For January 2005


January 10th, 2005 

Back On That Horse

 They say that sooner or later, if a cowboy is ever going to ride again after falling off and getting hurt, they have to 'get back on that horse'...or else they will forever remain afraid and shy.

I'm back.

It's still a little scarey now and then, I guess it will be for some time. I get more tired more easily, so I don't think updates will be every day for a while to come, but they will be weekly at least, and hopefully more than that. I am overall doing better, and feeling more secure about my survivability.

I feel bad about making my readers wait so long, but, as my family reminds me, it is more important to take care of myself. The comic can wait -and indeed it did.

What have I learned from my little heart attack and all?

Well, I have learned that, in America, medicine is almost entirely 'factory medicine' now, which means that a patient is no longer a person, but just a number, an animal, to be pushed through a money-making system as fast as possible. My new cardiologist can't even remember me, I have to remind him of who I am every visit. Typical, I suppose, but I do remember a time when doctors would remember their patients, and there was time to talk, to ask questions, and to be dealt with as a human being. Now, it is vital to fight, to push, to be alert, and to have close trusted friends fight, push, and be alert for you as well, and no doctor can be trusted to make the best choices or to even know what is going on. They are too rushed, too huried, too pressured by their corporations to make more money in ever shorter time. It's grim. And sad, too.

I also learned that life really is just dice rolls. You can do everything right, everything correctly, and still get slammed, at any moment, at any time, by some unexpected, random, unknown thing. Bam! You have a congenital defect you had no idea you even had. Bam! Here's another! The longer I live, the more I see that life is incredibly like a tabletop roll your chances and the dice come up how they will. You can try to maximize your chances, but you can not eliminate all possibility of a bad roll. It's strange, but it is so easy to fall into imagining one has more control over life than one actually has.

Conversely, perhaps, I cannot help wonder, we do create reality after a fashion. I described how I felt for the past ten years as 'heartbroken' and, lo, my heart literally broke. Perhaps it is just foolish mystical thinking, but perhaps it cannot hurt to watch one's language and thoughts, just in case. "Every word a prayer, every thought a spell" ? Perhaps, just perhaps. In any case, I have learned that it is wise to keep a 'happy heart' as best I can, and to avoid chronic anger or chronic despair. I know, easy to just say that. must be done, somehow, I think. Such stress does damage the body, no question.

Now, on to happier things!

I had a very happy birthday on December 30th, and got much wonderful loot, to say the least, as well as many kind wishes from fans around the world. I really want to thank everyone who wrote or posted or sent surprize gifts to wish me a happy 45th birthday! Thank you very much! Yay!

This is the first photo taken by Stephen with
the new digital camera his parents sent him!




February 1st, 2005 

Finally At The Beginning

 Today marks the beginning of Chapter Eight of Pastel Defender Heliotrope, and it is a special chapter, because this is the chapter which will contain the whole of the original Kamishibai story that this entire work is based upon. Heliotrope is the very first 'superhero' I ever created, that particular genre of comics not really being of primary interest to me. However, as I reflect on the impact and existence of superheroes in media, it strikes me that such characters are very primal, and indeed are universal. Certainly the Greek and Roman gods were superheroes, as was Gilgamesh, likewise Son Goku the Monkey King of China, and for that matter any mythological hero, god, goddess, or being of supernal powers of any kind.

CORRECTION: Reader Wei-Hwa Huang offers this information:

Not sure if you knew this, but if you didn't, here's a little bit of information.  You mention "Son Goku the Monkey King of China" and make an implication that he is a mythological superhero.  Actually, "Son Goku" is the Japanese name; his Chinese name (in modern Pinyin) is Sun Wukong.  (Actually, Wukong was his Bhuddist name, but that's going a bit too far detailed into it.)  Also, the "mythology" is not as old as you might think; the character was created in the mid-16th century, less than 500 years ago.

The one thing, I think, that makes a superhero a superhero, and not, say, something truly deific, godly, in a word, a god, is humanity. Superheroes, fundamentally, however it is couched or attempted to be hidden, are really human beings possessed of supernal power. Ordinary people with the power of the gods. This humanity may be shrouded under a backstory of alien origin, or expanded consciousness, or some other inhuman concept, but the point of connection between the reader and the character of the superhero is ultimately a point of humanity. Superman may be an alien from a dead world, as is the Martian Manhunter, but what makes the character worth caring about is the elements of humanity we can see in them. A truly superhuman being, a true god, would be incomprehensible, utterly alien to human thinking and feeling, as distant from humanity as humanity is from an amoeba. A real god, if there were such, would be beyond any ability of the limited human to find any real connection with. The best that could be done would be imagined qualities that approximate human feeling, arbitrarily applied to such a superior being. A real god would be horrifying and truly, deeply alien.

But the power fantasy of a human-like individual that can feel human-like emotion and possess human-like values and judgements, possessed of super-human powers and ability is a deep and basic wish. To be, or to be friends with, a substitute, infallible, truly good parent-figure who can set our petty worldly injustices right is perhaps the basis of all myths of gods, goddesses, and saviors. And for some, there must also be a bad-cop to balance the good-cop, and thus the birth of the supervillain, the demon, the devil, and any other physical embodiment of fear.

The superhero story is the religious story. Superman and Jesus, Spiderman and Buddha, the Justice League or the Hindu Pantheon, there really is no difference. Human-like beings, capable and willing to make direct and personalized involvement in the petty affairs of ordinary humans, to protect and save them, to guard the world and all of its elements, the primal wish that the parents loved in simpleminded early childhood -perfect and without limit- could watch over us forever, and always make things right. We grow up and learn the flaws of our parents, feel betrayed and lost in a hostile universe, and invent gods to make ourselves feel better. Some run to these gods in such terror that they believe in them as fact, others realize that they are but comforting stories and make what use of them as they wish, and still others may do both of these things, relegating one set of supermen as 'divine' and another set of supermen as 'comic book entertainment.

Ultimately, among other issues, Pastel Defender Heliotrope will be examining the issue of superhero-as-god and the true alien horror of what a real god would be like. Heliotrope is not human in any regard, yet her mind and emotion is the product of her association with humans, so she is human enough for us to know her. CURSOR is yet more alien, but has had humanity grafted on, and thus too can be understood. That which commands CURSOR is truly alien, beyond anything we can hope to relate to, anything we can feel for, or that would feel for us. And even still, the inhuman qualities of this strange alien superpower is not yet even vaguely close to the stark incomprehensibility that would come of total omnipotence and omniscience, the characteristics of a true god, that which is beyond mere superheroics.

It should be an interesting ride.



By Jennifer Diane Reitz

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