Interview

Queerness, Sex, Coming Out: Stefan Mesch & Antonio Capurro (Interview)

antonio-capurro-peru-interview.

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A Peruvian journalist contacted me on Facebook:

He saw that I took part in the „Daily Portrait“ photo project in 2016 (article about my experience: here)…

…and wanted to know more about my ideas on queerness, privacy, and sexuality.

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The interview will be published in Spanish at La Revista Diversa.

For my blog, here’s the (long, unedited) English version.

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Tell us about your childhood: Where did you grow up?

I’m 34. I grew up in a wealthy, rural town in Southern Germany: less than 2000 people, no train station. Everyone has a car, most people own their house. My childhood was okay – but I missed culture, diversity, intellectual life. I often point out that I didn’t interact with lesbians until 2003, when I moved away for college. There were two or three boys who were whispered to be gay in my high school – but no visible queerness.

What did you study?

I studied Creative Writing and Cultural Journalism; because I wanted to be an author and a book critic. The „book critic“ part worked out great, and I’m finally finishing my first novel. There is so much culture – literature, journalism, comic books, TV shows, online projects – that’s important and relevant to me: I’m good at scouting, learning, judging and explaining, and I want to be a part of these larger cultural (and sometimes: political) conversations.

Growing up, did you enjoy being nude?

I’m not an outdoor person, nor a sports person, and I have no great memories about enjoying nudity as a child. Quite early, I often felt that nudity had to do with humiliation: Only powerless people were nude. So I tried to stay dressed and not let my guard down. I don’t tan well, my skin is quite pale, and as a teenager, I thought that people would dislike my nude body.

How did you discover your queerness?

I always liked queer characters or people who fought gender stereotypes. Also, my village was so rural and… tense about masculinity that I felt „queer“ and „strange“ just for reading books or being friends with girls.

Sexually, I’m more often attracted to men than to women. Romantically, I had more crushes on girls than men. I think that by the time I was 15, I understood that I was bisexual. But the first man that felt like a possible romantic partner only showed up when I was 18.

How was your first time having gay sex?

I had sex with 26, with my first boyfriend. The relationship was exhausting, but worthwhile. Our sexual mechanics never worked out that well. We have chemistry – but we didn’t have much sex.

How was your coming-out?

I was nervous about my dad and waited until 2014 (!) to tell him. He was the biggest hurdle – although in the end, he surprised me. I gradually started talking to friends and family members since I was 20. I did not enjoy coming out because it felt like I gave up power. I felt like I had to tell people: „Here’s something intimate and sexual about me that doesn’t really concern you. So: Are you okay with it? Or are you disgusted? Come on: You may now judge me.“

I came out before I had boyfriends. Today, I love to introduce my grumpy partner to people and say: „Look! He’s great, we’re happy, I’m bisexual!“ But before I had a partner, it always felt like saying: „Do you want to know if I fantasize about men and/or women every time I jerk off?“ I was passionate about diversity and visibility and talked about that a lot, long before being out to everyone. But my personal sexuality, for the longest time, began and ended with masturbation and some unrequited crushes.

Why did you take part in the „Daily Portrait“ photo project? Did you think a lot before you decided to pose for a nude photo?

In 2013, an awesome Berlin painter, Martina Minette Dreier, asked me if I wanted to model for an oil painting. I sat for the portrait in the nude, and it felt great. In 2016, I lost a lot of weight. I always thought that very soon, I would be a balding, sad and awkward man – but when I realized that I liked my current body, I decided to take part in the project.

It still took a long time – 7 months – because I thought about shame, exposure and my credibility as a cultural journalist… but I wrote about this at length elsewhere, in a longer essay: Link.

Why did you decide to start a blog where you post nude self portrait photos?

I love selfies and quick snapshots, and in 2016, I spent much energy and time on Instagram. I don’t know what „exhibitionism“ means: If you define that as „I want to surprise people by showing my penis publicly or unexpectedly“, I am not an exhibitionist at all. I would not undress in public, or annoy or shock people with nudity. To me, unsolicited dick picks are a form of sexual harrassment.

But I knew that online, in places like Tumblr and Reddit, people who like my body type sometimes LOVE nude pictures of people, quite similar to me. I have never felt very desired by friends at school. But I like myself right now, and I thought: „Here’s the target audience for your nude body.“ I enjoy posting pics to that very specific audience.

Do you like erotic photography?

Yes. I don’t like classic masculinity. Also, young bodies often make me uncomfortable. I dislike many standard poses, and anything with twinks/boyish men.

Do you enjoy porn?

I love amateurs, and any kind of person who shares or overshares online. But I dislike the porn industry, the clichés, the standardized bodies, the exploitation. Lots of it feels sexist, boring and crude.

Do you consider yourself very sexual?

I’m not very sensual, I’m not very cuddly, I don’t enjoy touching many people. Also, I don’t like one night stands and I have spent many years without any sex. So I don’t think I’m „very sexual“. I do enjoy having sex and making out, though – and if I talk to friends, I’m surprised that most of them want less sex or have less energy for sex than me.

Do you consider yourself sexy or attractive?

I only have to be attractive to the one person that I want to attract right now: my partner. He likes me, so all is well. Generally, I don’t think I’m particularly sexy. But I know how to write well: I’ve learned some techniques. I think that in photography and taking selfies, there are many similar techniques. So: I’m learning how to appear sexy in photos. And I think I’m getting better.

What was the most bizarre experience in your life?

Sexuality-wise? Nothing wild. But in a gay bar in 2013, someone tapped my shoulder and said: „Sorry. A stranger just tried to piss on your shoe.“ I was annoyed because it felt completely tactless and disrespectful. If you’re friendly and ask nicely (and if I have some extra shoes), I’m the person to say „Yeah – whatever gets you off. Okay.“ But to try that, without asking?

What kind of feedback do you get from followers on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram?

I love giving and getting book recommendations, I want to share ideas with many people: I love my profiles and my feeds in these networks. If you ask about nudity: People pay me compliments, and often, gay men from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries contact me to say „I wish I could be as brave“ or „I wish I had the confidence to show my body online“. So far, I’ve had these conversations with five or six men; and they’re all Spanish-speaking. Maybe it has to do with catholicism…?

Have you ever meet online friends in person?

Most of the literature and journalism people that I’ve met since finishing university in 2009 were my Facebook friends before I eventually met them in person, yes.

Have you ever blocked people who bother you because they were only looking for sex?

I’ve blocked two or three people on Facebook because of hate speech or personal/political attacks. I never had problems with sexual harrassment. I have met all three of my boyfriends on datings sites – but I don’t like chatting there, and I often dislike the tone that German people use in „kinky“ networks like Gayromeo or Scruff: To me, German „dirty talk“ often sounds too degrading and shame-centered. „Filthy Pig“, „Worthless Fag“, „Pussyboi with Boypussy“ etc.

But even though that tone makes me run, I never personally felt disrespected, no.

What do you do when you are not working?

I love reading – books and articles and graphic novels. But as a book critic, I still can count that as work: Ideally, I just spend 12 to 14 hours a day reading, talking, learning and writing. I love cheap food and very cheap restaurants. And for a while last summer, I was in love with „Pokemon Go“.

What do you think about the new ways to make journalism – like citizen journalism?

If people are paid, they have more time and energy to write. On the other hand, there are passionate experts in every field – who can often do much deeper work because they have much more knowledge. I enjoy book blogs, wikis, fanzines, social media and all other places where people who are not trained journalists still have a voice. But I think that selecting stuff is my personal super-power: You can send me to „messy“ sites like Reddit, and I will ignore the hate-speech, the conspiracy theories and the overall unpleasant atmosphere… and just focus on the good writing and the good ideas that are still there. Theodore Sturgeon said that 90 percent of everything is crap/crud. So of course, 90 percent of „citizen journalism“ is crap, too. I want to focus on the other 10 percent – in every field.

I’m worried that every artistic or journalistic outlet I know is constantly asking for money: There are so many crowdfunding campaigns and kickstarters and patreon links etc. that I sometimes fear that as a journalist and writer I will never find a publisher who will pay me decently. Instead, it will be our job to constantly ask all friends for money and spend more and more time and effort on these campaigns.

Which authors or writers do you admire and what genres do you prefer?

My favorite classic novelists are Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Wolfe and John Cowper Powys. My favorite living novelist is Stewart O’Nan. I have a soft spot for Young Adult literature (here, my favorite writer is A.S. King) and graphic novels and super-hero books (Greg Rucka). My favorite German writer is Dietmar Dath. Generally, I admire people who get raw and personal. And I enjoy domestic fiction – books about grief, sadness or families, often set in suburbia.

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I took part in a queer photo project, and wrote an essay about it for the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Link). my photo for the article was taken by Mike Wolff.

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Do you remember a gay movie or gay role on TV or cinema?

There are some popular gay favorites that I don’t enjoy: Oscar Wilde, „Queer as Folk“, musicals and pop divas, and many boarding-school novels like „A Separate Peace“ or German queer-ish classics like „Unterm Rad“ by Hermann Hesse or „Katz und Maus“ by Günther Grass.

My favorite German soap opera, „Verbotene Liebe“, started when I was 12 and almost always had compelling and fun queer characters – particularly lesbians. I didn’t like their most famous gay couple, Christian and Olli, because they were both quite masculine and sporty bland characters. In 2006, I was hooked on „As the World Turns“, a US soap opera, and the (dramatic and self-obsessed) gay character Luke Snyder.

In my early teens, I liked lesbian or gender-nonconforming heroines in „Lady Oscar“ and „Sailor Moon“. Today, I love Batwoman and many lesbian or queer comic book characters, often written by author Greg Rucka.

„Ugly Betty“ is queer, cheery and has a diverse and fun cast. As a kid, I enjoyed dandyesque, foppish characters like John Steel in „The Avengers“, Elim Garak in „Deep Space Nine“ or anyone played by Peter Cushing. I liked „Brokeback Mountain“. HBO’s „Looking“ bores me. I have tons of favorite queer authors: Alison Bechdel, Marcel Proust, Hubert Fichte. I loved David Levithan’s „Two Boys Kissing“.

What is the most comfortable place in your house or outside to ne naked?

I need warmth to feel comfortable, and I need privacy to be nude. There is no warm AND private outside place where I can be nude. Inside, I enjoy taking baths or showers, and I love overheated rooms, botanical gardens, greenhouses and saunas.

Are you thinking of recording videos or to show more your butt?

I move quite awkwardly and can’t imagine filming myself stripping without having to laugh. I think my butt looks okay, but every time I try to shoot a decent photo of it, it looks pale and flabby. Celebrities often post butt pics. But my pictures never turn out like this.

What is the part of your body that men like most?

I’m not flirting a lot, and I don’t ask what men who see me in person like about me. People who see me online sometimes comment on my scruffiness/body hair. But then: hair is just a common fetish.

What is the part of your body that you like the most?

Most strangers seem to understand that I’m usually friendly and interested: I don’t think I’m super-charismatic. But somehow, my body language signals „I’m smart and alert and friendly“, and I like that. I also like my eyes, when I’m not too tired.

If a magazine offered you money to pose nude on the cover or centerfold, would you say yes?

The „money“ part sounds weird: I don’t know if I ever want to feel like my sexuality or body can be bought. But yeah – I would partake in nude art, or sex-related projects.

Is there any sexual fantasy you want to make happen?

Bondage. Also, I have never done anything sexual outside/in nature.

How do you see LGBT rights in your country and worldwide?

I think visibility matters: It’s important to see and hear queer people in public, in culture and in schools. I don’t think most people even CAN be „anti-gay“ once they meet so many queer people that „I’m anti-gay“ sounds like „I’m anti-brown-eyed-people“.

I’d love to think that things get better. But the tone, aggression and hate of all these current backlashes – ISIS and Russia, Trump and European xenophobia – shock me almost every day: We can’t take civilization for granted. Or democracy. Or tolerance.

Is there more acceptance in your country?

More than when I was a kid? I hope so. There is no marriage equality yet, and gay couples can’t adopt, and too many people still think that you can’t have „Christian values“ and, at the same time, openly talk about homosexuality in schools. German politicians and pundits talk about „Leitkultur“ (a cultural standard about what it should mean to be a proper, „real“ German) a lot, and I think that as a country, we are obsessed with being „normal“ and „regular“.

Every time queer people want to be aknowledged for NOT „being normal“, people get angry quickly: Ideally, queer people, non-white people etc. should just work hard to blend in, and not address discrimination; the idea seems to be that if everyone acts „normal“ enough and never complains, no one would be discriminated against, anyways. I admire people who stand out. Or complain. Or fight to be aknowledged. That’s why I love activists, rabble-rousers and politically queer people.

Have you ever been to a gay wedding?

No. I spent lots of time in Toronto from 2009 to 2013, I’m close friends with three gay or lesbian Canadian couples, but I met them after they were married or I wasn’t in Canada when they had their ceremony. I have one German gay friend who is getting married this summer, but I haven’t met his partner yet – we only became friends last year. I wish I had more queer real-life Berlin friends, and I wish I had more older queer role models.

Single? Looking? Dating?

Since summer of 2014, I’m in a relationship with a German florist. Most of the time, I live with him in his Berlin apartment. It’s not an open relationship, and we both hope that we’ll stay together for decades. Everything is more fun when he is around. We’re crazy happy to have each other.

What do you know about my country, Peru?

For a couple of weeks in 2001, my mom had an au-pair from Peru: a very, very shy girl who was too nervous, quiet and demure. We never really established a connection, and she switched to another family. It felt like having a maid – it was uncomfortable for everyone.

I sampled and liked „The Cardboard House“ by Martin Àdán. But I don’t even know any other Peruvian literature.

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Thorsten Dönges – Künstlerische Leitung des queeren Literaturfestivals „Empfindlichkeiten“, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin

Thorsten Dönges, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, Foto von Mandy Seidler

Thorsten Dönges, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, Foto von Mandy Seidler

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In all times men have been in love with men, women with women.

As E.M. Forster wrote: „There always have been people like me and there always will be“.

Christopher Isherwood called EM Forster the great prophet of our tribe. So have these people really aways been forming one tribe? One community? Or is it much more complicated?

I am glad that so many writers, scientists, translators, friends are joining our festival „Empfindlichkeiten“. In our times, there is maybe something many [queer] people might have in common. It is the experience of what we call Coming Out – and usually you don´t tell your Mama: „Listen, Mama, I am hetero, but don´t be sad or angry…”

Maybe these people even in our days are the people who know how it feels to look different or to walk hand in hand with another person and to be afraid of hostile reactions. There still is homophobia and there is transphobia – in Africa, Russia and Orlando. And in Europe, Germany and Berlin.

We have asked the participants of this festival, writers and scientists, to write short essays on our subject. Many of the essays we received reflect on political questions, on history and they think about which writers could be part of a kind of queer literary tradition. And there is the discussion, how integrated and normalized – or how dissident, subversive and radical queer life should be these days.

…and let me celebrate those who have made this festival possible, with their work, their enthusiasm, their help:
Thank you Samanta Gorzelniak. Christine Wagner, Laura Ott. Mandy Seidler. Samuel Matzner. Yann Stutzig. Ronny Matthes. Christian Schmidt. Thank you Florian Höllerer. Thank you, dear colleagues. Thank you Siegessäule for being our media partner! Thank you: JAK Slovenian Book Agency, Pro Helvetia. Canadian Embassy. Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes. S Fischer Stiftung. Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Thorsten Dönges‘ opening speech – shortened version

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Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 16.07.2016, Berlin. Foto von Tobias Bohm.

Empfindlichkeiten-Festival, LCB, 16.07.2016, Berlin. Foto von Tobias Bohm.

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Thorsten Dönges, geboren 1974 in Gießen, studierte Germanistik und Geschichte in Bamberg. Seit 2000 ist er Mitarbeiter des Literarischen Colloquiums Berlin, wo er im Programmbereich insbesondere für die neuere deutschsprachige Literatur zuständig ist.

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Ich habe das Literaturfestival „Empfindlichkeiten“ als Liveblogger begleitet; und sprach kurz vor Eröffnung mit Thorsten Dönges über Vorgeschichte und Ursprünge des Programms. Samanta Gorzelniak, Thorstens Partnerin in der Künstlerischen Leitung des Festivals, hat schriftlich auf meine Fragen geantwortet (Link hier). Mit Thorsten hatte ich ein zwangloses Gespräch. Hier ein – gekürztes – Protokoll/Transkript:

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Thorsten Dönges: Vor ein paar Jahren las ein Münchner Schriftsteller, Hans Pleschinski, hier am LCB aus seinem Thomas-Mann-Roman “Ludwigshöhe”. Es geht um alles Mögliche: Düsseldorf, die Aufarbeitung deutscher Vergangenheit… und eben auch: eine schwule Liebesgeschichte. Am nächsten Tag stand ich in der LCB-Küche. Und ein Kollege sagte, ganz freundlich: “Das war ja ein schwuler Abend, gestern.”

Da machte es Klack. Niemand würde nach einem Abend, bei dem ein Buch mit heterosexueller Liebesgeschichte vorgestellt wird, sagen: “Was für ein Hetero-Abend gestern. Schon spannend!” Mir wurde klar, dass die Rezeption einfach anders ist – und damit sicher auch der Schreibprozess. Autoren fragen sich: “Für wen schreibe ich das? Wer wäre vielleicht sogar dagegen, falls in meinem Roman ein Frauenpaar auftaucht?” Was macht das mit dem Text – mit der Produktion, und mit der Rezeption?

Es gab so viele Abstimmungen in den letzten Jahren: Ein Land führt die Ehe für alle ein. Andere lehnen sie ab. Schriftsteller beobachten das sehr wach. Sie nehmen daran teil – doch wie mischt man sich ein, als Autor? Dichter in Russland, deren Arbeit dann plötzlich als jugendgefährend gilt, als homosexuelle Propaganda… das sind so unterschiedliche Arbeits- und Schreib-Bedingungen…

„Autorentreffen“, das heißt: 20 oder 30 Leute sitzen um einen Tisch und sagen “Mir geht es folgendermaßen, als lesbische Autorin” – “Mir geht es anders. Ich will gar nicht so sehr als lesbische Autorin wahrgenommen werden.” – “Ich aber sehr wohl! Ich kämpfe total.” Das fand ich spannend – aber nicht spannend genug. Also sagten wir: Wir machen ein Festival. Wo dieser Austausch vorkommt. Aber eben auch: Performances, Musik, Lesungen – ein größerer Rahmen.

Hubert Fichte fragt in „Die zweite Schuld“: Gibt es einen Stil der homosexuellen Literatur? Henry James, dieses indirekte Sprechen… und das ist unser Aufhänger, als These und kleine Provokation. Klar, dass niemand antwortet „Zeig mir fünf Zeilen eines Schriftstellers und ich weiß: Sie ist lesbisch – oder eine Hetera mit acht Kindern.“ Doch als Gedankenspiel, um die Diskussion zu öffnen, fand ich Fichtes Frage interessant. Warum überhaupt Fichte? Ich weiß: Er wird selten übersetzt und hat international wenig Einfluss. Aber seine Geschichte mit dem LCB… in „Die zweite Schuld“ gibt es dieses große Interview mit Walter Höllerer. Er schreibt über die Anfänge des Hauses und die etwas niedliche Art, eine Schreibschule zu installieren.

Was mich herausforderte: Fichte liebt die Provokation – und denkt, die sind dort eigentlich alle… Fichte hatte überall diesen Homophobie-Verdacht: bei Grass und all den Lehrern hier. Er konfrontiert sie alle damit. „Wie haltet ihr es eigentlich so mit Arschfickern?“ Das wäre ein Satz, den er benutzt hätte, 1963. Und gerade das wieder hier ins Haus reinzubringen, fand ich sehr…

Ich hätte gern noch Alan Hollinghurst hier gehabt: Er schreibt an einem neuen Buch und sagte sehr britisch-freundlich ab. Genauso Ali Smith. Murathan Mungan, der wichtigste… ein enfant terrible in der Türkei. Meine Ko-Kuratorin Samanta Gorzelniak und ich haben uns gut ergänzt. Uns beiden lagen Autor*innen am Herzen, die der andere noch gar nicht kannte. Ich selbst mag Gunther Geltingers Bücher und freue mich sehr, dass er dabei ist. Antje Rávic Strubels aktuelles Buch, „In den Wäldern des menschlichen Herzens“, ist großartig. Aber das ist gemein: Wenn ich jetzt einzelne heraushebe.

Ich hatte noch nie vor einem Projekt so viel Respekt – denn irgendjemand fühlt sich immer ausgeschlossen. Oder alle sagen: „Kalter Kaffee: Wir haben doch schon Gleichgestellung.“ Doch die Reaktionen und die Essays und Statements der eingeladenen Autor*innen fand ich großartig – wie viel Herzblut. Und auch, 2016: wie viel Ratlosigkeit.

Wir wollten anfangs ein europäisches Festival. Asien, das wäre nochmal ein ganz anderes… das hätte mich überfordert. Aber dann weitete es sich aus: Wir wollten nach Russland schauen. So kam Masha Gessen ins Spiel – die aber in New York lebt. Dann Ricardo Domeneck – der aus Brasilien kommt, aber in Berlin lebt. Das waren finanzielle Grenzen. Am Anfang schrieben wir von „europäischen Autor*innen“. Jetzt sind wir international. Man könnte auch Michael Cunningham aus den USA einladen. Leute aus Vietnam, Thailand. Wäre sicher spannend – was Japaner zu unseren Fragestellungen sagen. Ob man überhaupt Leute findet, die gern kämen.“

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Samanta Gorzelniak – Künstlerische Leitung des queeren Literaturfestivals „Empfindlichkeiten“, Literarisches Colloquium Berlin

ein schnelles Selfie von Samanta Gorzelniak am LCB

ein schnelles Selfie von Samanta Gorzelniak am LCB

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Queere Literatur – aus Europa und der Welt: Vom 14. bis 16. Juli 2016 veranstaltet das Literarische Colloquium Berlin (LCB, am Wannsee) ein Festival zu Homosexualitäten – “Empfindlichkeiten” (mehr Infos in der Spex und auf der LCB-Website).

Ich begleite das Festival als Liveblogger… und stelle bis Sonntag mehreren Künstler*innen, Autor*innen und interessierten Besuchern kurze Fragen zu Queerness, Widerstand und dem Potenzial homosexueller Literatur.

bisher erschienen Interviews mit…

Katy Derbyshire (Link)  |  Kristof Magnusson (Link)  |  Angela Steidele (Link)  |  Hans Hütt (Link)  |  Hilary McCollum (Link)  |  Saleem Haddad (Link)  |  Luisgé Martin (Link)

…und, aus dem LCB-Team, Ronny Matthes (Link).

Samanta Gorzelniak und Thorsten Dönges sind die Künstlerische Leistung des Festivals.

Samanta Gorzelniak, geboren 1978 in Leipzig, ist promovierte Philologin. Sie übersetzt aus dem Polnischen und forscht über Autorinnen der polnischen Romantik. Samantas Website (Link)

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01_Seit wann planst du – zusammen von mit Thorsten Dönges – das Festival?

Letztes Jahr fragte Thorsten, ob ich an der Konzeption usw. beteiligt sein will. Natürlich wollte ich! Thorsten als… ich sag mal: Buchmensch hat einen etwas anderen Zugang zum Thema als ich – ich habe eine literaturwissenschaftliche Sozialisierung und bin in einer anderen queeren Szene unterwegs, in anderen, sagen wir: Zusammenhängen. Aber unsere Schnittpunkte sind die Literatur – und das Nicht-Heteronormative. Und das ist eine gute Mischung!

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02_Was war Grundidee und -Konzept?

Menschen aus möglichst verschiedenen Kontexten, die schreiben, intensiv lesen und Berührungspunkte / Erfahrungen mit queeren Themen haben, zusammenbringen – und sie miteinander reden, einander kennen lernen zu lassen. Die Gemeinsamkeiten ausloten und sich an Differenzen freuen. Vernetzung. Ich glaube, dass unsere Gäste sich verschiedene Fragen stellen und unterschiedliche Dinge für überholt, aktuell, interessant usw. erachten… das liegt ganz klar am Kontext. Und am Grad der Vernetzung, des Austausches, der Solidarisierung.

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03_Wie hat sich das im Lauf der Planung geändert? Musstet ihr irgendwas umschmeißen oder neu denken?

Als uns das Treffen von AutorInnen zu langweilig erschien und wir über Performances, Musik usw. nachdachten, wurde klar: Es wird einfach öffentlich fett eingeladen, Werbung gemacht – viel Publikum ist willkommen!!

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04_Worauf / worüber freust du dich besonders?

Mit Menschen zu sprechen, deren Texte ich seit Jahren kenne und verehre. Diese widerum miteinander in Kontakt gehen zu sehen. Über viele einander zugewandte, aneinander interessierte, liebevolle Menschen. Über Msoke habe ich mich mächtig gefreut und Hilary McCollum [Q&A hier: Link] – sie haben ihren eigenen positiven Wind in die Veranstaltungen gebracht. Aber hey: alle sind toll!

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05_Warum Hubert Fichte, immer noch? Ist er – nach 50 Jahren – noch immer der prominenteste progressiv queere deutschsprachige Autor? Ist das nicht… traurig/schade? [Das Festival ist nach Fichtes „Geschichte der Empfindlichkeit“ benannt und wurde mit einer Ausstellung der Fotos von Fichtes Partnerin Leonore Mau eröffnet.]

Fichte ist für mich eine Art Aufhänger – und seine Geschichte ist mit der des LCB verwoben, das bietet sich natürlich an. Außerdem hat er kluge Fragen gestellt, die uns auch immer noch bewegen, tatsächlich. Das bedeutet nicht, dass nichts passiert im Laufe der Zeit.

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06_Ein queeres Buch, das dich beeinflusst hat?

Alma von Izabela Morska (damals hieß sie Izabela Filipiak). Es ist nicht ins Deutsche übersetzt. Aber ich bin dran 🙂

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07_Zu viele Menschen denken bei „Homosexualität“ zuerst oder fast nur an schwule Männer. Ich wünschte, stärker in den Fokus rücken…

Transmenschen!

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Queere Literatur 2016: Angela Steidele

Dr. Angela Steidele. Foto: Ben Chislett, Matthes und Seitz

Dr. Angela Steidele. Foto: Ben Chislett, Matthes und Seitz

Queere Literatur – aus Europa und der Welt: Vom 14. bis 16. Juli 2016 veranstaltet das Literarische Colloquium Berlin (LCB, am Wannsee) ein Festival zu Homosexualitäten – “Empfindlichkeiten” (mehr Infos in der Spex und auf der LCB-Website).

Ich werde das Festival als Liveblogger begleiten… und stelle bis Sonntag mehreren Künstler*innen, Autor*innen und interessierten Besuchern kurze Fragen über Queerness, Widerstand und das Potenzial homosexueller Literatur.

Den Anfang machten Katy Derbyshire (Link) und Kristof Magnusson (Link). Jetzt…

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Dr. Angela Steidele, Germanstin, Historikerin, Sachbuch- und Romanautorin und, beim Festival “Empfindlichkeiten”:

  • Freitag, 15. Juli, 11 Uhr auf dem Podium „Maske“, mit Ahmet Sami Özbudak (Istanbul), Hilary McCollum (Donegal), Thomas Meinecke (Eurasburg), Robert Gillett (London); Moderation: Franziska Bergmann
  • danach, ab 17 Uhr: mit einer literarischen Kurzlesung auf der Gartenbühne

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Angela Steidele wurde 1968 in Hamburg geboren. Sie studierte in Hildesheim und promovierte 2002 in Siegen. 2004 erschien das Sachbuch „In Männerkleidern“ [unten hier im Blogpost: mehr!], 2011 „Geschichte einer Liebe: Adele Schopenhauer und Sybille Mertens“, 2015 ihr erster Roman, „Rosenstengel“ (…über den historischen Fall, den sie bereits in „In Männerkleidern“ behandelte). Sie lebt in Köln.

Angela Steidele auf Wikipedia  |  Angela Steidele bei Perlentaucher

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01_Eine eigene Arbeit, ein Text, Link oder Bild, der/das mich vorstellt und/oder der/das einen Blick wert ist:

Das Titelbild und die Rückseite meines Romans „Rosenstengel“:

Cover und Backcover von Angela Steideles Roman "Rosenstengel", erschienen bei Matthes und Seitz

Cover und Backcover von Angela Steideles Roman „Rosenstengel“, erschienen bei Matthes und Seitz

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02_Das Queerste, das ich in meiner Kindheit sah oder kannte…

… waren die beiden Mitarbeiterinnen der katholischen Leihbibliothek, die ich sehr mochte und die „nur aus wirtschaftlichen Gründen“ zusammenlebten.

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03_Ein queeres Buch, das mich beeinflusst hat (und wie?)…

„Orlando“ von Virginia Woolf – einer der schönsten und gelungensten und ästhetisch anspruchsvollsten Romane der Weltliteratur. Nicht nur, weil das Buch – auch – eine Liebeserklärung an Woolf’s Geliebte Vita Sackville-West ist. Es ist v. a. ein Buch über das prinzipielle Scheitern jedes Versuchs, eine Biographie zu schreiben. Der Erzähler beginnt als viktorianischer Positivist, der Orlandos Biographie schildern will, und je weiter er in der abenteuerlichen, nicht vermittelbare Lebensgeschichte Orlandos kommmt, desto stäkrer bezweifelt er sein eigenes Vorhaben, bis er schließlich nicht mehr weiter weiß: eine im doppelten Sinne „queere“ Biographie, die die Biographie als Gattung für unmöglich erklärt und gleichzeitig augenzwinkernd viel über Vita Sackville-West – und Virginia Woolf – erzählt. Und mir als Biographin grundsätzlich den Weg weist.

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04_Ein anderes Stück queerer Kultur [andere Kunstformen], das mich beeinflusst hat (und wie?)…

Shakespeare rauf und runter! Alle Musikdramen von Richard Wagner, Händels Opern, Monteverdis „Orfeo“, natürlich Mozart (Così fa tutte!). Strauss‘ „Rosenkavalier‘. Alle früheren Kastratenrollen, die dann im 20. Jahrhundert von Frauen gesungen wurden (um jetzt leider wieder von Countertenören übernommen zu werden – ein queerer Rückschritt!). Als ich mit 12 Jahren den Hollywoodstreifen „Queen Christina“ (1933) mit Greta Garbo in der Hauptrolle sah – war’s um mich geschehen. Ach und nicht zu vergessen: ‚Some like it hot‘ – für die Ewigkeit!

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05_Mich ehrt, wenn meine Arbeiten in einer Buchhandlung oder Ausstellung neben folgenen Autor*innen stehen:

„Steidele, Angela“ macht sich im Alphabet neben „Stein, Gertrude“ sehr gut.

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06_Zu viele Menschen denken bei „Homosexualität“ zuerst oder fast nur an schwule Männer. Ich wünschte, stärker in den Fokus rücken…

Der Satz ist richtig: Wir Lesben haben immer noch gewaltig Nachholbedarf an Sichtbarkeit. Die Verlagerung des Fokus von „schwul“ auf „queer“ verlängert die öffentliche Unsichtbarkeit lesbischer Frauen und kann als moderne Variante von Frauen- und Lesbenfeindlichkeit interpretiert werden.

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07_Ein queerer Moment in Berlin (oder in Deutschland), an den ich mich lange erinnern werde:

Als unsere Kölner Standesbeamtin erklärte: „Aus rechtlichen Gründen muss ich jetzt immer von einer ‚Eingetragenen Lebenspartnerschaft‘ sprechen. Ich habe das hiermit einmal getan – und werde fortan ‚Ehe‘ sagen.“

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08_Folgende Expert*innen, Autor*innen, Aktivisit*innen, folgende Orte, Institutionen und Diskurse haben mein (Selbst-)Verständnis beeinflusst oder geprägt:

Mein Doktorvater Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Popp und sein Forschungsschwerpukt ‚Homosexualität und Literatur‘ an der Uni-GH Siegen. Die in den 1990-er Jahren dort alle zwei Jahre stattfindenden Tagungen waren intellektuelle Höhepunkte und zugleich Ermutigungen, in einem damals noch belächelten Sachgebiet ernsthafte Forschungen zu betreiben, die alle (nicht nur die LGTB-Community) etwas angehen.

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09_Folgende Expert*innen, Autor*innen, Aktivisit*innen, Orte, Institutionen, Themen verdienen mehr Aufmerksamkeit/Zuwendung:

Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft (LAG) Lesben in NRW, Düsseldorf
Frauengeschichtsverein Köln
Centrum Schwule Geschichte Köln

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10_Ein heterosexueller Ally/Verbündeter, dem ich dankbar bin und/oder den ich schätze:

Prof. Dr. Dan Wilson, dessen grundlegendes, kluges und originelles Buch „Goethe Männer Knaben. Ansichten zur ‚Homosexualität‘ (Insel Verlag) ich zusammen mit ihm bearbeiten und übersetzen durfte.

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11_Ein Gast beim „Empfindlichkeiten“-Festival, auf den ich mich besonders freue:

Kristof Magnusson – er betritt den Raum und schon hagelt die erste geistreiche Pointe.

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12_Eine politische oder öffentliche Figur, über die wir dringend mehr reden müssen. Und eine, über die wir weniger reden sollten:

Wir sollten viel weniger über die ganze AfD reden – die boykottieren die Medien, warum boykottieren die Medien sie nicht umgekehrt?

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13_Eine queere Figur, ein queerer Star oder eine queere Geschichte aus dem Mainstream, über deren Popularität/Strahlkraft ich mich freue:

Athene, Dionysos, Apollo, Sappho, Christina von Schweden, Ludwig II. von Bayern, Richard Wagner, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Cathérine Deneuve, Miss Piggy, Ernie und Bert, Dick und Doof.

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14_Am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin…

Dem lcb verdanke ich eine ganz entscheidende Ermutigung zur Ausweitung meines Werks. 2011 habe ich mich – damals noch reine Sachbuchautorin – mit 50 Manuskriptseiten (mehr hatte ich nicht) meines ersten Romanversuchs „Rosenstengel“ um den Alfred-Döblin-Preis beworben, den Günter Grass gestiftet hat und den das lcb alle zwei Jahre auslobt. Dabei spielt man dann am Wannsee ein bisschen das Wettlesen von Klagenfurt nach. Aus über 500 Einsendungen wurde mein Manuskript herausgefischt und ich durfte an der Finalrunde (die letzten sechs) teilnehmen. Gewonnen habe ich an dem Tag zwar nicht den Preis, dafür aber, nach vielen Gesprächen dort, den Mut, diesen Roman tatsächlich zu schreiben. Für mich persönlich war das der Durchbruch zu einer neuen Ästhetik, beruflich als Autorin habe ich auf dem Markt eine größere Sichtbarkeit gewonnen (all die überaus verdienstvollen SachbuchautorInnen gehen ja unverdienterweise unter) , und dann gab’s auch noch den Bayerischen Buchpreis 2015. – Es lebe das lcb!

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15_Ein queeres literarisches Event, das ich mir wünsche:

Es gibt eines, dem ich noch viel mehr Beachtung wünsche: Das „Querlesen“ im Musikdorf Ernen in der Schweiz. Es findet jedes Jahr Ende Juli in diesem wunderschönen Dorf im Goms/Wallis statt, also zB. jetzt am 23./24. Juli. „Wir“ übernehmen dann dieses wunderschöne Schweizer Bergdorf, tagsüber wandert man am Aletschgletscher mit Blick auf Eiger, Mönch und Jungfrau, abends hört man ein klassisches Konzert in der Barockkirche oder besucht eine Lesung – geht’s schöner im Sommer?

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16_Ein queeres guilty pleasure in meinem Leben:

Bei meiner Unschuld – ich weiß nicht einmal, was ein ‚queeres guilty pleasure‚ ist! Hört sich allerdings vielversprechend an. Vielleicht kann es mir bei den „Empfindlichkeiten“ eine erklären, zeigen oder gar – beibringen?

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17_Queere Texte handeln oft von Sexualität, Identität/Selbstfindung und Diskriminierung. Andere Themen/Fragen, denen ich in queeren Texten mehr Gewicht wünsche:

Dem würde ich widersprechen. Viele Werke der zu den „Empfindlichkeiten“ anreisenden AutorInnen handeln von weitaus mehr als der eigenen Nabelschau. Und umgekehrt gilt: Welcher Mainstream-Roman funktioniert ohne Liebesgeschichte?

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18_Ein Staat, eine Stadt, Region, Kultur oder eine Szene, aus der ich wichtige queere Impulse erhalte (welche?) oder über die wir mehr sprechen müssen:

Der rheinische Karneval ist tatsächlich subversiver als manche CSD-Demo. Das ganze Köln (nicht nur die Community) ist dann durch und durch queer. Das fängt bei der kölschen Jungfrau an (Teil des Dreigestirns zusammen mit Prinz und Bauer), die immer von einem Mann verkörpert werden muss und hört beim „Stippeföttchetanz“ (Po an Po reiben) der Roten Funken (eine Karnevalsgarde, mit den komischen Uniformen) noch lange nicht auf. Ganz Köln ergibt sich einer Anarchie, die jedwede Normen, Gesetze, Annahmen, was ’normal‘ ist, sprengt – die Kategorie „Geschlecht“ gehört stets zu den allerersten Grenzen, die eingerissen werden. Wer wirklich einmal wissen will, wie eine völlig queere Stadt enthemmt tanzt, säuft und feiert, muss zu Weiberfastnacht mal kommen und bis zur Nubbelverbrennung am Dienstag Abend bleiben. Ich geh übrigens zu Karneval immer als Skilangläuferin – weg von Köln.

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19_Wenn Universitäten und Akademiker auf queere Diskurse (und: Gender-Diskurse) blicken, denke ich…

…dass dann zu viel von „intersektionell“ und „Queerness“ die Rede ist. Auch die ästhetischen Unworte „Performanz“ und „Performativität“ wurden jetzt etwas lang schon durchdekliniert. Es ist tief bedauerlich, dass die akademische Genderforschung null Relevanz für Gesellschaft und Alltagsleben besitzt und praktische Emanzipationsbestrebungen von Frauen, Lesben, Schwulen, Trans* usw. politisch gesehen im Stich lässt.

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20_Ein Mensch (oder, abstrakter: eine Eigenschaft/ein Wesenszug), den ich sehr sexy finde:

Humor. (O, hallo Kristof, schön dich zu sehen!)

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21_Kulturvermittler*innen, Institutionen, Journalist*innen machen, nach meiner Erfahrung, im Umgang mit queerer Kultur manchmal folgenden Fehler:

Zu denken, es hätte nichts mit ihnen selbst zu tun.

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22_Wie/wo/wann profitierte ich künstlerisch von meiner eigenen Queerness? Und steht/stand sie mir je im Weg, war sie je eine Schwierigkeit für mich?

„Women only stir my imagination“. Diesem Satz von Virginia Woolf habe ich nichts hinzuzufügen (sorry, Kristof!). – Als promovierte Literaturwissenschaftlerin mit dem Schwerpunkt „Geschichte der weiblichen Homosexualität“ hatte ich im ersten Jahrzehnt des neuen Jahrhunderts nur geringe Chancen auf eine Stelle im deutschsprachigen Wissenschaftsbetrieb. Nach dem Motto „Krisen neu bewerten“ bin ich heute froh darüber. Als Autorin hatte ich eventuell sogar Vorteile – Mainstreamverlage zB schmücken sich mittlerweile auch ganz gern mit ein paar Exoten.

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23_Eine Video-Kampagne, die queere Jugendliche vom Selbstmord abhalten will, verspricht: „It gets better.“ DOES it get better? Wo und für wen? Wann/wie wurde es für dich besser? Was muss noch anders/besser werden?

Mein Coming-out war wie ein zweites Geborenwerden, eine Befreiung, und ich wünsche allen Jugendlichen von Herzen, Mut zu sich zu haben, egal, wen und wie sie lieben. Und uns Großen wünsche ich den Mut, immer und überall zu zeigen, wen und wie wir lieben. Ob Lehrerinnen an Schulen oder Profi-Fußballer: Wir selber müssen uns selber noch viel selbstverständlicher werden, bevor wir anderen selbstverständlich werden.

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Angela Steidele war 2006 und 2007 Gastdozentin an der Universität Hildesheim. 2005 leitete ich dort ein Kreatives-Schreiben-Tutorium für Erstsemester, die fünf Monate lang über die Uni und ihren Alltag schrieben, für das Gruppenprojekt „Kulturtagebuch – Leben und Schreiben in Hildesheim“.

Hanns-Josef Ortheil lud Angela Steidele ein, in einem Seminar ihr Buch „In Männerkleidern“ vorzustellen.

Einer der Studenten schrieb damals beeindruckt:

„Angela Steidele, eine diplomierte Kulturwissenschaftlerin, wird ihr Buch „In Männerkleidern“ vorstellen. Eine wissenschaftliche Biografie über Catharina Margaretha Linck, bekannt als Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel. Mehr hat Ortheil letzte Stunde nicht gesagt, und mehr muss man auch gar nicht wissen: Die Story, die sich aus diesen beiden Namen ergibt, ist reizvoll genug. Eine Frau verkleidet sich als Mann, heiratet, dann kommen Inquisition und Gefängnis und das bittere Ende. Das alles aber nicht als pseudo-dokumentarischer Historienroman mit dem „Ich war dabei!“-Gestus, sondern solide belegt an historischen Quellen, verfasst von einer Kuwi-Absolventin. Das klingt so grundlegend widersinnig, das muss ich mir anhören.

[…] Boah, was für eine Frau! Aber warum? Ich glaube, weil sie etwas verkörpert, das Hildesheim oft fehlt: Unaufgeregtheit, Bescheidenheit, Forschergeist, Selbstironie, Nachdenklichkeit… Angela Steidele setzt allen Ringelsocken und Regenbogenstulpen und Cordjacketts und Rock-über-Hose, aller lärmend zur Schau gestellten Individualität und allem penetrant zelebrierten Lesbentum die höfliche Zurückhaltung (ja, das trifft es: Höflich ist diese Zurückhaltung!) eines gefestigten Charakters entgegen. Klar: Hinterher werden manche sagen, Steidele habe bieder gewirkt, wie eine Lehrerin, nicht extravagant genug. Ein kleinakademisches Pflänzchen am Wegesrand. Schwachsinn, sage ich: Diese Frau hat gestrahlt, aus der Ruhe und Selbstgewissheit heraus, etwas zu tun, das ihr nicht nur Spaß macht, sondern ganz nebenbei (oder doch hauptsächlich?) auch schön und gut und wahr ist – eine echte Wissenschaftlerin. Wenn ich es mir recht überlege, möchte ich werden wie Angela Steidele. Zwar möchte ich ständig wie irgend jemand anderes werden, und diese Idole unterscheiden sich auch immer grundlegend, doch heute Abend möchte ich werden wie sie: unaufgeregt, selbstgewiss, klug und menschlich. Gebt mir mehr Adjektive für unspektakuläres Wohlgefallen! Gebt mir mehr Adjektive für schlichte Sympathie!“

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Queere Literatur 2016: Kristof Magnusson

Kristof Magnusson, Foto von Gunnar Klack

Autor Kristof Magnusson. Foto: Gunnar Klack

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Queere Literatur – aus Europa und der Welt: Vom 14. bis 16. Juli 2016 veranstaltet das Literarische Colloquium Berlin (LCB, am Wannsee) ein Festival zu Homosexualitäten – „Empfindlichkeiten“ (mehr Infos in der Spex und auf der LCB-Website).

Ich werde das Festival als Liveblogger begleiten… und stelle bis Sonntag mehreren Künstler*innen, Autor*innen und interessierten Besuchern kurze Fragen über Queerness, Widerstand und das Potenzial homosexueller Literatur.

Den Anfang machte Katy Derbyshire (Link). Jetzt…

..

…Kristof Magnusson – Autor, Übersetzer und, beim Festival „Empfindlichkeiten“:

  • am Samstag, 16. Juli, 14 Uhr auf dem Podium „Schrift“, mit Alain Claude Sulzer (Basel), Dieter Ingenschay (Berlin), Édouard Louis (Paris) und Raziel Reid (Vancouver); Moderation: Nina Seiler
  • danach, ab 19 Uhr: mit einer literarischen Kurzlesung auf der Gartenbühne

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Kristof Magnusson wurde 1976 in Hamburg geboren. Er machte eine Ausbildung als Kirchenmusiker und studierte am Deutschen Literaturinstitut Leipzig. Er übersetzt aus dem Isländischen, veröffentlichte die Romane „Zuhause“, „Das war ich nicht“ und „Arztroman“ und u.a. das Theaterstück „Männerhort“ und lebt in Berlin.

Kristof auf Wikipedia  |  Kristof auf Goodreads

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01_Eine eigene Arbeit, ein Text, Link oder Bild, der/das mich vorstellt und/oder der/das einen Blick wert ist:

Mein Roman „Zuhause“.

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02_Wenn mich jemand „homosexueller Autor nennt…

…dann ist das insofern relevant, als bei meiner Arbeit meine Person und meine persönlichen Erfahrungen eine Rolle spielen. Ich schreibe zwar nicht unbedingt biografisch gefärbte Texte, aber etwas mit mir und meinem – homosexuellen – Selbst hat das schon immer zu tun. Ja, es besteht eine Differenz zwischen Werk und Autor, aber es ist eine durchlässige Trennung mit vielen Abstufungen.

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03_Das Queerste, das ich in meiner Kindheit sah oder kannte, war…

Etwas aus der Popkultur, das ich schon als Kind eindeutig als queer wahrnehmen konnte, war sicher der Pop-Act Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Das war nicht kryptisch und verklausuliert, sondern für jeden erkennbar queer. In meinem persönlichen Umfeld gab es queere Bekannte meiner Eltern und meiner großen Schwester, der Queerste jedoch war sicher mein Onkel Níels aus Island, der ein Kino hatte, in der Freizeit isländische Briefmarken gestaltete und in den Sommerferien nach Kopenhagen fuhr, um Antiquitäten zu kaufen.

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04_Ein queeres Buch, das mich beeinflusst hat…

Michael Chabon, Die Geheimnisse von Pittsburgh

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05_Ein anderes Stück queerer Kultur [andere Kunstformen], das mich beeinflusst hat…

Bildende Kunst von Bruce Nauman, und die Shows in Corny Littmanns „Schmidt Theater“ auf der Reeperbahn.

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06_Ich wünschte, ich hätte in Sachen Homosexualität früher gelernt/gewusst/erfahren, dass…

…es so viele verschiedene queere Lebensweisen gibt. Viele meiner Ängste und Hemmungen hatten – und haben – damit zu tun, dass sich bestimmte falsche, medial verbreitete Bilder festgesetzt haben. Ich hätte gerne viel früher im Leben vielfältige und positiv dargestellte Beispiele für queere Lebensentwürfe gekannt. Und wäre es nur in Soap-Operas im Privatfernsehen gewesen.

[Stefan: nach meiner Wahrnehmung gab es queere Figuren selten in Privat-Soaps… aber durchgängig, 20 Jahre lang, in der öffentlich-rechtlichen „Verbotene Liebe“.]

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07_Zu viele Menschen denken bei „Homosexualität“ zuerst oder fast nur an schwule Männer. Ich wünschte, stärker in den Fokus rücken…

Ich kann ich nur zustimmend sagen, dass es tatsächlich ein Problem ist, dass der Blick auf Homosexualitäten oft verkürzt ist und bei schwulen Männern endet.

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08_Eine politische oder öffentliche Figur, über die wir dringend mehr reden müssen. Und eine, über die wir weniger reden sollten:

Das ist eine sehr schwierige Frage, denn wer ist „wir“? Wir als Gesellschaft insgesamt? Dann würde das ja ganz schnell in Richtung Medienkritik gehen (Talkshows, Zeitungen etc.). Oder wir als queere Community? Können wir überhaupt von den Gemeinsamkeiten einer Community ausgehen? Das ist sehr kompliziert.

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09_Eine queere Figur, ein queerer Star oder eine queere Geschichte aus dem Mainstream, über deren Popularität/Strahlkraft ich mich freue:

Der Mainstream-Erfolg von Ru Paul’s Drag Race ist doch sensationell, oder? Sicher nicht ganz unproblematisch, aber Großen und Ganzen doch ein Zeichen für gesellschaftlichen Fortschritt. Viel mehr als über einen weiteren queeren Star würde ich mich darüber freuen, wenn auch unter schwulen Männern das Bewusstsein dafür wachsen würde, dass queer in erster Linie Vielfalt bedeutet.

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10_Ich wünschte, folgendes reaktionäre Vorurteil/Denkfigur würde endlich verschwinden/nicht immer wieder neu diskutiert werden:

Ist es nicht frustrierend, dass die Denkfigur des „Natürlichen“ immer wieder hervorgekramt wird? Können sich nicht alle endlich einmal hinter die Ohren schreiben, dass „Natur“ genauso eine kulturelle Konstruktion ist wie quasi alles andere um uns herum?

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11_Ein queeres guilty pleasure in meinem Leben:

Jim Sharmans Rocky Horror Picture Show. So viele Filme enthalten parodistische Darstellungen von queeren Figuren, die unfair und gemein sind, aber trotzdem sehr witzig. Zählt das dann auch als queeres guilty pleasure?

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12_Queere Texte handeln oft von Sexualität, Identität/Selbstfindung und Diskriminierung. Andere Themen/Fragen, denen ich in queeren Texten mehr Gewicht wünsche:

Die in der Frage genannten Themen sind nach wie vor selbstverständlich relevant. Und viel mehr als andere Themen wünsche ich mir andere Sichtweisen: neben problemorientierten Darstellungen wünsche ich mir viel mehr positive Darstellungen queerer Lebensrealität. Queere Literatur bedeutet doch auch, queere Inhalte als selbstverständlich, gesund und normal darzustellen.

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13_Ein Staat, eine Stadt, Region, Kultur oder eine Szene, aus der ich wichtige queere Impulse erhalte (welche?) oder über die wir mehr sprechen müssen:

Reykjavik, wo jedes Jahr über 10 % der isländischen Bevölkerung der Gay Pride Parade zugucken.

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14_Identität (und: Diskriminierung) wird immer öfter intersektionell beschrieben und diskutiert. Als queere*r Künstler*in interessiert mich aus dieser Perspektive besonders…

Grundsätzlich halte ich eine möglichst diverse Bearbeitung queerer Themen für unbedingt notwendig. Ich selbst spreche als Autor aus der Perspektive eines weißen cis-Manns und möchte mir auch gar nicht anmaßen, qualifiziert über Probleme der Intersektionalität zu reden.

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15_Der Mainstream räumt Queerness oft mittlerweile etwas mehr Platz ein. Räumt Queerness auch dem Mainstream mehr (zu viel?) Platz ein – in Fragen wie Familien- und Rollenbildern, Selbstdarstellung, Konsum und Politik? Wo reiben sich Queerness und „Normalität“? Reiben sie sich genug?

Davon, dass der Mainstream der Queerness zu viel Platz einräumt kann kaum die Rede sein. Das lässt sich quantitativ einfach belegen. Wie viele Personen weichen auf die eine oder andere Art von der binären heterosexuellen Norm ab (viele), und wie sichtbar ist das im Alltag? (wenig)

Ich persönlich habe zum Glück einen Alltag, in dem wenig Reiberein an queeren Themen vorkommen. Der Literaturbetrieb ist ein grundsätzlich progressives und menschenfreundliches Metier. Dafür bin ich sehr dankbar. Ich bin froh, dass ich – anders als viele andere – nicht in einer Branche arbeite, in der ich im Arbeitsalltag permanent Homophobie ausgesetzt bin.

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16_Wenn Universitäten und Akademiker auf queere Diskurse (und: Gender-Diskurse) blicken, denke ich…

…dass queere Themen genau so sehr in die Wissenschaft gehören wie alle anderen Bereiche des Lebens. Ich möchte, dass es über queere Themen genau so viel Forschung gibt wie über Politik, Geschichte, Medizin oder Teilchenphysik. Falls diese Frage darauf hinaus laufen sollte, wie ich zu den fachspezifischen Eigenheiten der Gender-Studies stehe, so kann ich die Frage nur mit Sprachkritik beantworten: Akademischer Jargon hat einfach seine Schrullen, da machen Gender-Studies keine Ausnahme.

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17_Kulturvermittler*innen, Institutionen, Journalist*innen machen, nach meiner Erfahrung, im Umgang mit queerer Kultur manchmal folgenden Fehler:

Mir fällt oft auf, dass mit einem gewissen Exotismus über queere Themen berichtet wird – so als gehöre man als queerer Mensch gleich einer anderen Spezies an. Bitte liebe Institutionen, Kulturvermittler und Journalisten, streicht diesen distanzierten, leicht überraschten Tonfall aus eurem Repertoire, wenn es um queere Themen und Personen geht. Ich habe übrigens bewusst die männliche Form verwendet. Es sind vor allem Männer, deren Sprache über queere Themen von Distanzierungs- und Exotismusformeln beherrscht ist. Eine geschlechterneutrale Darstellung würde Kulturvermittlerinnen und Journalistinnen unfair in Sippenhaft nehmen.

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18_Wie/wo/wann profitierte ich künstlerisch von meiner eigenen Queerness? Und steht/stand sie mir je im Weg, war sie je eine Schwierigkeit für mich?

Mich irritiert es, dass oft im Nachhinein in die Queerness hineingeheimnisst wird, dass das einem als Autor oder Künstler hilft. An dieser Stelle möchte ich gerne mal den anderen Aspekt in den Vordergrund stellen: Ja, es war schwierig, ja es stand mir oft im Weg. Die viele Zeit in der Jugend, die von Angst, Scham und Unsicherheit geprägt war, darauf hätte ich liebend gern verzichtet. Das Gefühl, dass die Welt eigentlich für andere gemacht ist, nicht für dich, das kann man im Nachhinein vielleicht verklären, weil es möglicherweise den künstlerischen Blick geschärft hat. Schön ist es aber nicht.

Kristof Magnusson, Foto von Gunnar Klack

Kristof Magnusson, Foto von Gunnar Klack

.o

all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Queere Literatur, 2016: Katy Derbyshire

Katy Derbyshire - Übersetzerin, Bloggerin und, beim Festival "Empfindlichkeiten", deutsche Vorlesestimme der internationalen Gäste

Katy Derbyshire – Übersetzerin, Bloggerin und, beim Festival „Empfindlichkeiten“, englische Vorlesestimme der internationalen Gäste

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Queere Literatur – aus Europa und der Welt: Vom 14. bis 16. Juli 2016 veranstaltet das Literarische Colloquium Berlin (LCB, am Wannsee) ein Festival zu Homosexualitäten – „Empfindlichkeiten“ (mehr Infos in der Spex und auf der LCB-Website).

Ich werde das Festival als Liveblogger begleiten… und stelle bis Sonntag mehreren Künstler*innen, Autor*innen und interessierten Besuchern kurze Fragen über Queerness, Widerstand und das Potenzial homosexueller Literatur.

Die ersten Antworten…

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…von Katy Derbyshire – Übersetzerin, Bloggerin und, beim Festival „Empfindlichkeiten“, die englischeVorlesestimme der internationalen Gäste.

Katy Derbyshire wurde 1973 in London geboren. Nach dem Studium der Germanistik an der Universität in Birmingham setzte sie ihre Ausbildung an der Universität in London fort und schloss dort 2001 als Diplom-Übersetzerin ab. 1996 zog sie nach Berlin, wo sie bis zu ihrem Mutterschutz 2001 u. a. als Englischlehrerin für Kinder arbeitete. Seit 2002 ist sie als freiberufliche Übersetzerin vom Deutschen ins Englische tätig. 

Katys Blog  |  Katy auf Twitter  |  Katys Portrait-Reihe im Tagesspiegel: „Going Dutch with German Writers“

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01_Eine eigene Arbeit, ein Text, Link oder Bild, der/das mich vorstellt und/oder der/das einen Blick wert ist:

http://lithub.com/berlin-its-not-all-sex-all-the-time/

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02_Ein queeres Buch, das mich beeinflusst hat (und wie?)…

Ich habe viel zu jung Last Exit to Brooklyn bei meiner Mutter entdeckt und heimlich gelesen. Gilt das als queeres Buch? Ich glaube, ich war etwa 14 und ich weiß noch, dass ich das Buch beängstigend fand. Hätte sie besser verstecken sollen. Später gab mir meine Mutter die süßen, harmlosen San Francisco-Romane von Armistead Maupin (einmal mit Autogramm sogar), die ich auch nicht so recht verstanden habe – was zur Hölle sind Quaaludes? – aber ehrlich gesagt ist viel mehr von Hubert Selby Jr. bei mir hängengeblieben und ich mag immer noch eher schonungslose Literatur als seichte.

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03_Das Queerste, das ich in meiner Kindheit sah oder kannte, war…

Unsere Untermieterin, die dann recht unvermittelt mit einer Frau zusammengezogen ist. Nach dem Umzug sagte mir meine Mutter: Du weißt, dass Jo und Sarah ein Paar sind, oder…? Und dann sagte sie sinngemäß: Es wäre völlig OK, wenn du auch Lesbe werden solltest, nur hättest du es schwerer im Leben.

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04_Wenn mich jemand „homosexuelle(r) Autor*in“ nennt…

Macht keineR – ich bin Übersetzerin und identifiziere nicht als queer. Wobei das bei Übersetzer*innen sowieso selten Thema ist – wir müssen uns in alle Figuren und Erzählende hineinversetzen können: alt, jung, klug, doof, Männer, Frauen, sprechende Hunde…

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05_Ein heterosexueller Ally/Verbündeter, dem ich dankbar bin und/oder den ich schätze:

Ich antworte hier vielleicht umgekehrt. Ich fühle mich als heterosexuelle Verbündete von Florian Duijsens, meinem Mit-Gastgeber bei der Dead Ladies Show. Florian gibt die Berliner Literaturzeitschrift SAND mit heraus und arbeitete lange für die Onlinezeitschrift Asymptote. Wir legen manchmal zusammen auf und genießen zusammen das Leben und er gibt gute Ratschläge und tauscht Filmtipps mit meiner Tochter aus.

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06_Ein Gast beim „Empfindlichkeiten“-Festival, auf den ich mich besonders freue: … (und: warum?)

Antje Rávic Strubel, weil sie einige der besten Bücher in Deutschland geschrieben hat. Hauptsächlich deswegen. Und weil sie in ihrem neuen Roman irre gut und flüssig über flüssige Leben, Sexualitäten, Gender schreibt, oft am Wasser, mit super Sexszenen. Ich glaube, sie hat das Gefühl, wenig Vorbilder in der Belletristik zu haben und ich wünsche ihr (und mir), dass das Festival eine Gelegenheit zum Austausch anbietet.

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07_Eine queere Figur, ein queerer Star oder eine queere Geschichte aus dem Mainstream, über deren Popularität/Strahlkraft ich mich freue:

Vielleicht die Köch*in und Aktivist*in Jack Monroe. Sie (ich schreibe jetzt “sie”, weil Monroe als nicht-binär identifiziert und ich kein besseres Pronomen in deutsch finde, auf die Schnelle. Frag mich aber bei Gelegenheit nach dem noch nicht patentierten nicht-binären Pronomen, das ich halb erfunden habe…) – jedenfalls Jack Monroe ist für ihre bezahlbaren Rezepte berühmt geworden und hat ihren Ruhm dann für ihren Aktivismus gegen Armut und Austerity Politics genutzt. Monroe ist aus der Labour-Partei ausgetreten, nachdem sie Kaffeetassen mit anti-Immigrations-Parolen verteilt haben. Diese Arschgeigen. Und jetzt hilft sie mir und anderen, ihr Verständnis von Transgender nachzuvollziehen.

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08_Ich wünschte, folgendes reaktionäre Vorurteil/Denkfigur würde endlich verschwinden/nicht immer wieder neu diskutiert werden:

Frauen sollen warten, bis Männer sich für sie interessieren und bloß nicht einen Mann fragen, ob er was unternehmen möchte. Hatte ich heute erst wieder. Erstaunlich, wie zugeknöpft sie dann werden.

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09_Am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin…

…fühle ich mich seit Jahren als Übersetzerin wohl. Es freut mich, dass das Haus sich immer mehr öffnet und sich wandelt – weg vom Biederen, weg vom Blick zurück in seine doch sehr männlich dominierte Geschichte – lange hing ein großes Foto der Gruppe 47 an prominenter Stelle – und hin zum jetzigen Leben in Berlin und der Welt. Das Festival ist ein Teil davon, aber auch das Fest der kleinen Verlage, Aufmerksamkeit für Graphic Novelists, Ausstellungen… es müsste nur noch eine Frau in einer Führungsposition eingestellt werden, dann wäre ich zufrieden.

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10_Der Mainstream räumt Queerness oft mittlerweile etwas mehr Platz ein. Räumt Queerness auch dem Mainstream mehr (zu viel?) Platz ein – in Fragen wie Familien- und Rollenbildern, Selbstdarstellung, Konsum und Politik? Wo reiben sich Queerness und „Normalität“? Reiben sie sich genug?

Das ist hier vielleicht nicht angebracht aber ich sage es trotzdem: bei der Konzentration auf die “Homoehe” fühle ich mich manchmal unwohl. Ich freue mich, dass queere Menschen auch andere Beziehungsmodelle vorleben, sie können eine Art Verbündete gegen den Pärchenterror sein. Wenn es aber von queeren Menschen auch noch erwartet wird, sich zu ehelichen, wo stehe ich – als Alleinerziehende in der vierten Generation? Be careful what you wish for, denke ich manchmal.

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11_Ein Mensch (oder, abstrakter: eine Eigenschaft/ein Wesenszug), den ich sehr sexy finde:

Kahlköpfige Männer im Allgemeinen – was in meinem Alter günstig ist. Hutträger. Selbstbewusstsein. Gesunde Selbstzweifel.

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all my 2016 interviews on Queer Literature:

…and, in German:

Kuratoren & Experten am Literarischen Colloquium Berlin: 

Queer Literature: “Empfindlichkeiten” Festival 2016:

Interview: Isabel Bogdan, „Der Pfau“

Autorin Isabel Bogdann. Foto von Smilla Dankert, http://smilla-dankert.de/

Autorin Isabel Bogdan. Foto von Smilla Dankert

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Seit fast fünf Jahren folge ich Isabel Bogdan – auf ihrem Blog, bei Facebook und in den Texten ihrer journalistischen Portraitreihe „Was machen die da?“ (zusammen mit Maximilian Buddenbohm).

Isabel ist Übersetzerin von u.a. Jane Gardam und Jonathan Safran Foer. 2012 schrieb sie ein Sachbuch übers spontane Sachen-Ausprobieren („Sachen machen“, Rowohlt).

2016 kam ihr erster Roman:

„Der Pfau“, 256 Seiten, Februar 2016 bei Kiepenheuer & Witsch

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Ich liebe Isabel auf Facebook – doch ich war unsicher, ob der Roman zu mir passt: eine leichte, schrullige Verwechslungskomödie auf einem schottischen Landgut über Hausangestellte, die Teilnehmer eines Teambuilding-Seminars und einen Pfau, der auf alles einhackt, was blau glänzt, u.a. Autos.

Ich las das Buch bereits im Januar, als Presseexemplar. War überrascht, wie viel Spaß ich hatte. Empfahl es u.a. hier (Link)

…und nahm mir vor, Isabel noch vor Erscheinen des Romans zu interviewen.

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Wir tauschten Fragen und Antworten in einem Online-Dokument. „Der Pfau“ erschien und wurde zum Bestseller und Publikumsliebling. Und während mir Zeit fehlte, das Interview blogfertig zu machen, erschienen drei, vier ähnliche Texte über und mit Isabel: gute Interviews – die sich mit meinem/unserem doppeln.

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Ich bin begeistert, dass sich Isabel die Zeit nahm, so ausführlich auf meine Fragen zu antworten – obwohl sie mit dem Buch dauernd unterwegs ist – und reiche das Interview heute endlich nach.

Mein Lieblingstext und -interview mit Isabel stammt von 2013… und handelt von ihrer Arbeit als Übersetzerin. „Schreiben als Beruf“: http://schreiben-als-beruf.de/uebersetzen-belletristik-und-sachbuch-isabel-bogdan/

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Der Pfau” in einem Satz?

“Einer der Pfauen war verrückt geworden.” Das ist der erste Satz. Daraus ergeben sich ziemliche Verwicklungen.

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und Isabel Bogdan in einem Satz?

Liest, schreibt, übersetzt. Und macht gern Sachen. (“Sätze zählen” übe ich noch.)

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Very british”, sagt der Klappentext. Inwiefern?

Das Setting ist natürlich britisch – der Roman spielt in Schottland – und ich hoffe, dass die Figuren und der Ton es auch sind. Ich fand, die Geschichte braucht dieses Distanziert-Ironische, mit einer hochgezogenen Augenbraue. Ich wollte gern eine Eigenschaft mit rüberbringen, die ich an den Briten sehr liebe: dass man oft nicht weiß, wie ernst sie sich eigentlich gerade selbst nehmen. Beziehungsweise, dass es keine eindeutige Grenze zwischen Spaß und Ernst, lustig und seriös, U und E gibt, weder im Leben, noch in der Literatur.

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Ist das ein Ton/Stil, der dir im Deutschen bisher fehlte?

Ich empfinde den Ton als eher britisch, aber “das fehlt im Deutschen” klingt mir zu kategorisch. Jedenfalls habe ich nicht nach etwas gesucht, was hier fehlen würde, und dann eine Lücke geschlossen. Die Geschichte war da (weil sie im Kern wirklich passiert ist, zumindest bis dahin, dass ein Pfau blaue Sachen angriff, unter anderem Autos), und dann habe ich sie so aufgeschrieben, wie sie sich anfühlte.

Katja Lange-Müller sagte mal, “der Inhalt sucht sich die Flasche aus, in die er gefüllt werden will”. Ich weiß, dass manche Autoren erst eine Figur haben und dann nach dem Ton suchen. Ich hatte den klitzekleinen Kern der Geschichte, über den Ton habe ich dann keine Sekunde mehr nachgedacht, für mich war von Anfang an klar, dass man das nur so erzählen kann. Die Figuren habe ich mir dann nach und nach erarbeitet.

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Gibt es Film- und Literatur-Vorbilder? Auch deutsche?

Es gibt Autoren, die ich gerne lese. Aber es gibt kein Vorbild in dem Sinne, dass ich jemandem nacheifern oder ihn gar nachahmen würde. Wenn man damit antritt, so schreiben zu wollen wie XY, kann es nicht gutgehen, glaube ich. Das mache ich ja als Übersetzerin, dass ich versuche, so zu schreiben wie z.B. Jane Gardam schriebe, wenn sie auf Deutsch schriebe. Als Autorin muss man sein eigenes Ding machen.

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War es schwer, über Leute aus einer anderen Kultur zu schreiben? Was hast du recherchieren müssen, was hat dich überrascht oder dir Mühe gemacht?

Das fiel mir nicht schwer, weil ich seit über 20 Jahren immer wieder auf dem geschilderten Anwesen bin und mich quasi zuhause fühle. Ein paar Kleinigkeiten sind mir während des Schreibens aufgefallen, etwa, dass Liz dauernd Taschentücher suchte, und ich irgendwann merkte: In Großbritannien haben sie meist gar nicht solche Packungen wie wir, sondern nehmen eher Kleenexboxen. Andere Kleinigkeiten sind mir schon in Fleisch und Blut übergegangen, etwa dass man meist keine Türklinken, sondern Drehknäufe hat und bei Fenstern die untere Hälfte hochschiebt. Die Geschichte mit dem einklemmten Vogel zwischen den Scheiben ist mir selbst passiert. Daher musste ich nicht drüber nachdenken, dass schottische Fenster anders geöffnet werden als deutsche.

Ich habe natürlich ein bisschen was über Pfauen nachgelesen. Und bei den Namen hat mir meine englische Kollegin Katy Derbyshire geholfen, da wäre ich unsicher gewesen, welcher Name zu welcher Altersgruppe und sozialen Schicht passt. Der erste Name, den sie mir für Aileen vorgeschlagen hat, war zufällig der tatsächliche Name der Haushaltshilfe im tatsächlichen Anwesen – da wusste ich, dass sie ein gutes Gespür für „passende“ Namen hat.

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Was ist die größte Gemeinsamkeit mit dem realen schottischen Gut – und was die größte Freiheit, die du dir genommen hast?

Es gibt dieses Anwesen und die Cottages am Fuße der Highlands, eine Dreiviertelstunde nördlich von Dundee. Der schiefe Fußboden ist allerdings in der Nursery, nicht im Waschhaus. Es gibt den Hot Tub, das Trampolin, das Eishaus und die verfallene Kapelle, die man nur findet, wenn man weiß, wo sie ist. Es gibt einen Westflügel, der allerdings ein oder zwei Zimmer weniger hat, und dort hängt ein Stich “The weighing of the deer”, der im Roman “The weighing of the birds” heißt. Das ist also alles fast eins und eins die Realität. Die Personen und 98 Prozent der Geschichte hingegen sind erfunden.

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Lesen deine Vermieter/die Hausherren das Buch?

Sie können leider kein Deutsch. Und wieso sollte ein britischer Verlag ein deutsches Buch übersetzen lassen, das in Schottland spielt? Ich hätte mich natürlich gefreut, wenn sie es lesen könnten. Ich habe ihnen auch ein Exemplar geschickt, damit sie wenigstens sehen können, wie schön es geworden ist.

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Die meisten Männer im Buch sind eher dusslig. Die Frauen kommen viel besser weg: Hausmädchen Aileen ist etwas glanzlos, Chefin Liz verbiestert. Aber warum führt das Buch Männer in ihrer Unbeholfenheit vor – während die Köchin, die Seminarleiterin und die Lady keine besonderen komödiantischen Schwächen haben?

Oh, findest du? Der Lord ist ein wenig verpeilt, aber Jim, Andrew, David und Ryszard sind doch allesamt nicht dusslig oder unbeholfen. David ist nur ein wenig schüchtern. Bernard mochte ich am Anfang nicht besonders, aber am Ende tat er mir eigentlich mehr leid. Ich mag sie inzwischen alle sehr. Bernard hat seine unbeholfene Szene, ebenso wie Liz mit dem Viehgatter. Jim interessiert sich für alles mögliche und kann auch noch singen! Andrew lässt sich überhaupt nicht verbiegen, er ist (bei aller Unentspanntheit) eigentlich viel souveräner als die Chefin. Ich finde die Männer insgesamt nicht dussliger oder unbeholfener als die Frauen.

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Wie hast du die Figurenzahl und ihr Verhältnis erarbeitet: Wurden unterwegs Figuren gestrichen oder mit anderen Eigenschaften belegt – oder wusstest du von Anfang an: DAS ist mein Ensemble?

Anzahl und Konstellation standen ziemlich von Anfang an. Individuelle Eigenheiten und Charakteristika haben sich dann nach und nach entwickelt. Ryszard war anfangs zwei Personen, einer für die Arbeiten im Wald, einer für den Laden. Und irgendwann hatte Aileen ganz kurz ein Kind, das immer mal wieder durch die Szenerie geistern und in unpassenden Augenblicken auftauchen sollte, aber das habe ich dann doch wieder gestrichen.

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Das Buch endet on a Whimper, nicht with a Bang. Warum eskaliert die Lage nie?

Warum sollte sie? Wir sind in Großbritannien. Außerdem fand ich es spannender (und auch realistischer, falls man denn von einer realistischen Story ausgehen möchte), wenn am Ende … jetzt will ich nicht so viel ausplaudern.

Mit einem Knall kann ja jeder. Ich bin auch nicht so der Typ fürs Eskalieren, und glaube auch, dass im Leben viel weniger eskaliert und viel mehr verschwiegen, unter den Teppich gekehrt und leise verhandelt wird.

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Ich kenne deine Blogposts – und habe mehr sprachliche Preziosen erwartet, mehr Worte und Wendungen wie „kennte“ oder „sämig“. Hast du dich zurückhalten müssen?

Ey! Es gibt barst und buk, Kokolores, schlankerhand und schlechterdings und sogar ein veritables fürderhin. Und das sind nur die, die mir spontan einfallen. Man darf es mit sowas ja auch nicht übertreiben, es soll ja kein “Seht mal her, was für Wörter ich kenne” werden. Wenn man ungewöhnliche Wörter einstreut, dann da, wo sie sich organisch ergeben.

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Der Pfau, Isabel Bogdan

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Ist der Roman „middle-brow“? Unterhaltungsliteratur? Ein wenig leichter/softer als gängige literarische Romane?

Ach, schwierige Frage. Aber eine, die immer wieder kommt und die eigentlich jemand anders beantworten muss als ich. Es kommt mir vor, als hätte man hierzulande ein dringendes Bedürfnis nach Schubladen, und zwar am allerliebsten nur zwei: E und U. Tatsächlich wurde das Manuskript von ein oder zwei Verlagen abgelehnt, weil sie es zwar mochten, aber nicht wussten, wo sie es einsortieren sollten. Und dann wird gleichzeitig ganz neidisch nach Großbritannien und in die USA geguckt, wo man das nicht so braucht.

Der Pfau ist sicher keine große Auseinandersetzung mit einem der drängenden Probleme unserer Zeit. Er erzählt eine unterhaltsame Geschichte, ist dabei aber hoffentlich nicht doof.

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Auf Social Media sagst du oft: “Alle bekloppt”, wenn sich Menschen zu kleinlich, hysterisch oder stolz verhalten – sich in etwas hineinsteigern. Im Buch werden die Figuren belohnt, die einen kühlen Kopf bewahren, nicht gleich das Schlimmste erwarten. Pragmatiker, Schweiger-und-Genießer, Handwerker, Leute, denen Macht und Prestige egal sind.

Ich habe keine konkrete Frage – doch nach allem, was ich von dir kenne, würde ich sagen: Wenn Isabel ein Anliegen hat, dann, dieses Menschenbild zu zeigen. Leute zu ermutigen, einen Gang runter zu schalten.

Oh! Darauf war ich noch nicht gekommen, aber das nehme ich gern als Kompliment an. “Alle mal lockermachen” ist ein gutes Anliegen. Klappt ja bei den Figuren nicht immer, wie auch sonst im Leben. Tatsächlich geht es mir aber auch in der Literatur oft auf die Nerven, wenn Figuren sich in etwas hineinsteigern oder sich immer tiefer in Lügen verstricken.

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Wirst du jetzt mit Pfauen-Quatsch bombardiert, von Freunden und Lesern? Magst du Pfauen?

Ich habe schon eine ziemliche Sammlung: dreimal Schleich, vier Glitzerpfauen zum Anklipsen, zwei Keramikschälchen, schachtelweise Pralinen in Pfauenpapier, ein Tuch, Kniestrümpfe, Cocktailspieße, ein Geschirrtuch, Federn, unzählige Postkarten, Bücher …

Ich freue mich wahnsinnig über diese Gesten. Teilweise kommen die Dinge von Leuten, die ich nur aus dem Internet kenne. Das rührt und freut mich ehrlich, auch wenn ich dem x-ten Plastikpfau vermutlich nicht mehr dieselbe genuine Liebe entgegenbringen werde. Ich ahne, dass es in einer Art komischer Verzweiflung enden wird. Denn nein, ich bin sonst kein besonderer Pfauenfan.

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Was hast du gebraucht, um dieses Buch zu schreiben: Mut? Zeit? Erfahrung? Warum jetzt – und nicht vor fünf Jahren? Oder vor 15?

Ich habe eine Kurzgeschichte geschrieben, nachdem meine schottischen Freunde mir diese Geschichte vom verrückten Pfau erzählt hatten. Die fand ich so abgefahren, dass ich sie erzählen wollte. (Mit ihrer Erlaubnis natürlich.)

Und dann habe ich sie beim Hamburger Förderpreis eingereicht, und weil sie unfertig war, kackfrech “Romananfang” drübergeschrieben. Und tatsächlich einen Preis bekommen – da fand ich, jetzt muss ich wirklich einen Roman daraus machen.

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War das dein erstes Manuskript?

Mein erster Roman, ja. Vorher ist ja schon “Sachen machen” erschienen, aber das hat sich quasi von allein geschrieben. Ich habe alle zwei Wochen etwas unternommen und es dann sofort aufgeschrieben. Die Texte erschienen alle zwei Wochen im Culturmag. Und irgendwann war ein Buch voll. Ein ganzer Roman ist doch etwas ganz anderes.

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Hast du nebenher übersetzt? Wochen- und phasenweise? Oder hast du täglich an Manuskript und an Übersetzungen gearbeitet?

Eine Zeitlang habe ich es parallel versucht, dann aber bald gemerkt, dass es nicht ging. Ich kam überhaupt nicht voran. Für die Übersetzungen hatte ich Abgabetermine, die gingen also immer vor, und am Pfau tat sich lange sehr wenig bis gar nichts.

Irgendwann habe ich mir dann eine Agentin gesucht und sie gebeten, die Peitsche zu schwingen. Und weil es dann immer noch nicht besonders gut ging, habe ich mir ein gutes halbes Jahr freigenommen, um in Ruhe schreiben zu können.

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Wie unterscheiden sich diese Arbeitsphasen? Was hast du mitnehmen können – ins Schreiben, vom Übersetzen? (Und: umgekehrt?)

Ich glaube, als Übersetzerin lernt man sprachliche Genauigkeit und ein Gefühl für die unterschiedlichen Tonlagen, die unterschiedliche Geschichten brauchen, für Rhythmus und Sound. Das hat mir sicher geholfen, auch was das eigene Selbstbewusstsein angeht – ich dachte, vielleicht schaffe ich es nicht, vielleicht scheitere ich, aber dann wird es nicht an der sprachlichen Gestaltung liegen, da fühlte ich mich in relativ sicherem Fahrwasser. Und was man beim Übersetzen auch lernt: Andere Autoren kochen auch nur mit Wasser. Das ist beruhigend zu wissen. Unsicher war ich eher in der Gestaltung der Figuren und dem Entwickeln der Geschichte. Ich hatte, anders gesagt, die Angst vorm leeren Blatt, die man beim Übersetzen nicht hat.

Umgekehrt kann das Schreiben auch das Übersetzen befruchten, weil es einen die Freiheit lehrt. Als Übersetzer neigt man manchmal dazu, zu sehr am Original zu kleben; durch das Schreiben lernt man, dass es darum geht, am Ende einen guten deutschen Text produziert zu haben. Und der ist eben nicht immer so nah wie möglich am Original.

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Sind Lesungen neu für dich – kommt mit Erscheinen des Romans viel Unerwartetes auf dich zu? Oder kennst du vieles schon aus deiner Arbeit als Übersetzerin?

Als Übersetzerin wird man verblüffend selten zu Lesungen eingeladen. Dabei interessiert es die Leute meist sehr, sobald wir erstmal anfangen, zu erzählen.

Ich hatte einige Lesungen mit “Sachen machen” und habe auch gelegentlich als Übersetzerin gelesen. Aber eine so umfangreiche Lesereise, wie ich sie jetzt mache, ist neu, und ich finde es toll! Buchhändlerinnen und Buchhändler sind wirklich super, sie machen ihre Arbeit mit so viel Leidenschaft und Begeisterung, und ich habe immer den Eindruck, das Verhältnis zwischen Buchhändlern und ihren Kunden ist ein ganz besonderes, sehr persönlich und herzlich. Und dann bauen sie manchmal ganze Bogdan-Altäre mit meinen Übersetzungen und eigenen Büchern, sie dekorieren Pfauenfedern im Schaufenster, spendieren Shortbread und Whisky zur Lesung, das ist alles wirklich rührend.

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Warum ist “Der Pfau” so viel besser als J.K. Rowlings “A Casual Vacancy”?

Ist er? Ich habe es nicht gelesen. Kann man das überhaupt vergleichen?

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Beides sind tragikomische Possen mit neurotischen Figuren und sehr vielen Verwechslungen. Aber Rowling wirkte beim Erzählen oft zu verkrampft, gewollt. „Der Pfau“ ist flinker.

Das drucke ich mir gleich aus und hänge es mir über den Schreibtisch.

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ISABEL BOGDAN, “Der Pfau”

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Der Pfau

Eine – sehr ruhige – Komödie über eine Gruppe britischer Banker und ihre schnippische Chefin, die während einem Teambuilding-Workshop in einem schottischen Herrenhaus eingeschneit werden. Draußen läuft ein Pfau umher, der auf alles pickt, das blau-metallisch glänzt. Eine Satire – aber nicht grell, laut, überdreht. Ein Zwischendurch-Buch – aber ohne Kitsch. Die Figuren sind nicht allzu tief – doch ich nehme Bogdan das britische Setting ab (gute Arbeit!). Es gibt viele Passagen, die mir zu erklärend oder redudant sind: ein Middlebrow-Unterhaltungsroman, der an keiner Stelle weh tut und der vielleicht 20 Seiten kürzer sein könnte.

Aber: Das hier hat so viel Geist, Schmiss, Charme, eine so entspannte, angenehme Grundhaltung… Ich war für fünf, sechs Stunden gern mit diesen Leuten auf diesem Landsitz. Leicht – aber klug, und gut. Empfehlung!

Sandra Gugić: „Astronauten“ (Interview)

Sandra Gugic. Foto: Dirk Skiba

Sandra Gugic. Foto: Dirk Skiba

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„Sag Ihnen, du hast mich schweben sehen“

Der erste Roman: Sandra Gugić und ihr Debüt „Astronauten“

von Stefan Mesch

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Mein Lieblingstext beim Open Mike 2012 hieß „Junge Frau, undatiert“. Wegen Sätzen wie „Ich bleibe nie lange. Meine Habseligkeiten passen in einen großen blauen Koffer aus Polykarbonat sowie einen stabilen Rucksack für Laptop, Kamera und Stativ.“

Das altmodische „Habseligkeiten“, das charmant umständliche „sowie“, das klug-präzsie „Polykarbonat“: Sandra Gugić, geboren 1976 in Wien, schafft Atmosphäre, Suggestionsräume – kein Wort wirkt beliebig. Aber jedes strebt in eine andere Richtung.

2015 erschien ihr Debütroman: „Astronauten“ (199 Seiten, C.H. Beck).

Künstler, Taxifahrer, jugendliche Vandalen, verlassene Hotels, schäbige Hinterhauswohnungen, Paranoia im Villenviertel. Ein Großstadt-Mosaik, dessen Anspruch und raffinierte Vielstimmigkeit mich überzeugte – aber hundert Fragen aufwarf. 24 davon habe ich Sandra Gugić gestellt.

Ein Interview, kurz vor Gugićs „Astronauten“-Lesung zum 23. Open Mike 2015.

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Was ist dieser Roman, „Astronauten“? Was erzählst du?

Es ist ja immer recht unangenehm, den eigenen Text zu erklären oder zusammenzufassen. Es steht ja alles drin im Roman. Mich interessieren gesellschaftliche Mechanismen, Parallelgesellschaften, Randexistenzen. Aber wo ist eigentlich der Rand, und wer zieht die Linien?

Was macht unsere Identität aus? Wie funktioniert oder scheitert unsere Gemeinschaft? Das sind die Fragen, die mich beschäftigen und sich auch in dieser formalen Lösung mit sechs verschiedenen Erzählstimmen spiegeln.

Was ist dieser Roman? Ha, jetzt will ich auch mal Pathos schreiben: ein Herz, das schlägt!

Gab es eine Keimzelle – eine erste Idee?

Ich habe mit nur einem Ich-Erzähler begonnen, Darko. Er war die Keimzelle, daraus wurde der Ursprungstext – aber alle späteren Figuren kamen schon vor. Die zweite Stimme war sein Vater, Alen. So ging das weiter, ich glaube in der Reihenfolge Mara, Niko. Alex kam ganz am Schluss dazu, dafür fiel eine andere Stimme raus. Es war einfach so, dass eine Figur nach der anderen das Wort ergriffen hat.

War Kapitel 1 dein erstes Kapitel? Hast du chronologisch geschrieben?

Das erste Kapitel entstand so ungefähr in der Reihenfolge, aber ich arbeite immer parallel, gehe im Text vor und wieder rückwärts, endlose Schleifen. Chronologisch im eigentlichen Sinne aber nicht. Das lineare Erzählen ist nicht meine Sache, mit einer linearen Art des Erzählens kann ich immer nur wieder ähnliche Weltbilder reproduzieren, aber alles geschieht gleichzeitig, parallel zueinander, es bleibt den Wegen zu folgen, die durch eine konsequente Ablehnung von Geradlinigkeit überzeugen.

Das multiperspektivische und nichtlineare Erzählen und Schreiben war für mich logische Konsequenz, um die verschiedenen Stimmen in all ihrer Dringlichkeit, ihren Gedankenschleifen, Parallelen, Widersprüchen und in dem hohen Tempo wiedergeben zu können, in dem sie sich mir erzählt haben.

Ist das ein technisches Problem für dich, bei Print-Büchern? Hättest du lieber ein Netz entwickelt, das man nonlinear lesen kann – oder das Sprünge erlaubt?

Ganz im Gegenteil. Ich sehe kein Problem, weder als technisches noch als erzählerisches, ich sehe eine Herausforderung, das Schreiben als eine Einladung zu Experiment und Spiel, der ich gefolgt bin.

Es gibt keine gerade Linie, weder in den Dingen, noch in der Sprache. Die Syntax ist die Gesamtheit von notwendigen Abwegen, die stets von neuem geschaffen werden, um das Leben in den Dingen sichtbar zu machen. // Deleuze, Kritik und Klinik

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Sandra Gugic, Foto privat

Sandra Gugic, Foto privat

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Wie nah ist das fertige Buch an dem, was du dir zu Beginn der Arbeit vorgestellt hast? Hattest du einen Plan?

Der Plan war: das muss erzählt werden, vieles hat sich mir erst im Schreiben erzählt und erschlossen, also das Verfertigen und Vervollständigen der Gedanken beim Schreiben. Vor allem beim ersten Roman ist das wahrscheinlich normal, ich weiss aber auch nicht, wie es anders gehen könnte. Ich wiederhole: Der Text ist ja angeblich klüger als die Autorin.

“Figuren, die sich mir erzählt haben” klingt schwülstig: Die Autorin als Medium, das fremde Stimmen hört.

Haha, ja Stimmen hören. Genau. Aber was, nichts dergleichen. Was ich meine ist: Das Schreiben beginnt im weißen Rauschen der Welt, Stimmen die sich da rauslösen, dringliche Stimmen, wütende Stimmen, die etwas zu sagen haben oder die angeblich nichts zu sagen haben und es trotzdem sagen. Immer noch schwülstig? Wurschtweil. So lass ich das jetzt stehen!

Hat das Buch eine Hauptfigur?

Es gibt keine Hauptfigur bzw. ist es immer die/der gerade spricht, die nach vorne tritt. Wer spricht, hört sich ja auch nur selbst oder das Rauschen seiner/ihrer Gedanken. Die Figuren waren manchmal launisch oder spröde oder unzugänglich. Ich liebe alle meine Figuren. Durchwegs Spaß gemacht hat mir Zeno, eine Freundin von mir hat gemeint, Zeno und ich, wir haben einiges gemeinsam.

Ging unterwegs etwas schief? Haben dich Figuren überrascht?

Der Weg war die Hölle war die Reise wert. Die Figuren haben mich rechts und links überholt, aber nie dumm sterben lassen.

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"Astronauten", erschienen 2015 bei C.H. Beck

„Astronauten“, erschienen 2015 bei C.H. Beck

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Wie hast du dich aufs Schreiben vorbereitet? Und wie – in welchem Rahmen, Rhythmus – hast du geschrieben?

Ich hab mich nicht vorbereitet. Ich hab einfach geschrieben. Zuhause, weil ich mir kein Büro leisten konnte und Bibliotheken mich nervös machen. Manchmal tagsüber im Café, wenn mir die Decke auf den Kopf gefallen ist. Auf einem baufälligen kleinen Balkon in Pankow. Im Hinterhof auf der Sonnenallee. In Wien, in Leipzig und in Berlin. Manchmal im Zug. Viel nachts, weil das eine unruhige Zeit in meinem Leben war und nachts alles etwas ruhiger ist, keiner ruft an, keine emails, auch die Stadt ist ruhiger als sonst.

Wann wusstest du: Das wird ein gutes Buch?

Alles was ich immer wusste war: Es muss geschrieben werden. Ich hab oft gezweifelt, dann war ich wieder euphorisch. Das ist wohl auch normal so. Aber alles was ich wusste war: Es muss.

War „Astronauten“ ein Kraftakt?

Schreiben ist für mich ein Kraftakt wie auch ein Rausch. Sprachlich und inhaltlich präzise an einem Text zu arbeiten kostet sehr viel Kraft, diese Kraft überträgt sich aber auch, schwingt zurück, wenn dieser Sog entsteht, der einen in den Text hineinzieht und in eine andere Welt katapultiert, ein gigantisches Eskapismuskatapult schleudert einen also raus in einen unbekannten Raum, dazwischen ein Schweben, vielleicht eine Millisekunde Schwerlosigkeit, und am Ende des Textes findet man sich allein wieder, auf sich selbst zurückgeworfen und leicht verkatert wie nach einer allzu langen Nacht, wenn die rauschhaften Gespräche und Begegnungen noch im Kopf nachhallen, die Gerüche, die Musik, die verpassten Gelegenheiten, die Peinlichkeiten, die unerfüllten Wünsche, während die Sonne schon gnadenlos hoch am Himmel steht und die Realität eines neuen Tages hereinbricht.

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Sandra Gugics Facebook-Profilbild. Foto: privat

Sandra Gugics Facebook-Profilbild. Foto: privat

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Warum hat die Stadt keinen Namen?

Die Stadt braucht keinen Namen, nicht in diesem Roman. Ich habe sie aus verschiedenen Orten der Realität zusammengepuzzelt, die Stadtkulisse ist fiktiv, trotzdem höre ich immer wieder von Leser/innen, dass sie diesen oder jenen Ort zu erkennen glauben, sich sicher sind. Das macht mir Spaß, wenn ich mir vorstelle, wie jede/r vielleicht seine Stadt hineininterpretiert. Es würde der Geschichte nichts hinzufügen, hätte die Stadt einen Namen.

Du benutzt Adjektive, bei denen ich Bücher oft weglege: „schneeweiß“, „hauteng“, „raspelkurz“, „blitzschnell“, „haarscharf“. Mir sind diese Worte zu verbraucht, abgeschmackt.

Das kenne ich ebenso, mein persönliches Hasswort ist „schmunzeln“. Was soll das wirklich bedeuten? Wie soll das aussehen, außer idiotisch, und warum macht das irgendjemand? Schmunzeln macht mich aggressiv. Als Wort, versteht sich. Aber ein Satz besteht ja für gewöhnlich nicht aus einem Wort. Und ein ganzer Roman auch nicht. Oder?

„Die Hitze liegt wie Sirup über der Stadt“. Im Ernst? Rollst du nicht die Augen, wenn du das anderswo liest?

Im Ernst: Ein schneeweißer Elefant steht mitten im Raum, die Augen geschlossen. Der Elefant realisiert: Ich bin hier drin, nein, er döst und träumt, wie er Honig aus dem Kopf eines Plastikbären auf ein blasses Stück Toastbrot drückt. Von rechts zischt ein rotes Etwas ins Bild, ein Eichhörnchen, es springt, ohne auch nur einen Augenblick zu zögern, blitzschnell und unfassbar anmutig auf den Rücken des Elefanten, zwischen den Zähnen hat es einen Rotstift, es hält inne und schmiegt sich an die Elefantenhaut, zwischen die Falten, spürt die Wärme, rollt dabei verzückt mit den Augen, getrieben von einer Angst, die Augen zu schließen und abzutauchen in eine Finsternis, die knapp hinter dieser Hautwärme liegt, eine Finsternis, in der das Eichhörnchen vor allem Angst hat, das ihm gerade in den Sinn kommt, jetzt gleitet die Spitze des Stifts über die Elefantenhaut, kritzelt mit manisch rhythmisch schabenden Geräuschen unermüdlich pejorative Hieroglyphen. Die Lider des Elefanten flackern, die Ohren schlackern, er stöhnt leise, vielleicht schwitzt er sogar, auf jeden Fall: Er schmunzelt.

Viele Leserstimmen und Kritiken zu “Astronauten” sind respektvoll, aber ein bisschen verhalten und nervös: Keiner scheint sich sicher, dass er das Buch richtig verstanden, die Handlungsstränge korrekt entwirrt hat. Hattest du Bedenken, dass das Buch zu dicht/verkopft wird?

Habe ich mit „Astronauten“ tatsächlich jemanden nervös gemacht, zum Nachdenken gebracht, auf die Suche nach Lösungen geschickt? Wenn ja, wunderbar. Dann bin ich froh.

In der Textarbeit an „Astronauten“ habe ich mir Fragen gestellt – und will auch keine fertigen Lösungen anbieten, es gibt genau genommen nichts richtig zu verstehen, es gibt nichts falsch zu verstehen. Aber selbstverständliche gibt es etwas zu verstehen.

Nein, ich hatte keine Bedenken, ja ich hatte selbstverständlich alle möglichen Bedenken, weil ich kritisch und hart mit meiner Arbeit bin, aber vor allem habe ich „Astronauten“ geschrieben, ohne an Markt und Konsequenzen zu denken, ich habe das Buch geschrieben, weil ich es genau so schreiben wollte, ich habe ein fertiges Manuskript an die Verlage geschickt, weil ich es ohne Verlagsdruck oder übertriebene Formung/Beeinflussung im Schreibprozess finalisieren wollte, weil ich frei schreiben wollte, auf die Gefahr hin, dass es vielleicht niemand drucken will, auf den Gewinn hin, dass ich genau die erzählerischen Entscheidungen getroffen habe, die ich für richtig gehalten habe.

Respekt! Das verstehe ich gut – und ich glaube, es hat sich gelohnt. Wie war dein Jahr als Debütantin? Und: Waren die Reaktionen in Österreich und Deutschland unterschiedlich?

Das Jahr war großartig und schrecklich und schön und hässlich und lang und zäh und verdammt müde verdammt schnell und auf und ab undsoweiter. Reaktionen waren da, sowohl in Österreich als auch in Deutschland, überaus erfreuliche und weniger erfreuliche. In die Schweiz durfte ich auch reisen, ich erinnere mich an einen Ausflug auf einen Gletscher, da stand ich allein, kurz bevor die letzte Gondel ins Tal zurück fuhr und in diesem Moment war alles gut und das Wasser war kalt und klar.

Aus psychohygienischen Gründen sollte ich mich mit diesen und jenen Reaktionen weder über Gebühr beschäftigen, noch sie auswerten. Was ich muss, ist weiter schreiben.

Kritik ist eilig, packt einen kurz, zwischendrin, und rüttelt einen durch. Relativiert die Mühsal langer Strecken, macht sich auf eine Art lustig über das gewichtige größerer Projekte, in die man sich verbissen hat, Kritik kichert darüber böse, und das hilft einem irgendwie, im Verlorenen. Das stachelt einen immer wieder neu an. Man schreit dann rum. Das tut der Arbeit gut. // Rainald Goetz, „Abfall für alle“.

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Sandra Gugic, Foto privat

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Du bist die einzige Autorin, die ich mit Farbtönen, Farbstimmungen verbinde – weil das “Astronauten”-Cover und viele deiner Social-Media-Fotos mit ähnlichen Farbverläufen arbeiten. Erzähl mehr über diese Farben!

Wenn ich schreibe, arbeite ich nicht direkt mit bestimmten Farben, aber stark mit Bildern. Schnappschüsse, die ich unterwegs mache, sind eine Ergänzung zu meinem Notizbuch. Einige dieser Bilder finden sich dann in den Texten wieder. Wie beispielsweise das tote Eichhörnchen, das in „Astronauten“ vorkommt, ich habe es beim Joggen gefunden. Das „Astronauten“-Cover habe ich selbst gestaltet, das verwendete Foto ist ein Schnappschuss, den ich bei einer Zugfahrt mit meinem Smartphone gemacht habe.

Was hast du aus “Astronauten” gelernt?

Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu glauben: Der Schreibtisch ist eine Wiese mit Schubladen. 
Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu erklären: Arbeit macht Spaß.
Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu hoffen: Spaß könne die Welt verändern.
Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu meinen: Nur das Interessante ist interessant.
Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu antworten: Literatur ist überflüssig. 
Ich habe mir abgewöhnt zu antworten: Literatur ist notwendig.
(…) // Wolf Wondratschek, Gewohnheiten

Wem empfiehlst du ‘Astronauten’?

Meinst du nach dem Motto „Kunden, die XX kauften, kauften auch XY“? Oder: „Du bist, was du liest“?

Wenn ich über die Leser/innen nachdenke, die mich nach Lesungen angesprochen haben, waren das sehr unterschiedliche Menschen ohne besondere gemeinsame Merkmale – außer vielleicht: ein wacher Geist, Neugier, eine Prise Ironie. Die Neigungsgruppe „Lesender Mensch“, hungrig auf und aufgeschlossen für Literatur, die auch ein paar Ecken und Kanten haben darf.

Im Übrigen bin ich der Meinung, dass noch folgende Begebenheit zitiert werden muss:

Ein paar Monate nach unserem Interview rief ich Herrn Frisch an, um zu fragen, ob er irgendwelche letzten Änderungen oder Kommentare hinzuzufügen hätte. „Ja“, sagte er. „Sagen Sie denen, dass ich für einen ganz kurzen Moment geflogen bin. Nur für einen Moment. –– Zur Küche und wieder zurück. Aber dass Sie mich haben fliegen sehen.“ // The Paris Review, Max Frisch im Interview

In meinem Fall also: SAG IHNEN, DU HAST MICH SCHWEBEN SEHEN!

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www.sandragugic.com

#blogfragen für Buchblogger: 15 Fragen, zum Mitnehmen und Beantworten

blogfragen

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Ich kenne tolle Buchblogs und tolle Leser*innen und Rezensent*innen. Aber ich habe viele Fragen, die mir die „über mich“-Seite oder die kurzen persönlichen Gespräche mit Bloggern oft nicht beantworten.

Deshalb habe ich – aus Neugier und ohne besondere Forschungs-, Umfrage- oder Analyse-Absicht – 15 Fragen gesammelt, die ich fast jedem Literaturblogger gern stellen würde. Falls ihr Zeit und Lust habt:

Leitet sie weiter. Beantwortet so viele (oder wenige), wie ihr wollt.

Ergänzt und kommentiert.

Ich freue mich auf Antworten und Antwort-Postings in euren eigenen Blogs: kurz oder lang. ausführlich oder in Bruchstücken.

meine Fragen:

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01 Das Lieblingsbuch meiner Mutter:

02 Das Lieblingsbuch meines Vaters:

03 Ich führe einen typischen Buchblog, weil…

04 Ich bin anders als die Blogs, die ich gern lese, weil…

05 Am Bloggen überrascht mich / beim Bloggen habe ich gelernt, dass…

06 Helfen Amazon-Rezensionen? Wobei? Wie?

07 Hilft Literaturkritik in Zeitungen und Magazinen? Wobei? Wie?

08 Helfen Blogs? Wobei? Wie? Wem?

09 Wahr oder falsch: „Ich blogge vor allem, weil ich mich über Bücher austauschen will und im persönlichen Umfeld nicht genug Menschen habe, mit denen ich das könnte.“

10 Mein persönlicher Geschmack und meine Prinzipien beim Lesen und Bewerten:

11 Wer liest mich? Habe ich eine Zielgruppe?

12 Habe ich Vorbilder?

13 Welche Ratschläge würde ich meinem früheren Lese-Ich geben? Kann man lernen, Bücher besser auszusuchen, zu entdecken und zu genießen? Wie?

14 „Verlage brauchen mich für PR. Sie brauchen mich mehr, als ich sie brauche“ …oder „Toll! Autoren und Presseabteilungen suchen Kontakt und bieten mir Bücher an. Was für ein Glück!“ Was überwiegt?

15 Was soll sich tun in meinem Blog und in meinem Leser-/Schreiber-Leben in den nächsten fünf Jahren:

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eine offene, kompliziertere Frage, die mich selbst sehr beschäftigt: Bei wieviel Prozent der Bücher, die ich gelesen habe, denke ich danach: Mist. Ich wünschte, ich hätte das nie gelesen…? Steigt oder fällt diese Prozentzahl, Jahr für Jahr. Und: Warum?

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BELLA triste Essay Stefan Mesch WordPress 06

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Bonus: Empfehlungen!

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Ein Buch, das fast niemand mag – aber das ich liebe: [warum?]

Ein Buch, das fast alle mögen – aber das mich wütend oder ratlos macht: [warum?]

Ein Buch, das ich bekannter gemacht habe:

Ein Buch, vor dem ich oft und gern warne:

Ein schlechtes Buch, das ich gut fand:

Ein gutes Buch, das ich schlecht fand:

Ein Geheimtipp, der bisher in Blogs noch kaum besprochen wurde:

Ein Buch, das viel zu oft überall besprochen wurde:

Ein gutes Buch von/über jemandem/n, der ganz anders ist als ich selbst:

Ein gutes Buch von/über jemandem/n, der ganz anders denkt als ich selbst:

Ein Buch, von dessen Gestaltung/Cover/Design sich Verlage eine Scheibe abschneiden könnten:

Ein anderes Produkt, von dessen Gestaltung/Cover/Design ich Verlage eine Scheibe abschneiden könnten:

Das netteste Presseteam / die schönste Erfahrung mit einem Verlag:

Autor*innen, die tolle Inhalte auf Facebook und Twitter posten:

mein(e) Lieblingskritiker*in/Journalist*in:

ein toller Text/Beitrag aus einem Verlagsblog:

ein Lieblings-Blogbeitrag (kein ganzer Blog):

ein Blogbeitrag von mir selbst, auf den ich stolz bin: 

mein erfolgreichster Text/Beitrag:

ein Text/Beitrag von mir, der wenig Beachtung fand, aber mehr Beachtung verdient:

eine Frage, die diesem Fragebogen fehlt:

und, zum Vervollständigen:

„Das neue literarische Quartett…“

„Auf der Buchmesse…“

„Ich bin sehr überraschend und unerwartet auf ein gutes Buch gestoßen. Und zwar…“

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Frankfurter Buchmesse 2011 WordPress

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Ich liebe Fragebögen.

Ich habe viele geschrieben, u.a. an meinen Ex-Professor, an den größten „Green Lantern“-Comicfan, Sally Pascale, an die Literaturkritik und, für Deutschlandradiokultur, „fiese Fragen“, die u.a. Karla Paul, Hans Hütt, Tilman Winterling, Mara Giese und Christiane Frohmann beantwortet haben.

Ich beantworte auch gerne Fragebögen, z.B. für die ZEIT, Christoph Kochs „Mein Medien-Menü“ oder den Open Mike. Im Mai habe ich Fragen über meine Arbeit als Übersetzer beantwortet, hier (Link).

Ich freue mich über jeden Blog-Autoren, der meine Fragen beantworten will – und bin gespannt auf die Antworten.

[Interview] Wovon lebst du eigentlich…?

ab hier kultur 2013 wordpress

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Zwei Kulturjournalisten. Zwei Kontinente. Die gleichen Niedriglöhne und Existenzängste:

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Die Redaktion von „Kultur 2013“, dem Alumni-Magazin der Universität Hildesheim und ihrer kulturwissenschaftlichen Studiengänge, bat mich im Herbst 2013, einen Text zum Thema „Geld oder Liebe“ zu schreiben: Herzens-Projekte versus Auftrags-Arbeiten, schnöde Jobs versus Schreib- und Lebensziele, Pragmatismus versus Ideale. Der Text – ein langes Gespräch mit Kulturjournalist / Freelancer / Lieblingsmensch Max Mosher – erschien im Dezember 2013 (Link).
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Stefan Mesch (30) studierte in Hildesheim und schreibt heute für ZEIT Online und den Berliner Tagesspiegel. Er wohnt bei seiner Mutter auf dem Land und arbeitet an seinem ersten Roman, “Zimmer voller Freunde”. Max Mosher (28) liefert einem Stadt- und Kulturportal in Toronto seit Herbst 2012 wöchentlich drei lange Artikel über Mode und Kultur. Um Miete und Krankenversicherung zu finanzieren, jobbt er vier Tage pro Woche als Barista. Beide hadern mit prekären Perspektiven – bis Max die Taktik ändern will: ein Facebook-Chat über Ansprüche, Angst, enttäuschte Erwartungen.

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[Max] Ich überlege, ob ich den Absprung mache.

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[Stefan] Absprung von was?

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[Max] Freelance. Freier Journalismus. Die AIDS-Hilfe sucht jemanden für PR- und Öffentlichentlichkeitsarbeit: Pressetexte zu Studien, Social-Media-Zeug usw.

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[Stefan] Eine feste Stelle. Wenn das dein Ziel sein soll – okay. Aber denk dran, woher ich komme: Fast alle meine Hildesheim-Freunde stehen mittlerweile im Beruf. Ich kucke seit fünf Jahren zu, wie JEDER ein paar Monate lang versucht, sich als freier Autor durchzukämpfen… und dann “den Absprung macht”. Statt endlich Texte zu schreiben, die er immer schreiben wollte.

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[Max] Die Hürden sind zu hoch. Für freie Autoren ist alles zäh und unsicher.

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[Stefan] Ich kenne 50 tolle Schreiber / Journalisten. Von denen vielleicht… fünf (!) noch regelmäßig schreiben. Wie absurd ist das? Der Kulturjournalist, der grade am meisten und besten publiziert, kommt aus Toronto. Nicht aus meiner Schreib-Schule!

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[Max] Wenn ich Ideen für Artikel an Zeitungen pitche, kriege ich meist nicht mal Antwort. Nach einer Weile hören Leute eben auf, sich anzubieten. Trotz Talent.

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[Stefan] Wäre ich sauer auf jeden, der eine feste Stelle am Schreibtisch sucht, hätte ich keine Freunde mehr. Aber dass viele ganz aufhören, zu schreiben? Sich mit Büro- und Orga-Arbeit abfinden? Das ist doch beschissen!

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[Max] Ob ich mit Schreiben aufhöre, kann ich mir offen halten. Ich würde vor allem aufhören, meine drei wöchentlichen Mode-Texte an mein Online-Portal zu liefern.

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[Stefan] Falls du den Schreibtischjob bekommst: Wie viele Tage pro Woche wären übrig? Für dein Schreiben, deine Projekte? Ein oder zwei? Dann mach das AIDS-Ding. Aber “ab und zu, abends und am Wochenende”? Das klappt bei keinem, den ich kenne.

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[Max] Sie bieten eine Vollzeitstelle. Also Schreiben nur nach Feierabend. Aber Stefan? Das ist jetzt schon so: Ich arbeite meine drei Texte pro Woche ab und stehe im Café, für Mindestlohn. Ein fester Job wäre keine Hiobsbotschaft. Viel Zeit für Eigenes bleibt nie!

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[Stefan] Dann sprich mit Leuten, die solche Schreibtisch-Stellen besetzen: Haben sie noch Zeit für eine Autoren- oder Journalistenkarriere? Lohnt sich das, langfristig?

[Max] Hätte ich direkt mit 24 angefangen, frei zu schreiben, wäre ich wahrscheinlich etwas weiter. Aber ich wollte den Master, machte Praktika, wohnte daheim… und jetzt, mit 28, will ich mir diese Unsicherheit nicht mehr viel länger geben.

[Stefan] Ich muss immer an Erin denken und ihre Bier-Sache: Das darf dir nicht passieren.

[Max] Ich bin nicht Erin.

[Stefan] Na ja. Fast 10 Jahre lang studiert und jobbt sie auf der ganzen Welt. Jetzt fand sie diesen Brauerei-Job. Und hat plötzlich jeden Tag Angst, dass man sie feuert. Das scheint ein riesiger, persönlicher Kampf zu sein: Sie will um jeden Preis eine tolle Bier-Vertreterin werden. Aber wenn es klappt, was ist sie dann? Eine Super-Vertretin. Keine Super-Erin. Kämpft sie, um die Person zu werden, die SIE sein will? Oder wird sie nur die Sorte Handlanger, die am bequemsten und billigsten ist… für den Brauereikonzern?

[Max] Bitte hör auf, mich mit Erin zu vergleichen.

[Stefan]Okay – aber warum? Du magst sie. Ihr habt ähnliche Wünsche. Ihr seid ähnlich nervös, weil eure Arbeitgeber viel fordern.

[Max] Erin ist neurotisch.

[Stefan]Erin will, dass endlich jemand kommt und sagt: „Auf dich habe ich gewartet! DU hast mir gefehlt.“ Ein Mann. Oder ein Chef. Und tatsächlich kommen Leute. Aber sie sagen: „Ich liebe dich – wenn du anders wirst!“ oder „Pass dich gut an – DANN loben wir dich!“ Ich will, dass Leute anfangen, Erin zu mögen. Nicht Erins wachsende Bereitschaft, für alle genau das zu werden, was sie von ihr verlangen: Hauptsache, irgend jemand lobt sie. Für irgendwas.

[Max] Ich hoffe, von mir denkst du das nicht.

[Stefan]Du bist weniger gefallsüchtig. Weniger willig, dich zu verbiegen. Aber ihr wollt beide passen. Endlich dazugehören.

[Max] Die meisten von uns haben weniger Glück mit Auftraggebern und Redaktionen als du: Wir brauchen feste Jobs, um unsere Rechnungen zu zahlen. Meist sagen wir “Augen zu und durch!” und arbeiten irgendwo.

[Stefan] So viel “Glück” hatte ich nicht. Ich hänge hier in der Provinz und schlafe in meinem alten Kinderzimmer. Hätte ich große finanzielle Verpflichtungen wie ein WG-Zimmer in einer Stadt könnte ich nicht weiter schreiben, jeden Tag.

[Max] Auf jeden Fall würde mir die AIDS-Hilfe mehr zahlen als das Café. Ich könnte eine gute Sache unterstützen. Und notfalls kündige ich eben wieder.

[Stefan] Du hast bessere Umstände, besseren Lohn, ein besseren Alltag verdient: Du arbeitest wie verrückt, um finanziell auf eigenen Beinen zu stehen. Du lebst erwachsener als ich.

[Max] Aber wie lange soll ich rumkrebsen? Ohne Aussicht auf Festanstellung oder regelmäßige Aufträge? Das Portal zahlt 200 Dollar für drei Texte. Davon kann keiner leben. Ich habe keine Zeit, jede Woche fremden Redakteuren fünf eigenständige Ideen zu recherchieren, anzubieten – und wenn die Absage kommt, zu schreiben: Toll: Dann schicke ich gleich drei andere, neue!” Die Zeit und Energie, die solche Pitches kosten, brauche ich zum Geldverdienen.

[Stefan] Meine Regel ist, fünf Sachen zu versuchen. Fünf Leute anzuschreiben. Ich werde erst weinerlich, wenn volle fünf Absagen zusammen sind.

[Max] Du hast neulich zugegeben, dass Redakteure auf den Großteil deiner Ideen anspringen.

[Stefan] Wenn ich fünf Sachen probiere, klappen drei davon, früher oder später.

[Max] Glückwunsch. Dann stell dir vor, du müsstest Zeitschriften, die dir oft unsympathisch sind, ständig neue Vorschläge machen – meist ohne jedes Feedback, immer vergebens. Wenn ich keine Kraft für diese Scharmützel habe, ist der Krieg verloren. Aber langsam merke ich, wie bitter und negativ ich werde: So war ich nie. So ticke ich nicht!

[Stefan] Überleg länger, was DU willst. Nicht, was andere Leute von dir wollen. Die AIDS-Hilfe braucht keinen Max Mosher. Deine Ziele und Ansprüche haben dort keine Priorität.

[Max] Torontos Stadtmagazine brauchen keinen Max Mosher. Flare und Elle brauchen keinen Max Mosher. Niemand will mich drucken – und bezahlen.

[Stefan] Braucht Max Mosher Max Mosher?

[Max] Du meinst: Braucht die Person den Autor?

[Stefan] Ja: Muss diese Person schreiben? Ein Autor sein? Ist das nötig?

[Max] Tja. Das zeigt sich dann wohl bald.

[Stefan] Ich würde am liebsten für sechs Monate nach Toronto fliegen, Privatsekretär spielen und dir Artikel sichern.

[Max] Das muss ich selbst schaffen.

[Stefan] Dann sprich mit Leuten, die für Flare, Elle usw. schreiben und dir Tipps geben: Manchmal reicht Ausdauer. Stehenbleiben. Viele Konkurrenten geben einfach auf, mit der Zeit. Und viele Ex-Hildesheimer sind genauso talentiert als Journalist oder Autor. Aber sie schreiben nicht. Weil sie schneller Geld und Sicherheiten brauchen, oder keine Geduld mehr haben: Ich war umgeben von… Sängern. Viele sangen besser als ich! Aber nach und nach hören fast alle auf: ein Chor, immer dünner, leiser. Mit immer weniger Stimmen.

[Max] Alle hier freuen sich über die AIDS-Sache und wünschen mir Glück für die Bewerbung.

[Stefan] Die erste Bewerbung wird nicht klappen. Aber die dritte. Oder die fünfte. Ich kenne keinen, der einen Bürojob fand und danach wieder (glücklicher!) Freelancer wurde. Trotzdem sind sie zufriedener als direkt nach dem Studium. Und reicher.Vielleicht vermisse ICH es mehr, regelmäßig Texte von ihnen zu lesen, als SIE es vermissen, solche Texte zu schreiben.

[Max] Du glaubst so sehr an mein Talent. Sorry, dass das hier klingt wie ein Streit.

[Stefan] Ich hatte diesen “Streit” so oft: Wärt ihr ab morgen alle Hedge-Fund-Manager, ich würde euch trotzdem lieben. Blöd nur: Wenn DU die Förderanträge für die AIDS-Hilfe nicht schreibst, schreibt sie halt irgendwer. Aber wenn du keine Reportagen, Essays schreibst… werden diese Texte nie geschrieben. Das fehlt. Mir fehlt es. Immer mehr. Und dir?

[am nächsten Tag:]

[Max] Die Stellenausschreibung galt nur bis vorgestern. Sie wollten Bewerber mit IT- und Programmier-Kenntnissen. Alles bleibt, wie es ist.

ab hier kultur 01.

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Stefan Mesch lebt seit 2009 drei Monate im Jahr in Toronto, als freier Autor und Übersetzer; und neun Monate im leerstehenden Haus seiner toten Großeltern, in der Provinz bei Heidelberg. Texte unter stefanmesch.wordpress.com

Maximilian Mosher schreibt über Film- und Modegeschichte, Politik und Alltagskultur, u.a. für WORN Fashion Journal. 2012 bis 2013 schrieb er 130 Mode-Artikel für ein Online-Portal in Toronto. Jetzt sucht er neue Auftraggeber. Twitter: @max_mosher_

.2013 ab.hier.kultur Max Stefan.

verwandte Links:

Interview: Ayelet Waldman – author of „Bad Mother“ and HBO’s new „Hobgoblin“

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In 2010, when her essay collection „Bad Mother“ (Link) was finally published in Germany, I had the opportunity to interview Ayelet Waldman for a big German weekly, Die ZEIT.

We spoke on the phone, for about 40 minutes, and before I translated and shortened the interview for the – much quicker / condensed – German version (Link), I did a lengthy transcript… colloquialisms, warts and all.

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Ayelet Waldman (Link: Wikipedia) was born in 1964. She studied law at Harvard University and lives in Berkeley with her husband, Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon (Link), and their four children. In the last decade, Ayelet Waldman has started to publish mysteries, literary fiction and personal essays – and she’s quickly growing into one of the most outspoken and relatable US intellectuals when it comes to questions of motherhood, domestic life and the conflicts of women in the professional sphere.

In 2011, Chabon and Waldman developed a new HBO drama, the supernatural period piece „Hobgoblin“ (Link). During our phone conversation (in October of 2010), Waldman explained the development and pitching process and the early stages of script development.

Here’s our interview! Enjoy!

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Stefan Mesch: Thank you for having me! I’m nervous – this is my first transatlantic interview!

Ayelet Waldman: Don’t be nervous! I’m like a little machine: You just ask me a question, you turn me on and I will RUN!

Stefan Mesch: Awesome! So you are… an accomplished novelist and just published „Red Hook Road“ this summer, you’re an essayist, you’re a mom, you’re the wife of a Pulitzer-winning author – and you’re addressing all these issues: contemporary parenting, gender roles… How do you see yourself? What’s your place in life right now

Ayelet Waldman: It’s a funny question to ask because I think that in this stage of my life, my head has been down for so long… just looking down, working so hard – I haven’t lifted it up take a more macro look at what I’m doing. It’s more about getting from minute to minute, you know?

But I have been thinking lately that it is time to figure out the greater question of what I’m going to do professionally. When I try to imagine my career having an arc, I’m still figuring out what that arc is. Recently, I had agreed with my publisher to try a second book like ‚Bad Mother‘, a kind of hybrid, essayistic form… but I found myself really resisting doing that and I found that I didn’t have anything that I wanted to say right now. I needed to take a minute to ask myself: ‚What do I want to do next?‘

Not: ‚What is going to sell the most?‘ Or: ‚What is likely to make me the most money?‘ But: ‚What do I really want to do next?‘ And there is a novel idea that I had been working on whenever I had the time. So – that’s what I realized that I actually want to do right now, and it’s what I’m doing: Embarking on another novel project.

I wrote the essays for ‚Bad Mother‘ (Link) in the middle of ‚Red Hook Road‘ (Link), but for this next novel, this will mean a couple of years of quiet. I probably won’t be writing articles! I still have a small public presence via Twitter (Link) and Facebook (Link) – but I think that after this coming election is over, I won’t be having a lot to say about politics.

Stefan Mesch: That’s sad – but I can see that…

Ayelet Waldman: I will write this next book; focus on that instead of having this kind of public persona. I’m also at the stage where my children are old enough that they don’t want me to write about them! They really don’t want me to write about motherhood! So I need to take a more quiet approach: My two oldest are teenagers and I don’t think they even like to hear my name in their house.

Stefan Mesch: So were there… repercussions in your family circle?

Ayelet Waldman: There weren’t really – but I think there would be if I kept writing the kinds of essays that I’ve been writing. If I kept going, I think there would be.

Stefan Mesch: What is making you worried, specifically?

Ayelet Waldman: It’s not so much about being worried. The children now have very independent identities. They are developing stories about their own lives, they’re creating their own narratives. My daughter is fifteen, and she’s entitled to express her feelings herself and not have to see it through the lense of her mother’s thoughts, her mother’s ideas, whether they’d be personal… psychological… or political.

Stefan Mesch: I can see that. And the prospect of another novel sounds great. Were you happy with [this summer’s family novel] ‚Red Hook Road‘?

Ayelet Waldman: I was happy for about fifteen minutes, and that’s how it always is: There’s nothing as horrible as re-reading a book you’re already finished with, so every time I open it up all I see now is places that I could have trimmed! [‚Red Hook Road“s] boxing match? All I wanted to do is go back and cut out the repetetive moments of it – go back and trim and cut and re-write. But you know: I think that happens to every writer.

Red Hook Road“ was a huge step forward for me on a literary level and I worked on it harder than I’ve worked on any book before: I am really proud of that. The quality of my prose took a loop forward. Now, I’m writing on this new novel and I once wrote a book that I loved but that I ended up throwing away for all different sorts of reasons and I had promised myself that I would harvest bits and pieces of it in this new, different work.

I thought: ‚I have this perfect chapter in this book that I wrote (called ‚The Bloom Grows‘) and I’m going to go and use that, change it a little bit and insert it here in the novel!“ Then I went and trimmed it out and I got it into the new novel… and I realized that the prose wasn’t good enough. It seemed clichéd, it seemed hackneyed, it seemed sort of… bulky, it didn’t flow well enough… you know, I wrote it probably seven years ago and it wasn’t good enough anymore!

Stefan Mesch: You could actually see your own progress?

Ayelet Waldman: Yeah – that is what keeps people going from book to book: The idea that you’re making progress, that you’re learning and you’re getting better.

Actually, I don’t remember how many years ago this happened, but it was before I wrote [my novel] ‚Love and other Impossible Pursuits‘ [published in 2006, Link]:

I’ve always straddled this line between being a commercial writer and being a literary writer and I kind of wavered back and forth, and I was whining to my husband about that, and he said: „You know, your problem is that you don’t read like a writer, you read like a reader. You love to read and you grab a lot of books, but you need to make much more conscious decisions what you read and you need to read much more analytically. Once you do that, you’ll find that your prose gets better!“

Initially, I sort of tried to defend myself. But almost immediately, I realized that he was right and that I had been reading too voraciously and too quickly and just for the love of reading. Now I have a much more critical approach to a lot of my reading, and I think you see that in my writing, too: One of the reasons that my writing has gotten better is that my reading has gotten better. Although I still haven’t managed to make it through Proust, which may be a sign that there’s only so far I am going to go.

Stefan Mesch: I was impressed with „Red Hook Road“… so please continue whenever you’ll find the time! What about your timetable, though? Do you see yourself as a mom with a half-time job, or… what’s your… ‚identity‘?

Ayelet Waldman: I don’t know – because whenever I’m not working, I feel like I’m procrastinating. But realistically, I’ll only write a few hours a day. Then, there’s all the other stuff that’s part of the job, like talking to you. So it IS very part-time in the sense that when I was a lawyer, I was working twelve-hour days. But it didn’t feel… you know – I’m probably a full-time a writer.

Because there are writers who claim that they write twelve hours a day, but the only one who really does is Joyce Carol Oates. Everyone else is lying! I certainly produce as much as some full-time writers. But it’s hard to think that when your job is kind of… amorphous and it kind of expands and contracts depending of where you are on your projects, it’s hard to think of yourself as „half-time“ or „full-time“.

I like to think of myself as part-time-everything: part-time writer… I certainly think of myself as a part-time mother because I’m always feeling so guilty that I’m not spending enough time with the kids and as a part-time writer because I’m always feeling guilty that I’m not spending enough time writing… and then there are these long parts of the day where I feel like all I’m doing is things on the internet.

If there wasn’t an internet, I’d be a full-time writer AND a full-time mother and I would do everything beautifully and with incredible focus: I blame the web for all my woes.

Stefan Mesch: When you were an attorney, you were working full-time, and then you switched to being a full-time mom, so basically, fifteen years ago, you still thought of yourself as someone who did things full-time. And then something happened. So… was it a growth process? Or did you just feel like you were falling apart? Was it a crisis? How did this switch happen?

Ayelet Waldman: You know, it had a lot to do with envy: I was working really, really hard and I would get these wonderful e-mails… no, wait, this was before the days of e-mail! I would get phone calls from Michael who would spend all this time with our daughter, playing. He was working at night, but his days were free; he would have these long, languid days and he joyfully put her into one outfit after another to take her photograph – they would spend hours doing that, you know? Taking pictures of the baby.

They would go for walks! They would go to bookstores and just have these lovely days with her that I was jealous of. I was jealous of him spending time with her, but I was also jealous of her because she got to spend all this time with him, and I had this idea that if I came home, we would be able to travel and we would all be together and it would be wonderful and it would be easy.

Working full-time and taking care… it’s exhausting to just do it all, and I had this idea that it would be easy and languid and marvelous. So when I quit, I had in the back of my had the idea that it was going to be short-term, and I couldn’t just walk away from one job, so what I did was I got a part-time job teaching at a law school. When I left my job as a public defender, I would still do SOMETHING – but that was very part-time, it was a single class and it was in the evening and it never… it felt like I was a full-time mom with just this little side thing, teaching law school.

I mean: It wasn’t a mistake. I don’t think it was a mistake to leave my job in the public defender’s office because I ended up writing and that has been a very satisfying carreer for me. But the mistake was thinking that I would ever be able to tolerate being a full-time mother. That was not me!

Stefan Mesch: Because you plunged into depression.

Ayelet Waldman: Yeah. I mean: Something about the monotony of suddenly not BEING someone, you know, not having an independent identity, I just thought it was boring – boring, boring, boring. And I became profoundly depressed. And you know, I taught for a year, and then we moved up to Berkeley and when we came here, I still had another very part-time teaching job, but then I really was a mother… for three years… with two kids, one in pre-school and one home full-time.

And the one who was home full-time was sort of a constant round-the-clock nurser, a VERY good baby, you know, but it really was a very difficult time in my life.

Stefan Mesch: Did you feel guilty that you didn’t enjoy it more? Did you KNOW that you were depressed, or did it really take time to acknowledge the fact that you’re not getting as much out of it as you thought you would?

Ayelet Waldman: I knew that I was depressed, certainly. But I also felt so much shame for not enjoying it… it was awful to not love every minute of it, but it was almost like I couldn’t convince myself. But then I still insisted on doing it because I not only felt that I had to do it, I had to like it. I felt like I was failing.

Stefan Mesch: And what was the turning point? Was there a moment when you stood up and said: „Okay – something needs to change!“?

Ayelet Waldman: I had begun to toy with the idea of writing while I was still teaching. I was writing a lot of legal protocol, and then I started to sort of flirt with the idea of writing this murder mystery. Initially, I had no expectation of being published. It just seemed like something I could be doing. And then I just worked away on that – not working very hard on it, just once a day, during nap time -, but after a couple of years of that (you know: babies sleep a lot!), I had a book.

And THAT was the turning point when I sent the book off to my husband’s agent and she accepted it and sold it and suddenly… it wasn’t like I was happy the next day, it took a lot of time for me to admit that I was writing, and that that was a carreer, too, and to treat that as a real thing, to value it, you know, a long time I was thinking that I was on maternity leave and not that I was acutally writing silly little murder mysteries (Link).

Stefan Mesch: Did you actually tell people around you or was it something that you did in private for a while before you told people that you were working on a manuscript?

Ayelet Waldman: I kept it a secret, I was terrible about that. It seemed so much like I was ‚the writer’s wife‘, ‚working on her own little novel‘, I felt like I had heard that story before and that it made me feel sorry for the woman: ‚Oh, really? Of COURSE she is! Isn’t that cute? Writing a book. Ooooh!‘

I didn’t want to be that person. You know, I’d had this really independent identity, so that suddenly doing something that was so clearly in his shadow, I was emberrassed about it.

Stefan Mesch: Were you emberrassed in front of your husband, too? Did you have to ‚come out‘ to him?

Ayelet Waldman: Yeah! You know, I had made a toast on our wedding. Michael’s first wife was a poet who had never been published, or very rarely, and that was part, I think, of what was wrong with their marriage, so on our wedding, I made this toast on how I’m never going to be a writer and I was always going to have health insurance for him and I was always going to support him and nobody had to worry about us… blah, blah, blah – and than, lo and behold, two years later, I said: „Oh, I’m writing a novel!“

I was horrible about that, so I kept it a secret for a long time. And then, when I gave it to him, I said: „Look. If this is garbage, I want to know. I don’t want to be working on something that is stupid, and I don’t want to be one of those idiots struggling with something they’re bad at, so tell me, tell me if it’s bad!“

And he said: „This is great. Keep going!“ And I wouldn’t hear it. I said: „No. Look: I don’t want to hear it’s great. Tell me the truth!“ And he just kept going „It’s great. Just keep writing!“ And finally, I listened to him and I kept going. And there it was.

Stefan Mesch: But you didn’t write when you were a teenager or when you were in law school?

Ayelet Waldman: No! You know, I was always very good at writing brief. My briefs were always very good briefs and my bosses did rely on me to write these pizzazz-y briefs. I never wrote the typical dry legal prose, I always wrote with a little bit of style because I knew that that’s what I like to read, so I wanted to give… I knew the judges, they were readers, too, and I knew that I could better convince them if your brief is worth the read. But did I ever write fiction or anything? No.

But you know? I was a criminal defense attorney: Much of my writing was telling the stories of my clients and trying to convince the judges to be lenient. And WHAT is that – if not fiction? „Your Honor, this guy is so wonderful – let me tell you about the ways that he is wonderful. Really. I promise! He’s not a bad guy!“

Link to the German version, ZEIT Online: Link

Stefan Mesch: What are you reading right now? Not as in „this very moment“, but you’ve said that you always need to read something to become a better reader.

Ayelet Waldman: I’m reading on three tracks right now. The first track is stuff that I’m reading very specifically for a novel that I’m writing, and that ranges from a lot of Hungarian history – part of the novel is set in Budapest in about 1900 -, so I keep reading and try to find Hungarian fiction which you can’t find a lot translated into English. And I’m expanding to stuff about Vienna in the earliest part of the 20th century, and that’s non-fiction, mostly, although I do still look for novels, too, because those give you a great sense of… you know, if you want to know what people are eating and wearing, it’s good to read fiction from that time period. So the struggle with the book is that so little Hungarian literature has been translated specifically from that period – so I’m reading that kind of stuff.

I am reading for a project that Michael and me are working on together, I’m reading about spycraft and magic…

Stefan Mesch: That sounds awesome – can you elaborate, please? The fanboys will go crazy…

Ayelet Waldman: I can’t say much about the project, but the last book I’ve read was called „Operation Mincemeat“ by Ben Macintire (Link) and it was about this deception perpetrated by MI6 on Hitler’s „Der Adler“ – they tried to convince them that the invasion of the mediterranian was going to come through Greece rather than through Sicily, so they created a very faboulous fake corps with fake letters and all that stuff… I’ve read that.

And then, I always read fiction that I think will inspire… fiction that feels like the novel I am working on. Not likely from the same period or anything like that, just writers who write with a kind of voice that feels right for what I’m doing, that feels like it can help me, so for example when I wrote „Red Hook Road“, I’ve read some Anne Tyler (Link), I’ve read some Elizabeth Strout (Link), I read a bunch of Alice Munro, read and re-read AND re-read Alice Munro (Link)… so for THIS book I’ve just re-read a book by an American writer named Julia Glass called „Three Junes“ (Link) because one of the things I am trying to do is three sections of the book that work independently but also work together, they’re all part of the same novel, but they have different characters. So I just re-read that to pick apart how she does it.

Also, I re-read some Ian McEwan (Link) because of the way he writes about period. „The Innocent“ (Link) is a book that takes place in post-war Berlin and I read the book because I wanted detail on post-imperial culture, I just wanted to take a look on how he dealt with period.

And I have been reading some Coetzee (Link) because there’s a kind of distance he has in his prose. There’s one book in particular, „Summertime“ (Link), that I’ve just read – especially about the way he draws you into the story, he’s so sparse and so precise.

I tend to have sort of a florid tendency and he’s a good antidote for that. There are writers whose work I enjoyed who, if I read them right now, would be really bad for me: If I read Nicole Krauss (Link) right now… she has this same kind of florid tendency that I have. And that wouldn’t work for me right now, so I can read and enjoy those books when I’m working on something else, but right now, I think that would be bad for me – I need writers that are much more strict. I’m always kind of imitating who I’m reading at the moment, and it’s good for me to imitate, so right now, I should do my best to do a pale approximation of Coetzee.

Stefan Mesch: Did this love for reading translate to all members of your family?

Ayelet Waldman: Wouldn’t that be nice? Actually, one of our children said „I hate reading. It’s SO boring!“, and my husband and I promptly just stabbed one another in the heart. No, a couple of them read: Our littlest is an avid reader, but what’s most exciting is that when he picks up a book, he gets sucked into it almost immediately; you can actually see it happening: his face is buried in the book and you can’t pry him out. That’s nice to see.

And our younger daughter, the one who’s dyslexic, also just loves, loves, loves to read, so THEY are readers, our older kids less so, although our [older] daughter, she’s very excited about books she likes, she reads a lot but she also listens to a lot of [radio shows] „This American Life“ and Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff (Link).

And she’s doing this amazing project with Dave Eggers – Dave Eggers has more energy than anyone on the planet. Every year he does this project with high school students where they publish a book. It’s called „Best American Nonrequired Reading“ (Link) and they read, the harvest all those short stories and essays and publications from around America and they put out a book, and she’s on that project this year. I don’t know how that man actually… he must not sleep. But she meets with him and this group once a week and she’s been reading fabulous stuff for that, and I think it’s turning her into an even more devoted reader.

Stefan Mesch: Does that mean she’s part of the editing process? She’s reading all these other peoples‘ texts?

Ayelet Waldman: Exactly, and it’s giving her this great editorial eye, so that’s good for the future, I think – we can ALWAYS use more editors around here (laughs). And it’s so funny because they always have an opinion. I was pitching a TV series to ABC. I did a pitch at the dinner table, and my youngest one, at seven, he said: „Yeah. It’s missing some sha-whoa!“ And I said: „What?“ And he said: „No, it misses something – you need a little sha-whoa!“ And he was totally right, it WAS missing something. I’m not sure what sha-whoa is, but whatever sha-whoa is…. it was missing it.

Stefan Mesch: Is the project still in development? Are you still shopping it around?

Ayelet Waldman: This one died a sad and lonely death, as does most stuff in Hollywood, but I always have some iron in the fire. You know, in America, our lives are basically defined by our desperate need for health insurance, and writers don’t get health insurance and we don’t have any… you know, it’s a complete hysterical, panic-ridden struggle particularly in my family: we’re Jewish, devoted hypochondriacs, so we have all these illnesses real and imagined, so we’re ALL desperate for health insurance, and Hollywood is the only way that writers can get… that WE have found, so we can get insurance, so we always have something in the fire so I can go to my psychiatrist, so I can go to my gastroenterologist… do all those things that your basic neurotic jew must do.

Stefan Mesch: Good luck with these pitches! So… what’s the biggest misperception about motherhood? Do you feel like there’s some big, collective lie?

Ayelet Waldman: Yes – that it’s a constant joy, and that if you’re not full of joy, something is wrong with you. I think that’s the biggest lie. Or… you know what else? There are so many! Another lie is that it can only be done… that it MUST be done in a certain way and that our children do better if we hover over them and manage every moment of their existence, and I actually think that the real truth is that our children, what they need from us, is exactly the opposite, they need from us our inattention, they need to be on their own and they need to be bored and they need to learn to navigate the world, without the… this has been a terrible lesson for me to learn, but kids need to learn to navigate the world without my constant interference! And it’s hard for me to learn that.

You know, I still find myself… just the other day, my son was ill and I was e-mailing with his teacher about the make-up excam, asking when he was going to take it know, but then I thought „He’s thirteen! He can decide! He can find a date for his own damn make-up­-exam, he doesn’t need his mommy doing that for him!“ So I think that’s one of the biggest… I think we all need to learn to let go a little bit more. I mean – I don’t mean to say „Leave your toddler alone, while you go off…“, but…

Stefan Mesch: It’s about giving kids a free range.

Ayelet Waldman: You don’t have to go on every play-date! I don’t know if you have this phenomenom in Germany, the play-date…

Stefan Mesch: Yeah. We have.

Ayelet Waldman: So I can’t tell you how many time these mothers have come to my house and then I’ve suddenly realized ‚Wait a minute, this is… they’re STAYING! This is a play-date for all of us. I have to spend time with these… lovely women.‘

I don’t want a play-date! I want to sit and read the New York Times. I don’t want to play with you! The children will be fine. They’re better off if we’re not playing with them.

Stefan Mesch: So who do you think has an interest to create this kind of image of the happy, fun-loving, easy-going mom? Where does that come from? Who gains by that public idea?

Ayelet Waldman: Who gains? I loved how you said „The happy, fun-loving, easy-going mom“ – wait! Where is she? I want to be her! I think that the current expectation that mothers are ever-present and entirely self-obligating is a curious phenomenom because JUST when women have entered the workforce in greatest numbers these past few decades, three things did happen simultaneously.

One: motherhood suddenly became this thing that you needed to do with all your focus and all your attention. See, my mother used to open the door and said „See you tonight“, but now, suddenly, motherhood demands this constant effort, you must attend the children’s playdates, you must bake the cookies, being a mom becomes this MUCH more demanding, rigulous enterprise… and at the same time, WORK has become this much more demanding, rigulous enterprise. So when I was a young girl and the train pulled into the station from New York City, while this was in suburban New York, all the daddies got off the train at 6.30 at night, you know? Now the train pulls into the station and nobody gets off that train at 6 or 6.30, people get off the train at 8 or 8.30 because work has suddenly expanded and a full-time job is no longer 40 hours a week, it’s much more demanding.

So three things have happened: Women have entered the workplace and SOMEHOW, coincidentally, the workplace has become much more demanding AND their expectations of their role as mothers have become much more demanding, so suddenly, it has become impossible to do both.

So if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you’ll say „Well, this is certainly the patriarchies‘ way of defending it’s hegemony“, right? So now, you’re in a worse place because you might have managed it to work full-time in 1960 and be at home in 1960, but it isn’t. But then, I’m not necessarily a conspiracy theorist: So maybe the answer is just that this is what we have. There’s no point in whining about it. And what we need to do is do our best to change it. I think the most effective way to change both work and home is to demand male participation in the home life because as soon as men realize there are – and I think European men are way ahead of American men in this thing, they are actually spending more time at home and going on paternity leave and all that – but as soon as they realize the rewards and the challenges of being intimately involved in the domestic sphere, they will demand changes in the public sphere that are necessary.

So I have my hope that that will happen. I used to think my job was to raise strong-willed women who will demand that their husbands – if they are heterosexual – can grasp the domestic responsibilities, but now I realize that the much more important job is to raise men who expect to do that, too – as opposed to see this role as a woman’s role.

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After a 40-minute conversation, our interview ended: Ms. Waldman had to get burritos for the ‚burrito day‘ at her son’s school. To finish up, we had a short final exchange by e-mail:

Stefan Mesch: When you wrote „Bad Mother“, did you ever feel like you were over-sharing or outside of your comfort zone? How did you feel about breaching the ‚taboo‘ that still surrounds a lot of domestic problems by adressing your loved ones‘ more personal issues?

Ayelet Waldman: The things that felt like oversharing got edited out! Actually, it’s always funny to me that I’m accused of oversharing. There’s so much people don’t know. And there are so many things I’d simply never say. For example, I don’t think there’s a single time where I’ve ever written about an argument my husband and I have had. Now, obviously, we argue. All couples do. But the nitty gritty of those arguments? That’s not something I’d ever share.

Stefan Mesch: In „Manhood for Amateurs“ (Link), your husband writes about a lot of the same issues – but he makes it sound a little more… whimsical and easy going. Childhood is an adventure, fatherhood is a blessing… does he have a different outlook – or is he in a better place than you?

Ayelet Waldman: Funny. It comes down, I think, to the fact that fatherhood is simply less fraught than motherhood. To receive accolades for being a good father it’s enough, quite simply, to show up. Anything more and you’re a paragon of virtue.

Stefan Mesch: There is a „culture of confession“, with memoirs, talk shows, blogging… but still, your book got so much attention and seems like a rather singular concept: Is there STILL a void that needs to be filled? Is there STILL a need for more *personal* accounts of these kind of first-world struggles?

Ayelet Waldman: Let’s hope so! I’ve got four children to send to college. In all seriousness, I enjoy reading nonfiction and essays that speak to my own experience, and I enjoy reading essays and nonfiction that illuminate the experiences of others. I think that will always be true.

Stefan Mesch: One theme of your writing are control issues and the influence other people’s expectations have on people’s decisions. „Red Hook Road“’s Iris is a very micromanaging mom who wants to shoulder ALL the problems of her family. Do you find these urges inside yourself? Or is it more like some kind of… cautionary tale about helicopter parents?

Ayelet Waldman: Absolutely. Iris is in some ways my worst self. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that she’s the self I’m most afraid of being.

Stefan Mesch: Thank you so much! This was one of the nicest interviews I’ve ever had. Please let me know if I can get you some iTunes or Amazon gift card-thingy: You’ve went out of your way – and I’d like to say thanks!

Ayelet Waldman: OF COURSE NOT. It was an absolute pleasure.

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„Bad Mother“ at Amazon: Link

„Red Hook Road“ at Amazon: Link

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Related Links: Interviews (English)

  • Interview: Sally Pascale – feminist, suburban mother… and the world’s most passionate ‚Green Lantern‘ fan (English, Link)
  • Interview: CEB, author of Collected Editions (English, Link)

Interviews, German:

„Nichts werden macht auch viel Arbeit“: Autorin Anne Köhler im Interview

frech vom Bildschirm abfotografiert: fünf Praktikantinnen des DuMont-Verlags mit Anne Köhlers Bericht/Sammlung „Nichts werden macht auch viel Arbeit“, 2010.

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Letzten Oktober interviewte ich meine Hildesheim-Kollegin, Autorin, Journalistin und passionierte Nebenjobberin Anne Köhler zu ihrem neuen Buch „Nichts werden macht auch viel Arbeit: Mein Leben in Nebenjobs“ für das Karriere-Ressort bei ZEIT Online.

Hier ist die (deutlich längere), erste Version unseres Gesprächs: weniger geschliffen – aber mit mehr Details zu Annes Methodik, Erfahrungen und eigenen Interessen.

Eine Art Director’s Cut. Viel Spaß!

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„Meine Interessen sind ärgerlich vielfältig.“

Seit fünfzehn Jahren wechselt die Autorin Anne Köhler ihre Jobs: Ein Interview über Selbstverwirklichung – und Existenzangst.

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Anne Köhler: ‚Nichts werden macht auch viel Arbeit. Mein Leben in Nebenjobs‘

DuMont Verlag, Köln 2010.

Perlentaucher (Link) | Amazon.de (Link) | Goodreads.com (Link)

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Stefan Mesch: ‚Anne und ihre Jobs‘ hieß die Kolumne, für die du deine Arbeit in 21 Studiengängen, Praktika und Aushilfsjobs beschrieben hast. Jetzt sind die Texte als Buch erschienen, „Nichts werden macht auch viel Arbeit. Mein Leben in Nebenjobs.“ Womit begann deine Karriere?

Anne Köhler: Ernsthaft begann sie wohl, als ich verstand, wie enorm hilfreich es ist, fünf Jahre alt und süß zu sein: Ich konnte an den Haustüren im Dorf selbstgepflückte Blumensträuße verkaufen. Ich habe viel früh ausprobiert, als Schülerin in der Gärtnerei gejobbt, mich in der Jugendpolitik engagiert, in den Ferien als Kinder- und Jugendbetreuerin. Das waren erst Versuche, mit viel Spaß verbunden. Irgendwann ging es dann mehr darum, Geld verdienen zu müssen – und damit veränderten sich auch die Jobs.

Stefan Mesch: Ende der Neunziger, nach deinem Abitur, hast du Architektur und Kunstgeschichte in Berlin studiert und nebenher bei der Post und als Messehostess gearbeitet. Doch du hast alles abgebrochen: die Studiengänge und die Jobs.

Anne Köhler: Ich wusste, dass ich Kunst studieren will, aber dafür muss man Mappen füllen, für die Bewerbung und die Aufnahmeprüfungen. In jeder Mappe mussten Originale sein, und weil die Bewerbungsfristen oft in den gleichen Monaten lagen, waren nicht mehr als 1 bis 2 Bewerbung pro Jahr zu schaffen. Ich konnte mir für diese „Mappenphase“ nicht vorstellen, dass es für mich gut wäre, nur alleine mit mir zu arbeiten. Darum waren Architektur und Kunstgeschichte nahe liegende Fächer: Ich wollte möglichst viel lernen. Ich glaube auch, dass mich diese Zeit tatsächlich sehr im Positiven geprägt hat. Doch trotz drei Jahren Vorbereitung hat es dann nie zum Kunststudium gereicht – ich war immer ganz gut, aber nie gut genug. Keiner konnte mich richtig einordnen, denn ich habe schon damals sehr viel mit Texten gearbeitet.

Stefan Mesch: Früh morgens im Postzentrum Briefe zu sortieren war ein recht angenehmer Nebenjob für dich, aber das Kellnern auf der Messe fiel dir furchtbar schwer.

Anne Köhler: Wenn du für wenig Geld im Nadelstreifenkostüm und auf hohen Schuhen zwölf Stunden lang bis tief in die Nacht gekellnert hast, träumst du von einer Welt ohne Schmerzen in den Füßen. Aber das Deprimiendste ist wohl, wenn du so einen Job nur des Geldes wegen machen musst: Dann verliert man schnell die Lust und bringt immer weniger Energie dafür auf. Auf lange Sicht hat davon keiner etwas.

Stefan Mesch: Dein letztes Studium wolltest du beenden, Kreatives Schreiben und Kulturjournalismus in Hildesheim. War es ein gutes Gefühl, 2006 Diplom zu machen?

Anne Köhler: Ich fing in Hildesheim erst im Studiengang Kulturwissenschaften und Ästhetische Praxis an – meine Schwerpunkte waren Malerei, Bildende Kunst und Fotografie; das Kreative Schreiben nur eines der vielen Zusatzfächer. Aber im Lauf der Zeit wurde es immer wichtiger. Man fühlt sich ja schon ein bisschen blöd, wenn man so viele Studiengangswechsel erklären muss. Aber heute denke ich, dass sich darin vielleicht einfach ankündigte, wie mein Leben später verlaufen wird: Meine Interessen sind ärgerlich vielfältig. Das Schreiben ist die Basis. Etwas, was immer da war und wohl auch immer bleibt. Ob dazu ein Diplom nötig ist, muss jeder selbst entscheiden. Aber für mich persönlich war es irgendwie schon wichtig, mal etwas zu Ende zu führen… auch, wenn bis heute nie jemand nach diesem Diplomzeugnis fragte!

Stefan Mesch: Jetzt jobbst du seit vier Jahren in Berlin. Wie läuft da ein typischer Tag ab? Was hast du heute gemacht?

Anne Köhler: Na, heute ist ja Sonntag! Nicht, dass das an meinem Rhythmus sehr viel ändert, aber ich hatte vor, heute nur Freizeit-Dinge zu tun. Aber jetzt führe ich ein Interview und feile am Exposé zu dem ‚Roman-Dings‘, an dem ich schon lange arbeite. Und morgen früh bin ich im Nachbarschaftsbüro: Das Büro ist im Wochenrhythmus abwechselnd bei mir im Arbeitszimmer und bei einem befreundeten Autor. Fünf Tage pro Woche sind wir bis mittags zu zweit, trinken viel guten Kaffee und sitzen bienenfleißig am selben Schreibtisch. Jeder arbeitet an seinem Text, doch manchmal schauen wir uns über die Bildschirme hinweg an und seufzen oder nicken verständnisvoll, strecken die Arme nach oben, machen Kaffeepause… Wir ringen nach Luft. Wir suchen nach Wörtern und Sätzen. Nachmittags ist dann Zeit für Nebenjobs. Im Moment halte ich auch nach Kneipen Ausschau, in denen ich kellnern kann.

Stefan Mesch: Die größte Mühe scheint oft, eine brauchbare Balance zu finden.

Anne Köhler: Am liebsten nutze ich die Zeit für meine Texte, aber sobald ich Geld brauche, schaue ich, was sich auftreiben lässt. Das kann beinahe alles sein – Sekretärin, Köchin, Journalistin, Küchenhilfe oder Kellnerin. Die Zeiträume, die ich allein mit Schreiben verbringe, dürfen gerne größer sein. Aber ich will die Abwechslung nicht missen, die meine Nebenjobs bringen: Man lernt etwas dazu, findet neue Menschen und Perspektiven…

Stefan Mesch: …und wird für wenig Lohn ausgenutzt.

Anne Köhler: Viele Jobs sind völlig unangemessen bezahlt. Wenn man für fünf Euro pro Stunde in der Silvesternacht alleine in der Kneipe schuftet, fragt man sich schon, warum man das überhaupt zulässt. Es ist auch anstrengend, sich Sorgen um die Miete machen zu müssen. Von Dingen wie Vorsorgen und Versicherungen ganz zu schweigen!

Stefan Mesch: Denkst du, Frauen laufen stärker Gefahr, als schlecht bezahlte Servicekraft ausgebeutet zu werden?

Anne Köhler: Das ist jetzt wohl so eine Gender-Frage. Ich habe keine Ahnung, denn ich bin ja immer als Frau unterwegs. Ich vermute aber, so lange es mehr Frauen in Service-Jobs gibt, werden sie dort auch stärker ausgebeutet. Bei meinen Nebenjobs gab es bisher nie Unterschiede in der Bezahlung – aber vielleicht haben es Männer auch schwerer, flexible Servicejobs zu finden?

Stefan Mesch: Oder sie stehen stärker unter Druck, „richtiges“ Geld zu verdienen, Versorger zu sein?

Anne Köhler: Ich wäre gerne Mitversorger! Ich könnte mir auch nicht vorstellen, mit dem Arbeiten aufzuhören, wenn ich mal Kinder bekommen sollte. Insofern müsste mein Mann heute keinen größeren Druck spüren, viel Geld zu verdienen, als ich selbst.

Stefan Mesch: Trotzdem könntest du im Moment keine Familie versorgen. Was heißt das für die Liebe? Genießt du diese Freiheit – oder fürchtest du dich auch?

Anne Köhler: Und ob ich die Freiheit genieße! Und klar fürchte ich mich! Aber nicht die ganze Zeit: Ein Kind würde viel verändern. Ich würde dann vielleicht auch mehr Kompromisse eingehen, was meine Jobs angeht. Aber ich glaube trotzdem, dass ich auch das hinkriege: Im Idealfall hat man ja auch noch einen Partner, für den dasselbe gilt. Dann muss man eben gut zusammenarbeiten und dafür sorgen, dass keiner zu kurz kommt. Eine Entscheidung für ein Kind wäre auch eine Entscheidung für eine Veränderung meiner Lebensumstände. Ich bräuchte einen festeren Job… und ob es einfach wäre, den zu finden, lasse ich mal dahingestellt.

Stefan Mesch: Eine der traurigsten Stellen im Buch ist der Moment, als du mit 30 merkst, wie viel Talent du zur Köchin hast… und dann bedauerst, dieses Talent nicht schon zum Abitur entdeckt zu haben. Hättest du, rückblickend, früher lieber noch viel mehr Dinge ausprobiert?

Anne Köhler: Ich fand das selbst sehr traurig. Aber was nützt das Grämen? Ich versuche jetzt, mich darüber zu freuen, dass ich mein Talent zur Köchin überhaupt fand. An sich selbst ein Talent zu entdecken, etwas, das einem leicht von der Hand geht und trotzdem enorm fordert, ist immer ein Glück, diese Dinge sind sehr selten – denn außer dem Schreiben war das Kochen wirklich der einzige Job, zu dem ich fast immer gern gegangen bin.

Stefan Mesch: Glaubst du, du hast so viele Jobs hinter dir, weil du dich fürchtest, zu viel auf eine Karte zu setzen? Du könntest ja auch heute noch eine Ausbildung zur Köchin machen, oder?

Anne Köhler: Es gibt Leute, die mit über dreißig noch einmal komplett neu anfangen, und ich bewundere das. Ich glaube nicht einmal, dass mir dazu der Mut fehlt. Aber es ist ja so: Wenn ich jetzt Köchin werde, könnte ich nicht mehr schreiben. Auf hohem Niveau zu kochen verlangt einem viel ab, körperlich und psychisch, und man muss unendlich viel Zeit investieren. Und wenn man nachts um eins von einer 12-Stunden-Schicht erschöpft nach Hause kommt und trotzdem noch zwei bis drei Stunden nicht schlafen kann, weil das Adrenalin durch die Adern pocht – da ist an Schreiben nicht zu denken.

Eine ernsthafte Arbeit anzunehmen, für die ich bereit bin, all meine Energie aufzubringen, würde bedeuten, das Schreiben in den Hobbybereich zu verfrachten. Dazu bin ich eben nicht bereit. Und darum ist auch Grämen sinnlos: Hätte ich mit 20 anders entschieden, wäre ich heute vielleicht eine sehr gute Köchin. Aber das Buch hätte ich dann nicht geschrieben, und vielleicht auch nie ein anderes.

Stefan Mesch: Denkst du, Berufung und Beruf finden oft gut zusammen? Bekommen Kinder genug Möglichkeiten, um sich auszuprobieren?

Anne Köhler: Ich glaube wirklich, dass viele Menschen leider nicht das Glück haben, ihre Talente zu entdecken. Die beste Schule ist die Praxis. Denn wie soll man sicher sein, dass man einen Beruf für sehr lange sehr gerne machen wird, wenn man nicht die Chance hat, ihn eine Weile auszuprobieren?

Stefan Mesch: Wie hat sich der Blick auf deine Lebensumstände in diesen fast 15 Jahren verändert? Bewundert oder bemitleidet man dich? Sind Leute neidisch?

Anne Köhler: Ich glaube, früher habe ich mich selbst manchmal viel zu bitterernst genommen. Da hat allem die Leichtigkeit gefehlt. Ich glaube, dass man fremde Lebensumstände zu oft im Vergleich zur eigenen Situation beurteilen will. Wenn gerade der Gerichtsvollzieher klingelt, kann man wenig Verständnis für den besten Freund aufbringen, der gerade jammert, dass er sich in diesem Jahr nur Urlaub in Italien statt in der Karibik leisten kann, doch wenn ich selbst gerade seit vier Wochen auf Bora Bora Drinks mit Schirmchen schlürfe, kann ich auch den besten Freund ein bisschen bedauern.

Stefan Mesch: Darum erscheinen schon seit Jahren Bücher über diese „Generation Praktikum“. Ein paar sind wütend und politisiert. Andere feiern einfach eine junge, prekäre Boheme und schildern Armut und Unsicherheit als Lifestyle.

Anne Köhler: Ich selbst erzähle von sehr persönlichen Arbeitssituationen, doch dabei schwingen immer Themen mit, die viele Leute meines Alters beschäftigt. Aber mir war wichtig, nicht in den Tonfall zu kippen, der nur anprangert und das eigene Leid beklagt. Die Hochs und Tiefs nicht schönen, aber mein Scheitern im Rückblick auch von der humorvollen Seite nehmen. Ich finde es völlig in Ordnung, mir nicht alles leisten zu können und auch mal zu verzichten. Aber jeden Euro drei Mal umdrehen zu müssen, nervt halt oft auch. Und was noch mehr belastet, ist das Gefühl, oft unterbezahlt zu werden. Generell aber will ich gern lernen, mich nicht so oft zu beschweren, denn die Künstlerförderung in Deutschland ist – verglichen mit vielen anderen Ländern – gar nicht so schlecht. Ich wollte immer Schreibzeit haben und die Möglichkeit, spontan Stipendien anzunehmen. Ein fester Job kam nie wirklich infrage. So viele Berufsgruppen sind unterbezahlt, und persönlich hoffe ich auch, irgendwann auf einer etwas festeren Basis zu stehen. Aber bis dahin genieße ich eben, dass ein Taxi spät in der Nacht durch halb Berlin ein seltener Luxus für mich ist.

Stefan Mesch: Der größte Vorzug ist vielleicht die große Ungebundenheit: Du hast ein Praktikum in Israel gemacht und Schreibstipendien in Krakau und Rumänien, du könntest schon morgen ganz woanders leben. Andererseits buchen Bankangestellte in unserem Alter schon ihre ersten Kreuzfahrten. Diese Leute kennen, wenn sie wollen, Bora Bora und Italien!

Anne Köhler: Es tut schon gut, ganz woanders zu sein. Aber ohne das Gefühl, danach wieder „nach Hause“ zu kommen, würde mir etwas Wichtiges fehlen: Ich bin ein Mensch, der eine Basis braucht, meine Bücher, meine Küchenausstattung, all die Dinge, die ich mir über die Jahre hinweg zusammengefunden habe. Ich gehöre nicht zu den Minimalisten, die Wert darauf legen, dass alle Sachen in zwei Koffer passen! Du fragst, ob ich meine Freiheit auch genug nutze. Aber es ist nicht immer notwendig, alles in Anspruch zu nehmen, was an Möglichkeiten vor mir liegt: Manchmal reicht schon das Gefühl, dass diese Möglichkeiten da sind.

Das Dümmste ist, dass man nie richtig Urlaub, echte Ferien und Wochenenden, nie so richtig frei: Wenn das Schreiben ein Luxus ist, dann nutzt man dafür auch jede freie Minute. Und dann sind schnell vier Jahre vorbei und man weiß nicht mehr, wann man das letzte Mal ein paar Tage am Stück einfach nicht gearbeitet hat. Das macht auch nicht gerade umgänglicher: Das Schreiben ist eine ärgerliche Passion.

Stefan Mesch: Das Schreiben oder die vielen Nebenjobs?

Anne Köhler: Naja, wenn man oft die Nebenjobs wechselt, entwickelt sich in den einzelnen Bereichen natürlich relativ wenig weiter. Auf der Buchklappe wird das „die flachste Karriereleiter der Welt“ genannt. So lange ich mein Schreiben als das eigene Hauptanliegen empfinde, leidet darunter natürlich alles andere – auch die reine Spaß-Freizeit. Man kann einfach schlecht entspannen, weil man immer das Gefühl hat, die freie Zeit nutzen zu müssen. Das Schreiben braucht viel Zeit, Disziplin und Konzentration. Es lässt jeden Versuch scheitern, ein ganz normales Leben zu führen. Aber ach, es ist auch schön!

Stefan Mesch: Und rückblickend – lief dein Leben schief? Hast du ein Ziel gehabt und dann verfehlt? Oder dich unterwegs verlaufen?

Anne Köhler: Kennst Du den Turm von Pisa? Auch dort war ich, ehrlich gesagt, noch nie. Von unten sieht er wohl nicht sehr vertrauenerweckend aus. Aber wenn man erstmal oben ist, ist der Ausblick, denke ich, trotzdem ganz schön. Wenn nicht zu viel Gedrängel herrscht. Und wenn er nicht gerade einstürzt!

So ähnlich ist das mit dem Leben und den Zielen: Aus heutiger Sicht würde ich sagen, dass mein Leben nicht schief lief. Aber unterwegs habe ich das oft anders empfunden: An einigen Zielen bin ich gescheitert, aber dadurch gewachsen. Das war vielleicht am schönsten beim Schreiben dieses Buchs: Im Rückblick hat vieles doch einen Sinn ergeben – und wenn es nur der war, dass ich darüber lachen konnte.

Stefan Mesch: Und in zehn Jahren…?

Anne Köhler: Ich kann mir viel vorstellen! Vielleicht bin ich dann Köchin in einem kleinen Lokal in Hong Kong, das „Abendbrot“ heißt. Einmal im Jahr mache ich Urlaub in Biarritz. Oder ich bin Zahlenansagerin in einer noch kleineren Kaschemme auf Island. Oder ich habe einen Mann und drei Kinder und bin halb Hausfrau und halb Schreiberin. Ist es nicht schön, manche Dinge noch nicht ganz genau zu wissen?

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verwandte Links:

Interview: Sally Pascale – Comic Book Reader, Feminist, Blogger… and the Internet’s most outspoken ‚Green Lantern‘ fan

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„I am a middle-aged suburban housewife with four kids and a husband, two dogs and a cat who has trouble figuring out what the litter box is for. I probably have waaaay too much time on my hands.“
Sally Pascale, lifelong comic fan and author of ‚Green Lantern Butt’s FOREVER‘, the biggest weblog about the super-hero „Green Lantern“.
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Last year, I interviewed the ‚CEB‘ (Link), blogger and comic book critic  at ‚Collected Editions‘ (Link).
This year, with Warner’s ‚Green Lantern‘ movie (Link) in cinemas around the world, I contacted another profilic and outspoken comic book blogger:
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Sally Pascale was born in 1958 and has been reading comic books for all her life.
Since the late 8oies, she has been a fan of DC Comics (‚Superman‘, ‚Batman‘, ‚Wonder Woman‘, ‚The Flash‘ etc.) and their space-cop hero Green Lantern.
…and since 2006, she writes about her day-to-day comic-reading experience at her blog ‚Green Lantern Butt’s FOREVER‘.
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Over the past four weeks, Sally has answered nearly 50 questions about the joys, frustrations and surprises as a long-time comic reader: In our month-long conversation, we have collected nearly 30 pages of answers, from very general aspects of being a blogger and a fan… to the minutiae of 2011’s big storylines and characters (…like the big DC ‚Relaunch‘).
This week, for my series of Super-Hero essays (Link) at the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Link), I will translate and edit these answers to a shorter, comprehensive (German-language) interview for the Tagesspiegel.
Right here, you’ll get a more complete, geeky version:
What is it like to embrace a 70 year-old hero concept… a nearly 50 year old main character… 30+ years of monthly crossovers, twists and ‚comic events’…
…as a middle-aged blogger from Hartford, Connecticut?
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„It’s not rocket science – but it’s a blast.“
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Stefan Mesch: I have been reading your blog longer than I have been reading actual ‚Green Lantern‘ comics – because I like your mild-mannered, personal, not overly snarky approach to the DC characters.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if we could do an e-mail interview about ‚Green Lantern‘ before the movie premieres in Germany, on July 28th. Let me know. I’d be delighted!
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Sally Pascale: Thank you so much for your very kind words about my silly little blog.
I’ve never DONE an interview before, so please be patient. But I hope that we can do whatever it is that you would like to do: You can send your questions to me any time, I’m here, I’ve seen to movie (twice!) and I’m burning to pour out all my love for the Green Lantern Corps [Link].
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Stefan Mesch: Great! To prepare for our interview, I’ve read most ‚Green Lantern‘ comics (chronology/list here) over the past six weeks. But I think I’m ready now
How would you „pitch“ the monthly Green Lantern comics series to someone who has never heard of it? What’s good about it?
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Sally Pascale: How would I „pitch“ the Green Lanterns to someone who is a neophyte?  Probably by saying that they’re „Cops in SPAAAAAAAAACE!!!“ An Intergalactic bunch of Peace-Keepers, with magical wishing rings, that let them use their imaginations and „willpower“ to do practically anything that they want, from flying through space, to making giant boxing gloves, to containing a super nova in a large safe. Oh and I would probably mention that they look very very nice in those uniforms.
Throw in the idea that Hal [Jordan, the main character] is a lot like Captain Kirk from Star Trek, but in a better uniform and the aliens aren’t quite so cheesy.
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Stefan Mesch: The character of Hal Jordan was introduced in 1960 as a brash, womanizing test pilot who got a Green Lantern ring from Abin Sur, an alien who had crash-landed on earth.
Did you read these comics in your childhood, too? You started out as a fan of DC’s rival company, Marvel Comics (Link), right?
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Sally Pascale: The first comic that I can EVER remember reading, was Asterix, at the Dentist’s office.  It was in French, and I didn’t understand a word… but I was still quite fascinated by the pictures.
I actually started reading comics seriously when I was fifteen. I came across a copy of an Avengers issue [a Marvel super-hero team, Link] in the local drugstore, and was hooked… mainly because it had Thor on the cover, and I was a Norse mythology fan at the time.
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Stefan Mesch: So when did you enter your first comic book store? And how did it feel? Was it ‚tomboyish‘? Was it ’nerdy‘? Did you read the books openly? In school? What did your parents think?
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Sally Pascale: I bought my books in drugstores, not comic book shops, although I do believe that they were just beginning to make their appearance.
I read my books openly at home.  I didn’t take them into school, mainly because it never occured to me to do so.  My family considered me to be a bit on the… eccentric side… but they’d been considering that for YEARS!
I didn’t really talk that much about my comics through High School.  However, when I went away to college, I brought all of them with me, and my girlfriends in my dorm would all get together and read them, using silly voices, that we would record on our old-fashioned cassette recorder, and then replay and laugh ourselves sick.  We were a little… strange, looking back, but we did manage to enjoy ourselves.
I found my very first Comic Book Store, right next to my dorm, at the University of Connecticut, which is located in Storrs [Link]. It began as an agricultural school, so it is pretty much out in the boonies.  There was a nice little bookstore there, and Lo and Behold…they sold comics! New comics! AND, they had BACK ISSUES!!!! It was awfully hard to GET back issues then.
I saved up my pennies (literally) and saved apples all week to eat on the weekends, so that I could afford to buy comics. This was back in 1976, and I managed to get by on about $20 a MONTH spending money. Of course it only cost about $4,000 a year to go to college back then.
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Stefan Mesch: Even today, (super-hero) comics are very much a boys‘ medium and a boys‘ market. Reading these comics of the 197oies, did you feel included? Part of the target audience?
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Sally Pascale: I’m not sure that I felt a part of the target audience. I was a rather young and naive eighteen at the time. It really didn’t OCCUR to me to be socially concious. I just… liked them. I will say that it was a bit easier as a woman back in the 1970’s however, because while women didn’t have a whole lot to DO in comics… this was the age of the Stan Lee Girl [Link] after all… at least they weren’t so outrageously over-sexed the way that they became in the ’90’s [Link].
I was pretty much a Marvel Zombie at the time, you had Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four, who spent her time being motherly and getting yelled at by Reed, you had the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers, who didn’t do a whole lot except point her hands, and swoon. You had the Wasp, who didn’t swoon quite as much, but spent most of her time mooning over Hank Pym and flirting with anything in pants. The Black Widow was probably the most overtly „sexy“ of the bunch, and even she was covered from head to toe (Link). It was a more innocent time.
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Stefan Mesch: So for years, Marvel’s Thor (Link) was your favourite hero, but you were not very interested in the DC heroes…
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Sally Pascale: Oh yes! I bought up ALL the Thors at the store, and moved into the Avengers, since Thor was IN the Avengers, and because I just couldn’t get enough of that beautiful beautiful John Buscema artwork [Link].
I found out that the owner of the store had ANOTHER store in Willimantic, which was about 8 miles away. I didn’t have a car… heck I didn’t even have a license, and neither did anyone else on my floor… so I borrowed my roommate’s bicycle, and rode the 16 round trip miles…just to find MORE back issues. I think I was a little obsessed. Or crazy. Or both. But happy. Tired… but happy. [more details here]
At the time, I didn’t read much DC. I knew OF DC of course, but they seemed a bit stodgy in comparison to Marvel. Still…I always did like Green Lantern for some reason. I think it was his costume. It was so… cool. And unfussy. I still think that.
Then I discovered the X-Men [Marvel, Link]. And I was REALLY hooked. This was back when Claremont took over [1975 to… 1991! Link], with Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne, and it was just so fabulous.
Then I got married, and had four kids, and just dropped out of collecting for a bit. I kept all my books of course, and occasionally would pick up some. But the thrill had gone for about ten years or so.
And then all of a sudden I was back into collecting, and what was weird was that I had discovered the Lt. Blueberry books [European / Franco-Belgian Western comics; Link], by Charlier and Giraud (aka Moebius) [Link]. I was madly trying to find ALL of the books, which was awfully hard, since they were out of print, and in French. Fortunately, Marvel started reprinting a bunch of them, and I was searching out all of Moebius‘ other work [Link], and having a fine old time. And I started picking up my old books again, but this time, I was reading DC too.
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Stefan Mesch: In 1986, two big creative changes happened at DC comics: The 12-issue „Watchmen“ series (Link) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and Frank Miller’s violent „Batman“ story „The Dark Knight Returns“ (Link) started a trend of more mature, bloody, sexualized and political super-hero stories.
Even though both „Watchmen“ and „DKR“ are pretty complex and intelligent by themselves, the copycat authors following their footsteps only used the most superficial elements of both books: the sexism, the big muscles, the casual killing/slaughtering of enemies – and created the „Dork Age“ (Link) of the 1990ies: Women had gigantic breasts, men were hyper-muscular, everyone used guns, everything was „exxxtreme“ (Link) in a juvenile and silly way.
The second big change happened in the DC series „Crisis on Infinte Earths“ (Link): For nearly 50 years, DC Comics had been telling stories set on multiple, parallel earths. On Earth-1, Superman was 30 or 35 years old. On Earth-2, Superman and Batman had been around since the Second World War.
Other heroes (often established years ago by bankrupt rival comic publishers and bought up by DC, like the hero Captain Marvel (Link)), lived on places like Earth-S (Link), Earth-X or the evil Antimatter Universe (Link).
During „Crisis on Infinite Earths“, a gigantic cosmic menace from the Antimatter Universe, the Anti-Monitor (Link), destroyed the parallel worlds until the heroes were able to create one final, merged world (and thus push a storytelling ‚reset button‘):
In 1987, all DC heroes lived in this new universe: Many were younger. Many series and stories established a new beginning. And until today, 2011, most big stories in the „DC Universe“ start with this Crisis.
Ironically, Hal Jordan’s adventures as „Green Lantern“ did not reinvent themselves, failed to find much attention… and were cancelled in 1988, after 28 years.
So when you came back to comics in the late 1980ies, Sally, that was what you found? New violence. New maturity. And some good, new starting points? But not a lot of „Green Latern“?
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Sally Pascale: Indeed. When I came back to comics after my hiatus, I was actually rather thrilled. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it all.  [At Marvel comics, who did not have a crisis / reboot,] there was a LOT of continuity to get caught up on, but being a History Major in college, continuity is sort of my „thing“, and I plunged into it with considerable zest. If there is one thing that I enjoy, it is knowing a whole lot of esoteric and totally ridiculous useless knowledge.
And things had definitely changed. This was also the beginning of the whole „collector“ bubble (Link) of course. People were convinced that all they had to do was guy five copies of X-Men #l (a new series from 1991, Link) and that they would be set for LIFE! Never mind that the value of the old comics that at the time were selling for so much money, were actually quite rare, because so many of them had been swallowed up by wartime paper drives and such. The scary thing was that people who didn’t even READ the books were collecting. It was „cool“.
I’ve never been cool in my life, but I did find that I didn’t mind admitting that yes, I was a grown woman with children who read comics. Who LOVED to read comics.  Not only comics, but SUPERHERO comics. I will say, that I was quite the hit with a lot of my own offspring’s friends. But I was also considered weird because although I did put my comics away after reading them, I also… well… READ them. A lot.
I doubt that I have a single copy that is in mint condition [Link]. I tore the polybags off and READ those suckers!
But comics had also gotten a whole lot… sexier in the interim. Heck, even ubermom Susan Storm [of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Link] was flashing skin. It was a bit disconcerting.  Jim Lee [Link] didn’t help, and then Rob Liefeld [Link – one of the most horrible and derided artists] came along and oh my god, but there was a whole lot of terrible terrible artwork. But I didn’t care. I blush to confess this, but I actually DO have a whole lot of X-Men books and simply boxfuls of dreck from this particular point in time.
Let us move on to a more appealing subject.  Green Lanterns!
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Stefan Mesch: On your blog, you often talk about one particular series from that era, „Justice League International“ (started in 1987, Link) with Guy Gardner (Link), Earth’s second Green Lantern.
Even today, this series is one of your favourites.
And it’s a pretty popular classic, too. Mostly because it went against the fashions of the time: instead of violence and crazy powerful heroes, it featured less popular and less dangerous heroes and had a lighthearted, at times even comedic tone. Lots of banter, jokes… even some slapstick.
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Sally Pascale: When Justice League with Keith Giffen [Link] and J. M. DeMatteis [Link] came out, I was hooked immediately. It was that very first cover [Link], by Kevin Maguire [Link]. It…it was just so PERFECT!
All of a sudden, instead of all the heavy hitters, (although after the Detroit League, I hesitate to use that term) no Superman, no Wonder Woman. Batman WAS there, but he spent most of his time being alternately surly and embarrassed. Martian Manhunter [Link] was there, and basically served as the team babysitter. Black Canary [Link] was there too, in that ridiculous costume [Link].
We had A Green Lantern [Guy Gardner, great link], although it wasn’t THE Green Lantern [Hal Jordan, silly link]. And Blue Beetle [Link], and Captain Marvel [Link] of all people, and so on and so forth.
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Stefan Mesch: Traditionally, DC’s „Justice League“ (Link) is a super-hero team series with DC’s most powerful and/or most well-known characters. It started in 1960 with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman (Link) and the Martian Manhunter – but over time, the team has often expanded and changed.
In 1986, after „Crisis on Infinite Earths“, a new Justice League was started in Detroit (Link). It featured young, urban and minority members like Vixen (Link), a black supermodel that could talk to animals, Gypsy (Link), a young Roma who was… very good at stealing things (Link) or Vibe (Link), a ridiculous hispanic break-dancing hero who has, since then, found a certain ironic cult following (Link).
This „trendy, urban Justice League“ failed, so in 1987, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis could explore their own concept of a big, funny, bickering cast of less important characters: It was a „minor“ and less aggressive League… but it still worked very hard on being competent.
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Sally Pascale: These heroes were definite second stringers. And they didn’t fight huge cosmic menaces all of the time. They did fight some pretty big villains, but it was in between the down-time at their headquarters. Having the UN involved [as political backing of their international operations] was a smart move.
We also got Booster Gold [Link], and Fire [Link] and Ice [Link], and Mister Miracle and [his wife] Big Barda and [his manager] Oberon [Link], and Max Lord [the non-powered, but arrogant and clever corporate chairman of the League, Link], and…and…it was all just so FABULOUS!
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Stefan Mesch: These characters are energetic, fallible, colorful and have big followings, even today. From 2010 to 2011, there even was a new, 24-part series that brought the team back together, „Justice League: Generation Lost“ (Link).
Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon knew Mister Miracle and Big Barda from their stories in the 197oies: He says that their marriage was a model and an inspiration for his own marriage, and that he admired Big Barda until today (long, fun personal essay here… but takes a while to load).
It’s interesting to see how these characters were beloved for their charms and their affection… not their powers.
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Sally Pascale: They hung out together, and did stupid things, and fun things, and fought and bickered like children sometimes, and played practical jokes on each other, but they were there when it counted, and they did their jobs. They did their jobs well and they did their jobs efficiently, which is something that has been overlooked a bit since then.
As much as I love a huge brawling storyline, it is also nice sometimes, to just have quieter issues, where everyone has a chance to take a breath. The old JLI told great stories, it had beautiful artwork, it had funny and appealing characters… what wasn’t to like? To this day, it remains one of my absolute favorite books.
So starting with JLI, I started picking up more and more DC books, which suddenly weren’t stodgy at all, but cool and fun and interesting. I eventually went through the mail-order companies to find back issues, and started getting all the Green Lantern books… and the rest is history.
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Stefan Mesch: Since 1960, test pilot Hal Jordan had been the Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814, the part of the galaxy that includes our solar system. Jordan was handed his Green Lantern power ring by Abin Sur (Link), an alien who crash-landed near Hal’s home town Coast City.
The power rings picks persons with great willpower… people with „the potential to overcome great fear“… so naturally, Hal is assumed to be the bravest person on earth.
In later adventures, starting in 1968, writer John Broome (Link) introduced Guy Gardner. Guy was a football star at the University of Michigan when Abin Sur’s space ship crashed on earth. But if Abin Sur had landed nearer to Michigan…
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Sally Pascale: Guy Gardner would have been the official Green Lantern of sector 2814, exactly. When I first came across Guy, I was a bit confused. I knew about Hal Jordan of course, but who the heck was this incredibly obnoxious red-head? And why, almost against my will, did I end up liking him so much?
You could say that Guy’s scenes in the JLI were my gateway drug, because I first came across Guy in that book, and was so intrigued that I started collecting Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps, and Green Lantern Quarterly, and then Justice League Quarterly…
Guy Gardner in the Justice League was a heck of a lot of fun, because he wasn’t your typical superhero. He was loud, rude, lewd, crude and a major jerk (Link). He insulted women, the handicapped, short people, tall people, fat and thin people and he did it with such vigor, that I found it to be a tiny bit…endearing (Link). Apparently, I LIKE jerks.
He didn’t start out this way, though: When he was originally introduced in Hal Jordan’s book, Guy was a nice, polite gym teacher who turned out to be a possible alternate candidate for being picked to be Green Lantern, yes.
Hal was a bit staggered by this bit of news, and sought him out, and they became casual friends. Later, Guy goes on a trip with his students, and ends up falling off of a cliff in an earthquake AND being hit by a school bus! This put him out of action for a while, so that they could introduce John Stewart as the other alternate Green Lantern.
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Stefan Mesch: John Stewart (Link) is an architect and a former US marine sharpshooter. He’s black, and he was introduced in the 1970ies as a „socially relevant“, „modern“ character.
A few years earlier, an older black man had famously told Hal Jordan off (Link) because Jordan had gotten his power ring from the Guardians of the Universe, a race of immortal, powerful, blue-skin aliens.
„I been readin‘ about [how…] you work for the blue skins […] and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with -! The black skins!“
John Stewart, as a black side character, was an attempt to fix this, so by the 197oies, Hal Jordan had two (seldom-seen) replacements: John Stewart and Guy Gardner.
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Sally Pascale: For years, Guy Gardner didn’t do much except recover from his injuries, but when Hal’s power ring [Link] started to misbehave, he contacted Guy again, gave him a ring and his [Hal’s] own power battery, and basically told him „good luck“ while he went off to Oa to see what was going on.
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Stefan Mesch: Oa is the planet at the centre of the universe (Link) where the power rings come from. Four billion years ago, an alien race called Malthusians settled on Oa, achieved immortality and started to research the secrets of the universe. These ‚Oans‘ wanted to help and protect the younger races and created a police force of robot soldiers called Manhunters (Link)… but the robots went crazy.
After „Crisis of Infinite Earths“ turned out to be a bestselling „comic event“ in 1986 and 1987, the follow-up 1988 DC „comic event“ „Millennium“ (Link) saw these Manhunter robots return to earth, infiltrate the hero community and wreak havoc.
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Sally Pascale: Sadly, the wise and ancient Guardians of the Universe [Link] are actually NOT… that great. In fact, they are pretty piss poor examples of omnipotence, to put it bluntly. I used to actually… sort’ve… LIKE the Guardians. Yes, they were short and blue, and had no fashion sense, but gosh darn it, they were just a little bit adorable
They had been around for umpteen billions of years, and had, after a few false starts [like the Manhunter robots]… created the Green Lantern Corps [Link]. They also seemed to actually be looking out for the best interests of the Universe, enforcing Law and Order throughout the cosmos, and all that jazz.
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Stefan Mesch: So after the Manhunter robots massacred whole civilizations 3.5 billion years ago, the Oans learned to harness the mysterious green energy of willpower: They built little „power batteries“ in the shape of lanterns (Link), forged green rings that could wield the energy from these lanterns… and divided the universe into 3600 sectors.
Then, they set free the rings, and all rings scanned their respective sectors for fearless people, ready to use their willpower.
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Sally Pascale: Once a new recruit is found, the ring transports him or her back to Oa to receive a basic, military-like training. Oa also has a giant power battery that powers the individual power batteries that in turn power the individual rings. So naturally, once Hal caught his own ring misbehaving, he flew back to Oa to have it checked.
Well, it turned out that the problem was actually in the battery, not the ring, and the second time that Guy, back on Earth, tried to use Hal’s battery, it blew up!
Oh, and apparently it killed Guy, as well.
Hal took this hard, and went off to comfort Guy’s [human] gypsy girlfriend, Kari Limbo (Link), who was upset or about five minutes, until they decided to console each other. In fact they consoled each other SO much, that Hal was going to marry her! In the church, Kari has a vision and realizes that Guy ISN’T dead… just blown into another dimension, and he’s actually really really pissed, since he’s been watching Hal hit on his girl. Then Hal feels guilty and goes off to free him, but Guy ends up being tortured by Sinestro of all people, and ends up in a mysterious coma with mysterious brain damage.
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Stefan Mesch: Sinestro (Link) is Hal Jordan’s biggest enemy. He was the Green Lantern of his home planet Korugar, but decided to rule the planet with despotism and fear. Personally, I think he’s one of the most complex villains in comics: a former Green Lantern who turned knight templar (Link) / well-intentioned extremist (Link) / dictator.
Let’s talk about Sinestro later, though: How did Guy’s story continue? By the time he became a member of the JLI in 1987, he had suffered some brain damage, right?
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Sally Pascale: Guy didn’t come out of his coma for a couple of years – just in time to participate in Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the Guardians pulled him out and he becomes the crazy jerk that we all know and love… since he’s still suffering from brain damage, yes.
He’s also insanely jealous of Hal, and in general makes a pest of himself. After he drives most of the rest of the Green Lantern Corps crazy, he decides he’s worn out his welcome and hi-tails it over to the Justice League, where Giffen and DeMatteis used him so well. If you can find those later issues of Green Lantern [Link], from #180 or so and up, to when the comic gets re-named „Green Lantern Corps“ [Link], written by Gerald Jones [Link], it is well worth your time. They are great stories, involving the entire corps.
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Stefan Mesch: You really enjoy the larger mythology of this ancient, cosmic organization: The Green Lantern Corps seems to be more interesting than Hal Jordan’s solo adventures on Earth…?
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Sally Pascale: Frankly, I LOVE the idea of Cops In Spaaaace [Link]! The Earth is full of costumed heroes, who all run around fighting bad guys and doing their thing, but an intergalactic corps of peacekeepers is just a neat idea. It makes the Universe seem a whole lot bigger for one thing.
With all of the diffreent sectors of space, and all the infinite variety of aliens, all united in their ability to overcome fear, and wield willpower, the ability to tell stories is simply vast and amazing.
They’ve created the planet Oa, where the Guaridans hang out, and provide the power and motivation for this happy little band: Although their methods may occasionally be flawed…their motives are pure. Mostly anyway. Yes, they’ve had a few bumps along the way, the whole mess with [mad scientist] Krona [who discovered the Antimatter universe and started a war in two different realities, Link], and the Manhunters going crazy… but finally, the Guardians came up with the idea of the power rings, and it’s just a lot of fun.
The Green Lanterns also have some of the coolest-looking costumes around. The simplicity of the Black and the Green is incredibly eye-catching. The variety of the body shapes, the sheer variety of the aliens, and the different planets and cultures and conflicts is just wonderful [Link]. It’s science fiction in comic book form.
And, although I love novels, and I would kill for a Green lantern television show, and more movies, I just LIKE comics. I like the artwork. I like the stories. I like the fact that it is a serial form of entertainment, with cliffhangers, and years and years of convoluted continuity and different writers and different artists, all combining to create a messy and yet still compelling story.
Marvel really doesn’t have anything comparable to the Green Lanterns, although they are doing their best with Nova [Link]. But’s it is a pretty blatant imitation, and I just haven’t been able to get into it. The Green Lanterns have been around for a VERY long time, they have their own history, and archives, and the Book of Oa [Link], and traditions, and rules and hierarchy.
And since it does have such a rich sense of history, it can be very easy to continue to mine that history for an almost infinite array of tales to be told.
And that’s a very good thing!
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Stefan Mesch: It’s fun that the „Green Lantern“ franchise existed for 20 years before Hal Jordan, the Corps and Oa were created in 1960, though: The first Green Lantern of Earth was not sent by the Guardians. His name was Alan Scott (Link), he had his first adventure in 1940 (Link) and his own comic from 1941 to 1949.
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Sally Pascale: I will be the first person to admit that although I like Alan Scott very much [Link], he’s not my favorite Green Lantern. Still… he WAS the first, and although he isn’t officially „in the Corps“, his Golden Age adventures established the name and the hero and some of the mythology.
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Stefan Mesch: The „Golden Age“ of comics (Link) started with Superman in 1938. In a couple of years, Batman (1939), The Flash (1940) and Wonder Woman (1941) had their own comic book series, too.
There also was a super-hero team, „The Justice Society of America“ (Link), that featured heroes who were not well-known enough to have their own comic book, like Black Canary or the horror-hero character „The Spectre“ (Link), God’s spirit of vengeance. Eventually, Alan Scott joined the JSA. And through time-travel and multiple multiversal crises, Alan is still alive today, in his sixties and chairman of the modern-day Justice Society (Link).
I’ve read that Alan is named after „Aladin“… and that’s where the magic lantern / lamp came from, too. Another big influence was the Chinese concept of the five elements (Link), Earth, Water, Fire, Wood and Metal. Thus, the magic green fire from Alan’s ring was helpless against wood.
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Sally Pascale: Alan’s ring and lantern have been retroactively explained as being derived from magic, rather than from the willpower that powers the modern Green Lantern Corps. This makes a certain amount of sense I suppose (comic book sense [Link]) but at the time that Alan’s stories were being written, it was just a fun way to create a hero, and have a rather unnusual method of crime-fighting at his disposal.
Besides, who wouldn’t like a magical wishing ring? And since every hero has to have some vulnerability… so Alan’s ring being susceptible to natural elements was brought in, although it usually was mostly portrayed as being most vulnerable to wood. It was fun: Here’s this guy who can do practically anything… and he can be taken out by a baseball bat!
I haven’t read a whole lot of the original Golden Age stories with Alan, I am more interested in him as the Elder Statesman version that he occupies in modern continuity… along with Jay Garrick [fun, charming Link], the original Flash, [the old-school boxing hero] Wildcat [Link] and some of the other magnificent Old Farts from the Justice Society.
I’ve actually always thought that having these older heroes around was one of the more brilliant concepts that DC came up with. Marvel really doesn’t have anything to compare… with the possible exception of Nick Fury [Link]. But here are all the original Mystery Men [the super-heroes who fought in the World War 2, Link], who through any number of bizarre circumstances, became a part of the present day Universe, and serve as someone that even the heroes look up to.
I’ve always thought it was significant that Alan Scott can make even Batman sit up and stand at attention. He’s also one of the few people who can make Hal Jordan sit down and behave.
And besides, I have to admit to loving Alan’s costume. It is so UTTERLY ridiculous really (Link)that color combination should NOT work, with the red and the green, and the puffy sleeves and all. It’s garish and absurd, and yet… such is Alan’s stature and self-confidence, that he MAKES it work. It is also a bonus, that even though he wears a cape, Alan STILL manages to flaunt his magnificent buttocks… just as a Green Lantern should. Batman and Superman hardly EVER show theirs off.
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Stefan Mesch: In recent years, Alan also had some great moments as the leader of Checkmate (2006 to 2008, Link), a modern-day, international spy agency who tries to keep super-heroes under control.
Sadly, back in 1954, a German-born psychologist named Fredric Wertham published a book called „Seduction of the Innocent“ (Link) and started a moral panic (Link) across the US. Comic books were suspected to ‚teach‘ deviant behavior and homosexuality to children, and as a result, the publishers decided to self-censor, adapt a strict code of conduct (Link), stop publishing horror and true crime comics and make their stories safe and tame.
Sales plummeted, public opinion was against the industry, all super-heroes but Superman, Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman were cancelled – and the „Golden Age“ was over.
It took nearly five years before a new „Silver Age“ (Link) started and the sales recovered – with sillier, more harmless stories… and lighter, less dramatic heroes. In one word…
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Sally Pascale: Hal Jordan.
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Stefan Mesch: From 1960 to 1994, Hal Jordan was the main character of „Green Lantern“. He’s also the focus of the current „Green Lantern“ movie, where he’s played by Ryan Reynolds (Link).
Hal was created at a time when the US were competing in a „space race“ (Link) with Russia: In the 1960ies, from „I Dream of Jeannie“ (Link) to the astronauts documented in the 1979 novel „A Few Good Men“ (Link), a lot of heroic characters were pilots, air force men and astronauts.
So what’s unique about Hal Jordan, hotshot test pilot from Coast City, California?
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Sally Pascale: Oh Hal. You’re impulsive, brave, reckless, and slightly dim-witted, and yet you have a bizarre appeal.
There are a LOT of fans who don’t particularly like Hal. They find Kyle [Hal’s younger replacement in the 1990ies, Link] to be more appealing, or John to be smarter, or Guy to be even more reckless, or Alan to be much more dignified.
And yet, still, after all these years, since the Silver Age, Hal Jordan is still THE Green Lantern. Some people find him to be boring. Some people find him to be „too perfect“. Some people are reading as closely as they should.
Hal Jordan is NOT too perfect. He has a whole lot of faults… but he’s very adept at either getting away with stuff, or covering them up. And let’s face it, being a hotshot Test Pilot is actually a pretty cool thing to be.
When Hal flew planes at Ferris Aircraft [Link], it was a lot more interesting than the series of stupid stuff that writer Denny O’Neill [Link] put him through in the late Sixties, when he was wandering around the country with Oliver Queen [Link] trying to „find himself“.
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Stefan Mesch: Oliver Queen is one of my favourite heroes. He’s the Green Arrow (Link), an urban, non-powered Robin Hood expy who is very rash, outspoken and easily irritated with the establishment: If there is one person even more cocky and impulsive than Hal… it’s Ollie!
In 1969, Dennis O’Neill brought Hal and Ollie together for a double-feature book called ‚Green Lantern / Green Arrow‘ (Link). They got into in a van and drove around the coutry, helping the helpless, and their adventures were socially relevant, political… but very preachy and one-dimensional: Ollie was very angry, liberal and left-wing. And Hal was clueless, ignorant and patriotic.
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Sally Pascale: I liked that Hal was best friends with Barry Allen, the Flash [more about this friendship here, Link]. I liked that Hal was best friends with Ollie. I loved that Ollie and Barry [Link] fought over Hal… because that’s just the way that Hal liked it [Link].
But Hal really did have to put up with a lot from Ollie! It can’t be much fun being dragged around the countryside in a cramped pick-up truck, stuck with a short former Guardian, and being called names by Ollie every ten mintues. Sheesh!
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Stefan Mesch: The Guardian. I forgot! When news reached Oa that Hal wanted to give up his ring and travel through small towns with Ollie, a Guardian decided to transform into a more human-like form and join them.
The Guardians do not embrace individual names. But he was soon called „Old-Timer“ (Link) and learned a lot about humanity on this road trip… 
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Sally Pascale: This Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams [the book’s artist, Link] era was beautiful to look at [Link], and they covered a lot of „hip“ and „happening“ things, such as Speedy’s drug use [Link], and prejudice and so on, but those stories were incredibly heavy-handed in their moralizing, and don’t really hold up all that well in my opinion. And Hal became a lot less self-confident and a lot more whiney.
I hate whiney! To my mind, some of the best stories about Hal are the very early ones in the Silver Age. They are just so… insane! And hilarious! He doesn’t have his ring on? He fights a Bear using his HEAD! He has his own fan cllub of hysterical teeny-boppers all wanting to marry him! He’s egotistical and selfish, but he really does have a good heart underneath, and he is a true hero…not matter how stupid he may act occasionally.
I have to admit to liking the old Hal, of [writer] John Broome [Link] and [artist] Gil Kane [Link] a whole lot better. Originally Hal was a lot of fun. He flew with his legs open. He showed off his ass in practically every shot [absurdly extensive Link]. He hit his head. A lot. [absurdly funny Link]
He also had this thing about forgetting that he was actually vulnerable to the color yellow. Really, the color yellow, which made his weakness just as absurd as Alan Scott’s weakness against wood: When you have as much potential power as Hal Jordan does, you really HAVE to create a weakness. So yellow was Hal’s Kryptonite (Link). Heck, he got hit in the head with a yellow ceiling tile, and was blinded by mustard, and all kinds of silly things.
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Stefan Mesch: On your own website, you often post these two kinds of pictures: The artists showing off Hal’s back… or Hal getting hit in the head. It’s a trope and in-joke for many Green Lantern fans.
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Sally Pascale: Part of Hal’s appeal is that even though he’s handsome and daring and weirdly charming, he’s also a bit of a klutz. He always leaps before he looks, and strangely hilarious things happen to him… yet he always manages to overcome the indignities thrown his way [Link], and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. And he drives Batman crazy. Granted, this is more of a recent development, but you could see echoes of it even back in the sunny old Justice League days: Batman plans and thinks (Link), and plans some more. Hal just… does it.  By the seat of his pants.  And manages more often than not, to get away with it.
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Stefan Mesch: A lot of times, Hal acts like an ignorant, idolized super-hero fratboy: There are a lot of DC heroes that I respect as persons (read this essay about Lois Lane as an inspirational character, for example). But with Hal, I always wonder ‚Is he a moron? Or is he an evil person trying to pretend he is nothing more than a harmless moron?‘
Either way – even in very recent comics, I don’t think he’s very likeable.
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Sally Pascale: One of the things that I don’t like about Hal, is that he is… smug. Smug and priviledged and oblivious to anybody else’s problems. Hal just has this tendency to assume that things will ALWAYS work out in his favor… simply because he is Hal Jordan. His treatment of Carol Ferris [Link] is pretty outrageous for one thing. She’s his BOSS… and she’s doing her best in a very difficult situation, to keep him at bay and run a company, which let’s face it was a pretty unusual occupation for a WOMAN back in the day.
Hal never paid any attention, and kept chasng her around the disks in a way that would get him into a lot of trouble nowadays. He also treated his family in a rather cavalier fashion: Back in the old days, he and his brothers, Jack and Jim [Link] and their wives would go and visit their rich Uncle Titus. Sue, who was his younger brother Jim’s wife, was convinced that Jim was actually the Green Lantern, and Hal would cynically use this to his advantage all the time. And smirk when he did it.
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Stefan Mesch: Carol Ferris inherited Ferris Air and employed Hal as a test pilot. But frequently, an evil Alien energy, the Star Saphire (Link), would latch onto Carol and transform her into a dangerous sexual predator (Link). Hal and Carol had several relationships… but they never stayed together too long.
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Sally Pascale: Hal’s had a LOT of girlfriends over the years. Although Carol has always been the one that he seems to care about the most, that hasn’t stopped him from going after a lot of other women. To his credit, he seems to date only one at a time, which is nice, but he has this pathological fear of commitment, and never lets anyone get too close. Probably because of the fact that his Dad, whom he idolized was killed in front of him [when his plane crashed at Ferris Aircraft while Hal was still a young boy], and that his mother then spent all of her time trying to destroy Hal’s love of planes and such.
Nevertheless, Hal has a habit of using women, and then dumping them in a minute. It’s a good thing he’s cute!
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Stefan Mesch: Whenever I learn about specific heroes, their powers and their individual supporting casts, there is a moment when I feel overwhelmed: Every hero has an origin story, a specific home town, one or several love interests…
For the longest time, Hal Jordan even had a (non-superpowered) sidekick, the youthful Inuit airplane mechanic Tom Kalmaku (Link).
There are long articles that explain the details of Hal’s story (Link). There are snarky articles that make fun of the weirdest and most stupid twists (Link). There also is a great web cartoon from last month that I love to pieces because it’s funny AND truthful (Link)
…but I think the best advice, when you have to navigate the world of a super-hero, comes from Scipio Garling, my favourite comic book blogger (Link) and his theory of the ‚Dynastic Centrepiece‘ (Link):
Most heroes have a junior counterpart… a female counterpart… a kid sidekick… a romantic interest… an elder statesman… a civilian companion… an authority figure… a black sheep… a contextualizing city… and sometimes even an animal companion.
The more of these ten slots that are filled, and the better that these roles interact, the bigger is the hero’s standing: The Dynastic Centerpiece model provides a useful matrix (Link) to look back at Alan Scott’s „Green Lantern“ series… compare it with Hal Jordan’s „Green Lantern“ series… and understand how the faces and the tone of the individual series do change a lot – but the underlying dynamics do remain.
 
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Sally Pascale: I’m glad that you’ve read Scipio’s dissertations: He always has a unique and usually brilliant take on things.
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Stefan Mesch: I did read Scipio… but I didn’t read lots of early „Green Lantern“ stories. All together, I have tried three reprint collections (Link) of Hal Jordan’s early adventures.
Did you, personally, like all the stories of the late-70ies „Bronze Age“ (Link)?
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Sally Pascale: I really liked the books starting the issue 188 [Link], when writer Steve Englehart [Link] took over: Englehart made much more use of the actual Corps  and we saw a lot more of characters like Katma Tui [Link], Kilowog [Link], Salaak [Link], Ch’p [Link] and Tomar-Re [Link].  John Stewart became the main character for a while…  This was when a lot of the mythos was established concerning the Corps, and it was a heck of a wild ride.
Then sadly, the Guardians disbanded, and went off to make whoopie with the Zamarons, and they accidentally executed Sinestro, and mostly the Corps was shut down… with the exception of a few, who all went to live on Earth with Hal.
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Stefan Mesch: I have no idea what you talking about. This must be about 1986, 1987, when the series was renamed from „Green Lantern“ to „Green Lantern Corps“ and the Manhunter robots came back during the „Millennium“ crossover (Link)…?
Reviews were so bad that I did not read this.
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Sally Pascale: Even that era was fun, because Englehart had a sure way with the different voices of the characters: Guy came out of his coma and became a whole lot more fun, and John and Katma got married [Link], and Hal was busy making out with an underage Arisia [Link], which was a bit squicky [Link], but hey.
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Stefan Mesch:For the longest time, I really did not like these Green Lantern Corps characters too much. I understand that in the DC Universe, most alien species are genetically related or derived from the Maltusians (Link)
…but I still think it is lazy and sexist storytelling to show all these (conventionally attractive) space girls (Link) with their mini skirts, their big breasts and their names like ‚Katma‘, ‚Arisia‘, ‚Lyssa Drak‘ (Link)… Every female character’s name is ending with an -a or does sound stereotypically feminine.
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Sally Pascale: All these Alien Women and their tiny tiny mini-skirts… I blame this on Star Trek, quite frankly: All they ever did was paint the actresses blue or green or pink – but they all had long legs, high heels and perky perky breasts. They might have antennae, and weird eyebrows, but they were all definitely humanoid females.
All the better to be lusted after by Hal Jordan.
That’s probably why I liked Boodikka [Link] so much when she was first introduced. She was this HUGE and completely unattractive Warrior Woman [Link], who could have picked up just about any Green Lantern other than [massive drill sergeant] Kilowog and broken them in half. They ended up prettying her up after a while [Link], which was a shame [Link!!], but dammit, she had such a great character.
Brik [Link] was another female character that was not made in the „pretty-pretty“ mode. She was a silicone-based life-form, if I remember correctly, and basically was made out of rock. She still had breasts of course, because otherwise how would you KNOW that she was a woman, but she was a fun character. She also had this totally unrequited crush on Hal. Hal of course was busy lusting after all the other more nubile alien women.
There are some really cool alien races in the Corps, however: Kilowog has to be one of my absolute favorites. His planet of Bolovax Vik [Link] was unfortunately destroyed, but he had had a wife and a family. They also all were able to collectively feel eveyone’s thoughts and feelings,so he was particularly bereft when he lost his entire home and species.
And who wouldn’t like the concept of Rot Lop Fan [Link]? He’s blind, so he can’t see a Green Lantern, but he can HEAR the tone that it makes [Link]. That’s fun. There is also Leezle Pon [Link], who is a super intelligent virus, and I think that there is a mathematical equation that is a Lantern [Link], and one that is shaped like a cube.
Apros [Link] is fun, I’ve always wanted a stuffed plushy toy Apros [Link]. And G’Nort [Link]. Man, I just love G’Nort [Link]. Also try and find the story „A Guy and his G’nort“ [Link]. G’nort was a Green Lantern, who was also a Dog, and who had a ridiculous canine crush on Guy.
This is why I would love it if they would revive the Green Lantern Quarterly book [Link], just so that we could have more stories about the REST of the Corps.
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Stefan Mesch: In these first years after the Crisis, almost all major super-hero series thrived: „Wonder Woman“ and „Superman“ had popular reboots (Link) and redefined the personal lives of the characters. „Batman“ got darker and much more popular. There were smaller series like (the excellent!) „Suicide Squad“ (Link), Dennis O’Neil’s „The Question“ (Link) oder Mike Grell’s darker version of „Green Arrow“ (Link) that were mature, moody and very influental, to this day.
„Green Lantern Corps“, on the other hand, was cancelled in 1988… and in a (not very popular) science fiction mini-series named „Cosmic Odyssey“ (Link), John Stewart tries to save a planet named Xanshi (Link)… refuses the help of the other heroes… and sees the planet destroyed as a result of John’s arrogance.
In 1990, while Guy was busy in „Justice League International“, a new series starring Hal Jordan was started: „Green Lantern“ (Vol. 3) (Link). The writer was Gerard Jones (Link), the art came from Pat Broderick (Link) – and Hal was noticeable older now, with grey temples and a midlife identity crisis.
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Sally Pascale: Suddenly, Hal got these weird gray sideburns, and became morose and even more angsty than when he was going around with Ollie twenty years earlier. He wasn’t nearly as much fun, moving from job to job, and being rootless and cranky all the time. At the same time however, Guy was becoming more and more interesting.
DC was going to through a strange period at the time, with Superman and Batman all getting different treatment in an effort to be „relevant“ [Link]. And suddenly making perpetual horndog Hal Jordan suddenly look as though he was forty was a poor move. Instead of being charming and charismatic, he suddenly looked like a creepy older uncle.
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Stefan Mesch: The 8 opening issues (Link) of this series had Hal flying around, searching for a new place in life. And they must be one of the most annoying comics that I have read… because all the characters looked like gay fetish men (Link).
There’s a lot of casual sexism and objectification in comics, and I don’t think it’s necessarily worse to include gay fantasies in mainstream super-hero books than to include… stripperific women (Link). But once Hal Jordan started fighting the shirtless, hairy sailor with the hanky code handkerchiefs (Link) on his jeans, it was obvious that no one at DC strongly cared (Link) about this book and the artist, Pat Broderick, just tried to get all kinds of „crap past the radar“ (Link)
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Sally Pascale: Hal Jordan was doing his own thing in his own book there for a while, yes. Occasionally, Guy would drop in and play off of Hal, and these issues were usually hilarious. Then, both Guy [in „Guy Gardner“ / „Guy Gardner: Warrior“, 1992 – 1996, Link] and John Stewart [in „Green Lantern: Mosaic“, 1992-1993, Link] got their own books… and “Mosaic”, which again was written by Gerard Jones, was, in a word… sensational.
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Stefan Mesch: „Green Lantern: Mosaic“ (Link) is an unconventional and remarkable book in the DC Universe, and you were very happy about it (Link)! Even though the Guardians left their home planet Oa in „Millennium“ (1988), Appa Ali Apsa, the more human-like „Old-Timer“ Guardian who had traveled through the US with Hal and Ollie, had decided to stay back on Oa on his own.
Over time, he grew mad and started stealing whole cities from different planets to transplant them to Oa: He created a „Mosaic World“ (Link) where hundreds of species were forced to live side-by-side, and even though Hal was able to defeat the mad Guardian, no one could break up the intergalactic mishmash city… so John decided to stay on Oa and help these civilizations with their cultural problems.
The series is remarkable for the eye-popping, weird 90ies art (it reminded me of artist Anthony Ausgang, Link) and the Charles-Bukowski-like, deliberately erratic dialogue and storytelling. Also, „Mosaic“ is one of the few series with a black main character (Link) that was making good money: After 18 issues, „Mosaic“ was not cancelled because of poor sales.
Personally, I did not enjoy the writing style and the „groovy“, pretentious, surrealist stories. But it was an ambitious concept – and nothing that I can see DC Comics publishing today, in 2011.
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Sally Pascale: And next, Hal turned crazy and killed all his friends.
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Stefan Mesch: The story started when Superman was killed by a monster in 1993 (Link). A short while after his death, several ‚replacement Supermen‘ (Link) showed up: a youthful clone (Link), an inventor in a steel suit (Link), a sentient computer directive from Superman’s home planet Krypton (Link) … and the violent Cyborg Superman (Link).
Until today, the Cyborg Superman is one of the most important villains in modern „Green Lantern“ storylines. He also serves as a nice parody of Marvel’s „Fantastic Four“ hero Reed Richards (Link), because both characters have nearly the same backstory… but vastly different heroing careers.
With Superman still dead, his old enemy Mongul (Link), an alien despot (with the personality of a schoolyard bully) decided to attack Coast City. With the Cyborg Superman standing by, Mongul killed 7 Million people (Link)
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Sally Pascale: Coast City was destroyed, and Hal couldn’t save it.  He rather lost his marbles after that, and the Guaridans certainly didn’t help at all. Instead of getting him some therapy, they yelled at him and told him to stop moping. Naturally, this just made him mad [Link].  And then he tried to fix things, and they yelled at him some more. So he flew back to Oa, and basically just mowed down everyone in his path…
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Stefan Mesch: Hal murders the friends who try to stop him – Boodika, Kilowog, Arisia, and many more – and steals their power rings (Link). Then, he kills Sinestro (Link)
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Sally Pascale: …and destroys the central battery [Link], and that was that for the Green Lantern Corps.
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Stefan Mesch: I read about Coast City’s destruction when I was 14, in Roger Stern’s „The Death and Life of Superman“ novel (Link). To this day, the book is one of my favourites, and I can highly recommend it to everyone who knows nothing about the DC universe.
Hal Jordan’s descent into madness has also been released as a trade paperback (Link) collection, titled „Emerald Twilight / A New Dawn“ (Link). It is not very good… but to this day the single most important piece of backstory you should know when you read modern-day „Green Lantern“ comics.
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Sally Pascale: To this day, there are a lot of fanboys who start frothing at the mouth at the very thought of the „Emerald Twilight“ storyline, but DC wanted to get rid of Hal and the Corps and start all over with a newer younger version of the hero. So Hal was turned into a huge villain, and tried to destroy the Universe, and it was a pretty shabby treatment for someone who had been one of their classical heroes, really.
He also beat the crap out of Guy, tore out his eye and put him into another coma.
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Stefan Mesch: The 199oies were the „Dark Age“ (Link) of comic books: Excessive violence, new, ‚radical‘ replacement heroes… and once Superman’s death turned out to be a (real-life) media spectacle and a bestseller, every other hero had some big catastrophe shaking up his status quo (Link): Batman was put in a wheelchair (Link), Wonder Woman was replaced by a more violent Amazon named Artemis (Link), Green Arrow was killed by terrorists (Link)… and Hal Jordan became the villain in an event book called „Zero Hour: Crisis in Time“ (Link).
To this day, „Zero Hour“ is just about the dumbest, least inspiring and most joyless comic book I have read: Dozens of heroes die while Hal Jordan calls himself „Parallax“ (Link) and tries to travel to the beginning of time (Link) to change history. In the end, Ollie shoots him in the heart to stop him (Link). It’s a horrible story… and a good case of „Character Assassination“ (Link).
But hey: It gave us Kyle Rayner. (Link)
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Sally Pascale: I wasn’t particularly happy when Hal got Parallaxed and went nuts.  A LOT of people weren’t too happy about it. A number of really angry fanboys even started up HEAT [‚Hal’s Emerald Attack Team‘, an initiative to bring back Hal], and were sending death threats to poor Ron Marz [Link], the new writer, which is incredibly bizarre.
However, since I really only started reading the „Green Lantern“ comic of 1990, I didn’t have the emotional attachment that I developed later, so all I thought was that it was an interesting story [to find a replacement for Hal after 50 issues].
I’m able to look back now and realize that for all that it did such horrible things to a reasonably beloved character… it nevertheless was a seminal comic book event, and one that would have VERY large repercussions for the future.
But getting to Kyle. I like Kyle. He’s young, adorable, a bit confused, not always too bright, but he’s got a lot of heart and compassion, and he’s just trying SO hard to be a good hero. Frankly, the idea that Ganthet [the last surviving Guardian, Link] just found him standing in an alley outside of a bar [Link] is hilarious.  And he does fulfill the first requirement of being a good Green Lantern… he has a really fabulous arse [Link].
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Stefan Mesch: Kyle Rayner is a commercial illustrator / freelance artist. When we first meet him, he lives in LA with his girlfriend Alex deWitt (Link) and has only been out of college for a couple of years. Kyle has an overbearing mom, an absent dad and he really likes the comfort of a long-term relationship: There *always* is a girl in his life, and he *always* can’t wait to marry her.
The ring has not been picked Kyle for his bravety / willpower, though: He only found it by chance, and since there is no Oa and no Corps anymore, he has a hard time learning the ropes.
Interestingly, Alex turns out to be very helpful there: The two of them have a nice, loving dynamic, and the comic starts out a little one-dimensional (because of Kyle’s naivité)… but still quite charming.
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Sally Pascale: Kyle’s first stories weren’t really in the epic, earth-shattering, cosmic vein. He was spending a lot of his time trying to figure out how the ring worked, and how to BE a Green Lantern, without a Green Lantern Corps. Everyone else had been depowered or killed off. He also had to deal with all of Hal’s friends and comrades in arms. For example, Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow couldn’t stand him, because his friend Hal had gone bonkers, and now here was this good-looking upstart in his place.
Ollie wasn’t the only one, either: So a lot of the early Kyle stories were mostly about him trying to figure out is place in the universe.
Frankly, I really really liked Alex, and I was devastated when she was fridged. To this day, I think that she’s still the best girlfriend that he ever had.
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Stefan Mesch: It’s remarkable that today, a lot of people in screenwriting, comic books or feminism know the term „he/she is getting fridged“ (Link). It originated with Kyle and Alex, back in 1994, when a villain named Major Force (Link) found out where Kyle lived, visited their apartment…
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Sally Pascale: …ripped off Alex’s limbs one by one and stuffed her body into the refrigerator, where Kyle could find her [Picture/Link]. Alex DeWitt’s death lead to quite the interesting idea of „Women In Refridgerators“ [Link], which became a feminist code for a lot of the tings that women find annoying about comic books.
Such as always killing off the hero’s girlfriend… or at least having highly unpleasant things happen to the hero’s girlfriend… so that the HERO will have angst.
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Stefan Mesch: Anita Sarkeesian from Bitch Magazine (Link) made a cool video and explained the „Women in Refrigerators“ trope. She also gives a lot of cool examples:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DInYaHVSLr8
Anita Sarkeesian:
Big Barda [Link] is just one of many female characters whose random and meaningless death was constructed in order to create a more intricate storyline for a male hero.“
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Sally Pascale: The term „Women In Refridgerators“ was coined by the incredibly talented Gail Simone [a hair dresser and web writer in the 1990ies, Link], and she wrote an amazing essay [Link] about it, some years ago.
Women, sidekicks, supporting characters, minorities… all seem to be very prone to WiR syndrome… in that so many writers take the lazy way out, and use the girlfriend, the relative, the best friend’s death as a way to motivate the HERO and to give him a reason to be angry or sad.
I can’t think of too many instances where a woman has a boyfriend killed, which in turn causes her to become a superhero. Another lazy writing trick is to have a heroine be raped [Link] and use that for her motivation. Again, not too many male heroes use that as their reason for fighting crime.
It has become such a cliché, and I’m tired of it.
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Stefan Mesch: In 60 years, we had five major characters fill out the title role of „Green Lantern“: Alan, Hal, Guy, John and Kyle…
All of them have been American males, and every notable female character in the series – Arisia, Katma Tui, Jade (Link), Soranik Natu (Link) – sooner or later became a girlfriend to one of the guys and plays a supporting, secondary, clichèd role (Link with examples).
Of course, this is not exclusive to „Green Lantern“ stories (even though the GL franchise does have a male-driven, macho sensitivity, stronger and more notable than in „Superman“ or even „Batman“, for example).
Starting in September of 2011, there are 52 ongoing comic series at DC comics (Link). Two of the writers – Gail Simone and Amy Reeder [Link] – are female. The rest is male [Link with details/discussion].
And from 28 characters who have their own books, only 6 are female… and only two of these, in turn, are not distaff counterparts [depressing Link] / female versions of pre-existing male characters.
So whenever a woman or a minority character in these stories dies [Link]… they are leaving a much bigger hole – because there has never been lots of diversity in comics, in the first place.
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Sally Pascale: I’m also getting annoyed with the way that they are killing off the replacement heroes [„Legacy Characters“, Link], such as Ryan Choi [the Asian-American „Atom“, Link], so that Ray Palmer [the more well-known, „classic“ and white „Atom“, Link] could come back as the „official“ Atom.
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Stefan Mesch: Geoff Johns is a big fan of this strategy, and it brings a lot of problems: The oldest, classic heroes usually have the biggest brand value in comics, so when a comic book series is failing, it is easier to kill off the hero, invent a new person with slightly different powers and make him the new star… with the same name (Link).
Like Alan Scott, most Golden Age heroes of the 40ies were replaced by fresh, timelier characters with the same super-hero identity in the Silver Age of the 60ies…
…and in die 70ies and 80ies, a lot of „-girl“ characters showed up: There was a new, female Dr. Light (Link), a new, female Wildcat (Link)… there even have been female Robins (Link), from time to time.
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Sally Pascale: If there are so many Bat characters running around, and so many Green Lanterns, not to mention a whole passel of „Super-“ People, surely there was room for two Atoms. The gratuitous and casual killing off of good characters is infuriating.
It used to be a Very Big Deal when a hero was killed… but they’ve used that ploy so often, that it has lost most of its impact. Needless to say, I would be thrilled beyond belief if they could bring back some of the really fabulous characters that they have so needlessly killed off in the recent past – such as „Blue Beetle“ Ted Kord [Link/Picture], Ralph and Sue Dibney [Link/Picture], Mr. Miracle and Big Barda [Link/Picture], Ryan Choi [Link/Picture], Lian Harper [Link/Picture]… well, you get the picture.
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Stefan Mesch: It was hard for me to enjoy the recent „Brightest Day“ (Link) event, because there were two young black characters – Ronnie Raymond (Link), the second hero to be named „Firestorm“, and Jackson Hyde (Link), the second hero to be named „Aqualad“. Both boys seemed likeable and full of potential… but also very much like the characters that get sidelined and forgotten (Link) once they fail to interest the (mainly white) readership.
What made these two „Brightest Day“ storylines so unnerving was that both young heroes had non-superpowered (step-)parents, and that their two fathers were heavily featured in the story: In the past couple of years, Tim Drake’s father was killed (Link/Picture), Kyle Rayner’s mother was killed (Link/Picture), Clark Kent’s father had a heart attack and died (Link/Picture), Supergirl lost her father (Link/Picture), Lois Lane’s father killed himself twice (Link/Picture) and Wonder Woman’s mother died three times (Link/Picture) and – one of the most idiotic and wasteful stories – a villain named Weather Wizard let his baby son be murdered to prove that he was still evil (Link).
I was reading the 24 issues of „Brightest Day“, waiting for these two kind, smart, but unspectacular middle-aged black men to be killed off… and I’m very surprised that it didn’t happen. I don’t think DC is committed to this sort of supporting character… at all.
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Sally Pascale: Let me just say that I LOVE supporting characters: A good supporting cast can really make or break a superhero. Look at Superman…where would he be without Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane? Batman could hardly exist without Alfred or Commissioner Gordon.
To my mind, Jaime Reyes [Link], the new Blue Beetle has one of the very best supporting casts out there [Link/Picture: Jaime’s mom and Guy Gardner], and I thank God on a daily basis that they haven’t killed HIM off [Link/Picture]!
There are a TON of Green Lantern supporting characters of course, and when they are well written, they become very important to the reader: Not only are there all of the myriad Lanterns, but all of the cool villains. Where would Hal be without Sinestro?
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Stefan Mesch: There are amazing characters around, and more of them than there are comic books to give them space to shine.
But I think people are so bitter or angry about these deaths because the heroes, most of the time, manage to come back from the dead – especially if they are the most popular, „iconic“ and „classic“ person to hold a super-hero name (interesting analysis, Link). For women, minorities, girlfriends and side characters, staying relevant is even harder.
Sooner or later, almost everyone gets killed, forgotten or left behind to keep the hero „fresh“ and without „boring“ responsibilities (Link to a ‚Spider-Man‘ storyline that destroyed Peter Parker’s marriage to keep him „hip“ and „relatable“).
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Stefan Mesch: For 10 years and more than 140 comic book issues, Kyle was the main character of „Green Lantern“ (1994 to 2004). And all this time, flat side characters might have been the series‘ biggest problem:
One the one hand, Kyle’s series was very fresh and accessible because he was the last and only Green Lantern, so we did not see many storylines concerned with Oa (destroyed), the Corps (disbanded), Hal Jordan (evil and crazy). Instead, Kyle moved to Greenwich Village, found a favorite coffee shop (Link) and hip neighbors and led a life reminiscent of „Seinfeld“ (Link) or „Friends“ (Link), with lots of post-college soul-searching and girlfriend trouble.
One the other hand, Kyle’s girlfriends were extremely flat characters: After Alex, the freelance photographer, was killed and stuffed into the fridge, Kyle dated Donna, a freelance photographer (and hero, Link), who then was killed by an evil robot.
Next, he dated Jade, a fashion photographer (and hero, Link)… until she, too, was killed in the 2005 event „Infitine Crisis“ (Link), the sequel to „Crisis of Infinite Earths“.
Kyle is a likeable, charismatic character… but the people in his personal life are written so one-dimensional that large parts of this era of „Green Lantern“ read like a weaker, more naive version of „Starman“ (Link), another 90ies series about an urban, young, hip hero in search of his identity (Link to an essay of mine, German).
For nearly 10 years, „Green Lantern“ felt like „Starman“… for stupid people (Link).
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Sally Pascale: We can definitely bring up the phenomenom of Kyle’s reputed ‚Kiss of Death‘. It is absolutely amazing just HOW many of Kyle’s love interests have come to a sticky end. First there was poor Alex.  Then they killed Donna off, although it ultimately didn’t stick and she came back from the dead. Then they killed Jade, then they killed his mother, then they killed practically anyone who had ever been in the same room with him. I am really hoping that Soranik Natu, his current girlfriend, is the one to break the jinx.
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Stefan Mesch: While Kyle started dating Donna, there was a whole generation of teenage heroes reaching their mid-twenties in the DC Universe:
Dick Grayson, the former Robin, was now Nightwing (Link). Roy Harper, Green Arrow’s drug-addicted ward Speedy, became Arsenal (Link). For more than 30 years, Donna Troy had been Wonder Woman’s Wonder Girl (Link), but by the 90ies, these heroes had successfully searched for their own identity and had started to grow up.
At the same time, their former (sidekick) roles were getting filled with new, more unconventional characters: an Asian-American Batgirl named Cassandra Cain (Link), a 1/4-black, 1/4-Asian buddhist monk named Connor Hawke (Link) who turned out to be Oliver Queen’s long-lost son… and replaced him as Green Arrow shortly after Kyle replaced Hal.
In the late 90ies, DC Comics had became more multicultural and the authors worked hard to show us established hero concepts… with young, fresh faces:
Kyle was part of this larger trend, and even today, he is the most popular and enduring of these characters.
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Sally Pascale: I will be the first to admit that I am not much of a Donna Troy fan, though: I find her to be dull. I was never much of a „Teen Titans“ [Link: A huge hit series in the early 1980ies] fan, so I didn’t like her particularly there either. Although I will admit that Kyle was a much better love interest for her than her late, unlamented husband, Terry Long [Link]. *shudder*
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Stefan Mesch: Terry Long was a middle-aged, divorced college professor, and Donna Troy was only 20 or 21 when she married him. To make things worse, Terry looked very much like Marv Wolfman (Link), the author of that relationship (and a long-time Donna Troy fan).
In 1997, Terry (and Donna’s son Robert, Link) were killed in a car crash. After that, the grieving Donna broke up with Kyle… and Kyle started to live with Jade/Jenny-Lynn Hayden, the green-skinned daughter of Alan Scott.
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Sally Pascale: I can’t STAND Jade!  She is one of the few people who actually have the Green Lantern power internalized… something that she inherited from her father, Alan Scott. And she’s green, and actually had a rather nice costume, and I keep thinking that I should like Jade… but I just LOATHE her!
She’s whiny, and she’s fairly incompetent, and she cheated on Kyle!  KYLE!  Of all people!  He’s a bit dim sometimes, and a bit self-centered, but dabnabit, Kyle is sweet, and he’s a nice boy and he just tries SO hard to be heroic all the time, and he’s out in space and she’s two-timing him, the little hussy! I was GLAD when she was killed…glad!  Bwhahahahahahahaha!!
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Stefan Mesch: I think the character of Jade was so annoying because Kyle basically had the very same story, with two different women: For the first five years, Kyle’s adventures were written by Ron Marz. But in 2000, a young author named Judd Winick (Link) took over and repeated many of the naive conflicts and stories that Marz had done before.
  • Ron Marz‘ „Emerald Allies“, where Kyle and Connor Hawke search for Kyle’s absent father, is a good, character-driven collection (Link).
  • Ron Marz‘ „Emerald Knights“, where Kyle meets a time-travelling, younger Hal Jordan, is highly recommended (Link).
  • …and Brian K. Vaughn’s 10-part mini-series „Green Lantern: Circle of Fire“ has lots of serious, intelligent character development for Kyle (Link).
But overall, the Kyle Rayner era of „Green Lantern“ is very much a kid’s book – and era that only ended in 2006, with Ron Marz‘ naive, 12-part „Ion“ series (Link)… where Alex’s killer, Major Force, [pretends to] stuff the body of Kyle’s mom into an household oven.
Ironically, Ron Marz has also… said some of the smartest things about constructing characters that I have ever read (Link), by drawing attention to a short sentence in an afterword (Link) by Stephen King:
[King:] „I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.“
Kyle, who has found his Green Lantern ring in an alley behind a bar, is presented as the quintessential „ordinary“ person, whisked away to cosmic adventures. He still has enough of a personality to be an interesting character…
…but it is notable that the DC heroes that people feel most passionate about – Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Oracle (Link), Jason Todd (Link), Damian Wayne (Link), Kate Kane (Link), Catwoman, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner – do *not* have ordinary personalities, at all.
Instead, what had me invested in DC comics in the first place… was blogs like yours – that talk about the personalities and less about the always-the-same plot twists (Link) -, artists like Amanda Conner (Link) – that show the small, everyday moments between the heroes – and writers like Greg Rucka (Link), who likes to write from the perspective of complicated, competent women (Link).
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Stefan Mesch: Moving on to Kyle’s second regular author, Judd Winick. In 2000, Winick won a Pulitzer Price for a personal graphic novel about HIV, „Pedro and me“ (Link), a book that I can’t recommend enough.
Once Green Arrow Oliver Queen came back from the dead (Link), Winick also wrote some great scenes for Mia Dearden (Link), an HIV+ former teen prostitute who became Ollie’s new „Speedy“ sidekick (Link).
Winick’s „Green Lantern“ comics, on the other side, seemed rather dull.
The only Kyle books that I’ve really enjoyed were issues 138 and 139 (Link), where Kyle and Jade visit some Israel-like planet (Link) and have to deal with diplomacy and terrorism.
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Sally Pascale: Quite frankly, Winick has the ability to drive me absolutely nuts. He CAN be a good writer… when he wants to be. I get the impression that he thinks that superhero comics are a bit beneath him, and he writes them with a certain amount of contempt.
Recently, he changed the backstory of Tora [Olafsdottir, Guy’s girlfriend Ice from the old Justice League International, Link]: His retcon [Link] is insulting, unnecessary and just plain bad [Link]. He doesn’t seem to write women very well. He CAN write men failry well…again, when he feels like it.
He did a fairly decent job with Kyle back in the Green Lantern books. However, he also has this habit of writing about things such as drug use, or homosexuality, or whatever… and making a HUGE deal out of it. It reminds me a bit of Dennis O’Neil [in „Green Lantern / Green Arrow“ in 1968] actually. There is a feeling that he has one eye on the award ceremony, and only one eye on his writing, because it is Just So Socially Relevant!
Terry Berg, the teenage art assistant the Winick introduced [Link], was a decent enough character, but he was there mainly for Winick to make a Big Point [about bullying / gay-bashing and homophobia, Link].
Winick has also done some very good character stuff with Kyle… but having him answer to his real name while in costume or transforming into Green Lantern in the middle of a busy coffee shop? …or was it Ron Marz who did that? I’m too lazy to look it up right now.
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Stefan Mesch: While Kyle was dating Jade, Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, had some nice visits/scenes as a potential father-of-the-bride. Since his powers were magic-based, he also still was very active with the Justice Society.
But what changed for Guy and John? When Hal turned crazy, they both had their own books, „Mosaic“ and „Guy Gardner“. But suddenly, through Hal’s actions, their GL rings were powerless.
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Sally Pascale: When Hal got Parallaxed, they decided that Kyle was going to be the ONLY Green Lantern, so they cancelled the Mosaic book, which was a darned shame.  It is quite fabulous, and poor John Stewart has never been quite as interesting since.
„Guy Gardner“ was renamed „Guy Gardner: Warrior“ [Link] and Guy recovered from his fight with Hal, went off to find the Warrior waters [that grant people superpowers, Link] and under the aegis of writer Beau Smith [Link], became Warrior.  The whole storyline is pretty ridiculous [Link], but I didn’t care, because Guy actually managed to get his brains back. He was still a jerk of course, but now he was a jerk on purpose. And with a heart of gold of course.
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Stefan Mesch: John Stewart – and Donna Troy, of all people – joined an intergalactic team of super-powered peacekeepers, the Darkstars (1992-1996, Link). These comics weren’t very good… and I don’t understand why there even *was* a poor man’s Green Lantern (Replacement) Corps, all of a sudden.
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Sally Pascale: They did bring in the Darkstars after the Green Lantern Corps were pretty much kaput… and man, I HATED the Darkstars! Their uniforms were gaudy, and they seemed to just try to be copying the Lanterns. The Controllers [Link, an ancient rival race to the Guardians] were the ones in charge… and they just wanted to be the Guardians in the WORST way. But they just didn’t have the innate sense of arrogance [Link] to be able to pull it all off.
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Stefan Mesch: Both „Guy Gardner: Warrior“ and „Darkstars“ (Link) were cancelled in 1996, but Guy had just opened a sports bar in New York, „Warriors“, so once a month, Kyle, John, Guy and Alan met there and drank a beer.
John also moved to New York, together with Merayn (Link), an alien woman he had met at the Darkstars: John was in a wheelchair at the time, so Meryan cared for him.
Donna Troy was helping Kyle rearranging his furniture… Meryan sat in John’s appartment to clean his things… It is pretty depressing to read these comics today… and seeing John as a dull, spiritless man in a wheelchair.
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Sally Pascale: John has been around for quite some time, but he’s undergone quite a few changes over the years. Originally, in 1972, he was hand-picked by the Guardians to be Hal’s backup after poor Guy ended up in his first coma.
John was a stereotypical angry young Black Man [Link], and he and Hal didn’t get along at ALL. But that changed fairly quickly: I liked the fact that John was an architect, and that he loved coffee, and Barbra Streisand and ABBA. He fell for Katma Tui, and she for him, and they got married during the Super Bowl, which was fun. Also, he never bothered wearing a mask [Link]. Then the editors at DC decided that he was too happy, I suppose, and they killed off Katma, in one of the most stupid ways possible (and definitely a „Women in Refrigerators“ moment, Link).
Then Hal turned evil, and then John was a Darkstar, and then he was paralized, and „Final Night“ happened [a boring 1996 event where Parallax returned for one final time and decided to throw himself into the sun to save mankind from a cosmic „sun-eater“, Link] and Hal healed John’s spine, but then John realized that he still wasn’t able to walk and THEN he went to a psychotherapist and it turned out that he had a repressed memory of being responsible for the death of his baby sister and THAT was why he was still paralized.
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Stefan Mesch: All of this was badly plotted, joyless to read and gradually marginalized one of only five or six well-known black DC heroes. To this day, I do not understand John, as a character: He is stern and humourless, uses his ring for elaborate, technically accurate energy constructs… and has been a Marine sharp shooter before he worked as an architect.
I know that John was in the highly popular „Justice League Unlimited“ cartoon (Link) and that there is a whole generation of TV-watching children who see a picture of Hal Jordan and say „But I always thought that Green Lantern was black guy!“ [racist discussion, Link]
…but from what I have seen of John Stewart in the comics, all „Green Lantern“ writers of the last 20 years seem to be bored by his sober, serious personality – and have no idea what to do with him.
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Sally Pascale: John’s (retconned) past as a Marine sniper came because this was his background in the Justice League cartoon on television [2004-2006, Link], and when the comic book writers heard of it, they decided to keep it.
Basically, John is probably the smartest of the four Earth Lanterns… although Guy is a whole lot smarter than people think that he is. Frankly, Hal and Kyle are pretty, but dumb. John is quietly competent, stoic, and steadfast. He’s the one who keeps his head when others are losing theirs. He is calm and he is efficient, but he is NOT particularly charismatic. I liked it when he was teamed up with Hal, because frankly Hal NEEDS someone to keep him on an even keel.
I liked it even better when Guy and Kyle were partners [starting in 2007], because they work beautifully together, AND they’re funny. Now of course, in the new DC reboot coming out in September, they are going to have Guy and John paired, which is something that they really haven’t done so much before. It should be…interesting.
It is as though between them, Hal, Kyle and Guy use up all the charisma, and John is left over. Nobody really seems to know quite what to do with him.  Quiet competence isn’t flashy. He’s awfully handy to have around, though.
I like John, I really do…and yet I can understand why you have a hard time getting a clear picture of him.
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Stefan Mesch: Judd Winick gave John this soap-opera-like dead little sister (Link) repressed memories (Link) Freudian excuse (Link). At the same time, an alien woman, Fatality (Link) came to earth and held John responsible for the destruction of her home planet Xanshi. For more than 10 years now, Fatality has been this sexually aggressive, shrill female Hannibal Lector (Link), waiting to destroy and/or sleep with John.
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Sally Pascale: I’ve never been much of a fan of Fatality, and she was fighting against Kyle so often when, quite frankly, it always seemed as though she should have been more of a John Stewart villain… since he was the one who was resposible for the destruction of her planet: John got cocky and didn’t think that he needed Martian Manhunter’s help, and really really made a mess of things. Lately, they seem to be trying to redeem Fatality, making her join the Star Sapphires [Link]. But it will be interesting to see what they ultimately do with her.
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Stefan Mesch: After Hal Jordan went crazy… and traveled back in time to destroy the universe… and got shot in the heart by one of Ollie’s arrows… and flew into the sun and died… He was star of the 1999 „Day of Judgement“ event (Link): The Spectre, God’s Spirit of Vengeance (Link), had been using a number of dead human hosts as an „anchor“ to humanity. After various esoteric fights between angels and demons, Hal Jordan becomes the Spectre’s new host. But did it work? Is it worth reading?
It wasn’t a very popular or well-received series… but it was one of the first comics written by Geoff Johns (fun Link), a young writer who, in 2005, had bigger plans for Hal.
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Sally Pascale: From 2001 to 2003, Hal Jordan had his own „The Spectre“ series [Link]. But did it work? Is it worth reading?  I have to admit that this was the low point of my interest in Hal: I was depressed enough that he went all crazy and became Parallax and killed his friends. I like Kyle of course, but I still MISSED having the Green Lantern Corps.
As for the Spectre… I’m not that invested in that particular use of Hal: It was nice that Hal was back… sort of. Kind of. A bit, perhaps. It wasn’t the same as having Hal as HAL, but at least he wasn’t DEAD dead. And it was interesting having him try and turn the Spectre into the Spirit of Redemption rather than the Spirit of Vengeance. It didn’t really work out in the end, but darn it, Hal was trying at least.
There were some good stories that came out of it, though: The „Quiver“ storyline [Link] by [famous indie director] Kevin Smith [Link] told the resurrection of Oliver Queen and used Hal as the Spectre, and that was pretty fabulous. But I haven’t read a whole lot of the other [religion- or horror-based] Spectre stories, because I just couldn’t muster up the interest.
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Stefan Mesch: …until finally, in 2005, a new mini-series, „Green Lantern: Rebirth“ (Link) brought Hal Jordan back from the dead.
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Sally Pascale: When Hal went bonkers and the Corps was destroyed, it was awfully hard on a lot of GL fans. They brought in Kyle, yes, and I LIKE Kyle, but it just wasn’t quite the same. For a while, I still had Guy to read about in „Guy Gardner: Warrior“, which was a lot of completely over-the-top insanity, but I MISSED him as a Lantern. John was sort’ve back, too… but still. I missed Hal.
Yes, Hal was shallow, self-centered, egotistical and a little bit dumb… but dammit, he always added some excitement. I even missed the stupid boxing glove construct he sometimes made with his ring [Link]!
So Hal’s return and all of the rebuilding of the Green Lantern mythology that followed has been wonderful
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Stefan Mesch: Geoff Johns, the new writer, had been reading the old, 1960ies „Silver Age“ stories of Hal Jordan in his grandmother’s attic when he was a kid (Interview/Link).
Since he started at DC Comics in 1999, he has brought back old characters from the Justice Society (Link), worked on older, out-of-date heroes like „Hawkman“ (Link) and „Aquaman“ (Link), made Hal Jordan the main character of „Green Lantern“ again… and brought back Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash (Link).
On a racial / diversity level, it is problematic that Johns wants to recreate the hierarchies from his childhood and replace the younger heroes with their original (always white) counterparts (Link).
On a commercial level, though, it is easier to make movies about Hal Jordan than about Kyle Rayner (…and Kyle’s complicated passing-of-the-torch backstory).
It is Geoff Johns‘ – highly successful – 2005 revitalization of the „Green Lantern“ franchise that made the 2011 movie possible in the first place.
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Sally Pascale: I really do love Geoff Johns as a writer. Not everything that he does is perfect, and he’s had his share of clunkers, but on the whole, he is a very careful writer. He plans the whole thing out in his head, not just for a few issues, not even for a year’s worth of issues, but for years and years worth of issues! He had the whole plot to „Rebirth“, the new „Green Lantern“ books [Link], and the „Green Lantern Corps“ books [Link], the „Sinestro Corps War“ [Link] AND „Blackest Night“ [Link] planned out at the beginning.
Johns loves to go dumpster-diving into DC continuity. It can be quite a treat to someone who is well-versed in that same continuity to see odd little facts and long-forgotten ideas pulled out, dusted off, and refurbished. And if you don’t know all that much about the history of the DC Universe? Well, the fact that he’s reused ideas doesn’t make them any the less intriguing.
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Stefan Mesch: „Green Lantern: Rebirth“ was the second „Green Lantern“ book I’ve read (Link), back in 2008… but I found it convoluted, murky and overly didactic.
(Plus, for the first and only time in a „Green Lantern“ book, I found the colors to be so dull and dark (Link) that the book gave me a… medieval, claustrophobic feeling).
Johns‘ basic idea is that years ago, when Hal named himself „Parallax“ and killed his friends, he had been possessed and brain-poisoned (Link) by an actual cosmic monster named Parallax – the cosmic avatar / personification of fear.
This angry, yellow Parallax monster [Link] had been held captive by the Guardians inside the central Power Battery on Oa [Link], but Sinestro, Hal’s enemy, coaxed it into „infecting“ Hal.
Since people require big willpower to use a Green Lantern ring, Geoff Johns made Green the actual color of the Universes‘ collective willpower [Link]… and yellow the color of the Universes‘ collective fear. Parallax was ‚the yellow entity that was made out of living fear‘, and this „emotional spectrum“ of energy-emotions (Link) was supposed to explain why for 40 years, the rings had not worked against yellow objects, either.
It was an okay explanation and a powerful retcon (Link), and once Parallax was defeated, Hal had his body reconstructed and the Guardians decided to start a new, second Green Lantern Corps on Oa.
Hal Jordan was the star of the new, monthly „Green Lantern“ book… Kyle had his 12-issues „Ion“ mini-series… and Guy and John starred in the new „Green Lantern Corps“.
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Sally Pascale: It’s been nothing short of wonderful. The Powers That Be made it almost impossible for Hal to be rehabilitated… and yet… Geoff Johns managed to do just that, and in an extremely satisfying way. And WITHOUT killing off Kyle!  That’s a miracle in and of itself. And we got Guy back as a Lantern, and John, and Kilowog and Salaak, and the Guardians, and Oa and the Oath [Link]… and all that cool cool stuff.
Thank goodness it’s all fixed now!
The Corps was a rich and valuable mythology back in the day… and we lost a LOT of story-telling potential when they killed Hal off, and only told stories with Kyle as the last Green Lantern. Now it is all back, and better than it ever was, and I am eternally grateful.
Geoff Johns has a gift for being able to go into the past, and mine obscure bits of continuity… and then reuse it to explain things that are happening now [Link]:
Frankly, I think that using Parallax as a kind of Yellow Fear Monster was utterly brilliant, because it also explained the whole „yellow“ weakness of the old books, and tied up all kinds of loose ends. 
Also, it gave Hal a way to come back after killing those people and still allow him to be a hero. And it even turns out that the friends Hal killed weren’t dead after all, just imprisoned on Biot [Link], which was the planet that the Cyborg Superman had made into his lair! You remember Cyborg Superman: He’s the one who blew up Coast City with Mongul in the first place! He’s the one behind the reprogrammed Manhunters [Link]! It…it all makes SENSE now!
I adored „Rebirth“. The art [by Ethan van Sciver, Link] was gorgeous, and it brought back Hal, as a hero… and Hal also lost those goddamned grey sideburns! Man – I hated those!
It’s funny how the pendulum swings in comics. In the ’90’s, they decided the older heroes were obsolete, and should be dumped for the newer, younger, hipper heroes, such as Kyle and Wally [West, the third Flash, Link], and Connor Hawke and so on. And I LIKE those newer characters, really I do.
But I’ve always liked Barry [Allen, the original Silver Age Flash, Link] too, and although Barry’s death was actually quite moving and epic, I missed him, so I was quite happy that Geoff Johns brought him back [article by me, German].
But of course, I don’t want to lose Wally either. Lately, they’ve rather shuffled both Wally and Connor into the background. I was SO thankful that they didn’t kill Kyle off…and it would have been SO easy to do so.
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Stefan Mesch: This is the way you sound on your blog most of the time, too: enthusiastic.
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Sally Pascale: I am! By god, this is the best current comic book out there!
The Corps is back, and in their own book, they all go around doing their Space Cop thing, and it‘ a heck of a lot of fun. Hal and Guy still fight, of course, but it’s a lot less angry than it used to be.  Besides, Guy Gardner is one of the few people in the Universe who can make Hal Jordan… nervous.  And that alone endears him to me!
We even got Coast City back: It has been rebuilt now, and people have moved there, and it’s even known as the City Without Fear [Link].  Take THAT, Gotham! Carol Ferris, Hal’s old flame at Ferris Aircraft, had gone and gotten married to someone else. But then she dumped him, and now she and  Hal are even making goo goo eyes at one another again.
And Sinestro [Link] came back as well. And this is a Very Good Thing. Sinestro has always been SUCH a good villain, and I’m sure that he missed Hal terribly. Without Hal to fight, the whole joy of battle had just gone, and it turns out that having Sinestro be the one who was talking to Parallax the whole time that he was imprisoned inside the Central Battery on Oa actually was the impetus behind Hal’s fall. And that has been very very satisfying… to Sinestro.
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Stefan Mesch: From what I’ve seen of Sinestro so far, he’s an excellent villain: I really enjoyed Geoff Johns‘ „Green Lantern: Secret Origin“ (Link), a retelling of the first meetings and backstory between Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, Abin Sur (Link) and Sinestro. It is the best starting point to anyone interested in the „Green Lantern“ mythology.
On the other hand, neither „Green Lantern: No Fear“ (Link) nor „Green Lantern Corps: Recharge“ (Link) or „Green Lantern Corps: To be a Lantern“ (Link) are very good… or make a whole lot of sense.
I wouldn’t recommend these books to interested readers.
Only with „Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green“ (Link), the whole saga started to get really, really complex, dynamic and good. But no matter where you start: You have to read some pretty bad comics to understand what is going on.
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Sally Pascale: The older books still have a lot of relevance, yes. But it is fairly easy to find them, since DC has actually been reprinting a lot of their old material in handy dandy collected books [Link]… because who could afford to buy the extremely rare and valuable… not to mention impossible to find… originals from 50 or 70 years ago?
Is the „Green Lantern“ mythos necessarily an easy place for a novice to jump onto? Probably not. Although I suppose that can be said of just about ANY comic book!
I don’t know if I am typical: When I find a book that I like, I start to read it, and then I get interested, and start looking for back issues, and trade paperbacks so that I can figure out exactly WHAT is happening, and who those people ARE, and why are they acting the way that they do. I tend to get a little bit obsessive.
When I began reading Green Lanterns, I hunted down back issues with absolute lust: I went to every comic book store I could find. I had lists. I had mail-order catalogues. It is a lot easier nowadays, because they are reprinting so many of the old old issues in black and white [as cheap „Showcase“ Collections, Link]. I don’t obsess about having the originals… I just want to read the STORIES!
I did the same thing when I discovered James Robinson’s [Link] „Starman“ books [Link] …and when I found the „Lt. Blueberry“ books by Charlier and Giraud: Do you have any idea how hard it is to find thirty-year old French westerns? It’s darned near impossible!  But still, I’ve managed to get my greedy little hands on a whole bunch of the reprints.
I actually think that it would be easier for a new reader to start with some of the Silver Age Green Lantern books [Link], to find out who exactly Hal is.  Then when he starts to behave strangely in the Denny O’Neil era, or even later in the Gerard Jones era, you will have a better understanding of his fall… and his redemption. If you start with Rebirth, you will have one heck of a story…but you won’t necessarily understand WHO Hal Jordan is… or why his return is such a Big Deal.
But if you really really like Green Lanterns… it is truly worth it.
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Stefan Mesch: There is one reprint collection that I have found extremely helpful: „In Brightest Day“ (Link), with stories edited and selected by Geoff Johns. The collection features some 1980ies stories written by cult author Alan Moore (Link) that played a big role in all the „Green Lantern“ stories since 2005… but especially the 2009 „Blackest Night“ event (Link with interesting, snarky quote by Alan Moore).
Let’s talk about Sinestro some more, though: He was a very competent, prideful and serious Green Lantern from the planet Korugar (Link) who realized that the planet was much more secure if he ruled it with an iron fist. From there, it turned violent… and he began to be a menace to the Guardians.
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Sally Pascale: Really, Sinestro is a fabulous character: Introduced as THE villain for Hal [Link], he’s probably one of the reasons that „Green Lantern“ became so popular. All heroes need a good villain, and Sinestro is one of the best [Link].
And the funny thing is… he doesn’t think of himself as a villain. According to Sinestro’s lights, he’s the GOOD guy. He’s just trying to save the Universe, and he happens to think that the best way to do that is to install order. He’s a little bit like Marvel’s Doctor Doom [Link] in that respect. One can’t help but think that if Doom ever DID take over the world, he’d do a really good job running it.
Sinestro got a little bit carried away [with his dictatorship] on Korugar, and the Guardians turned on him [Link]. They seem to have a bad habit of doing that sort of thing.
Abin Sur, one of the greatest of the Lanterns, was Sinestro’s friend and Mentor. This is a retcon, so it has never happened in the original stories, but it’s a pretty good one: Sinestro fell in love with Abin Sur’s sister, Arin Sur [Link], and she was killed [depressing Link], which made him awfully sad and bitter.
It has never been said that Abin’s sister is actually the mother of [Sinestro’s illegitimate daughter and co-star of the new „Green Lantern Corps“ series] Soranik Natu [Link], but the implication is there. Soranik was a surgeon on Korugar, and now she is a Green Lantern in her own right… but she thinks that Sinestro is a monster. And there is no denying that he’s done some extremely heinous things: Like destroying Kilowog’s entire planet!
Geoff Johns has been working on Sinestro a lot in the past few years: „Rebirth“ has brought the character back from the comic book purgatory where he had been lurking, and we were all very happy to see him.
In the big 2008 crossover [Link] „The Sinestro Corps War“ [Link], I think that Geoff Johns wrote one of the Very Best Green Lantern stories ever: I liked it even better than Rebirth!
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Stefan Mesch: Of course! Me, too: „The Sinestro Corps War“ is a big, fast-paced, incredibly cinematic blockbuster where two years of build-up and exposition in „Green Lantern“ and the sister series „Green Lantern Corps“ culminated in a war between Green Lanterns… and Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns [Link], ready to spread fear across the galaxy. It was not a very cerebral or thoughtful story… but BIG fireworks, and BIG fun.
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Sally Pascale: I always found it interesting – and a little bit sad at the same time – that Sinestro formed his OWN Corps, but that he just couldn’t let go of his old obsession with the Green Lanterns… he forged rings just like theirs, he has a Power Battery just like theirs, the command structure is the same, and so many other things that he just can’t seem to let go of: He is understandably bitter about the Guardians, and also towards Hal, whom he considered his friend until he „betrayed him“. Hal doesn’t see it that way, of course. But Sinestro’s point of view is naturally quite different.
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Stefan Mesch: I like Soranik very much, and from a German perspective, it’s fun to see a planet that has overcome fascim only a couple of years ago… and still deals with a lot of anger and ambiguity when it comes to the actual foreign / interestellar politics (Link).
From what I’ve heard about the way Sinestro has ruled Korugar in the past (Link), he does strike me as a kind of „Space Hitler“ (Link). Has that been handled with any kind of political complexity in the old comics, too? Or is Sinestro just your run-of-the-mill despot?
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Sally Pascale: I’m not sure that I would describe Sinestro as a Space version of Hitler: He isn’t a hater so much as someone who is trying to „fix“ things. He doesn’t necessarily see genocide as the solution to all of his problems. He WAS originally a bit of an archeologist, but I don’t see him as a fanatic about architecture. He would like to have a New World Order however. And he does seem to see himself as being the most competent person to run it.
Something that I will admit I have always rather liked about Sinestro, is that he’s been portrayed as having a rather dry sense of humor. A black sense of humor, but still… he has a kind of dark wit. You can’t be a complete villain if you can see the amusing side of things. And this was before Geoff Johns got a hold of him, so it’s really a part of his core character. And seriously, who wouldn’t like David Niven [Link] with pink skin and a yellow ring?
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Stefan Mesch: Starting to read these modern comics, I feel like both „Green Lantern“ and „Green Lantern Corps“, running side by side, had a few false starts: „Green Lantern Corps“-author Dave Gibbons (Link) is very popular because he was the artist of the „Watchmen“ comic (Link) in 1986, but his first stories were like… boring episodes of „Star Trek“ from 20 years ago.
When artist Patrick Gleason (Link) and new writer Peter Tomasi (Link) took over, though, GLC got really, really good.
I think that Peter Tomasi’s books, „Green Lantern Corps“ and the recent „Green Latern: Emerald Warriors“ [Link] are the best series currently published by DC.
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Sally Pascale: Tomasi [Link] really does a fabulous job writing „Green Lantern Corps“… and Pat Gleason is one of my absolute favorite artists. He can draw aliens like nobody’s business [Link], and he’s endlessly inventive about the ways that he does it. And his artwork is just so…fluid. It flows so effortlessly from panel to panel. And he draws Guy Gardner simply beautifully [Link]!
He also draws different body types, and different noses, and he draws women so that they don’t all look exactly alike [amazing Link], except for the color of their hair: Iolande [Picture/Link] looks quite different from Arisia [Picture/Link], who looks different from Soranik [Picture/Link], who looks different from Brik [Link], who looks different from R’amey Holl [Picture/Link]. They are all beautiful women, but they are all INDIVIDUALS!
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Stefan Mesch: „Green Lantern Corps“ works very much like a (dark and complicated) police procedural: A group of multicultural GL’s from all over the cosmos try to solve individual crime cases, stop despots or deal with cosmic mysteries.
The ring is a very powerful weapon, and the Guardians have decided that instead of one ringbearer per sector, there will be two, bringing the number of Green Lanterns up to 7200 (Link)
All of this could be cheesy, chaotic or boring… but fortunately, Tomasi has a great eye for details, a good ear for characters… and he likes to put these space cops through unnerving, morally complicated situations (Link). I have not read a team comic *that* compelling, especially on a psychological level, since Ed Brubaker’s „Gotham Central“ (Link) police drama.
Oddly, Peter Tomasi is a big fan of „Body Horror“ (Link), so cases that start out colorful and a little bizarre can quickly shift into complete Nightmare Fuel (Link) Territory… with characters like Kryb (Link) or thousands of eyeballs of dead family members raining from the sky (Link)… It’s an incredibly intense comic.
The only problem is… it is a big, complicated, long-term story with no good jumping-on points. And you have to read both comics, „GL“ and „GLC“, to get the full picture (reading order and recommendations, Link).
Also, with only 20 pages of story material a month, most plotlines are years-old: I loved reading the whole saga this June, in just about two weeks (Link). But I don’t know if I would enjoyed it to read it in little snippets, month by month, for over five years… with old, old conflicts and mysteries still not resolved.
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Sally Pascale: There ARE a fair amount of lose ends and dangling plot lines at the moment, yes.
However, for the most part I do trust that Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi and [new „Green Lantern Corps“ writer] Tony Bedard [Link] will be diligent about tying them all up… sooner or later.  There is still that whole plot line about Evil Star [Link] and the Kroloteans [they are evil goblins and they invented the German language… Link] from way back [Link], not to mention the current location of Sodam Yat [my favourite new character – Link] left over from the „Emerald Warriors“ book to be wrapped up.
But Geoff Johns is notorious for taking a LONG view when it comes to writing his books… and he is very fond, and vey deft at planting clues and hints. You read it, and you don’t necessarily make the connection… until five or six issues later… when all of a sudden, you realize that the little clue he dropped in there suddenly makes a WHOLE lot of sense. You do have to be patient when reading Green Lantern.
I like the serial nature of comic books… the monthly storyline… the cliff-hanger… the drama and the waiting… anticipation is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a comic book fan. It’s a little bit like having Christmas but every month! When finally after four weeks or so, your favorite book is right there in your trembling hands… and you get to see how the hero survived, or failed, or what happened, and oh God, it all starts over, because there is yet another cliff-hanger! It is something that can’t really be duplicated in movies, because movies take so long to make. The „Harry Potter“ movies probably have come the closest, but even that is a bit different, because most of the fans have already read the books.
I just hope that comic books stay popular and viable and profitable for another fifty years!
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Stefan Mesch: Well… what do you think? Will they? Sales numbers have been dropping for years now (Link), and frankly, I’m amazed that DC Comics even bothers doing „small“ books with less popular heroes:
Books with „Batman“ or big „Green Lantern“ events can sell about 100.000 units a month… but „Wonder Woman“ usually has a mere 30.000, and cult favorites like „Power Girl“ (Link) or the acclaimed (but horrible-looking) „R.E.B.E.L.s“ (Link) sold less than 20.000. Do you think there will still be 50 to 70 different DC books a month (Link)… ten years from now?
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Sally Pascale: Do I think that comics will still be around in ten years? I certainly hope so… although I am pretty sure that the digital market is probably going to be the wave of the future. Still…there will be a lot of old farts like me, who like to hold the book in their hands, and actually have a physical copy of it.
And I have to admit that I LOVE actually going to the Comic Book store on Wednesday, and talking in person with the other patrons about the new books, and complaining about whatever stupid thing the comic book companies have just done (Link). It is a personal connection that I treasure.  I love the internet, but sometimes, human contact is also very nice to have.
These are pretty durable characters, all things considered. Batman and Superman have been around for 70 some years now! That’s a pretty good track record for something that was considered to be „kid stuff“. And a lot of those kids grew up and were nostalgic for the beloved stories of their youth, and that spawned a whole new generation of fans, who may be older, but who continue to buy and read comics.
They have been predicting the „End“ of comics for years now… and still they manage to hang on. I do wish that they would expand their customer base a bit… there actually are a LOT of women who love comics… and it gets tiring being told that we aren’t the audience that they want. (Link)
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Stefan Mesch: I grew up watching „Lois and Clark“ (Link) on television… and I was always fascinated by the complicated continuity of the DC Universe. In 1997, I bought the „Death and Life of Superman“ novel (Link), in 2001, I bought the „Kingdom Come“ novel (Link), and all the while, there were cool „X-Men“ (Link) and „Spider-Man“ (Link) movies in the cinema and „Birds of Prey“ (Link) and „Smallville“ (Link… though I never liked that) on TV.
In 2003, I bought a German „Superman“ sampler (Link). In 2004, an online test („What super-hero are you?“) told me that I’m Hal Jordan, so I went to Wikipedia (Link) to find out who this „Green Lantern“ person was. In 2006, I read about „52“ (Link) and was very intrigued (because I liked „24“ at the time, Link). And in 2008, I bought „Infinite Crisis“ (Link) on a whim and enjoyed it very much.
For an internship that summer, I had to take a 3-hour commute by train every day for three months, so I decided to buy some comics and read them on the train (List of books that I read back then, Link). It was a magical, exciting summer (I wrote personal essay about it here, Link)… and places like your blog helped me understand what was going on.
The funny thing is, though…
I buy the books on Amazon. I don’t visit German comic shops, and I have no comic-reading friends around. I understand that there is a certain „boy culture“ and casual sexism in comics… but online, the smartest and most vocal and interesting people talking about comics… are all women and/or minorities:
I know that there are *some* other parts of fandom/discourse that are more male-skewing (author Grant Morrison, for example, seems to have a rather big male following, Link).
I also noticed that that in the letter columns of Kyle’s GL series from the 90ies, there was only ONE kind of (young, overenthusiastic „Whoa! I really liked Sonar’s HUGE gun! This guy is KILLER!“, Link) kind of male letter writer. 95 percent of the letters were written by teenage (?) boys.
Can you explain what happened there?
Why is the discourse on the internet SO different from the real-life demographics? I never picture comic book fans as (predominantly) white, straight and male because the people talking online are almost NEVER white, straight and male.
Is there another universe of well-written, thoughtful, intelligent and critical white, straight and male DC blogs that I have never found?
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Sally Pascale: That is one heck of a question, and it is one that I wonder about all of the time as well. The internet seems to be a whole different animal from what you see in „real life“. I am so accustomed to going through my daily routine, reading all of my favorite blogs [Link, blog roll available on the right side], writing something inane in my own blog, going through the various Message Boards and so on, that it seems as though the whole world is interested in Comic Books. But that of course, would be wrong.
As much as I hate to admit it, MOST people don’t give a darn about comic books, and consider people who DO, to be… a little on the odd side. You wouldn’t believe the funny looks that I get at work, when I announce on Wednesdays, that the new books are in, and that I have to GO… and buy them! I’m not embarrassed about it any more, because I’m old enough and eccentric enough not to care.
But yes, I am usually the only woman in my beloved local comic book store. Not always, there are some other, usually younger women who are patrons, but not all that many.  But with only a few exceptions, I have been extraordinarily fortunate, in that the other male patrons have accepted by presence without a murmer. There are some stores that it is practically taking your life or your virtue in your hands to even enter [a comic book store].
My store is not like that…thank goodness!  I’m even able to have long-winded and obscure discussions with Matt, the proprietor, and the other customers. I also always make sure to bring Matt in home-made cookies and brownies and such… and I end up with the best covers, and occasionally action figures and statues and other stuff! Hah!
But comics are, by and large, made BY males FOR males. DC admitted target age of the new DC reboot [Link] is aimed at men, from 18 to 34. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any female fans, there ARE…but it does make us feel a little bit left out of things. If you are trying to maintain, and increase your customer base, it seems foolish to go out of your way to ignore and annoy a rather large section of that base [Link].
There are the Trolls of course. I am a lot less confrontational in my blog than some of the ones written by women, so I don’t get TOO many Trolls, but I’ve certainly gotten enough, and they are a royal pain.
There is a rather peculiar subgroup of male fans who see any complaint from women as being an ad hominem attack on THEIR hobby, and they react with unprecedented fury. Most women fans, like a lot of the same things that the guys do… I can appreciate a good solid kick to the head any day. I love capes, and sound effects and ridiculous science, and so on.
It would be nice if the women characters weren’t portrayed in QUITE so blatantly a sexy way, or if the female characters weren’t the fist ones to get killed, or if they could stop making rape be the default origin of all the heroines, or making the female characters weaker and stupider. But it doesn’t mean that those mean women want to take away your superheroes and turn them into Romance Comics. We just want the female heroes to be a competent as the male heroes… without arching their backs [Link] and wearing thongs.
So… I think that there are a lot of women who find the internet a safer place to talk.  Which sounds a bit odd considering how many trolls are out there.  There are PLENTY of men who are blogging, and writing articles and leaving huge essays on message boards… in fact I think that the majority of comic book blogs are still by men. But there are a lot more women coming into the fandom, from even a few years ago, and I think this is a good thing.
There are also a lot more women attending the various conventions and doing the whole cosplay thing too.  There are more women gamers. Science fiction, superheroes, fantasy…these are genres that are appealing to EVERYONE… not just straight white young men. I think that it has ALWAYS been that way… it’s just that women, and minorities and gays and everyone is a bit more vocal about it now. 
The Comic book companies have actually made some strides in opening things up and having characters that appeal to everyone… certainly more so than in the past. There is a lot more that they could do… and probably will need to do, if they want to remain relevant and solvent in the future. Comics SHOULD be for everyone.
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Stefan Mesch: It might have been a pretty smart move of DC to say that their comics are for grown-up men, though: Even the bloodiest or darkest DC comics – Gail Simone’s „Secret Six“ (Link), the awful „Titans“ (Link) and „Magog“ (Link) or the horrible „Spectre“ comics from 5 years ago (Link) – all have a pretty immature, youthful sensibility. These books *look* somber and gritty and there is lots of blood…
…but there is hardly sex or character complexity: Events like „Blackest Night“ (or *this* stupid cover, Link) seem perfect for 12 to 15-year old boys who want to be titillated by „manly“ blood and guts.
Obviously, there are a lot of older, nostalgic men reading comics, too. But especially the DC relaunch in September and covers like this (1), this (2), this (3), this (4), this (5), this (6), this (7), this (8), this (9), this (10), this (11) and this (13) look like DC wants to tell violent, stereotypically „manly“ stories.
Some of the October 2011 covers look even pulpier and trashier: This (1), this (2), this (3), this (4), this (5), this (6), this (7), this (8) or this (9), to name a few.
It looks darker and more macho than ever. But it also looks dumber than ever.
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Sally Pascale: I think that 12 to 15 is an ideal age to get interested in comic books. You don’t want the kids to be TOO young, because some of the violence can be pretty…graphic. But teens always find a kick to the head to be hilarious.
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Stefan Mesch: My best friends‘ daughter is 9 years old and we’ve been reading comics since last summer. We started with a great manga about a young girl, „Yotsuba!“ (Link) and we are currently reading „Bone“ (Link).
I have some… 300 DC trade paperbacks lying around and she asked me if we could read some of them – but there is hardly *anything* age-appropriate for someone who’s in elementary school.
In three or four years, she could read „Batgirl“ (Link), „Supergirl“ (Link to German essay) or „Justice League Dark“ (Link). But right now…?
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Sally Pascale: I’ve always considered the DC television cartoons (Link) to have been an excellent introduction to comics. Look at how many of the TV cartoons from the ’80’s are being turned into movies nowadays! There are a LOT of media attractions out there that weren’t around in the good old days. So by all means, I think that DC and Marvel should be putting out quality cartoons, good video games and good movies as WELL as comic books.
When it comes to recommending a book for a child to read from either DC OR Marvel…I have to say that I am at something of a loss.
Unfortunately the trend in comics for far more mature audience leaves out a LOT of paying customers, and I think that it is also a recipe for disaster sooner or later. If you want to continue to make comics, then you have to get YOUNG people interested. It used to be that EVERYONE read comics, boys and girls, because they were cheap and fun. But it is a lot harder to have to come up with $2.99 or $3.99 per book than 10 cents or 25 cents in the old days. The inflation rate is much higher than it should be.
The „Tiny Titans“ book [Link] is fabulous, and I am staggered to understand that you can’t get it in Germany. I wonder why not?
Do you get the „Batman: the Brave & the Bold“ book [Link] in Germany? It’s a spin-off from the superb television cartoon [Link] in comic book form, and it is both hilarious and beautifully written and drawn. Kids AND adults love this book!
Your friend’s daughter might also like to check out the new „Blue Beetle“ book [Link] that will be coming out in September. Or check out the back issues or the trade paperbacks [Link] of Jamie Reye’s first adventures as written by Keith Giffen and John Rogers [Link]. „Blue Beetle“ was fun and young and cool and had a fabulous cast of characters.
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Stefan Mesch: When I noticed that Guy Gardner is a big supporting character in „Blue Beetle“, I read the books to prepare for our interview. It’s a charming (great Link to a TV episode) and very dynamic series with an Hispanic, 17-year old hero who has told his parents the truth about his powers. He also has two best friends – Paco and Brenda (Link) – who create lots of snarky, fun situations reminiscent of Harry, Ron and Hermione from „Harry Potter“ (Link). Jaime also has a smart, independent sorceress girlfriend named Traci 13 (Link), and there’s a positive, intelligent, life-affirming attitude in this book that makes it fun to read. [The first collection is not very good. But with book 3, the title finds it’s voice.]
Before we return to „Green Lantern“: Are there any other DC series that you would like to recommend?
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Sally Pascale: „Green Lantern“ is my favorite fandom of course, but there are plenty of other books that I like as well: I’m not much of a Bat fan… frankly, Batman’s arrogance and omnipotence annoys the heck out of me. Which is why I really REALLY enjoy it when I see a scan of him doing something stupid [Link]. 
I like the Justice Society of America… mainly because I just LOVE all those old farts, such as Alan Scott, Ted Grant, Jay Garrick etc. running around showing the young whippersnappers how it is done.
I enjoy „Birds of Prey“ [Link], especially as written by Gail Simone. I LOVE the Secret Six… again written by Gail Simone. And I feel passionately in love with the „Starman“ series, as written by James Robinson.
I simply adore Jonah Hex [Link]. Mainly because I REALLY like Westerns.  And he’s really a very very cool character [Link]. The book is a million times better than the movie [Link], by the way.
I have never been much of a fan of the Teen Titans [Link] for some reason.  Or the Legion of Super-Heroes [from the 31st century, Link] for that matter.
I’ve always seen them as bratty Teenagers from the Future [Link]. My feelings are mainly rooted in those old Silver Age books [Link] that show them getting bored every other week or so and staging fake try-outs for the poor wannabees [Link] and then mocking and humiliating them for their own pleasure. Spoiled rotten Teenagers from the Future!  Bah!
When it comes to my favourite crossovers and events, I have to admit that I actually rather liked „Identity Crisis“ [2004, Link]… it’s the story that really got me into lots of DC books, mainly because I was so infuriated with Marvel at the time.
„52“ was excellent. Really really good [Link]. I loved these weekly books that DC was doing: Even when it wasn’t so good, like the „Countdown“ book [Link], it was still nice to know that there would be a book every week. And „Trinity“ wasn’t terrible [I wrote about it here, in German].
I also liked parts of „Justice League: Generation Lost“: It was my only chance to read about some of my absolute favorite characters in the world, with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire and Ice. And the whole thing has lead to the re-introduction of a NEW „Justice League International“ book [Link] for which I am very very grateful.
I’m still angry that Judd Winick changed Ice’s backstory, though [Link]: Both women, Fire and Ice, were just written…very poorly. Especially Ice. You don’t take one of the nicest, sweetest and most adorable characters in the DC Universe and suddenly have her swearing and whining and being simply awful. It was TOTALLY out of character.
And then of course, Winick went and gave her a new generic „X-Men“ type of origin [Link], when there was NOTHING WRONG WITH HER OLD ONE… for no purpose whatsoever. It had no bearing on the final conclusion of the story, and did nothing but enrage Ice fans [in-depth article, Link]. *pant pant*
I’ll try and calm down now! Sorry.
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Stefan Mesch: No – don’t calm down yet! I was about to ask you about your least favorite moments: What’s annoying about comics? What scenes were horrid and bad?
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Sally Pascale: Well… we talked about the way that the Comic Book companies keep killing off perfectly good and viable characters for no more than a momentary thrill. By now, it has lost whatever shock value it ever had. Usually, the heroes end up coming back anyway…
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Stefan Mesch: …but children, side characters, women and non-heroic minorities stay dead, more often than not. [Link]
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Sally Pascale: It has gotten a tired and boring cliché, and I wish that they would stop it. Of course, there are a whole lot of Green Lanterns that have bit the dust, and it is a shame. Mogo being the first – I LOVED Mogo [Link]! And his partner Bzzd [Link] is also gone, and it’s a shame. Kreon [Link] and Laira [Link] and Chaselon [Link] are gone, and I don’t know what the heck ever happened to G’Nort [Link], but I’d love to see him again.
If you have gone to the trouble to create these wonderful characters, with a long and rich history, it is an awful shame to get rid of them just for a momentary cheap thrill.
Also, it is possible to tell perfectly wonderful, exciting stories about married couples [cute Link], such as Clark Kent and Lois Lane [Link] and not have it be boring. Or Peter Parker and Mary Jane [Link] for that matter. I realize that conflict and danger and angst are a part of comics, you can’t have a good story without some peril of course, but does every story have to try and one-up the one before it, when it comes to mindless gore and destruction?  How many times can we destroy New York anyway [Link, published Sep. 2001]?
And while I’m on a good rant here – stop getting rid of good villains! Heroes NEED good villains.
Still, in the long run, there is more that I love about my comics than what I hate. I’ve never quite understood the mind set amongst some of the fans who do NOTHING but complain [Link]. Everything is terrible, everything is „lame“, it’s all awful and horrible, and they hate hate hate it.
I can’t really imagine having a hobby that I hate: I read comics because I enjoy them. I may like some more than others, and sometimes I’m disappointed, but that’s pretty rare, most of the time. So… read the books that you like. And don’t read the books that you dislike!
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Stefan Mesch: That’s the problem with all these interconnected books: I did not like Geoff Johns‘ first four „Green Lantern“ books, at all… but they were too important to skip.
I dislike Hal, because he seems to succeed mainly since he’s the main character, not because he knows what he is doing (Link), and I am torn when it comes to Geoff Johns‘ storytelling.
On the one hand, Johns is very good in creating an atmosphere of importance and urgency: You always feel like you are reading something momentous, relevant and big, and there are hardly any ‚filler‘ moments.
On the other hand, all the characters explain (and rectify) complex backstory through dialogue: Johns uses so much retroactive continuity, explanations, remarks and throwbacks to the past…that the dialogue seems very artificial, lifeless, stilted and weird.
It gets worse when there are obvious contradictions between the way a character has behaved for 40+ years… and the way Johns wants to modernize him: Frequently, Johns uses old facts as evidence that the exact OPPOSITE of what we had thought to know about someone has been true all along. A (made-up) example:
Hal: „Barry, you were always such a slow and patient police scientist.“
Barry: „Is that how it looked, Hal? To tell you the truth, I was so impatient and reckless back then that I FORCED myself to slow down. I think I was the most impatient man in the world.“
It’s not problematic or wrong to do that… but it does sound unnatural, and it’s boring and depressing (Link with examples) because you constantly feel like everything you knew was wrong: Reading Geoff Johns feels like working… or learning… from a teacher who is constantly lying about the history book.
I have no problems with retcons. But I don’t like the resulting insincere and heavy-handed dialogues.
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Sally Pascale: You made a good point when you brought up Hal and Barry talking, and referencing moments from their past, that have been reconstructed. People really don’t talk like that… especially not old friends like Hal and Barry.
Geoff Johns feels that he sometimes has to explain Every Little Thing about a character. And he does have a tendency to get a little heavy-handed sometimes. But this is a minor flaw to me, most of the time: Being such a huge Green Lantern fan, I’m willing to cut him a great deal of slack, so long as he keeps dishing out my particular drug of choice!
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Stefan Mesch: He’s doing a great job, coordinating all these characters and sweeping storylines. It’s just hard that as a reader, you can’t really cherry-pick the good books and ignore the rest. And especially his pre-„Sinestro Corps“ Hal Jordan stories struck me as badly-constructed:
By now, I have seen Carol Ferris in about… 60 comic books written by Geoff Johns, but I still can’t think of three adjectives to describe her: „Competent“, „well-groomed“ and… „black-haired“?
Recently, as an Air Force Pilot, Hal has also met a blonde girl with a cowboy hat that calls herself „Cowgirl“, and together, they crashed in Chechnya and were tortured by Chechnyan rebels for months [Link].
Hal does not like to wear his power ring when he is piloting a plane, so he could not free himself.
But at the same time… he is friends with the whole super-hero community AND the Corps. Batman didn’t ask for him? Kyle, Guy, John and the Guardians didn’t care? Superman did not hear his heartbeats or his cries, with his super-hearing?
If you want to enjoy the complicated „Green Lantern“ sagas, you have to be attentive and alert to understand all the implications and hidden consequences. And then all of a sudden, something like this happens: Hal Jordan, tortured and forgotten in Chechnya. Seriously?
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Sally Pascale: I will have to say that some of these stories leading up to Sinestro Corps War were NOT among my favorites. The whole Prisoner of War story with Cowgirl in Chechnya really dragged [Link].
And I actually find Cowgirl to be a bit of a bore, too: She’s blonde, and she flies, and she wears a cowboy hat. That seems to be the sum of her character [Link]. She’s like [1940ies pilot character] Zinda Blake, aka Lady Blackhawk [Link], but dull. However, she apparently puts out, and that seems to be the sum of her attraction for Hal.
Carol Ferris is a much more rounded character. She’s been around for quite a while, and different writers have actually added things to her personality. She ran a business, and that was something of an achievement in the Silver Age days [Link]. She’s perfectly competent and probably as good a pilot as Hal is [Link]. Heck, they were even kids together [Link].
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Stefan Mesch: I’m also quite puzzled by Hal’s (human) enemy Hector Hammond (Link) – a crazy psychic with a gigantic, swollen head who’s also in the „Green Lantern“ movie (Link).
In 5 years of comics, Hammond only sat around and looked unhappy and bizarre (Link)
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Sally Pascale: I understand that you haven’t seen the movie yet, which takes a few liberties with some of the comic book canon – but in a way that actually works for the movie.
In the comics, Hector Hammond was a successful business man who had the hots for Carol… and wasn’t particularly happy that she had a crush on Hal/Green Lantern (I really don’t think that she didn’t know that Hal was Green Lantern, he was far too careless about it… but she played along to keep him happy).
Hector is quite possessive of Carol – but in a weird sort of way, he has a crush on HAL too! Hector does know that Hal and Green Lantern are the same, and once he is able to read Hal’s mind and see all of his exploits, he’s desperately jealous. He wants to BE Hal Jordan… to do the sort of things that Hal does, and experience what Hal experiences. The meteor rock that gave him his powers also makes him grotesque and unable to move, so all he can do is experience things vicariously, through Hal and Carol. In the movie, they do a pretty good job of showing Hector’s descent and made it so that he knew Carol and Hal as a child as well.
You really do have to feel a little bit sorry for Hammond: It’s not necesariy his fault, at least in the movie. But I don’t want to give more away, since you haven’t seen it yet.
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Stefan Mesch: Did you enjoy the movie?
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Sally Pascale: I’ve seen the movie twice! And I was actually quite surprised when Blaise decided to go and see it with me. Originally, he wanted to wait, because he figured that I’d be yelling out all the things that were wrong with it [Link]. Heh.
But we ended up going to a matinee, and having a really good time. I was surprised a bit that he DID like it so much because usually, his eyes start to roll when I start talking about my comics. He knew a bit about „Green Lantern“, since he’s overheard me and the kids discussing things, but he didn’t know all THAT much. He was able to follow the plot pretty well, and enjoyed it enough to come with me and see it AGAIN… this time with two of my sons. Who enjoyed it as well.
The audience seemed to like it. The second time, when the credits started to roll, a number of people began to leave, and I must admit that I spoke up and told them to wait, because…well, I don’t want to spoil if for anyone, but you HAVE to wait through the credits, because there is a rather intriguing scene hidden at the end, and you WILL be sorry if you don’t wait to see it. Everyone stayed and enjoyed it.
If the movie has a  problem it is that it tried to cover an AWFUL lot of stuff in a relatively short time. I think that it would have been better with one villain… not two [Parallax and Hector Hammond? Or does Sinestro get evil, too?]. Still, as a huge Green Lantern fan, I enjoyed the heck out of it, and I’m already thirsting for a sequel [Link].
I would love for the sequel to be a lot more about Oa, and the other Lanterns, because that part of the movie seemed to be everybody’s favorite part. The visuals for Oa and the Guardians and the Corps was simply spectacular… and we were left wanting more.
Oh, and putting Guy, John Stewart and Kyle into the sequel would be very nice!
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Stefan Mesch: Seriously? Your husband is named Blaise?
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Sally Pascale: Yes – my husband’s name is Blaise Xavier Pascale.  Just like the French mathematician and philosopher [Link], only with an „e“ on the end of „Pascale“.  Most people misspell his name, using a „z“ instead, which makes him sigh a lot. A few smart people realize the connection…and yes, his parents DID name him after the original.
He IS very good at math, less prone to philosophy and sexy as hell.
*ahem*
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Stefan Mesch: Before I started reading „Green Lantern“, I was a little nervous about the many other planets and space heroes in the DC Universe [Link].
I really like Adam Strange [Link], a 1950ies picture-story-[Link!]-turned-comic-book hero with a ray-gun and a jetpack who defends the timid people of the planet Rann from all kinds of monsters.
Other notable parts of DC’s science fiction books are Lobo [Link], L.E.G.I.O.N. [Link], Captain Comet [Link], Starfire [Link], Hawkman’s planet Thanagar [Link], Daxam [Link], The New Gods [Link] as well as Darkseid [Link] and Apokolips [Link], villains Despero [Link], Starro [Link] and Lady Styx [Link]
It’s a busy, colorful shared universe, and I was ready to read a comic book that played with these cultures, full-time.
Before „Green Lantern“, I enjoyed DC sci-fi adventures like:
  • „Adam Strange: Planet Heist“ [Link]
  • „Superman: Exile“ [Link]
  • „Legion Lost“ [Link]
  • „52“ [Link] and the sequel „Countdown to Adventure“ [Link]
  • and „Starman: A Starry Knight“ [Link]
But I still did not feel prepared for the full politics and all the backstory of „Green Lantern Corps“.
Ironically… there *is* not much of a (shared universe) backstory: Sometimes, other space heroes drop by. But strangely, all of DC’s various non-earth characters exist in their own little bubbles, mostly.
What a wasted opportunity…
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Sally Pascale: It does seem a little strange in retrospect that there wasn’t as much fraternization between the Corps and the more cosmic side of DC. You would think that Green Lanterns would be running into people like Adam Strange and Captain Comet all the time… or at least Space Cabbie [Link].
Since „Rebirth“, though, this sort of thing DOES happen on a fairly regular basis. Back in the old days, the books were pretty much being written as entirely self-contained. Lobo did show up occasionally, though: In „Guy Gardner: Reborn“ [1992, Link], he’s one of the main plot points, and frankly, it is hilarious. And violent. And Lobo and Boodikka actually had a little fling, which I thought was an interesting characterization.
Usually, the other Cosmic groups would only show up in books like Green Lantern Quarterly, and the New Gods and Apokolips always seemed to be off on their own. Again, you see Green Lanterns showing up on some of the more notable planets nowadays – which is only sensible.
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Stefan Mesch: Let’s talk about the Sinestro Corps War (Link), the big crossover storyline from 2007. During that year, the Amazons (Link) from „Wonder Woman“ declared war on Man’s World and started invading Washington, D.C (Link). There was a seven-part „Amazons Attack“ mini-series (Link), a parallel storyline in the monthly „Wonder Woman“ book and six „tie-in issues“ (Link) from other titles, like „Supergirl“.
„Amazon Attack“ was a collosal failure: The politics did not make sense, heroes were running around like headless chicken, the pictures were pretty – but no-one understood what these Amazons wanted, anyways (misogynist Link).
Two months later, the first big shared storyline between „Green Lantern“ and „Green Lantern Corps“ started when Sinestro captured Parallax, joined forces with the Anti-Monitor on Qward and manufactured yellow, fear-instilling rings (Link).
These rings were circling through the universe and picked people who had the „ability to instill great fear“. One ring even wanted to pick Batman.
And then – in 11 chapters and 5 specials/tie-in issues – all hell broke loose: After the failed „Amazons Attack“, „The Sinestro Corps War“ became the new template for successful, engaging comic book events…
…and it was the storyline that put Hal Jordan on the A-List.
Since 2007, it has been a good time to be a „Green Lantern“ fan (Link).
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Sally Pascale: Oh, you had to bring up „Amazons Attack“!  Man, that was pretty bad, all things considered: I’m getting a bit tired of the Amazons always going nutso anyway [Link to a recent „Flashpoint“ controversy about the Amazons castrating men[.  But yes, the Sinestro Corps War was a breath of fresh air! It was well-written, it was beautifully drawn, the tie-in issues weren’t ridiculous [Link to the usual, bad concept of a crossover tie-in issue], and gosh darn it, it was one HECK of a good story. Of the trilogy of „Rebirth“, „Sinestro Corps War“ and „Blackest Night“ (2010, Link), the Sinestro Corps War is my favorite.
You had the four Earth Lanterns, running around doing their Four Musketeers impression, which was fun. Poor Kyle was having a rather rough time, getting Parallaxed himself [Link], but it was chilling to see how sweet little Kyle could be so…evil. Then throw in the Anti–Monitor, Cyborg Superman and Superboy-Prime [an evil Superboy from a parallel universe, Link], along with Sinestro, and you’ve got one heck of a bunch of villains!
We were also introduced to all those cool Sinestro Corps members, such as Kryb, Karu-Sil [Link], and Arkillo [an evil counterpart to Kilowog, Link]. You had the Lost Lanterns [Link] running around being snooty to Hal, Hal trying to laugh it off, John being pissy, and Guy as usual… having all the best lines. We got to see Kyle figuring out a way to triumph over Parallax, everybody and their cousin fighting the bad guys… and getting their butt’s kicked.
I can remember blogging about it… with the utmost enthusiasm. Everyone had theories, every one was reading it… even people who weren’t necessarily Green Lantern fans. I can remember being so happy on Wednesdays, when the new books were out, I’d go to my beloved local Comic book store, and we’d all discuss it. There is nothing quite like being with other people who love something just as much as you do.  Thank god for the Internet!
And yes, I do think that this is the event that really propelled Hal to being an A-Lister. People talked about „Rebirth“ and they liked it, but THIS event really put Hal and the Corps on the proverbial map.
In the finale, Hal got to show how much he really does love his brother [Link] and what is left of his family, and then he and Kyle get to fight Sinestro… hand to hand, without rings!  It was fabulous: Guy ends up with the Despotellis virus [Link], the virus that killed Kyle’s mother – and then, the virus is defeated by Leezle Pon, the sentient Green Lantern small pox virus [Link]! The good guys won, the bad guys lost, and we were all quite happy for some time.
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Stefan Mesch: I was happy about the many consequences of „The Sinestro Corps War“: It felt like once all their series had found their tone, Peter Tomasi tried to create one really emotional, honest moment every issue. In „Green Lantern Corps“, there’s always blood, cosmic horror and people eating eyeballs…
…but then, there’s also lots of stuff like this (Link) glorious moment between Guy and Ice.
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Sally Pascale: Yes, the scene with Guy kissing Tora in the aftermath of the war is one of my favorites. And then she tells him she’s not ready to get back together again, after coming back from the dead [Link]! ARGGHH!
Some other really fabulous Gleason artwork was the splash page [Link] in the issue where they are looking for a missing Arisia and Sodam Yat and end up on the planet with Mongul’s Black Mercy plants [Link], and all the dead bodies that orbit the planet rain down on them…including a whale [Link]. It’s disgusting, it’s violent, and it’s…quite fabulous.
So I agree with you that Peter Tomasi is an excellent writer, and I love his stuff to death. He and Geoff Johns have seemed to forge a really excellent working relationship together, and his portrayals of Guy and Kyle in particular seem to me to be absolutely spot on. It’s not always easy to write for Guy… he can be a tricky character!
Art-wise, I also greatly enjoy the scene from „GLC: Recharge“ [Link] where Guy moons Batman… in space [Link]. Kyle is embarrassed, John is horrified, Batman is stoic, Superman is quite surprised, and Wonder Woman… looks intrigued.  A wonderful piece of art!
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Stefan Mesch: Another cool consequence of Sinestro’s Corps was that the Guardians became a lot more nervous, timid and twisted. Last week, I had a short article about Green Lantern in the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Link, German), and when I posted it my Facebook page, a feminist friend of mine asked „Why should I care about these characters? All of this sounds so lame!“
There’s a beautiful contradiction at the core of the „Green Lantern“ concept, I told her:
The rings search the galaxy for people with the ability to overcome great fear. In most cases, such people are rebels, free thinkers, people with a death wish etc. …socially problematic, even anti-social characters.
These are the people that the Guardians expect to come to Oa, ask no questions and serve in a militaristic Corps.
And that’s working… as good as can be expected: Not at all! Complex, messed-up characters. Clashes about free will and leadership. Dysfunctional teams in existential, nightmarish conflicts… a dark, bizarrely violent tone… and still: a celebration of the human spirit and the wealth of emotions.
You wrote an interesting text about the Guardian’s tragic role in this ever-escalating conflict on Oa, yourself (Link).
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Sally Pascale: The Guardians get their tiny blue asses saved over and over and over again. But do they express gratitude? No… they do not.
Countless species throughout the cosmos have been able to wield their willpower in the name of the Corps. But the Guardians themselves have been riddled with fear… ever since Hal came back, and the Corps was re-established. They keep making the same stupid mistakes, and they keep failing to trust in their own people. The Guardians obviously are NOT able to overcome Great Fear. Therefore, in my humble opinion, they are NOT worthy of being Green Lanterns… and they CERTAINLY are not worthy of running the whole show.
Back in the day, they used to be a lot more dignified. A bit remote perhaps, but at least you had the feeling that they had the best interests of the Universe AND the Corps at heart. Now, they are a bunch of terrified bratty children.
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Stefan Mesch: What has made the Guardians so afraid? An ancient prophecy that had warned of a „War of Light“ [Link]… and the emergence of other, rival Corps: Sinestro uses fear to fuel his rings. The Star Sapphires [Link] were able to harness love and turn it into a dangerous, repressing weapon [Link].
Gradually, Hal learned about the existence of four additional, different-colored Corps:
  • the rage-driven „Red Lantern Corps“ [Link], led by Atrocitus [Link]
  • the hope-driven „Blue Lantern Corps“ [Link], led by Saint Walker [Link].
  • the compassion-driven „Indigo Tribes“ [Link], led by Indigo-1 [Link].
and…
  • a greed-driven „Orange Lantern Corps“ [Link] that only consisted of one person, „Agent Orange“ Larfleeze [Link]… because the Orange Power Battery was so greedy that, instead of giving away rings, it *ate* prospective Corps members and turned them into ghosts.
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Stefan Mesch: It’s a new, rich cosmic mythology (Link), and there are lots and lots of new characters and potential dramatic situations. On the other hand, though, *one* emotion can often be very comic-like or one-dimensional (Link), and with the „Green Lantern Corps“ having all these secondary, flat characters around…
…I don’t know if the new characters really get enough space to shine (Link): So far, naive Star Sapphire Miri Riam (Link), evil Sinestro Corps jungle girl Karu-Sil (Link), aloof space elephant Brother Warth (Link) or raging, blood-and-napalm-puking (!) Red Lantern leader Atrocitus (Link) seem to be very flat and/or underused characters.
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Sally Pascale: I’ve rather enjoyed the various colored corps, and we’ve certainly gotten some wonderful characters, some of which, yes, are only secondary or teriary characters, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Considering how many secondary and teriary characters keep getting killed off in the various cross-overs, you need to replenish those ranks, simply through attrition. And seriously, how can you NOT like Dex-Starr, the Rage Kitty from the Red Lanterns [Link]?  Or Miri, who is the most adorable Star Sapphire ever [Link]?
What I DO find interesting about the various corps however, is that it is far too simplistic to say that the Red Corps is „Bad“ and the Indigo Corps is „Good“. The further away you get from Green, which is at the center of the Spectrum, the more extreme are the emotions – so Hate and Love are the MOST extreme, while Fear and Hope are less so. Hate and Love may be opposites… but they are also a heck of a lot alike when it comes to the depth of their feelings.
Sinestro’s Yellow/Fear would seem to be a „bad“ emotion – but Fear can also be a good thing… it’s one of the things that keep you alive. And Batman was chosen by a Yellow Ring [Link]!
The Indigo Tribe of Compassion is probably the most mysterious one: You would think that Compassion would be a GOOD emotion, but we have seen them perform what seem to be mercy killings… or were they? Also, Indigo-1 [Link] is quite a different person when the ring is off of her finger.
Recently when John Stewart had an Indigo ring on this finger, he decided that he had to kill a… certain member of the Green Lantern Corps [Link] instead of taking an extra minute to try and find another possibility. So… I think that there is a whole lot more about the Indigo Corps that hasn’t been revealed yet. Really, the Blue Corps of Hope seems to be the most benevolent.
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Stefan Mesch: I hated the „Green Lantern“ collection „Agent Orange“ (Link): A new artist, Philip Tan (Link) was doing his best… but for a while, Hal just seemed to fly around the cosmos to meet random new colors and get infected by their energy for five minutes (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4).
The first meeting with Larfleeze (Link), Orange Lantern of Greed / Avarice, seemed particularly tone-deaf (Link)
…but lately, Larfleeze has become a fan favorite (weird Link): A greedy, ignorant boar from the mysterious Vega system (Link) who is very much like Disney’s Uncle Scrooge… only even more clueless, self-centered and brusque (Link). In a very successful „Superman“ storyline (Link), Lex Luthor dealt with the influence of an Orange Ring, too.
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Sally Pascale: I like Larfleeze, but I have to say that he was a whole lot scarier when he was first introduced (Link)he’s become almost comic relief lately… until something happens that shows you just how dangerous he can be.
Atrocitus is an interesting character, though: Someone you would think would be completely unlikeable… until you realize that as nasty as he is, he did have a huge injustice done to him and his people: The Guardian’s Manhunter Robots destroyed all living beings in his sector [Link].
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Stefan Mesch: It took about a year to introduce and explain all seven Corps. Then, Geoff Johns started his most ambitious (and most financially successful) „Green Lantern“ event to date: A new, 9-part series named „Blackest Night“ (Link).
„Blackest Night“ ran through 10 chapters of „Green Lantern“, 9 chapters of „Green Lantern Corps“, 9 special „Blackest Night“ books, 8 new, special one-shot books that featured old, cancelled comic series and „resurrected“ them for a special „Blackest Night“ adventure (Link), a lot of tie-in issues for series like „Outsiders“, „Titans“, „Green Arrow“ and „Superboy“ as well as…
…3 special „Tales of the Blackest Night“ one-shots and a lot of three-part events like „Blackest Night: Batman“, „Blackest Night: Superman“, „Blackest Night: Wonder Woman“, „Blackest Night: Flash“, „Blackest Night: Justice League“ etc.
All in all, „Blackest Night“ consisted of about 90 comic books (Link), the more important ones collected in 7 trade paperback collections (Link) …and was the bestselling comic series of 2009 and 2010.
I have read the complete thing (Link)… and hey: It’s good!
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Sally Pascale: Geoff Johns does like Big Events. And when one Big Event has ended… well then, things start to slowly build up to the NEXT Big Event. This has led to some excellent storytelling along the way. But sometimes, it can also lead to Big Event Fatigue [Link].
After „Blackest Night“ [helpful Link] came „Brightest Day“ [helpful Link], and after that, there was „War of the Green Lanterns“ [Link], so I have to admit that there have been so very many Big Events lately that I’m feeling just a wee bit burned out.
I wouldn’t mind a few issues where they just fight Space Pirates, and it doesn’t have anything to do with anything  in particular… just Green Lanterns, out doing their jobs. If Johns has a weakness, it is a weakness that I think most good comic book writers share… you sometimes have to have a little bit of down-time. Let everyone catch their breath, and relax for a little bit, before they get thrown back into the thick of things.
„Blackest Night“, though, was a pretty darned good story. I don’t like it QUITE as much a the Sinestro Corps War, which is probably my favorite, but still…
it was an amazing concept.
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Stefan Mesch: Hal – and the recently resurrected Barry Allen (Link) – had to fight another, secret Corps that was attacking the hero community: The Black Lantern Corps (Link), whose rings could only be worn by dead bodies.
Friends, children, rivals, parents… whoever had died around a hero – the rings created an evil, powerful and zombie-like replica of their dead bodies to attack the heroes… and feast of their emotions: Black Lanterns look like zombies. But they act like emotion-eating vampires.
It was genuinely exciting to see the heroes form alliances, deal with their private demons and, over the course of one night, come up with desperate strategies to defeat the Black Lanterns, their leader Nekron (Link) and Black Hand (Link), his human ally (Link).
Nearly 20 different authors, telling ONE story in parallel, monthly comic books titles: It must have been a big organizational challenge. But it really paid off.
  • You can omit some weaker „Blackest Night“ stories like „Titans“, „Teen Titans“, „The Outsiders“, „Wonder Woman“, „The Flash“, „Justice League“ and most of the ‚resurrected‘ titles („Starman“ was good, „Catwoman“ and „The Question“ were okay). Do not spend money on „Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps“ 1 (Link) and 2 (Link).
  • Even if you read nothing else, don’t miss Saint Walker’s origin story in „Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 1“ (Link).
…and don’t get angry when, in typical US- and Earth-centric DC fashion, Hal Jordan realizes that Earth is the secret place where all cosmic life originated… and that emotion-wise, humans are the most exceptional and complex beings:
“Earth. The most diverse and emotionally rich planet in all the universe.” (Sigh! Link)
Plus, most of Johns‘ writing seemed to be too concerned with promoting and praising Barry Allen (angry, subjective Link).
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Sally Pascale: As for Barry getting the spotlight… I think that Geoff Johns has a habit of playing with some of his characters as if they are new toys. I’ve always rather liked Barry, so I didn’t mind him coming back. Now he and Ollie can fight over Hal again!
Having the Rings wear the bodies of the dead heroes… instead of the other way around was brilliant.
I did read most of the „Blackest Day“ tie-ins, although I skipped the „Titans“ one [horrible link of Donna Troy crushing her zombie son’s skull], because frankly I can’t STAND the Titans for the most part. For some reason I didn’t pick up „The Outsiders“ [trashy link] either. I liked the three „Wonder Woman“ books [surprising link] well enough… although to this day I still miss the OLD [more positive] version of [JLI character-turned-„Wonder Woman“-foe] Max Lord [Link].
I liked the „Green Arrow“ book [Link]. I don’t like Superboy all that much, but the way that he beat the Black Lantern ring was pretty clever, too [Link]. And I rather liked the book with Ray Palmer, the Atom, meeting his evil dead wife [Link] and getting the Indigo ring. Loved that costume [Link]!
I wish that there had been a separate book for Ice… but at least we got to see her interact with Guy in „Green Lantern Corps“. I also liked that it was Guy’s idea to use make a gigantic net [Link], straight out of an old Star Trek episode [Link]. Genius!
I liked the end of „Blackest Night“, too, because we actually got some dead heroes back [Link], and that this always a good good thing. Not ALL of my favorites made it back amongst the living, but darn it, I liked the return of Aquaman and Martian Manhunter!
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Stefan Mesch: That story was told in the sequel, a bi-weekly, 25-part series named „Brightest Day“ [Link], written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi.
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Stefan Mesch: In early 2010, once „Blackest Night“ was over, a lot of things changed around the „Green Lantern“ line:
  • Hal had more (boring) multi-colored problems in the main book, now drawn by talented „Blackest Night“ artist Doug Mahnke (Link). And Carol Ferris had become Queen of the Star Sapphires… in an outfit that had many feminist readers disappointed (Link).
  • Tony Bedard (Link), a former editor, took over „Green Lantern Corps“ and wrote adequate but standard stories about Boodika, the mind-controlled, heartless Alpha Lanterns (Link) and Soranik getting kidnapped by one of Sinestro’s Weaponers of Qward (Link).
  • In a new, third monthly GL book named „Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors“ (Link) written by Peter Tomasi, Guy Gardner struck a secret deal with Atrocitus and helped Arisia to save her boyfriend Sodam Yat (Link) from the crazy, xenophobic people on his home planet Daxam.
Three monthly GL books are better than two… but even though all storylines were leading towards a new crossover, „War of the Green Lanterns“, I felt like all writers were mostly treading water: Everything that happened in Tony Bedard’s book was… standard.
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Sally Pascale: Tony Bedard isn’t bad at all. I wasn’t that familiar with his other writing [„Birds of Prey“, „The Great Ten“, „Countdown“, „Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes“], although he did „R.E.B.E.L.S.“ [Link] most recently, and it was an excellent series…more cosmic adventure, but with main character Vril Dox [Link], the arrogant son of „Superman“ villain Brainiac [Link].
I think that it may take Bedard a little bit of time to adjust, and get in synch with Johns and Tomasi – but he’s certainly got the potential. The recent „War of the Green Lanterns“ storyline was pretty darned good [Link]. I’d say give him a bit of time.
Even with the most recent crossover done, though, it seems that there is never time for the individual books to actually have some of their OWN stories going on… everything is always leading up to The Next Big Thing.
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Stefan Mesch: I felt that „Brightest Day“ was a problematic series. It is named after the beginning of the oath [Link] that Green Lanterns recite while they charge their rings in their power batteries:
„In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight
let those who worship evil’s might… beware my power: Green Lantern’s light!‘
I thought it would tell the story of eight heroes and four villains – one of them Jade, Kyle Rayner’s ex-girlfriend (Link) – that had been resurrected by a mysterious White Lantern entity (Link) at the end of „Blackest Night“.
And it works beautifully, in the way „52“ did: As a real-time (but somewhat slow, Link) ensemble book that showcases a diverse group of minor characters.
It is NOT a „Green Lantern“ story, though.
And so far, the White Lantern entity rather seemed like a „deus ex machina“ device (Link).
Also, five of the resurrected characters – Jade, Max Lord, Professor Zoom (Link), Captain Boomerang (Link) and Osiris (Link) – have their stories told elsewhere and play no role in the book.
But hey: Both middle-aged black fathers survive the plot… and only ONE Asian-American family gets killed and stuffed into a supermarket freezer (Picture/Link)! DC is making… baby steps.
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Sally Pascale: „Brightest Day“…was decent. It didn’t blow my socks off or anything. I think that it delivered on some of the things it promised to do… and less so on others. You’re right: Hal really was hardly in it at all. Nor Jade, or Captain Boomerang. And Max Lord was busy in Winick’s parallel-running „Justice League: Generation Lost“. I was primarily happy to read the Aquaman segments, because I like Aquaman, and I’m happy that he’s back. I like the new Aqualad, too.
Some of the tie-ins to „Brightest Day“ [among them the first 5 to 12 issues of „The Flash“, „Birds of Prey“ and „Green Arrow“, Link] seemed a bit… forced – but that is par for the course for ANY crossover. I’m not exactly thrilled about the return of Swamp Thing to the DC Universe [Link], either, although I think it was a clever twist. All in all, „Brightest Day“ did seem… a bit over-long.
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Stefan Mesch: Before we’ll talk about your own work as a blogger some more, I have another personal question. In all your time as a „Green Lantern“ reader… what scene has hit closest to home?
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Sally Pascale:In Green Lantern #25 from 1992 [Link], written by Gerard Jones, Hal suddenly decides that he wants to be the Green Lantern of Earth and goes and tries to take it away from Guy Gardner.
Naturally they end up fighting, and although Guy gives it all that he’s got, Hal plays „rope a dope“ [Link] and outlasts him… and takes his ring. To this day, this particular issue drives me insane… because Hal IS THE VILLAIN!
He has no real reason for taking Guy’s ring, other than he WANTS to be the GL of Earth. But the Guardians had appointed Guy, while putting Hal on recruiting duty.  Granted, this is when Guy was in his brain-damaged period, but still… he was doing a decent enough job of it. And everyone is cheering for Hal!  Hal has his job as a test pilot, his family, the love and admiration of the Corps and the Justice League, etc. etc.
At this point, Guy has Tora and his ring. He can’t go back to being a teacher because of the brain damage. His family is mostly gone, and he can’t stand them anyway [Link]. He has no friends, he has nothing but the ring and Corps…and Hal takes it away without pity or remorse.
Seriously – this is one of the reasons why I liked the Parallax retcon so much: It made me able to read this issue and realize that Hal had the white temples, so he must have been under the influence of the fear entity [Link].
But then… as annoying as Hal Jordan can be… and lord he CAN be… I still love the character, and I loved the WAY that he was brought back. He’s a jerk sometimes, and he’s thoughtless and selfish, but if you hit him over the head often enough, he does eventually figure things out and even tries to do better, because all he really wants to do is go out and be a hero.
And whether or not you love or hate him, it is awfully hard to ignore Hal.
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Stefan Mesch: When I read the comics, though, I was happy that you had been right all along: Guy IS the more interesting character. He’s incredibly smart, and he’s had some great scenes!
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Sally Pascale: I remember one scene in „Green Lantern Corps: Recharge“, the six-part series that introduced Soranik Natu, Vath Sarn [Link] and Isamot [Link], when they are getting the Corps back together… rounding up the veterans and training the rookies:
The Spider Guild [Link] in the Vega sector are creating black holes that start sucking in stars, and Guy and Kilowog and the newbies discover this. There is a moment on Oa, when the Spider Guild has attacked, and the Corps is still weak, and things look pretty bad… and Guy Gardner of all people, steps up and LEADS the Corps in reciting the Green Lantern Oath, around the new Central Battery… and his idea is what ultimately defeats them and leads to his being appointed to the Honor Guard [Link]. It is quite the moment really.
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Stefan Mesch: This month, all DC books will end. And in September, there will be 52 new series, with 52 new jumping-on points for new readers.
Most successful „Batman“ books will continue their concepts without major changes, but Superman will never have married, Barbara Gordon will no longer be in a wheelchair (Link), and the status of several other characters – Power Girl, the Justice Society, The Question, Cassandra Cain – is unclear.
What do you think will change for „Green Lantern“?
And how do you feel about this „Relaunch“ (everything gets a new start) or „Reboot“ (everything is back to the start)?
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Sally Pascale: DC is refusing to call it a „Reboot“ – which it is. They are compressing the timeline and making everyone younger, but they are also cherry-picking thoughout continuity, leaving some people [and events] out, putting some people into limbo, and in general messing / fooling around with things, simply to… fool around with them.
Almost all of the books are getting reboots [there are some minor exceptions like „Batman: Odyssey“ and „DC Universe Online Legends“], and some books have
been cancelled and some new books are coming in. However, the Bat books and the Green Lanterns books are probably going to be the least affected. It really doesn’t make much sense to mess with a good thing… although I wouldn’t put it past them. But the Bat books and the Green Lanterns have been the most popular.
Plus, Green Lantern fans tend to be REALLY noisy and cranky, and DC has learned that it doesn‘ t really pay to mess with them TOO much.
In September, they are cancelling „Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors“, which I find rather disappointing, because it features Guy Gardner. However, everyone who is writing and drawing EW [Peter Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin, Link] will be moving back to „Green Lantern Corps“, which will now feature Guy and John Stewart. So we really aren’t losing anything – they are just changing books.
Then, there will be the new „Green Lantern: New Guardians“ book [Link], which will be by Tony Bedard, who was on GLC, and it will feature Kyle Rayner along with the rest of the Emotional Color Corps: Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire, Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Sinestro Corps member Arkillo, Orange Lantern Glomulus [Link], Red Lantern Bleez [Link] and Indigo-2 [Munk, Link]. I am assuming that Kyle will once again be hosting Ion, the avatar of Willpower [Link].
„Green Lantern“ will continue of course, but with Sinestro as the main character. Hal has been sent back to Earth and has to put his life together without a ring… but you know and I know that he’ll be back in a few issues.  Geoff Johns didn’t go through all the work and effort of bringing Hal back, just to dump him now. Besides, it will be interesting to see Hal’s private life for a change, and see how he copes.
And they are introducing a fourth book, „Red Lanterns“ [Link], which will feature Atrocitus, and Dex-Starr and Bleez and so on and so forth and will be written by Peter Milligan [Link]. Of all the different Corps, I never would have suspected that the Rage Corps would be the one getting a book, but I’m willing to give it a chance.
Johns, Tomasi and Bedard are sticking around for a while, which I find rather comforting. It used to be that a writer and an artist woud stay for years on a book, but nowadays, it is more like six issues or so. It’s hard to keep the plotlines flowing and the proper characterization if you have a new writer every few months… so I’m quite content.
I’m not sure that DC is necessaritly going to gain huge numbers of new fans, but hopefully the movie and the new GL cartoons [Link] will help to build an audience. I think that the current fans of Green Lantern will be able to make the transition relatively painlessly.  There will be complaining of course… but there is ALWAYS complaining!
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Stefan Mesch: What about the new „Justice League International“ book (Link), written by Dan Jurgens (Link)? Tora will be there. Guy, too?
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Sally Pascale: Yes, Guy will be in the new book. Guy always makes any book automatically better, in my opinion.
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Stefan Mesch: But despite all these characters and different, interconnected books… you would still encourage new readers to jump in… and join the fun?
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Sally Pascale: I think that it is perfectly possible to jump into the middle of a storyline. You do have to like comics, that helps a LOT… and you need to have the ambition to go back and try to find the previous issues that will explain things.
That is why it is SO nice that they have all of those collections now: It is a heck of a lot easier to read old stories without having to pay a fortune for the rare old single issues. Today, it is fairly easy to find most „Green Lantern“ storylines since DC has reprinted so much of them [great Link!]. Who could afford to track down all the original issues?
If you are interested in „Green Lantern“, it actually isn’t a bad idea to see the movie and then do a bit of research: The movie is obviously different from the books, but close enough in the essentials. To understand the rest, you might have to work at it a little bit… but heck – things are better when you HAVE worked for them!
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Stefan Mesch: Most other DC books are either centered around Batman and Gotham City… or characters from the Justice League (Link). For the new 52 books, I found this infographic [Link] to be extremely helpful: In the center, there are „blockbuster“ comics and big, mainstream heroes. In the outer circles, there are more obscure and experimental concepts: Maybe a book like „Voodoo“ (Link), „Stormwatch“ (Link), „Demon Knights“ (Link) or „Resurrection Man“ (Link) will become a new cult favorite?
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Sally Pascale: A lot of books come out, have a run of a couple of years, and then are ended… only to come back with a new writer and artist in a year or so, and start the whole thing all over again. I like that the different heroes have their own supporting casts, and I love that these casts can also show up in OTHER heroes‘ books. There are some institutions that are common to all of the titles, like S.T.A.R. Labs [Link], or Amanda Waller lurking in the background [Link].
I tend to stick with the books that I know I like. I also have a bad habit of overlooking new books – and then I have to go back and try to find all of the back issues, because I was too stupid to realize how good they were it at the time that they came out. I am quite proud of myself for buying „Hitman“ [Link] right from the beginning, instead of realizing halfway through the run that I wanted to read it.
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Stefan Mesch: When Scipio Garling criticized the new 52 DC books one by one (Link), he did not bother to talk about the individual four „Green Lantern“ books. Instead, he wrote:
„More Lantern stuff. I know Lantern fans are all agog over the Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. But Lanterns fans are continually agog over the latest Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. I’m not really among them.“
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Sally Pascale: Scipio is right of course… he usually is. The Green Lantern fans are luckier than most because not a whole lot is going to be changed to their books. Personally, I can’t say that I’m particularly pleased with some of the changes, such as dumping Lois and Clark’s marriage. That seems a bit draconian. And making everyone younger, and squeezing the last fifty or so years of comics into a five year time-line seems a bit ridiculous. But I guess we’ll wait and see.
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Stefan Mesch: What about Marvel’s books (Link)? You have been reading Marvel’s „The Incredible Hercules“ (Link) for a while. Is there anything that interests you? And could you ever switch back to them?
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Sally Pascale: Would I ever go back to Marvel?  That’s hard to say… maybe if they started making books that I was actually interested in reading: I’ve been enjoying the „Thor“ books, and „Hercules“, but it seems that lately every time that I really start getting into a book it ends up cancelled.
I loved „Nextwave“ [Link] and „Thor: the Mighty Avenger“ by Landridge and Samnee [Link], and the books with Hercules and Amadeus [Link] which were a hoot. But every since „Civil War“ [Link] and the whole Spiderman-seling-his-marriage-to-the-devil fiasco [Link], I’ve been pretty much cold to Marvel books. But that could always change I suppose.
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Stefan Mesch: You were born in 1958. Five years ago (Link), you started blogging. How did you start?
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Sally Pascale: How did I start blogging?  Ah, that is a rather silly story. Back then, I was back to reading comics for more than 10 years – but I hadn’t really become quite that computer-literate until around 2003 or so, when I had some young teenagers who could show me what to do. Yes,  I’m OLD! And occasionally cranky.
One day it dawned on me that perhaps if I went onto the computer, there might be OTHER people who liked comic books too… and there were! And it was a heck of a lot of fun, because when you like something, it is somehow a comfort to be able to discuss them with people who feel the same way.
I started reading Ragnell’s blog at Written World (good sample entry here), and Kalinara’s blog at Pretty Fizzy Paradise (dito), and Bully (dito) and Scipio at the Absorbascon (dito), and Chris Sims (must-see!) and a whole bunch of other wonderful people who love comics and who are really really good at being able to dissect the books and discuss the continuity and the psychology of the characters and the sheer madness and joy of it all.
I also discovered Message Boards…and Oh My Goodness!  Those people are…crazy!  They hate EVERYTHING!  And yet, it was just as much fun to read about all the stuff that they hated… and continued to buy apparently.
So, I started dipping my toe into the blogosphere, commenting occasionally as an „anonymous“ because I didn’t have a blog of my own yet, and I barely knew how to get ON the computer! And it started to get a little… addictive. And finally one day in September of 2006, I was sitting around with my teenagers, and probably had had one cocktail too many, and lo…“Green Lantern Butt’s Forever“ was born.
It is an awfully silly name for a blog. But I DO like Green Lanterns, and I really really like their behinds… and so… there you have it. I would like to say that it was profound and deeply meaningful, but I am basically a rather silly person sometimes.
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Stefan Mesch: Why „butt’s“ instead of „butts“? What’s up with the apostrophe?
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Sally Pascale: Finally…oh you HAD to bring up the apostrophe? I really don’t quite know WHY there is an apostrophe in the word „Butt’s“, but as I have said before, alcohol and teenagers were involved. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
I try to rationalize it by saying that the apostrophe is in the possesive form, and then tried to say that it means that Green Lantern Butt IS forever, making it sound quite philosophical. Pick the one that you like the best!
We even had one heck of a blog entry about that damned apostrophe: Some anonymous poster was being QUITE obnoxious about it, and just wouldn’t STOP being obnoxious about it, and lo and behold a ton of people showed up to defend my beautiful apostrophe. It started to get a bit silly, but a good time was had by all…except Anonymous (Link). I don’t get too many trolls, but when I do, my readers usually show up and give them the business!
So yes, there really is no rational explanation for the apostrophe, except that I’ve had it for five years now, and I’m fond of it, so I’m keeping it. Plus it drives people crazy.
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Stefan Mesch: Your husband is not sharing your love for comic books. What about your kids? You have four children. Do they read comics, too?
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Sally Pascale: My husband does not SHARE my love of comics, but he’s pretty good natured about all of it: It did surprise the heck out of me when he did come with me to see the movie… BOTH times! He really enjoyed it.
I also have managed to get him addicted to the television cartoon „Batman: The Brave & the Bold“ [Link], which is FABULOUS. He won’t actually admit to enjoying it… but he’s watching with me, and he always reminds me when it is on. His interests are cars… mainly Porsches, which is a worthwhile thing, certainly, but not comics.
I did manage to bring up my kids right, they are ALL comic book fans, and read Green Lantern diligently. My oldest had a crush on Gambit [Link] for a while, but we managed to talk her out of it eventually. She is 25 now and a teacher. My oldest son is 23. Chris is mildly autistic and lives at home, but he does love comics. He’s also into Yu-Gi-Oh [Link], which I find incomprehensible, but he does seem to enjoy it. My next son just got married last month and is doing very well, while my youngest is on her own and working and going to school too. So far, they have buried the bodies and seem to be functioning adults, which is all one can really ask for as a parent.  And they ALL like comic books.
It probably started when they were in elementary school, and I was just getting back into comics myself: I started drawing again and would make pictures of Nightcrawler [Link] or Wolverine [Link] or Batman for them and their friends.
So once their little hands weren’t quite as grubby, and they could actually read, I’d let them go through some of my old books: They liked „X-Men“, they liked „Spider-Man“, they liked „Batman“ of course and they liked the Green Lanterns, although that might have been because I liked Green Lanterns. And thanks to all of the comic book movies that are out, comics are now considered… cool.
My co-workers, sad to say are NOT comic book fans. But they are fairly indulgent of my  fangirl ways. Most people really aren’t fans, but they seem to think that I’m simply eccentric, but not necessarily crazy: And I’ve been at this for so many years now, that they just consider it one of those funny things that Sally does.
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Stefan Mesch: You had no difficulties getting started… or finding your voice.
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Sally Pascale:I barely knew what I was doing, but I had all these lovely books about the Green Lanterns, and some other nice people liked talking about Green Lanterns TOO…
I like to think that I have a decent perspective on comics, and I can wax very passionately about them. I obviously am NOT the most learned fan: There are a TON of books that I know very little about, and there are a LOT of people on the internet who are far far more experienced and intelligent than I. But I do enjoy blathering on  about my little hobby, and being able to talk about it with people who ALSO like comics is the most fun you can have with you clothes on, that I know.
Once I started, I found out that you can post pictures as well. And then some very nice people actually started leaving comments! And I was even being linked [Link] and stuff. That sort of thing can be quite intoxicating: There is a bit of a rush when you do see your name somewhere. Or when you get a lot of hits. Or when a writer or an artist takes the time to comment. That always makes my day.
It’s also nice when people comment and tell you about books that they have read. I like to do a weekly review of all the books I bought [Link], and I like to recommend books too. Sometimes you are lucky and find a real gem!
I will admit that trying to come up with something brilliant or at least not terribly stupid just about every day is REALLY HARD. Which is why you will get a lot of entries on Tuesdays that whine a lot [the week’s new books only reach the stores on Wednesday], and then I just post a picture of Hal’s backside or Batman doing something stupid. 
I have a rather… odd sense of humor, as you have no doubt already come to realize.
I hope that I can instill a bit of joy about comics in my readers, and I hope that I can intrigue them enough to go out and investigate „Green Lantern“ books. Or ANY comic book. Comics are our friends! And as annoying as I can occasionally find them, I DO love comics.
I’ve met some amazing people and made friends (and a few enemies)… and discovered that there is a HUGE number of people who are interested in some of the same things that I am interested in. Honestly, I had no IDEA! Sometimes, it appears that too many people have far too much spare time on their hands, because some of the stuff that they chose to complain about is pretty silly. But then again, writing about fictional characters and their behinds is pretty silly too. And it keeps me out of trouble and off of the streets!
It’s not rocket science, but it is a blast.
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… more of Sally’s „Green Lantern“ Fan-Art: here (Link)
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Stefan Mesch: From time to time, you draw pictures of Guy and the other Lanterns or JLI members. What about the more engaging sides of fandom? Did you ever dress up and visit a convention?
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Sally Pascale: I have a tendency to collect the action figures and display them in my study, where I also do my drawing and store all my books. Collecting these books can get expensive sometimes, I’ll tell you that!
I’m usually on the lookout for a particular book that I don’t have, and when I DO manage to find it, it is such a thrill that I’m happy for days! It’s a bit ridiculous really, I’m a grown woman, with grown kids, and I collect and read comic books… Still it is cheaper than doing drugs, or buying shoes, and since my husband collects cars and antique fire trucks, it is a heck of a lot easier to store MY books than his stuff!
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Stefan Mesch: How would you characterize the „Green Lantern“ fandom? Almost all main characters are men, and since Hal is such a „Top Gun“ cliché, a lot of feminist readers don’t like him very much. From what I have seen online, „Batwoman“, „Birds of Prey“, the various Batgirls, „Gotham City“ stories by Paul Dini, the characters Dick Grayson (Link) and Jason Todd (Link) and Gail Simone’s gory „Secret Six“ have a big female readership.
People are also enthusiastic about the more recent DC authors Amy Reeder (Link), Paul Cornell (Link), Sterling Gates (Link), Scott Snyder (Link) and Jeff Lemire (Link)… as well as artist Nicola Scott (Link).
…who loves „Green Lantern“, though?
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Sally Pascale: It must be said that „Green Lantern“ fans have a tendency to be QUITE devoted to their respective favorite Lanterns. There are the rabid Hal fans, the equally devoted Kyle fans, and quite often the two sides get together and start bad-mouthing each other’s choices. The John fans are a bit more civilized. The Alan Scott fans wander around and tell everyone that THEIR boy was first. And the Guy Fans… well, we’re a slightly twisted bunch. 
From my own experience and in comparison with some of the other fandoms, Batman or Superman, or The Flash, there are a LOT of women who really really like Green Lanterns. Possibly, because it is such an all-encompassing mythos. There is a potential Lantern for just about anyone’s personal taste. 
There are some really fabulous alien Lanterns in addition to our stalwart Earth lanterns. There is the cameraderie amongst the Lanterns themselves that a lot of people…myself included…find very appealing.
And heck, the Green Lantern costumes are some of the best looking ones out there. They have the basic „standard“ uniform, like the one that Hal wears: It is simple, it is striking, and it shows off their muscles so very very nicely. But you can do just about anything that you want, since the costumes are ring-generated, wihch is one of the ideas that Geoff Johns brought in.
I still think that Guy’s outfit is the best.
If you ever visit some of the variety of Green Lantern Message Boards, you will see that people get VERY passionate about this particular fandom. I had been reading Ragnell at „Written World“ [Link] and Kalinara at „Pretty Fizzy Paradise“ [Link] for a long time. Then I made my silly blog and found all kinds of other crazy ladies who ALSO like Green Lanterns:
Sea of Green at the „Hoosier Journal of Inanity“ [Link] loves Green Lanterns and has all kind of fabulous stuff. Duskdog has a blog called „Long Dogs and Long Boxes“ [Link] as well as another called „Towards Twilight“ [Link], and she has some wonderful fan fiction and essays about the boys.
And there are a LOT of other women that I love to talk with, and visit on their blogs, that may not be as huge a Green Lantern fan as I, but can certainly appreciate a well-drawn pair of GL buttocks.
Seriously, considering what great asses they all have, I’m sure that it is a requirement of the Guardians in order to become a Lantern. That whole bit about overcoming great fear was just added as camoflage.
One last reason that so many women seem to like the Corps, I think, is because there is so much excellent character-related stuff going on along with all the epic battles and blows to the head.
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Stefan Mesch: What have you learned from five years of blogging? Do you think you will still write about „Green Lantern“ in another five years?
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Sally Pascale: Sometimes it is such a pain to sit down,stare at that blank screen and desperately try to think of something witty. It is damn hard to think of things to write about every day. I don’t know how professional columnists DO it! Fortunately for me, I can always fall back on putting up a picture of Hal getting hit in the head, or showing off his buttocks.
I have to say that getting to bloviate about stuff is also quite seductive: The ability to be able to express your concerns, and fears and joys, and the insidious delight of going on a full bore rant (Link) is a heck of a lot of fun. Of course, there are some people who take this to extremes. I have never been able to understand the type of fan who complains about EVERYTHING!  Sometimes I get cranky. But in the long run, I love my comics a lot more than I dislike them.
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Stefan Mesch: Is there anyone particular that you want to thank… or honor?
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Sally Pascale: There are SO many people who have inspired me, and encouraged me that it is practically impossible for me to thank everyone without accidentally leaving somebody out: The list of blogs in my sidebar on my blog is a handy place to start. These are people that I visit and read every single day practically [Link].
I have also been fortunate enough to have Beau Smith, Pat Gleason, Dan Slott [Link] and Keith Champagne [Link], all professionals, post on my silly little blog and say nice things, and it is a real thrill.
I would love to meet Geoff Johns, but I would probably make a fool of myself by gushing, or else start wondering why he can’t bring Katma Tui back. And while I do love his writing, I would like it if he stopped ripping eveybody’s arms and hands off. It’s getting a little out of hand.  *snicker*
Finally, I’d like to thank DC for making these comics, without which, our lives would be so much duller. Yes, you make me crazy sometimes, but for the most part, I’m happy.
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Stefan Mesch: Thank you so much for taking all of July and e-mailing me all those excellent answers. It was a blast, and I learned a lot!
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Sally Pascale: Frankly, I’m thrilled to pieces that someone is actually interested in my comical book experience. I’ve had the time of my life!
Egad, is this…the End?
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Questions? Contact me at: smesch@gmx.net

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