Spider-Man: A Hero In All Of Us

"With great power, there must also come great responsibility." This is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable comic book phrase (next to "I'm Batman," of course), and it belongs to none other than the world's greatest superhero, The Amazing Spider-Man! Dating all the way back to his first appearance in 1962, the webhead has swung himself into the lives of millions of children and adults alike, inspiring so many to view him as a role model and to dream of becoming a hero in some shape or form, including myself. So the question I want to answer here is, "What makes him a hero and a role model in my eyes?"

Growing up, something that I found very relatable about Spider-Man was that behind the mask he was just your average guy that always went unnoticed. I was never the popular kid throughout school over the years, nor did I really seem to fit in. I was picked on, I was very shy and I spent most of my time keeping to myself, only having a select few people to call friends. Looking at Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker, it was unbelievable to see this guy who nobody really took a second glance at and yet is able to go on to juggle fighting crime and helping others while somehow always choosing to do the right thing. Spider-Man made me confident that anyone, no matter how big or small, can make a difference in this world.

Jake Brown as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

As a hero, Spider-Man has also taught me time and time again to never give up. On so many different occasions, we have seen him outnumbered and outmatched, where all hope looks to be lost. But he always finds a way to rise above any obstacle in his path. When the odds are stacked against him, he has hope and a never-say-die attitude. This was something that has helped me in life, whether it's struggles I've had in my personal life or pushing to do one more set in the gym after I've given it my all. I've adopted the mindset to never surrender to doubt. Instead, I push myself to newer and higher limits so that I can achieve a better version of myself.

As a role model, Spider-Man's attitude and morals have had a big influence on the person I am today. I'm not sure how many times that I've seen Spider-Man put others' needs above himself. He always seems to do the right thing, even though he knows he will get the short end of the stick in the end. Following that example, I do my best to always be kind and respectful to others and to also lend a hand to anyone that may need my help, no matter what the issue may be. Yes, there have been multiple times where my generosity has been taken advantage of and times where I'm the one who is left hurt in the end. Fortunately for me, I always am left with a feeling of accomplishment knowing that I have made a difference in somebody's life for the better and that I'm able to put some good into this world.

"He's a menace!" - J. Jonah Jameson

One of the wall-crawler's traits that stands out to me most is how humble he is. He puts his life on the line for others time after time and will go to the ends of the earth to fight for what he believes in. And not once does he ever ask for anything in return. After everything he does to protect New York and all those that inhabit it, there are still people who despise him and will never respect him. He could easily turn a blind eye the next time someone like J. Jonah Jameson's life may be in danger. But his sense of responsibility keeps him in check, driving him to save all those in need of help, even if it includes his enemies.

When it comes down to it, Spider-Man gives me hope. I believe that the reason the character has stayed so popular and relevant throughout the years is that we all can find something in him to relate to. We all struggle from time to time. Some of us have relationship issues, some struggle financially, and there are some who even struggle to fit in among others. But it's how we choose to handle those struggles that make us who we are. We must choose to be greater than what we suffer. For me, I know that without Spider-Man, I would not have grown to be the man I am today. Yes, he may be a make-believe superhero, but you cannot deny that if we all shared his morals and sense of responsibility the world would be a much better place.

As long as Spider-Man continues to be represented in the form of comics, TV, movies, video games, and so on, there will always be children and adults around the world that will look up to him and feel encouraged to be a hero of their own. I hope that one day I can pass on my knowledge and love for Spider-Man to my daughter (named Parker, wink wink) so that she may find something to take away from the character and carry with her throughout life, inspiring and motivating her in all that she does.

Jake Brown as Spider-Cop

Everything that Spider-Man brings to the table—the responsibility, the humbleness, the never-say-die attitude, doing the right thing—are all qualities that each one of us can (or already do) possess. So I believe that any one of us can be a hero. I've come to the conclusion that Aunt May said it best in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2:

"I believe there's a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."

Who have been your role models throughout life? Was it a superhero like Spider-Man, Captain America, Wonder Woman? Or was it a parental figure such as Mom or Dad? Swing on down to the comments below and let me hear your stories!

Mike Drucker Talks About Games, Writing, and His Book Silent Hill 2

Mike Drucker is a writer and comedian living in New York City where he works as the co-head writer and co-executive producer of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Drucker has been a staff writer on such shows as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Adam Ruins Everything, The President Show, and Bill Nye Saves the World, where he was also head writer. His writing has also appeared in video games for Nintendo and Sony, as well as publications such as The Onion, McSweeney’s, and The New Yorker. He also has 8 Emmy nominations under his belt.

I was lucky enough to interview Mike and ask about what inspired him, why he chose writing, why he wrote a book based on the video game Silent Hill 2, and some weird questions, because... well, I like weird questions.

What inspired you to become a writer? Was there a specific book, maybe a tv show or movie?

I always liked the idea of doing something creative - but I initially thought I’d get into video games. But after learning I’m terrible at programming but good at writing, I realized that my skill set might be more useful elsewhere. I also grew up watching late night shows such as Conan, so I believe that had a huge influence on my love of joke writing. But, either way, I always wanted to tell stories.

What is your favourite video game?

It’s hard to say - but probably Mario 64, Alpha Centauri, and Silent Hill 2. Maybe throw in Hades in there, although it’s a bit too recent to know. Clearly, my tastes are “what did I like earlier in my life?”

If there was a machine that could transport you into any video game, which one would you choose and why?

Mario Kart - everyone seems to like each other, and getting hit by an exploding blue shell doesn’t hurt. And if I get hungry, some of the levels appear to be made of food.

You wrote a book about Silent Hill 2 and I have to ask: Why did you choose Silent Hill 2 to be the subject of your book?

Silent Hill 2 blew me away when I was in my senior year of high school. It felt like something completely different and it spoke to me on a very personal level. I never stopped thinking about it and never stopped playing and reading up on it. This was just a good chance to put all that 20 years of fandom in one book.

I was always on edge with James Sunderland in this game, meaning that I’ve found him rather boring, characterless even, and as the story progressed, he became more and more interesting. What do you think makes a good protagonist?

We either want a protagonist we can take the form of or a protagonist that surprises us - even sometimes with horror. Silent Hill 2 pulls off both by making James seem like a boring, generic everyman character and slowly revealing that he isn’t the avatar stand-in for us that we thought he is.

James Sunderland, the protagonist of Silent Hill 2

What do you think about the two Silent Hill movies?

I like them! They’re visually beautiful and I sometimes will put them on in the background. Are they great movies? I don’t know. Are they interesting to watch? Sure!

What is the biggest change you see in video games since Silent Hill 2?

While it certainly doesn’t apply to them all, a lot of video games have gotten more comfortable taking their time and setting the mood. I wouldn’t say this is due to Silent Hill 2, but it is another example of AAA games catching up to where Silent Hill 2 already was.

What other video games would you like to write about or are you planning on writing about any more? 

I’d love to write about PaRappa the Rapper! And maybe also Mass Effect. And Tetris. Too many games.

And finally: Do you have any advice for people who would like to work on the same field as you are?

Start now. Put stuff out now. Make a TikTok if you want to perform. Write funny pieces for McSweeney’s and The New Yorker and other places. Unfortunately, it’s a lot of luck; I wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for extreme luck. However, you need to be putting yourself out there for the luck to happen to you.

I don’t know about all of you out there but when he said that he might write a book about Mass Effect, I think my heart just skipped a beat, I’m not gonna lie. 

Get the book: Silent Hill 2 by Mike Drucker – Boss Fight Books

Follow Mike Drucker on Twitter: @MikeDrucker

Any Silent Hill 2 fans out there? Have you read the book yet? Let's talk about it in the comments!

Are Cons Coming Back This Year?

My very first Comic-Con experience was in May 2019. It was MCM London and I only went for the one-day option and I of course was in cosplay. I was sure I would love it but I was cautious at first, and also mostly broke because I had spent way too much money on the photo-ops already. This is where I first had a chance to meet with Nolan and Troy and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have considered going to Comic Cons as a vendor with my artwork. I went to the London Film and Comic-Con for the second round in July 2019, and by that point, I already knew that I would show up as an artist at the October MCM Comic Cons in less than 4 months and that became the biggest part of my life.

With my friend, Sara, at our first official Comic-Con

Me and my business partner both worked 3 jobs to make sure that we could actually get to the Cons as vendors, have the prints ready, buy everything we needed for displays and whatnot, and even with that we felt ridiculously underprepared. However, seeing how much joy my artwork brought to people seriously boosted my confidence. We literally booked every single London Comic Con and even the Birmingham one as well for 2020. It meant that we had six Comic Cons waiting for us and out of that six, only one went down as planned. The Spring Film and Comic-Con in February. We had people from the October MCM coming to the Con just to get more artwork and I felt good. I felt like I had finally found my path in life. Then they postponed Birmingham, London May, London LFCC, they then canceled Birmingham, canceled London May,  and canceled London LFCC and Comic Cons were done for 2020.

They already announced that the LFCC Spring Comic-Con won’t even come back in 2021 but instead in 2022. The way things are looking at the moment in England with their third official lockdown I am becoming more and more skeptical. I talked with other artists that I was lucky enough to get to know through these amazing conventions and some of them completely gave up on the possibility of these great events coming back this year. One of them, who wished to stay anonymous, says:

“If they would start again from the summer, I simply would not be able to afford the tables and I do not think it would be a worthy investment anyway. Just think about it; people are already struggling as it is so even if it would be safe to get back to do the Comic Cons, I think every visitor would hold onto their money even more tightly. The big names they invite would still come out on top, but people like us (the artists – the author) would go down to the bottom. We would lose even more money.”

LFCC Spring before opening their doors

I would even question if the regular photo-ops and meet and greets would even be possible from the very beginning. I am almost 100% sure that we would start off with some serious restrictions. Maybe the guest would only appear through Zoom calls for an on-stage interview or even if they do show up, photo-ops would not exist and we could only get autographs through a plastic glass. At least these are my predictions. So far MCM and LFCC, the two big Cons from London, have not given any official statements regarding the future of their Conventions.

Myself and Colin from Undead Gaming

There were, of course, online Comic Cons but to be fair they can’t even come close to the real experiences. Sure, most of these things got big names to show up and you could buy autographs from them and 5-10-minute zoom calls, but… that is simply not the same as actually walking on the Comic-Con floors, looking around and seeing so many people freely showing their love and passion for the things that they admire. Discovering new artists, writers, and comic illustrators, buying POP figures, meeting your favorite people, and getting to know new friends is the experience that is missing from the online version. We so desperately would need them back but at the same time, our safety comes first. I wish we could just waltz back in and enjoy it like nothing ever happened, but this (just like everything else) will take a long time to get back to normal. I hope for the best but we might have to accept the possibility that even in 2021 we have to forget about the Cons or we have to adapt to a new, a bit more restricted version of it. 

What are your predictions for Comic Cons going forward? What are you most excited to see come back?

The C-List Heroes We Need in the DC Cinematic Universe

Picture the scene, dear reader. It is 2003, and my good self, an avid Comic Book fan is browsing the shelves of my local comic book store. I'm tired of the constant stream of big comic events that pit entire casts of A-list heroes against a cataclysmic threat that is on the brink of consuming existence as they know it, rebooting the universe and, once it’s all over, they all get reset back to issue #1. Or the age-old tale of one top-selling hero battling against another in a crossover event that, for some reason, needs to be collected across multiple comic titles that aren’t usually on your pull list, but you have to buy them all in order to get the full story.

The growing need to break from the norm of superhero comic books is strong and, so far, going unsated. I'm just about to give up when, like a shining beacon of curious hope, two brightly coloured covers leap out from one of the lower shelves where the graphic novels live. The books in question are Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe it’s not the Justice League. Take it from me, dear reader, these are two of, if not the best, books about C-list Superheroes that have hit hard times. From writers Keith Giffen & J.M Dematteis and artist Kevin Maguire, this is a comic series about an unlikely and sometimes unwilling bunch of would-be heroes that are just trying to be relevant in a world inhabited with more powerful and successful superheroes.

The stories contained within, while being a call back to the JLA International era, are also full of chaotic, over-the-top scenarios with some suspense and a lot of humor thrown in for good measure. And because they are so well written, there are even some subtext and plot points that build toward a big event that comes home to roost down the line in a future, much bigger book. Heavily impacting on the lives of the entire DC universe.

This is world-building at its finest, and it's done with characters that even a seasoned comic book reader wouldn’t expect.

I mean, seriously, who would’ve thought I’d care about Blue Beetle? Never mind how his storyline would impact an entire universe and do what it did to Wonder Woman? See, I bet you’re intrigued after reading that right? These books are fantastic and surprisingly, despite their more comedic tone, lead into one of DC Comics' most lauded and dramatic stories, Infinite Crisis.

So, this begs the question: if these stories can be told so well in comic book form, why can’t they be translated to the big screen? They are ripe for adaptation, and I think they would truly solidify the DC Cinematic Universe in the same way that the story arcs in the Marvel Universe have done.

DC's TV outings have been a big success. The CW's Arrowverse showed that a plethora of heroes could be mined for small-screen stardom. The Arrowverse went so far as to have big crossover events taken straight out of the comic books that inspired them, pulling these off to great fanfare given their limited budgets. And, for the most part, they showed their big-screen counterparts how to actually handle the heroes living through these events. Also, Titans and Doom Patrol showed that show creators could cater to an older audience of comic book fans to great success without making them brooding affairs of despair.

original artwork by Wayne Talbot

It is on the big screen that Warner Bros and DC have had mixed results, at least critically if not financially. Unlike Marvel’s offerings and their ability to tie both motion pictures and TV shows together in one big universe, DC has faltered along the way. And while their more recent offerings are showing some cohesion, they have yet to build a foundation that isn’t plagued by cracks.

There is a definite divide in the fanbase, with the more extreme fans decrying any negativity towards the overly dour and somber world these heroes inhabit, a world in a perpetual state of infighting and self-doubt. 

It is a world without hope, something that a universe that Superman inhabits should never be without in its darkest hour. Yet in the movies of this DC universe, much-needed hope is as rare as color in a palette of browns and greys.

For the less venomous within the fanbase, the seemingly rushed attempt to create a world that all these heroes inhabited together has been viewed as being forced and built on a lack of understanding of the core elements of the heroes and also the villains themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to admit that some of the casting has been fantastic. Margot Robbie’s turn as Harley Quinn is a bright spot, first in the critically panned but financially successful Suicide Squad, and then in Birds of Prey (which I really enjoyed).  Warner Bros definitely seem to be giving more thought and effort to Harley’s place in the world than any of the main trinity going so far as to hire director James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame to helm the Suicide Squad sequel. With Gunn bringing his own flavor to the impressively cast follow-up, I have hope in the DC’s cinematic universe that I was so very much lacking until very recently. 

original artwork by Wayne Talbot

Now, I don’t know if the creative teams behind these movies have met in boardrooms, or (more than likely in recent times) over a Zoom call, but since the release of Wonder Woman 1984, they now have a key element in adapting the Formerly Known as the Justice League titles to the screen in the form of none other than Max Lord, as played by Pedro Pascal. (Pascal is so hot right now.) Albeit his portrayal leans heavily on Lord’s used car salesman aspect of the character. If Warner Bros and DC were to expand his story past WW84, maybe to atone for his deeds in the movie, which would be an interesting way to move him forward and allow him to bring the other characters along for the ride.

The premise in the comic book is that Lord wants to create a team of superheroes for hire, made up of lesser-known heroes who have either retired or are at the lower rung of the hero ladder. A group is formed, and misunderstandings and hijinks ensue. But the beautiful thing about the stories contained within are the relationships between the characters as they find their feet and try to make their way through the chaotic world they live in. We get to see Blue Beetle and Booster Gold’s bromance. We learn about the innocence of Mary Marvel (who can easily tie the Shazam movie into the rest of the world) as she tries to find her place among the more seasoned heroes in the group. We see the marriage of Sue and Ralph Digby, which also leads into a truly heart-breaking storyline in the event Identity Crisis. These books even contain a dry-witted cameo of Batman, whose jokes are unnerving for those around him.

These two books are the root of some truly brilliant pieces of storytelling that would give Warner Bros and DC a really solid foundation on which to build a world of intertwining events. They would add substance, stability, and a much-needed sense of humor and self-awareness to a currently disjointed collection of movies that continue to divide fans. DC superhero movies have long been a victim of needing to be a serious affair.

From Christopher Nolan’s crime drama Batman movies to Zack Snyder’s bombastically dour Dawn of Justice, but given recent releases like Shazam and Birds of Prey, it seems that some things might be changing. I mean the Snyder Cut of Justice League is on the way, and the precedent of its reworking and subsequent release is a worrying one given it as essentially the studio giving in to the social media mob and collective throwing of toys from the pram. But if Warner Bros and DC really want to try and build a sustainable and expandable cinematic world to rival that of Marvel’s, they need not look far. The inspiration or countless pieces of storytelling are right at their fingertips, simply waiting for someone to actually read them.

DC fans, what do you think of bringing these C-list heroes and stories into the cinematic universe? Let's discuss in the comments.

Star Wars: The Good, The Bad & The Indifferent

This article contains spoilers

Star Wars became a pop culture phenomenon the moment it hit the scene. The sweeping, adventurous science fiction space opera, filled with intense family drama, discovery of self, and inner strength has won the hearts of millions worldwide. Despite its ongoing success and ever-growing, deepening fan base I have yet to meet someone who loves every single film, animated series, video game, book, and graphic novel. The scope of the Star Wars universe is so vast and diverse that it has attracted just as a diverse audience who can’t seem to agree on what makes this universe so magical.  George Lucas revolutionized the film industry with his determination to bring his abstract ideas to life. Who would have thought an ongoing space drama would ignite the imagination of the whole world? 

Safe Space: The Original Trilogy

If someone told you they never watched Star Wars before, where would you make them start the story? The way George Lucas intended it? Episode IV, A New Hope? Or would you suggest starting at the beginning with Episode I, the Phantom Menace? I have heard of parents introducing their children to the saga in the sacrilegious way of starting with Episode I. Those poor misguided younglings… 

There is something sacred about the original trilogy. The saga started out as an underdog, with everyone involved having minimal expectations of its outcome. The success it saw overnight upon its release astounded it’s creators, paving the way for the next two installments. Out of the three original movies of the trilogy, everyone has their personal favorite, but everyone agrees the original trilogy is the best trilogy. It doesn’t matter which of the three movies you love:  A New Hope as it is the introduction into the universe we’ve all grown to love; The Empire Strikes Back is where we see new and diverse landscapes, learn more about the mysterious Force and see a budding romance between two very opposite beloved characters; or The Return of the Jedi where we see the rebellion finally claim victor over the evil Empire and a final resolution to the complex family issues that span two generations. 

 Do you remember the first time you watched these magnificent films? How did you feel then? How do you feel now when you revisit them?

 There is tangible magic that breathes life into Star Wars. We can all feel it. We get excited about it. Even casual fans are passionate about it. It is unanimous: the original trilogy is the best trilogy.

 What Happened: The Prequels

No one asked for it, but when we all first heard that the Star Wars universe would once again be gracing the silver screen we ALL were excited. Where would the story pick up? How would it be developed? How would George bridge the gap between the last generation to the next? How would Anakin Skywalker’s descent into darkness be brought to the fore and how would this all leave us feeling? 

When Episode I, The Phantom Menace, was released I was young enough to “enjoy” it for what it was. I had become a huge fan by the time I was twelve years old, but even at that young age, I wondered what the heck George was thinking. Nothing about the sequels was close to what I had remotely imagined the story would be like. When “Old Ben” briefly reminisces about his good friend Anakin Skywalker the storyline played out very differently in my mind from what George delivered to us as cannon. 

I will never forget the feeling of betrayal and utter disappointment as I watched, on premiere night Episode III. Unpopular opinion: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith is the worst of the prequels. Here is why: The first twenty minutes of the movie seemed like it was filmed by amateurs, in a silly, comedic blooper-like medley of insulting jibs and ridiculous puns as the fate of the Galactic Republic is at stake. Twenty minutes of film that should have hit the editing room floor and forgotten forever. Twenty minutes of on-screen time that could have been used to a sweeping portrayal of the downfall, the onslaught massacre of the Jedi. Instead, we get less than three full minutes to mourn the key figures of this endangered, almost extinct order, as Order 66 sweeps the galaxy. 

By the end of that film, I wanted to rage, as “Annie” did. This Annie is NOT okay. George got lost in the details, forgetting what mattered most. He lost focus, and those closest to him, in his creative realm, let him wander in the madness. He had forgotten the big picture and got sidetracked too many times along the way. The story we were left with was cobbled and lacking. The key players felt like cardboard cutout marionettes dancing to an off-kilter haunting unmelodic tune. 

I haven’t gone full dark side. Yet. There is some good that came from the prequels. Ewan McGregor was magnificent as Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am beyond excited to see him return. Duel of the Fates is one of the most memorable, intense pieces of classical music created in modern times. The lore of Darth Maul was so compelling that fans demanded he is resurrected from the dead and given a key role in the animated series the Clone Wars. We got introduced to Boba Fett’s back story.

For a clip of Duel of the Fates click below:

https://youtu.be/8G3BKjGjJmA

I have found in many discussions that younger people tend to like, even love the prequels. It’s what they grew up on. I can understand that, from a certain point of view.

 

 

What are some things that you enjoy about the prequels? 

The Mouse Becomes Our New Hope: The Sequels

Would you believe I predicted Disney would acquire Star Wars? I was ten years old and, in mixed company, someone asked me who my favorite princess was? I took a moment and thought about it. I wanted to say Ariel, but the moral of her story was to change yourself to find your prince. I wasn’t okay with that. Then, I wanted to say Belle, but she too sacrificed her independence at the incessant demands of a beast-man. Jasmine was a bit cocky to be a role model, running away from home thinking that’s how she could escape her problems. None of these princesses would do.

Who is the best princess? Princess Leia: composed, diplomatic, strong-willed, can handle herself when things get tough, not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, unwilling to change herself for a dashing, rascal smuggler. She is a true role model. 

I gave my answer: Princess Leia. I was told to pick a Disney princess. I refused and repeated my answer. “But she’s not a Disney princess!” “Yet,” I finished. The “yet” prompted a response from two grown men not even invested in the conversation. “That will never happen, little girl!” “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” were the unsolicited replies I received. What other Empire would have the resources to acquire Star Wars? There is only one answer: Disney. 

When I heard the news that Disney had officially acquired Star Wars and there was to be a sequel trilogy I was ecstatic. This news gave me a new hope (pun intended) that everything I had hoped to see would come to fruition. 

They did not disappoint. Love them or hate them, the sequels paved the way for our expanded view of the galaxy we love. As someone who has read every expanded universe novel, I have enjoyed watching the creators of the new stories pull influence and ideas from this lore and sculpt it into something new. New tales are being told within the universe, but the Galaxy still feels like home.

(Featured here is my personal Star Wars collection.)

Kylo Ren was everything his grandfather, Vader, should have been. I had been waiting to see a villain of his caliber since the original trilogy. I finally received him. The ongoing battle between dark & light, the return and departure of beloved old characters, and nostalgia re-lived was the cathartic experience we all were hoping for.

I do understand some of the gripes people have about the new trilogy, but overall I am willing to overlook some of their imperfections for what they have given us in return. Disney wants to give us fans what we want. They are listening. 

The Standalones 

Rogue One was a breath of fresh air for all of us tired of the Jedi/Sith drama. We got to see the story told from the point of view of the normal people of the galaxy fighting to make a difference. The execution of the film captured the Star Wars essence without trying too hard or making things feel forced. (No pun intended). I went to see it with some friends and afterward, I turned to them and said, “You ask me why I continue to read Star Wars books and keep up on the lore. THIS is why. These are the stories I keep tuning in for.” 

Solo: A Star Wars Story was a fun ride. Alden Ehrenreich was an odd choice for me as a young Han, but I did my best to enjoy the story for what it was. There will only be one Han Solo: Harrison Ford. 

When it’s Mando season, every Friday or Saturday you get asked, “Have you watched the Mandalorian yet?” Everyone wants to know if it’s “safe” to talk about the new episode. The hype for what is going to happen next is alive and well. The story is beautifully crafted and delivered and we are compelled to stick with our favorite characters as they brush shoulders with some key players for the galaxy at large. 

Jon Favreau gets it. He understands the bigger picture. He is creating with all of us in mind. For this, I am thankful. I hope to see this mentality from creators in the future for the next Star Wars projects. 

Epilogue

Star Wars is a story that binds us together, flowing through our imaginations, keeping the human spirit bound to the determination to make the galaxy a better place. Whatever story, timeline, or character you are drawn to keep the imagination alive for the next generations.

Why do you love Star Wars? Share with me in the comments so we can keep the lore alive.

How my love of the Harry Potter universe grew, from the first book to where it is now

I had someone ask me recently how I felt about Harry Potter growing to be what it is now. I found it a very important yet thought-provoking question. Before I answer, allow me to introduce myself as the Harry Potter obsessed fan girl that I am, and earn the credit of your reading.

My first Harry Potter book
My first Harry Potter book, now well-worn and well-loved since I got it as a gift from my grandparents at age nine.

I grew up in a town that had very few resources. It's a tiny town in West Virginia where cell phone service and Wi-Fi is legally prohibited due to the extraordinary amount of science happening there. Due to this, our exposure to current pop culture was artificially limited.  In order to watch movies, we bought the DVDs. Gathering video games was a once-a-year ordeal where we received what we wanted at Christmas and had all year to play them. Books were hand-me downs. One of the first books I received as a gift was Christmas of 1997, when my grandparents gave me this paperback version of a story they had heard about on the news.  They lived in Washington, D.C., and had access to a wider variety of stores. Nine-year-old me assumed it was "just another book from the grandparents" and shrugged it off with a sheepish "thanks." Little did I know the gift I had just received.

I began reading the book that Christmas. I remember the first chapter being a little difficult to get through, but I pushed through. I got to the second chapter and remember thinking, "Wow, this is interesting," and just kept going. By the time I finished the book, I had been exposed to the most magical, intricately woven, beautiful story I had ever known. I pushed the book into every one of my family members' hands. "You HAVE to read this," I would say. "Just get past the first chapter. Just you wait." Most of them read a little bit but didn't devour it the way I did. 

That book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Gift inscription in my first HP book
Did my grandparents realize the world they were opening up for me?

The obsession had started. I quickly learned there was even a second book coming out. Oh my gosh, there's MORE? I re-read the first book until the second book came out, and here is where the importance of where I grew up comes in. In the late 90s, audio books were not a viable option for me at that time. Amazon was a bookstore that was able to ship books to people’s doorsteps the day they were to come out. My now 10-year-old mind was blown. I can have the book? New? As soon as it comes out?! What is this… MAGIC?! Then the day came. The book was released, and there it was on my doorstep. I read through it so fast, my parents didn’t think I understood any of it. 

Hard-bound copies of the Harry Potter books
I eventually got these nice hard-bound copies of the Harry Potter books, but I still have those well-read first copies, too!

This continued over the years as each book came out. The fifth book came out the day we were returning from a vacation, and, as we were pulling into the driveway, that glorious box was there. As each book launched, I would re-read the previous ones to prepare, refreshing my mind and reinforcing my now-thorough comprehension. I don't mean once, or even twice. I read them back-to-back-to-back to the point my family was annoyed that that's all I was doing. My parents pushed me to read something else. They bought me the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings. I read them, but as soon as I finished them, Harry Potter was back in my hands. I read them so often that one day, after yet another push from my parents to do something else, my solution was to re-write them myself. I sat in my room after a lecture, hearing about how I need to pick up something other than a Harry Potter book, so I picked up a notebook and thought, "If I can't read them, I know them well enough that I can just write them." And I started that. I could have re-written the first and second books word for word. I never finished my defiant task, luckily, but the knowledge that I could was enough to get me through that day, but that's how often I read them.

A few things from my Harry Potter collection
Just a few things from my Harry Potter collection.

Along with the reading obsession came material possessions. Birthdays and Christmases passed, and my go-to was always, "You know anything Harry Potter will do."  I began a collection of everything Harry Potter I could find. I have an entire bookshelf at home full of magazines, Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans packages never opened (ew, now that I think about it), cookie tins, calendars, an umbrella, and so much more. I even slept in a Harry Potter bed set. (I may or may not still sleep with the pillowcase from said set.)

Ron and Harry in the first Harry Potter film
Ron (Rupert Grint) and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) meet and share a pile of candy in the first Harry Potter film.

Within this time frame, the movies began to come out. When I first heard there would be a movie made, I was absolutely thrilled. Everyone else in the world would be able to see the magic! They could share in the joy that is this universe! I read every article written about the cast selection, the director, the music composer (which I was knowledgeable about to begin with, I love movie soundtracks) and the locations they would be shooting. Our family made special trips an hour and a half across a mountain to go see each movie! We were able to take friends, and, by the time we were in high school, we could make the trip ourselves. It was not a premiere, but I didn't even know that was a big thing. What I always wanted to attend was the premiere at a bookstore! That wasn't possible, but seeing the movies in theaters was a big step.

Throughout the time the seven books came out, and the movies were being made and released, there were other books from within the series that came out (The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, etc.). I, of course, got those and gobbled them right up.

Me (left) and a friend in our Hogwarts uniforms
Me (left) and a friend in our Hogwarts uniforms

Also within this time, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was revealed and opened in Orlando, Florida. Oh. My. Gosh. This place, the world I spent so much time in, was becoming a reality? In 2011, my sisters' gift to me was a trip there. Are you kidding? The night before we were heading to the park, I let her know that I would be picking and prodding at her to look at everything, so just be prepared. The next morning, we walked in, and my jaw dropped. It turned out, she was the one poking and prodding me to look at everything. I could not believe it. She wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing anything, but I promise, I was not.  I couldn’t even speak. I was in HOGSMEADE! The sights, the sounds, the SMELLS! My 9-year-old self was released in my 23-year-old body!

Since that trip, there have been several Harry Potter Worlds created, as well as an addition to the one in Orlando. (Diagon Alley, anyone?) There have been spin-off movies that are still in the works, an eighth book, and a play (the latter are somewhat the same). My unique upbringing and exposure to the Wizarding World has positioned me to speak with confidence and passion. I have been able to grow with this series, and watch others grow within it. I have walked Diagon Alley and seen ladies and gentlemen with graying hair wearing a house shirt, and I have seen children pestering their parents to buy a robe and wand. I see children's toys, video games, websites dedicated strictly to the world of Harry Potter. There are forums, blogs, trivia nights, Halloween costumes, games, puzzles, and anything and everything you can think of now published with Harry Potter on the name. It has easily become one of the most recognizable symbols, stories, and fandoms in the entire world.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando
Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

To me and my nine-year-old self, this proves what I knew all along: The world is inviting to anyone and everyone, and the story is ever evolving and open to infinite interpretation. It also proves that it stands the test of time. I could enjoy it as a child, and I am now seeing children enjoying the story I fell in love with. Fans today can enjoy the magic of Harry Potter across a multitude of mediums: books, movies, websites, games and clubs. This unrestricted access might not have been something I could take advantage of when I was young, but it allows new generations to carry the torch, continuously reinforcing the success that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have created. Sometimes it's celebrated with hot debate, fun discussion, or just casual knowledge of one's Hogwarts house, but it's a phenomenon that has been able to expand to what it is now and affect generations of hearts and minds today and for years to come. To me, this means it's a love story worth developing. This is the true magic of the Wizarding World.

Now, I could get into how the movies actually dampen our imagination, and the age old the-book-is-always-better debate, or how in many communities the books have been banned due to their content. However, I will save that for a future article and keep you on the edge of your seat until those come out. 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? What's your story? Share your own fan reflections in the comments and let's discuss!