Four Letter Nerd

Category - Lifestyle

Productivity 101: The Pomodoro Technique

If you are anything like me, sometimes it can be hard to stay focused at work.  If you work on a computer all day long like I do,  it can be mentally exhausting to do the same thing day in and day out.  Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be able to leave my beige-walled cubicle and start working from home at my real job, which has been fantastic.  For the most part I’ve been able to stay around the same level production-wise, but I was expecting to be able to get more done now that I am away from my colleagues that like to stop by and talk, or the over-the-cubicle-wall talk about the Jackson 5 or listening to older ladies discuss Miley Cyrus (both of which happened occasionally).

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the distractions found at home are way better than those found in the nondescript cubicle farm where I still go one day a week.  I had to set up my desk in the bedroom because the only extra room in the house was between the living room and play room, and I didn’t feel like getting pummeled by our three year old who thinks he’s both a Ninja Turtle and a Power Ranger every five minutes.  You know what else is in the bedroom? A bed, a TV, whatever books I am currently reading, and a window to the world outside (mostly a view of my shed, but what can you do).  That is four things I never had to worry about at work.  The only TV we have at the office is in the basement and plays the Andy Griffith Show and the Price is Right on and endless loop and at an unbelievable volume.  Seriously, the show choices and the insane volume is like being at my Granpa’s house when I was a kid.  My production at work hadn’t dropped per se, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  I needed something that could get focused on my work, while also staving off the constant cycle of burnout.

Enter the Pomodoro technique!

The interestingly named Pomodoro technique is a productivity system that promises to help you eliminate distractions, avoid burnout (burnout is a major drag), and create a better work/life balance.  The user sets a timer – Francesco Cirillo, the founder of the technique, used a Pomodoro timer (a kitchen timer that looks like a Pomodoro tomato) hence the name – to alternate between periods of intense focus on work and complete separation of all things work related.  Generally, before setting your timer and starting your first Pomodoro, you set up a “To-Do” list of things to accomplish, and work them in order of priority.  Once one item is completed, it is checked off the list and the next item becomes your priority.


Now let’s get into the system itself.

Each Pomodoro takes 30 minutes total – 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of play.  After all, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” (is that reference still relevant? I assume people still read and/or watch The Shining).  Once you complete your 25 minutes of focused work, a check mark is made on a notepad, and you are now free to do something completely separate from your work, whether it be a walk, stretching, straightening up the house, or, I don’t know, finally thinking of that witty comeback you wish you would’ve said to Gary last night… but seriously, spend 3-5 minutes completely disengaged from your work.  After the break you reset the timer and get back to work.  After four Pomodoro’s you then give yourself a 15-30 minute break.

“That’s a lot of breaks!?” the middle-manager in you might say.

Here’s the thing, since your 25 minutes are meant to be hyper-focused on work, you are actually likely to get more done than you would were you just to do your normal routine of interspersing work with browsing the internet, going to get coffee, or catching up with the few colleagues that you actually enjoy being around until you get your fifteen minute break.  I have only been using this technique for a week or two, but I can go back and look at my production levels and there is a significant difference between by pre-Pomodoro work style.  I was honestly surprised by the amount of improvement between my already decent numbers and my productivity using this system.  Please note: I am not trying to Billy Mays you into trying this technique.  I am legitimately interested in what works, and, as of now, this technique is on fleek (I have no idea if I used that right… I am dreadfully boring).

It also appears that the technique delivers on its promise to manage burnout and eliminate distractions, as far as I am concerned.  Knowing your next break is always less than 25 minutes away makes it easier to keep your mind on the task at hand.  It also helped me eliminate my random Facebook/Google News browsing, because it’s easier to convince yourself to block out those distractions knowing you will get your chance when you are in your 5 minute work hiatus.  Throughout my Pomodoro trial run, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my focus and production, while experiencing a marked decrease in pretty much all of the common distractions found in both cubicle land and at the work-at-home office.

If you are interested in working smarter and increasing your output, while still getting time to mentally reboot and feel refreshed, the Pomodoro technique is definitely for you.  If you decide to give it a go you can get more details at their official website here!  Let us know in the comments how this technique works for you if you decide to try it out!

Remembering Alan Rickman

If you’re reading this then you already know that the brilliant and beloved Alan Rickman has passed away. Reports say that Rickman lost a battle to cancer and peacefully went to that big Nakatomi Plaza in the sky. For most people from my generation, Rickman will always be most fondly remembered as Severus Snape, the brooding and intimidating Hogwarts professor with a reluctant and unassuming heart of gold. For the people just above my generation he’ll always be Hans Gruber, the cunning and ruthless German terrorist who helped introduce us to the best blue-collar action hero the world has ever seen, John McClane. And since everywhere else you read about the wonderful life of Mr. Rickman will likely only focus on these two roles of his, I’d like to talk about a few of his other fantastic work.

The first time I remember seeing Alan Rickman was in the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. As a kid, I LOVED that movie. I used to watch it all the time. As an adult, I realize… Costner maybe isn’t the best Robin Hood. However, Rickman’s portrayal of the despicable but humorously exasperated Sheriff of Nottingham is still one of the standout performances in that film. The Sheriff is a jerk, but Rickman almost gets you on his side for brief moments, due to the way you almost relate to his frustrations.

“I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!”

The next time I was captivated by Rickman wasn’t until about 8 years later. The film was Dogma. Written and directed by Kevin Smith, the film is about a woman who discovers that she is the final bloodline relative of Jesus Christ and is the only person who can save the universe from being obliterated. That movie made a very big impact on me in terms of my understanding and perception of religion and belief, and Rickman’s role as the Metatron, the Voice of God, played a big part in that. At one point in the film, the main character Bethany breaks down and says that she’s not capable of taking on the responsibility that’s fallen on her. At that point, Rickman delivers this monologue as only he could’ve…

That’s what Jesus said. Yes, I had to tell him. And you can imagine how that hurt the Father – not to be able to tell the Son Himself because one word from His lips would destroy the boy’s frail human form? So I was forced to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that He was God’s only Son, and that it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people He came to enlighten and redeem. He begged me to take it back, as if I could. He begged me to make it all not true. And I’ll let you in on something, Bethany, this is something I’ve never told anyone before… If I had the power, I would have.

That fell very heavy on me, and I’m convinced that no other actor could have inserted the intensity and emotion into it that Rickman did. The man was a master of his craft.

“Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.”

Immediately following Dogma, Rickman joined the ensemble comedy, Galaxy Quest, which has become something of a cult-classic in nerd culture. His portrayal of Alexander Dane, a true thespian who’s resentful that his most notable work is as “Dr. Lazarus” on the cancelled sci-fi show for which the film is named. He again, doing as Rickman did best, plays a very hilariously frustrated character, who doesn’t want much. Just the respect that he feels he deserves.

“I played Richard III… There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me. Look at me! I won’t go out there and say that stupid line one more time.”

The final film I’d like to mention, was a role for Rickman that was maybe his most down-to-earth performance ever. Love, Actually. I know, I know. It’s a “romantic comedy” and you very likely don’t even respect it’s existence. Well, you can go to hell becasue I actually love that movie. (See what I did there?)

Rickman plays Harry, the director of a design company who becomes gradually seduced by his secretary, as he drifts further and further away from his wife, played by Emma Thompson. Their interactions in the film become more and more difficult to watch as you see his whor… I mean… his “lady of the evening” secretary persuade him futher and further into an unseen, but clearly not imaginary, affair. He painfully captures the sincerity of someone who knows what they’re doing is wrong but keeps doing it anyway. The layers that exist in that character are, in my opinion, the most complex ones to be found in a film that, arguably, has more depth than you think it does. You can thank Alan Rickman for that.

“Right, the Christmas party. Not my favorite night of the year, and your unhappy job to organize… it’s basic, really. Find a venue, over-order on the drinks, bulk-buy the guacamole and advise the girls to avoid Kevin if they want their breasts unfondled.”

Alan Rickman was a truly brilliant actor. He could be menacing in ways that would make your skin crawl, but he could also make you laugh out loud with his dry and slightly bitter sense of humor. He could seamlessly flow from drama, to action, to fantasy, to comedy, and even do all four at once if need be. No role was too small that he couldn’t make it the most captivating performance you’d see in that entire film, and no role was too big that you’d tire of him. His artful presence will be sorely missed.

“Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility.” – Alan Rickman. 1946 – 2016

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person

It’s the New Year, and that means everyone is either psyching themselves up to try to make themselves better people, or busy telling everyone they can find that New Year’s Resolutions are pointless.  Sure there is some middle-ground in there somewhere, but it’s pretty slim.  For me, my hope is to become more content with where I am in life, and quit looking to the next step.

One thing that is becoming more and more common in our society is something called “status anxiety.”  Status anxiety is fear of being less-than because others around you have more.  I definitely see this trait in myself, and I am working hard to fix it.  After reading a few books on the subject, I became bored with the droll, nonfiction accounts of status anxiety and began my semiannual reading of The Lord of the Rings.  It’s funny how different mindsets play in to one’s interpretation of what they are reading.  While reading the introduction there exists an almost total antithesis of status anxiety in the story’s lore.  Sometimes the best advice we can find is that found in the stories we love.  I find that pop culture, in general, allows us to explore different ideals with more clarity than most give it credit.

Now, obviously there is a strong sense of epic mythological adventure in The Lord of the Rings – there is a reason that it is one of the most popular fantasy series out there – but I want to look at something a little smaller in scope — both literally and metaphorically.  For today’s article I’d like to look at how the simplistic lifestyle of the Hobbits might help inform us on how better to live our lives, especially in the always-connected, hectic lifestyle in which most of us find ourselves.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” ~ The Hobbit


Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings center on the adventures of Bilbo and his nephew Frodo, and through these books we can get several glimpses of Hobbit culture.  Outside of a few notable outliers, two of which were just mentioned, the Shire-folk tend to value the simple things — good stories, good food, and good friends top the list — while more adventurous endeavors and loud behavior are generally frowned upon.  Really, besides the Sacksville-Bagginses, we see very little covetous behavior in Hobbit culture.  In fact, it appears that their lack of status anxiety is the key reason Frodo was so resilient to the pull of the One Ring.  Sméagol immediately covets the Ring, going so far as to kill his good friend to obtain it, and then spend the entire story trying to rebooting his precious, where Frodo’s immediate reaction is to reject the Ring and give it to Gandalf.  “The excesses of Hobbits,” David Day notes in Tolkien: a Dictionary, “were limited to dressing in bright colours and consuming six substantial meals a day.”  In fact, it appears that Hobbits that preferred to wealth above all us are generally considered assholes — looking at you, Sacksville-Bagginses.


“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ The Hobbit

There also exists in Tolkien’s tales a sense of technophobia, meaning that the heroes often work in concert with nature, while the villains use more advanced technology to destroy nature and to create twisted versions of natural things; Orcs, for example, are thought to have once been Elves that were twisted into unnatural, evil creatures by Melkor, the villain of The Silmarillion and Sauron’s master.  We see a stark difference between the lively Shire with the fire and destruction of Mordor and Isengard.

Full disclosure, it would be hypocritical of me to say that I am a technophobe – after all, I am writing this on a laptop listening to Pandora on an Xbox One – but in a culture in which we can be continually connected to everything everywhere, maybe we could use a chance to unplug occasionally.  The Hobbits frequently go on long walks, enjoy good books, and like few things more than a good meal, a good beer, and a table of friends.  It’s a running, albeit irritating and ironic, trend on social media to portray society (especially millennials) as completely absorbed in our devices.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say completely absorbed, but I know that I am guilty of checking my News Feed or reading articles when I could be enjoying the company I find myself with.

One of the most pervasive examples of Hobbit culture throughout The Lord of the Rings is that of Mr. Samwise Gamgee (who we’ve already argued is the true hero of The Lord of the Rings).  His loyalty to his friends is the only reason he leaves the Shire, and the whole time he’s gone he looks forward to being home.  Even after seeing the splendor of Rivendell and Lothlórien, Sam dreams of a simple life in the Shire.  This shows that one can appreciate the courage and goodness found in epic stories, even to the point where it stymies one’s own courage to face unexpected fears (like Shelob, spider-child of Ungoliant), but still find the joy in time spent with good food, beer, and friends.

Alexandra & Sean Astin and Sarah & Maisy McLeod as Elanor, Sam, Rosie, & 'Baby Gamgee', Final scene, ROTK. (Sam and Rosie's second child was a male named Frodo)

Alexandra & Sean Astin and Sarah & Maisy McLeod as Elanor, Sam, Rosie, & ‘Baby Gamgee’, Final scene, ROTK. (Sam and Rosie’s second child was a male named Frodo)


The holiday season is in full swing and while you’re out rushing around buying gifts for all your loved ones, remember that there are many less fortunate people out there who won’t be having such a full and joyful time. For this reason, our goof friends over at have kicked off their annual Christmas Fundraiser. 100% of the proceeds from this fundraiser will go to purchase toys for the children of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

They have close to $800 at this time, and with only 10 days to go, it’s gonna be really close hitting their goal.

You can get more info here: CCL MARATHON CHRISTMAS FUNDRAISER 2015

And, if you feel so inclined, you can make a contribution via PayPal by sending a donation to CCL4KIDS@COMICCOLLECTORLIVE.COM

Come on nerds! Get out there and help some kids have a holly jolly holiday!

The Hero’s Journey and Star Wars

Throughout history, from the Greek myths to Star Wars and beyond, there are common threads that run through a majority of humanity’s heroic tales.  Regardless of the cultural context, time period, or which particular hero, there are certain elements that seem to always appear in these myths.  Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, calls this the “monomyth,” or the “hero’s journey.”

George Lucas’ Star Wars is steeped in myth. While writing Star Wars, Lucas became fascinated with Joseph Campbell’s book on myth and heroic archetypes The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  While not necessarily the basis of his story, he was certainly influenced by his obsession with the monomyth.  You can see elements of this theory throughout the saga, but especially in Luke’s journey from boyhood to Jedi-hood.


Traditionally, the hero’s journey has 17 individual stages, which we will look at in-depth a little bit further down.  Not all hero’s necessarily experience all 17 stages during their journey, and oftentimes these stages appear in a different order depending on the story.  These events, however, are relatively persistent throughout the history of human storytelling.

Below we will look at each stage of the hero’s journey and how we see this mythological journey play out in the Star Wars universe.  Fair warning, this article is a bit longer than… well, than anything else we’ve put out.  I tried to shorten it, but there isn’t really a spot to split this article into two parts.

  1. The Call to Adventure– The hero’s story typically begins in a relatively normal situation before receiving a call to head off into the unknown.  In A New Hope we find Luke living the life of a typical moisture farmer.  He dreams of bigger things, but is constantly needed by his Uncle Owen to help with the harvest.  This normalcy comes to a halt when R2-D2 arrives on the Lars’ homestead intent on delivering a message to one Benjamin W. Kenobi.  After a run in with a band of Tusken Raiders, we are introduced to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the hero’s mentor.  R2-D2’s message serves as Luke’s call to adventure.alec-guinness-as-ben-obi-wan-kenobi-in-star
  2. Refusal of the Call– In most myths, the hero refuses to leave the normalcy of his/her day to day life, at least at first.  This could be due to a sense of obligation, fear of the unknown, or a whole range of range of reasons.  When Luke meets Kenobi, he is asked to join him on a quest to Alderaan to aid the fledgling rebellion.  But Luke, worried about shirking his responsibility to his uncle and his moisture farm, tells Kenobi that he has no business going out on some galactic mission with an old hermit he just met.
  3. Supernatural Aid– After the hero has committed to the quest, either consciously or unconsciously, the mentor will present the hero with something that will help the hero during the quest.  In A New Hope, Luke is presented with his father’s lightsaber (“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”), but this is not the only supernatural aid he receives.  Kenobi also introduces him to the ways of the Force, which starts Luke on his journey to his “apotheosis.”  Luke continues learning the ways of the Force throughout the saga.
  4. Crossing the Threshold– When the hero crosses the threshold and begin their quest, they leave their normal life behind and venture into the unknown.  When Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed by the Empire he joins Kenobi on his journey.  Their first stop is the wretched hive of scum and villainy which is the Mos Eisley Cantina where Luke is immediately threatened by Dr. Evazan and his cohort Ponda Baba.  Evazan and Baba are one of many encounters Luke has with “Threshold Guardians,” whose primary function in myth is to be an asshole that stands in the way of the hero, which is even more appropriate when you consider Ponda Baba looks like he has an ass for a chin.  Luke’s crossing the threshold of the cantina is a physical representation of him leaving his innocence behind and crossing over into the unknown.Ponda_Baba
  5. Belly of the Whale– The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s normal life.  In this stage, the hero faces some sort of peril, and is showing a willingness to change.  This particular stage can be applied to several different events throughout the original trilogy.  Luke is always yearning to leave Tatooine behind, and when given the opportunity literally enters into the belly of the Falcon, leaving behind his previous life.  Other examples include Luke and his cohorts getting pulled into the Death Star via tractor beam, the unfriendly meeting with the Dionaga in the trash compactor, and Luke’s descent into the mystical Tree Cave on Dagobah.
  6. The Road of Trials– The road of trials is exactly what it sounds like, a series of tests that the person must undergo to begin their transformation.  This  stage is probably one of the most common elements of the hero’s journey.  We see this when Luke enters the Death Star to save Princess Leia; when he jumps on the Millennium Falcon’s quad-laser turret to battle incoming Tie Fighters; when Luke trains to become a Jedi on Dagobah, and later battles Vader on Cloud City.  In Return of the Jedi, we see Luke face off against the Rancor beneath Jabba’s throne, and later face Vader and the Emperor.  Luke passes a majority of these trials, but does have his share of failures such as his inability to defeat Vader in Empire Strikes Back, which costs him a hand.
  7. The Meeting with the Goddess– In this stage the hero experiences unconditional love.  This is often represented by the hero finding the person that he/she loves most completely.  This is point of some embarrassment for some Star Wars fans since the Goddess Luke meets and falls in love with is his sister Leia.  This love remains unconditional when it is discovered that they are siblings, although it does develop into a familial love once their family ties are discovered.LukeLeiaKiss
  8. Woman as Temptress–  The hero will often face temptations that cold cause him to stray from their quest.  Luke is not tempted by an honest-to-God woman, instead he is tempted by the power of the Dark Side.  This temptation is most prominent in the finale of Return of the Jedi when Vader threatens his sister.  In a fit of rage, Luke relentlessly attacks Vader, and almost kills him, before finally rejecting the pull of the Dark Side.
  9. Atonement with the Father– This is the part of the journey when the hero must confront whatever holds the ultimate power in their life.  In many myths this is the father, or a father figure, who has power over life and death.  All of the previous events have been shepherding the hero to this place, and it will effect everything that is to follow.  The Original Trilogy is about the maturation of Luke into a Hero, but the inclusion of the prequels re-frames the story, and shifts the focus to the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, which is brought about by his son Luke.  At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke is able to call his father back from the Dark Side proving that despite all of his loss and anger, Vader still has the capacity to do what’s right.darth-vader-death
  10. Apotheosis– This occurs when the hero either dies a physical death or dies to the self, the hero moves to a state of divine knowledge, love, and compassion.  One could also look at it like a period of rest and fulfillment before the hero begin their return home.  We can see Luke reach his apotheosis in A New Hope when he lets go of his reliance on technology and trusts completely in the Force, which allows him to destroy the Death Star.  In Return of the Jedi, Luke reaches his ultimate apotheosis when he turns his back on the Dark Side, throws aside his lightsaber, and refuses to perpetuate the continuous circle of violence regardless of the consequences.
  11. The Ultimate Boon– The ultimate boon is when the hero obtains the object of their quest. The ultimate boon in Star Wars is the destruction of the tyrannical Galactic Empire so the galaxy can once again know peace.  In A New Hope, this comes in the form of the destruction of the Death Star, and in Return of the Jedi it comes in the… well, the destruction of the Death Star with the added bonus of the literal fall of Emperor Sheev Palpatine.
  12. Refusal of the Return– Having found enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.  We don’t really see this in Star Wars.  Although he’s very whiny, Luke is pretty selfless.  This isn’t to say he hasn’t changed though.  At the end of Return of the Jedi we find a much wiser, but more solemn, person than the wide-eyed farmboy we first met on Tatooine.
  13. The Magic Flight– Sometimes the hero must escape with his/her prize, and it can be just as dangerous as the journey itself.  This occurs in all three films, but is seen most prominently in Return of the Jedi, when Luke must escape the second Death Star before its destruction.
  14. Rescue from Without– Just as the hero usually needs the help of friends as they set out on their quest, often they need someone to bring them back to everyday life.  At the beginning of Return of the Jedi, we see a Luke Skywalker that appears to be toeing the line of the Dark Side.  He dresses in all black, appears to Force-choke the Gamorrean guards in Jabba’s palace, and is relatively quick to violence throughout the movie.  This reaches its peak when Luke channels his anger and hatred to defeat Vader on the second Death Star.  There is a telling moment, when Luke is standing over the the defeated Vader and stares down at his own robotic hand.  At this moment, Luke realizes just how close he’s come to the Dark Side and makes a conscious decision to turn away from that path.  We could attribute this solely to Luke, but Luke has the love of friends, the teachings of his masters, and the belief that his father can still be saved, that there is still good in him, and this is what brings him back to the good.
  15. The Crossing of the Return Threshold– When the hero returns to everyday life, he/she must retain the wisdom gained on the quest,and figure out how to share this wisdom with the rest of the world.  We don’t see this in the films per se, but it is implied that Luke, having become the last of the Jedi, must rebuild the Order thus sharing his newly found wisdom with the galaxy.
  16. Master of Two Worlds– In this step the hero achieves a balance between the material and the spiritual world, and the person becomes competent in both the inner and outer worlds.  At the end of Return, it appears that Luke has turned away from his old life of simplicity and has taken on the mantel of wisdom and serenity.  He has gone from ignorant farmboy, to Galactic hero, to the last of the Jedi Order.1384290403016267812
  17. Freedom to Live– Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the present moment, and not living in the past or future.  Not to beat a dead Bantha, but again at the end of Return of the Jedi, when Luke casts aside his lightsaber and refuses to give in to the Dark Side, he is no longer concerned with death.  He knows that by throwing away his weapon he most likely will not survive, but refuses to continue the destructive circle of violence by killing his father.

You can see that these stages of the Hero’s Journey occur multiple times throughout the films.  Despite the obvious homages to Cambell’s theory, Lucas does include personal flourishes that give the story additional depth.  For instance, one of the most iconic images in Star Wars is when Luke stares off into the twin sunset of Tatooine.  This imagery conjures up a sense that nothing will ever be the same, that this might be Luke’s last moment of innocence.  Additionally, the score by John Williams  provides us with a sense of awe and urgency – that this journey is increasingly important.


Another key area where Lucas diverges from Cambell is that in Campbell’s idea of myth, the hero is the sole focus of the story and other characters are merely a means to an end. The side characters are just tools to help in the maturation and growth of the hero. Lucas, however, focuses on how the struggles faced by the hero are just as real to all of the other characters involved. The fate of the entire galaxy is at stake, and all of the characters are vital to the success of the hero’s mission.  This idea can be seen in all of the movies, but especially in Return of the Jedi when the destruction of the second Death Star relies on Han and Leia leading a strike force to disable the shield generator, Luke to bring take on Vader and Sheev, and the entire Rebel Fleet to fight through overwhelming numbers to try to destroy the reactor core of the Death Star.  In fact, it seems that all of the redemptive moments in the saga occur specifically through social relationships, and these in turn help the hero develop. In fact, the only true individualists we see in the saga are the Sith who use everyone as a means to their own end.

Most myths, including Star Wars, are fantasy, but this does not mean it is simply mindless entertainment.  By relegating it to that status, we ignore the potential for learning and growth that myth provides.  The Star Wars universe is alien to our own, but this allows us to view our cultures problems through the lens of our popular culture.  This, in turn, encourages us to reflect on the moral issues presented through the fantasy setting, thus allowing us to think on these issue in a way we might not have been able to any other way.

Luke Skywalker did not Fall to the Dark Side and is not Kylo F*@#ing Ren

Over the past week or so, theories have been floating around the internet that 1) Luke Skywalker actually turned to the dark side at the end of Return of the Jedi, and 2) Kylo Ren, the new masked villain from Star Wars: the Force Awakens, is actually Luke Skywalker.  For some reason, these theories have made me much angrier than they should have.  I am not going to say that I spent days stewing over how ridiculous these theories are, but I’m not NOT going to say that either.  In fact, as soon as I read these theories I immediately messaged my friend Jeff from the Imperial Talker (the Kenobi to my Luke), and made sure I wasn’t taking crazy pill.  It bothered me so much I decided to offer a counterarguments as to why Luke Skywalker did not (and should not) fall to the dark side and, therefore, could not (and should not) be Kylo Ren.  Instead of just going on an angry internet rant, I will instead try to provide logical counter-arguments to both claims, because I believe in civil discourse.

Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Let’s look at the theory that Luke fell to the dark side in Return of the Jedi first.  I read this theory in an opinion piece posted at Huffington Post (if you’d like to read it in it’s entirety, click here).  The idea is that Luke did not actually turn away from the dark side as it appears in the film, but, instead, gave himself to the dark side in order to save his friends and defeat the Vader and Emperor Sheev Palpatine.

The author begins his argument at the Tree Cave in Empire Strikes Back.  In the film, Luke enters the Tree Cave fastening his weapon belt (much to the chagrin of Yoda) and in a trippy, slow-motion scene in which he encounters Vader, ignites his lightsaber and beheads him to reveal that it is actually his own face under the helmet (Mindfreak!?).  The author believes that this is foreshadowing Luke’s own fall to the Dark Side.  I, on the other hand, feel it is more of a symbolic warning to Luke that if he isn’t careful he will make the same mistakes his father did.


He then uses the following quote issued from Yoda to Luke as he sets off to save his friends to show that Yoda has already predicted Luke’s fall:

Only a fully trained Jedi Knight, with the Force as his ally, will conquer Vader and his emperor. If you end your training now… if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did… you will become an agent of evil.

But what he leaves out is the second part of the conversation in which Yoda says this to Luke:

Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned.  Save you it can.

Yoda is still giving Luke advice on how to defeat Vader and not stray to the dark side, which would be pointless if Yoda was 100% certain that Luke leaving Dagobah would inherently lead to his fall.  Earlier in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke asks Yoda if his friends will die on Cloud City, Yoda responds saying, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”  Yoda can and does make sound judgements throughout the saga, but he cannot predict the future because it is constantly in a state of flux.  He and Ben also tell Luke that the only way to defeat Vader is to kill him because there is no good left in Vader.  Luke, however, proves both of them wrong on this point, but we will get back into that farther down the page.  My point is, Luke’s failure at the cave is part of Luke’s “Road of Trials” and doesn’t necessitate his fall.  These are learning moments in the hero’s journey (another article on that in the works) that allow for growth towards the hero’s ultimate “apotheosis.”

The next part of the article centers on Luke’s change of character in Return of the Jedi.  This movie shows us a much darker Luke than we are accustomed to seeing.  When two Gamorean guards attempt to bar is entrance to Jabba’s throne room, Luke sends them scrambling back to the wall clutching their throats with a subtle wave of his hand.  Using the Force Choke is obviously not a behavior we would expect of a Jedi.  He is also pretty quick to cut down any of Jabba’s cronies that stand in his way in order to save his friends.  I believe that this does hint that Luke is slowly beginning to be pulled to the dark side (there is a great article on the seduction of the dark side over at Imperial Talker).


Later in the film, Luke is goaded into trying to strike the Emperor down in hatred.  Luke does indeed show that he is on a slippery slope to full on dark side.  In the final duel between Vader and Luke, Luke constantly struggle between continuing to fight and trying to draw his father back to the good.   Eventually Vader tries to draw Luke out of hiding by threatening his sister Leia.  This drives Luke into a rage and he relentlessly attacks Vader until he cuts off his hand and towers over him about to deliver the final strike.  This attack was almost certainly fueled by anger and fear, which again suggests Luke is toeing the line of the dark side. The author suggests that Luke giving into his anger proves he hasn’t been a good guy at all in Return of the Jedi.  Instead, he believes, Luke failed his Jedi training and is not able to withstand the power of Vader.  The following quote is directly from the article:

When I first saw this scene as a kid I remember being completely confused. I thought that of course Luke turned — but only a little bit. After all, he needed the power from the dark side to beat his dad… right? And he acted like a complete maniac but it was only temporary and phew! he came back from the edge!

This, people, is a plot hole. It doesn’t make any sense in terms of the story and also Luke’s character. It doesn’t follow Luke’s motivation at all because he quite clearly doesn’t have any motivation to stay a good guy. He’s just seen what he could do with his dark powers (defeat the bad guys, save people).

Let me first address his point that Luke has failed his Jedi training.  If we look at the final scene between Luke and Yoda, which I will quote directly out of the annotated screenplay) we see this conversation:

Luke: Master Yoda, you can’t die.
Yoda: Strong am I in the Force… but not that strong! Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall.  That is the way of things… the way of the Force
Luke: But I need your help.  I’ve come back to complete the training.
Yoda: No more training do you require.  Already know you that which you need.
Yoda sighs, lying back on the beck
Luke: Then I am a Jedi.
Yoda: (shakes his head) Ohhh.  Not yet.  One thing remains: Vader.  You must confront Vader.  Then, only then, a Jedi will you be.  And confront him you will.

Do you see how that changes things for the author’s theory?  Luke did not fail.  Vader was his final test, and Luke passes (although it did get a little hairy there for a bit).  As Luke is standing over Vader, Luke stops his attack and stares at his fallen father then at his own robotic hand, turns off his lightsaber and tosses it aside. This is not a plot hole.  Luke passed the test.  While he did rely on fear and anger to overpower Vader, it is the goodness in him that makes him stop and throw away his weapon.  Luke  tells the Emperor that he has lost and that he is a Jedi like his father before him.  Unless he lying (which is what the theory says) Luke is obviously choosing to turn his back on the Dark Side.  I am not sure why the author sees this as out of character for Luke.  He has been relatively selfless throughout the entire trilogy, always placing the needs of others over his own.  Why is that any different than what he did in this instance?  He was about to take Vader’s life even though he constantly mentions to both Vader and Kenobi that he senses good in him.  This would have been a selfish act unbefitting of a Jedi, but Luke’s selfless personality and the desire to redeem his father snaps him out of his rage and he refuses to finish the task.

My biggest issue with this theory is that if we assume that Luke did in fact turn to the dark side it would ruin the entire point not just the Original Trilogy, but the saga as well.  Anakin is the tragic hero who, in an attempt to save the life of the woman he loved, gets ensnared by Dark Lord of the Sith.  Luke’s tale, on the other hand, is one of redemption.  Luke  is tempted to use the dark side just as his father was, but instead of falling as his father did, he is able to resist its pull.  In doing so, Luke is able to not only embody the actual return of the Jedi (which is the title of the film, mind you), but he also becomes the catalyst for the redemption of his father.


It also doesn’t make sense in the context of the ending of the film, as well as the recently released four issue miniseries Shattered Empire.  If Luke truly did turn to the dark side, why would he then attend the Ewokian celebration on Endor?  And remember, Luke was visited by both of his mentors and his father during this celebration.  Surely these three would be able to sense if Luke had truly turned evil, right?  And in Shattered Empire, which takes place shortly after the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke is still clearly good and serving alongside the Rebels as they attempt to stop the Emperor’s postmortem call for the destruction of several planets as well as put a stop to the remaining Imperial factions throughout the galaxy.  In fact, at the end of Shattered Empire Luke and the newly minted Rebel pilot Shera Bey set off on a mission to recover some ancient Jedi relics taken from the Jedi Temple after its destruction.  I don’t want to give away spoilers since, unlike Return of the Jedi, Shattered Empire is not thirty years old, but the end of Shattered Empire clearly depicts a Luke that cares for others, which is very unlike the individualistic nature shown by the Sith.


There’s a lot to unpack in that first theory because the source article was itself a long article.  I will say that I actually do respect the guy the wrote the first theory.  He put a lot of thought into it and backed it up with some quotes (although there are several quotes he left out that sink the theory), but you can tell he’s a big fan of the Wars.  Now we will look at the second theory that Luke Skywalker is in fact KYLO REN.  This theory, on the other hand, is absurd.

The theory goes something like this: we don’t see Luke Skywalker in the trailer, but what if we did?  What if he is actually the masked villain with the fancy, cross-guard lightsaber we see trotting through the snow and looking menacing? Because, why not?

Side note: There’s not a lot of information about the Knights of Ren.  What we we know is, the Knights of Ren is an organization that appears to begin shortly after the end of Return of the Jedi.  The Ren in Kylo’s name is actually a surname taken on by the members similar to how the Sith used “Darth” as a title, although judging from some of the interviews I’ve read it seems that the Knights aren’t actually Sith Lords.  I know it’s confusing for some that the Knights of Ren aren’t Sith.  I mean, Kylo wears all black, wields a red lightsaber, and uses the Force… sounds an awful like all of the other Sith we know.

The first problem with this theory is the argument I laid out above.  Luke turning to the dark side cheapens the saga and would stand in contrast to Luke’s character throughout the trilogy.  If this premise is correct then the possibility of Luke being Kylo plummets to somewhere around 0%, but that’s too easy.  As you can see from the 1,600(ish) words above, I overthink these things.

Another problem with this theory is the we already know that Adam Driver is playing Kylo Ren…  Some have argued that Driver is a body double for Mark Hamill, but if that’s the case then that’s the worse decision since Senator Binks putting forth the motion to grant Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers.  Adam Driver is a really slim, really tall 20-30 something with long black hair and no facial hair.  Judging from pictures of Mark Hamill floating around the internet, he’s not exactly String Bean, has a full beard, and definitely does not have black hair.  They are about as far apart as you can get from each other as far as body type is concerned.  Oh and we’ve already seen pictures of Adam Driver as Kylo Ren sans-mask.


Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Oh, and we’ve seen some behind the scenes photos of Mark Hamill in full Kenobi-garb:


Pictured: NOT Kylo Ren

Lastly, it appears that Kylo Ren is serving under Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis, who heads the First Order.  If Luke were actually Kylo Ren, that would mean he would serve under some other guy.  Luke was instrumental in defeating the two most feared in the galaxy.  He bested Vader in combat, took blasts of Force Lightning like a champ, and is most likely one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy now.  Why in the world would he subjugate himself to some other guy we’ve never even heard of?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

So, to summarize, for those of you that scrolled to the bottom just to see the conclusion: Luke Skywalker turning to the dark side would cheapen the Original Trilogy, and when you look at all of the evidence doesn’t make any sense.  Even worse though, is the idea that Kylo Ren is actually Luke Skywalker.  It’s hard for me to express just how absurd that theory is, especially given the reasons I laid out above.  I get that people love to theorize about the upcoming Star Wars film, but please at least try to make it fit into the existing continuity.



The Fan Awakens: How The Force Awakens Rekindled My Passion for Star Wars

I was born in 1988 so I didn’t see the Original Trilogy in theaters until they were re-released when I was 9.  Before then I had seen them occasionally on TV, but my parents weren’t huge fans or anything (my dad is more of an Indiana Jones man).  After seeing the movies I became obsessed and absorbed as much of Star Wars as I could get my hands on, got an X-Wing tattoo on my back, and currently have more Star Wars t-shirts in my closet than anything else.


After I graduated college, where I double minored in Star Wars Battlefront II and Super Smash Bros, real life kind of got in the way of my obsession.  I got married (she is also a fan of Star Wars), got a job working in a cubicle, bought a house, had kids etc. When Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens was announced a long time ago, I was pretty stoked, but my excitement was tempered by what I saw as adult sensibilities and other hobbies.  That’s not to say I was no longer a fan (I still loved the Wars), but the fire wasn’t burning quite as bright as it did when I was younger.

Over the last few months, however, things have subtly ratcheted up.  I didn’t even really realize it at first, but I was slowly falling back in love.  It’s like when you are in a long-term relationship and realize you have been taking the significant other for granted for the past few months and realize just how great they really are.  Or, if that’s too sappy, it’s like when you haven’t played an old Sega Genesis or N64 game in a few years, and when you finally dust off your old system and plug that cartridge in again you are immediately transported back to your childhood (but be warned, those games are still insanely difficult).

It all started in January when Marvel Comics launched a slew of Star Wars comics, which have all been absolutely great.  Star Wars by Jason Aaron focuses on what Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids are up to immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  Darth Vader gives us the opposite side of the coin, showing us what Darth Vader is doing to locate the rebel pilot responsible for his failure and fall from grace in the eyes of the Emperor.  Princess Leia is a 5-issue miniseries that follows the Leia as she rallies the remaining Alderaanians after the Death Star destroyed their home-world.  These books, along with Kanan, Lando, and Shattered Empire have all been top notch and have provided interesting insight into what’s going on in the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday

Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday

During this time I also subscribed to Scribd which just happened to have all of the new canonical Star Wars novels, which provides backstory on Kanan and Hera from Star Wars: Rebels (Star Wars: A New Dawn), a book about Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to power (the aptly named Tarkin), a Clone Wars era story about Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos (Dark Disciple), a story about the Emperor and Darth Vader stranded on a hostile planet (Lords of the Sith), a book about Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi), and, most recently, a book that takes place after Return of the Jedi that follows a small band of previously-known-as-Rebels (still not sure what to call them) as they learn of a secret meeting of fractured Imperials in Aftermath.  I went through all of these books in a two month span, and then read Smuggler’s Run and The Weapon of a Jedi last week, which are two of the three young reader novels released on Force Friday.  Now I am reading Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, which is a word for word script of the Original Trilogy that intersperses stories about how the different drafts changed over time – such as Han Solo being a big green monster – and also includes interviews with the Maker (George Lucas) and several others involved with the making of the films.  Also, I just picked up a young adult book titled The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, which is a retelling of A New Hope that focuses specifically on Leia, Han and Luke.


That stupidly long and mostly italicized paragraph shows just how much I’ve fallen down the Star Wars rabbit hole (hyperspace lane?) throughout 2015.  I’ve always loved Star Wars, but over the last half decade I went from actively seeking every tidbit of information (which is impossible due to the sheer vastness of information available) to just watching the movies occasionally and resting on my laurels.  I would still occasionally get accused of cheating at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, but it got just a little bit harder to beat people each time.

My point is this: sometimes there are things that just stick with you like they are part of the makeup of who you are.  Like in most relationships, the passion can ebb and flow, but something can happen to bring back all of that childhood wonder before you even realize what’s happening.  Sure, there is still a chance that The Force Awakens will be terrible, but it has already done something for me that I appreciate regardless of whether it is good or not.  The announcement of Episode VII The Force Awakens awoke a passion in me that had been sort of dormant for the last few years.  It started small with a book here and there, but over these last few months I have completely immersed myself in the Star Wars universe and its nice to experience the joy and wonder I did when I first walked out of the theater in 1997.

In Defense of Stormtroopers


Let’s get something out of the way right at the start – the purpose of this article is not to defend the Stormtroopers themselves, but to defend the efficacy, or effectiveness, of the Stormtroopers – it’s hard to actually defend the actions of the Stormtroopers since they were involved in some pretty egregious atrocities during the Empire’s galactic rule.  See, as most of us know, one of the most notorious running jokes in nerd culture, even more-so than the excessively high casualty rate of Redshirts in Star Trek, is the Stormtrooper’s inability to hit their targets.  It’s become so ingrained in our collective consciousness that the writers of the show Rebels even paid homage to it.  Time and time again we see this supposedly elite fighting force appear as effective as the B1 battle droids.  Could there be a reason that might explain just why the Stormtroopers, who are presumably highly trained, have a hard time zeroing in on a princess, a smuggler, a farm boy, two slow-moving droids, and an enormous Wookiee?  It turns out there just might be.

Please note: I won’t be using the “its just a movie” argument, because that’s no fun.  How am I supposed to overthink something if I just say “its just a movie?”  Now, let’s take a look at a few examples of the efficacy of the boys in white.

At the beginning of A New Hope we see long hallway filled with frightened rebels all with their guns pointed at the only entrance to the Tantive IV.  Even with superior numbers that kind of choke point is incredibly dangerous, but the Stormtroopers take over the ship and capture the princess with minimal casualties, and at least one of those casualties was because Vader ordered them to capture Leia alive.  The only reason the stolen Death Star plans got away was because the Empire was incredibly stingy with their turbolasers.  I’m no expert when it comes to close quarter combat, but that was a thorough routing of the Rebel soldiers with minimal loss in an incredibly dangerous environment.  I’d call that pretty efficient.  Sure there was that little fiasco on the Death Star, but before we get into that lets talk about that desolate ice rock that’s called Hoth.

Rebel Troops on Tantine IV

“We should be fine… they can only come in like two at a time.”

The next time we really get to see the Stormtroopers take on a force of Rebels is when the Empire attacks the Rebel base located on Hoth, which really wasn’t much of a fight.  The Rebels were so outmatched that their only real objective was to just hold off the Empire long enough for them to evacuate and find another hiding place.  It’s wasn’t just the superior firepower of the Empire that won that battle, but also the skill and accuracy of the Stormtroopers as they breached the base and went ice-cave to ice-cave routing the Rebels as they try to escape.  Later in Empire Strikes Back, we see them silently take over Cloud City in its entirety, capturing all of the Rebels except for Luke in the process.  When the heroes escape, it’s only because Vader was wholly focused on turning Luke to the Dark Side and not the minor distractions that were the rest of the heroes.

Now that I’ve laid out what I hope are convincing displays of the effectiveness of Stormtroopers (outside of that last example), let’s explore why they might have been so ineffective when it comes to capturing or killing the heroes.

After mopping the floor with the Rebels aboard the Tantive IV, which was really nice of them considering the mess they made, the Stormtroopers have an incredibly hard time capturing a handful of heroes aboard a moon-sized battle-station that is literally full of Imperials.  That’s pretty damning.  I mean, it was literally three guys, a Wookiee, a princess, and two droids, while the Death Star had a couple hundred thousand Imperials aboard.  Sure some of those were support staff like accountants and barbers, but there had to be tens of thousands of Stormtroopers aboard.  That makes their incompetence seem almost unforgivable.

But what if they were ordered to be incompetent?

There is actually some pretty convincing evidence that this is the case.  Lets look at a few instances the Stormtroopers appear particularly incompetent and look at how these incidents could be interpreted a different way.

After their strong show of force at the beginning of A New Hope, the Stormtroopers drop the ball in spectacular fashion when the heroes unwittingly end up on board the Death Star.  Han, Luke, and Chewbacca waltz right into the detention level and rescue Princess Leia before they all escape into the bowels of the Death Star via a trash chute.  After narrowly (literally) escaping being crushed to death, the heroes work on returning to the Millennium Falcon, hoping that Kenobi has shut down the tractor beam.  The show of incompetence increases when Han and Chewie chase a group of Stormtroopers down a hall, and when the troopers finally realize how absurd it is that they are letting one guy and a giant Wookiee scare them off they are woefully inaccurate and let them escape.

Luke and Leia also make an improbable run through the bare, if not stylish, hallways of the Death Star.  Before swinging over the infinite chasm of doom, twins are able to outrun a group of Stormtroopers who can’t figure out that you can shoot under doors, and also manage to kill a pair of troopers that have the high ground, which is no easy feat.

How is it that these highly trained Stormtroopers who outnumber our heroes somewhere around 7,000 to 1 fail miserably at capturing them?

Consider what Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin says to Darth Vader after the heroes daring escape: “You’re sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I’m taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work.”


It worked, but the results were less than stellar

That one quote completely changes everything.  Tarkin let them escape in order to locate the Rebel base, which he totally does (although it doesn’t work out in his favor, it’s still pretty impressive)!  Those Stormtroopers were ordered by one of the most powerful men in the galaxy to let the heroes to escape with the princess.  That means that they willfully allowed themselves to be killed while purposefully missing their targets.  I hope they made extra room in their cod-pieces for the massive balls required to follow those orders.

Later, in Empire Strikes Back, the Stormtroopers have an equally difficult time capturing Luke on Cloud City.  Again, this had nothing to do with incompetence and everything to do with Vader wanting them to shepherd Luke into the underbelly of Cloud City so that he could turn him to the Dark Side… or slice his hand off and reveal that one of the vilest villains in the galaxy is his father.

Now, the Imperials did kind of get their white-plated asses handed to them by Ewoks on Endor.  Even though Ewoks get a bit of a bad rap from a majority of people, I have a bit of a soft spot for these tiny, inquisitive, homicidal creatures. In fact, me and my wife (who possibly likes Ewoks as much as our children) even named our first dog Wicket after the Ewok portrayed by Warwick Davis in Return of the Jedi. They seem to get a lot of flak for being too cute and cuddly, and it often gets pointed out how ridiculous it is that these tiny, big-eyed teddy bears were able to help the Rebel Alliance defeat the Empire on the forest moon of Endor. But when you think about it, all of the information we are given in Return of the Jedi points to the fact that on Endor it is the Ewoks that are the apex predators.  I mean, they easily captured all of the heroes and would have eaten their corpses after roasting then alive had it not been for them mistaking C-3PO for a god. These creatures are smart, calculating, have a pretty complex societal structure, and are the top of the Endorian food chain. In one instance they are shown actually throwing a full-sized Stormtrooper despite the size discrepancy.  The Empire is used to fighting Rebels and squelching uprisings.  I imagine the guerrilla style tactics used by the Ewoks along with the element of surprise, and unassuming brutality and strength caught the the Imperials completely off guard.

I can’t tell if he wants to eat me, my soul, or both

Ultimately, my point is that the Stormtroopers are getting the short end of the stick as far as popular culture is concerned.  Sure they have their shortcomings, but through a majority of the series they were either astoundingly effective, or specifically ordered by their commanders to either let their targets escape or to herd them to a specific location.  Maybe its time we start giving these bucket-heads the credit they deserve.  When we look at the context surrounding their incompetence, we realize that it isn’t incompetence at all, but a complete respect for authority.

Branching Out in Comics: a Personal Journey

Falling in love with comics is a lot like falling in love with beer (I was going to say something like “without the social stigma”, but realized both can have a certain stigma attached to them). What I mean is that, like beer, when you first step into the comic pool you are tentative and very specific with what you read. There are thousands upon thousands of stories – you can’t just wade in half-cocked. Most people start with the big names out of necessity, availability, and name recognition. It is a lot easier to try something from the Big Two, like Batman or Superman (the equivalent of a generic but popular beer) than it is to start out with some wild independent book involving space, animal people, and a dark, terrifying plot (some crazy craft beer most likely brewed in Oregon. No offense Oregon.) I am not saying that there is something wrong with independent books, some of my favorite books are creator-owned Image books, but there is also more of a risk starting someone off in the deep end when they haven’t quite mastered how to swim.


Side note: this article is broken up into two sections – the first part is for comic new comers, and the second is for the grizzled comic veterans.  I fall somewhere between the two groups.

I’ve noticed that over the last two years of reading comics my palate has matured. I look at it like an inverse pyramid, which is somewhat different than a lot of other hobbies. For instance, when I began playing Disc Golf years ago, I tried out a ridiculous number of different forms and discs but slowly began to narrow down how I threw and what I used (which was primarily an Innova Championship Wraith).  With comics, though, most people seem to start relatively simple then begin to diversify as time goes on.

I started thinking about this when I recently decided to borrow Nathan Edmonson’s run on Punisher, from Stephen.  When I first started reading comics I all but refused to read any stories involving anti-heroes (and yes, the legend is true… Stephen and I almost ended our 15+ year friendship over whether or not Batman was an anti-hero/superhero), and stuck almost primarily to the Big Two. I read a lot of Batman trade paperbacks, as well as a ridiculous amount of Superman and Thor. Now a majority of my pull list consists of independent Image titles, along with a majority of the Valiant lineup, while the Big Two has been relegated to the occasional read list since funds are limited (except for Star Wars… I am unable to refrain from buying every single Star Wars comic that comes out).

"We'll be taking those credits, thanks."

“We’ll be taking those credits, thanks.”

The anti-hero/villain-as-protagonist thing just isn’t in my nature. Whenever I play a game such as Mass Effect where you can be either good or evil, I can never play as a bad guy.  Even if I start the game bad, I end up trying to turn my character’s story into one of redemption.  Now though, I am able to get passed my own prejudices and enjoy stories that are outside of my comfort zone.  For instance, one series Stephen lent me was Jason Aaron’s Men of Wrath. Which, if you haven’t read it, is one of the cruelest books out there.  There is no redemptive aspect to that story at all… like AT. ALL.  After reading that, as well as Valiant’s Bloodshot, Punisher stories were a walk in the park.

Desensitization isn’t the only reason that I decided to give Mr. Castle a try.  As a reader I have simply decided to branch out and read books that I am less familiar with.  The Punisher is a character I never related too (not that I relate to Batman in particular), but now that the comic lines of morality have been blurred I can kind of see where he’s coming from.  If something tragically violent happened to my family it’d be hard to not hope for something like the Punisher to befall whoever did it.  He is a man who lost everything and is willing to risk everything, including his humanity, to try to ensure that the kinds of people that hurt and kill get what’s coming.  He is a vengeance based Karma.


Ultimately what I am trying to get at here is that my journey into comicdom started out slow and safe.  Generally speaking, instead of reading anything and everything I started small and gradually built my visual palate until I began to enjoy books that I wouldn’t have if I read them too soon.  A beginner to comics (if they are in anyway like me) might burn out if they start too fast or too dark.  So friends (and I am specifically addressing the comic book veterans now), when bringing others into this beautiful world of panels and ink, remember to suggest books that you think they would enjoy, not just whatever you are into at the time.  Your horizons might have been widened so far that your suggestion could lead them into an entertainment wasteland and stifle their enjoyment of comics from the get-go.  Or, in slightly less dramatic wording, don’t recommend some dark, gritty indie comic if your friend’s interests aren’t compatible with that type of book.  It’d be like giving someone a high-gravity, bitter beer on their 21st birthday. Sure, you may love they way it tastes, but they might need to start a bit lighter.

Local Spotlight – Super Hero Day 2015

It’s that time of year again folks! Our good friends at have partnered with the good people at the Academy of Indian Lake to bring a day of family fun! In their own words, here’s what you can expect:


SUPER HERO DAY is a FREE all-ages mini comic convention for children that promotes early childhood literacy, character building, and strengthening our community using super-heroes as role models. THE ACADEMY OF INDIAN LAKE VILLAGE has teamed up with COMICCOLLECTORLIVE.COM to bring you all kind of fun and excited stuff to do:

Meet some of our awesome comic professionals:



– JACOB ROUGEMONT (Marvel Comics’ Writer/Researcher)

– Meet some of your favorite Super-Heroes like CAPTAIN AMERICA, THOR, SPIDER-MAN, HAWKEYE, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN and more for pictures with your kids!

– SUPER HERO YARD SALE BOOTH with lots of comics, books, action figures and more for sale at prices that won’t break the bank! Hosted by STEVE BOYD, VP of!

– Free Child ID Fingerprinting by the Hendersonville Police Department!

– Check out a real fire truck with the Hendersonville Fire Department!

– Bounce houses by Hoppity Hop of Hendersonville!

– Free Comics courtesy of!

– Games! Food! Live Music by DJ! Prizes and FUN! Bring your kids dressed as their favorite heroes!

– The Literacy Council of Middle Tennessee!! And more to be announced!

And did we mention it’s all FREE?!?!

So if you or someone you know loves comics or super-heroes, this event is for YOU and THEM! It’s our 4th year and we couldn’t be more excited! Make plans to come out and be a part of this awesome and super day!

Check out their Facebook event page here: SUPER HERO DAY 2015, and make sure to bring out your kids, grandkids, siblings, nieces & nephews, cousins, and any kid in your life that would love to be a superhero for a day!