Friday Feature: Tiny & Big

Every now and then there’s a game that comes along that just gets you. You deep dive it and nobody sees you for a week, and then you go out to share your experience with everyone only to find out it’s not a great game.

“It’s too short!” they say. “Those controls are terrible!” they moan. “There’s hardly a story at all!” they cry.

Well I’m undeterred. I’m still going to recommend this game.

Tiny & Big: Grampa’s Leftovers is pure gold. No matter what you say.

You play as Tiny, the oddly shaped inventor, armed with his three trusty tools: Laser, Rocket, and Hook. Big, the other titular character, is a bully who stole your inheritance from your gramps: magic underpants.

All of that doesn’t really matter, though, because the point of the game isn’t to advance the story. Though the cutscenes are amusing and the intelligible grunts of the two main characters are worth a few chuckles, this game is, at it’s heart an puzzle/action game.

The “puzzles” of the game aren’t puzzles so much as they are areas that are difficult to traverse. In order to make it easier, you have to rely on Laser (which cuts through things), Rocket (which pushes things away), and Hook (which pulls things).

There are collectibles in the game, secret rooms to find, and above all a fabulous soundtrack. The developers worked with a handful of independent bands to create a fun and unique soundtrack that you can customize as you play. One of the collectibles is new tracks for your radio to play while you solve puzzles, so finding these little floating tapes becomes even more interesting than getting to the next area after a while. Because you only start off the game with one song, by the end of the time you get the last level, you’ll probably be kinda burned out on that one, as well as the first few tracks you find.

The game is done in a cel shaded art style, evoking a comic-book feel which is accentuated by the fact that most of the game sound effects are accompanied by onomatopoeia words the flash up next to the source of the sound. “POK!” flashes up when your hook sinks into a rock, and “BZZZT!” or “ZORT!” will show when your laser activates. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s seamlessly integrated and adds both character and charm.

I’ll have to admit here that the art style and the soundtrack are both unparalleled in their greatness – but they’re the best part of the game. There are places in the game where having such awesome style makes the game’s flaws stick out a bit. The really cool cel shading feels a little underutilized when there are only two characters and really only three environments in the whole game: desert, pyramid interior, and a virtual game-within-a-game world. There are also places where the artistic awesomeness makes me willing to ignore even the most grievous of gameplay flaws, so you take the good with the bad I suppose.

When I really step back and think about it, I have to tell you that Tiny & Big feels a bit like it’s somewhere between a game prototype and a full game. It is a bit too short and it could have benefitted with a bit more fleshing out. Sigh. Truth hurts.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m still recommending it! Even with it’s flaws, it’s still fun to play and if you buy the version of the game that includes the soundtrack ($15; the game by itself is $10) it’s a very worthy purchase.

 

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Super Shame

NPR recently re-aired an episode This American Life from February 2001 about Superpowers. The entire episode is well worth a listen, but I’ll be focusing on Act One for this article. Act One of this episode features John Hodgeman’s “unscientific survey” about superpowers: “Would you rather have the power of Flight… or Invisibility?”

Which would you choose? It’s not an easy choice. There are clear advantages to either power, but then there are disadvantages too.

Most of the people quoted in the segment make their choice for based on some kind of practical convenience. From this point, Hodgeman begins a social commentary about why people choose their power – and what they would do with it.

“People who turn invisible will sneak into the movies or onto airplanes … people who fly stop taking the bus. Here’s one thing that pretty much no one ever says, ‘I would use my power to fight crime.’ No one seems to care about crime.”

Super-heroics don’t necessarily go hand-in hand with super powers. There are, of course, practical reasons for this as well. Superman is able to fight evil because he can do a great deal more than fly — he’s also super-strong and practically invulnerable. Invisible Woman can also create force-fields and is part of the Fantastic Four, only one part of a team that fights evil. Even the anti-heroic Shadow (who uses psychic tricks to make himself invisible) relies heavily on guns to do the fighting for him.

Flight or invisibility aren’t enough to make us safe from someone stronger or better armed than us. So we ask ourselves, “Why take the chance?”

Back to Hodgeman’s interviews:

“More than the ability to, say, burst into flame or shoot arrows with uncanny accuracy, flight and invisibility touch a nerve — actually they touch two different nerves. [They] speak to different primal desires and unconscious fears.”

One interviewee noted the following:

“One superpower is about something that’s obvious, the other is about something that’s hidden. I think it indicates your level of shame. A person who chooses to fly has nothing to hide, a person who chooses to turn invisible wants to hide themselves.”

Another interviewee made this observation:

“It all has to do with guile. If you want to be invisible, it means you’re a more guileful person. If you want to fly it means you’re guileless. And I think the reason that I’m so conflicted about flight vrs. invisibility is that I have guile, but I wish that I didn’t.”

Whether or not you’re willing to admit that you have guile (sly cunning and dishonesty), another interviewee made the accusation that people who would chose flight are lying. All of us want to be invisible so that we can do any number of sneaky or voyeuristic things, she insists. She believes that if you really want to fly, you’ve made yourself believe something false about your own heroic identity.

Hodgeman ends up his act by saying this, “At the heart of this decision, the question I really don’t want to face, is this: who do you want to be? The person you hope to be, or the person you fear you actually are?”

Superheroes already have a complex relationship with expectation and shame. It’s one of the sources for the problem of needing a secret identity. How can Peter Parker deal with the expectations of being Spider-Man all the time? He can’t, which is why it’s important that Peter Parker and Spider-Man be (at least nominally) different people. Most superheroes will also have a secret identity to protect their loved ones from harm at the hands of a supervillain who would use them as leverage against the hero.

But there’s an aspect of shame tied to every masked super-hero. What they’re doing must be done, at least partially, in secret. At the end of the day, every superhero with a mask is a vulnerable human being (whether or not they’re actually human) that fears for their own safety and social stability enough to adopt a new personality and hide it from their old one.

Like any classic hero, we’re all often stuck between two worlds. We’re public and private. We’re graceful and awkward. We’re brave and fearful. There are times where we’re proud – where we accomplish things that put us above our peers, soaring through the air. And there are times where we hide – when we’re embarrassed or afraid and we want to disappear into the shadows. The choice between two powers is more than arbitrary, and it’s difficult for an important reason: according to Hodgeman it’s not a once-and-for-all question of whether we fly or whether we fade. We all do both every day. 

Friday Feature: The Humble Store

It’s unusual for me to feature a storefront over a product or work, but I feel like The Humble Store for PC games deserves a special mention. It springs out of the Humble Indie Bundle events that began several years ago, where independent game developers joined together for a “pay-what-you-want” sale where a portion of each sale would go to the Childs Play charity.

Humble Indie Bundle has been through 11 incarnations, each with a set of independent games which, when you purchased the set, you could often get the Steam  download code for each game. Usually at a reduced price from what you’d get from the Steam storefront – with the added bonus of donating to charity.

Humble Bundle has also introduced several other bundle sets, including the Humble Book Bundle and the Humble Android Bundle, each with the same goal: companies who enter their product to receive a reduced commission and donate the rest to charity.

While The Humble Store isn’t a pay-what-you-want operation, they do donate a portion of each sale to any of a handful of charities (Child’s Play, American Red Cross, Electronic Frontier Foundation, World Land Trust, and Charity: Water). Their breakdown is as follows: 15% of each sale goes to their operations as the Humble Tip, 75% goes to the creators for their work, and 10% goes to the charities. Nearly all games that are also available on Steam also come with a Steam redemption code (since basically all PC gamers rely on Steam for their game library).

So next time you go to buy a game on Steam, pause and take the extra step to go check The Humble Store and see if they have the game for the same price – because then you know you’ll be giving some of your purchase to a few good causes.

How Stylish are Nostalgia Goggles

“Nos-tal-gic,’ Akira said, as though it were a word he had been struggling to find. Then he said a word in Japanese, perhaps the Japanese for ‘nostalgic.’ ‘Nos-tal-gic. It is good to be nos-tal-gic. Very important.’

‘Really, old fellow?’

‘Important. Very important. Nostalgic. When we nostalgic, we remember. A world better than this world we discover when we grow. We remember and wish good world come back again. So very important.”

-Kazuo Ishiguro, from the novel When We Were Orphans

Nostalgia will always be the double-edged blade of geek culture. With it, we are able to keep our favorite passions alive. Yet, when they do return, it is always in new forms and we long for the way we remembered it.

Take, for instance, one of my personal favorites.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Growing up, these “radical dudes” were a large part of my life. I owned tons of toys, too many VHS tapes, and dreamed of learning ninjutsu, just so I could be like them. I was in the heart of “turtle-mania,” and when the cartoon ended in 1996, I was heartbroken.

What happened the next year may have been described by “lil’ Jonny” as a miracle. A new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show was coming on the air; and not only that, it was going to be a sequel to the live action movies. Few of you may remember the abomination that was “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation,” but suffice it to say I wasn’t the only kid disappointed in it.

This was my first lesson in nostalgia. Sequels and relaunches are hardly ever are as good at the first one.

The Turtles have had success since that initial relaunch. They went dormant for a while after The Next Mutation flopped hard, but came back for a six year run in 2003; and three years after that series had ended the current version of the show started. Each series attracts new fans and gives the world another take on the Ninja Turtles, garnering some level of success along the way….

…and each time I am there watching at least that first episode, trying to recapture that small happy moment I had when I was a kid.

In that was my second lesson in nostalgia – You can never recapture that original magic.

This rings true throughout all of geek culture. Whether you are talking about Star Wars, the new Hobbit films, Transformers, Star Trek, Indiana Jones…the conversation always remains the same.

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The version of the cartoon, the movie, or the comic that you experienced first will always be the best. It will always be our first love, and we will fight to the death to defend it; because nothing has ever been able to recreate that sense of wonder that the original experience gave you.

There was still one thing left that I had to learn about nostalgia, and it was one I had to learn the hard way. After watching one of the newer incarnations of the Transformers, and being left indignant as to why it would sully the original cartoon that I held in such high regard, I decided to re-watch said original Transformers cartoon.

Luckily, the whole series was on Netflix, and I set aside an evening to watch the first handful of episodes. Before the first episode had finished, I was questioning my entire belief structure. The animation was poor, voices would be matched up to the wrong characters, and what little plot there was made less sense than the stories I had made up for my figures as a kid. Not to mention that it became painfully clear that the show existed to sell me those very same toys that I played with.

This was my last lesson in nostalgia: sometimes it is most definitely not as good as you remember it.

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This brings me back to geek culture, because sometimes we seem to forget that last lesson. We can get so wrapped up defending our version, our take on the characters, that we drive others away. We have an uncanny ability to love something so much that we drive others away from sharing in it.

Does it really matter that much if someone’s first experience with Star Wars was the prequel trilogy, or that they actually LIKE Jar Jar Binks? Maybe what really matters is that they like Star Wars; that there is one more person in the world who enjoys something the same way you do, even if it isn’t the EXACT same way.

Does it matter if someone’s first experience with the Turtles wasn’t the Eastman and Laird comic by Mirage, that their first Star Trek was Enterprise, or that their first take on the Transformers was the Michael Bay movie?

No.

What matters is that we all love our little part of geek culture. Our nostalgia for our past creates an opportunity for others to experience something similar in the future. We may never be able to recreate and recapture that magic for ourselves, but we have the opportunity to create that experience for those after us.

It will always be someone’s first Star Wars movie.

It will always be someone’s first Turtle story.

This is the joy and heartache of geek culture; and of nostalgia itself.

Enjoy the fact that there is more of it, and smile that there are others who are revelling with you.

Criticism because it is not how you remember it only serves to hurt those experiencing it for the first time.

We will never have that magic moment again; but we can always make sure that someone else can.

(You can find me this summer in line for Transformers: Age of Extinction and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at your local cineplex).

“Anti” matters — “Veronica Mars” had to answer its own call for complex female leads

Veronica Mars: The Movie

Kristin Bell as “Veronica Mars”

The Veronica Mars movie makes its debut in theaters (and for instant streaming) this Friday, March 14.

Fans of the show, many of whom contributed to its record-setting funding on Kickstarter (the project reached its minimum $2 million goal in under 11 hours and had raised almost $6 million by the end of the funding period), couldn’t be more excited — including me!

In preparation for the big day, I’ve been rewatching the series with my boyfriend, who’s never seen it before. And it is still excellent.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, “L. Hamre” on IMDB summarizes it thusly:

The murder of high-school student Lily Kane shook the seaside town of Neptune, California to the core. For once popular girl Veronica Mars, it meant the loss of her best friend, and being ousted from the affluent crowd that she once thought were her friends. Her father, Sheriff Keith Mars, found himself voted out of his job after making some unpopular accusations about the murdered girl’s family. In response, Keith opened his own private detective agency. Now, Veronica, with her sardonic wit and a few new friends, works as his assistant while also navigating life as a high school (and later college) student.

We’re about halfway through season 1, which aired on UPN in 2004-2005, and we’re both loving it.

For me, it’s especially fun to watch it with my significant other because he’s a filmmaker who’s actually dealt with actors, scripts, lighting, editing, all that good stuff — and, most fun of all, he’s a fan of classic noir (which I knew little about when I first watched the show).

Veronica Mars sits squarely in the noir genre — it’s got the traditional dens of corruption, questionable authority figures, greed and excess at the expense of the downtrodden, extreme wealth disparities, long dark shadows, rainy streets (sometimes — I mean it is Southern California), snarky private investigators and seedy underbellies.

There’s one major element that makes it different from most noir stories, though — its protagonist.

Can you guess? Here’s a clue – below is how tvtropes.com describes the main character in noir:

“The Anti-Hero is the most common protagonist of the Noir — a man alienated from society, suffering an existential crisis. Frequently portrayed as a disillusioned, cynical police officer or private-eye and played by a fast-talking actor, the Anti-Hero is no fool and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He faces morally ambiguous decisions and battles with a world that seems like it is out to get him and/or those closest to him.”

Yep, in Veronica Mars, our anti-hero ain’t a “he”.

Unlike the majority of noir stories (think of The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, The Big Sleep, anything else written by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler), Veronica Mars features a female lead as its hardboiled detective.

And this is pretty cool — not only because there’s still a dearth of shows with female leads (even more so back in 2004), but also because of the roles women are normally confined to in noir — the “femme fatale”.

The “femme fatale” is a villainous woman who may pretend to be a damsel in distress, but actually uses feminine wiles to ensnare, manipulate, and harm male characters. This traditionally included the anti-hero, who sometimes does, and sometimes doesn’t, resist her charms — but even if he does become entangled with her at one point, he always repulses her in the end.

From the beginning, Veronica Mars upends this convention simply through the gender-swapping of the protagonist. (And no, they didn’t swap Femme Fatales out for Phallic Fatales, either — though it’d be fun to say). Rob Thomas, the series creator, knew this going into it:

“Thomas initially wrote Veronica Mars as a young adult novel, which featured a male protagonist; he changed the gender because he thought a noir piece told from a female point of view would be more interesting and original.” –Wikipedia

But what makes this switch so successful is that, in every other way, Veronica truly embodies the traditional anti-hero. She isn’t a typical female character given a different label but with the same ole’ character traits still clinging to her.

Veronica certainly fits the cynical, disillusioned bit — she was abandoned by her mother, unraveled a murder mystery involving some of Neptune’s most “upstanding citizens”, saw her supposed friends abandon her in a time of need, and is now determined to see the world in black & white — and refuses to forgive.

Veronica does things no well-adjusted, reasonable person would do. She isn’t above running a background check on her father’s girlfriend, asking her best friend to risk expulsion for swiping students’ files from the school office, manipulating her new police officer boyfriend for access to evidence, or stealing her ex-boyfriend’s medical history from his doctor’s office.

And yet, we still root for her. She’s still the protagonist and viewers can still empathize with her. But we can also tell that her life — one that’s lived with gritted teeth and with a chip on her shoulder — isn’t something we’d really want to be living.

In fact, her father — the “official” private investigator who, on the surface, perfectly fits the noir protagonist role — is often a voice of stronger caution & morality. He’s the one who cautions Veronica that there are boundaries she shouldn’t cross, that there truly are shades of gray, and that most people still have some good in them. Veronica, of course, doesn’t listen.

Veronica has problems, and sometimes makes bad decisions. A lot of us would be justifiably leery of being her friend or dating her. In addition to smart, resilient, insightful, and funny, she can be weak, vindictive, petty, and foolish — like any male anti-hero (just think of Sherlock, Dexter, Tony Soprano… even Tony Stark will do).

But boring? Clichéd? One-dimensional? Most definitely not.

Veronica is an anti-hero first, and a female lead second. But this is why it’s important that she’s a “she” — Veronica Mars proves that a character doesn’t have to be simplified, flattened, or dumbed-down because the character’s a woman. Veronica doesn’t settle for being the “Strong Female Character” trope (she’s more than a princess who knows kung-fu). Instead, she’s still just as complex and flawed as the traditional male anti-hero.

Rob Thomas didn’t decide to have a female lead and then pick what her character could be from the existing pool of “women’s roles”. Instead, he started with a nuanced, complicated, challenging role, and then challenged its tradition by casting a woman in that role — to see what would happen. He thought it would be more interesting & original, and it was.

Unfortunately, few writers seem to have believed him & stepped up to the plate.

In fact, I tried to come up with more examples of female anti-heroes, and this is what my google search turned up:Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.29.18 AM.png

Though there have been a sprinkling of post-Veronica female anti-heroes (Nancy Botwin on Weeds, Olivia Pope on Scandal, anyone from Girls [though their anti-hero traits are largely reviled]) this list is cosmically dwarfed by the crop of complex male anti-heroes who have appeared since — just think of the likes of Walter White, Don Draper, Dexter Morgan, Dr. House… or the male lead of pretty much any HBO show. (Did you even need the names of their shows, by the way? Probably not, because they’re insanely popular).

The desire for these characters is clearly there, as is the frustration with their still-miniscule presence.

But ten years after Veronica Mars first aired, one of the most exciting anti-heroines to succeed her is, well… herself. The relative dearth of suitable successors is likely one of the reasons fans have clung so fiercely to the original, and why they were so eager to support her return to the silver screen.

Veronica Mars the TV show proved that the character could be built, and built to last through hundreds of storylines. Veronica Mars the movie, whose crowd-funding was so successful that Zach Braff shamelessly swiped its strategy for his own film, proves that viewers will pay to see them.

So, screenwriters: step up your game. Rob Thomas already showed you that it’s possible to cast a woman in a complex role. $2 million in 11 hours showed you writing her can pay well. So, what exactly are you waiting for?

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References & Further Reading:

Friday Feature: Loki: Agent of Asgard

So when this title was first announced, it was met with equal numbers of excited claps and derisive sneers. I’m a big fan of sneering derisively at those who sneer derisively at new ideas, so I made it a point to check this book out last month when it debuted.

Recently in Marvel’s Loki stories, the original (evil, old, scheming) Loki was “killed” and a new Loki was born. The past couple of years of the title Journey Into Mystery have been about this new kid-Loki and his adventures.

Loki: Agent of Asgard seems to be a spiritual successor to that storyline, if not a direct continuation. It’s about a young-adult Loki, still a trickster god, but now working with Freya and the leadership of Asgard as their covert operative. It’s unclear as of yet whether he is trying to clear his name with the Asgardians, or if this is simply a convenient way to live for a while. Either way, it’s a good read!

Loki in this story is handsome, charming, funny, and generally more lovable than he is evil. From thence the fanboy sneers came. When the title was first announced, much was made about this “new” Loki’s likability.

(Aside: Much was also made about his sexuality. The authors announced that Loki would be bisexual in the new story, and would change genders at different points. Fanboys puffed out their chests and said, “That’s just fanservice to all the fangirls that want to see Tom Hiddleston make out with Chris Evans!” I have two responses to this: 1. If that’s really true, GREAT BUSINESS DECISION, MARVEL! Appealing to fans is how you sell books! I’m sure that’s why a new book with Wolverine in it comes out every year… 2. Let’s put our thinking caps on for a moment and remember the character comic-book-Loki is based on, Mythology Loki. Mythology Loki is a shapeshifting pansexual schemer who once turned into a female horse, was impregnated by a male horse and gave birth to the horse that Odin rode. The fact that comic-book-Loki hasn’t already expressed some bisexuality or gender-fluidity is frankly quite a surprise.)

It’s easy for a story to go wrong when writers try to make a character that was previously villainous into a sympathetic, loveable, “hero.” Loki: Agent of Asgard does it well though. The book is well-paced (so far), legitimately funny when it tries to be, and interesting. It also doesn’t require any previous knowledge of kid-Loki’s story – which is good because I didn’t really have any.

So far it’s been a kind of “grift-of-the-month” book, but with enough characterization in each issue to keep me reading, and with only two issues under its belt, it has a lot of room to grow. I do have one minor complaint with the first issue, and that is that in a few pages is portrays Thor as a drunken bully. There’s a lot of good reasons to do this: the story is told from Loki’s point of view so naturally his view of Thor will be more negative than others, it has a good basis in other stories (including mythology), and the author wanted to. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but in the recent cultural meta-narrative (through other comics and movies) we’ve seen Thor grow out of his bully-ish nature and more into a loving brother and leader. It was a shame to see him revert like that.

Bully-Thor notices Loki through a window.

Even with that small complaint, if you’re at all interested in a charming-scoundrel archetype character, comedy comics, or Loki, I would give this book a try.

And hey, if nothing else comes of this book, it will give skinny dudes another cosplay option for the next few years! (+1 p0int, skinny dudes)

Valar Morghulis: Images of Death in Sci Fi and Fantasy

Valar Morghulis: “All men must die.”  All of human culture grapples with this unavoidable fact, from Game of Thrones to millennia-old world religions.  Death looms large in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic. Wars, executions, gods of death, and even the walking dead  all play key parts in the drama.   Martin’s  infamous for killing off beloved central characters, which instills a unique sense of realistic danger into his fantasy.

But Martin is definitely not the first to seem to fixate on death in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy.  The genres have a preoccupation with death.  This is seen most clearly in the sub-genre of apocalypse.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day

In the modern era, sci-fi took over the religious genre of apocalypse to give us pictures of global disaster that come not from divine wrath, but from human hubris.  The Day the Earth Stood Still and Terminator 2 are classic examples.  But the fear of death is most perfectly reflected in the sub-genre of zombie apocalypse.  The living are pursued by the rotting corpses that they will inevitably become.  In succumbing to the zombies, our heroes become death personified.  In defeating them, they defeat death itself.

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The Walking Dead

Fighting death itself provides a world of thematic possibilities.  Dawn of the Dead shows us how human will can be deadened by consumerism; The Walking Dead asks us to examine what makes life worthwhile in the face of hardship; farces like Zombieland provide us with the catharsis of seeing death defeated in increasingly bizarre and sadistic ways.

“All men must die,” the zombie apocalypse reminds us through a  horrific vision of  the rotting corpses that we are all destined to become.

But another fantasy genre asks, “Must they?”

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True Blood

The vampire is the other side of the coin.  It personifies our fear of death not by showing us a horrifying, walking corpse, but by fulfilling our death-denying fantasies.  The vampire is eternal youth and beauty.  And the vampire is always seductive.  They tempt us because we too have a desire to cheat death.

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Dracula

Yet vampires are horrific because their immortality and beauty is ultimately a lie.  They have not escaped death, but in fact thrive on death.  In order to live forever, the vampire mythos tells us, we must become death.  There is still no escape from the reality of mortality, and to attempt escape is to become a monster.

This is all quite grim, and makes it seem like sci-fi and fantasy don’t have a very healthy relationship with death.  But I would argue that the genres also provide us with beautiful pictures of the inevitable. “After all,” says Albus Dumbledore, “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter does not give us answers to what lies beyond the veil, but it shows us that the preoccupation with escaping death leads us to miss out on life.  In the wizarding fairy tale “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” we see that it is impossible to escape death, but that we can find peace in being able to “greet Death as an old friend” when our time comes.

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The Lord of the Rings also provides beautiful imagery.   In the film version of The Return of the King, Gandalf says:

The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it…White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.

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The Return of the King

But for my money, the most creative picture of death comes from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.  In his graphic novels, Death is personified as a friendly goth girl.  

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This unlikely picture of Death fits so perfectly because she is both older than the universe and as young as today, she simultaneously personifies the final End to all things and a mysterious beginning to what may or may not be Beyond.

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In volume 7 of the series, Brief Lives, Death encounters a man named Bernie, who has magically lived for thousands of years.  She tells him something that gets to the core of her character, and  humankind’s experience of her.

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“You lived what anybody gets.  You got a lifetime.”

Death isn’t something to run to, or to run from.  But she’ll be there for all of us.

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Sandman doesn’t give us easy answers about death, but it shows us that it’s not something to be afraid of.  She greets us not with a hood and scythe, but with black eyeliner and a friendly smile.

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All men – and women – must die.  But first, we get what everyone gets.  We get a lifetime.