Regarding the Slender Man Murder

Today I made the mistake of popping into the “trending” sidebar where it mentioned my imaginary friend, the Slender Man, and his culpability in a recent murder in Wisconsin, and I read the comments.  

If I had to tally up what I’ve seen so far, roughly 20 percent of the comments I read were defenses of Creepypasta (as in “I read Creepypasta/played D&D/watched the X-files/consumed horror in general since I was a baby, and I turned out okay!”); 15 percent were clumsy, ill-informed definitions of the Slender Man and Creepypasta; 3.75 percent were accurate and correct definitions of the Slender Man and Creepypasta; 1 percent were debates about whether it’s “Slender Man,” “Slender-Man,” “Slenderman,” or my preference, the “Slender Man”; and 60 percent is blame*.  

Fifty-five percent of those blamed the parents; 20 percent blamed liberals, 75 percent of whom were singled out as liberal Christians; 15 percent blamed the actual stabbers; 5 percent blamed video games (Minecraft being the biggest offender because of the Enderman character); 2 percent blamed Harry Potter; 2 percent blamed the Slender Man himself; and, in the biggest shock, only 1 percent blamed Barack Obama.  

“The way sin is justified these days, I will not be surprised if the liberal Christian will believe these two girls are victims.” 

Slenderman…. A demon quite possibly. A world deviod of God must find something to fill that place. In this case a fantasy character. … and a demonic entity that personifies it.” 

“Parents who use [the internet] as a babysitter are in for a RUDE AWAKENING!” 

As a man who loves the Slender Man, I’m not shocked or even disappointed about the narrative, nor am I defensive about the reputation of my beloved meme, or about Creepypasta in general. The latter is because I don’t think anybody not stupid is blaming these stories. Also, getting defensive would make me a huge hypocrite, in that I condemn with venom anyone whose first reaction to a shooting is to launch into NRA bumper-sticker slogans. 

The only thing that shocks me about this is that it hasn’t happened before. The only thing that disappoints me is that this has pushed out of the news cycle the actually important discussion of the dangers of misogyny and replaced it with an imaginary villain that doesn’t force us to look at ourselves. 

A twelve-year-old girl was stabbed nineteen times, and we will likely never understand why. I don’t know the circumstances or anything about the three children involved, and so, unlike 60 percent of the commenters I read (because I’m dumb) I can’t blame anyone. 

__________ 

* The remaining 0.25% is quoted below, verbatim,  because it’s AMAZING: 

XAVIER: How much do you bet Clinton is gonna use this as “proof that video games are bad for children”. Bitch video games taught me how to look a terrorist in the face and paint the walls with all his hopes and dreams.  

MEG: are you special ops?! Oh, you work in food service… who’s the bitch again, Xavier? 

For the People

I learned this week that a seventeen-term US Representative from Texas—the oldest living member of Congress, was turfed out of his seat. I was horrified.  

I am not horrified that a millionaire Tea Party candidate with beliefs that most certainly clash vehemently with my own won the primary, and, in a gerrymandered, middle-class, Caucasian district in a restricted-voting state like Texas, will more-than-likely go to the Capitol next year to vote on a straight party line and may or may not grandstand while doing it. 

I am horrified that a ninety-one-year-old white man has been sitting in that seat since I was four. I’m upset that, when this man was my age, segregation was legal, and there was no such thing as Medicare. Women had the right to vote for only five years before this man was born. He has been a politician for sixty-four years. During his political career, he has been a CEO and a bank chairman and a corporate lawyer and We the People of the United States have the audacity to call him a “representative.” 

He is not unique. Our government is made up of entrenched millionaires being fed by millionaires, regardless of whether an (R) or a (D) follows their name.  

I am exhausted and cynical and, as long as someone like Ralph Hall’s primary challenger can spend $400,000—money that would take the average American about eight years to earn—of his own money to get himself elected, I have no hope of it getting better. 

Comics of Errors

I am done with DC Comics. 

What did it for me was their offering for Free Comics Day, an annual event where publishers create a title to hook new readers. For example, Marvel released a Guardians of the Galaxy book to get the attention of anyone interested in the movie. 

DC released one in which Batman Beyond, a character created for a cartoon show aimed at children (and adults, but mostly children), has to fight against the cyborgs decorated with the horribly mutilated corpses of beloved superhero icons. The specific image that broke my back features Black Canary, whose head and face have been sewn to the chest of Frankenstein for use as a weapon. 

And that’s it for me. I’m done. 

I’m done because, after their big mega-crossover events like “Final Crisis” and “Countdown” and “Blackest Night” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and now this “Futures End” thing, I am sick of seeing shock deaths, dismemberment, and rape of well-known characters because that’s edgy or something. Also, the Joker ripped off his face and stapled it back on because he is also edgy. 

I’m done because I can’t read a title without it being interrupted by one of these mega-crossover events every few months, and I’m not willing to invest in all these books to follow the story. 

I’m done because they’ve adopted a house art style that makes all the artists kind of boring and interchangeable. 

I am done because their TV animation department canceled the smart, popular Young Justice and Green Lantern: the Animated Series to revisit the Teen Titans—except even more hyperkinetic now—as well as another Batman series, because the former didn’t appeal to the young, male demographic who buy toys. 

I’m done because I kind of hate all the new Jim-Lee-designed costumes. 

I am done because DC’s live-action movies and TV shows* are joyless, monochrome, and just soullessly destructive. Likewise, their animated movies, like Green Lantern: First Flight (i.e. Training Day with magic rings) and Wonder Woman (i.e. the goddamn Wonder Woman), were once clever and exciting, but are now adaptations of ultra-violent Batman or Batman-worshiping graphic novels with endless blood-splatter and death (there were eye-gougings in the last two, and a full-body, third-degree-burn-causing electrocution in the one before that–all taking place onscreen).** 

I am done because they won’t do a live-action film of the most recognizable super-heroine in the world, but are instead giving her a glorified cameo in what we all know will be a movie about Batman beating up Superman (because apparently that’s edgy too). 

I’m done because awesome, diverse legacy characters like the Hispanic Kyle Raynor and Jaime Reyes, the Asian Ryan Choi, and the African-American John Stewart have been replaced and upstaged by their presumed-dead white-guy predecessors. 

I’m done because Starfire, who potential fangirls met as a quirky, adorable, tough kid through the Teen Titans cartoon***, became a sex-toy who can blow up tanks. Likewise, bureaucratic badass (How many times can you use that to describe anyone?) Amanda Waller went from CCH Pounder to Halle Berry, and Harley Quinn went from wearing a cute-but-sexy body-stocking to a corset. 

I’m done because DC these days seems to stand for Dudebro Comics, and that’s just not my thing. 

_____ 

* I am a huge fan of Arrow, FYI. Dark doesn’t mean bad; it just doesn’t mean good by itself. 

** One of my favorite movies in 2012 was The Raid: Redemption, which featured the most creative use of both a door frame and a fluorescent light bulb. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not squeamish, just exhausted. 

*** Yes, I know how scantily clad and sexual she was during the Wolfman/Perez era, but I also know she had a personality back then. 

Nine

It’s easy to feel old at the age of thirty-seven, especially in a society that values youth as much as ours does. Almost four years ago, I aged out of the 18-34-year-old demographic that advertisers pine for, and it stung a little. My hair is getting gray, and my joints ache for a day or so after a long run. But really, I’m still pretty young, and in that time, I have lived. I could list the places I’ve been, the people I’ve known, and the kinds of words I’ve written, but I won’t. That would take forever, and that’s really not the point. 

The point is this: For nearly 25 percent of this life, I have been married. This marriage, like all marriages, has been stressful and difficult. When married or cohabiting, you are suddenly accountable for everything you say or do—no living it up at a bar anymore, or dropping hundreds of dollars on comic books on a whim. You have to see movies you ordinarily wouldn’t, and eat cuisine that freaks you out, and sometimes hang out with people you don’t like. Anyone who says they love every single second of marriage is lying. 

However, a good marriage, like the one I have, makes these things unimportant. I love having someone to keep me from dropping hundreds on comics that I probably won’t read more than once; I love having someone who will miss me were I to disappear into a bar all night. I love watching her smile and laugh and talk back to the movies she enjoys but I don’t; I love sushi and Ethiopian food now, even though it’s not what I grew up with (I’m still not eating mushrooms. No way, no how.); I endure people I don’t like, because I respect her opinion.  

My wife is brilliant and brave and beautiful. She makes me want to be a better person, even when I don’t think I’m capable of it. She loves the world, and she insists on showing it to me whenever she can. Her ideals are tempered with pragmatism, and the rest of the world would be so much better if it followed her example. Her stubbornness has turned me into the healthy and happy and (mostly) confident person I never thought I could be. And she has convinced me that I deserve to feel this way. My wife is amazing, even if she does tell people sometimes that our anniversary is April 31. 

I love my wife, and I love that I’ve been married to her for nine years. 

Haggle Rock

Gather around, kids! Today, I’d like to tell you a story about how much more entertaining it is to shop in this part of the world than it is back home in the States. And so, let’s all go down to the auto parts store, where our hero enters, on a quest for a tow cable and an air compressor. 

I am greeted at once by an older man in a brown suit, clutching a cigarette I never actually see him put to his lips, speaking English with a thick regional accent. After we sync up our vocabulary to determine what I’m looking for, he shows me several cables and we pick the best one. He glances at the sticker and tells me, “Says one-thirty. Give it to you for one hundred. Special price.” I agree that this is indeed a special price. 

We now look at air compressors. He and his assistant, who speaks no English, remove an air compressor from the shelf, unpack it, and show me how to assemble it. “Is Chinese, so it maybe get too hot…” He shows me where it might overheat. “… So turn it off and on. No problem. You know Chinese things. Good quality, though.” He directs his assistant to remove a car battery from behind the counter, hook up the compressor, and turn it on. 

“Looks good,” I say. 

The old man shrugs. “Good quality, even if it is Chinese. You know Arabs. They see it’s Chinese, they don’t want.” He shrugs again and flicks an ash off of his cigarette. “Box say four-fifty, but for you, four hundred. Special price.” Once again, I have to admit this is a special price. 

While his assistant boxes up the compressor, the old man and I work out whether cash or credit is best. We go with cash. He punches a number into a calculator and he sends his assistant out to my car with my purchases before I can stop him. I pay up and hurry out. 

And it’s not until I get home that I realize I’d paid five hundred eighty for both items, which is not really that special of a price. I’m not 100 percent sure what exactly happened there. 

The Glitch

I am astonished by the news that, due to a glitch in the space-time continuum, most of the United States experienced the same sixty minutes twice. Most of the country had slept through it. Of those who didn’t, I can only imagine the ungodly horror you had to endure as the laws of physics were torn asunder while you watched, helpless, only for everything to suddenly return to “normal.” For you, it is the present, but to the rest of the world, it is an hour into the future.  

There are some who call this event “Daylight Savings Time.” I call it what it truly is: a perversion of the natural order. 

When the Abyss DOESN’T Gaze Back

I was asked by an agent, whose curiosity was piqued, to send in my full manuscript and give her six to eight weeks to read it. Nine weeks later, I checked in. I was told to wait a couple more weeks. And so, about five days ago, which wrapped up week twelve, I followed up again. This time: nothing. 

Getting a rejection is one thing. It hits you like a punch to the gut, but it only lasts seconds. After that, you have to decide to do next: give up or get up? Does nobody care about your baby, or does somebody somewhere—just not this particular person? How much pain are you willing to endure*? 

I’ve had a few rejections of my writing. Quite a few, actually—professional and personal. Most of us creative types don’t have a lot of confidence to begin with. A large percent of why we do this is validation**. Rejections often make me question my talent and my purpose. And when it stings really, really badly, I still continue to put myself out there, even if it’s just out of sheer momentum.  

But this… this is new to me. And I don’t know what to do with it. I’m frustrated, disappointed, and heartbroken. I just need to let this agent go. Someone somewhere wants to love my baby, I think—just not this person. 

_____ 

* This isn’t a rhetorical “man-up” pep-talk question, by the way. There does come a point that soaking up these blows to the ego is just plain unhealthy. Walking away when you can’t take anymore doesn’t make you any less of a person, no matter what Hollywood says. 

** The rest is “We just kind of have to.”