Sam Raimi Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 4

What if Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 Happened Today?

Good morning, everyone! Today I’m just sharing a post I made on Screen Rant. Since Spider-Mania is in the air once again, with Spider-Man: Homecoming aiming to break box office records next week, I thought this would be a fun time to do a “What If?” piece relating to the old Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films.

Raimi’s Spider-Man movies are classics, and so I wanted to dive in and imagine a scenario wherein the original crew would come back, just one last time, to make a Logan-like Spider-Man 4. What would such a movie look like? Well, here are my thoughts.

Spider-Man 4: 15 Things We’d Love To See If A Raimi/Maguire Sequel Ever Happened

Sam Raimi Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 4

There’s no overstating the importance of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. Blade may have unlocked the door, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men cracked it open, but 2002’s Spider-Man was the record-breaking blockbuster that blew the door off its hinges, causing the flood of superhero movies that hasn’t ceased in the fifteen years since. Though it’s now been a decade since the arrival of Spider-Man 3 — a film which, while financially successful, was widely considered something of a letdown compared to the still beloved Spider-Man 2 — the legacy of Raimi’s lucrative series is still felt today.

Soon, Marvel Studios will be lighting up theaters across the world with its MCU-based Spider-Man: Homecoming. While that movie will almost certainly be a smashing success, let’s dream for a moment: theoretically, what if the success of Homecoming convinced Sony to get Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire together again one last time, to finally create the worthwhile conclusion that the old series deserves? Continue reading on ScreenRant.com.

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In Comics, Reboots Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

Here’s a controversial idea to throw out there, which many may totally disagree with: what if the two major comic book universes rebooted every five to ten years? Planned reboots. Total reboots.

Let me explain.

Walter White Breaking Bad

Remember  Breaking Bad? Great show, right? And what made it great was that when it started, you knew it was going somewhere—and then, when it got there, the finale was everything we ever could have hoped for. All of the seeds that were planted in the first season paid off in a huge way, so that fans felt rewarded for having embarked on Walter White’s journey.  Throughout Breaking Bad, we saw one man become something entirely different than what he was at the start, and it was believable. Unlike so many popular TV shows, which run too long and thus lose the very things that made them great in the first place—I’m looking at you, House MD—Breaking Bad had a five season plan, stuck to it, and was thus the perfect picture of how to tell a great serialized story.

You know why Breaking Bad was such a great story?  Because it was planned. Because it had an ending.

What if American comic books could tell stories the same way?

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What I’m proposing is simple. First, let’s clean the slate. Start all of the various superheroes fresh, right from the beginning—totally fresh, with no carryovers, no “some parts of continuity are still valid but not others,” none of that.

And then, once the clean slate is established, we start with a brand new comic book universe — let’s call it “World One” — and we set an END DATE.  For the sake of argument, let’s say five years, six years, whatever. So this means that World One has five years to play out.

And then, once writers are assigned to their various characters, let’s allow those storylines to play out with total freedom. This allows characters to grow, change, die, be reinvented, or what have you. Also, when the universe does reset, we don’t need to do some cataclysmic end of the universe crossover: we just need to say that we’re moving onto the next universe.

Consider the advantages of this.

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Let’s say that when World One starts, the writer assigned to Wolverine begins by depicting the Weapon X storyline. That writer then has the freedom to, during their five year reign over the character, bring Wolverine from that point all the way to being an old man, ala Logan. Alternatively, they might decide that they want to have this version of Wolverine take the place of Xavier, leading a new team of X-Men. Or, they may want to have this Wolverine sacrifice himself to save the world from Apocalypse. In a planned universe with an end date, all of these things are possible.

The stakes would be heightened. Individual events would matter. Characters would be free to change, grow, evolve.

If comic universes operated on a five-six-or-however-many-years year plan, all of these options would be open, and comic book deaths would have meaning again. If the World One version of Wolverine died, he would stay dead. The World Two version of Wolverine, whenever he appeared, would be an entirely new writer’s vision of the character.

Batman Begins

Because the end of World One was planned from the beginning, there’d be no feeling of betrayal when it ended. This is the problem with most reboots. When The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it caused an uproar of negativity that the new series never quite recovered from, and this was because the old trilogy still had a lot of fans who were expecting a Spider-Man 4, never thinking that Spider-Man 3 was the ending. In contrast, a planned reboot wouldn’t stab the old fans in the back, because everyone would already know it was coming. The third part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was, from the outset, promoted as the end of the series. This left the door open for a new film interpretation of Batman to enter the door in a few years, without trampling on Nolan’s legacy.

Look, I love comic books, especially Marvel. As I’ve written before, I credit superheroes—especially Spider-Man—with helping me come out of my shy shell as a kid, and I’ve retained my love of them into adulthood.  The characters that Marvel and DC comics have brought to the world are iconic, and that’s why they’re now lighting up the silver screen and bringing in billions of dollars.

But let’s face it, comic continuity is a mess. Storylines can’t be shocking or exciting when they always, always revert to the status quo. Planned reboots would be different, because each reboot would herald the beginning of a new story. If a fan loves one version, they get to have that version. If they hate it, well, they can just wait for the next time around.

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Planned reboots would allow characters to have endings. Consider the impact of this year’s Logan: the reason that movie was so heartbreaking was because we knew it was the end of Hugh Jackman’s character. There might be a new Wolverine someday, sure, but at least we got a chance to say goodbye to the old one. Endings matter.

Endings are important, because endings are what gives a story deeper meaning. Without an ending, a story is forever unresolved.

We all know that the biggest American comic books out there aren’t ever going to end permanently: there’s too much money to be lost if Superman is suddenly gone forever, no more issues, done. But with planned reboots, an individual version of Superman could end, could be a complete, satisfying story. In a few years, the comic would still get to continue, without trampling on the work of the previous writer.

Would it work? Who knows. I’d imagine this might not be the most popular solution for the comic book continuity quagmire. But personally, I think it’d be worth trying out.

 

 

 

 

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The Evolution of Language

Over the last few months, I enjoyed the enormous thrill of doing some work for Dictionary.com, a site which I (and most writers) have certainly used as a research database for many years. Aside from being one of the most exciting companies I could ever imagine writing for, there was a sheer pleasure to the process itself. Researching words. Looking into the history of the language. Figuring out how words evolve. Words are how we sculpt ideas, and we can track the evolution of culture through the words we use.

The non-words of today are the words of tomorrow. Consider the term “ponytail,” once clearly modeled after an actual pony’s tail, but now ubiquitous with a hairstyle. Or the way we refer to the “legs” of a chair. Language is fascinating, because of what it says about how we think.

Language is not only our most characteristic invention. It’s us.

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The true beauty of language, I think, is in its inherent fluidity. The words we use today frame the concepts that we’re talking about, the comparisons that we’re making, the joining of one idea to another. Because of this, I think new words are something to be embraced, not resisted; while terms like “hangry” and “man bun” might sound silly today, they represent the conceptualization of attitudes, styles, and behaviors that did exist before, but have now been given a new representation within this culture.

Language never stops evolving, because people  — and the way we think — never stops evolving either. While humans always have a tendency to romanticize some era of their past, the truth is that culture must continue progressing forward. Things have to change. Attitudes have to evolve, and then evolve past whatever they evolved into. It’s what culture does. So it’s important that we always open our eyes to the future, and always stay interested in what’s ahead.

 

Dark Tower Jake drawings Stephen King

What is Stephen King’s “Dark Tower,” exactly?

Since the release of the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s epic, The Dark Tower, the web had been buzzing with theories and speculation, as well as questions from those who’ve never read the books.

For example: is this story a western, or sc-fi? What’s so important about this “tower?” Why does the gunslinger need to reach it?

Well, as someone who has been passionate about this series since I first picked up the books as a teenager, I recently wrote a piece for Screen Rant that explains some of the Dark Tower basics.

I’ve provided a link below, but don’t stop there. With the movie coming out later this year, now is the perfect time to catch up, and read the books that inspired it!

 

NOTE: After putting this up, I just discovered that it’s my 200th post on this blog. Crazy!

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy golem

Language, the Secrets of Communication, and All of Our Clay Tongues

Human language is the source of human consciousness, at least as far as we understand it. Things “exist” to us — whether those things are objects, theories, or abstract notions  — only so far as (1) our ability to perceive them, and (2) our ability to describe them with words. Which is silly, when we think about it, because words are, on a base level, nothing more than silly symbols and sounds made by the human mouth. Words are inherently meaningless, other than the meaning that we connect to these words — and that meaning is what makes them powerful. Words are a beautiful contradiction. This doesn’t mean that “truth” doesn’t exist, because it does, but it does mean that how we perceive truth is directly connected to whatever language we speak, as well as how our culture perceives the words within that language.

The word “horse” means nothing, other than being a mouthful of sounds, unless we decide that “horse” is a descriptor for the real life animal. How we think of a horse, then, is directly connected to the word we use. For example, in the English language, our amusing tendency to associate other objects with parts of the human body: e.g., the supposed “legs” of a chair, or the “heart” of an artichoke.

Language is the power that fuels the human species. It’s the source of how we think, why we think, and how we retain memories. But at the same time, for those who struggle with communication, language can become an unbreakable wall between them and the rest of society.

The limitations and surreal nature of human perception is something I like examining in my writing, as readers of Pale Highway will attest to.  I’ll be delving even deeper into this topic in my next novel (Novel #3), when it comes out. But when I approached this subject for the writing of my short little fantasy novelette, Clay Tongue, I specifically wanted to delve into language, communication, and the challenges faced by those who struggle with it.

Clay Tongue fantasy novelette Nicholas Conley

To do this, I tried to link two different struggles, that would seem quite different on the surface, but actually have a lot in common: the pain of an old man who develops aphasia after suffering from a stroke, and the shyness of a little girl who has trouble speaking up in front of people. Both of them know what they want to say, but both of them don’t know how to say it.

In Clay Tongue, these characters — young Katie Mirowitz and her grandfather — have a tight bond, and this shared communication difficulty is what brings them together.

When it comes to the grandfather, I was inspired by the same nursing home experience that fueled Pale Highway. As a caregiver in the dementia unit, I worked with many people who’d been afflicted with aphasia. Scientists, lawyers, artists, mechanics, pharmacy technicians — people who suddenly, without warning, had their ability to communicate robbed from them. It was heartbreaking to see, when someone so desperately knows what they want and their brain won’t let them say it in a way that others can understand.

Clay Tongue Nicholas Conley fantasy

As far as Katie’s shyness, well… that goes back to my own childhood, where I myself had a lot of painful social anxiety, and an immense difficulty with getting words across. Though socializing comes easily to me now, those early pains never quite fade from memory. The secret to comfortable social interaction isn’t something you can take a class for, or find tricks to get around; you just have to learn it the hard way. Though it becomes easier with age, that’s no comfort to a little kid who still hasn’t figured out how to respond to a seemingly simple question like “how are you?” without feeling treacherously embarrassed.

With Clay Tongue, I wanted to examine this aspect within both characters: to delve into the secrets of communication, to show their struggles. And then, at the same time, to show that even in strange and indescribable personal battles such as these ones, there is always hope.

Clay Tongue: A Novelette is available on Amazon.

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.

Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

 

human verbs, motion, existence

Traveling Verbs

Life is what we create it to be. And thus life, or creation — and by extension, the identities of who “we,” “I,” or “you” are — are not fixed. We’re not solid entities. We’re not nouns. No, actually, we’re verbs.

We are autopoietic, self-creating (thanks, Gabriel). And so we are constantly fluid, always recreating ourselves in every new moment, always writing the next page of our story with every breath.

We’re all stories.

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I’ve always connected to stories; both my own, and the stories of others, whether real or fictional. Stories, and the inherent connection they have to every aspect of life, is what made me become a writer. Every person you meet is a walking story. Every person’s story is the combination of planning, impulses, unexpected plot twists, and coincidence. Every “walking story” out there lives with a kaleidoscope of supporting characters, settings, and subplots running parallel to each person’s central narrative, which will eventually lead them to a final conclusion that no one can know until we get there. Yet, ironically enough, whatever conclusion may be, it will be built from every piece of what has occurred before. When “the end” comes, it will enhance and redefine all of the scenes that our lives were built out of, in ways we never could have predicted. Minor conversations may become deeply important, in retrospect, when our story becomes a possession of people other than ourselves.

Somewhat frighteningly, not everyone gets to choose what sort of story their life is. It may be a tragedy, a comedy, a horror, any number of things, and much of this is determined by such utterly random factors as chance, luck, and coincidence. Somewhere in the middle of this is “free will” and “choice.” These two things are important, but we shouldn’t fall into the illusion that either of them possesses any control over reality. Factors like societal norms, poverty, privilege, and geographical location all form the basis of a person’s story before that person is even born. Our free will is how we respond to the outside, how we choose to perceive it, but the outside has a way of taking back control whenever it wants to. But just as free will shouldn’t be overstated — when so many other factors also play a role in life —  free will should also not be understated either. Free will is the only tool we have to craft our own stories, to write our tales to the best of our ability.

The future awaits, and every moment builds to it. Every person is a story. Everyone is constantly evolving. Nothing is truly static. Nothing can fixed. And change or evolution, no matter how improbable it might seem, is always possible.