Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 3/10/21: The Truth About Balrogs

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 3/10/21: The Truth About Balrogs

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§ Nice art: Shigeru Mizuki’s Tono Monogatari is on sale today, an adaptation of Japanese folklore from the master of yokai (monsters) – and it looks spectacular. Via translator Zack Davisson.

§ A brief profile of new Superman writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson in the NY Times. To think that I once noted that he wasn’t even well known enough to get his name in a Newsarama headline. It was only a matter of time before that changed.

Johnson broke into the industry in 2015 with Last Sons of America, drawn by Matthew Dow Smith, for Boom! Studios, about an attack that hampers reproduction and forces would-be parents to take children from other countries. (Peter Dinklage is set to star in a film version of the series.) Johnson also wrote the horror-fantasy series The Last God for DC and is writing an “Alien” series for Marvel, whose first issue arrives on March 24. He is a sergeant first class in the Army and a member of the Army Field Band. “I’ve learned to devote any skills or talents I have in the service of things that matter,” he said. “There should always be a story or message that’s true, one that deeply matters. That idea applies more than ever when you’re writing Superman, who embodies the idea of service.”

§ What does a comic book editor do? Read and answer a lot of emails, according to this day in the life chronicle by First Second’s Kiara Valdez

9:15 AM: I already have at least 25 emails in my inbox. Nowadays, I average about 50-ish emails on a light day and more than 100 on a busy day. Even before we moved to all digital because of the pandemic, I would say emailing is more than half my job. It’s how I communicate with agents and you, my author (as well as the occasional phone call). It’s also why I have 24 labels to try to keep my Gmail somewhat organized and under control. But…

I am human and sometimes emails get lost—so if it’s been a little while and I haven’t responded to you, don’t be afraid to nudge.

That last bit is something all anxious creators should keep in mind.

§ Podcast alert! There is a new podcast in town, Mangasplaining which stars manga enthusiasts Deb Aoki, David Brothers and Chris Butcher as they get novice Chip Zdarsky to read various manga and then talk about it. The first episode features Akira and it just goes deeper and deeper from there.

§ Speaking of Deb Aoki, she also appears on our occasional Four Women in A Hotel Room podcast, which is now a zoom cast. Formerly recorded on our travels around the world, now we just sit in our living rooms. Last week, I reunited with Deb, Johanna Draper Carlson and Brigid Alverson for “Four Women in a Hotel Room: One Year Later” in which we look back at C2E2 2020, the last “big con” before COVID, and we talk about that and also manga, comics, life and other fun stuff.

§ An Intro to Financing and Budgeting for Freelancers. Like many freelancers/small business owners, just thinking about this give me the sweats, but you gotta start somewhere, and Stephanie Cooke holds our hand.

One of the most daunting parts of being an adult is having to properly manage your money. When you’re freelancing, that task can become even more daunting. In this panel, you’ll learn about budgets, debt, and what the heck TFSAs* and RRSPs* are. We’ll also discuss some common investment strategies to make the most of your money.

§ March is the month to focus on women, and CBR has 10 Women Who Changed The Comic Book Industry (& How) and these 10 people should, indeed, be a part of any history of comics.

§ Meanwhile, How Four Women Made a Career Out of Their Marvel Fandom, is another podcast spotlighting four Women of Marvel.

This is precisely what happened to four Marvel employees — Haley Conatser, Jennifer Lai, Faith D’Isa, and Alana Herrnson — who work in different roles in the company and are all die-hard Marvel fans. They shared their stories about coming to work for Marvel and what they love about Marvel on the latest episode of the Women of Marvel podcast.

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§ Even guitar legend Joe Satriani has a comic book now.

The result is Crystal Plant, a five-part series that ships its initial copies this month. “Experience a vivid space odyssey where Satchel Walker, a man out of time, finds himself caught between desperate factions as they battle for resources in the perilous orbit of a dying star,” reads the official description. “In a bold and brutal saga of sentient storms and Wingsuit armies, it’s music, and more importantly, the power and emotion that music can conjure, which could bring an end to the conflict, restore harmony to the timestream, and reveal Walker’s true place in the universe.”

§ This Vanity Fair article about Raya and the Last Dragon possibly gay Disney princess, does a good job (at least from my het cis viewpoint) of laying out the long struggle for acceptance of queer characters in animation, including breakthroughs such as Avatar, Steven Universe and She-Ra. And oh, also maybe Raya, according to Kelly Marie Tran.

If that sounds more flirtatious than ferocious there’s a reason for it. Tran told Vanity Fair that when recording her role for the animated film she decided there were “some romantic feelings going on there” between Raya and Namaari. But though Raya, like Moana and Elsa before her, is a Disney princess who isn’t saddled with a male love interest in the film, Raya and the Last Dragon is the latest Disney offering to stop short of presenting a major character as explicitly queer. But for the company that started touting its “exclusively gay moments” a few years back, and whose characters have long been embraced by queer communities, Raya has felt for many like one step closer to the surface.

IT IS ABOUT TIME.

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jac schaeffer wandavision

§ With the entire MCU world shook by WandaVision, main writer Jac Schaeffer takes the traditional victory lap in the NY Times. Lots of how and why they did that stuff in this must read.

“For the whole season it was like, how does she do this? How, how, how, how, how?” said Schaeffer, who has also contributed to Marvel movies like “Captain Marvel” and the upcoming “Black Widow.” She continued: “And really, the question is, why? What in her personhood, what in her past, led to this moment? Let’s explore that, unpack that and look at the full human before us. And still have it be entertaining, with all the bells and whistles and all the blasty-blasty, all in one thing.”

§ WandaVision also led to fan theory hysteria, and Collider’s Matt Goldberg has a pretty awesome take on this entitled ‘WandaVision’ Failed to Deliver Things That Were Never Promised to Me:

By treating Wanda’s story as one about grief, loss, and healing, Marvel denied me the chance to connect my comic book knowledge to the movies. Do you think we read comic books for fun? NO. We read them so we can amass a bunch of knowledge about storylines and then feel secure that we’re ahead of the curve when the movies come along to repeat those storylines. I haven’t been burned this badly by Marvel since The Mandarin turned out to be just an actor in Iron Man 3. Why would you play with my expectations, Marvel? To surprise me? To bring me joy? The only joy I feel is when my fan theories are proved correct so that people know I’m smart.

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§ In what has to be the “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” of comic book movie history, some viewers trying to watch the Tom and Jerry movie with their kids earlier this week were instead treated to…the Snyder cut of Justice League.

The anticipated four-hour cut from director Zack Snyder played for some users who attempt to access ‘Tom & Jerry.’ Fans have been waiting years for its arrival, and on Monday, Zack Snyder’s Justice League came 10 days early for some HBO Max subscribers. For reasons unknown, when some users attempted to play Tom & Jerry, the new CGI/live-action hybrid film from director Tim Story, instead the upcoming Justice League cut played. The anticipated four-hour film from Zack Snyder is not due out until March 18.

This really should be a movie of its own, or at least an episode of something, because…wow.

I’m told that Snyder Cut Cultists think this was part of the Vast Hollywood Conspiracy to take down this cinema classic. Others feel it had to be “an inside job” of some kind…certainly how this came to be must be a story with firing level twists and turns. But then this whole saga is just wild. I’m just gonna blame someone named Martha.

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§ Over at NeoText, Chloe Maveal looks at the late Frank Thorne, with some gorgeous art and a look at his later erotic series and his penchant for dressing up as a wizard.

That the Wizard was somewhat outlandish and especially extra was, in many ways, a sign of where Thorne’s career was headed. Following Red Sonja, he devoted himself more and more to material where the focus was on strong women who just happened to have big breasts. For Heavy Metal, he created the sci-fi strip Lann, for 1984 magazine, he created Ghita of Alizarr, and for Playboy, he created the wonderfully-named Moonshine McJugs, taking full advantage of the lack of subtlety and perverted humor available in the Hefner empire. (Let’s face it though: anyone who sees the name Moonshine McJugs and is not at least curious to read it may be clinically dead, so let’s just say that he was totally on to something.)

And speaking of wizards…

balrogs lord of the rings

balrogs lord of the rings

§ Long time enjoyers of Kibbles and Bits know that this is the place where I often comment on other comics and pop culture media. Not to slag them, because I know how hard it is, but just to mark trends and ask …why. In our current dystopian hellscape, just running a pop culture website that is profitable means becoming a content farm in some fashion, and I’ve noted that of late many traditional comics media sites have morphed into things we never saw coming. For instance, Bl••ding Cool should now be retiled “Pokémon Go Cool” (not that I’m complaining – very useful info there!) Over at CBR I guess they are branching out into any and all pop culture content. Thus it is that I was a bit stunned to stumble across this headline on CBR:

Lord of the Rings: Why Balrogs Scared Even Gandalf

Now as a Sindarin-speaking Tolkienologist of more than 40 years, I can safely say that this is not a question I ever thought needed to be answered…let alone used as the premise of an article on the internet. But author Anthony Gramuglia has done his homework!

The Maiar that would eventually become the Balrogs were subservient to Melkor, among the most beautiful and charismatic of the Maiar. Melkor corrupted those around him, drawing several among the Maiar into darkness. They fell with Melkor as he descended to Earth, alongside some of Melkor’s other servants, such as his henchman, Mairon. Melkor became known in Middle-earth as Morgoth, Mairon became Sauron, and the various Maiar soldiers took physical form as ferocious demons known as Balrogs.

I had forgotten that Sauron was originally named Mairon, so I need to reread The Silmarillion and History of Middle Earth and fast!

My puzzlement grew when I saw that this piece was published on February 14th, a curious date. But then, maybe it is natural to imagine a couple finishing up a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner and then trying to decide what to watch on Netflix and one partner perhaps turning to the other, as LORD OF THE RINGS flashes on the suggestions list, to ask “Say, honey, why do you think Gandalf was so scared of that Balrog?”

“It was a terrible corrupted Maiar full of dreadful power!” comes the answer. Very romantic. But as Gramuglia correctly warns:

It is difficult to fully relay how powerful a Balrog is. The fact that Gandalf could even kill one is a testament to the wizard’s immeasurable power — and his luck in finding a weaker Balrog to battle.

I would not call it exactly “luck” to fall into the depths of the earth after battling a Balrog, but Gandalf did survive to liberate Rohan and all that other stuff. Anyway, Balrogs, they’re scary. So now you know.

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