9/11: Why Adults Get Frustrated When You Say You “Get It” (And Why They Shouldn’t)

new_york_skyline_before_and_after_9-11When I think about 9/11, the first thing my brain goes to isn’t always the attack on the two towers of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. I think back to 1993 when I was in college and working at a local TV station in Columbia, South Carolina. My school, the University of South Carolina (that would be the “other” USC), was searching for a new head football coach. One evening, I road to the airport with the sports anchor, because there was a rumor that one of the job candidates was flying into town that evening. We planted ourselves with a video camera at the end of the ramp where the passengers disembarked, hoping to catch the first video clip of who might become the Gamecocks’ new head football coach (sadly, no such person came off the plane).

The reason my brain goes back to 1993 instead of 2001, is because news crews can’t do what we did anymore. The only way you get that close to the end of the ramp is if you’re a passenger. Yes, we went through metal detectors to get that far, but we didn’t have to take off our shoes or submit to a pat down. These days, you don’t get past the metal detectors unless you have a plane ticket.

When I think of 9/11, I also remember growing up in the eighties during the height of the Cold War, fearing we’d all die in nuclear war. Then the Cold War ended, and the threat of nuclear attack no longer felt quite so constant.

But when I think of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, I only think about the Japanese fighters dropping bombs on our naval fleet, all the lives lost, and how it pushed the United States into World War II. The point I’m making is that when I think of that attack, I can only know what it was after the fact. The idea of life before World War II can and only will ever be an abstract concept for me, but if my parents had asked me when I was a teenager if I “got it,” I don’t doubt I would have insisted that I did.

This morning, my son complained about how all of his teachers always try to hammer on why 9/11 is a big deal. He was born a little more than two weeks before the 9/11 attack. After voicing his complaint, he insisted that what his teachers do isn’t necessary, because he “gets it.” My knee-jerk reaction was to insist that he doesn’t. The thing is, it’s not fair to expect him to. That he knows about it, the mistakes that led to it, and the mistakes that followed are about all your generation can be reasonably expected to know.

You’ll never know a pre-9/11 world. You and my children see the way things are as a given, because you were born into it. I see a world where the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon aren’t limited to nearly 3,000 deaths and 6,000 injured. The horror of 9/11 is that we’re still being victimized by it. I grew up in a world before 9/11, and I can’t unsee all the things that aren’t the same. I went to Wizard World in Richmond yesterday and a security guard checked me with a metal-detecting wand to make sure I wasn’t carrying any weapons, something that wouldn’t have happened when I was a child. I submitted to that without complaint and even thanked the guard for doing his job, but in the back of my mind, I can’t help think that such necessities in our world are insanity.

I was in the middle of the hiring process to become a 911 dispatcher when 9/11 happened. A few days after the attack, I underwent my polygraph exam. As the polygraph operator read through her list of questions, she eventually asked me, “Do you have any gang or terrorist affiliations?” After I answered “No,” she paused to look up at me and said, “People used to laugh at that question.”

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Fangs God It’s Friday: Rebecca

One of the weirdest vampire films I’ve watched is The Moth Diaries. This 2011 film was based on a novel of the same title by Rachel Klein. The story focuses on Rebecca, whose poet father committed suicide two years prior. Since then, Rebecca’s mother has enrolled her in a boarding school to help her build a new life away from all the reminders at home of her father. Starting a new school year, Rebecca’s best friend falls under the influence of a vampire named Ernessa, and unless Rebecca can find a way to stop Ernessa, the price will be the life of her best friend and then likely Rebecca, as well.

Sarah Bolger as Rebecca in The Moth Diaries

As I write out the plot for the film, I realize there are certain parallels between this story and my first novel Gidion’s Hunt. Like Rebecca, Gidion must stop the vampires to save the life of his friends.

Rachel Klein’s story finds a fresh approach to the vampire myth with the moth. Several species of moths are nicknamed “vampire moths” because they feed on blood. I have to think that tidbit offered some inspiration to Klein’s novel. I have a good friend who despises moths; she should never watch this film.

I consider Rebecca a fun, debatable selection for my Fangs God It’s Friday as a vampire hunter-type character. I say “debatable” (SPOILER ALERT!)because the film leaves you to wonder if Rebecca is so traumatized by her father’s death that she’s imagining the entire thing. Some question if Ernessa even exists or, worse, if Ernessa is just a normal classmate and unfortunate victim of Rebecca’s mental breakdown. I will say that I fall into the camp who believes Ernessa was indeed a vampire and that Rebecca’s trauma actually draws Ernessa to her (END SPOILER). Bolger delivers a great performance, and she’s the main reason I wanted to watch this film. Prior to this, Bolger impressed me with her performance in the TV series The Tudors as a young Mary Tudor. She manages to make Mary so sympathetic that it’s easy to forget she will grow into the infamous “Bloody Mary,” even though she plays Mary with all the elements that will eventually lead to her persecution of Protestants.

For anyone curious to watch a smart vampire film and doesn’t mind a story with a slow burn to the plot (or moths), I think you’ll enjoy The Moth Diaries.

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Marvel Needs to Rip Off the Band-Aid

The new Invincible Iron Man Riri Williams with Tony StarkTwo years ago, I wrote what remains one of this blog’s most viewed entries, Don’t Get Excited About the New Thor. In it, I made my case for why I didn’t trust Marvel to do right by the new female Thor and actually keep the change in place. Two years later, we’re getting a new Iron Man, and I’m willing to say I’m more optimistic based on what we’ve seen happen with the Jane Foster version of Thor, but I’m also hoping Marvel doesn’t pull a Spider-Man/Captain Marvel on us. Stick with me, because I’ll explain what that means.

Earlier today, Marvel announced the events of Civil War II will result in Tony Stark no longer being Iron Man. In his place, Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black girl, will take over the mantle. As you might expect, we’re seeing the same collective freak-out that’s followed any major, long-running Marvel character being replaced in the name of diversity.

First, let’s talk about the good. Marvel Comics is proving their committed to bringing in new characters, and making their universe reflect the diversity of our universe. It should. We don’t live in a caucasian world. America used to bill itself as a melting pot, and these days, that philosophy looks abandoned by far too many. Marvel has actually kept Jane Foster as Thor far longer than I expected without making it all about the old Thor, now known simply as Odinson.

Captain America Sam Wilson Steve Rogers Spider-Man Miles Morales Peter ParkerNow, let’s get to some of the bad. While Thor remains a case where the change has stayed in place and the old Thor hasn’t regained the title, we’ve seen a lot of other diversified revisions of heroes (Spider-Man and Captain America) end in a “let’s have both” solution. Around the time Jane Foster became the new Thor, Marvel also retired Steve Rogers as Captain America and turned the mantle over to Sam Wilson (better known to many previously as Falcon). Recently, Marvel brought back Steve Rogers as Captain America, but instead of making it where Sam Wilson is no longer Cap, both men are Captain America. Marvel basically said, “Why can’t we have both?” After all, Marvel has basically done that with Spider-Man. We have both our white male, Peter Parker Spider-Man and our African-American, Puerto Rican, Miles Morales Spider-Man. In both cases, these duos exist (now) within the same universe at the same time. On the surface, this looks fine. Only, I think it’s not taking things far enough. What Marvel is doing comes across as a “separate-but-equal” approach.

The point I’m getting at is that we need to truly retire some of these older heroes. Think about this a moment. Steve Rogers was revived as Captain American in the early issues of the Avengers in the mid-1960s. Let that sink in a moment. I’m 43, and Avengers #4 was almost a full decade before I was born. Physically, he should at least be in his seventies by this point. At least with Cap, you can argue that he has the super-soldier serum thing to keep him going, but then what’s Tony Stark’s excuse? Seriously, without the suit, what is he? Yes, he’s a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” but he’s also still just human.

Cover to The Uncanny X-Men #227One of the things I loved about Chris Claremont’s original run on The Uncanny X-Men, which spanned almost 16 years, was his philosophy towards evolving the roster. He believed characters would grow out of being superheroes, opening the way for new characters. Unfortunately, the executives and many long-running fans balk at this philosophy, which has resulted in most of our modern comics being reduced to a convoluted mess. Marvel and DC both keep reaching for ways to reboot their universes as a way to bring order to their messy timelines. The solution is a lot simpler: let the world of imagination evolve with the world we live in. The time has come to let some of our legends finish strong and bring in a new generation of superheroes who embody the world we live in and not the past.

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Grumpy Dragon’s Fourth of July Face-Off

To mark the Fourth of July, I decided to share something from the archives. Back in 2012, Windsor, the Grumpy Dragon, faced off with my talking cat Frank, the star of my old webcomic The Wildcat’s Lair. I’m happy to say this episode entitled “USA vs. UK” still holds up pretty well.

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Fangs God It’s Friday: Dracula

In 2004, Warner Brothers went for an entirely different animated series starring Batman simply called The Batman. I recently tried to watch it, and while it wasn’t bad, I can’t say it got me all that excited. Trying to top Batman: The Animated Series was always going to be an uphill battle. Even more than twenty years after Kevin Conroy first lent his voice to the Dark Knight, many people still consider him the defining actor for Batman (and that includes all of the live-action actors to tackle the role). Despite the fact The Batman underwhelmed for some, it delivered something pretty spectacular in 2005. The creators released a special animated film (direct to video) entitled Batman vs. Dracula.

Dracula from Batman vs. Dracula, voiced by Peter Stormare
Actor Peter Stormare provided the voice for the master vampire (most probably best remember Stormare as the crazy cosmonaut from the 1998 film Armageddon). Dracula gets resurrected thanks to the shenanigans of the Joker and Penguin hunting for a stash of stolen money hidden in Gotham City. In the process, Dracula turns Penguin into his little flying monkey (not literally) to help him with his schemes. Joker later gets turned into a vampire (naturally, he gets turned back to normal before its over). Batman’s fight with “Vampire Joker” is probably my favorite part of the film, but that’s a Fangs God It’s Friday for another week.

Dracula proves an excellent foe for Batman, and their first encounter leaves Batman licking his wounds. Perhaps my least favorite part of the plot involves Dracula trying to resurrect his dead bride Carmilla by sacrificing Batman’s off-and-on romantic interest, reporter Vicki Vale (seriously, how many times are writers going to give Dracula a lost love he’s desperate to bring back to life or unlife?). Still, this animated film delivered something pretty cool, and it’s well worth checking out for the diehard Batman fans.

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Fangs God It’s Friday: Charley Brewster

I’m using today’s Fangs God It’s Friday to pay tribute to actor Anton Yelchin. The young actor who achieved his greatest acclaim for playing the part of Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot died this past Sunday in a car crash. He was only 27-years-old.

Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster in Fright Night

He performed in dozens of films, including the 2011 remake of Fright Night, in which he played the lead role of Charley Brewster.

The film faced an uphill battle with many fans of the original unconvinced a remake was needed. The updated version with Yelchin brought a modern spin to the original story. Among the most notable changes was altering the part of Peter Vincent from a late night TV horror movie host into a Las Vegas magician which was played brilliantly by David Tennant (and featured in a previous Fangs God It’s Friday).

For the part played by Yelchin, perhaps the biggest change that caught my attention in the trailer was that this Charley Brewster answered the threat of the vampires by getting armed for war. He goes shopping and buys several weapons, including a crossbow and some protective clothing. He also breaks into the vampire’s house after searching online how to pick a lock. The level of resourcefulness and intelligence demonstrated by Charley worried me a lot at the time. I feared the remake might tread too far into the territory I planned to claim in my vampire hunter novel, Gidion’s Hunt. I’d finished writing my book before the film was released and was shopping it around with publishers and agents during the time of Fright Night‘s release. After seeing the film, I was relieved to find that my modern interpretation of a teenage vampire hunter took a much different route.

I enjoyed the remake of Fright Night a lot, and Yelchin’s take on Charley definitely helped with that. He brought an enthusiasm to every part he played, and the joy for his work made it near impossible for the audience not to enjoy watching him at work. The news of his death came just a month before the release of his third film as Ensign Chekov in Star Trek: Beyond which arrives in theaters on July 22nd.

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Good-Bye to Page

My last Dog Selfie with PageWhen Page joined my household more than a decade ago, I wasn’t thrilled. That might surprise you when this dog found her way into so many of my creative endeavors. Not only did I use Page as a character within a webcomic called The Wildcat’s Lair, but I also made her the pet for the main character in my Gidion Keep, Vampire Hunter series. The reason I didn’t originally want her was because I knew I’d love her. I grew up with another dog I also loved very much, and I dreaded the thought of going through that loss again. Yesterday was that day.

During the past year, the vet diagnosed Page with cancer, and prior to that, she tore her ACL (ending any hopes Page had for her career in the NFL). We’ve known yesterday was coming. I expected it much sooner, and when she lasted beyond my expectations, a part of me foolishly wondered if she’d even make it all the way into next year. This past week, though, we knew she was nearing the end. Ironically, I was the last to cave when we got her all those years ago, and I was last to cave again when it was time to say good-bye.

My dog Page, in the only picture for which she ever voluntarily posed.I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures of Page in this post. Getting a picture of her wasn’t easy, and if the advent of the iPhone hadn’t happened, I’m not sure we would have ever gotten many pictures of her. Even using our cell phones, she somehow sensed when we would try to photograph her and turn away. The digital cameras we owned prior to that, the instant we pulled them out, Page would all but dive under the bed to get away from the camera. That makes the picture to the right that much more special. That picture is the only one for which she ever willingly posed. I was sitting at my desk in the Batcave. Page walked over to me, even though I had the camera in my hand. She sat down as you see in the picture and reached up with her paw and tugged gently on my arm. At first, I thought she simply wanted me to pet her, but she became more insistent. I turned on the camera, generating the grinding gears and beeps that every other time sent her fleeing to the darkest corners of the house. This time, she sat there and waited. I snapped the picture, and then she calmly curled up on the floor. In twelve years, she never repeated this behavior.

She spent the first two years of her life going through four other homes before joining our family. The other owners tried to make her an outdoor dog, but Page would constantly jump the fence. We wanted her for an indoor dog. The first month, she never barked, almost too timid to get comfortable after being bounced around through so many homes. She more than made up for that silence once she realized we meant to keep her, barking at the slightest hint of an invader to our home. She didn’t bark much during this last month, and realizing that has me crying again.

As I mentioned, Page also (unwillingly) took part in my webcomic, The Wildcat’s Lair. She often antagonized Frank, my imaginary talking pet cat and main character of the webcomic. In a weird twist, the last episode I ever produced for the webcomic didn’t include Frank. It was just me and Page in the car. To close this blog entry out with a smile instead of more tears, here’s a link to that. I’m also going to include below links to several of the episodes that featured Page, a few of my favorites. Most of those episodes involve the NCAA Tournament when the many characters in the webcomic would participate in a bracket battle. Things typically didn’t go well for Page.

Some of my favorite episodes of The Wildcat’s Lair with Page:

Bracket Battle 2009, Episode V

Dinner is Served

Explaining Cats and Dogs

It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World

Page’s Pity Party

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