Holmes in Harlem: A Black Sherlock & New Paradigm Studios’ New Comics –er… Paradigm!

Sherlock Holmes has been re-imagined and modernized and reinvented a million times. From Gene Wilder as “Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother” to modernized bromantic Robert Downey Jr. movies, the character has survived a century and half of radical revisions, but New Paradigm Studio’s Watson & Holmes brings us the *first Black Sherlock.  And, unlike many of the Holmes-ian re-imaginings, it’s actually good!

The venture started out as a digital comic back in 2012, but with overwhelming support on Kickstarter, issue #1 launched as a print comic this past Wednesday, and we’ve got at least 5 issues to look forward to.

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Rick Leonardi and Paul Mendoza‘s art work places the story visually in a gritty noir-ish Harlem, where a seriously too-cool-for-school mystery man named Holmes works the locals and watches the streets for clues to solve local crimes.  Under the care of Karl Bollers , the story has all of the flavor of Harlem, with local kids taking a break from play to offer Holmes some useful tips and cast a little side-eye at the new guy John Watson, a doctor medical resident in a local E.R.

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And apparently fans want more. With a small initial print run of only 3,888 copies, the issue quickly sold out at San Diego Comic Con this year. The comic and the newbie studio has gotten quite a bit of coverage , and with a couple of dope free comics under their belts — The Rockthrower, Nimbus,  and the web-comic Justice Is Nocturnal — this certainly won’t be the last we hear of them.

The Rockthrower is another interesting gem from the studio, telling the dramedy of a washed up baseball scout who manages to find talent in the oddest of places when he spots a Palestinian kid throwing rocks with impressive accuracy and speed in video footage of the Palestine/Israel conflict.

With a crew of comics veterans, edgy creators, and stories that breakdown and remix the traditional,  New Paradigm Studios is keeping it geeky and outsidery, and we likes that. So check ’em out.

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*Well… one of the first. The first Black Sherlock Holmes character actually appeared in a 12-minute silent film A Black Sherlock Holmes produced by the  Ebony Film Corporation back in 1918, a film that featured an all-Black cast at a time when white actors were still performing Black stereotypes in black face. Despite the title and the all-Black production company, the film actually followed a character named Knick Carter (played by Sam Robinson) who embodied aspects of Sherlock’s sleuthian personality, but, according to Julie McKuras, A.S.H, B.S.I at the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections, the film’s failure to overcome Black stereotypes received criticism from Black audiences. 
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Burka Avenger! Pakistan’s New Hero Defends Girls’ Education

“Don’t mess with the lady in black”

Indeed. In the first animated series ever to be produced in Pakistan, the Burka Avenger is Pakistan’s latest superhero, and she doesn’t play.  Armed with books and pens, Jiya is a teacher at a girls’ school by day, but when she dons her burka to conceal her identity her books become weapons used in a special martial arts style Takht Kabbadi that she learned from her father, and she becomes Burka Avenger, a fierce defender of girls’ education.

The musical hook to the trailer shouts out “don’t mess with the lady in black”, and ya know what, her weapons might be pens and books, but it looks like she can do some serious damage with ’em.

 

Continue reading at UnleashTheFanboy.com

Fashion Geek of the Week– “fashion history: the MFA Hippie Chic exhibit”

This fashionably geeky article comes from the fashion & make-up guru The Seventh Sphinx, whom I stole away to geek out with me at the Museum of Fine Arts specifically for geek-out over the awesome Sumarai exhibit, but as you’ll see there was an unexpected treat for Sphinx too! For a closer look at some of the outfits hit up The Seventh Sphinx.com or check out a couple of selections below

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Last week I went to the MFA with GeekOutsider to see the Samurai exhibit (which was very cool, and inspiring style-wise in its own way). Imagine my delight when I realized there was a concurrent exhibit on 60s and 70s fashion, Hippie Chic.

I found this so inspiring. Here are some highlights.

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OK, what do we take away?

We need:

more color

a lot more color (both in the sense of great riots of color in a single piece and of a single bold solid color for a piece, ex. the solid red buttoned dress)

tailoring

feathers, somehow (that massive blue coat is Marabou feathers – YES)

nontraditional suits for men and women (are you seeing that olive and black skirt suit??), but especially men

renaissance homages (the yellow renaissance dress with the embroidery and the gorgeous draping has to be my favorite)

hooded cloaks (the gray and black cloak was another I loved)

awesome boots (with the stars?!!) – awesome boots are timeless (this was GeekOutsider’s favorite look, in the teardrop swing with the casual corsetry)

imposing collars and cuffs (that red Russian coat with the black fur trim…)

style fusion – take anything you want from anywhere in history. I was amazed by the Louis XIV get-up, which is to me completely cute and desirable. Those little calf-length pants with diamond edging! I could wear those. I could wear those right now. Current fashion incorporates features from many eras, it’s true, but I think almost always in a very small, minor or diluted way. Returning to these eras in an undiluted form can be extremely refreshing – not incorporating them entirely, which is the realm of costume (though it can be a fine line, between costume and attire, and one it is fun to blur), but incorporating them in a way definitely and authentically; truly balanced fusion.

The exhibit is up until mid-November, and a general admission ticket gets you in. You can go for free on Wednesdays after 4pm….

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“How We Got On” Brings the Beat to Boston

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Jared Brown, Cloteal Horne, and Kadahj Bennett (left to right) in Company One’s production of “How We Got On” by Idris Goodwin

Idris Goodwin‘s How We Got On is more than just a play about hip hop, it’s a poetry infused hip hop album in itself. An album that tells the stories of 3 suburban hip hop geeks like interweaving verses overlaying an increasingly complex beat. Every act a track on the album, the characters evolving across them, occasionally laying down their own raps and at other times playing off each other or jumping in with a hook.  The result is one seriously dope album.

The story follows Julian, Hank, and Luanne, growing up in the 80’s as hip hop is taking over urban centers nationwide, but these kids are from the ‘burbs, and though the suburbs were rocking to a different beat at the time, these youths were nodding to the beats of Boogie Down Productions and Big Daddy Kane as they struggled to find their own rhythm in a community that doesn’t quite get it.

But you don’t have to be a hip hop expert or an 80’s baby to get with the vibe of this coming-of-age story.

With an MC who calls herself “Selector” (played by Miranda Craigwell) smoothly “toasting” over the play’s scenes and beats, offering bits of insight into 80’s hip hop culture, even those who didn’t grow up to the sounds of beatboxing and dubs can get with the groove.

Selector first introduces us to Hank (Kadahj Bennett), who is the brains of the operation. With a true passion for hip hop, he’s got his lyrical genius down to a science. But he lacks significantly in the “cool” department. This is where Julian (Jared Brown) comes in, bringing the heart of the matter. With something of a troubled family life and a deep insecurity that expresses itself as bold confidence, Julian fits the bill of the hip hop poster child. Luanne‘s (Cloteal Horne) passion for rhyme brings the spirit, showing both boys how joy absolutely has to be part of the equation.Indeed, for much of the play, she even appears as a sort of apparition, briefly haunting the stage between scenes with a quick solo rhyme or two.

Spoken word poet and hip-hop playwright Idris Goodwin is a rapper himself, and his own passion for the music shines through these characters. Under the smart direction of Summer L. Williams the play boasts a stunningly visual rendition, at  times of a hype local concert, at others of the simple mechanics of a private turntable session. In fact, in my favorite scene, Hank and Julian share the stage in a split scene, each engaged in private conversations with their fathers (as voiced by the multi-faceted Miranda Craigwell), and it’s staged such that the two scenes are physically and lyrically mixed like a couple of records on a turntable. Company Ones production of this fun and poignant play captures the reach of hip hop’s influence and it’s impact on a generation.

Oh and did I mention the music is hot?

And if you’re like me, you’ll now want a little of this…

On Trayvon Martin, and Geeking For Justice

A reimagining of Trayvon Martin and Spider-man by Curt Franklin & Chris Haley in their webcomic at Let’sBeFriendsAgain.com

These past few days since the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was announced, I’ve watched and “liked” the incredibly insightful essays and thoughts from friends and public intellectuals and writers around the web. I marvel at how intelligent and thoughtful my friends are, how quickly they can turn outrage and sadness into action and eloquence. Meanwhile, my own social media outposts have been relatively silent. I worried at first that my friend circles would be confused by my silence, especially considering I’m a writer and I work in social justice. And so to indicate that I was aware, pissed off, and just taking time to process it all. I made the silence official, notifying my friends that I was taking a Day of Silence for Trayvon Martin.

As much as I believe it is necessary to take a moment to mourn at such a time, I also decided on this route because I needed time to understand what exactly I felt and why, and, more importantly, what my role should be in the fight against such injustices. I also decided to keep Geek Outsider silent over the past few days, and this had less to do with my processing the unfortunate news and everything to do with the fact that I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be in poor taste to write punchy blurbs about comic books and video games when such an important moment was sweeping across state lines and news sites. It felt like it’d be almost impertinent to geek out over Neverwinter when nationwide people were crying and crying out, fed up with the deaths of Black men.

So I turned off my console, temporarily pulled the shutters down on Geek Outsider, and retreated into the books of my favorite radical thinkers of generations past… where I quickly learned that silencing Geek Outsider was a mistake.

In revisiting these great thinkers what I found there was passion and talent. They espoused different ideas and different solutions, even countering each other, but what they all had in common was passion and talent. Audre Lorde was a talented poet passionate about women’s rights and giving voice to queer women and women of color in the feminist movement.  James Baldwin was a talented novelist who passionately crafted stories about the experiences of Black men. Jean-Michel Basquiat broke down racist social structures and systems of power with his passion for paint. Tupac Shakur’s talent at the mic brought the “everyday struggle” of the marginalized to the ears of mainstream America.

These revolutionary intellectuals weren’t by definition activists or lawyers or politicians. They were people who had talents in arenas not necessarily respectable and often not considered impactful or meaningful work.  But by immersing themselves in their crafts, these talents became deft tools in their fights against injustice. So how do our lowly geeky pursuits fit in with such a distinguished crowd? How could owning every single issue of Dazzler (ya, I really do) help in fighting injustice?

Well… despite the opinions of some, it’s art, and all art is immensely impactful. It allows us to have experiences wildly different from our own, and it changes minds. And we geeks are addicted to some of the most immersive forms of art out there. Not to mention, if there’s one thing that makes a geek a geek, it’s obsessiveness. So, imagine what outrage over issues like these could do in the hands of geeks.

So much of the Trayvon Martin tragedy was about perception. George Zimmerman perceived Trayvon Martin as a threat, which is why this whole thing went down in the first place. Then the cops perceived Trayvon Martin as a thug and obviously decided that meant he had to have caused trouble and deserved his fate, so Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. The media and the defense put Martin on trial searching for ways to make others perceive Martin as a drug-addled gangster instead of a 17-year-old son and brother and the unarmed victim of murder.

The perception of young Black men in America as thugs and threats is ingrained in our society, infecting individual minds and fueling this war on Black boys that has killed and violated so many of them over the decades. This perception is what needs to be rooted out, and that doesn’t necessarily happen with protests or legal amendments. That happens with experience.

Geeks aren’t off the hook when news like this hits and we’re not left out either. What geeks can do is geek out. Create if you’re a creator, or support if you’re a collector, or demand if you’re a consumer.  We have to demand and support the creation of works that offer a look at the experiences of others. If it’s true that geeklandia is made up of a bunch of white dudes, then let’s get some valiant superheroes of color into the comics, let’s get some courageous lone soldiers of color into the games, let’s get dynamic leaders of color into science fiction.

Go out and buy Ultimate Comics Spider-man and root for Miles Morales, or hit up Kickstarter and support indie games with characters of color, or get your book club to read some Samuel Delany. If you need help finding these things, that’s what places like Geek Outisder are for.

Until we start seeing in art and fiction representations of Black men and women in all their wonderful complexities and diversity, the rotting roots of this “thug” perception will continue to infect our society. Let the lawyers advocate and the politicians lobby for change, but we can make demands too. We can demand to see more diversity in the genres we adore, and we can create representations that change minds, and we can put our money where our racial bias is and dare to support heroes of color.

Comics and games might be considered low-brow or even silly by others, but just look at all the geeks out there and just how into it we all are (by definition really). That’s a lot of minds to change, and a lot of passionate (or obsessive, whatever) readers, writers, illustrators, consumers, gamers… and they’ve got friends and family too.

Just look at what Dwayne McDuffie achieved with Milestone Comics, or Octavia Butler with her novels. There are revolutionary thinkers and creators in geekdom too. I’m ashamed that I felt that there was no place for my geeky voice at this moment of national sadness, because to believe so wouldn’t that mean the opposite was also true? That there’s no place for stories and experiences like this in the “geeky” art forms?  Obviously, not true.

This is what we love, what we grok, what we geek out on, so this is where we can best support the fight.  Though, let’s go to the protests too, ya? trayvon

The Hypocrisy of Tolerance: Does Boycotting Ender’s Game Really Fight Orson Scott Card’s Bigotry?

Is it worth fighting intolerance with more of the same?  

by Forrest Sayrs  (Guest Contributor)

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from SkipEndersGame.com

The geekier news sites have been abuzz this week with moral outrage and boycotts.  But unusually, it isn’t conservative America doing the boycotting.  Geeks are banding together to boycott the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s science fiction classic, Ender’s Game.  See, Card is vocally opposed to gay marriage.  He’s a card-carrying (har har) member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is a frequent contributor to a variety of conservative publications, including the Rhinoceros Times, and Sunstone.  In articles for these publications, he has advocated bans on gay marriage and called for the destruction of governments that threaten his definition of marriage or the role it plays in society.  He is on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of the key groups opposing gay rights on a national level and a major player in the events of Proposition 8.

In light of all this, it makes sense that organizations, like Geeks Out, would call for boycotts of the Ender’s Game movie.  But I can’t help but wonder at the ethics of attempting to silence (or punish) an individual for his personal beliefs.  This isn’t the first time Card has come under fire for his stance on homosexuality.  Earlier this year he was essentially fired by DC Comics, who had tapped him to guest write a few issues of the Adventures of Superman book, when his assigned artist, Chris Sprouse, left the project.  Card’s issues were put on ‘indefinite hold’ and were ultimately replaced with new stories written by Jeff Parker.

Now, I can’t really object to DC’s final decision on this matter.  If Card, or even just the idea of Card, was driving away artists, there really wasn’t any other choice but to fire him.  But the underlying motivations of activist groups and comic book fans in this case are a little suspect.

Steven Lloyd Wilson, a writer and contributor to the website Pajiba.com, wrote an article supporting DC’s decision to drop Card from the Adventures of Superman.  He argued that the Card didn’t have the moral authority to write for a character that so embodied the concepts of ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way,’ because he stands in such opposition to those tenants through his rejection of and hostility towards democracy.  The problem with this argument is that it undermines our democratic values as much as it supports them.

Democracy is the politics of opposition.  The purpose of any democratic system, be it representative, pure or theoretical, is the give a voice to the people.  Like it or not, everyone has the right to voice their opinions and that includes organizations and individuals who oppose the rights of the LGBTQ community.  I write this as an openly gay man who has a vested interest in gaining those very rights.  Regardless of that personal desire, I have an ethical obligation to hear dissenting arguments and opinions.  I don’t have to agree with them, I don’t have to vote for them, and I don’t have to like them, but I do have to hear them.  Then I can either oppose them with arguments and opinions of my own, or ignore them and refuse to recognize them as valid.  I do not have a right to silence them or to threaten their proponents.

Orson Scott Card lecturing at Southern Virginia University

Mr. Card recently responded to the threats of a boycott with the following blurb:

 With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

This statement, while hypocritically calling for something that Card himself isn’t willing to offer, maps out a proper ‘progressive’ response.  As advocates of tolerance, we have a responsibility to be tolerant of the beliefs of those who disagree with us.  Anything less would be the same hypocrisy that Card is guilty of.

Are we so eager to quash dissenting opinion that we would seek to quash creativity right along with it?  The logical extension of this path of reasoning leads to a bizarre progressive version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where the books of writers like Orson Scott Card and H.P. Lovecraft who espoused conservative or intolerant ideals would be censored, not for their content, but for the beliefs of their authors.

At the same time, a boycott is a time-honored protest action that enables a group to make its voice heard.  I cannot honestly say that boycotting Ender’s Game in an attempt to voice distaste for Mr. Card’s beliefs isn’t an ethical action.  But it also isn’t right to judge a work of art solely on the beliefs of its creator.  People have been enjoying the story of Ender for years.  I read the book when I was 12 or 13 without knowing anything about Card’s beliefs or caring. Does that make me an unknowing accomplice to intolerance?  I also enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Am I therefore a racist?

These questions are an example of a psychological concept known as the fundamental attribution error.  Fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias is one of the key factors in the formation of stereotypes and plays a large role in discriminatory behavior.  It occurs when individuals incorrectly assume that actions taken by others are more indicative of personal beliefs or inbound traits than they are of environmental or situational factors.  Boycotting a movie because of an author’s beliefs is an example of applying the fundamental attribution error turned inward: a belief that viewing a piece of art is a tacit approval of the beliefs of the creator.  This logic is false because the experience of art is determined by the viewing individual, not community opinion or the creator.

Art, literary, visual or otherwise, is necessarily removed from its creator by our individual experience of it and by time.  Just as we overlook H.P. Lovecraft’s vitriolic distaste for mixed-race couples because his works are good and worthy of artistic appreciation, we should be able to ignore Card’s beliefs because Ender’s Game is a good and worthy story that ultimately contains one of the most touching examples of empathy that exists in the genre of science fiction.  If Card had inserted his beliefs into his novels, we might be having a different conversation, but he didn’t.  He wrote a story that became a classic, and that doesn’t happen unless it resonates with us.

So go see Ender’s GameOr don’t.  But make that choice because of the movie’s casting, or because Gavin Hood was responsible for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or one of a hundred other reasons.  At the very least, remember that a movie isn’t made by a single person, but by a collaboration of writers, designers, directors and producers.  Any one of those people could be a saint or a sinner, and it wouldn’t affect you, or the world, one iota.

Forrest Sayrs is a high school speech & debate coach with an unhealthy love of contrarian arguments.  When not being trounced by his students, he spends his free time reading and reviewing books.  You can see more of his writing at deconcrit.wordpress.com

Pacific Rim, A Sci-Fi Monster Truck Rally

So, when I saw the first teaser for Pacific Rim a while back, my inner snob laughed disdainfully, along with the rest of the theater, at it’s ridiculous premise. Sea monsters vs. Robots. Seriously? But as the release date neared and the trailers showed more and more of Idris Elba, I erased this early memory and started getting really excited for the film. Admittedly, when the inner snob had its back turned, I knew I’d see the movie anyway just to see robots punching sea monsters.

And dammit, it was freaking awesome!  Seriously, at one point a robot wields a Titanic-sized boat as a bat and beasts the hell out of a Kaiju (what they call the dino-looking ocean monsters). How can that not be awesome?

Boat = best robot-compatible melee weapon

Awesome just like a monster truck rally is awesome. Mindless destruction and gritty, roaring, beastly machines.  In fact, in the movie, the Jaeger fandom’s (Jaeger is the film’s more sophisticated term for “giant swagged-out robot defenders”) appreciation of the machine’s make, model, and beastly attributes is not dissimilar to how monster truck fans idolize the beauty of the car-crushing machines.

The plot was completely irrelevant. The acting had a few shining moments, almost all of them involving Idris Elba, who played the quiet storm of a leader in Stacker Pentecost and quite literally stole the show.

“Hero” Raleigh Becket gets *told* by Stacker Pentecost in what may have been the movies most bad ass scene

But also a strong kudos to Charlie Day, who has graduated from his squeeky-voiced  days as the hilarious idiot Charlie in Always Sunny in Philadelphiato a role where he gets a brain and a purpose as Dr. Newton Geiszler, the fanboy scientist. Frankly, a better plot may have been his character’s heroic journey.

Honestly, the weakest point of the movie was the protagonist Raleigh Becket, played by actor Charlie Hunnam, who must have drawn inspiration from every cardboard cut-out hero film ever, as he delivered literally ever (bad) line with the same “hero” tone. You know the one I mean, the one they use to say things like “Let’s do this together!” or “We can do this, [insert  wide-eyed sidekick’s name here]!”

Luckily, he was kind enough to (strangely for a protagonist and hero) step into the background and let better characters steal the show. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely indifferent to the possibility of a good-hearted main protagonist dying in a film before.

Also the very young actress Mana Ashida who played Young Mako was incredible and the only one to capture the on-the-ground personal tragedies of this apocalyptic world in one of the only scenes with real human emotion.  Some big studio better snatch her up quick.

Mana Ashida ripping the audience’s heart out

As for the Geek Outsider-y stuff, this movie actually passes The Token Test with (1) at least two leading characters of color (2) who aren’t somehow related or dating (3) and regularly speak more than a few lines (4) about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes. Bam. Aside from all of the nameless East Asian characters doing martial arts, and the platinum-haired Siberians being sober meatheads, it basically wins. With only one woman who speaks to not a single other woman, however, the film fails The Bechdel Test pretty hard. Then again, it’s hard enough to care about the plot, much less representation, when you’re mindlessly enjoying watching beastly machines smash evil baddies who magically appeared one day because why not.

Elba and Ashida‘s artistry and Charlie Day‘s frantic comedy contrasted sharply against the bland and messy plot, but at the end of the day, this is a movie about Godzilla-shaming sea-alien-monsters getting punched in the face by crazy-awesome robot giants, so who cares how the acting was. It was amazingly fun, just like a monster truck rally. In fact, I can totally see a  post-apocalyptic use for the Jaegers in Jaeger rallies where they Jaeger-smash replicas of metropolises or bat around Kaiju pinatas with cargo ships as sluggers. I’d pay to see that a couple times. Oh wait, I just did.