This week’s Web Crush is one of those “I can’t believe it took me this long to write about this!” type of deals, since I’ve been reading and rereading and sighing over this webcomic for months now—but let me back up a little and actually introduce it. Today I want to tell you about a sweet little thing called Check, Please!by Ngozi Ukazu. It has cute art, soft bros, young men falling in love and having a healthy relationship, and for those of you who are into that sort of thing—ice hockey.
I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’ve never been into Western comics the way I got into manga. However, that’s not exactly the truth. When I was younger I was obsessed with Archie Comics—my family had boxes and boxes of the series running from the publications from the 90s to the re-prints of the older comics from the 50s. Riverdale may have been home to one of the worst cases of boring love triangles in the existence of everything, but for some reason I was enthralled. These days, I’ve fallen out of love with them—I barely even cared when the powers that be produced the “Archie finally got his shit together and married your choice of Betty or Veronica” specials—but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the spin-offs they created, especially Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
In the main canon of the Archie-verse, Sabrina showed up to cast a spell trying to help, only to have it go weird and the characters had to deal with the outcome. However, mostly it seemed to me like she played a sort of Addams Family role, which is to say that as a teenage witch she is living in extraordinarily weird circumstances, but her magic powers end up seeming normal compared to all the drama everyone else gets wrapped up in. She is, somehow, the normal one in Riverdale. More recently, Archie Comics published a new Sabrina series (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), but I’m much more interested in the 90s film simply called Sabrina the Teenage Witch. As the 90s was the era for the girl power boom, I thought it’d be interesting to see how being a witch played off of that, or even how the film could have given life to the 1996 television series of the same name (which, in full disclosure, I have never seen and have only read the spin-off books of). However, despite my initial excitement, I found that the movie, while having some good messages, ended up becoming a victim to its time, and that time’s sexism.
Over the past years, our movies and shows have gotten darker and darker. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but I do know that this stylistic choice definitely doesn’t work with everything. While darkness can more or less be just an aesthetic, we’ve also seen movies become more serious in the storytelling itself, and another annoying trend is the never-ending torrent of origin remakes. This last trend is something I at least understand, if only because studios need to bring in newer audience members, and origin stories are an easy way to do so. Unfortunately, the new Power Rangers movie looks to fit all three of these trends, and I can’t say that I’m super excited about it.
There are a great many things about Firefly that are special. The show is a perfect illustration of Joss Whedon’s belief that “good sci-fi can’t be something you like, it has to be something you love1.” Fans of the show continue to love the Firefly universe over a decade after its one-season run was completed. The thing most of us “browncoats” would likely say we love most, though, is the people. The relationships in Fireflyfeel authentic. They feel grounded despite the fact that much of what we see happens while flying through space.
No matter if it’s the close sibling bond between Simon and River, the surprisingly sweet marriage of Wash and Zoe, the “everyone’s frenemy” that is Jayne, or the socially complex love between Mal and Inara or Kaylee and Simon, the way these people interact with each other is what we keep coming back for. But of all the relationships on Firefly, the one that is arguably the most significant is the friendship between Zoe and Malcolm.
“Honestly sir, I think you got ripped off.”—Zoe on seeing Serenity for the first time
In fiction, characters don’t just die. Death always serves a greater purpose to the narrative. Even in total bloodbath stories like Game of Thrones or The Hunger Games, the myriad deaths are there to underscore the cruelty or randomness of life or the meaninglessness of war. Death informs our storytelling because it’s inescapable, and therefore holds a cultural fascination for us in a way that other life landmarks do not.
In stories where magic plays a role, death can still provide this commentary while also having tangible side effects for the living. One of these that I’ve noticed is that being party to death in some way can open a character’s eyes. Literally—death-adjacency can give people magical “true” sight that they had previously lacked. This ability, like anything involving death in fiction, is used to underscore the message of the narrative by providing some kind of insight to the characters and readers.
I went to my first New York Comic Con last weekend, and for the first time I can recall, treated a convention as a convention and not simply as an excuse to wear cosplay and drink. (Not completely, anyway.) For me, this meant buying art and games, networking, and most relevantly, buying comics. While I love superhero lore and concepts, I’ve never been too big on the Big Two. I prefer either licensed comics (like Sonic and Mega Man) or smaller studios that have a bit more of an indie flavor. Titles such as Scott Pilgrim fit this bill for me perfectly, with their quirky art style and more off-kilter plots. An art style with a similar tone caught my eye with Welcome to Showside, a comic by Ian McGinty and Z2 Comics, and it checks a lot of my boxes in what I enjoy reading.
A few days ago the staff of Tumblr (you still have a Tumblr, right? We do.) promoted a post announcing “emoji spells” were “having a moment”. I couldn’t help but think about how unique this idea is, and at the same time, really isn’t. Emoji spells are a series of emojis put together with a similar intent to that of casting traditional spells. They’re popular with technopagans and operate under principles similar to traditional spellcraft, combining specific intentions with sending the spell out into the world multiple times. Instead of saying the words aloud thrice, likes and reblogs (or other forms of sharing specific to a digital platform) charge and cast the spell. Witches have used sigils, or symbols, that are experimental and unique to a specific spell. They turn an intention into a magic image, so emojis are the perfect vehicle for digital witchcraft. The more the emojis are shared, the greater charge they get and the more powerful they become, just as many voices are more powerful than one.
The reason emoji spells get so many reblogs and likes isn’t because there are an overwhelming number of Wiccans and magic-users on Tumblr (although there is a thriving community). It’s because people hope they work, it takes next to no effort to pass on today’s version of the chain letter, and if they don’t work, no one actually thinks any harm will come of it. That’s the key: we aren’t really sure if digital manifestations of religion really count in the same way “real-world” religious rituals and practice do. Even in the Wiccan, witchcraft, and pagan communities, practitioners of techno magic are looked down on. One way to start this conversation is to look at geek culture, and the way geeks have been encountering some of the most important fundamental elements of religion since the dawn of the internet.