Back Story #3: Transformers

My boys love is Rescue Bots. It is part of the Transformers line. Instead of the Autobots Vs Decepticons format, it begins as a team of heros overcoming terrible circumstances. But unlike lots of shows that follow that format, Rescue Bots gradually introduces villains. The first episode includes an appearance by Optimus Prime, and Bumble Bee joins one adventure in the first season.

The boys watch almost all of their shows on Netflix, which also had Transformers Prime. I figured it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to go from watching one Transformers cartoon to another, so I previewed a few episodes to see if I thought they would like it. My conclusion: bad for them – awesome for me.

I wound up watching all three seasons. And as I mentioned in this post, I don’t have time for this stuff.

After watching the first two seasons I found myself incredibly nervous that the third and final season wouldn’t have a conclusion. Or worse, the series would be concluded in the made for TV movie Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Predacons Rising which wasn’t on Netflix. Yes, I understand I just admitted that a Transformers cartoon was a source of anxiety for me. Believe me, it caught me off guard too.

What can I say? I like my stories to have endings. They don’t have to be happy. Or even good. But it is important that a story has some conclusion. As far as I’m concerned, writers are free to take all sorts of artistic liberties at any point during their story. But experimenting with a stories conclusion (mostly by not having one) is heavily discouraged.

In any case, Transformers Prime has a conclusion. A well written one too. But after the series was over, I was interested in learning more about the story lines prior to the fall of Cybertron. This became my second gateway into the world of comic books and graphic novels.

So that is the complete back story. I started reading comics to find stories to read with my children and wound up finding some I enjoy on my own. Some where a marketing consultant has earned their wings.

What about you? Any other people willing to admit they began reading comic books and graphic novels as an adult?

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Back Story #2: Star Wars, A Parenting Dilemma

I once saw a bumper sticker that read something like: “Episode IV comes first. It is just good parenting.”

At the time, I thought this was good advice. But then again, my children were showing zero interest in Star Wars. With practically all of their entertainment centered on heroes who solve problems ( see last issue ), they were confused by the concept of a villain. Like most people, my children do not find confusion entertaining.

Then one evening everything changed. My wife explained one of our boys was going to a Star Wars themed birthday party in the morning. Then she asked, “Will you teach our boys about Star Wars?”

I remember her question better than my answer. I wondered if this was actually happening, and may have even asked the question out loud. I’m also fairly certain I said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment”.

But then I was faced with the challenge of picking a place to begin. I remembered the advice from the bumper sticker, and immediately discarded it. Primarily because Star Wars had become a much more complicated series of stories. Not to mention I didn’t own any of the movies, save for the Empire Strikes Back on VHS. I’m not counting A New Hope which I taped off the USA network which is missing the first 5 minutes.

I was completely unprepared for this moment. But that didn’t mean I was giving up.

Instead of trying to explain the story, we watched video clips on the official Star Wars website. This was a great way to introduce them to the characters and the situations they found themselves in. I was able to see what our boys found exciting which helped me decide which videos to play next.

The next day our son came back from the Star Wars birthday party with a big grin, lots of stories to share, and a light saber made out of a swimming noodle!

Both boys continued to show interest in Star Wars. Eventually it would become one avenue to reading and enjoying comic books.

Any one else have a good Star Wars parenting story? Please share them in the comments.

Back Story #1

Children’s cartoons have changed from what it was when I was growing up in the 80’s. The stories from my childhood conveniently fit into a Good vs Evil storylines. Joe vs Cobra, Voltron Force vs Prince Lotor, Autobots vs Decepticons, He-Man vs Skeletor. All virtuous heros overcoming enemies bent on destruction.

Today, cartoons for children seems (young children in particular) to center on the conflict between a virtuous hero and an unfortunate circumstance. Bob the Builder and Handy Manny are examples that come to mind. At first, I saw almost no value in these shows because I was trying to understand them in the context of Good vs Evil. And a hero without an adversary seems pretty pointless.

But programs centering on Good vs Evil have also changed. The story lines have gone from a virtuous hero defending humanity to complicated protagonists fighting what are slightly more complicated antagonists. There are some comical stories framed as Good vs Evil, but since they are comical it is better described as Good vs Incompetence.

So here I am with 2 young boys. Their viewing choices are either story lines:

  • glorifying problem solving, working together and getting a long

-OR-

  • story lines depicting the the virtuous as helpless victims only to be saved by heros that are almost as terrible as their enemies. Oh and zombies. Lots of zombies.

And there seems to be almost nothing in between those two extremes.

These two extremes contribute heavily to why I preview shows my boys maybe interested in watching. This isn’t (always) to give a stamp of approval. I don’t shield them from everything I don’t think they are ready to see. I try to prepare myself for the questions they’ll ask to make sense of what they were watching. They’re young and still ask me questions to learn about the world around them. All to soon, they’ll get more information from their friends.

But don’t get me wrong. There are some shows I tell them they aren’t old enough for yet.

Any other parents out there going through this? Let me know in the comments.

Back Story #0

I promise you my curiosity in comic books started out innocently enough. My story of discovery is a bit complicated. But as I’m learning in the universe of comic books: complexity should be expected.

A little background. I’m a grown man with practically zero connection to comic books. I read one graphic novel when I was in middle school ( The Killing Joke ), which someone loaned me at summer camp. I have never set foot in a comic book store or been to a comic book convention.

I am married with two young boys. I work full time and am launching a business on the side.

I don’t have time for nonsense. Much less blog about it.

So why blog about this? Probably so I can chuckle about it months or years from now. But really, I don’t know why. And I don’t have a good reason. I guess, I’ll start inventing some after a few posts.