It happens to us all. You put yourself out there by showing the world something you made, something you believe in and just when you are at your highest, happiest, proudest moment, someone says something or maybe they don't say something, but the communication is clear: you suck, you're not that special, you're not that talented, it wasn't a very good idea, and so on. At this moment we flare up inside and then get that feeling of wanting to hide, to escape, to get the hell away and make the suffering end or quite possibly get mad and verbally attack back. However, I would challenge you to take another look at what is really happening. You should know something: You should be feeling on top of the world. Huh? Let me explain.
Not everyone puts themselves out there. In fact most people sit idly by wishing they had something they could put out and had the courage to actually show people. They don't but you do. Congratulations, you are indeed special. Yes, that's right, your mom wasn't lying to you and deep down you always knew too so take a moment and give yourself a proper acknowledgement. Okay, good. So you've got a few guys putting themselves out there so that must mean everyone else hates you, right? Wrong. Like I said, most people wish they had something to put out, something to believe in and go after passionately so they're not actually bad people, they're just trying to find something to believe in and be passionate about. That's where you come in with your idea, your painting, your novel, your song. So who is the guy hating on you? There's not many of them and it's probably your best friend. Huh? Let me explain.
You see, there are heroes in the world. That's guys like you and me. Artists, creators, doers, the guys that make stuff happen and help people. And you see, there's also bad guys. Sure, these are your Adolf Hitlers, rapists, murderers, serial killers, etc., but they are not always so obvious to spot. Why? Because they are COWARDS. What would a coward do if he didn't like someone and wanted them to sink? Would he come right out and tell you he hated you? No, that wouldn't be very smart. What would he do then? He'd cuddle up to you, get as close as he could and slowly stick the knife in as he smiled the most genuine smile he could muster, pretending loyalty but always looking for ways to make it hurt more. You've seen the movie lots of times right? Isn't it always the guy the hero never suspected? Of course we see it because we're the audience, but he usually doesn't.
A funny thing happened to me once. I'm big into comic books and love the hell out of them. I like to follow writers and artists that I like. I like their fan page, I might follow them on Twitter (I'm @David Carus by the way) and I like to keep up with the guys that are creating universes filled with heroes. I started a friendship with one writer that was kind of a big deal. He was a New York Times Bestseller, he wrote comics that I enjoyed and was working in the industry, a real professional. One day he posted something that was pretty scary, that went totally against stuff I knew to be true and I commented on his post. He came at me like a vengeful, hateful, slobbering, slimy bastard that wanted to shrink me down to nothing, and he did this in the name of helping me. He wanted me to know how wrong I was and when I didn't take the bait the real guy came out. Now remember, this is a guy I had admired up until this point and it was shocking to see him act like a hateful monster. He called me names, he belittled my core beliefs and I was supposed to be left feeling like an idiotic piece of crap. But I didn't. I quickly unfriended him, laughed it off and turned my attention elsewhere. But, it's not always so easy. You know what I mean, right? That feeling was still there. That feeling of being slimed. I didn't like it and something had to be done. So what did I do? I immortalized him in song. Huh? Let me explain.
I make music and it's hip hop music and the one thing you don't want to do is piss off a rapper. You see, rapping has one interesting element to it: the diss song. When someone upsets a rapper he just writes about him in his next song. Heck, even Taylor Swift has used this method, taking her bad ex-boyfriends' actions and turning them into million dollar hits. So what did I do? I wrote a song about him. I'd been working on this idea for a song called Copy Machine because I thought it was a cool metaphor for how people just like to spew out stuff they heard somewhere else without really coming up with anything original themselves. The best example of this is when people watch the talking heads on the news and then stand at the water cooler at work the next day giving the exact same opinions they got from their TV. But this happens a lot. So I decided I would take this critic, this hateful individual, this guy that had tried to make me small and I decided to make him big. I put him in a song that will survive longer than him. He'll forever be known as the Copy Machine guy. And the kicker? I never mention his name. He's not going to get one new fan from me. But I got and continue to get new fans because of him.
The next time you get someone being critical, ignoring you, telling you that what you have to say isn't important, look a little closer and really listen to what that person is saying. All of those things are not directed at you, they're really directed at themselves. Deep down they know what they're doing is wrong and if they can't be right they don't want anyone to be. You just have to know they are Copy Machines spewing out the hate of people that were their Copy Machines at some point. Then, you just smile because you must know this: they thought you were important enough to target because you are. You're the most important kind of people we got on this planet: an artist. And you know what? Artists Run This Planet. The Copy Machines don't but wish they did. Get happy, take it as a win and make art because ultimately that's what will help everyone, including these guys. Even they want to see you win, deep, deep down. Don't ever let them make you small because you're not. You're a giant and you leave big footprints. Just know that sometimes people will fall into them and get hurt. When they do, and climb out trying to murder you from every angle, just keep your head up in those clouds and make a beanstalk. When someone climbs it, that's your real friend.
Hope you enjoyed this blog. Make sure to join my mailing list if you haven't already and if you get a chance, check out the music video for Copy Machine below. It was a lot of fun and if you watch closely, that's me in the mask :-)
Having to follow "The Avengers" and released just before 'The Dark Knight Rises," the relaunch of ol' Spidey couldn't have come at a more challenging time, especially with audiences now so savvy as to what is possible in superhero movies, yet "The Amazing Spider-Man" delivered superbly. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man was perfect casting. In fact the entire cast was perfectly picked. After seeing Garfield take on Peter Parker, I'm left wondering how we ever accepted Tobey Maguire for three films. This new Peter Parker is just how he is in the comics, convincingly genius, witty, joke cracking, and moves with real fluidity. Maguire's performance now seems so dull and sluggish compared to this newer, more exciting, funner to watch version which ironically is spot on to what gives the comic book version so much likability. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey was awesome. I liked her more than Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and surprisingly Sally Fields as Aunt May, although not as visually similar to the comic books as the previous incarnation of her, pulled off being Aunt May completely and believably: she was Aunt May.
There was nothing wholly original about the actual story plot. That is not what makes the movie so great. Yet, the story did move along at a very nice pace and you never get bored. What does make the movie so great? Besides the acting, the look and the feel of the movie are more realistic and you feel like Spider-Man could actually belong in our world. Rather than a comic book looking, colorful spectacle it went for the grittier, more real feel, with New York playing a large role in that. The action scenes were really entertaining to watch because instead of fighting one guy, this Spider-Man takes on several at once and in more than one spot in the movie. The special effects have stepped up since we last saw Spidey in Spider-Man 3 back in 2007. The web swinging was much more realistic like the rest of the movie was and perhaps the biggest jump in technology besides the upgraded costume was the webbing which now shoots much more believably and in more creative ways. The villain was The Lizard and he falls nicely into the regular line of Spider-Man's rogue gallery. Nothing special made him stand out compared to Willem DaFoe's Green Goblin, etc. but he was fun to watch nonetheless.
Overall this film captured the true essence of Spider-Man, making him move from a bright colorful character that could only exist in comic books to a real flesh and blood hero that could and should surface any minute from behind a skyscraper. What is interesting about Spider-Man is that he was always meant to be that really relatable superhero, the teenager with girl problems who finds himself facing tough choices and this movie manages to deliver on that in a way the previous films came close to but didn't quite do. "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a great time at the movies and for a couple hours makes you hopeful, leaves you emotionally uplifted and reignites that small flame we all keep buried deep down for heroes to come and save the day. (Oh, make sure to stay until the end of the beginning credits; there is one bonus scene.)
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It may not be apparent at first, but I know there is a strong connection between the fact that so many Americans are driving Japanese cars (and using Japanese electronics of course) and so many Japanese people reading Manga (the Japanese word for comic book) and so few Americans reading comic books anymore. It is my opinion that comic books play a very strong role in the development of imagination because they literally transport one into a completely different reality, into a world which sometimes looks like our world but where anything is possible. And I truly believe that it is the imaginations cultivated by comic books that yield forward thinking, future-minded individuals which produce innovations such as better cars and electronics which push mankind forward. If Americans are driving Japanese cars it is because they are currently emerged in a culture which calls comic book fans nerds and losers, tells the artist he will starve and struggle and calls crazy anyone that does not tow the line.
What about Japan? Well, it is said that over 40% of all printed material in Japan is manga. When you ride the train in Japan you see people of all ages, business professionals as well as young people, reading manga. They show up every week excited for the new manga releases and their entire manga industry far out produces the United States and every other country. It is the number comic book consuming country on planet Earth. Manga artists and writers also significantly out produce their American counter-parts, creating a culture where artists are highly respected and admired. And while American comic book reading continues to slip, Japanese manga sales continue to climb, especially in America and Europe.
To give more understanding of the current American comic book scene, let's examine the title "Batman" by DC Comics, long used as the bar in which to judge all title sales because it is one of the most steady sellers. Well, a typical issue of Batman, released once a month, will usually sell 50,000 to maybe 80,000 copies in the United States. Not the sales figure you were expecting right? In a country of 311 million people you would think the number would be higher. If only 1% of all Americans read comic books that would be 3.1 million people showing up to their local comic book shops each week, but sadly the actual number of comic book readers is tiny. And this from a country that invented the comic book and super heroes. This is from the country that created "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight" and a slew of Hollywood blockbusters based on comic books.
I'm an American. I drive a Honda. I read comic books but I also read manga. I want to be where imagination is and follow those that nurture and encourage it. We let the automobile slip away from us and the comic book too, but it doesn't mean we couldn't reverse the trend and reclaim our top spot. As I write this Elon Musk at Tesla Motors out in California is building one the greatest electric cars on Earth and great American comic book writers and artists are creating the stories that will be the next big Hollywood blockbuster. Rethink what is happening in our world and figure out how you can play a part in creating a more ideal one: filled with better technologies and better art. Let's make a world where our imaginations are let loose to create so maybe one day there will be less need of doctors and lawyers and more need of artists and writers. After all, nothing heals or helps more than art does.
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For those not familiar with the term "higher toned" it refers to the Emotional Tone Scale that plots human emotion on a scale from Body Death at the bottom of the scale, up to Enthusiasm at the top of the scale, with all of the various emotions in between. The higher up the scale, the more likely you'll survive, the lower down the scale, the more likely you'll succumb. It has been my observation, being a comic book and superhero fan, that Superman has experienced a decline in popularity in society while Batman has experienced an increase in popularity over the last two decades. Why is this important? I believe it tells a tremendous amount about us and I want to explain why it is all tied up in emotional tone level.
Superman was the first real comic book superhero and his popularity spawned an entire boom in comic books across the world. Kids looked up to him and he symbolized what was best in people, a real hero that did what he did because it was right and no one had anything to fear because Superman would save the day. His emotional tone level was high, right around cheerful or higher, if he ever came down the tone scale it was when he was disguised as Clark Kent, but even then his tone level was conservative. He was popular decades ago because his tone matched the tone of society. Superman's first years were spent in an America convinced it could do anything. It was a productive country where you felt you could work hard and build a good life for yourself and your family regardless of where you came from, and Superman was an immigrant too. Something happened to society after a few more decades. No longer was there the cheerful George Reeves version of Superman or TV shows like Happy Days. Things got a little more serious right around the late 1970's and a big shift occurred in the 1980's which saw society exchange one hero for another.
Batman used to be a colorful personality in the Adam West TV show version of the character. When Batman and Robin punched someone it looked animated like a cartoon and a big "Kapow!" showed on screen. But when the 1980's happened people were phasing out of a Christopher Reeve Superman and headed into a Tim Burton Batman, much darker and inspired somewhat by the graphic novel "The Dark Knight" by Frank Miller. Soon Batman got darker and darker, taking us to the most recent Batman films, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." By the time we get to "The Dark Knight" Batman has become way more serious in tone. He goes from a cheerful/conservative guy in Adam West's version to an angry, resentful hero. More alarmingly is the fact that the last Batman film won more fans for the villain of the movie rather than Batman, Heath Ledger's Joker being the real star of the film and the one kids sport on t-shirts everywhere.
We've gone from a higher toned society of people looking up to a cheerful Superman to a society connecting with the dark, brooding, anger of Batman, to now one that idolizes the Joker, a psychotic villain that paints his face like a clown and wields a knife: a classic, covertly hostile character. Forget the tone level of current television with it's Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Nip/Tuck and Gossip Girl, and cast aside popular music like Lil' Wayne, Lady Gaga and Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, what does the tone level of our superheroes tell us? When we see Superman tossed aside for Batman and Batman tossed aside for the Joker, we should be concerned. The hero is no longer the guy in the white hat, he's now the guy in the black hat. And you may argue that it's more fun to root for the bad guy and say what's wrong with liking Al Pacino's Scarface character? There isn't anything wrong looking at and confronting evil, but there is something wrong when our society as a whole starts wanting to be more like it.
I have hope in mankind. I know that tone levels can be raised. I know that it doesn't happen overnight. I know that I am not alone in my observations and that some of you may relate to and understand what I am saying enough to do something about it. I know my course of action: to create higher toned entertainment and art and try my best not to support lower toned entertainment, especially low tone superheroes. For the record I enjoy Batman. I know a criminal killed his parents and he's out for revenge because of it but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. I'd rather have Batman working to rehabilitate criminals so they never commit another crime because if you just lock them up they come back worse. I look forward to the future and I hope it takes a turn up the tone scale instead of further down it. I know it'll be an adventure either way and maybe someday we'll get as high toned as Erol Flynn's Robin Hood. I really hope we all hit that target.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.