On Stands Now! Rise of the Superhero: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen

When I began working on my essay, “World War II & Nationalism” (one of several I wrote for LIFE: Rise of the Superhero), the 2016 election was just kicking into high gear and Nazis were primarily relegated to the past. Sure, we all knew pockets of white supremacists/neo-Nazis/alt-whatever-the-f*ck-else-these-guys-call-themselves, existed around the world. But a full-on Nazi rally? On American soil? In 2017? I never would have believed it. Nor that the President of the United States would then tap-dance around denouncing Nazis, or even publicly validate them by trying to create some sort of equivalence between the actions of actual self-identifying, muthereffing Nazis and the actions of the brave Americans protesting the rally.

And yet, here we are, America 2017. Rallies like the one in Charlottesville are on the rise, at home and abroad; seething losers emboldened and encouraged by 45’s victory. It’s a shameful affront against Holocaust survivors and their families, Japanese Internment Camp survivors and their families, and World War II veterans and their families–especially relatives of the murdered, lost, and fallen–that they must now watch the horrific resurgence of these monsters in their own backyards. It’s extra offensive that these alt-holes then hide behind a faux nationalism that reveals an agenda having nothing to do with patriotism and everything to do with hate. How else does one flip from getting one’s Dixie-print briefs all bunched up over athletes “disrespecting” America, veterans, the U.S. military, and idk, maybe golden-lab-puppies-with-bandanas, to being A-OKAY with marching as the very anti-American, anti-freedom groups that their grandparents and great-grandparents risked their lives to fight? Who’s really disrespecting America here? Hint: It’s not the athletes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for how to end hate or hate groups (though it would be very on-brand for 2017 if I suddenly solved one of humanity’s biggest issues in the void of my deserted blogscape). But I’ll say this: Leading up to WWII, comic publishers created many (many, many) all-American superheroes in part to unify Americans under our country’s best qualities, even if those qualities were, and still are, mainly aspirational. But in this round against the rising tide of hate groups–and here’s where I get a little corny, please bear with me–I don’t think we need to look outside ourselves for inspiration. For those of us who think the country can do better than what hate mongers offer, this is an opportunity to fashion ourselves into our own superheroes.*
*Star-spangled spandex completely optional, but encouraged.

We have the tools, the platforms, and the connections we need to motivate and activate each other, and as of now, we still have the freedom to utilize them. But we’ve all seen how quickly the status-quo can change, abroad and at home, so it’s important that we exercise those freedoms. Because, as much as we still love them (or huh? them), it wasn’t Captain America (or Spy Smasher) that defeated the Nazis in World War II, it was the real-life people that inspired those superheroes to be created in the first place. To that end, I encourage you to find an anti-hate organization in your community, or online, and put your voice, your time, and if possible, your money into supporting them.

LIFE Rise of the Superhero: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen features an exclusive introduction by the legendary Stan Lee. In addition to “WWII & Nationalism,” I wrote a couple of other pieces for this special issue, including “Super Spoofs and Satire.” If you’d like to read more, LIFE Rise of the Superhero is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.

(Mirrored post from http://www.nrlambert.com.)

On Stands Now! TIME-LIFE The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia

I mainly write spec fiction and fantasy; and when I write nonfiction, it’s usually about spec fiction and fantasy. Or comics. Or pop culture. Or children’s books. So while I’ve written about plenty of fictional villains, I’ve never had an opportunity to cover any real life ones…until now. My most recent project for Time, Inc., TIME-LIFE The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia, allowed me explore a cast of real-life good guys, bad guys, and even-worse guys.

Most people are familiar with the idea of the Mafia. There are the fictional versions, of course–the myriad of movies, shows, and books which seem to inspire an odd sort of cult worship in some circles. But then there’s the harsh reality behind those stories: The brutal violence. The drugs. The sites of gruesome hits we unwittingly pass every day en route to work.  The ways in which the Mafia shaped local and national crime, and influenced local and national politics, with long-reaching effects that still persist today.

So while most folks know about the  Mob in a vague, background, make-him-an-offer-he-can’t-gabagool-the-cannoli way, they don’t know many details about the real Mafia, its origins, or its major players. The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia will help in bridging that gap.

For this book, I wrote about a dozen bios for some of the Mafia’s major players. I also wrote about the Mob’s Cosa Nostra connections, the Five Families (then and now), and the most prevalent Mafia Myths. Even I learned a thing or two beyond my perception of the Mob as just another violent, misogynistic branch of the patriarchy. I mean, it is definitely all of those things, but in working on these pieces, I was fascinated and somewhat surprised to discover how (in most cases) these men and women catapulted from relatively benign beginnings into a violent, unpredictable world of organized crime; and, how once “in,” they quickly sacrificed so much of their humanity to keep their rackets going, to stay in the game, to stay alive. The human stories beneath the flashy media Mob mythology are captivating and tragic arcs of aspiration, greed, and hubris, worthy of Shakespeare. It’s understandable why–even while grim as f-ck–these stories inspire retelling after retelling.

If you’d like to read more, The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.


A quick note: Though he’s quoted aplenty in the Mafia Myths piece, I’d like to take a moment here to thank Geoff Schumacher of The Mob Museum in Las Vegas for being so generous with his time and expertise.

While we’re talking Las Vegas, people there are living a nightmare right now, so please consider donating to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund and/or Everytown for Gun Safety. (And if you disagree, please consider examining your soul.)

 

Out Today: It came from Metaphorosis…

Metaphorosis runs a fun regular feature called, “It came from…,” wherein they allow their authors talk a bit about the origins of their recently published stories. Today they posted “It came from N. R. Lambert,” where I discuss my near-future sci-fi story, “Business As Usual.”

Please take a look and if you’re inspired to read the story itself, you can find that on Metaphorosis as well. Please consider supporting Metaphorosis on Patreon or donating to Everytown via link at the bottom of the story page.

(Mirrored post from http://www.nrlambert.com.)

On Stands Now! Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman

My Princesses Were Warriors

There’s a pattern to the characters that I gravitated toward in childhood. My princesses—Leia, She-Ra, and Wonder Woman—were all warriors. (My princes were the Goblin King and Dr. Frank-N-Furter*—I liked my men in glitter and my women in charge. But that’s a post for another day.) No shade on swooning, dancing, enchanted-sleeping princesses, they had their place and time. But my princesses, the ones I idolized, the ones I pretended to be, aspired to be—they didn’t wait to be rescued, they did the rescuing. They were smart, strong, and yes, occasionally rocked some bitchin’ sparkly headwear. First among these, both in time and in my heart, is Wonder Woman. (Having grown up with the 70s television show, for me, Wonder Woman was, is, and forever shall be, Lynda Carter. Amen.)

Carter’s Wonder Woman was both kind and fierce; and often that kindness would nearly lead to her undoing. But she never let the fight break her humanity—she stayed true to herself. As a kid, especially as a girl, that was a powerful message. You can be strong, fight back, push up, and still have compassion for others, even your enemies, and especially yourself. It was a bit of a My First nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

That ain't no filter, I am as old as the brown linoleum beneath me.

These pictures capture my complete adoration of Wonder Woman. Look at my face! I’ve spent decades trying to regain this girl’s pure, fearless, unabashed confidence.

All this to say, you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the opportunity to write about Wonder Woman for Entertainment Weekly’s The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman. If the internet was actually a series of tubes (remember the halcyon days when that was the dumbest thing a senator might say?), my email reply would have left burning tire tracks à la Back to the Future.

Re-watching the old Wonder Woman episodes for these pieces was a trip. Let’s talk about how hour-long episodes of television in the 70s were pretty much a FULL HOUR of programming. Gather round kiddos while I boggle your mind with my tales of a time before commercials gobbled up 1/3 of any given time slot. Also, the pacing on the old episodes was so much slower than the non-stop, quick-cut action scenes we get today. Long shots lazily panning over miles of landscape, extended close-ups of characters thinking. It was jarring to jump back in to modern television pacing after spending a couple of weeks back in the 70s.

Some of the plots were completely bonkers (I got to rank a few of them in this issue). Season 1 was set in the 40s, so lots of WWII themes. But seasons 2 and 3 were polyester-packed and disco-riffic in all their 70s glory. Diana Prince’s wardrobe? Amazing. I still aspire to rock a sleek ponytail and big glasses the way she did.

Despite the many ways the show is dated, Carter’s Wonder Woman still stands up and I’m so grateful I had her as a childhood hero. I hope the new movie can bring that same inspiration to a whole new generation of kids.

*Forever bless the babysitter who let me watch RHPS when I was nine—most of it went right over my head; Tim Curry did not.

Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman is available at magazine stands, in bookstores, and online.

(Mirrored post from http://www.nrlambert.com.)