Watch for my (possibly) long-awaited return to my column here at the Thoughts on diversity in Nerd Culture later today. It involves the color green. Don’t miss out!
I’m sure a lot of people who keep up with comics news are familiar with Bill Mantlo, the co-creator of Rocket Raccoon who has been hospitalized since a 1992 hit-and-run left him severely brain-damaged, but still present. There was some concern prior to the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie that Mantlo would receive little from Marvel despite the nearly assured success of the film, but it appears that Marvel has made several gestures of late to assuage that fear. Either way, it is clear that Mantlo’s care is an expensive, ongoing process that does put some strain on his loved ones.
There have been a few charitable sites set up to collect donations for Mantlo’s care, one of the more prominent ones being an effort by fellow comics writer Greg Pak. I would urge any of you who enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, or just Rocket Raccoon for that matter, and who are financially capable to simply research this case and consider a donation if you feel moved to do so.
There have been many comics industry writers and artists like Bill Mantlo who have led difficult lives of pain or poverty because of ambiguous stipulations in their contracts or the fact that they relinquished their rights to their own intellectual properties out of desperate need for pay. I am not pointing any fingers or calling the comics industry itself a bad guy, but it is worth knowing that there are many people out there who lent their creative blood and sweat to creating the superheroes we love who have relatively little to show for it. And what would our superheroes have us do at a time like this? Let it be said we care for our own.
I hope to donate some myself when I am able. Keep Bill Mantlo in your thoughts when you go see Guardians of the Galaxy, and check out The Bill Mantlo Project on Facebook.
In my last post, I commented briefly on how Chewbacca’s death had set a grim tone for The New Jedi Order book series. I would like to take some time now and examine that a little more in-depth in the first post on this topic.
In Vector Prime, Chewbacca, Han Solo, and his son Anakin Solo, go to the planet Sernpidal at the request of Han’s “old buddy” Lando Calrissian. Lando has asked them to pick up a shipment for him, but things are not well when they get to Sernpidal. The moon, Dobido, looks awfully large and seems to be moving awfully fast through its orbit around the planet.
They are approached by the former mayor, who tells them the moon is on a collision course with the planet. Then Han and Chewie begin loading up people onto starships to get as many folks off the doomed planet as possible, while Anakin runs off with the former mayor to try and see what’s causing the moon to behave this way. As it turns out, the Yuuzhan Vong are behind it all, using a dovin basal to manipulate gravity and literally pull the moon into the planet.
When Anakin is knocked away from the Falcon, Chewie runs after him and gets him back up on the ship. Han asks Anakin to take over so he can help Chewie up onto the boarding ramp. However, the planet is beginning to come apart at the seams. The ground is in violent upheaval, the winds are hurricane-force, and the moon is about to make contact with the planet at any moment. Despite Han’s protests, Anakin makes a hard decision to leave Chewbacca behind, to save themselves, and the dozens of people on board, all of whom are now homeless refugees.
Han watches, disbelievingly, as the Falcon flies away, and Chewbacca howls defiantly at the moon as it crashes into him and the planet.
Han is furious with his son and so overcome with grief-fueled anger, that he goes as far as to blame Anakin for Chewie’s death. Han Solo, revered and hated throughout the galaxy, became a man consumed by grief. He spent weeks alone in the Solos’ apartment on Coruscant, with the lights off and a bottle in his hand. His family and friends feared that he would never come out of his grief. They all tried to pull him back into the fold, to be there for him, comfort him, but he would just push them away. Even after Chewbacca’s funeral on Kashyyk, Han was nearly inconsolable.
This whole ordeal causes a massive rift to form between Han and his family, and he goes so far as to fly off in the Falcon, leaving Leia and the kids to their own devices. Even with a new temporary sidekick in the form of a Ryn named Droma, Han still refuses to even take comm messages from his wife for several weeks. It is a full four books after Vector Prime before Han begins to return to his old self, but even then, it is not entirely his old self. Chewbacca’s death breaks one of Han Solo’s most endearing qualities: his sense of invincibility. For several months after Chewie’s death, Han second-guesses himself and errs on the side of caution much more than he ever did.
It is also some time before Han actually apologizes to Anakin for the blame Han placed on him. Yet, even with his father’s apologies, Anakin is forever changed by the guilt he feels. With or without Han’s blame, Anakin feels responsible because he made the decision to leave Chewbacca behind. It is Anakin’s reaction to Chewbacca’s death that I wish to examine next time. For now, how did Chewbacca’s death affect you? Do you agree with Han’s reaction, as developed in the series? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
A nerdy thought to act as a sort of preview for Phil’s new post coming in a few hours: of all the Star Wars characters, I most readily identify with Han Solo. Who else shares this view? Sometimes, the Jedi/Sith mysticism is just too much.
As I pointed out over the weekend, I have been playing Diablo III far, far too much over the past few days. It’s way too easy to sit down and get sucked into it for an afternoon if you have no other large pressing concerns, which actually plays into the Diablo series’s appeal to me. As you can guess from the title of the piece, playing the latest installment in the franchise has brought back some old memories of the previous two entries and caused me to think over what about them made them such great games for me. I often joke that I once lost an entire year of my life to the original Diablo, and that’s not much of an exaggeration. I’m not especially proud of it, nor am I truly ashamed of it. It is what it is, and there were very serious reasons for it.
I first got into Diablo back in 1999, when it had already been out for around four years. Pardon me a moment while the realization that that was 15 years ago washes over me. Anyway, 1999 was a complicated year for me–there was middle school and all its tiny hells, and that’s when my parents divorced. I know; boohoo, right? Diablo became an escape for me, as it did for many people during that time. I missed a lot of school, my grades came down quite a bit (which was unusual for me then), and I spent hours upon hours (day and night) living in the world of Sanctuary (if the name was even canon then) and fighting demons. It bears noting that I was never tempted to engage in Satanism or self-destructive behavior as a result of this game. On the contrary, Diablo made me even more curious about the Christianity I had been raised in and hadn’t yet felt alienated from.
But it was this curiosity, this simulated battle between pure good and pure evil, that captivated me. The idea that a world existed, even if it was tiny and only existed on my computer, where I had the power to save lives and affect the natural order of reality made me feel at peace with everything else that was going on around me. In Diablo, I could be an immensely strong warrior, an unparalleled sorcerer of frightening ability, or (when the mood struck) a sometimes scantily-clad female marksman. The character class selections were primitive at the time, yes, but I didn’t have to be me. I could create any back story I wanted for how my character ended up in the town of Tristram, following rumors that a great evil was stirring beneath its cathedral.
And I must re-iterate here, I played this game so very much. And I kept playing it until the second game came out later in 2000. Thankfully, I had moved on by that point to rededicating myself to my studies, reading books, and at least attempting a real-world social life, so I didn’t lose nearly as much time playing Diablo II as I did its predecessor. But there were many, many times in high school that were severe downers (most of us had such experiences), and my barbarian or druid character in Diablo II was always there, waiting for me to slip them back on like well-worn coats.
For me, role-playing games are what gaming is all about. I enjoy other sorts of games, to be sure, but RPGs are the core of my gaming career, if you will. I mentioned briefly in an earlier post that Final Fantasy X was a great help for me when I was younger, and I played it shortly after I got into the Diablo games. It fulfilled a similar need I felt. I don’t know if it’s sad or not, but I’ve always felt like I only find the true me when I’m interacting with a story full of heroes with very few limits placed upon them, whether in the games I play or the stories I read. And it’s no surprise that with the small struggles I’ve faced recently that I would find myself back in Diablo’s dungeons somehow.
Who feels me on this one? Let me know in the comments below.