Entries from December 2012 ↓

Words Mean Things by Patrick Chapin

One of the most compelling voices in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin “The Innovator” is a member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame and the author of Next Level Magic.

This article contains profanity, including gay and racial slurs.

“Don’t be a faggot.”

When we communicate, it is not just some trivial exercise. It is not about repeating words in familiar patterns, like a machine.

Real communication is about conveying meaning.

I generally don’t use the word “nigga” (or its various analogues)—not because it is taboo, but because it tends to obscure meaning, rather than convey it.

I spent a number of years in prison. During my time there, I dwelt in an awful lot of circles that used the term very freely. In public settings, it would have been inappropriate to use this language. However, it is a term that has taken on many ironic reversals and additional meanings over the past thirty years, and when it was just me and people I knew, it was generally acceptable for Caucasians, such as myself, to use the term and be referred to by this term.

However, just because the group had accepted this language doesn’t mean it promoted healthy thought patterns. If I can say it another way, a way that is clearer and contains more real meaning, why would I cling to a word that can cause misunderstanding and confusion?

“Don’t be a faggot.”

We can go on about how that word doesn’t mean what it used to, so people shouldn’t be offended by it, but in the real world, that hurts people, particularly ourselves. It influences how we think, and not necessarily for the better.

Words mean things.

Many boys grow up in environments where they are pushed around or otherwise made to feel inferior. Sometimes they are bullied. Often, fathers, brothers, or other older boys will assert themselves as “the dominant males” over the younger ones.

These older males provide the models that the younger ones use to formulate their worldviews and their strategies for interacting in life. If a boy’s role models use bullying and abusive behavior to try to control the people around them, this provides a blueprint for the boy to follow, often long before they are even aware of it.

The Magic community contains quite a few adolescent boys. A common phenomenon in adolescent boy cultures is the use of rape slang, which reveals a lot about the nature of rape.

Rape is about power.

Some men treat or see other people, usually women, as objects rather than as human beings: trophies to be fought over and won; dogs to be commanded and punished for misbehaving. At its core, rape is about power over an individual, making someone submit to one’s will and transforming that person into an object or an obedient animal.

Part of it is an attempt to release anger and frustration, but the release is only temporary. Because of this, the rape mentality generally leads to repeated behavior.

What does this have to do with using the word “rape” as slang for “won by a large margin?”

When someone uses the expression, “He got raped,” they are generally just repeating something they’ve heard someone else say. After all, if you or a loved one has been raped, the expression is a lot less funny.

“He got raped.”

I used to do commentary for the Top 8 of Pro Tours sometimes, way back about ten years ago. Back then, there was a rotating cast that included Chris Pikula, Brian Weissman, Brian Hacker, Brian Kibler, Randy Buehler, Michael Flores, Matt Place, myself, and more.

During the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, I was in the booth, in a role not unlike the one I adopt from time to time for SCG Opens. Between rounds, a WotC employee pulled me aside and asked me to watch my language. I was taken aback. What had I said? I wasn’t swearing.

“It’s not cool to describe one player as raping the other.”

I hadn’t even been thinking and obviously didn’t mean anything by it, but here I was, a dumb kid who didn’t know anything about anything, and I was using rape slang in the official WotC commentary.

Now here is the part that makes me look back and cringe.

My response was to try to explain to this person—who was only representing the interests of a company that sells games to people of all ages—that “rape” doesn’t always mean forcing someone to have sex. It is also “slang” for beating someone badly.

It’s amazing how much you know when you are 18.

“Words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.”

I felt like an idiot. Despite knowing everything (I was 18, so kind of a given), I realized that just as chronic swearing is a symptom of a shortage of intelligence, so too is the inability to adjust one’s language to the situation at hand. Looking back, I didn’t even consider at the time just how inappropriate that kind of language was in an official capacity, let alone in any kind of public forum.

However, it is not just being mindful of the language we use in public. The language we use behind closed doors influences our thought process.

“Don’t be a faggot.”

The expression is said to have nothing to do with sexuality, a way of saying, “That’s not cool.”

At its core, this expression means “Homosexuality is so not cool, the most powerful way I can condemn your action is by suggesting that it is as bad as being homosexual.” That may not be one’s conscious thought process, but that is what they are saying.

The use of “faggot” as a derogatory term stems from hateful origins towards both women and homosexual men. Eventually this led to its popularity as a term boys say to each other in an attempt to assert their own masculinity by challenging the masculinity of other boys (following the example of those around them). In this context, “faggot” is not a permanent identity, such as one’s ethnicity or name. Rather, it is fluid, an identity that one seeks to avoid, such as being “it” in a game of tag. Many boys play this game of tag for years, back and forth with other boys.

“You are a fag!”

“No, you are!”

That’s adorable, but words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.

When we are at a Magic tournament, we are confronted with a whole lot of people, many of whom we don’t know all that well. It can be very tempting to try to assert our masculinity by challenging the masculinity of others.

Want to know a secret?

If you are actually secure in your masculinity, you have no need for such petty tools.

What’s more, use of this language speaks volumes about a person, and the people around them pick up on the message between the lines.

Do you think Brian Kibler uses those words? What about Luis Scott-Vargas?

The words we use shape who we are. They influence our thought patterns and steer how we approach things.

The reasons to avoid such language in public settings, such as a Magic tournament or Facebook, are obvious. After all, when you are talking, everyone who can hear you is your audience. We did not come to this game accidentally. We are intelligent. We have more effective ways of communicating.

However, reconsidering hateful speech publically is only part of the equation. It’s not about the word itself; it is about the thought process. This thought process is toxic, and if you indulge in it in private, it will influence you in public.

You know why rape and hate slang continues? The same reason all slang does — because of people repeating it. From experience, I can tell you, it is relatively easy to clean up a circle’s language. If you resolve that something isn’t cool, it doesn’t take long for it to impact the circles you run in. That circle reflects who you are but also leaves impressions on you. If you do not impress on it, it will impress on you.

I am blessed with a number of close gay friends who have greatly enriched my life. Each of my experiences leads me to believe that potentially shutting out a percentage of people from my life by using hateful language is a huge mistake.

We all have our own path to walk.

There is room for an awful lot of people to live lives that are not identical to our own. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for us, and what is right for us is not necessarily right for them. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are not hurting someone else?

No matter how tempting to try, we can’t make everyone else do what we want. What we can do is decide who we are, right now. It might not be the same as who we were yesterday, and that is okay.

When we see someone making fun of someone else at a Magic tournament for being different, we have lots of options. Are we someone who joins in, attempting to assert our masculinity? Are we someone who just tries to fit in with the crowd? Are we someone willing to stand up for someone who is outnumbered? Are we someone who is just afraid to say something, fearing becoming the next target? Are we someone who believes it is wrong to treat someone badly because of their race, sexuality, or gender?

Obviously none of this is to say that censorship is the answer. Words mean things, and if a given word is what you really want to say, more power to you. Rather, I’m trying to dispel the naïve notion that just because you might not be offended by a word, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and needless. Look, I am always touched when a straight, white American male is not offended by something, but maybe we are forgetting what it is we are doing.

There is a real temptation to defend slurs by arguing that the burden is on the other person to not be offended. After all, can’t anyone just say they are offended by anything? The thing is, asking someone if they are offended by something isn’t particularly fruitful. You don’t think it just puts all the pressure on them and risk being hated more? Likewise, a single person saying they are offended by something doesn’t make it offensive. It is a piece of evidence that helps build a case, but declaring something offensive does mean other people are offended by it.

Using slurs is harmful, not just because of the possibility of offending someone. It is harmful because of the implications. It makes people uncomfortable; it’s disrespectful; it’s bullying; and sadly, it leads to influencing the victims to go out and find victims of their own.

Words mean things.

Whenever people do something differently, someone is going to lash out against them. Maybe they’ll laugh at them, ridicule them, or hate them. People are scared of change, and they fear what is different from them.

Recently, I heard a young man, who considers racism obviously stupid, verbally attack a transgender individual he had never met.


What had this individual done to earn scathing slurs in front of countless people?

They had succeeded at something the boy wished he could succeed at.

Here we have a boy who considers himself a moral authority, who realizes the foolishness of racism; and yet when confronted with someone different from him, he didn’t even realize what he was doing.

Just as any woman who Top 8s a major event is greeted by some percentage of boys who hurl degrading remarks about her gender, someone transgender and successful is greeted with hateful slurs. Why?

It’s hard enough to live a transgender life. What do we gain by making their life harder, more painful? You don’t have to agree with all of someone’s choices or even understand them. However, if they aren’t hurting someone else, why attack them? Why be cruel?

In my experience, an awful lot of young men playing Magic have had some experience with racism. They’ve come to realize that it is not useful and not who they are; not as many Magic players have interacted with transgender individuals, so perhaps looking to broaden our perspective is worthwhile.

Imagine what it is like, everyone telling you that you are wrong about who and what you are. It can be a pretty tough spot to be. Imagine a bunch of people telling you what you should or should not be, say, or feel, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on inside of you.

Being transgender can be like that.

You may disagree with the actions someone is taking, and it may not be something that meshes with your worldview, but are they are hurting anybody? There is no question the life they are living is potentially fraught with hardships and pain, and you are certainly not obligated to do anyone any favors. However, do you really need to torment them and make their life harder? What does that accomplish?

Maybe they will eventually evolve their views. Maybe you will eventually evolve yours. Still, if neither of you changes your views, so what? No one needs to be hurt.

Picking on people in a position of weakness (such as being different from everyone else and having to deal with a world that is not built for them) is an act of cowardice. Whether using slurs because of anger or hate or using them out of ignorance of the implications of slang that carries with it pain and negativity, you have the choice to decide for yourself if that is who you are, or if you are better than that.

You also have the choice to act when you see someone else repeating this noise, without even thinking. I know I am so thankful for that individual who talked some sense into me all those years ago. People may push back, as confronting the truth can be scary, but they may thank you someday.

The signals you send to the world dictate what the world brings you. Make a statement to the world that you are full of kindness, courage, or love, and the world will bring you experiences to match. Make a statement that you are a coward, insecure, or full of hate, and the world will bring you experiences to match.

You want to win more at Magic?

You want to succeed more at anything you do in life?

Be strong. Be open-minded. Be courageous. Be a force for positivity. Be the greatest version of yourself you can envision.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

Teddy Card Game Asks About The New 52

Teddy Card Game asks…

Great question!

For those of you who don’t know, The New 52 was fifty-two Number One comics releases that DC did last year, a sort of soft-reboot of the entire DC universe that incorporated elements of their Wildstorm and Vertigo imprints. Most or all of The New 52 #1s are priced at $.99 on Comixology (as a tool to attract new readers), and I for one found this an attractive way to become, you know, a new reader.

Originally I was going to write this blog post with titles in alphabetical order but then I realized that I am not a librarian and that doesn’t make for the most logical reading sense for our purposes. Instead I will break them up into these relatively unlike, but passably logical groups:

  1. Overpriced New 52 Books
  2. Stuff I More-Or-Less Never Miss
  3. Second Wave Titles
  4. Stuff I Like But Haven’t Really Gotten Around To
  5. Aquaman

Overpriced New 52 Books
Action Comics :: Batman :: Justice League

There are two main reasons I switched from almost 100% trade paperbacks for the last several years to mostly digital comics in the last year. The first is space: My wife originally had me switch from floppies to trade paperbacks so that I wouldn’t have hundreds of essentially disposable magazines coming in every month… That I refused to ever get rid of. So I amassed a pretty kick-ass trade paperback / graphic novel collection that lots of my friends take advantage of for the big borrows. But even trade paperbacks take ups space, and my wife is a minimalist in her soul. Cloud computing lets my buy lots and lots of comics and they all live on my iPad, so don’t take up any space.

The second reason is price. Again, Comixology charges only $.99 for most of The New 52 #1 issues, to help encourage people to try them (and presumably get them hooked). After 30 or so days, cover price on most books I buy — DC or not — to $1.99. However some super popular books like the ones in this section have stayed at $2.99. So it’s not like I don’t like some of these books; I can just get an extra half-Justice League Dark for the price of not buying an adjective-less Justice League instead.

Action Comics
Main Character(s): Superman
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Rags Morales

1 Issue (#1)

Action Comics is set in the recent past, before the massive proliferation of superheroes in the rebooted DC universe, so a young(er) Clark Kent has got a Superman-looking tee-shirt and farm boy blue jeans and work boots instead of his sleeker superhero-ing uniform. Morrison is telling the story of a Superman whose chosen sparring partners are greedy businessmen rather than alien green men.

Grant Morrison wrote my all-time favorite Superman Story All-Star Superman a few years ago; paired with the underrated former Valiant artist Rags Morales, this comic is squarely in my wheelhouse… Just haven’t caught up (note subsection).

Main Character(s): Batman, Alfred
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo

13 issues (#1-12, Annual #1)

One book in and we are already at the exception that proves the rule. Part of the bigger number is that Comixology / DC priced Batman reasonably for the first few months before deciding they could get away with the higher price point. The other, of course, is that Scott Snyder is more-or-less the hottest writer in comics, and his work on Batman is a good indication as to why. He is great on Batman and even better on American Vampire (not a New 52 book). The story is disorienting; Snyder has been planting Batman-seeds for years with Dick Grayson and some peripheral Bat-heroes… And they finally gave him the big boy title with The New 52 launch. This is a comic book about Gotham City. It is the secret origin of the Wayne family. It is action, horror, and the opportunity to see Batman do some cool stuff — all brought together with the kinetic pencils of Greg Capullo. I haven’t looked at any recent sales figures but it would not surprise me if this were DC’s top-selling book.

Justice League
Main Character(s): Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Jim Lee

6 issues (#1-6)

Justice League is DC’s veritable “put Mike Flores and Patrick Sullivan in Las Vegas and see what happens” cocktail. Basically they took the most sale-able artist in comics (Jim Lee) and paired him with the consistent hit-maker Johns… And give them Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to play with. So if Batman isn’t DC’s best selling book, my guess is that Justice League is.

I bought the first arc of six issues primarily at my kids’ insistence for bedtime reading. It is set about five years ago and tells the story of the dawn of superheroes in the rebooted DC Universe — the Justice League against Darkseid!

Stuff I More-Or-Less Never Miss
Animal Man :: Birds of Prey :: Stormwatch :: Swamp Thing

With the exception of Animal Man, this section is all stuff I buy because like the proto-fanboy, I am loyal to certain characters.

Animal Man
Main Character(s): Buddy Baker (Animal Man) and his family, Swamp Thing; various Animal- and Swamp-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Jeff Lemire

15 issues (#1-13, #0, Annual #1)

Animal Man was one of the best-reviewed “surprise” hits of The New 52. Surprise! (none of you have ever heard of Animal Man, I’d guess) I gave it a try and liked it. It’s pretty weird / violent / offbeat funny. Animal Man ties in to some of the Vertigo Grant Morrison ideas of the last century but is one of several New 52 books that has a superhero-y sounding name but is kind of an off-kilter horror book, similar to Justice League Dark or I, Vampire. Substantial crossovers with Swamp Thing didn’t hurt my interest.

Birds of Prey
Main Character(s): Black Canary, Starling; with Katana, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Duane Swierczynski

13 issues (#1-12, #0)

If you read my favorite Batman stories blog posts a few months back you know how I feel about Birds of Prey. I was initially a bit apprehensive about a Birds of Prey without Gail Simone at the helm, but Duane has done a more-than-passable job in the reboot universe, kind of flipping the power relationship between Black Canary and Batgirl (Oracle in the pre-reboot continuity). The book initially launched with the excellent Jesus Saiz, who I loved from his work on some of Greg Rucka’s titles last decade. I think that anyone can like Birds of Prey but you will particularly like it if you like girl power and / or butt-kicking.

Main Character(s): Apollo, Midnighter, The Engineer Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum, Martian Manhunter
Notable Creator(s): Paul Cornell, Peter Milligan

14 issues (#1-13, #0)

Buying every issue of Stormwatch is Mike at his fanboy-est. The core cast here is from 1990s Stormwatch-spinoff The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. The Authority and some of the other Wildstorm stuff Jim Lee was publishing himself were so popular that DC bought their company!

The best thing by far about Stormwatch is Midnighter and Apollo. Midnigher is Batman. Apollo is Superman. They are unapologetically derivative… and gay for each other. It was pretty groundbreaking when this super popular superhero book last century had their Bruce-and-Clark analogues kiss, get married, and adopt a super baby. It is just one of many conventions that this book (or at least the tradition through which this book reaches us in The New 52) sets on its ear.

Just because Midnigher is gay doesn’t mean he isn’t, you know, a merciless killing machine. Midnigher is the ultimate tactician, a platonic crystalization of Batman’s combat prowess (wearing essentially the movie version of Batman’s carbon fiber armor), and explained through a superhuman lens: Midnigher can see your every weakness consciously, therefore can plan and execute on how to execute any opponent.

My all-time favorite New 52 issue is Stormwatch #9, which is a Midnigher-centric story about him fantasizing about fighting Batman, but actually having to deal with an invading Red Lantern (Red Lanterns are like Green Lantern, but baaaaahd). How does a guy armed with a belt-knife and a karate chop beat a cosmically powered alien with a magic ring?

It’s just so darn appropriate.

As much as I will buy every issue of Stormwatch until they cancel it, I would be the first to acknowledge it is the most uneven of the books I am talking about today. There are well written ones and less well written. The art has been awesome with Miguel Sepulveda (who drew #9)… Weaker with other artists.

Especially if you don’t have the same kind of emotional attachment to these particular characters that I have… Take Stormwatch with a grain of salt.

Swamp Thing
Main Character(s): Swamp Thing, Abby Arcane, Animal Man; various Swamp- and Animal-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette

14 issues (#1-13, #0)

Remember all that stuff I said about Scott Snyder in the Batman section?

Nothing is going to equal Alan Moore’s genre-defining run in the 1980s, but I am glad DC gave Scott Snyder the chance to try.

Second Wave Titles
Batman Incorporated :: Earth 2 :: World’s Finest

DC wound down a handful of the lower selling titles and replaced them with some of these. I split them out into their own section because I wanted to stave off the “if you like this so much how come you only have four copies of…” thoughts and reactions in advance.

Batman Incorporated
Main Character(s): Batman, Robin, various Batmen of various nations
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham

4 issues (#1-3, #0)

This is basically the same book that I said was one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories last time… But with a new #1.

Typical Morrison big ideas, Batman executing on a global scale, Burnham bringing his A-game every issue, and goat-themed assassins.

Morrison also has some great nods to stories by creators like Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Neal Adams as he re-envisions his Batman. Here is a young Talia al Ghul going all Year One as it were:

Earth 2
Main Character(s): Lots of big-name superheroes from Batman / Superman / Wonder Woman to Flash and Green Lantern
Notable Creator(s): James Robinson

6 issues (#1-5, #0)

James Robinson, progenitor of maybe my all-time favorite superhero comic Starman, pens the tale of a world that is a little bit different from the mainstream DCU. “Five years ago” … That time I talked about with the Darkseid conflict in Justice League? Well what happens to a planet if, instead of the Justice League coming together to beat Darkseid, um, something else interesting happens? That is the starting point of the Earth 2 narrative. In a sense it is post-apocalyptic; in another it is one of the most hopeful and uplifting (and brightly colored) of The New 52.

World’s Finest
Main Character(s): Huntress, Power Girl (Robin, Supergirl)
Notable Creator(s): Paul Levitz, George Perez, Kevin Maguire

6 issues (#1-5, #0)

The character Huntress was originated in the 1970s by Levitz as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Various continuity re-writes and universe consolidations changed her, over time, to a repentant mafia princess and the trigger-girl for Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey. A version of Huntress was, during the largely regrettable No Man’s Land storyline, one of the best — or at least cleverest — non-Bruce Wayne people ever to call [her]self Batman… But hadn’t been true to her identity as the true inheritor to the Batman in some years.

The reality created by Earth 2 (i.e “another” Batman) opened the door to bring Huntress as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman back with The New 52 reboot. Power Girl, a heroine who was originally Superman’s cousin from another world, became nothing more or less than a white singlet with peekaboo[b] cleavage. In World’s Finest, Power Girl is a mite more covered up and returns to her origin’s roots, as well.

Pre-New 52 Reboot of Power Girl, by Adam Hughes

This book is great fun, with Levitz doing his best to honor his characters, and an all-star lineup of Perez and Maguire half-drawing each issue.

Stuff I Like But Haven’t Really Gotten Into
Batgirl :: Batwoman :: I, Vampire :: Justice League Dark :: Wonder Woman

Main Character(s): Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Gail Simone, covers by Adam Hughes

2 issues (#1, #0)

Birds of Prey under Gail Simone is one of your all-time favorite books?


So you try Birds of Prey not with Gail Simone and hit more-or-less every issue?

Still yes.

But the actual Gail Simone book, featuring the main character of Birds of Prey… You haven’t gotten along to that one?

People are inexplicable.

Main Character(s): Batwoman
Notable Creator(s): JH Williams III

1 Issue (#1)

Not only was Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories ever, I even wrote a separate post about the trade itself!

Batwoman in The New 52 is the continuation of that story… But without Greg Rucka. JH Williams III is as beautiful as ever on the visuals but without the mastermind that wove together realistic, military, superheroics with a “real” lesbian protagonist. It’s just not at the top of my stack. Maybe someday.

I, Vampire
Main Character(s): some vampires; can’t remember any of their names; John Constantine maybe
Notable Creator(s): Joshua Hale Fialkov

4 issues (#1-4)

I really liked Joshua Hale Fialkov’s indie Image book The Last of the Greats, so I decided to give his more mainstream vampire-superhero title a swing. It’s no American Vampire, but I, Vampire is still quite good. If you like Jae Lee-esque art, it is also quite pretty. I plan to catch up more, especially given its Animal Man / Swamp Thing-like crossovers with Justice League Dark.

Justice League Dark
Main Character(s): Deadman, Dove, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna, other magic-themed characters
Notable Creator(s): Peter Milligan

6 issues (#1-6)

Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man with Chris Bachalo was my gateway to Vertigo-style comics back in the 1990s (thanks to my then-classmate Brian K. Vaughan). I was into Shade even before I was into the more recognizable Sandman, and certainly didn’t know what I had missed in terms of Swamp Thing. So… Milligan put Shade into this oddball group of magic-themed characters.

Both John Constantine (one of Alan Moore’s most masterful additions to the comics canon) and Zatanna are favorite characters.

The book is beautiful.

Most of these people are pretty much assholes.

I think I like it better than regular Justice League.

Wonder Woman
Main Character(s): Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang

8 issues (#1-7, #0)


One of the best rebooted concepts for a character! Great story! Cliff Chiang is even better on this book than Azz, which is saying something! More! Exclamation! Points!


Main Character(s): Aquaman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Ivan Reiss

1 issue (#1)

Superstar Geoff Johns, superstar Ivan Reiss (ergo gorgeous), Aquaman is back in the League, great ratings on the book…

Nope, still about talking to fish.

Those, dear Teddy, are all The New 52 books I have read and kept up with.