The Proof of Your Heart

[Heavy spoilers for Avengers: Endgame abound. Read at your own risk.]

Days before I turned 18 years old, I was on vacation with my parents. Every memorial day weekend for years on end, it was always Charlotte, North Carolina for the Coca-Cola 600. It doubled as my birthday trip. That year like many other years, we ended up at Concord Mills Mall to shop and see a movie.

That year, we looked at the list of movies that were about to screen and settled on a film that had come out a couple of weeks before that we weren’t actively looking to see, but we had heard good things about it. So why not?

It was Iron Man.

At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be the last movie I would ever see with both of my parents before they would begin their long spin towards divorce four months later.

I also didn’t know how much that movie was going to crack my world open.

 

 

 


“I am inevitable,” says the Mad Titan Thanos in the all knowing voice of a wise father mixed with an 18 year old college freshman who has taken one philosophy class.

Despite the fact I have steeled myself for the expectation of what comes next for the past several years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t think I was adequately prepared for what was about to happen.


Kelly Sue Deconnick on the red carpet for Captain Marvel talked with a reporter about cross identifying. In that women all our lives have had to identify with male characters because there historically haven’t been a lot of women characters to identify with in film. Especially in action movies.

Before Carol Danvers finally joined the MCU, I had Tony Stark to cross identify with.

Tony is such a weird character to relate to, especially when people in my online communities especially in the wake of The Winter Soldier and Civil War picked Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes to glom onto. For some before that, it was Loki.

Steve is the ultimate force of good. The final boss of “Ess Jay Dubyas.”

Bucky, the broken experiment. A victim of illegal testing and powerful men needing a pawn.

And Loki, the trickster with a heart and daddy issues somewhere under the horns.

It’s not that I don’t like those characters, but none of them ever spoke to me the way Tony did.

Honestly, I never stood a chance.

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“I’m just not the hero type. Clearly.”

I always remember how I felt watching that final scene in the first Iron Man movie, where Tony is given cards from SHIELD to cover for the incidents with Obidaiah Stane. It seems to go well, until journalist/one time fling Christine Everhart grabs onto a string and begins pulling, prompting one of my favorite final lines in a movie ever.

“The truth is… I am Iron Man.”

Even though I know the movie nearly beat for beat at this point and know what’s coming, I still get a rush when Tony says those four final words. When I was nearly 18, I had never seen a superhero movie willing to take such a risk. At nearly 29, it feels like watching a lightning bolt that was going to change everything.

And it did.

 

 


Iron Man 3 was the first time I can remember ever seeing something resembling my mental illness portrayed on screen.

My brain is plagued with anxiety and fear. I stay up all night, especially when I get hyperfocused. I never know when I’ll collapse into an attack and it just feels like everything is careening at high speed while simultaneously coming to a screeching halt.

Sometimes, I will be stuck in it, feeling like a burden to my loved ones. Sometimes, I snap out of it when sense reigns over me.

When Tony runs to his suit after he feels the world close in on him and JARVIS tells him he’s having a panic attack, I gasped in the theater. The thing that I live with was something a superhero had to live with too.

With a pause, Tony goes “…ME?!”

Oh honey, more than you’ll know.

 

 


I still get mad about how Tony was treated as the villain in Civil War by the movie and the fandom, especially when Steve reveals in the heat of battle that he knew Bucky had killed Howard and Maria Stark.

He should be allowed to grieve. He should be allowed to be angry.

But that was unreasonable. Bucky was a victim, you see. Can’t you just be reasonable and be cordial with the person who broke your entire world?

Between my parents pushing the anger and sadness I felt over their divorce down to the point it took me years to process it and the man I once loved pushing me into the shadows, I don’t blame Tony for pushing forward into his anger, even when both he and Bucky both felt pain over what had been done to them. As I learned this past weekend, it apparently also takes me seven years to forgive. Right now, I’m on year four.


The older I get, the more I understand why I gravitated towards Tony Stark so much.

Despite how outgoing I appear, I only have a few people that really see me for who I am. Especially on my worse days.

I offset everything with sarcasm and reads.

I have a complicated relationship with my dad.

I have dealt poorly with my mental health over an extended time period that it comes out badly before I actually deal with it properly.

I will drive up to places blasting bangers to announce my arrival.

I accidentally push people away and I’m bad about talking about my problems.

I’m a creative problem solver.

I’m fiercely protective of my own.

Carol Danvers also saved my life at my lowest possible moment.

And underneath it all, there is a heart that refuses to quit, even in the worst moments.

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Everything since the first Avengers movie seems to have been fallout from the moment Tony grabbed the missile and launched it into space. Ultron, Sokovia, The Accords. He was haunted by his PTSD to the point he lost his friends. Lost Peter.

Steve in a badly written scene said that Tony was not the type of person to lay down on the wire and make the sacrifice play.

Obviously, both Steve and Joss Whedon would be wrong about that.


“I am inevitable,” Thanos says with a smug grin before one final snap. One that he could only achieve by pushing the most powerful fighter on that battlefield away with the Power stone.

One that inevitably proves empty.

Instead, there is an empty gauntlet and a rainbow of stones on Tony’s hand. With one last look, he says the four magic words.

“I am Iron Man.”

And like a miracle and devastation from The Wicked + The Divine, it all comes down to one final snap.


On a bed of flowers, the proof of Tony Stark’s heart floats downstream away from those he left behind.

His family. His friends. His team.

The arc reactor was physical proof of the heart in his chest, but now there was so much more to prove the depths of his love. It wasn’t just him anymore.

In the weeks before Endgame, I contemplated getting an arc reactor surrounded by flowers to commemorate Tony. When I wasn’t certain if he was getting out alive.

Now it seems… well… inevitable.

In the immediate aftermath though? I settle for an American Cheeseburger.


Tony Stark is not a real person, but my heart still breaks for him. For losing him. For losing this strand connected to the person I once was to the person I am now.

I think about the me from 11 years ago, not knowing the journey life would take her on. I wish I could give her a hug and a warning. Maybe tell her to stick with therapy instead of acting like everything is alright.

Still, you can’t mess with the timeline or you break the journey that brought you here. You take from the stories you can to find your strength. You’ll find characters you love who will help carry you through. Ones you realize you wouldn’t have if things hadn’t turned out the way they did. Sometimes that comes from a comic book coming in the mail after the biggest heartbreak of your life or just trying to pick a movie with your parents while on vacation.

You’ll never know what will stick with you, but you do whatever it takes to find the proof of your heart and keep it alive.

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“Half-Doomed and Semi-Sweet” Submission Guidelines

“I’m not a crybaby… I’m THE crybaby” – Introduction

Hi everyone who doesn’t already know me! My name is Ashley Joanne Leckwold. On top of being a comics and wrestling writer, I’ve been a huge Fall Out Boy fan for over a decade. I previously curated a zine called Aware of the Stars: A Tribute Zine to Infinity On High, which can be found on Gumroad and itch.io. The zine featured essays, art, and photos commemorating the 2007 album. The time has come though to commemorate the follow up Folie á Deux, which was released ten years ago this upcoming December and I’m looking to find a few good Fall Out Boy fans to commemorate a very weird album about madness in a zine called Half-Doomed and Semi-Sweet.

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“Hell or Glory. I don’t want anything in between” – What we’re looking for

I’m looking for Fall Out Boy fans (either current or former) to talk about Folie á Deux and what it meant to them at the time of release, now or anywhere in between. You can talk about a particular song, the album as a whole, one of the music videos, the band themselves, Fall Out Toy Works, or even just a memory jogged by the album. Just as long as it clearly ties back to Folie á Deux in any way. If you need a quick reminder of what was released along with the album, here is a quick memory jog.

These reflections can take the form of essays, comics, fanart, photos, poems, or any other creative medium we’re missing out on. As for fanfic, I have a strict “no RPF” rule for these, but fanfic inspired by the ‘America’s Suitehearts’ video or Fall Out Toy Works will be allowed for the zine.

“But I’m no good at math and besides the dollar is down” – The technical/legal stuff

The basic submission guidelines for the zine are as follows:

Word count for essays: 500 min, 2k maximum

Comics: Max. 3 pages

Art in general: 2610 X 3900 or 170 PPI/DPI

Photos: Digital only, no more than 6

As for payment, the current plan is to run an IndieGoGo once the creators are in place to help raise funds to help pay creators/do a print run. At the VERY least, I’m gonna make sure each contributor gets $20, even if we don’t hit goal.

To avoid potential legal problems with various record companies, the zine will be distributed for pay what you want on Gumroad and itch.io. The contributors will decide before release if donations for the zine will go towards print costs or charity.

Contributors will retain all legal rights to their work and will be allowed to print and distribute the zines how they wish after release. What is featured in the zine can be posted online after, just please link back to the zine when you do.

“The boy I am is just venting, venting…” – Age restrictions

Since Fall Out Boy has a lot of teenage fans, I ask that all the work you do please be appropriate for teenagers. Cursing and innuendo is fine, but explicit sexual works and/or graphic violence will not be allowed. Anything that talks about sensitive topics such as sexual assault, eating disorders, bigotry, or death must include trigger warnings.

Contributors must also be 18+. I love you newer fans with all my heart, but I’d like to avoid any potential legal hangups with underage contributors and I am looking more for older fans reflecting on the album.

“Let the leaves fall off in the summer and let December glow in flames…” – Timeline

Alright, let’s get down to business. Right now, we’re aiming to get this zine out the door by December 16th, which was the album’s US release date. Obviously, things might go wrong, but that’s the date we’re aiming for. To hit that date, here is the timeline:

  • August 24th: Submissions Open
  • October 1st: Submissions Close
  • October 7th: Email goes out to Contributors
  • October 15th: Crowdfunding goes up
  • November 16th: Final deadline for submissions
  • December 16th: Half-Doomed and Semi-Sweet releases!

“I don’t care what you think, as long as it’s about me…” – Submissions and Contact

If you are ready to submit, please fill out the form HERE.

If you have any further questions not answered here, please contact me at folieadeuxzine@gmail.com or on Twitter either at @misskittyf or @folieadeuxzine.

 

I Hope You’re Somewhere Praying

[Content warning: Brief discussions of mental health and death, use of queer slurs]

I hate August with a burning passion.

It’s hotter and stickier than the rest of summer, as if to just clamp down harder before beginning a slow surrender to Fall. It also somehow the slowest month of the year, with each day feeling like it goes slower than molasses. Or Interstellar.

But mostly, it’s because my mental health tends to get really bad in August.

It’s hard to pinpoint when I began to notice that it did, but an overwhelming sense of dread comes over me when I realize August comes. The hippies in my life would call it “manifesting negativity” or something like that, but you can’t fight a current. And you certainly can’t help the bad draws Fate will hand you. A broken heart, a dying cat, getting dropped by a bad job…

Yeah. I hate August.

Continue reading “I Hope You’re Somewhere Praying”

The PQ Archive: Space Battle Lunchtime #1 Immediately Throws You Into The World Of Galactic Cooking Competitions

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


SBLT-1-MARKETING-Preview-1-e83afWriting and Art by Natalie Riess

Published by Oni Press

Ever since the advent of Iron Chef, the reality competition cooking show has been a cornerstone of television in the 21st century. Shows like Master Chef, Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and The Great British Bake Off among others have proliferated the airwaves and have put a certain sort of sport into the art of cooking. Space Battle Lunchtime sets its story in that realm, but adds the element of “in SPACE!” to the mix.

Space Battle Lunchtime #1 follows Peony, a baker working in a cafe called Dozens when a frog woman named Zonda comes to pick up coffee. After she receives a call about needing a replacement for something, she recruits Peony to be a competitor on a show called Space Battle Lunchtime and immediately beams her up as soon as she says yes. No backstory. No issue worth of lead up. Just jumping right into the concept. In most cases, that can be a bit jarring for a comic, but the way it is set up here, it really does work and actually puts you in Peony’s shoes of being immediately thrown into a galactic cooking show.

The aesthetic of this story might actually be the most darling part of it. Riess’ art is full of soft lines and bright colors that remind of a shojo romance story more than a sci-fi book. Which works well to its advantage, giving it a distinct sort of look over other sci-fi books. Not to mention that the alien designs seen so far are super cute and bring a major draw to the next part of the story. Well, that and wondering how Peony’s going to make it through the first round as an Earthling unfamiliar with the show.

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Besides making you crave carrot-cherry cake, Space Battle Lunchtime #1 does a great job dragging you into the world without too much fuss. Between the writing not standing in the way of itself and the darling art, the world created by Riess promises to be a lot of fun. That is, if Peony can make it past round one.


If you like what you’ve read, feel free to tip me at Paypal or Square Cash.

The PQ Archive: The Wicked + The Divine #19 Is A Turn For The Epic

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


tumblr_o6mfzkAJHN1tuoa2wo1_1280Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Published by Image Comics

There are so many things that can be used to describe what happens in this particular issue of The Wicked + The Divine. Many of the expletive laden. For now, let’s paraphrase a line from the recently departed Prince: there’s a thief in the temple tonight, and her name is Ananke.

For months outside of the comic, Gillen has been hinting about a larger role for Minerva, the youngest member of the Pantheon who will be dead before she turns 14. In this issue, it comes into play as she is revealed to be a chess piece in Ananke’s grand plan. What exactly that plan is, no one knows yet, but it lends credence to the theory that the Pantheon might be a pre-determined group. Especially with Baphomet now claiming that Ananke was the one who killed Inanna, not him. By the end of the issue when Ananke confesses to Minerva being her ‘fatted calf,’ you might actually believe him.

Of course, being an issue of WicDiv, more questions seems to be raised than answered. Not just to Ananke’s grand scheme, but just as to why Laura is alive. No… not Laura. Persephone. Both Ananke and Persephone make a point as to say Laura isn’t here anymore and that only Persephone remains. This whole thing has some “There is no Dana, only Zuul” vibes going, and not just because she is “the Destroyer.” It wouldn’t be surprising if that was purposeful on Gillen’s part, but even if it wasn’t, it still gets the point across that something isn’t quite right with this particular return.

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Despite all of that, it still seems that the most tragic character in this particular part of the story though is Dionysus. Even in just a few pages, we see the burden he’s been carrying of trying to give people just one good night is starting to catch up with him and that he may be getting his own “F**king Tara” treatment from his followers because of it. Not to the same level, but then again, not yet. Despite only being in the comic a few times so far, Dio is easily one of the most complicated characters in the story despite his outward “party boy” appearance. It’ll make seeing how he interacts with the chthonic ones going forward into the rest of ‘Rising Action’ super interesting.

On the art front, McKelvie and Wilson are still killing it, especially in terms of the action scenes. The fight scene that’s the crux of this issue is an art delight, giving the reader those moments where art and color is in perfect synch with each other. Whether it’s Babd the Crow Woman, the delightfully joyous face of Gentle Annie or the way Amaterasu’s eyes glow as she focuses in on her rescue target, the devils of this issue are certainly in the details, and no one on the team certainly slouches to get it done.

While no one question is quite answered yet, the second issue of ‘Rising Action’ lays the cards out on the table. Between the little things that make the issue and the big action scenes, it’s shaping up that this arc may be what takes this comic into truly epic territories as something of a civil war breaks out among the gods over what comes next and the fate of their own.


If you like what you’ve read, feel free to tip me at Paypal or Square Cash.

The PQ Archive: Faith #4 Brings The First Chapter Of Her Story To A Close

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


Faith-4-coverWritten by Jody Houser

Art by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage

Colors by Andrew Dalhouse with Pete Pantazis

Letters by Dave Sharpe

Published by Valiant Comics

This is the final issue of the Faith miniseries, but have no fear! Our valiant and nerdy superheroine just got promoted to an ongoing series that’s coming out this summer! Even if it wasn’t though, this final issue gives enough closure and a happy ending to this part of Faith’s story.

The issue picks up where issue 3 left off, which is good because the previous issue felt like it left off in a weird place, so the explanation of who the Vine are is exceptionally handy. With Torque in their possession, it’s up to Faith, @X, Archer and TV star/alien Hadley Scott to save him and the rest of the Psiots who have been kidnapped over the course of the series.

The introduction of the Vine as the antagonists in the previous issue felt like a shoehorn villain in the previous issue since ‘aliens did it’ tends to be the superhero comics way of writing themselves out of corners, but this issue lets the plot turf out beautifully, with the extra twist of the Plantlings being a high powered Hollywood death cult actually making the ‘aliens did it’ excuse actually interesting.

Portela’s art is solid as usual, except for the one instance of him drawing a full moon when the dialogue says it’s nearly a new moon outside, but it’s an easy forgive with the way Dalhouse and Pantazis color the scene to reflect moonlight. The sequences by Sauvage are once again a delight though. With mixing up the sequences to be a scene from the fictional TV series “Night Shifters” and a flashback to Faith’s childhood along with the usual scenes in Faith’s head, Sauvage spectacularly does her job of breaking up the current reality of the series with the fantasy (and sometimes painful memories) of Faith’s inner world.

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Still, fantasy doesn’t always match up with reality and while this story does get a happy ending, some parts of Faith’s reality don’t end so happily or just keep going. Such is the way of life though and it’s refreshing to see Houser give this part such good closure while still not shying away from the realities of Faith’s world. It doesn’t make it all bad. Sometimes, happiness is just as easy as a coworker inviting you over for RPGs.

This particular issue is titled “Herstory” and it feels befitting. Faith is history in the making and while this part of her story is over, Houser, Portela and Sauvage did a fantastic job in creating the first chapter of it. #4 proved to be a solid finale, closing enough to wrap it all up, but leaving enough avenues to explore in the upcoming ongoing. Just what awaits her there, we don’t know, but if it’s just as fun of a trip as this story has been, there’s nothing to worry about.


If you like what you’ve read, feel free to tip me at Paypal or Square Cash.

The PQ Archive: ‘Welcome Back’ #7 Is An Intense Meet The Parents Story

Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.

Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…


WelcomeBack_007_A_MainWritten by Christopher Sebela

Art by Claire Roe

Colors by Jeremy Lawson

Letters by Jim Campbell

Published by Boom! Studios

Man, however awkward it was for you to meet your significant other’s parents, surely it won’t beat out Mali meeting Tessa’s.

The issue opens where the previous one left off with the Sequels descending on Tessa, Mali, Lorena and Showtime, who amusingly tries to catch a stick Mali is swinging around. Instead of fighting the Sequels, the four end up making a run for it, escaping on a private jet found through Tessa’s contacts to her home of South Africa. Of course, she doesn’t tell anyone this detail until they get there.

This particular issue is less focused on action, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a war going on. Instead of Sequels against Sequels, it’s a more personal, emotional war between Mali and Tessa’s mother Jana. Along with being Tessa’s trainer, Jana is also the wife of a former president of South Africa, making Tessa powerful in more ways than one. Naturally, the parents aren’t too fond of Mali. For her father, it’s because of the gay thing. For Jana, it’s because neither Mali or Tessa did their job. There is a little bit of violence between Jana and Mali, but their war is more of that of words. The sad hopefulness of Mali versus the vicious realism of Jana. It adds another layer of emotion to this already heartbreaking and strangely hopeful series.

Hope is really what keeps this issue rolling along, even in the quiet moments Mali and Tessa share in bed that are beautifully illustrated by Roe. You want these two to so desperately get what they want and be able to break the cycle they’ve been trapped in since the beginning of time, but it’s so uncertain if they can. Especially without any losses to their own.
The unfortunately penultimate issue of Welcome Back doesn’t focus on getting to an explosive battle, but rather shifts to a personal battle with a hope for the future. Sebela and Roe do such a great job of showing that conflict and those quiet moments, showing why Welcome Back will be sorely missed when it ends next month.


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