Tuesday 22 November 2016

Batman is not a tormented loner

I have never understood this view of Batman. To me, Batman is a character who copes with the trauma of losing his family through building a new family. An enormous family, at that:

Alfred and Julia Pennyworth, Jim and Barbara Gordon, Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, Kate, Steph and Cass and all the characters who orbit around each of those. He's created a family out of the lost and in turn those lost souls follow his example and create families of their own: Dick and the Titans, then the Outsiders; Jason and the Outlaws; Tim and Young Justice; Babs and the Birds of Prey; and now Damian's forming his own Titans.

And Batman isn't blind to it. Back when Geoff Johns was relaunching the Teen Titans and Tim resisted joining because them because he didn't need more training its Bruce who insists "No, but you do need to see your friends" as Tim has been beating himself up trying to process Omen's death on his own. During the Bruce Wayne: Murderer storyline what breaks Bruce is when Dick and the other kids doubt his innocence. These really are his kids for whom he has actual human emotions, albeit often poorly expressed ones.

But that wouldn't be as horrifically nihilistic and hopeless so that isn't the Batman that turns up when an audience of millions sees him on the big screen and that is genuinely sad. It genuinely seems that the larger the audience Batman has, the worse he is at dealing with his trauma. For years in the comics, basically since Damian was introduced, he's basically come to terms with his parents' murder: motivated by it but not constantly tormented. That's for an audience of hundreds of thousands.

For an audience of millions, his torment never ends or, if it does, its the last minute of the last movie in that particular continuity. Not that they haven't tried: Joel Schumacher tried to get Bruce to evolve as a character in his two movies but it didn't take and the DC-Warner rebooted the series under Christopher Nolan. There seems to be a feeling that Batman can't exist for a general audience without being constantly defined by his pain.

And, I won't lie, that makes me sad. 

Monday 21 November 2016

Arms Length: the cure for painting perfectionism

For the last couple of evenings I've been working on the first models for my Flesh Tearers army. Nothing too complex or extensive, just a handful of ordinary Tactical Marines with bolters, not even an entire unit. It was even going well until I hit a roadblock: the white on the chapter symbol.

Like a lot of miniature painters, white is something of a problem for me. Endless iterations of white base paints and layers have come and gone and I still can't get a consistent coat. My dream of a White Scars army lie perpetuallyunfulfilled because I just can't make large expanses of white armour look like anything more than a field of visible brushstrokes and painfully evident basecoat.

Still, thought I, the only white on a Flesh Tearer is on their shoulder pad and I had a method straight from a painting guide that just had to work because, hey, this is what the 'Eavy Metal team had worked out was the path of least resistance to a good, flat white.

So I painted the red, I painted the black, I filled in the base layers on the gold, the gunmetal and the green lenses. It was all going well.

Then I tried to paint the chapter symbol. Once again, as ever, visible brushstrokes and a patchy finish that left the basecoat painfully visible.

Frustrated, I slumped back on my couch and, smoke rising from my ears, turned my attention to the episode of Supergirl I had on the TV as background noise. After a few minutes of Kara and Cat's delicious mentor relationship soothing my savage breast my eyes flicked down to the models on my painting table and I saw something.

A good, consistent white. The same white I'd painted, untouched from when I'd turned to the TV in frustration. Now I wasn't holding the model right up to my eyeline under a bright lamp, now that I was viewing them at a decent distance of about two feet, it looked okay. A little dull, perhaps, maybe in need of a Ceramite White or Pallid Wych Flesh highlight but good enough.

I think this is the real issue in my perfectionism and maybe for other people as well. I forget that most people who see these models won't be holding them as close as I am when I'm painting them. Instead they'll be on the other side of a four foot table and looking down at the models.

So the next time you're frustrated that your paintjob isn't “perfect”, get some physical distance and look at them the way you and your opponent will look at them on the tabletop. Trust me, it gives you literal perspective on your work.

Sunday 20 November 2016

International Men's Day 2016

(Content warning: suicide mention. Also, I shit you not, that picture was the number one Google image result for “Men”, could it be more perfect?)

Yesterday was International Men's Day, an event that is all too often just treated as a gotcha when that annoying MRA guy you know at work spends March 8th whining about International Women's Day. Now, of course, this even gets co-opted all too easily by people who just want to use the occasion to bash feminism as if women having rights is at fault for every problem men face. 

And how much good does that do? How much does that help promote men's health issues or foster important conversations our society needs to have about the role of fatherhood, of what makes a good male role model or help to demolish harmful stereotypes of masculinity? 

Nothing. It does nothing. Its just a bunch of MRA Status Quo Warriors shutting down important conversations because those conversations might hurt their fragile little feelings. 

The theme of International Men's Day 2016 is Stop Male Suicide. On average the rate of male suicide is three times that of women. Our rate of suicide is higher in every country bar China that keeps public records of such things. Does anyone think this is conversation that doesn't need to happen? Does anyone actually benefit from shutting down this conversation? 

Men are taking their own lives because of the broken, aggressive, emotionally closed off version of masculinity our society promotes and every man who lowers the conversation to “but it's all the fault of the Feminazis!” is one more person working against this issue being taken seriously. You know what would help? Having actual discussions about how men spend their whole lives being told to repress their feelings; about how society actively mocks people of all genders for seeking psychiatric help; about how the expression of any emotional weakness is seen as a negative. We are encouraged by society, by media, even by the orthodoxy of some medical professionals, to ignore and hide our feelings. 

And when someone actually sets up an event to address these issues the loudest amongst us treat it like a joke or, worse, an opportunity to lash out at their favourite targets (usually women) and the media ignores it because it looks like all having an International Men's Day for is just an appeasement tactic for the worst forms of masculinity. 

There is an epidemic of male suicide. Prostate cancer is incredibly common (only lung cancer kills more men) and is barely discussed in comparison to skin, lung and breast cancer. We are not taught emotional coping strategies. We are socialised to treat women as either an objective or the enemy. 

So fuck those guys who think they can sweep all that under the carpet by shouting the word Feminazi at the top of their Twitter accounts. 

Because we really need to talk about these things.