A Game Of You: Personal Response

Graphic Novel: A Game Of You

Written by Neil Gaiman

Pencilled, Inked and Coloured by Shawn McManus, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein and Colleen Doran.

When I read this chapter of the Sandman Series, I couldn’t help but notice all of the outsiders that Neil Gaiman has inserted into it. Throughout “A Game Of You”, Gaiman shows how outsiders’ lives enacted in the day-to-day, even as he tells a story of dreams. His tale is that of the facets of identity, which he reflects through the outsiders of Barbie, Foxglove, Hazel and Wanda/Alvin, who are all on the fringes of society and face various levels of acceptance from different people, ranging from the complete acceptance and friendship of of towards them all, tolerance from strangers like Maisie Hill, who is of the opinion that “just because someone’s different doesn’t make them bad”, to complete rejection, as evidenced by Wanda’s mother, who says at his/her death “ This town’s going to remember Alvin as the god-fearing child he should have been.”

First of all, there is Barbie, the heroine of the story – a young woman living in an apartment block in New York who paints different things on her face according to her mood and who uses the Porpentine, a jewel, to access the Land, a dream wherry in which she was princess. Recently divorced from her husband, Ken, Barbie is struggling to find a sense of identity after having a completely dependant relationship, to the point of her husband completing her sentences.

Next is Barbie’s best friend who lives next door, Wanda, a pre-operation transvestite male who was rejected by her family in Kansas. Wanda, who is determined to be seen as a woman, growing her hair out naturally and insisting “my name isn’t Alvin…Alvin’s just the name I was born with…Wanda’s my real name…I’m a woman”. Wanda is haunted by dreams of having surgery to become anatomically female, and struggles to reconcile not being physically female with her complete certainty in being a woman.

Foxglove and Hazel, the lesbian couple across the hall, are outsiders in several respects, the first simply being the homosexual nature of their relationship. However, “Hazel’s a chef”, which further implicates her nature as an outsider, because female culinary experts aren’t common, despite the stereotype of the division of labour meaning that women cook. Meanwhile, Foxglove has redefined herself after experiencing an abusive relationship with a girl named Judy, having used to be called Donna Cavanagh.

All four of these characters search for their identities in similar ways, using their control over material things such as appearance to help them dictate who they are and how they wish to be seen. In two cases, characters have changed their names in order to create a ‘clean slate’ onto which they can project a new personality which fits with their chosen identity and to help define them as other than what they were. By using statements such as “I realise that I’m already forgetting what Wanda looked like. Is identity that fragile?” to link identity with appearance, Gaiman ensures that readers focus on the various identities of the outsiders and try to guess at which transformations they have undergone as they settle into their identity.

Gaiman, who highlights the idea of identity being so intertwined with names and physical appearance, wrote about “A Game Of You”, saying that “it was the story that was filled with the kind of people I knew in London and New York who didn’t seem to get stories of their own…so I put them into MY comics” This clearly comes across in the graphic novel, which is densely populated by outsiders such as mentioned above, portraying them as regular people with conundrums just like everybody else, billet using a dark fantasy backdrop for the storyline. As a reader, I was definitely aware of the message conveyed through Gaiman’s writing, and completely agree with his implied sentiments that there should be more variety in the characters viewed in graphic novels.

Take Two: This Holiday’s Reading Endeavour

A few holidays ago, I tried to read the entirety of The History Of Middle Earth, which comprised of 13 volumes and the Silmarillion. Well, I did not succeed, unfortunately, and after school started again I had to abandon the project. My problem was, I think, that I read the Silmarillion before I read the History, which meant that I already had the condensed version of events when I approached the more extensive version which included notes on revisions, and often had several different versions of each text, both in prose and poetic formatting. Thus, it was a bit tiresome, and I put the series aside to be read at a later point. I think I reached volume 5 or 6.

This holiday, I have a different goal in mind – I have recently picked up Roger Zelazny, and now find myself delving into his 6 volumes of collected poems and short stories, having finished the Amber Chronicles. I have also just finished reading the light and very racy Lucifer Box trilogy by Mark Gattis. Gattis is perhaps more known for his acting as Mycroft Holmes in the BBC Sherlock TV series, which he co-wrote with Steven Moffat. However, I found the trilogy about the bisexual and busy detective an enjoyable read, if not my usual fare. I think I liked the last line of each book best – Gattis finishes each with a witty remark that relates to Box’s name in each of the 3 books.

I am also aiming to read more comics. This has been a longer-lasting goal, as while I don’t read manga unless I am really desperate (and then I borrow my brother’s) because I dislike the general lack of plot, I love the illustrations to be found, and greatly admire the form of graphic novel storytelling. A longtime fan of Asterix and Obelix and Tintin, I have been reading Marvel and DC comics for a while now.

Unfortunately, it is proving very frustrating. Firstly, the only thing I seem to be able to lay my hands on are Spiderman comics at my local library, which are fine, but every couple of pages it seems like there is a little asterisk saying, see volume 572  and I really don’t want to go find it on the library catalogue! So I’ve read some Fantasic Four, some Daredevil, Neil Gaiman’s 1602 and The Eternals, some of Dean McKean, a bit of Alan Moore, some Thor, some Captain America, some Batman… but I can’t seem to find the start of anything! For example, I haven’t read a single Gwen Stacy Spiderman comic! And don’t get me started on trying to find a storyline from the beginning, let alone the beginning of the actual character!

So, I guess I’m asking for advise – how do you suggest I read these types of comics, whose characters have been interwoven and recreated and redone and published in magazines and then republished as graphic novels…

This is probably going to take my whole life. Well, I suppose I’d better get started 😛

Gratification and Advice

As I wrote earlier, I’ve made an account on Teen Ink, a website dedicated to publishing teens works from all over the world, for free, on their website and in their journal.

Well, they’ve finally processed a few of my works (and let me tell you right now, a piece of advice 😛 – don’t write free verse. No one ever looks at free verse on websites; they go to the categorised poems), and it was very gratifying to get a couple of emails, saying things like:

Congrats! Your article received an Editors’ Choice award

and

Your article was voted #1 on Teen Ink!

It’s a really lovely feeling, knowing that somebody out there read your work and liked it. Then, you realise that umm, only one person has actually read it and rated it, which is why its got a 5/5 star rating…

Still, it’s nice.

What is also nice is that Neil Gaiman has posted an article on his blog, which makes me sad (because cats really should live forever) and glad, because of this:

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You can see more hand-y quotes, and read the mission of this very cool gallery of advice, here, on the Shared Worlds website.

The above were just my personal favourites – the titles are the author’s name, so if hover your mouse you should be able to find out who is giving you this piece of potentially uplifting advice.

You Must Be Mr Palmer?

My family has a Tuesday habit, because on Tuesdays, the video store has a $1 a movie day…which is why it’s always packed on that day. Back in primary school, when I didn’t have so much homework (and wasn’t so invested in it either), almost every week we’d go out and choose a couple of movies. As my dad doesn’t like horror, and my parents don’t generally watch Superhero movies, I haven’t seen those, but stuff like Disney?? My first words in English were at the age of, say 2-ish?, and they were “move out” (P.S. Watch Mulan if you don’t know what this means. WATCH MULAN!!!) I named our first two cats Move Out, and Move Out 2. So, I am quite well versed in some areas, but not so much in others (just like the way I read…hmm).

Anyway, I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somehow during those visits we picked out and I watched Stardust, and Mirrormask, and I really LOVED Stardust, and I thought that MirrorMask was very interesting, with absolutely awesome-weird-intriguing art in it, and that was it…

Then, I think I realised that it (Stardust) was a movie based on a book, and so I read Stardust. And I really really liked it very much. I think that the next book I read was The Graveyard Book, and then I saw Coraline (without my dad) and read that, and then read Crazy Hair to my little sister and enjoyed it and (as at the time my hair was very long and constantly tangled, though not as long and tangled as the girl’s in the book) commiserated with it, and then I came across part of The Graveyard book in a short story anthology called “Dark Alchemy”, which lists all the author’s other notable works, and things kind of rolled on from there.

Or maybe my good friend introduced him to me in intermediate?

I just don’t remember.

But the point is, at some stage of my life, I read something that Neil Gaiman wrote. And I thought it was great. And so I read some more.

Now, when I’ve read almost all his books and am currently avidly drowning myself in The Sandman (which is not that sandman that is a villain/hero person who turns to sand in the DC comics like I thought for ages and ages (years). He is Murphy, Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, one of the Endless…he has many names, but he is not that guy!) while eating breakfast while trying not to burn the toast and miss the bus, because internal assignments suck, I feel justified in squizzing at his blog now and then. I enjoy reading about the authors of books that I like – knowing the context which the author feels necessary and/or something they want to pass on about why/how they wrote the book attracts me…probably because I always read the foreword and prologue author’s notes and the “about the author” back flap which is sometimes boring but usually witty and slightly strange, like Terry Pratchett’s, and all those other additional notes and bits and pieces. So, then, if what I’ve read interested me (which is why I knew about how Ursula Le Guin made most of her books about dark-skinned people because the majority of the population is dark skinned which is why most of her books don’t have people on the cover illustrations, and Anne McAffrey, who first started writing to change the way females in science fiction were depicted, even before I decided to study them for English, or possibly because I knew I chose them) I look them up an read a bit more about them. But I don’t like intruding into personal spaces, especially of people whom I admire/whose works I admire, even if they post it to the world, because sometimes what you post to the world is more private than what you don’t. So I try not to – I don’t have twitter for that reason.

Also, I have a couple of friends who, in my opinion, can take it rather too far, and I really don’t want to become like them in that respect, because while enjoying a book/artwork/group/author is fine, and sharing that interest is definitely great and encouraged, if you ‘fangirl’ enough, to such extents, that people literally do not want to talk to you at all about that subject, and leave when you start harping on/screeching excitedly/etc, etc, it means that the limit has been reached and passed.

But I do like knowing things. So I read bits, and look people up every once in a while and check what I’ve missed. Which is how I came across these two things:

Firstly, Neil Gaiman is doing a new Project with Blackberry Keep Moving, called “A Calendar of Tales”, the first part of which was to get twitterers (so yes, I do miss out on things 😦 But still, the cons outway the pros) to answer questions about each month and for Gaiman to create a story about each month using an answer given…to create a calendar of tales. That part is done, and there is a free link to download his twelve stories, here.

The next part is open to everyone – we get to create art, take a photo of it/scan it and post it up on the site, and in the end, some artworks will be chosen to create a real calendar, which will I think then be sold/given out with Blackberry’s new product (something will happen to it). Which is SO COOL!! There is some amazing stuff up there already.

Secondly, Neil Gaiman has a wife. Her name is Amanda Palmer. Apparently, she is a legend among some people – I only discovered what it is she actually is/does about an hour ago. Gaiman posted a clip of her very recent TED presentation, which is really fantastic and talks about very pertinent things in our lives, like asking, and about the music industry.

The Art of Asking

Posted by Neil Gaiman at 4:59 AM

 “In a day and a half over half a million people have watched this talk, at the TED website and on YouTube.”
(the title is a direct quote taken from this post as well)
Which I watched, and thought was very poignant (I also tried to place her voice, as it sounded very familiar, and finally figured that she reminds me of the actress Scarlett Johanson, for some reason).
Of course, then I went and checked out some of her music – this is the first song that came out, and I like her style, and her tune, and her lyrics.

 

Then I found Amanda Palmer’s blog which is also quite spectacular in and of itself, seeing as she’s had it for over 10 years. And firstly I was struck by how different the style between her blog posts and Neil’s blog posts are.

And then I decided to post about this.

(Now, I’m going to do that damn assignment and get it out of my life)

Within the Dreaming

Breakable things submerge and are buried by the endless wash of tides,
They curl up and sit in squander on their own. In a corner
A dying moth flutters – it has looked
Too long at the bright electric light.

Broken things can sometimes be mended
With strong, double sided cellotape
Or PVA glue.
A kiss may mend a small, grazed knee,
And chocolate solves everything, don’t’cha know?

Ruined towns lie beneath volcanic ash,
Beneath the salty seas,
Lingering deep in the shreds of imagination,
In the strands of hair at the nape of the neck
And in the things yet to be discovered.

We find hope.

(Because we look for it)

Continue reading

I’m Okay and I’m On My Way

While on a twelve hour flight, it is generally accepted that 0-2 hours are going to be had, and so the only thing to do is bring at least two books and watch movies the entire time. The two books are for the wait in the airport, between different check-in places, and on the plane itself while waiting for take off and for the entertainment to switch on. The books I decided to take with me (I always pick a few that I haven’t read and two that I could read forever) were American Gods (Neil Gaiman is amazing, read him!) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (because I didn’t feel like HP, AF, LOTR or PJO, or something like that) and  a comic of The Secret Avengers, a James Patterson Witch and Wizard manga, and a three-in-one Anne McCaffrey Dragons of Pern book. Quite a lot more than usual, but I’d decided I wanted to try and sketch from the comics. That didn’t work, but I finished reading them both, as well as American Gods and one of the McCaffrey books.

Our first flight was an afternoon flight using Thai Airways, which always provides excellent service and, importantly, good food. I don’t tend to like most aeroplane food, but Thai airways has nice food, and drinks that come around regularly with polite, well dressed flight attendants. Take-off was fine, with no sore ears to be had apart from those who were sitting next to my little sister (4), as she kind of screeched excitedly and loudly as she saw the plane rise from her window seat.

The movies I watched were:

  • The Amazing Spiderman, directed by Mark Webb (heehee :P)
  • Frankenweenie, directed by Tim Burton
  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green directed by Peter Hodges
  • Love Actually directed by Richard Curtis

To keep myself alive, awake, and slightly in practise of writing, I did short reviews for each movies I saw. I was a bit disappointed that there were no Marvel Stage 1 movies or The Hobbit, but figured that they were too new or just not available for planes yet.

The Floor Feels A Long Way Down From The Wall (no wonder Humpty broke)

Bright red nails contrast

With the pale face that they clutch

Their nervous bitten state revealed.

 

Blood drips across the floor.

 

Trembling shoulders straighten

Stiffen as shock sets in –

Denial has no use here.

 

Spirit flown, only the shell remains.

 

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Then fell, fell, fell below (was not pushed, no matter what anyone says),

And despite all their efforts,

It was all in vain; for all the kings horses

And all the king’s men

 

Couldn’t put Humpty together again

 

Only the stains of blood on the floor,

And the depressions of the bright red  – blood red

Nails on skin

Are left to tell the sorry tale.

 

This was partly inspired by Neil Gaiman’s short story “The Case Of Four And Twenty Blackbirds”, regarding a detective who must find the culprit behind the murder of Humpty Dumpty.