Happy Belated Birthday, America!

Happy Belated Birthday, America!  I meant to wish you a happy birthday on your actual birthday, but instead I got drunk in the middle of the day and ate too many hot dogs. In your honor, of course. Sorry! Here’s a picture of Captain America punching Hitler!

Cap punches Hitler color

This picture comes from Hitler Getting Punched, a blog replete with pictures of Hitler getting punched, hit, kicked, and pile-driven by everyone from Captain America to MC Hammer. It’s pretty great.

But while we’re talking about Cap, yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and someone had posted a picture of Captain America staring intently while holding his shield. The picture was captioned: “Here’s to America, the only country that idolizes comic book characters.” My reaction was basically:

hold_up_memeWhile we do have a unique relationship with our comic book heroes, idolizing Superman, Spiderman, Batman, etc., in a way that really makes them more legends than ordinary fictional characters, we’re far from the only country which uses popular graphic storytelling in the construction of its identity.

asterix-obelixThe first counter-example to pop into my head (and Saika’s, for that matter) was Asterix, The Gaul. The comic, in case you don’t know, is about a Gallic warrior, a small man, but an excellent tactician who gains super-strength when he drinks a druid-brewed potion. He uses this strength to resist Roman occupation and go on adventures all throughout Europe (his upcoming adventure, which will be published on October 24th, 2013, will take him all the way to Scotland). The character’s influence on French popular culture is self-evident. The title’s original 34-volume run lasted fifty years (1959-2010), continuing through the death of its original writer because of popular demand. The character has been used in Olympic campaigns and even has a satellite named after him. He has come to embody the cultural concept of savoir-faire, that is, to be situationally adroit, and his series has sold upwards of 300 million comics worldwide. The release of the next book is one of the world’s most anticipated.

Nelvana_oneshotIn terms of comic books and national identity, you wouldn’t go wrong checking out Captain Canuck, or the even cooler Nelvana of the Northern Lights, who was one of the first female comic book heroes, debuting back in 1941 ahead of Wonder Woman by a matter of months. Her name, powers, and deeds of derring-do reference the legends of indigenous Canadians, so she’s as Canadian a superhero as we’re likely to encounter.  She’s also the namesake of Nelvana Limited, a Canadian entertainment company with numerous familiar franchises to their name.

It’s easy to miss, if you think of them solely as idle diversions, but comic books are just one of the many art forms we use to work out our national identity and how we relate to the issues and problems we face as a society. Now that we’ve adopted comics as an art form, it seems the world simply will not do without them.

Theater Thursdays: Where My Sketch Comedy Ladies At?

Since before the days of vaudeville troupes of performers have been rampant in comedic performance, especially in improv comedy. Those troupes such as The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, The Lonely Island, The Whitest Kids You Know, and many more are all arguably great and talented groups who have brought laughter and joy to many. The thing is, though they are indeed funny, they are also completely and utterly all men. I can guarantee that almost all of you could remember at least one sketch (or song) from among the groups mentioned. The obvious question is why are there no all-female sketch comedy troupes? I will admit there are women in sketch comedy. However, it is almost always either roughly half men/half women like Saturday Night Live or many men and one woman like… Monty Python.

Now, some may argue that there are all-female comedy troupes that are funny and how dare I suggest they don’t exist? They do exist, and I’m sure they are are absolutely fabulous, but they are not famous. What makes us flock to these all-male troupes? What causes them to be so memorable? Why do we not see some ladies acting silly with only other ladies in comedy sketches? In this instance, I am sad to say that it is most likely the old tired clichés of “women aren’t funny, women are easily offended, women can’t appeal to a man’s sense of humor (as if theirs is the only one that matters), and women don’t make ratings.” I could go on, but it would make me angry and anger leads to wrinkles. Got to keep looking young, am I right ladies? (No). The powers that be (television networks, movie producers, stupid people with much power and money but little sense) are less willing to risk money on something different, which is probably why more and more people are flocking to the computer screen when they need a laugh than to the movie and television screen. Which brings me to the Canadian all-women sketch comedy troupe called She Said What.

She Said What consists of The Canadian Comedy Award nominated Carly Heffernan, Emma Hunter, Megan MacKeigan and Marni Van Dyk. Everyone has things they can’t stand, and things that make them laugh so hard they almost crack a rib. I offer you these funny ladies, who are definitely the latter. So watch the video below and make these women famous!

Fanfiction Fridays: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Canada by Jekaro

Sometimes I would like to say I have taste in what I choose to fangirl over. Sometimes, I would like to say that I get into a series because of the meaningful plot and the deep characters. However, sometimes this is complete and utter bullshit. I know that some will argue that Hetalia has both of these traits, but you have to look exceedingly hard to find either in most cases.

In a series that has about one main plot and a million filler plot-lets—filler plot as in “wow, this is wacky/hilarious/cute/etc. but will have no lasting impact on the character”—and that each episode is divided into about three to four five-minute segments (in total, the episode is about fifteen minutes, content-wise), it’s hard to say that it said plot is in anyway ground shaking. Also, as far as author Hidekazu Himaruya is concerned, the characters are slightly flat and serve mainly as marketing tools which have served him well. Hey, I’m not going to lie: I got into the series for good looking boys and stayed for the…good looking boys (although the girls are pretty awesome too).

Good thing there’s fandom picking up the author’s slack.

Of course there’s a fair share of indulgent slash with no point what-so-ever, but if there’s one thing that this fandom has done better than a lot of other fandoms it’s creating fanon (fan-made character ideas that become so widely accepted that they’re like actual canon). I actually care more—or should I just say ‘actually care’?—for these characters because of what I’ve seen in fan works. So, allow me to introduce you to one of those works. Now, if you’ve read any of our ‘Fanfiction Follies’ series, you have an inkling of an idea of what types of fanfiction that I approve of and that I find “suddenly the characters are in high school!” fic to be for the most part stupid. This is a high school fic.

No, no, hear me out.

There’s a reason why Are You There, God? It’s Me, Canada works as a high school fic and that’s because the characters actually act like they’re in high school. A shocking concept, I know. There are actual teachers. Actual cliques that exist for more than just drama against the main character. Homework. Other students outside of the main character’s posse that have lives. It just exceeds my expectations in every way for this type of fic in general. Author, Jekaro, also makes the wise decision to not have all the main characters from the show be students. The older countries end up being teachers (IE: Germany, Italy) and parents. The younger countries are the students along with some other miscellaneous original characters.

The story itself focuses on Canada, and oft passed over character: in fact, in the show itself, it’s often joked about that no one even remember who Canada is, not even his pet.

Canada (who will be called by his human name, Matthew, for the rest of the review) lives with his two parents, England (“Dad”) and France (“Papa”), and his brother U.S.(Alfred). As a fervent FRUK family shipper, this made me too happy for words.

Mostly the story is about Matthew trying to find his own way through life, coming out from behind the shadow of his brother and being proud of who he is. Which is what high school is usually about. This story isn’t breaking new ground per say, but what really makes it is the wit and the relationships between the other characters. Holy shit, Matthew is hilarious. He is, of course, vulnerable and awkward as well, but his sarcasm is highly enjoyable. Take for instance this little nugget of gold he writes in his journal (NOT a diary) as his parents are making up after a fight.

Even later

Sakura petals
Falling on my hair in spring
My walls are too thin

Fields are made bright gold
Baked soft in the summer heat
Why are they so loud?

The fall air is crisp
Like breathing in ice cold clouds
Seriously guys

Winter brings the snow
Cold and clean like brand new sheets
Someone kill me now

And most everyone, even the highly welcomed addition of Seychelles as his best friend, has this kind of humor. It’s seriously great.

And as I stated earlier, relationships play a big part. Matthew’s parents must find a way to

relate to their son which is terribly difficult given how they’re so used to dealing with Alfred, the loud and bombastic jock that he is. And this difficulty the parents have is palpable and believable. Heartbreaking at times, but there’s always hope and humor. Besides that, Matthew not only has to deal with falling in love, but also coming to terms with the fact that he is falling in love with a boy…who looks like and dresses like a girl All the emotions Matthew goes through, all the thought processes, are realistic and it’s clear that Jekaro really thought this through rather than going straight for the ‘Hawt Yaoiz’ ™. I would have never considered the adorable Poland x Canada ship previous to this fic, but it’s really great. I just love it when a fan work can open my eyes to something I never saw before!

And so, dear reader, I offer this story up to you to enjoy. If you like slice-of-life with a dash of drama and a healthy dose of wit, this is your story. Read it here at the LJ Kink Meme (I’d give it a solid PG-13 rating, so don’t worry about the meme name…for this story.)! I should warn you, though, that the story never finished and it seems to have been abandoned. Alas! Perhaps someday they will continue. I’ll hold out for that day.