Time Travel is Complicated

Hey everyone. Me from the past here. Me from the present is currently driving to uni, and asked me to take care of this week’s blog for me.

Her. Whatever. Time travel is complicated.

We see a lot of that complication in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which I’ll be reviewing today.

I was simultaneously delighted and terrified to read the play script. Delighted because, well, it’s a new Harry Potter story. Terrified because all is evidently not well if there’s a new story to be told. I’ve spent the eight years since Deathly Hallows came out building up this idyllic version of Harry’s adult life in my mind. This play’s existence shattered it.

A life with no conflict is boring anyway, right?

Once I actually got around to reading the thing, though,I loved it. It’s not all butterflies and rainbows. Wizarding society still has a very tenuous relationship with logic. Slytherins still experience prejudice. Harry tries his best, but doesn’t really know how to be a parent. It’s not the same experience as reading the books, but I never read the Harry Potter books for the prose. I read them for the story.

This story fits perfectly into the world of Harry Potter.

Take the stars of the show: Albus Potter, a Slytherin who can never live up to the expectations of his family, and Scorpius Malfoy, who can never live down the scandals of his. Misfits in every sense of the word, just like Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in their day (though Al doesn’t realize it). Scorpius’s doomed but optimistic efforts at getting into Rose Weasley’s good graces fit right in.

Then there’s the magic. It’s everywhere, from Ron’s joke shop products to duels to, yes, time travel. Rarely explained, constantly practiced.

And secrets. It’s a fine Harry Potter tradition for there to be lots of secrets that few or no people have access to, and yet the kids manage to hear. This play doesn’t disappoint on that front. But I can’t talk about those. Mwahahah.

And, hey, Harry finally yells at Dumbledore for leaving him with the Dursleys. Dumbledore’s portrait, anyway.

A lot of a play rests on the things you don’t see in a script–the actors, director, the special effects. But as far as I could experience it through just the script, it was magnificent. I put it down and immediately wanted to start drawing. This is the kind of story that NEEDS to be turned into a graphic novel at some point.

Please, Jo, let it be a graphic novel.

I’ve been told more than once that I have a “general tendency to like things,” which apparently annoys some of my nearest and dearest to no end. So, probably not everyone will have the same opinion of Cursed Child as I do. But I loved it, and will not poke holes in this balloon.

Quit Poppin’ Mah Balloons!

I’ve never understood the need to tell people that a thing which is giving them joy isn’t as awesome as they think it is.  We’ve seen it most recently with Pokemon Go, but it happens all the time, with phone brands, foods, movies, everything.  The only time it doesn’t seem to end in words like “childish” and other argument starters is when it’s a type of food.  It’s a good thing when other people like different candies than you.  Then they won’t try to steal yours.

Now that’s a bit childish.

That behavior of judging people for liking something different actually impeded my relationship to comic books for years.

As a middle schooler, I could read at a college level, so I was always getting encouraged to read more and more advanced things.  I got a lecture from my teacher for rereading the last Harry Potter book one too many times (which confused me.  My mom read it seven times before I was allowed to touch it.).  The teacher ended up chasing me into the library, where I found the Lord of the Rings and all sorts of other wonderful stories, but neither she nor anyone else nudged me towards comics.  At some point I picked up on the stereotype that smart kids didn’t read comics.  Which didn’t match my love of superhero movies at all, but I didn’t notice the dissonance.

The first graphic novel I’d ever read, aged ten, was called Abadazad.  I didn’t even realize it was a comic until I started flipping through it again as an adult.  In my memory, my imagination and the pictures on the page blended together seamlessly.

The first graphic novel I read when I actually knew what it was was the second volume of The Ultimates.  I snuck into the high school library’s graphic novel section and grabbed the first thing with Captain America on the cover before any of my schoolmates could notice.  I half expected the librarian to question my reading choices when I checked it out.  She didn’t.

Now there’s a small but proud pile of comic books on the table in my family’s living room.  I keep meaning to pack them up for going back to uni but I also keep wanting to reread them.  The other day I really confused the other adults at the library when I laughed out loud at a manga I was reading.

And I understand it when people dislike comics even less than I did when I could barely ken what a comic was, because they’ve been good for me.  Given me a common interest with people so I could socialize better.  Helped me smile more when mental illness kept stepping on my tail.

Stories in general are powerful things.  They teach the values of a society.  They help people see life from another’s eyes.  They give hope.  They help outcasts realize they aren’t alone.  But there’s something about stories told through comics that I find extra special.  Part of that is simply because I’m a visual thinker, but not all.

Comics put writing and art together to tell a single story.  You wouldn’t think that would work so well, since the part of your brain that makes you understand what you’re reading and the part of your brain that figures out what pictures are saying don’t always work together very well.  Somehow, though, comics make it work.  Pictures are worth at least a thousand words, after all, and they’re saying things that people want and need to hear.

Take Bucky Barnes of Marvel.  I’ve always empathized with him because of the way circumstances in his life turned him into something he never wanted to be, but he kept going.  I could write entire essays about him–his regrets, the way he doesn’t think of himself as a good man even though he’s always trying to do good, the way he’s made the title of the Winter Soldier his own despite his never choosing it–but it would be simpler for you to read the last page of the recent Thunderbolts, issue 3.  That captures the best things about this character pretty quickly.

Or there’s the comic they finished last year, Loki: Agent of Asgard, which I keep rereading.  Concept:  Most of the universe, including his future self, is shoving Loki into a big black box marked “villain.”  Loki doesn’t want to go into the box.

That’s a story about redemption, and choices, and finding a path other than the one fate writes for you, and it’s incredibly relevant to anyone who is trying to “grow up” without knowing exactly how to do so.  There’s a conversation between Odin and Loki, in the space that is not a space, that gives me chills.

“Did I not say?  I know you.  I know everything you are.  And I love you still.”

It’s things like that that keep sending me back to the comic book store, and keep me working on making comics of my own.  So, please, world, and my subconcious, quit popping my balloons, and let me enjoy my superhero comics in peace.  Better yet, join me in speculating on whether Ms. Marvel and Spider-Gwen will ever get to team up.

In Defense of Frodo Baggins

For many, the least interesting part of the Lord of the Rings was Frodo Baggins.  Frodo was never the funny Hobbit, the loyal one, or the one with a special gift for plants.  He’s been accused of being boring, the “everyman” character, someone who should have just let Sam go fetch him the mountain cuz it would have been faster than him walking there himself.

That’s not the Frodo I read about, though.

Frodo was orphaned at an early age and adopted by Bilbo.  Then, just as he was coming of age, Bilbo–his only remaining father figure–left, and even without the Ring as a factor, that ought to have caused  Frodo some issues but it didn’t.  Frodo carried the One Ring for seventeen years after Bilbo left without using it, while the Enemy’s strength was approaching a peak and giving the Ring more power than it already had.

Seventeen years of the Ring quietly pulling at Frodo’s mind without interruption, and somehow it didn’t corrupt him until it was too late.

Smeagol had only to see the Ring to be willing to murder for it.  Bilbo lied to protect it after carrying it for less than a day.  Boromir was in its general vicinity for a few months before it got to him.  But Frodo carried it for seventeen years before the Nazgul came to the Shire, and while the Ring could make him want to put it on, it rarely managed to actually make him do it, even with Ringwraiths nearby and adding to its power.

It took the combined effects of hunger, travels, trauma, sorrow, and the Ring to make Frodo go dark–and even then, that lasted only a few minutes.

Not bad for the everyman character.

In addition–every choice Frodo made up till the end was in defense of someone else.  He left the Shire, which he loved more than Bilbo ever had, to protect it, and not for the promise of adventure and dragon-gold.  He abandoned the Fellowship after the Ring took Boromir because he couldn’t bear to see it drive his friends mad.  He even tried to redeem Gollum, despite all the risk.

But his experiences after he left the Shire took away his characteristics that made him best able to live in the Shire.  Hobbits didn’t have much by way of mental health treatment.

I don’t know that I would call Frodo the best character to ever be written, but  looking at him closely, I see a lot worth valuing.  Perhaps that is partly because I know what it is to  fight a war in your own mind as he did.