Editorial 41: Frank Castle, Ubermensch 2

So, the site in which this article was posted disappeared and all its contributor’s work with it. Thankfully, I have the original final drafts of what I wrote, including my favorite Punisher-related article. Enjoy.

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Any time I have the opportunity to talk about Punisher I go all out. Of the Marvel Pantheon, he is the most interesting character with great depth that many readers overlook. Garth Ennis was the first to delve into Frank Castle’s psychology in Punisher MAX, exploring his transformation during the Vietnam War and time as a vigilante. After reading so many comics, I have come to the conclusion that Frank is a Nietzschean Superman.

To the uninitiated, Fredrick Nietzsche was a philosopher that pioneered the concept of nihilism, the belief that morality means nothing because they are ideas adopted on the basis of human ignorance. He really spoke to me growing up and influenced how I see the world today. My knowledge of Nietzsche is cursory to say the least, so I recommend doing your own research.

One of his more famous concepts is the Superman or Ubermensch, introduced in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Superman is an individual that can transcend the bounds of common belief and operate on his or her own terms. They are completely independent and function on logic alone, forming a set of values that supersede those of the majority, and shaping their destiny.

In fiction and history there are positive and negative examples of the Ubermensch. The Founding Fathers, Napoleon, and Hitler overcame society and did what they wanted. Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now discarded morality for instinct to fight the Vietcong. The Emperor from Warhammer 40k developed the logic based Imperial Truth to unite disparate human worlds across the galaxy. The Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout worshiped technology because it means salvation for the Wasteland.

The Superman concept fits right in with the pseudo-objectivism of superheroes. A hero using their powers to save people could be a form of showing how much better they are. Does Clark Kent really care about humanity or does he enjoy being revered? Why else would Batman enforce his own justice if not to assert his values? Does Captain America use his inherent symbolism as a way to show others how to act and behave? Though cynical, it is hard to deny the underlining motivations of vigilantes. What really drives someone to take up a symbol, a set of principles, and enforce it upon the people they do not like?

Castle’s transformation into a Nietzschean character happened in Vietnam. Overtime, he could not live without war because he loved fighting. In the story Born, America was pulling out and Frank actively prevented his unit from leaving their post. Later his war ended, but when he returned home, the incident that killed his wife and children forced him back into the mindset of a soldier.

He is driven by a bloodlust resulting from PTSD. Usually soldiers at home will want to go back to the front because that was the last place they felt normal. You spend a year in place where everyday could be your last and when you transition into a whole other environment, it can be difficult to accept the change. Hunting Vietcong was Castle’s normal and after his family was murdered, he saw the gangsters, murderers, and child molesters as Vietcong. Even after getting revenge he kept going because he believes he is fighting a war and does not want to stop.

Frank’s set of values as an Ubermensch is based on basic justice and pure instinct. His motivation is very simple: If you are evil, you die. He has no problem murdering someone for even associating with people connected to a major crime. He killed his partner Microchip because he worked for a heroin kingpin and executed a thug that helped him infiltrate a gang hideout.

He sees the world in a black and white moral spectrum. Castle thinks you are either totally bad or totally good with no in-between. When dealing with good, he acts with a compassion that penetrates his stoic demeanor. He was once a family man and when reminded of that life, he regresses into a father or husband. Frank is selective about what he cares about, but he actually cares and feels emotion. Mother Russia has the strongest example where he rescues a little girl from a missile silo and prevents her from seeing the worst of him. When fighting off waves of Russians, he made sure the girl was nowhere in sight of the violence and safe.

Castle holds so close to his values that there is no room for hesitation. He is a practical man, using his training as a soldier to function in all aspects of life besides work. If he owes someone a favor or they have something he needs, Frank is willing to play nice, which happened a lot in Punisher MAX. He is dismissive about working with others and moves on once he gets what he wants.

There is also no feeling behind his need to punish because to him it is normal. It takes a very specific event to really compromise Castle’s cold exterior. One time was a mobster filming himself defiling the corpses of his family. Another was a prostitute telling her story about being a victim of human trafficking. In those instances, Frank’s stoic bearing broke and he was a different man all together. After the deed was done he returned to a state of calm.

We idolize heroic figures because they transcend our notions of humanity. Inside us is the power to be something more and all it takes is the will to do so. Fredrick Nietzsche believed that the Ubermensch was the next step in human evolution as we drift further away from our primordial roots. Frank Castle is just one of many possibilities if we are to realize our potential. He may not be the most ideal, but even damaged of individuals have the capacity to become heroes.

Editorial 40: The New Thing

Neon Oldie is my second attempt at a serialized story. My first was essentially the same narrative years ago, but of less quality and time devoted to getting it perfect. I just jumped in without thinking and lost interest shortly thereafter. Later I figured out how to approach the story and format and here we are.

This endeavor is mostly experimental. I not only wanted to attempt serialization, but give my take on cyberpunk and noir. I studied the genres and worked up a decent understanding before putting pen to paper. My hope is I translated the various tropes and clichés well enough that readers will get what I am trying to do.

I have half the full story ready with roughly a quarter in final-ish form. Each completed chapter or installment is scheduled to post every Sunday morning EST. While some completed chapters wait to be uploaded, I will finish and edit more before getting them ready for posting in the future.

Keep an eye out every Sunday for new installments.

Editorial 38: A New Thing

So, the past five months have not been great. I do not want to get into it too much, but back in December, a very close friend of mine broke my heart. It felt like a whole part of my life just ended, like a death in the family. As much as I have tried to move on, I have not felt the same since. I have a real job and I am arguably in a better place as of now, but I do not feel any different. I am still empty.

Usually, to get out of an emotional rut, you take anti-depressants or focus on your work. I am not filthy millennial, so pills are not a practical solution in my eyes. However, my writing has been stagnating as of late. There are less and less new movies I actually want to see and the ones I do are spread weeks apart. My last review was Infinity War and while waiting for Deadpool 2, I have seen it three times. I was going to write about Internet Blood Sports until the entire establishment imploded on itself. I could not find any motivation to write and I have no idea why. Sometimes I go back to what inspired me if I ever need help putting pen to paper, but even that did not help.

After a lot of thinking, I decided to do something new and different. I have been working on a follow up to my book Back to Valhalla. It is not a sequel, but a new story entirely. My plan was to go through the usual routine of publishing and releasing it sometime towards the end of the year. However, given what I am trying to do and my lack of motivation, I am going to release the story chapter by chapter on here, once a week.

As of writing this, I am halfway through writing the completed work. A small portion is a draft while the other is rougher than sex with a paint shaker. Obviously I have a ways to go, including getting a cover artist, and copyrighting the story. I cannot say when I will release the first chapter, but be on the look out in the near future.

Editorial 37: Muh Domino

Like Bryan Singer and Holocaust porn I am obsessed with how Fox ruined the X-Men. Other than X-Force, I never cared for that part of Marvel Comics. They never clicked with me, but when it comes to the X-Men movies, I am like a hardcore fan. The MCU set a standard that was not only achievable and infinitely more appealing than what was the norm until 2008. When I look at what Fox has done in comparison, I am dumbfounded they cannot grasp basic aesthetic and tonal concepts that would vastly improve the films. And while the man responsible is more or less out of the picture, the bleak seriousness of the Singer-Verse persists and it has affected one of my favorite characters.

Prepare for some high quality autism.

Domino is a mutant with the power of probability manipulation, a passive ability where she creates her own luck. It happens in random, small bursts where she will hit a target via ricochet or score big at the tables. In terms of character, there are a lot of places you can take the idea of a person who basically gets whatever they want. Based on what has been written, Dom is a fun-loving free spirit, living life fast and loose as one of Marvel’s many mercenaries. She is a great action character and her premiere cinematic incarnation in Deadpool 2 (DP2) looks like pure dog shit.

Before I get into: no, it is not because the actress is black. Zazie Beetz is pretty good on Atlanta and I have hope she will do Dom justice. However, whoever picked her make-up and outfit should lose their job forever. DP2-Dom looks like a cross between a spinster stuck in the 70s and an extra from a Mad Max rip-off like Land of Doom. If there were ever a time and place for Singer-Verse tight leather, it would have been perfect for Dom. Instead we get a failed Black Widow cosplay made by someone who is colorblind. There are blue patches on the sides, a flesh-colored stripe down the middle that was clearly unnecessary, and lots of dirt-stained vinyl.

DP2-Dom is a microcosm of the problems with Fox’s X-Men. It is devoid of class and style and reeks of embarrassment. The people that make these movies hate the material and do everything they can to distance themselves from the comics. There were moments when the X-Men films embraced their origin. X-Men First Class was a step in the right direction and Deadpool could not have been better. DP2 looked like it was keeping up the momentum until I saw what they did to muh Domino.

There is a lot that goes into character design in comics. First and foremost is the color scheme. Everything has to match and look good on the page. You can have a terrible looking costume and make it great with the right choice of color. I am not a fan of Wolverine’s traditional outfit, but the use of color makes him look awesome. The same can be said for Mitch Gerads’ Punisher with a combination of tan, black, and white. What matters is how color is arranged into the character design. The MCU understands this and translates the costumes directly from the page to screen.

Like other characters Dom has a simple three-color combination. This changes depending on the artist, but the usual scheme is ash-white, black-blue, and black. The arrangement of color is typical Marvel character design, particularly in regards to the X-Men. If you need to make a ton of different mutants, easiest way to do it is change their skin color, hair color, or put some weird marks on their faces. In Dom’s case she has a giant blue-black spot over her left eye and ash-white skin. Her lips and hair are also blue-black, giving her a geisha look that was common among 90s era characters. The black in Dom’s design lies in her costume, though this changes between artists.

Most Marvel characters are visually striking, but what sets Dom apart is her high contrast. Her color scheme is heterochromatic with intense light and dark shades, allowing her features pop. Her emotions are clear as day thanks to her blue-black lips and her left eye practically glows surrounded by her signature spot. The high contrast also makes Dom aesthetically pleasing. Her features are not too busy or outlandish. She is beautifully simple and stands out among the Marvel pantheon with little to no effort. I would go so far as to say her design belongs up there with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.

So, what did DP2 do to Dom? They gave her a gaudy ‘fro, did not paint her skin, and put some white shit around her eye. I gather the thought process behind the make-up was to add contrast based on the actress’ natural skin tone. However, the tone of white they used does not pop enough to qualify as contrast. The spot should have matched her hair or a darker color that would have stood out. Muted is the operative word here because nothing about DP2 Dom’s design pops. I also have no clue why they went with a fugly-ass ‘fro that would be impractical in a gunfight. It is more of target than a hairdo.

I can just feel the laziness in her design. No one bothered to paint her in the standard colors. I understand if Zazie Beetz did not want to be painted; Jennifer Lawrence hated being Mystique so much, she was barely in full make-up. If it is so irritating wearing body paint, then why are so many actors in the MCU okay with it? From what I know, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and almost everyone else in the Guardians movies wear body paint without complaint. It is not even that much: just the face and hands. That is all Dom needs unless she is wearing something other than her costume. It is so easy and I cannot believe the make-up department was that lazy.

A faithful incarnation of Domino would have not only been easy to pull off, but fit perfectly in line with Deadpool 2. Again, this is not a matter of casting choice; this is all about aesthetics and the continuous failure of Fox to shake the pedophilic stench of Bryan Singer from their X-Men. I am going to see Infinity War this week and I hope, when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet, he merges the MCU with the Singer-Verse and erases it in favor of something to be proud of.

Editorial 36: I Built a Thing III

I apologize for the recent lack of content. I have been pretty busy this past weekend at a book fair, shilling my story, and hanging with friends. Furthermore, nothing came out that really struck my fancy. Red Sparrow looked like another boring spy movie, Death Wish was a remake, and A Wrinkle in Time was clearly not made for me. This week shows promise and I have another Netflix review in the works. In the meantime, I built a thing.

I am of the opinion that every movie, book, and videogame is an experiment by creators. Rather than do the same thing over and over, they attempt something new with follow-up projects and sequels. Whether it is to test new mechanics or challenge themselves, experimentation in the arts is key to future success. When I decided to start building scutums, I went through trial and error to nail down a process that produced the best results. Even after I succeeded I knew I could do more and change up the formula to make it better.

There were a number of elements I wanted to address with this new Centurion Scutum (CS): weight, handling, appearance, and painting. With the commission I was given after my first, I found using thinner panels cut down on the total weight and made the shield easy to carry. However, I used fence slats that were 4” wide, which made them 1.5” bigger than the cross beams holding them together. The steps on the beams are 2.5, leaving enough room for overlap, thus more protection. More overlap made the panels flimsy because they do not have enough support from the beams. I should have double pinned them to the steps, but there was a risk of cracking the beams. Instead I made sure to cover the steps in extra glue to secure the panels.

To solve this problem I decided to make the new panels 3” wide. On top of that, I wanted to give the CS a curve and the top and bottom. I do not know if it is historically accurate, but I borrowed the design from the show Rome where Verinus and other Centurions used a curved variant of the scutum. The problem was the segmented design would throw off the curve. Because they are staggered across the beams on the steps, the line of the curve would break between each panel.

This was partly why I elected to paint the scutums after assembly rather than before. I knew if I applied a pattern on the panels laid flat, the inside edges would be hidden by the overlap, covering an otherwise complete design. Because this new shield was an experiment, I elected to test this theory. I also added a laurel crown around the eagle and reversed the blue/white color scheme. I was inspired to make white the primary color from a painting of Caesar in combat on foot, which he did on occasions like at Pharsalus. Apparently the painting was of the Battle of Alesia, but I do not know if Caesar was actually with his men during the final battle.

After assembly I took account of the results. The curve was inconsistent, but only at the two side panels and not to the extreme I suspected. One problem I found was the pattern. Not only were the designs broken up across the panels, parts of each one were hidden under the panels or too far apart to look correct. All that survived was the thunderbolts, eagle, and SPQA. The stars and laurel were more or less destroyed. Lastly, the total weight of the CS was significantly reduced at the cost of making it smaller. It could still provide adequate cover, but a little more would have been better.

With these failures I have learned a lot. I feel more confident about painting, determined the proper size of panels, and I now know that I can make a curved variant that does not look terrible. Moving forward I understand more about the construction process. There is always room for improvement and I cannot wait until I am inspired to try something different again.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Editorial 35: I Built a Thing II

For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.

If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you  can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.

However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.

The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.

For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.

The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.

Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.

The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.

Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.

I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.

Thank you.

Email: charliemac92@gmail.com