Did someone say war against Christmas? If there is one, General Custer must be leading the charge. The season to be jolly is upon us and unless you find somewhere that’s very, very remote, and you leave your laptop at home, you won’t escape it, and the astute, or the cynical, among you will notice that it’s more about greed and profit than religion. There are a lot more Santas on the streets (and on the television and in the magazines and newspapers and candy wrappers and and and… ) than Baby Jesuses.
This is not news.
For at least a century, mammon and the Savior have been sharing year’s end. They’re crammed together in a season that grows longer every year and Santa’s elbows are bigger and sharper. The Lord is still present but, you know, kind of an afterthought – the kid in the corner.
In days of yore – extremely yore – the church was often the biggest building in the village because worship was considered the most important of communal activities. Everybody went to pray. Now… hey, anyone feel like comparing the house of God to the shopping mall?
But don’t come looking for the grinch at my back yard. Despite what some of you may have concluded after reading the paragraphs preceding this one, and despite what a Fox News pundit might say, I am not a Christmas hater. I think that it, in its various guises, is a genuine holiday, one that has served an evolutionary need.
We celebrate the holiday because it is useful. It is a festival of light and it comes when the trees are bare, the fields barren, and each today is shorter than yesterday. Somewhere deep inside, where our primal selves live, we’re scared. What if the sun shortens to extinction? What if the world will be forever cold?
Our ancestors found an answer. Have a party! Laughter and feasting and song and gifts and, yes, light, and feel the gloom lessen and hope begin.
Once, it was called Saturnalia. Now – Christmas. Next?
And if the buying and selling smothers the hope? Not good. Because we haven’t evolved past needing that hope.
The BBC is giving us all a grand Christmas present – Alex Kingston will return to Doctor Who for the Christmas special as The Doctor’s Paramour and assassin, River Song.
Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).
Award-winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance:
“To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humor and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read-through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September?, why not!”
Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer adds:
“Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song. The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time …”
River Song’s timeline with The Doctor has always been a topic of great discussion among fans. From her point of view, her first appearance in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead was the last time she saw The Doctor, having died and all. Up until the recent episode The Name of the Doctor, all of River’s appearances have been from earlier in her life / timeline – only in the latest one have we seen her from after the events of that first (well, I say “first”…) meeting. So there’s no knowing from whence we’ll be seeing her appear this time.
As fans of their relationship know, there’s one very important moment we’ve yet to see – The Doctor has not yet presented her with the souped-up version of the sonic Screwdriver she used with such style in the Library. And considering Christmas is traditionally when presents are exchanged, who’s to say this isn’t when it’ll happen?
Curse you, Moffat, we haven’t even gotten to the premiere of the new season (September 19, as if you didn’t know) and you’ve already got us looking ahead to Christmas.
With only a couple weeks until Christmas, we Tweeks can’t stop thinking about what we’ll be getting (because duh…we’ve been totally good this year). But it’s also come to our attention that we’re not easy to give gifts to. Anya prefers digital comics and Maddy can’t watch DVDs on her laptop, but you can’t unwrap a something that doesn’t physically exist. So this where we talk about why today’s tweens are hard to shop for, ponder if buying fandom merch should be a personal purchase, and give some ideas on how to present the kids in your life with presents they will love. We also have a companion Pinterest board with recommendations (& a peek at our wish list) if you haven’t done your shopping yet!
Beardo is the back to back winner of the prestigious Shel Dorf Award for Syndicated Print Strip of the Year (2012 and 2013), and Beardo is the alter-ego of award-winning writer, artist, and musician Dan Dougherty. ComicMix is bringing the first three volumes of Beardo back into print and adding the fourth book in the series out in time for Christmas. We’re using Indiegogo to take pre-orders, in addition to special items only through this campaign, and the campaign ends Friday.
We talked with Dan about the comic, the crowdfunding campaign, and the people lurking with razors if certain goals are met.
For those who don’t know Beardo, how would you describe it?
It’s about a plucky cartoonist with a sweet beard and a knack for finding the punch line in his own life.
What’s the best thing about doing your own strip?
Making humorous observations about my little world that can also be relatable for public consumption on a daily basis.
And the worst?
Making humorous observations about my little world that can also be relatable for public consumption on a daily basis.
What kind of perks do you get when you do a daily strip like this? Do other baristas give you free coffee?
Yes, but only because I saved Howard Schultz from a burning building once. At least that’s what I tell them.
Have you ever been recognized by a fan from your likeness to the character?
Only when I’m at comic conventions and standing right next to the books. However, I did have a lady at a school ask me if I knew the Dan Dougherty who does the comic in the paper. I said I knew him, and he’s a real jerk.
What is the strangest fan encounter you’ve ever had?
I’d say check out the comments section on my gocomics page, I get some interesting people who seem to thrive on using the comic as a flimsy segue into whatever wacky non sequitur is rattling around in their mind. Oftentimes it’s more interesting content then the comic that created it.
As we talk, you’ve raised nearly seven times the amount of money you originally asked for, but not enough to meet a stretch goal, which would require you to shave your beard. Is this good? Are you relieved? Would you rather have your beard or the money?
The goal we original set was low just so we could ensure we’d make it. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve set it higher to give people something to rally around, because releasing four books in a year is a lofty goal that requires some serious coin. That being said, I’m just happy I have such supportive fans in my corner who would’ve backed Beardo no matter what we were doing, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the beards in the world.
A lovely person with whom I once shared a wedge of life told me that the bad guys in my stories didn’t get really mean until I began having frequent encounters with a colleague who would never have gotten even close to my Christmas card list had I been the kind of guy who sends Christmas cards. And later I shifted part of the writer’s duty, the part that dealt with antagonists, to the editor while I pleasured myself with parts of the continuity that, at the time, I found more interesting.
Shame on me.
You may have heard it: the hero is only as good as the villain. Grant that there may be a taste of oversimplification in there somewhere, and then grant that the statement is true. Put Superman against a pickpocket? Batman against a jaywalker? Spider-Man against a graffiti artist? You’re not squirming in anticipation of those stories, are you? There’s not much conflict or drama – not much entertainment value – in a blatantly uneven contest. The powers and abilities of both halves of the story equation – good guy/bad guy – should be roughly equal and if you’re going to give an edge to one side, give it to the heavy; we do like to cheer for the underdog, don’t we?
Maybe my friend was right about the colleague. If so, I don’t know why. Maybe I needed some sort of emotional jolt, which the colleague generously supplied. Or maybe I was too involved with the plotting, as opposed to the charactering, of the stories. Maybe I wasn’t as involved in my craft as I should have been. Maybe my sun sign was not aligned with my moon sign and when that happens…run for the hills? Or maybe I was getting a preview of how I might feel in, oh, say – forty years later?: that is, now.
I’m not churning out as much fantasy-melodrama as I once did, but if I were, villains might be a problem. Time was that the baddies existed only to give he hero grief and if the baddie discharged that duty, enough said and well done! Some people are just nasty: case closed. But the best popular fiction now gives the evildoers just about the same degree of motivation and personality as is bestowed upon the good guys. And at a certain level, it’s becoming hard for me to really believe in villainy – that is actions that serve only to rain on someone’s parade. A really good writer – Shakespeare, say – can do a bad guy whose core seems to be sheer malevolence – and make the narrative work. But we aren’t all Shakespeare.
My problem is, I no longer believe in villainy. I believe in ignorance and, to borrow an idea from my days as a Catholic, some of it is invincible ignorance and the invincibly ignorant will hold onto their ignorance until ten seconds after they’re breathed their last. But they’re not infected with some spiritual toxin that makes men slimeys. They’re ignorant.
Thich Nhat Hanh, who is as close to a saint as anyone I know of, says that, given different circumstances he would have become a river pirate instead of a monk.
I look back on eight and a half decades and see myself doing plenty of ratty stuff. But I didn’t do it because I was a villain and, in the moment, I either rationalized my acts or simply didn’t deal with their moral implications. I guess what I did might fit some definitions of ignorance.
But “ignorance” doesn’t have the same dramatic heft as “evil,” does it?
I won’t lie to you… I never thought this day was coming.
I never thought Marvel Comics would be able to untangle the legal Gordian knot that was the history of the character originally known as Marvelman when they announced they’d secured the rights from creator Mick Anglo nearly five years ago. With all the people involved, all the hands through which the rights had passed, actually and allegedly, it seemed insurmountable. But Marvel took its time, with the patience of a father untangling the box of Christmas lights, and now here we are, a couple weeks after Christmas, but given a wonderful and shiny present.
Mike Gold is going to kill me. Again, It’s pushing 9pm PST and this article is just now being put together. This time I did wait until the last minute.
No excuses. I had a horrible falling out with a loved one that and a recent rash of random negative bullshit has totally thrown me completely off my game.
And yes, I’m about to have a pity party. I’m due. I haven’t had one since…never.
I personally sent out invitations to 30 people in advance of the VIP invite list. These were those I felt I must share what I knew would be one of the greatest events in my life the opening of Milestones: African Americans In Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond.
My invites reached zero people for whatever reason, so 10 days or so before I’m sending them out again and for all 30 I write a personal note apologizing for the late notice and pleading for them to attend. The longest and most heartfelt was written to my 10th grade art teacher Ms. Renee Darvin.
Less than five minutes after I sent that note I find out she died. I’m a wreck for a few days, but I carry on.
No. No I don’t.
Tatiana El Khouri, my co-curator for the show, saveed my ass. I was useless. Every major decision made over the next few days was all Tatiana. I was just looking to put my fist in a wall or someone’s face.
So there was that.
Speaking of which, I’m currently doing 300 hours of community service for (almost) putting my fist in someone face.
Now about those 300 hours…I was twice given the wrong information from the genius that work for the court so it’s impossible to complete the hours by my due date.
So there was that.
The Milestones show was always to feature the art of Denys Cowan as the centerpiece. Yeah, he’s my best friend but he’s also Denys Fucking Cowan. Without whom Milestone Media would never have happened and as such the Milestones show would have never been.
If for some reason that does not impress you consider this; a month or so ago Jay Leno had Quinton Tarantino as his guest and Jay held up the Django Unchained hardcover opened to Deny’s work. There were a number of artists in the volume but Quinton choose Denys’.
Well, when your fan boy ass sits down to Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece; The Wolf Of Wall Street, ask yourself why you are not impressed when Denys’ face appears right smack in the middle of the film by way of an magazine ad he was featured in back in 1989.
Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.
People at their level do nothing by chance. You don’t show 20 million television viewers a random page in a graphic novel nor do you display a random magazine ad in a 100 million dollar movie.
Leno, Tarantino, Scorsese.
Denys Fucking Cowan.
Denys’ work was always to be the centerpiece of the huge Milestones exhibit. The exhibit that was two years in the making, the exhibit that was to be the crowning cherry on top of the 20th year anniversary of Milestone cake.
All 28 pieces of his work were lost (bullshit, stolen…in my opinion) by UPS.
There was that.
I’ve been dealing with that for the last three weeks. Then a few days ago I had a horrible falling out with one of the loves of my life and said some horrible things and even if I was right to say them I shouldn’t have.
Now I feel like shit.
There was that.
Then a dog that wasn’t even one of my dogs (my dogs know better) pissed on my X-Box. It still works, hence the dogs still lives.
There was that.
Then the ultimate blow.
Everyone knows Christmas is my favorite time of year.
This year, no Christmas spirit and on Christmas day I was alone. I made it a point to whine like a little bitch to my dear beloved Lucy who tried her best to bring me out of my funk.
Like I said, I’ve never had a pity party but it’s my gift to myself and I was feeling pretty good about my pity party when I thought of the Christmas Eve gift I received in the form of a call from three of my former students, Felix Serrano, John Giuffo and Jean Segarra.
Man, that was great. But I figured I could still manage a pretty good pity party with that wonderful present but then I thought of the following…
Not a word. Not a fucking word.
Denys knew days before the opening his most prized work was gone, perhaps forever. He was heartbroken. I’ve seen him like that only twice in our 30 plus year friendship. Once was when the woman who raised him died, his grandmother and again when his grandfather died.
This was just like that. It was like a death in his family. Yeah, I knew. His family knew, but the hundred plus people who were the selected few invited to the opening of Milestones? Some of which were lifelong friends? Some of the most important sure to be sympathetic people in the industry?
Not a word.
Denys said not a word to anyone about the massive pain he was feeling in so doing he ruined my perfectly good pity party with his class and dignity.
All I can do now is make good on my promise I made the second after I told Denys his work was missing; “Trust me, you will get your work back. Every single page. I can’t say exactly when or under what circumstance but every single page will be back in your hands. Some UPS motherfucker is about to realize they opened the wrong box and when asked why UPS sends their packages Fed-Ex his great grandson will answer Denys Fucking Cowan.”
I’m Jewish. Shocking, no? And as such, this time of year always bestows upon me (and my kin) an interesting level of ignorance to the festivities. While I did celebrate Christmas due to a family member (of goyish decent) throwing an annual party, we, the Jewish relatives, simply called it late Hanukkah and enjoyed the time together as I’m sure so many of you non-Jews do.
The interesting ignorance though, came from the obviously odd faux-nicety that spread throughout the land. Because of this, the one day seemingly all stores can close without ill-tidings, suddenly we’re all nice to one another? Not that I’m knocking it, mind you. But it always struck me odd that the celebration of the birth of the messiah (which historians all concluded wasn’t anywhere near December) could bring with it the notion that everyone should suddenly be nice. As I grew up, it became even odder as Christmas continues to lose any spiritual connection and becomes increasingly secular. Plus, it’s pretty easy to see Christians co-opted the Pagan Winter Solstice, just to be mean about it. But I digress.
One of the biggest conundrums that struck my many friends growing up was my definitive lack of love and fondness for holiday movies. Perhaps due to my overly-zealous mother telling me at a very early age that Santa wasn’t real and even if he was, he wouldn’t visit me anyways… I just never saw much reason to get doe-eyed for some Claymation classics. Home Alone? Sure, I loved that flick. But more because of the freedom I could see having myself should my parents just leave me be. As a revelatory cinema de festive though, nay I say.
When I met my wife, it was mid-January. Our first date hovered close to Valentine’s Day. We’d moved in together in the summer. By the time we’d made it to our first December, my love was all a’flutter putting up fake trees, hanging stockings, and gleefully prancing about our junior one-bedroom apartment because A Christmas Story was to be played 24 hours, non-stop, on basic cable. Near a year with my baby, and I’d no idea she swooned over such a throw-away flick. No sooner did she pirouette to the couch did I crush her spirit when I declared simply “… huh. Never saw that one. Looked boring though.”
Well, she’d have nothing of it! My ass was duck-taped to the couch, eyelids pried open with medical equipment (with the whole eye-dropper dealie above it, of course), and I was made to absorb the film whilst she creepily monitored my every reaction.
Oddly… I loved it. Loved every second of it. From the first establishing shots declaring a setting not unfamiliar to myself (a South Suburban Chicagoan knows well of Gary, IN), to the final scenes closing in on a Jewish tradition of Chinese Food (Which, honestly, I didn’t know was a thing)… here was yet another cinematic celebration of materialism, and familial love that I’d only seen dozens of times before. But unlike any other viewings, with this sleeper-of-a-film, I’d actually drawn an honest emotional connection.
Ralpie’s desire for that perfect toy, and how it permeated everything in and around his life was very close to my own greedy little-childhood. And just as he was defeated around every corner, I too, recalled many a Nintendo game left on the shelf, whilst I was dragged away in utter agony. Then, the fateful morning. Gift-wrapping strewn about. Gleeful chortles of a younger brother getting toy after toy. The inevitable gift of not-toys (shudder… clothing!). When all hope was lost, I felt for poor Ralphie now coming to grips with the end of his innocence (You can’t always get what you want… sayeth the philosopher Jagger I believe). It’s only then, when that maturity washes over Ralphie that the old man gets that glimmer in his eye. He steps over to a desk, and out from a hiding spot presents his son with one more gift. The return of hope. The rekindling of the spirit within. The damned toy he wanted… right there for him! And, yeah, he shoots his eye out, yadda yadda yadda.
A Christmas Story was for me the first holiday-centric media I’d consumed that did not ultimately declare itself worthless treacle in my eyes. It was a story rooted in innocence and reality, elevated not with effects or deus ex machina like Krampus and the like. It was a celebration of people taking that extra step to be kind to their kin and fellow man. Not because of spiritual necessity… but because of the desire to be better human beings if only for a short time before it be forgotten.
With that being said, I hope all of you enjoyed your winter celebrations. Be safe this New Years Eve, kiddos.
The question’s not IF you cried, it’s when. The Doctor hangs around one place for a while, Matt Smith bids the show farewell, and Steven Moffat pulls at all the threads and brings everything into a neat little bow. It’s the end of an era, and the exciting start of a new one, because it’s…
THE TIME OF THE DOCTOR
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Jamie Payne (more…)