my dad, a lifelong Days of Our Lives fan, he told me of one great example of where entire plotlines were undone. Days had had more than their fair share of serial killers. One of them, by the name of the Salem Stalker had caused so much chaos that the viewers protested. Not only did the writer, James E. Reilly kill off beloved characters in ridiculous fashion, he had written series favorite Marlena as the killer. One theory had the producers, due to the viewer outcry, insist Reilly undo it all. All of the victims ended up alive on the island Melaswen.  No one had been killed, not even Marlena. It had all been an elaborate scheme with hypnotism and doppelgangers.

That was one of the best examples of a cosmic do-over in soap operas. Honestly, soaps are limited in the degree that they can pull of a do-over. The characters are portrayed by live actors who do things like have lives and age. If a story line is going to be undone, it usually has to be undone in a short period of time, like a year or in television terms, a season.

Comic books don’t have such a restriction. When they perform a cosmic do-over, it can truly be cosmic, on a universal scale. When comics do them, they are often called reboots. DC Comics is rebooting right now in a storyline spanning multiple titles called Rebirth. The entire DC Comics universe is starting from scratch, and this is not the first time. They had done a full reboot only a few years before with the New 52. Why would they reboot so frequently? To draw in new readers. No one wants to start in the middle of a story. A reboot gives readers a chance to start reading at the first issue with a retelling of a character’s origin story.

I suppose the real question is, does it work?

Marvel Comics had done a sort of reboot with the aftermath of the recent Secret Wars. Part of the reasoning behind this was an effort to make the comic universe resemble the Marvel movie universe. They kept the characters they wanted and made some of them simply not exist anymore. Marvel had done smaller reboots, to fix minor reality injustices. One of them came about as a result of the ending of the “House of M”. While trying to repair twists in reality caused by the insane Scarlet Witch rewriting the universe, the character of Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel made a triumphant return to Marvel comics after an absence of practically decades.

Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel and is on the side opposite of Iron Man in Marvel Comics’ Civil War 2. She also is supposed to have her theatrical debut in her own movie in the next couple of years.

Where was Carol Danvers and why did she need to be brought back? Anyone who has an extensive knowledge of the Marvel Comics Universe and who knows the history of the X-men’s Rogue will remember what happened to Carol Danvers. I’ll talk about that in my next blog when I tackle the subject of split personalities in comics and soap operas.

Sunshine Blogger Awards

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Gracie Mae DeLunac tagged me last week for the Sunshine Blogger Award. (Thank you!) You can find her blog here : http://graciemaedelunac.blogspot.com/2016/06/sunshine-blogger-award.html

These are the questions she posed to me, followed by my answers:

  1. What is your favorite movie/tv show quote? What is it from? Why is it your favorite?

 

I thought about this a lot. I really wanted to go towards the irreverent, something from Deadpool or a Ron Swanson quote from Parks and Recreation but I made a promise that I would always be honest in my blogs. So here goes a baring of my soul.

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something of equal value. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange.”—from Fullmetal Alchemist. Not only does it say so much about their story, it speaks so much about life in general. Spoken through the voice of young Alphonse Elric gives it devastating weight.

 

  1. What do you like to think about most when plotting? (Characters, plotline, plot twists, villainous acts, etc.)?

 

If I say that my stories just come to me, I’m certain somebody out there is going to want to club me over the head with something. When I explore where a story is going, I focus on dialogue, what people say, how they say it, what they are feeling when they say it. If I can’t make this as real as possible then no one will believe the story I’m telling them.

 

  1. What is your preference of apocalyptic groups, zombies, aliens or mutants?

 

Zombies definitely, because I at least know what they want and what they’re capable of.

 

  1. What kind of food do you eat to feel decent enough to write?

 

At this point in my life, I’ll eat whatever food is put in front of me. My go-to staple, if I can’t find anything better, is breakfast cereal, specifically Frosted Mini-Wheats.

 

  1. Do you bring your own personal views (especially political and religious) into your tales?

 

How can you not? My characters come from my mind and that’s the same place my personal views come from. Even if I have a character counter to my point of view, they are still seen through my eyes.

 

  1. Would you say you “commune” better with nature when gardening (hands on), lounging outside (kinda near) or viewing it from inside your place (far away)?

 

Viewing it from inside my place, definitely. Having grown up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, I’ve come to the conclusion that the outdoors is overrated.

 

  1. What is the strangest/rudest thing you have ever heard your written characters say?

 

I honestly don’t know. This would have to come from someone who is very direct and won’t hold back. I’ve got a character who plugs into the brains of dead people to learn what they know. She can be pretty weird and blunt but I can’t pinpoint a specific thing that she says.

 

  1. Paper or plastic or re-usable?

 

Plastic because it’s always right there. I gave up on re-usable a long time ago.

 

  1. What movie/book/show would you say has made the most impression on you? When? Why/how?

 

In the past couple of years I have totally and completely fallen in love with the manga and anime, Bleach.  I recognize that the filler episodes on the anime can be total crap but the main story has everything. I love ALL of the characters and they hardly ever do anything that I would call a bad decision. The best things always happen in this story. Like the above picture. The moment when the breeze lifted Neliel’s shirt to reveal the bold #3 on her back, that just sent chills down my spine. But I guess you’d have to be there or just watch Bleach. It’s on hulu.

 

  1. What is your favorite color? (Monty Python reference.)

 

Blue—no, green! No really, it’s blue! I swear to God it’s Blue!!

 

  1. If you were able to publish one of your tales and go somewhere to showcase it (author tour, opening night for the movie, etc.) Where would you go? Why?

 

I want to be Featured Author at Gen Con. I’ve always trailed behind my husband who is a famous sculptor. Just once I want to achieve in the same arena on my own merits.

 

I am now tagging the following bloggers to answer my 11 questions :

Tanna Tan and her blog, http://teapunknoveling.blogspot.com

Kayla Krantz and her blog, http://kaylakrantz.wix.com/horror

Dana Provo and her blog, https://authordanaprovo.wordpress.com

Dave Martin and his blog, https://weavingthewolfsong.wordpress.com

Laura Hartman and her blog https://writeknit.wordpress.com

Karin Shah and her blog, https://karinshah.wordpress.com

Alison Weaverdyck and her blog, https://balancewithoutsymmetry.wordpress.com

Kade Cook and her blog, https://kadecook.wordpress.com

Angela L. Lindseth and her blog, https://angelallindseth.com

Crystal MM Burton and her blog, https://crystalmmburton.wordpress.com

A.F. Stewart and her blog, https://afallonblog.wordpress.com

Here are the questions:

  1. If you dress up for Halloween, cosplay, or other less commonly accepted occasions, describe your last two costumes.
  2. What movie or tv show would you consider a guilty pleasure?
  3. If you could live in any fictional world (whether it’s yours or someone else’s creation), where would you live and why?
  4. You’ve been imprisoned for high treason and have been sentenced to death and there is no chance that the governor is going to call. Describe in detail your last meal.
  5. Answer one of these or both: Name your favorite Doctor on Doctor Who. Name your favorite James Bond.
  6. If you could choose any piece of music or song to be your theme song, what would it be?
  7. Concerning sleep, do you consider it a wondrous thing that you just can’t get enough of, or are you one of those “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” people?
  8. Has any character that you’ve created ever done anything that took you by surprise?
  9. Describe something from a movie, book or tv where you would have written it better.
  10. Are you a shipper? If so, name some of the ships that you love. (For example, if you watch the Flash and you think Barry and Caitlyn should get together, that means you are shipper for SnowBarry.)
  11. Sentence fragments. Love them or hate them?

Epidemic Sacrifices

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As stories go, I love a good epidemic.  When I go back to rewatch an old Star Trek or Stargate episode, I always gravitated to the ‘medical mysteries’, those stories where some virus or infection would break out and infect the major characters and there was always a race against time to find a cure before passing the point of no return.

As a series, their stories had to fill the confines of just an hour. Soap operas and comic books could spread the story out over many months, giving them that extra edge of building suspense or the emotional impact of the characters who could perish. Soaps and comics have a long history of being subject to various viruses, be they completely fictitious creations or something very real, taken from current events. The soaps had a variety of stories involving AIDS, encephalitis, the superflu and in one disturbing Guiding Light storyline, ‘the Dreaming Death’, where the virus caused its victims to actually dream themselves to death.

In comic books, diseases took on a more fantastical quality, not so much like ‘the Dreaming Death’ but something more exclusive to the characters and the world in which they existed. In a couple of titles, the scope of the epidemic encompassed the entire series, such as the Walking Dead and Y : the Last Man. For my comparison, I want to focus on how comic books that weren’t primarily about disease treated it as a storyline.

The X-men had a couple of epidemics that shook the stability of the team, the ‘techno-organic’ virus and its related descendant, ‘the Legacy’ virus. The techno-organic virus had infected the infant, Nathan Summers and resulted in him being transported to the future to ensure his survival. This was how baby Nathan became the time-travelling mutant, Cable. Honestly, it was an obvious plot device. Babies don’t have much story potential in comics except by drawing on the emotions of the parents, in this case, Cyclops and Jean Grey (taking over for her deceased clone Madelyne Pryor). The disease gave them a way to draw out the drama of losing a child and at the same time losing the weight of writing a baby into the story. And lo and behold, we have a convincing origin story for Cable. I think I was surprised when I found out that he was Nathan Summers.

Years later, a similar disease struck the mutant population, the Legacy virus.  Specifically targeting mutants, this virus first claimed the life of Illyana Rasputin, sister of Piotr Rasputin aka Colossus. This virus changed so rapidly, a vaccine had become nearly impossible to create. I remember feeling that the story became tired very quickly. Everything was affected by the Legacy virus and it transformed how everone lived. Nothing could be done and everyone seemed hopelessly useless. By the time Colossus sacrificed his life so that a cure could be synthesized, I almost didn’t care anymore.

Besides, no one ever dies forever in comics. Both Colossus and his sister Illyana returned to the story years later. I guess that’s why comics really couldn’t do the epidemic story justice. There has to be a true sense of sacrifice and loss. Somewhere along the line, the comics lost that. I don’t think the soaps did. My favorite story about disease happened on One Life to Live, where Viki’s daughter, Megan suffered and died from lupus, a very real disease which is widely misunderstood. Until I had seen it on that soap, I had never heard of that disease before. Not to say that it did the best job in educating me about it but at the very least, I became aware as I tuned in every day to watch the emotional scenes of her suffering and the love she had for those she left behind. Losing Megan was a loss that I could feel. Losing Colossus had a lot less impact.

So in this respect, I think the soaps are doing it right. Next time, I hope to talk about how soap operas and comic books deal with starting over. The reboot, the great megando-over.

The Drama of Cloning

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When I started watching soaps, I had to make choices. I would start my daily stories with Days of our Lives and then I would change the channel to watch One Life to Live and then General Hospital. My one true love of daytime soaps was General Hospital. I was there in the early days of Luke and Laura. The Webers, the Quartermaines, the Hardys, I knew them all and followed their lives for years. That is why I missed out on the stupendous story on the soap on the opposite channel, Guiding Light, and story of the cloning of Reva Shane.

Unable to go on any longer without his love, Josh Lewis had her cloned. He accelerated her aging so that she could assume the role of her predecessor. The clone, named “Dolly”, possibly as a nod to the famous cloned sheep, became paranoid at the sudden return of the original Reva and ended up taking her own life by overdosing on the same drugs used to accelerate her aging.  Makes a soap opera fan shake her head slowly in disappointment.

I’m not sure if I did the slow head shake when I read the X-men story about Madelyne Pryor. I probably should have but to be honest I ended up just feeling sorry for her. She was created by the villain, Mr. Sinister, as a clone to Jean Grey, after Jean had died and then died again as the Phoenix (see previous blog entry). Mr. Sinister’s ultimate goal was for Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, to fall in love with this mysterious but innocent doppelganger of his beloved Jean, to marry her and eventually conceive a child. This was a long con, taking more than a few years to reach its inevitable conclusion but comic books like soap operas are perpetual, right?

Unable to ever fully move on with his life without his beloved Jean Grey, Scott leaves his wife and son, Nathan, at Jean’s return from the dead. Poor Madelyne. Powerless and alone with a small child, she begins to lean heavily on Scott’s brother Alex, aka Havok, and they grow close. What did I tell you? Comic books and soap operas are practically indistinguishable. During this time of simultaneous abandonment and comfort, she learns of her husband’s reunion with Jean and that she is herself only a clone of that same woman. This overload of too much damaging information makes Madelyne’s mind vulnerable to takeover by a demon named S’ym. Madelyne Pryor becomes the Goblin Queen. With her new power and evil inside her mind, she confronts the original Jean Grey (see above image) and is ultimately defeated.

Poor Madelyne. She wasn’t always supposed to be evil. She was a plot device meant to put Scott into retirement. She was just supposed to coincidently look identical to Jean. Other writers took over and came up with the clone scenario and then offed the character in a very undignified fashion.  I didn’t like it, although her costume as the Goblin Queen was hot. But really, she was a mother! What about poor little Nathan Summers?

The writers had their way with Nathan too by giving the baby an incurable “techno-virus”. In order to save his life he is whisked away to the future. Weird, incurable diseases may have to be the topic of my next blog.

But don’t worry too much about Nathan.

He comes back—-as Cable.

Death is not the end

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I’ve done this comparison before, years ago. It was easier then because I was still keeping up with my soaps while I was reading comic books. Like soap operas, you sort of forget that comic books exist if you don’t get regular exposure to them. We’re all solipsistic beings whether or not we want to admit it but that’s a post for another day.

I bought some comics as I grew up. I’d see them in the magazine section and sometimes the cover art would just draw me right to it. This occasional excursion into comics gave me the key knowledge that set me apart from the other girls.

I knew that Dick Grayson wasn’t the only Robin.

I swear my brain is full of tons of random information that comes useful at odd times. This one helped me snag my husband. The first time he fixed me dinner, he sat me in his room with the four issue series featuring Wolverine and Kitty Pryde. I was hooked. I read every issue of Marvel’s the X-men he could loan me. Kitty Pryde (known in the comics as Shadowcat) was my favorite.

Comic book fans don’t want to admit that these books share many plot devices and formulas of the soap operas their moms watch.

One of the biggest ones is that death is not the end of a character. I used to believe that a character was truly dead if they left behind an identifiable body. Then along came Days of Our Lives’ Roman Brady. This man died in his brother’s arms, dramatically, tearfully. His loved ones have a funeral and just as everyone adjusted to his absence, he returned. He was played by a different actor who was several inches taller and bore no physical resemblance to what he looked like before but he held all the same memories. After a while he was accepted as Roman Brady by everyone including the audience. Cue the return of the original Roman Brady portrayed by the original actor.

The comic book world has Jean Grey. The X-men’s Marvel Girl first died tragically in a shuttle crash after being exposed to a lethal amount of cosmic rays. Not long after her death, she returned, claiming that her brush with death had intensified her powers of telekinesis and telepathy. She adopted the name “Phoenix”. After her near omnipotent powers send her on a cataclysmic killing spree, she sacrificed herself to save those she loves. After a suitable mourning period, readers learn that the Phoenix wasn’t actually Jean Grey. The Phoenix force had witnessed Jean’s first death and saved her at the last moment. It has assumed her name and likeness and preserved the original Jean Grey to be revived safe and sound later.

Without the superpowers, Roman Brady’s and Jean Grey’s stories are mirror images. Death, replacement and eventually the return of the original. I didn’t even go into the whole added story of Jean Grey’s clone Madeline Pryor. That had the vivid ridiculousness of a soap opera storyline in spades. Maybe when I can find a good comparison in the soap opera universe, I will tell you more about it.

A Weird and Wonderful Start

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. No, that’s not entirely true. I’ve always felt that I had to write. I spent a lot of my childhood completely and utterly alone. My parent both worked. My brother is autistic and we lived out in the middle of nowhere. As my husband relishes in pointing out, I have terrible social skills. Well, look at my childhood and you can see why. I guess if you look back on it, it could be sad but I don’t remember being sad at the time.

I remember watching soap operas. Cable tv was something for rich people who lived in the city. Out in the country we had rabbit ear attenna to get our tv broadcast. My brother, Erik, was a savant about tweaking it just right to get the channel to come in.  Anyway—all we had were the major networks and public television. I could only watch education programming for so long, besides, there was all of this drama happening in shows like, General Hospital and the Edge of Night.

I became so seriously addicted at the tender young age of eight. My parents weren’t too big on the whole trip to the library so this was my entertainment. My dad had watched Days of Our Lives with his grandmother since before I was born so I believed that soap operas were an eternal thing.

So that’s where it started. Even before I thought I wanted to be a vet, or a spy, or a flight attendant like my mother wanted me to be, I wanted to write soap operas. The plots were often outlandish and bigger than life. Who wouldn’t want to create something like that?

Obviously, that’s not what ended up happening. I’m not a vet, or a spy or a flight attendant (sorry, Mom, for being such a disappointment). I’m a librarian. Long story. I’m married to a semi-famous sculptor. Another long story. With two brilliant children. Not a long story, more self-explanatory. If you met them you’d agree that they’re brilliant and somehow I had a hand in bringing them into the world. Somewhere along the way, soap operas became less immortal.

I fell head over heels in love with comic books. Believe it or not, comic books are very similar to soap operas, so it was an easy transition. Next time, I show you just how similar.