Click on the purple links to learn more!
Welcome to the first episode of Broadcasts from the Watchtower, a FreezeRay free-for-all where we get extra passionate about our fandom. We kick off the first show with Rob Sturma talking to wrestling journalist extraordinaire The Lady J (The Lady J Says, Facelock Feministas, #pwgrrrlgang) about the glory that is pro wrestling fandom and what she's doing to champion independent and inclusive spaces in the professional wrestling community.
Click on the purple links to learn more!
I used to say, pretty fervently, “escapism is my favorite coping mechanism.” However, recent events have made it painfully clear that we can’t just disengage with the world. We have to live in it daily and we have an obligation to make it better. As a mixed race cishet male, I work well in the current capitalistic system that we currently have in place, but the reality is that many of my friends are not and will not feel or be safe in the coming years. And there is work that needs to be done on a variety of levels.
I’m making a decisive change to my mantra. I’m going to be saying “pop culture is my favorite coping mechanism.” Because pop culture is truly indicative of the change we want to see in the world. Pop culture is grounded in the world. And now, it’s more important than ever to support the artistic work of queer and PoC communities. And now it’s more important than ever to make sure we are doing all we can to make sure their voice is heard in every medium.
So, here at FreezeRay Poetry and Press, we’ll be compiling a a list of queer and/or PoC content creators (and in a few cases, ones that actively promote Queer and PoC rights) that we have gathered over the last couple of weeks. The list is going to keep growing. But it’s a start. It’s a start.
This is not a comprehensive list, although we will update it regularly. This list is meant to be a starting point, a quick reference guide of sorts. We started this list based off a lot of google searches, friends’ and friends of friends’ recommendations, and random assortments of social media posts.
And you can find that list here.
So as we close out this <Insert Adjectives of Your Choice> year, take some time to look at some really cool content creators out there. With a special shoutout to Steenz and Ray Nadine, two really talented St. Louis artists who indirectly inspired the creation of this list.
One of my fave things about being a multi-media nerd is when someone else opens me up to a new nerd-thing I didn't know I needed to nerd about (like "Hamilton" or Florida Supercon Wrestling). One of my fave things about poets is that they bring their nerd game to the next level by throwing down the words that make you care about the things they care about (like this journal, ahem). So in this "Everybody's Throwing Down The Writing Gauntlet" month of November my man Gus Wood is beefing up his blog "Just The Nuggets" by opining on 30 recommendations in 30 Days. He's already dropped science on Bobby McFerrin and The Wizard of Oz on Ice, Yahtzee Croshaw's video game reviews, and Busta Rhymes. He's got a lot more days to enhance your nerd life, so follow along this month and may the YouTube rabbit holes you fall down be full of pillows and the beverage of your choice!
Just The Nuggets can be found here:
FreezeRay family member and Navigator of the Poetry Super Highway RICK LUPERT (who blessed us with his amazing ode to Leonard Nimoy from Issue #6) has now published a totally rad poem about his Lego Spaceship in Silver Birch Press' series "My Most Prized Possession"! You can check it out HERE! Anyone who has ever had their Lego heart busted over some busted Legos will feel this one!
From the author:
"The poem was written out of the frustration, grief, and sadness of events this week (7/8). Between Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas...there has been ample need for reflection and expression on a personal level. Addressing the frustration of both observing such blatant terror, and having our grief silenced by those unaffected by it, brought me to a place of needing poetry to get my thoughts straight without having a to-the-death debate with everyone on social media. The Death Note metaphor came to mind while reading Lauren Bullock's 'Pokemon Go and Choosing the Blackest Joy'. I don't know if it was actually there in her writing, or was sparked indirectly (but either way, thanks to Lauren for the piece!), but the poem ended up being something I hope to share. For healing, sympathetic outrage and grief, for something other than dead-end despair. Hopefully something good can come from it. "
Death continues to court us.
Love-struck shinigami, its
is not an invited romance,
nothing in this melanin to misconstrue
as a spur in the side of its stalkership,
but its still us catching glances for the
aftereffects of its harassment.
Maybe if we didn't lead Death on, boast
its favorite shade in the beauty given us,
in the magic pronounced by unbowing heads
and tongues 400 years
have yet to bleed the song from, maybe then
we wouldn't find ourselves forever addressed
the bullets and badges
straight laying us out like speed bumps.
Maybe then, expiration dates wouldn't hang
their haunting promises overhead for those
with the right eyes to see, and to feel
like mouths devouring our insides. We
have begun to walk assuming each
one fear-gnashed traffic stop away from those
ghosts becoming zeroes.
How many breathless black bodies did it take
for Misa's bargain to wet our eyes
with this more horrible vision?
Our eyes are the only reminders we need that
those who look like us are little more than prey,
that those most responsible for our protection
are increasingly knife and fork at our necks,
and that those tick-tick-tick-ticks
we know to gloat overhead
will never be proof enough for people
who've already decided the guilt of the dead.
There Is A Shame
aimed at you
in the nerd
you admit that you
like Teen Titans Go
almost like a betrayal
of its predecessor that
is now dead, though pre-
maturely and never to
rise again. And I suppose
I could hide behind my
daughter's love of the
team who can't seem to
be respected enough
to be taken seriously as
my conduit into such
forbidden fanfare, but
honestly I just enjoy
watching a Black character
like Cyborg withstand
assaults and aggressions
and death every day
and still standing at the
end of the episode
or at least smiling through
the best laid plans of the bad
guys or who he assumes are
his allies. Especially when
the only other image dragging
its bloody memory behind
my eyes is Alton Sterling's
murder like so many vacated
plots and nonsense
before him and even though
I cringe when Cyborg yells
Boo-yah, I at least know
that joy follows the sonic
boom of his call out, but we
Black folk have a catchphrase
too that sounds too much
like a fired gun and our
name uttered by strangers
that miss the living version
of ourselves. Besides I can't
be concerned with what my
fellow snobs have to say about
my choice of cartoon as I lay
across the floor with my daughter
laughing at what we are watching
because I can't guarantee
she won't see her father
on TV one day get hit
with something and not get
back up and then laughter
will become a language
she forgets in my wake.
What Is A "Ship"?
An Elegy To Many Things
by Mikkel Snyder
*Spoilers for Many Things*
(For DC Things. At least implicitly...)
The Ship of Theseus is a famous thought experiment / paradox. It reads as follows: Theseus returns from his adventures and finds a crack in a single board of his ship. He promptly replaces it. Repeat for every single board and part of the ship. Repeat for every member of the crew. Repeat for Theseus himself. Repeat for the name of the ship. Repeat all of the above.
Is it the same ship?
Roughly 16 months ago, I wrote An Ode to My Favorite Comic Book Shop about the closing of a local institution, Star Clipper. Thankfully, death isn’t a permanent condition when it comes to the realm of comics. The day after the store closed in the middle of March, the Facebook page remained active and posted pictures of famous characters that were brought back to life.
The most salient of these portraits to me was Superman’s. One half of the World’s Finest. A figure of hope that needed four people to try and replace when he “died.” It seemed like an apt metaphor for the fact that I was desperately looking at the other comic book shops in the St. Louis. The strangest thought kept passing through my head. Without Star Clipper, I didn’t have a reason to stay in this city.
My friend Sam has constantly called me out on my utter devotion to DC comics. Whenever I lament a decision they have made, within hours, I will see that he has commented and I already know that the words sinking ship are going to pop up. Although, it may be the sinking ship emoji because that’s apparently a thing.
The latest of these laments is Batman v. Superman, which we’re not going to talk about other than I really wanted the movie to better than it was. I really needed it to be better. The six year old me growing up on the DC Animated Universe (Batman, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Static Shock, Batman Beyond, even the Zeta Project) needed the movie to better. The part of me that has internalized all of the fandom needed to be better.
Because fandom is weird like that.
While I was raised on animated superheroes, but exposure to comics was digital. I started out reading webcomics sometime in high school. It started out with Ctrl+Alt+Del and 8-Bit theater, but soon rapidly expanded, to the point where I was serial reading somewhere upwards of twenty comics or so. Some of my favorably remembered ones include Questionable Content, Penny Arcade, Bob and George, Penny Arcade, PvP, Order of the Stick, Homestuck, Flipside, A Softer World, and Multiplex. Some of the comics are still on going on. Some have ended, and I have sat at the final panels starting into the digital portal in front of me, dumbfounded and smiling.
In college though, that’s when I stumbled onto the Delmar Loop for lunch and ended up walking into Star Clipper. I don’t know how I missed it, other than the fact I didn’t go on the Loop that often. I walked in with that same dumbfounded smile on as it slowly dawned on me that I was home. It was the end of the semester and I picked up all 10 volumes of Sandman and hence started a ritual of going there every few months. This story should sound familiar. I told it already. And I’ll tell it again and again and again and again. But I will add here that I learned that Morpheus was supposed to appear on an episode of the Justice League and there are few things involving fiction that make me sadder about that.
So, what prompts this revisitation? If romance, my first visit back, my concurrent visits, my book club, my newly found friends (in both other regulars and the employees) did not spur me, what did?
Well, on March 25th, DC launched their #DCRebirth. A chance to shuffle some things around. To get back to the heart of what makes the DC universe great. To brighten up their world. To fix a ship. Maybe just for me. Maybe for everyone who firmly loves DC.
And despite it being a workday, I went to midnight release. I get sad about some of my favorite series ending. I narrowly win their trivia contest with the help of my friends. I spent time in a place that just makes me happy. I get my pull from Ray who informs me they didn’t apply store credit, before quickly joking “you’ll be here next week though. I’d be worried about you if you stopped showing up.”
We laugh, and I look around the storefront. I look at myself. I’m standing in the middle of downtown, on Washington Avenue. Across the block is the City Museum. In the other direction, a whole string of restaurants. Somewhere close by, there’s supposed to an erotic cake shop.
The neon sign from the old store is hanging on the wall. The “new” logo outside is now two year’s old. The old bookshelves are filled with new issues. There’s an entire section dedicated to board games in the back. Two break rooms where I’ve played demos, read previews, discussed books I wouldn’t have read. A wall of funko figures that are slowly eating real estate in my cubicle.
It’s obvious in this moment that it’s not the same store.
But what does “same” even mean?
Batman is 70+ year’s old. Star Clipper is 15+. I’m 24, soon to be 25. As much as I’d love for a status quo, the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. We’re supposed to become different. We’re supposed to adapt to the surroundings.
We can’t blindly accept what it is presented to us. We can understand how we got here, but if we don’t have a narrative arc, if we don’t change, if we don’t (in the words of one of my best friends, Brooke) become more ourselves, what’s the point?
And what’s a ship? A vehicle. A metaphor. A term for a fictional couple we want to happen (*cough cough* Batman and Wonder Woman from the DCAU *cough cough*). A thought experiment on the fluxing nature of identity.
When I talk about ships, I mean fandom. And by fandom, I mean loyalty. To fictional characters, sure. But also people. But also places, from comic book stores to cities. I’m talking about some strange love for the stories and storied that took you in and helped you grow.
And I’m so fucking glad I still have the ones I do.
Everything about this painting gives me life. So to speak. Write about some dudes leaving their knives at the table and just talking shop.
Ode to My Favorite Comic Book Shop
A Photojournalism Response Essay to Star Clipper’s Announced Closing
by Mikkel Snyder, FreezeRay Editor
On January 15, 2015, Star Clipper customers received notification over Facebook and email that their doors would be closing. The popular comic book shop based on the Delmar Loop meant a lot to St. Louis residents. The bulk of the essay was written the day of the announcement, and was edited to reflect additional information gained in the following weeks.
Star Clipper staff knew about the closure about a month earlier. This essay is dedicated to the incredible community that I, and many others, found thanks to them and owner.
When you’re growing up and moving around a lot, one of the things you don’t actually notice is that places change over time. It seems simple enough. However, when you’re moving every few years, you can’t really appreciated it because to you, everything is new by virtue of being different. You don’t see places rise and fall. Roads pretty much stay the same. Life goes on.
As a military brat, I didn’t start noticing that places change until my family stopped moving and we actually lived in the same house in Maryland for nearly a decade. However, given that four of those years overlapped with my college career, I can’t say any of the changes I noticed affected me in any meaningful way.
Today, as I continue my attempts to settle in St. Louis, I’m forced to confront this challenging concept of change that comes up with being a resident. That is to say, the loss of a beloved institution and establishment.
Star Clipper's Storefront Neon Sign. After Star Clipper’s closure, the sign will be donated to
St. Louis’ City Museum, a fitting home.
Star Clipper was, is, and may always be my favorite comic book store. When first finding the store on the loop five year ago, I was not well versed in comics. I was a huge nerd of comic book properties since I had grown up on the DCAU, and had an extensive list of webcomics that I kept current with, but comics, physic comics, were foreign to me with their picture book-esque quality. I had read a graphic novel here and there, sure, but never experienced what it really meant to be a comic book fan.
Star Clipper elevated me to a new kind of nerd. The first time I walked into the store, I just started browsing the stacks to see the plethora books available and I stumbled on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, a ten volume set and to this day one of my prized possessions. Being reckless, I purchased all ten volumes in celebration for the end of the semester and proceeded to read that series in a weekend. This started a long standing ritual with me and a store.
I can’t iterate enough times how important this place was to me. I can’t tell you all of the thing I loved about it, from the incredible that has guided me through the selection, the store front itself being pitch perfect, the amazing events I’ve gotten to be a part of.
I will say Star Clipper is responsible for the two bookshelves of comics that I display proudly in my living room. I will say that I’m really, really sad I need to find a new comic book shop, because if there is a single lesson to be taken away from this, it is not the fact things change, but that I can’t stop reading comics now. I’m in too deep. There are too many good stories that I’ve stumbled on to.
The Aforementioned Bookshelves ( the collection has doubled since)
But in particular, these last two years with Star Clipper have been particularly defining to my adult life. After graduating and moving up to Madison, Wisconsin, the absence of Star Clipper was one of the many factors that made me realize that I loved and missed St. Louis. I literally made the 300+ mile trip down south to “see friends,” and by that I mean “go to Star Clipper at least once.”
It was only 6 hours.
I remember going with Kastyn during one of my visit and then getting a 24 pack of Fitz’s root beer before I headed back north. I remember driving six hours, getting six hours of sleep, and then waiting in line for three hours with Ben Tolkin as we talked poetry and the musical episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, just so we could get all of the comic book offerings possible. I remember the Free Comic Book Day the year before when I gave Emily an Iron Man 3 pen in exchange for a declaration that I was in the fact the best of all her friends to much discontent with our other friends.
So much swag.
I remember having my ever feature as Crossover Poetry with my stage partner, Lauren.
I’m pretty sure I was doing a pantoum persona piece of Renee Montoya when this picture was taken.
I remember graduating Comics U as a freshman this past year, and now I’m going to have to get my certificate framed and wear my t-shirt more often as a reminder.
The first (and last) Star Clipper produced zine on the left. My poorly drawn Voltron on the right.
I remember going to midnight showings at the Tivoli and getting five dollar gift cards or anime themed postcards and just being so, so, so happy with my life decisions.
All of that awesome in one summer (and yeah, one of these things is not like the other)
I remember when I saw that Star Clipper’s owners had literally developed software for tracking comic book stock and falling even more in love with the store and what is stood for.
So where do I go from here given this news?
Well, clearly this is not what I ever wanted to hear. Clearly, Star Clipper is so important to me. Clearly I don’t want to find a new store and if I had the funds necessary, I would toss money until the doors could be kept open for eternity.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option. And unfortunately, I think that’s growing up.
The last big merch run collected that Saturday after close.
Come February, there’s going to be a hole in the heart that matches the size of the soon to be vacant storefront on the Loop. At the end of the day though, I am a comic book fan. I am one thanks to Star Clipper. I will continue to be a patron there until they tell me I can’t. I will buy books at an alarmingly frequency for a few more weeks. I will keep my weekly pull of the half dozen series I’m reading.
But mostly, I’m going to keep being a nerd. It’s the best way I can honor Star Clipper, its staff, its owners, and everything they have done for me.
A rare selfie taken in memoriam for this incredible shop. I’ll miss it.
In the half month since writing this first draft of this essay, Star Clipper Facebook Page has linked to many an article that range from talking about the history of the store to its current standing. Rather than try and incorporate these directly into the essay, I wanted to present a few of the ones I found resonant as a coda below.
Star Clipper Announced Closing in the Loop
Star Clipper is St. Louis’ Latest Culture Retailer Casualty
Why Star Clipper’s Owners Shuttered Their Beloved St. Louis Comic Book Shop
Black Nerd Problems is one of the few nerd sites that makes me think and laugh at the same time, and BNP's livetweets during shows like Walking Dead and The Flash are must-read hashtags when you're watching along with them (#DemDeadz and #DatFlash are the tags to follow). We decided to pick the brain of BNP head honcho WIlliam Evans about the upcoming pen-and-paper version of the website, Black Nerd Problems: Zero Year.
1. Let's pretend that I'm someone who's never been to the Black Nerd Problems site because I got caught up in a YouTube rabbit hole of Epic Rap Battles for the last year or so. Tell me briefly what you're all about.
Black Nerd Problems is an unapologetic deluge of nerd-centric and geek commentary from the perspective of people of color. Every topic that becomes an editorial or a review on the site isn't political, but just the fact that we are people of color that revel in pop and niche culture with our own voice is still political. We nerd hard at BNP, but we speak from a perspective that is still under-reported and I think that makes what we have to say very significant.
2. What if I'm a BNP regular? What will the book offer me that I can't get on the site?
We're putting a lot of original content into the book to reward the people that have been with us from the beginning. There will be plenty of editorials and features that will only appear in the book (never online) including from people that aren't part of our regular staff. Some of our archived content will have some additional commentary attached to them as well. Whether it's background or anecdotal text, we hope those elements will offer some new insight to pieces that people may have already been familiar to from the site. We will also have a lot of original artwork featured that will be exclusive to the book as well.
3. Part of Zero Year is going to be a Greatest Hits album. Fire off a few hit singles we can look forward to.
You know, we're pretty proud about a lot of the content that people have gravitated to on the site. Our biggest problem in editing the book is going to be what gets left out simply due to space. We haven't made any decisions yet, but I can say that some of my personal favorites that represent our mission well are the ones that deal with social politics and identity. Columns such as "I am Woman, I am Nerd" from Carrie McClain or "Exploring Identity as a Gamer" from Ian Khadan. I'm a sucker for a good personal narrative and those along with many others from the site really illustrate why this site exists in the first place.
4. One of the coolest things about running a site are some of the unexpected interactions that occur. What's one of the most memorable exchanges you've had as a result of BNP?
I wrote a piece regarding the newest version of Captain Marvel and how the writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, cleverly went against type by not having the hero Carol Danvers be the White Savior. About a week or so later, someone forwarded me Kelly Sue's tumblr where she shared my column. That led to me interviewing her on two separate occasions and having a conversation with her husband (and also one of my writing heroes) Matt Fraction when he visited Columbus. That's one of many that the staff members have experienced, but Kelly Sue is my favorite.
5. If there's one person in the nerd world you'd want to get a copy of Black Nerd Problems: Zero Year, who would it be, and why?
You know, if I could send it to one person with hopes that they would read it, I would have to say Aisha Tyler. Look, I love Neil DeGrasse Tyson as much as the next nerd, but I've always been a big Aisha fan, ever since I saw her rocking the pistol from Halo: Combat Evolved at E3 one year. She's the quintessential Black Nerd for me, but maybe I'm just hoping that Lana Kane makes a BNP reference on Archer someday.
Black Nerd Problems: Zero Year will be available from FreezeRay Press in May 2015. FInd out more about it here.
The FreezeRay Blog! From the hearts and mind of the staff, these are the things that get us geeked. In the best way.