Episode 401 - Stan Lee, a stupid comedian, and the new prudes

Nov 19, 2018

This is Quackcast 401! Error, error! Pitface and Tantz were absent so Banes and myself were left to go quietly off the rails and expostulate all sorts of radical, half formed, badly articulated thoughts. This is an interesting one! We cover the death of the great Stan Lee, titan of the comics and superhero world. Then we sidestream into talking about comedians trying to be political commentators (re: Bill Maher)… I must apologise for my Ad Hominems. And lastly our focus is on a “new puritanism” in some aspects of pop-culture. It all ties together, if a little awkwardly.

Topics and Show Notes

Stan Lee was instrumental in creating a unified fantasy universe populated by a pantheon of godlike superheroes with very human thoughts and failings. Not only that but he helped elevate comics as a medium to the mainstream. No longer are comics seen as something just for children. Cartoons, fantasy, Scifi, and comics have been rightfully elevated to the mainstream where they belong as valid forms of artistic expression. People no longer have to apologise for or feel ashamed of liking them either. You're free to consume or create the media of your choice and Stan Lee was a massive part of that.

This is why the remarks by Mr Maher about Stan Lee are problematic and ill-judged. He said that the veneration shown for a creator of comics, which are “only meant for children”, shows how the US has been dumbed down and why someone like Donald Trump could have been elected.
I'd contend that the reason for “Trump” and people's idea of politics being dumbed down is that we now get most of our political commentary through comedians. They have helped turn complex subjects into simplistic black and white caricatures because that's how comedy works. It's great for breaking down ideas and giving you a simple primer to understand them, but when comedians and partisan talking heads are your main sources then things are going very, very wrong. Bill Maher IS the problem, not people liking comics. If anything, Stan Lee worked to do the opposite; his characters weren't simple 2D cut-outs (like Maher's version of political figures), they were complicated and human. These were A-political characters who strived to do what was right outside of mere party affiliations.

Then we transition into my idea of the “new puritans”.
There's a slow tide of people coming out against sexuality in art. It comes from both the left and right so there's no real political platform. I feel it's very much related to the same point of view that Bill Maher has about comics: this is media for children and we must protect them from anything grown up. When in reality all we end up doing is insulting and infantilising adults when we attack sexuality in media, whether in games, cartoons, books, comics or movies.
This is no more clearly shown than in the word these people use most often: “Sexualise”
They claim that characters are “sexualised”. You cannot sexualise an adult or teen. By biological, physical definition we are ALL sexual past puberty. That doesn't mean we have or even want sex, it means we have sexual traits and that's all it means. You can “sexualise” a non-sexual thing like a toaster or a car but it's impossible to do that to a teen or adult. Sexual traits in adult characters are healthy and normal. I contend that the need to remove them is a perversion.

This is NOT to say that sexual traits in characters should be over-emphasised. What these people really mean when they focus on sexuality is “EROTICISM”, and that is a very important distinction. It has little to do with sexuality though so it's NOT a mistake that should be overlooked. There is a time and place for eroticism and we should never foist erotic depictions where they don't belong or onto audiences that should not be exposed to them. But we should also guard against hyper-vigilance or start attacking any depiction that shows sexual traits.
Ask yourself: Is the character sexual? If yes, then is the depiction erotic? Then is eroticism appropriate for the context of the work, its audience and where it is sold? Those are the questions to ask, not weather or not a male has a bulge or a girl has prominent breasts.

This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to Quixote Coyote… Let’s get a little chaotic with this quixotic jazz jam for Quixote Coyote! Let the organs fill your body (no, not those sorts of organs), let the drums be your heartbeat, and the trumpet will chase the electric, eclectic thoughts in your brain.

Topics and shownotes

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Special thanks to:
Gunwallace - http://www.virtuallycomics.com
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Featured music:
Quixote Coyote - - https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Quixote_Coyote/, by cjoe1377, rated E.

Episode 399 - How many characters is too many?

Nov 4, 2018

3 likes, 2 comments

How many characters is too many? Ensemble casts can be fun and the interaction between characters can be more interesting than the actual plot of a story! But keeping track of characters from the audience point of view or even from the creator's perspective can be hard when you have a lot. Characters can copy each other and just become bad clones or you can forget what some are meant to be doing and create plot holes, audiences can stop caring about some of them or just become really confused. So how do you keep track? I think breaking them into small groups can be one good way to do it… What are some others?

Episode 372 - Marvel heroes and an infinity war against greyness

Apr 30, 2018

5 likes, 6 comments

In this Quackcast we use the movie Avengers: Infinity War as an excuse to chat about grey characters and how that applies in the Marvel universe. In truth we don't touch much on that movie but we do chat about a few of the other marvel superhero movies and “grey” characters in general, Tantz is of the opinion that “grey” characters are rarely truly grey.. My favourite quote from Tantz was “It's hard to punch the bad-guy while you're punching yourself”. Do the Marvel movies follow the comics or do the comics follow the movies? We'd love to know! This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to Alienated: This is as if Joni Mitchell wrote a classical adventure anthem. This tune urges you on into the vastness and glory of nature. You are Caspar David Friedrich, A Wanderer Over A sea Of Fog, with the world in all its awesomeness spread out far below you.

Episode 314 - The failure of heroes

Mar 13, 2017

5 likes, 3 comments

When heroes fail… Hey, why would you ever want a hero to fail? Well there are a lot of reasons and listening to this Quackcast will tell you why, but the quick version is that you don't want your hero to be a perfect Mary-Sue sort of character. Having your hero fail in their goals means you have somewhere interesting to go with your story. Having your hero fail emotionally means you can give them character development and make them more interesting. If you want to learn more then either listen to us or have a look at Tantz's newspost where I took the idea from! Our music this week from our resident composer Gunwallace is a theme to The World Outside of Time. It evokes a cold, echoing club scene, bleak and icy, with the promise of brief companionship, but not the reality.

Episode 307 - The jerks

Jan 23, 2017

3 likes, 0 comments

Jerky, jerk, jerks! Let's talk about this type of character… This topic is based on Banes' newspost from Thursday, he based it on characters like Reggie from the Archie comics. Jerks can be pretty good characters in their own right. They can be villains, heroes, antagonists or protagonists, they can even be unintentional jerks like Scrappy do from Scooby Do, Alf from Alf, or Jar Jar Binks from that horrible movie he was in. My favourite jerks are Flashman from the Flashman novels by George MacDonald (you should read them!), Blackadder (particularly the second season), and Zaphod Beeblebrox who I'm cosplaying in the cover pic. Who are your fave and least fave jerks? Gunwallace's musical theme was for The Epic of Blitzov. It's Riff based hard rock, driving beat, heavy, distorted guitars layered over and over with a thunderous yet lyrical lead floating over the top. Orange and black sound.

Episode 285 - Ride the wave of the Anti-heroes

Aug 22, 2016

3 likes, 5 comments

Comedy anti-heroes are a great deal of fun. My faves are characters like Tankgirl and Flashman; they can be selfish, greedy, violent, lustful, out for their own needs first but they still manage to do the “right” thing and vanquish the bad guy along the way regardless, or a character like George Costanza from Seinfeld who's jealous, pathetic, cowardly and greedy but we still love him anyway because identify with him and root for him against the unloving forces of the universe. To be a GOOD comedy anti-hero you have to keep the audience on their side though and that can be a tricky balancing act, you have to surf a number of factors (especially in a long running project), since to actually BE an anti-hero they need to have things about them that an audience would normally despise, these need to be counteracted by things like sympathy and pathos, traits we strongly identify with, intelligence, luck, charm, humour, sexiness, coolness, allowing them to win sometimes, or even redeeming some of their anti-hero behaviours occasionally. Get that balance wrong and they can so easily completely lose audience favour and sour the rest of the story/show/film. Pitface, Tantz, and Banes weigh in on this with me. And there are more opinions in the forum thread from which this evolved. Gunwallace's musical theme this week was for Pestilent. It's thoughtful, haunting, reminds me a little of a classic horror film soundtrack. Pretty scary!

Episode 279 - Meet the Mutants!

Jul 11, 2016

4 likes, 4 comments

Our very own heavily mutated Pitface put up a guest post about her fellow mutants, filling in for HippieVan while Hippy is away fighting the mutants in Japan wearing a tie-dyed sailor suit and riding a Volkswagen battle mecha, as you do in Japan… anyway, as a member of the anti-mutant police force, I had to drag in Pit for questioning! And that's what we did for this Quackcast. Banes and I interrogate Pit on the subject of mutants! Mutants are a forgotten race at the moment: Mutants are the zombies of SciFi in a way; a mob of anonymous monstrous minions who exist to menace the heroes and be gunned down in their thousands. But they're also so much more… Unlike zombies, mutants have a lot more personality and humanity, they can also be far more demonic and revolting than any zombie, they can be any shape, size of configuration. Mutants are so much scarier and adaptable than mere zombies, because unlike zombies they're not always degrading and falling apart, no, mutants are evolving constantly, they can get larger, gorier and more terrifying, i.e. The Thing. For mutant pathos witness the Mars mutants in the original Total Recall: There's a man with a baby in his chest and we feel for him and respect him. We have superhero mutants too in the form of the X-men. Can't forget them! But remember also that “mutants” are also a very real thing in this world, unlike zombies, in fact we are ALL mutants in one way or another, not just those special people with a conjoined twin or extra nipples or genitals or whatever, all of us have our own exciting DNA variation! I have a big nose, crooked lower teeth and pasty white skin myself, I'm practically a Morlock. So what is YOUR “mutation”?

Episode 205 - What about bodyshape?

Feb 9, 2015

6 likes, 6 comments

This week Banes and I were inspired to talk about body shape in the depiction of figures in comics, inspired by some famous images from photographer Howard Schatz's 2002 book, Athlete. In it there are photos of many athletes who're at the peak of their sports and yet their bodyshapes are vastly different, subverting the idea of an "ideal" bodyshape or what it means to be a top athlete or even fit. too often bodyshapes in comics follow a very narrow range, not getting much past what we think of as the current popculture ideal. We all know that idealised model shape is a problem and yet we all still perpetuate it, most of the time you can only tell most "realistic" characters apart by their hairstyle or costume, especially in superhero comics. And that invents a second problem: the myth of the "normal" shaped body as opposed to the ideal- there IS no such thing as normal, and even the ideal is always changing throughout the ages. There's even a lot more to body shape than the famous categories: Mesomorph, Ectomorph, and Endomorph, or Skinny, Pear, Athletic, Hourglass and Apple. We also have a beif mention of how stylised characters (Sponge Bob, Calvin and Hobbes etc) are exaggerations of these shapes and differences.


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