48HFP Double Vision

I once again participated in the 48-Hour Film Project. (My first time was A Fool’s Errand three years ago.)

Forty-Eight Hour Film Project

On Friday night, each team draws a genre out of a hat (actually, each drawing has two genres, and the team picks the one they’d like to do). The final film must be 4 to 7 minutes long (credits at the end of the movie don’t count against the maximum time, unless the film would have been too short without them).

On top of randomly drawing a genre, each team has three required ingredients: a line, a prop, and a character. Even though each team gets its own genre, all teams share those same three ingredients. Our (and every team’s) ingredients were:

  • Character: Tilden Kefauver, a best-selling authorCompany OutCast
  • Prop: a ticket
  • Line: “I’m not sure. Can I call a friend?”

Team OutCast

This year, I was part of Company Outcast, a local theater/comedy company.

Our team included people that I’ve been friends with, like Rachel Allen (who I introduced to the 48HFP), Marcy Ziegler (leader of Company OutCast), Christie Troxell (who I’d met at my first 48HFP), Martin French (who I knew from the Alley Theater), and Victoria Wagner (who I’d met during OutCast‘s “Best Bits” show). Plus a bunch of new really cool people.

We drew Horror or Mockumentary. A mockumentary probably would have been a lot of fun, but we chose horror.

I’ve Got You Covered

Kefauver Book Stack

Tilden Kefauver might know a thing or two.

Since our character Tilden was an author, and I had run a publishing company for several years, my job for the film was to put together some prop books for him to have at his signing.

All I had to go on was that it was a mystery book, with the title “Double Vision.” And I only had about four hours to design and print the cover, and assemble onto actual books.

By that point, I’d already designed at least a hundred book covers, but I’d never mocked up made a fake cover before – they’ve all been real book covers that were printed at a press to encase actual books. The finished product turned out fairly well.

Bouncing Around

I also ended up helping to block the daylight during a bar scene, by standing in front of the curtain. Since taking up space is one of my many talents, I spent an hour or so denying the sun while the crew filmed several scenes with multiple takes. During one of the shots I ended up in frame, just standing by the door crossing my arms, the company decided to credit me as a “Bouncer.” (Possibly since I already look somewhat horrifying.)

So now I have actual real-world experience as a pretend real bouncer. You’d better watch your step, buddy.

No One Knows

Here’s the film we completed.

(The description says Do Not Share, but now that the screenings, voting, and awards have happened, it’s all good.)

 

 

Song: A Grazing Mace

I co-wrote the comedy skit stage show Company OutCast‘s Best Bits, a Monty Pythonesque revue and tribute.

They wanted to have a hymn parody, along the lines of the Python’s “All Things Dull and Ugly.” I put together this tour de farce based on “Amazing Grace,” but we ended up not using it in the show.

So here, for your amusement, is a Special Feature — a deleted scene from the show.

A Grazing Mace

A grazing mace twas but a scratch
that struck a knight like me
No man may pass upon this path
for I will smiteth he

A logging place where I could leap
from tree to mighty tree
I like to dress in women’s clothes
and go to the lavat’ry

A squawking face could speak and sing
if he had life like me
Norwegian blue could fly so free
but he has ceased to be

A fighting space lets me behave
as contradictory
I argue with our customers
if they have paid the fee

A walking pace takes me to work
for public ministry
of silly walks and strolls and struts
that are cockamamie

(c) Dave Mattingly, 2019

 

Urban Fantasy All-Stars

At a convention a few years back, I was the Gaming Guest of Honor and Jim Butcher was the Author Guest of Honor. Since I love his Dresden Files novel series, and the game based on it, I ran a game based on all the famous monster hunters in movies in television (at the time).

The Characters

I did my best to supply a balance of characters who specialize in muscle and fighting, investigating and science, and magic and supernatural. I hoped that every player would know at least one of the characters well enough to jump right in.

  • Ash Williams (Evil Dead) has a missing hand that can wear a strong metal gauntlet or a chainsaw
  • Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider) is a demon-possessed stunt rider who punishes the wicked
  • Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters) is a dodgy scientist with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back
  • Nick Burkhardt (Grimm) is a cop that unexpectedly inherited the ability to see monsters
  • John Constantine (Constantine) is part exorcist, part spellcaster, and all asshole
  • Selene (Underworld) is a vampiric assassin who lives semi-exiled on the outskirts of her kind
  • Hellboy (Hellboy) is a demon who was raised by a good human man, and fights monsters in secret
  • Melinda Gordon (Ghost Whisperer) can see and talk to ghosts, and helps them find their final peace
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) is a brilliant magic student with a smug know-it-all attitude
  • Mouse (The Dresden Files) is Harry Dresden’s dog, with a holy lineage and celestial powers
  • Flynn Carsen (The Librarian) knows something about everything but almost nothing about living

The Plot

The are many ways to bring everyone together, varying a lot based on which characters are playing.

  • rumors of an evil coming
  • an ancient prophecy
  • a murdered ghost (Jake, a school janitor) contacts Melinda
  • a museum exhibit of ancient spiritual books, including the Necronomicon
  • or whatever else will tease the character’s interests

The rest of the plot is vague and fluid, and should be played by ear. Introduce villains one by one, perhaps disguised by a glamour spell or in an alternate identity, until a battle explodes on the scene.

The all-star villains that I generally use are:

The Character Sheets

I’ve supplied the character sheets in standard Dresden Files RPG format, and in a “dossier” format that I designed.

Ash Sheet 2 Ash Sheet 1 Ash Nameplate

Download

You can download the character sheets here, and character nameplates here.

 

Cereal Killers

Years ago, my friend Joe Linehan ran a roleplaying game based on cereal mascots as the player characters. To ramp up the strangeness, he kept it grim and gritty by running them through the plot of Watchmen.

I loved the idea so much that I spun off a scenario based on Independence Day and Aliens. In my game Plan Q from Outer Space, Quisp invaded Earth with giant cereal bowl spaceships poised to shoot giant beams of milk to destroy major cities. On board the ships were alien Soggies, with lactic acid for blood.

Joe and I have run several games in the cereal-verse since then. My favorite title was Joe’s wartime epic A Box o’ Trix Now (“I love the smell of cereal in the morning.”).

Night of the Living Crunch

In the zombie horror game “Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch,” the dead rise and want to eat your grains.

The Breakfast Club is…

  • Cap’n Crunch is a mighty sailin’ man; an expert in tactics and combat.
  • Tony the Tiger is the fitness nut (or flake) of the group, bringing out the tiger in everyone.
  • Toucan Sam is a cynical detective noir and suspected ecoterrorist – the nose knows.
  • Sugar Bear brings peace, jazz, and cereal to children of the world. Can’t we all just get along?
  • Trix Rabbit is the manic experimental field engineer / gadgeteer who dabbles in spycraft.
  • Lucky the Leprechaun is the mystic master of the occult arts – the Cereal Supreme.
  • Sonny the Cuckoo is the chocoholic street smart hustler who can go nutso with extreme prejudice.
  • Count Chocula feeds upon chocolate by night and sleeps in a large cereal box by day.
  • Quisp (recently cured by Frankenberry) is studying the Earth for his native Quisp Continuum.

The Plot

We start with the groups in pairs on separate adventures. Cap’n Crunch and Toucan Sam start out on the Crunchberry Islands, being chased by Cocoa Krispie pygmies. Tony is coaching Sugar Bear out of his hibernation. Lucky has been asked to deliver the eulogy for Dig’em Frog. Chocula is sponsoring Sonny at his first chocoholics anonymous meeting. Quisp is trying to teach Trix the “basics” of nuclear physics.

Everyone gets back to headquarters, the Honeycomb Hideout, to compare notes, when the phone rings. It’s Fruit Brute, howling for help. “Cap’n, they’re all over me!” The crew heads to Bransylvania to investigate.

After exploring the moors, they find their werewolf friend dismembered, with stinky white goo at the “edges.” They find themselves surrounded by zombie soggies (around two per PC) that can turn others into zoggies by touch. Trix or Lucky can try to reverse the effect, or Tony could suppress the effect with effort in a pinch. Frankenberry probably has medical equipment that could help, as well.

A spell from Lucky or some super-smell from Sam could find a trail of weird residual energy leading up to Frankenberry’s castle.

Spoilers

To find out what’s really happening in the plot, select the text in the following box. (Triple-clicking inside the box will work for that.)

Frankenberry isn’t himself; Quisp’s brain is inside his head. When he had “cured” Quisp by cleaning his brain, he put the wrong brain in. FrankenQuisp has Booberry magically chained up in the basement to siphon off his ghostly energy to build a death ray. Booberry was leaking an “afterlife fog” that drained down to the moors and raised the zoggies. The team can rescue Booberry, freeing him to move on to the next world, and fight FrankenQuisp. Swapping Frank’s, Quisp’s, and the spare brain back into the right bodies is a relatively simple procedure for anyone with first aid training. The spare brain goes into a jar marked “Mattingly” who wasn’t using it, since he’s just a game designer and a preacher.

The Character Sheets

I was inspired by another friend’s game props. Karl Keesler ran a League of Extraordinary 1970’s Gentlemen game, with the character sheets designed as 8-track tapes. That inspired me to step up my character sheet presentation, and I found a way to print cereal box wrap-around designs. So I turned Joe’s original character sheets into boxes, and taped them onto actual mini-cereal boxes. These are written using the HERO System rules.

Cereal Boxes

Downloads

You can download the character boxes here and the printer-friendly black-and-white version here.

 

Spider-Verse

At Origins Game Fair (and at home beforehand), I ran a roleplaying game based on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie (and comics that inspired the movie).

I used the Marvel Super Heroes (1984) system for the game. The system is sometimes nicknamed the FASERIP system, since that’s what the initials of the abilities spell (Fighting Agility Strength Endurance Reason Intuition Psyche).

The Spideys

Since the movie included Peter A Parker, Peter B Parker, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, and Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, I chose to write-up some of the other Spideys that have been in comics over the years.

  • Agent Venom: Flash Thompson lost his legs in the war, then bonded with the alien Venom symbiote
  • Spiders-Man: Millions of radioactive spiders believe that they are Peter Parker, and collectively adopt his shape
  • Spider-Punk: Hobie Brown uses punk rock to fight the man in a dystopian future
  • Superior Spider-Man: Dr. Octopus transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body, but accidentally also got his conscience
  • Spider-Woman: Jessica Drew can fly, blast bio-energy, and carry a child
  • Spider-Man 2099: Miguel O’Hara’s DNA was blended with a spider’s to save his life
  • Lady Spider: May Reilly invented a mechanical spider harness
  • Six-Armed Spider-Man: Peter Parker tried to cure his spider-ness but grew into it
  • Spider Monkey: Peter Parker comes from the Marvel Apes world where everyone is a primate
  • Spider-Man IndiaPavitr Prabhakar‘s powers are similar to classic Spider-Man’s but all magic-based
  • Supaidaman & Leopardon: Takuya Yamashiro fights crime with spider-powers and a 60-meter mech

The Write-Ups

A standard FASERIP character sheet is a rather nondescript wall of text.

Spider-Man FASERIP

In the movie, characters each introduce themselves with a comic book cover, so I formatted the character sheets to look like a comic.

Each “comic cover” features the character name and a pose. The inside holds the character write-up. The back cover highlights the character background, motivation, or other key scenes from the history.

Six-Arm Spider-Man 1

Six-Arm Spider-Man 2

For characters with Combat Sense, I also highlighted the Intuition stat to remind the player that the power’s rank replaces the Intuition score during combat,

The Scenario

I vaguely followed the Spider-Geddon comics story-line that covered the attack from Morlun and his family of Inheritors. They’re an immortal family of interdimensional totem-eating vampires that like eating spider totems the best.

Depending which characters the players have chosen, they can get pulled into the adventure through Spider-Man 2099 watching Morlun kill a different Spider-Man 2099, a dire warning from Madame Web, a galactic alert to Agent Venom, an Avengers alert to Spider-Woman’s dimensional watch, or some other hook. From there, it’s a matter of Spideys gathering their forces before Morlun attacks.

Download

You can download the Spider-Verse Characters (PDF) here.

 

The Rise of Jesus Christ, Skywalker

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

Jesus Christ SkywalkerI preached a The Easter Sunday sermon at ConGlomeration 2019. The famous Star Wars novelist, Timothy Zahn, was the author Guest of Honor. I’d already decided to use Star Wars as my theme, and then the trailer for the newest movie dropped that week. Rise of the Skywalker. Oh, come on! Rise of the Sky Walker? That’s perfect for an Easter sermon.

A long time ago, in a Galilee far, far away…

More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

Jesus did amazing things here on Earth. He healed people, walked on water, dispelled demons, and more. But he knew that the best was yet to come.

“It is best that I go so the Spirit can come.” (John 16:7)
“Whoever believes in me will do even greater things.” (John 14:12)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

The power that Jesus leveraged is available for each one of us. The same Spirit of God lives inside our hearts. What’s better than God walking alongside you? God living inside you.

God’s power working within us and through us has everlasting effects, not just here on earth.

Just Fly Casual

When Jesus’ time here on earth (the first time, anyway) was at an end, he flew up to heaven.

When Jesus led them to Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-1)

He blessed his friends, started flying away, and kept blessing! That’s so cool.

Jesus is still blessing us. He wants us to join him as brothers in heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Do or do not. There is no try.

Luke, We’re Gonna Have Company!

The disciples were freaked out, holed up in a room. Jesus had flown to heaven over a month before, when something happened.

A sound like roaring wind came from heaven and filled the house. Tongues of fire settled on each of them. (Acts 2:2)

They were all filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. They were given courage, zeal, and focus. This power came with a visible representation, as well — a glowing aura. All who encountered them were amazed at their words and deeds.

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

We’re in a battle that began in the heavens — Star Wars. Our enemy is powerful, but we are not helpless. Our God has given us protection.

We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and principalities of this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil. Wear the full armor of God: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of readiness for peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. (Ephesians 6:12-8)
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. (1 Peter 5:8)

The truth (belt) holds our whole outfit together. Our obedience and good deeds (breastplate) protect us from attack. Our readiness to forgive (boots) takes us where we need to go. Our faith (shield) extinguishes flaming arrows from the enemy. The salvation that the Lord granted us (helmet) protects our thoughts.

And the scripture (sword) gives us the power to defeat our enemy.

Download

Here’s the flyer and the handout for the sermon.

 

 

Nerdlouvia

Nerdlouvia 2018

The main gaming area offered two dozen tables, with more available along the balcony; photo by Dieter Zimmerman

Nerd Louisville hosts an annual game-playing convention called Nerdlouvia. I’ve attended all of them, and I volunteered to help organize the event this year (12/7 to 12/9/18).

Schedule

This was our first three-day event.

Friday night was a VIP party and awards show, and included several fun nerdy acts:

Saturday and Sunday were filled with games, games, and games.

The program book shows all 100+ scheduled games.

I also preached a game-themed sermon on Sunday morning, for the Christians who were attending the event.

Nerdesque Burlesque

Tabitha Johnson of the Nerdesque Burlesque danced as Leeloo (The Fifth Element) and Leela (Futurama); photo by Larry Green

Awards

The categories (and winners) are:

There was also a nice shout-out to Volunteers of Distinction: Brandon Aten, Andrew Bates, Matthew French, Squire Greene, Rick Hudson, Hailey Kuhn, yours truly, Reuben Perales, Mike Pfaff, Andy Smith, Eric Toncray, and Steven Wu.

Games

Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch

In the Cereal Killers world, Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger. and others face grim and gritty threats

I ran two of my most popular games, Meep on the Borderland and Night of the Living Crunch.

In Meep on the Borderland, the Muppets embark on a fantasy adventure. Kermit stars as Hopalong Kid, leader of the Muppy Men. The rest of the usual (and semi-usual) Muppet crew are there, too.

The Cereal Killers world was created by my friend Joe Linehan. In his original adventure, he sent Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger, and the others through the plot of Watchmen, to give you idea of the level of absurdity and insanity involved. I loved the idea, and between us we’ve put the poor cereal characters through the plot of Aliens, Apocalypse Now (“A Box of Trix Now”), and more.

In Night of the Living Crunch, the crew fights off zombie soggies in the far-off land of Bransylvania, Count Chocula’s homeland. I designed the character sheets to fold around miniature cereal boxes. You can download the character sheets and play your own cereal adventures.

I played a session of The Expanse RPG, based on the book and television series. It was pretty faithful to what I’ve read and watched, and the elegant system mechanics were a good fit.

Nerdlouvia Open Gaming

An extensive library of board games was available for anyone to play

 

More

Nerdlouvia also had an auction, a game swap table, video games, anime films, side quests, vendors like Goodman Games (Dungeon Crawl Classics), Card N All Gaming, and Red Bull (who actually offered free cans of Red Bull throughout the event). But most of all, Nerdlouvia was filled with friends, new and old.

And best of all, as a licensed non-profit, all the proceeds are donated to a local charity.

I hope to be involved next year, too.

 

 

Supercon

SuperconSupercon came to Louisville just after Thanksgiving 2018 (11/30 to 12/2). This was the show’s first year here, although first started in Florida in 2006.

Guests

There were so many great guests. It seems like twice a week leading up to the event, Supercon would announce a new guest that would be enough for a lot of fans to attend even if that were the only guest.

Film and TV guests included William “beam me up” Shatner, Richard “this means something” Dreyfuss, Sean “ooh, that’s a nice hat” Gunn, Michael “Mary Poppins, y’all” Rooker, Lloyd “Toxic Avenger” Kaufman, John Wesley “fastest man alive” Shipp, and Henry “the Fonz” Winkler. There were wrestling stars like Jerry Lawler and Sgt. Slaughter; animators and voice actors like Kevin Conroy, John Glover, and Steve Whitmire.

Some of my favorite comic authors and artists were there, like Neal Adams, Keith Giffen, Mark Bagley, and Fabian Nicieza. I chatted with all of them for a good while. Neal Adams is practically single-handedly responsible for everything good at DC. I’ve been a fan of Giffen’s since I first saw his art in Marvel’s New Universe, and I picked up an autographed Creeper print from him. Nicieza and Bagley created The New Warriors, which I loved for its many-year run. It turned a bunch of Marvel B- and C-listers into a fantastic team with great personalities and plots, much like The Guardians of the Galaxy movie did for its characters.Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper was the highlight guest for me. We chatted for 20 minutes or so. Besides being a huge fan of his Love It to Death album (which has “I’m Eighteen“, “Black Juju“, “Sun Arise“, and the standout “Ballad of Dwight Fry“), I’d heard back in the 90s that Vincent Furnier (his real name) was teaching Sunday school at his church.

When I talked with him on Friday, I was wearing my “Mini-Me” outfit, which gave him quite a giggle. He wondered aloud which of my hands he should shake, so he grabbed my real right hand and my prop right hand, and shook them both at once. I told him that I’d actually worn out his album by playing several times a day for a couple of years. He said that was the first “real” Alice Cooper album, without creative interference from the producers.

And we talked a while about our faith, too. I converted from atheism to Christianity in 1992, and I’ve maintained my relationships in the technology, gaming, publishing, theatrical, and other communities, which have all become my mission fields. He loved the idea, and was happy to hear about the work I’ve been doing.

Exhibitors and Organizations

Christian Gamers GuildA lot of my friends had booths there for various organizations that we’re a part of. The Ohio River Valley Cosplayers (ORCs) are a lot of fun, and have amazing costumes. A Nerd Like Me were my neighbors. I’ve been a part of Nerd Louisville since it started a few years back, and even write for them once in a while. I attend ConGlomeration every year, and even used to volunteer on the “con comm.” The USS Drakonia beamed aboard, too.

Other friends were there selling this and that, like Lydia SherrerTony Acree, Dieter Zimmerman, Atty Eve, Bloat Games, and Purvis Games. I picked up some fun fake albums from Drew Blank (Pee-Wee Herman: Live at the Alamo, The Deadites: Necronomikaze, and Wyld Stallyns: Most Triumphant).

I was officially there representing the Christian Gamers Guild, at my booth. Besides handing out business cards and such for the CGG, I also had swag for Game Church, the Grave Robbers, and maybe another group, too.

I wrote my Stan Lee memorial sermon for this event.

Events, Panels, and Games

Mini and Toxie

Mini-Me and the Toxic Avenger bonded

The celebrity panels drew huge crowds. Other panels, workshops, demonstrations, interviews, and other events were also popular. The game rooms downstairs (which included video games, roleplaying, and other hobbies like model-making and painting) had a steady stream of people every time I went down to visit.

I was only on one panel this year, “Faith & Fandom.” With me were Amber Curtis (the moderator, and Supercon staff), Katrina French (an author I knew from Imaginarium), Zachary Hoskins, Bradley Brown, and Vic Mignona (a famous anime voice actor). The panel was well attended and interactive, despite being on Sunday afternoon.

Costumes

Wow, there were so many fun costumes all over the place. My costume photo album on facebook is filled with great outfits.

Next Year

For a first year (in Louisville) event, Supercon was a striking success. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again.

 

Stan Lee (Sermon)

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

I prepared a sermon for Louisville Supercon, December 2018, that would also serve as a tribute to the recently departed Stan Lee.

The Idea

I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to cover at first. I didn’t want to focus so much on Stan that he’d overshadow the Lord, but I didn’t want to treat him as an afterthought. At first, I thought about turning Stan’s name into an acronym of character he co-created, and what made them important to me. S (Spider-Man), T (Thor), A (Avengers), N (Nick Fury) nicely covered the superhuman, the supernatural, the super-group, and the super-agent. Each character brings different lessons, power sets, foibles, and emotional aspects.

In the end, I realized that the acronym of Stan Lee’s name could map to what the Bible calls the “fruit of the spirit.”

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It was tricky to use just quotes from the movies (without delving into the comics, that not everyone would be as familiar with), to use only characters that Stan had a hand in, and to tie each into a fruit.

 

FRUIT SCRIPTURE PRINCIPLE WHO MOVIE QUOTE
Gentleness, Humility In humility consider others more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3) Sacrifice Groot Guardians of the Galaxy “We are groot.”
Patience, Tolerance A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Teamwork Nick Fury The Avengers “Bring together a group of remarkable people, to fight the battles that we never could.”
Self-Control Take off your old self with its practices and put on the new self. (Colossians 3:9) Authenticity Bruce Banner The Incredible Hulk “I don’t want to control it; I want to get rid of it.”
Goodness Pure religion in the sight of God means caring for orphans and widows. (James 1:27) Nobility Black Panther Infinity War “We don’t fight for just one life; We fight for all of them.”
Love Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, or begrudging. It rejoices in truth, not injustice. It never gives up or loses faith; it always hopes and always endures. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Love Clint Barton, Pietro Maximoff, Wanda Maximoff Age of Ultron “Doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were.”
…and…
“I didn’t see that coming.”
Kindness Encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Encouragement Peggy Carter, Sharon Carter Civil War “Plant yourself like a tree; look them in the eye, and say No, you move.”
Joy I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10) Enjoyment Thor Odison Age of Ultron “Victory should be honored with revels.”

 

Gentleness

In the Biblical sense, gentleness is not weakness, but is strength under control. Some editions translate this fruit as meekness or humility. It is the opposite of self-interest and assertiveness. Gentleness is the attitude of putting the interests of others ahead of our own — that is, sacrifice (the “S” in Stan Lee).

There have been many sacrifices throughout the Marvel comics and movies, but there are some that still get to me no matter how many times I see them. For me, one of those is Groot in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, when he utters what is only his second line: “We are groot.” We’d already seen that Groot is incredibly powerful several times, in the end he chooses to use that strength to save his friends instead of himself. Through this act, Groot is even reborn.

Patience

Also translated as long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance, and tolerance, patience allows us to put up with situations or people that frustrate us. Being able to work with others is a key element in Teamwork (the “T“).

Nick Fury explains the Avengers Initiative as the idea to “bring together a group of remarkable people… to fight the battles that we never could.” None of us is as strong as all of us. The Apostle Paul compares the church as a body, with each of us playing a specific part. Looking back at the Avengers movie, you could even call Tony the brain, Cap the heart, Hulk the muscle, and Clint the eyes. Maybe Natasha would be the ears (or the tiptoes, for her stealth), and Thor the bones (for his indestructibility)?

Self-Control

When we give our lives to Christ, we become a new creation. In the MCU, no one exemplifies that more than Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Paul saw in himself two natures (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.” — Romans 7:18-19). Being honest with our own flaws exhibits authenticity (the “A” in Stan).

The paradox of self-control is that self cannot control self because it is self. Only by surrendering (or dying to) self to the Lord can we get any control. We can only have what we’ve given away.

Goodness

While Gentleness connotes a loving disposition for others, Goodness puts it into action. As (possibly) Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Doing what is right will put us into conflict with those who want to do wrong. Acting on behalf of others, Noblesse Oblige (or Nobility), is the “N” in Stan.

Religion based on rules does little good, and can do much harm. Pure religion that pleases God is caring for orphans and widows. As T’Challa says in Infinity War, we fight for all lives.

Love

Has anything in human history been written, sung, or sought more than love? The love that society wants to push on us is often focused on ourselves. Love makes people happy. Love what gives you pleasure. But scripture tells us that love is much more than that, as well as being the “L” in Lee. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, or begrudging. It rejoices in truth, not injustice. It never gives up or loses faith; it always hopes and always endures.” Much like the humility of Gentleness urges us to sacrifice, biblical love urges us to put others before ourselves.

In Age of Ultron, Wanda had mesmerized all of Hawkeye’s teammates, to disastrous effect. But when she’s panicking, he forgives her and offers her a place on the team. “It doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were… if you step out that door, you are an Avenger.” Later, when a child is about to be murdered by Ultron, Hawkeye interposes his own body to save the child. But Pietro surprises him by taking the bullets first.

Kindness

Gentleness sacrifices, patience forgives, goodness defends, love surrenders, and Kindness assists. It stresses keeping our fellow believer on track, through sharing, teaching, and encouraging (the first “E” in Lee).

We all face struggles. They might be illness, poverty, loneliness, or worse. By encouraging our friends (literally “to put courage inside”), we allow them go farther and reach higher than before. If they can’t make it on their own, we can all help. Sharon Carter’s eulogy of Peggy (originally spoken by Captain America to Spider-Man in the comics) reminded Steve that the right thing is the right thing, despite what others may think.

Joy

Happiness comes from the same root word as happen or hapless. It is the result of outside influence; a temporary circumstance. True Joy lives on the inside. The apostle Paul learned to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4). For myself, I know who I am, who I belong to, and where I’m going. Life has its ups and downs, but we can all choose whether or not to find enjoyment (the final “E” in Lee).

I’ve met people in the Christian community who look like they were weaned on a pickle (to borrow a friend’s phrase). Christ came to grant us abundant and everlasting life. Even Steve Rogers agreed with Thor that revels can show honor.

Summary

Stan Lee taught us Sacrifice, Teamwork, Authenticity, Nobility, Love, Encouragement, and Enjoyment.

Excelsior! Amen.

Download

You can get a copy of the bulletin PDF here.

Movies

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

I taught a lesson at church about why movies can be an effective tool to share the gospel.

My Favorites

There are dozens of movies that I’ve watched over and over. I have several friends that could have a long coversation with, using noting but movie quotes.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite films, in no particular order…

Sci-Fi & Action

The Matrix (reality is not actually real), The Fifth Element (an action movie that becomes a comedy), Serenity (a misfit space crew saves the galaxy from itself), Buckaroo Banzai (genius rock-star/surgeon/adventures fight interdimensional aliens), 12 Monkeys (the past isn’t what it used to be), Hackers (cheesy, but many of the personalities are relatable), The Hunt for Red October (an invisible submarine is defeated through song), The Lord of the Rings (friendship is stronger than evil), Army of Darkness (a smartass with a chainsaw hand kills zombies), The Princess Bride (death cannot defeat love), V for Vendetta (the only real prison is the one we believe), Fight Club (we can be our own worst enemy), A Knight’s Tale (a man can change his stars), Big Trouble in Little China (the hero doesn’t realize he’s actually just the sidekick)

Comedy & Inspiration

The Court Jester (we can be who we want to be), Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (look at life with a sense of wonder), The Gods Must be Crazy (we must walk a mile in our neighbor’s shoes, or bare feet as appropriate), UHF (sometimes you have to grab life by the lips and yank as hard as you can), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (shh! it’s only a model), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (the best place is here and the best time is now), Clue (), The Frisco Kid (I am God’s child even in the mud or on my butt), The Wizard of Speed and Time (nothing can stop the creative spirit), The Truman Show (every life is amazing if we’d only look), Apollo 13 (failure is not an option), Raising Arizona (we all can have a second chance), The Hudsucker Proxy (career matters, but love matters more), O Brother Where Art Thou (family is worth sacrificing for)

…and many more.

Movie Popularity

According to the latest statistics, people go out to the movies a lot. Here’s a breakdown of how many movies people see in theaters each year, by age group.

2-11: 3.4, 12-17: 6.5, 18-24: 6.7, 25-39: 4.4, 40-49: 3.6, 50-59: 3.0, 60+: 2.4 (Source: MPAA)

So the average 50-year old has seen around 225 movies over those years.

Netflix streaming service has grown incredible since it started in 2012, reaching just over 250 million households worldwide, as of early 2018 (which is also roughly the number of households in America). (Source: Bloomberg)

We, as a people, see so many movies. This gives us a lot of common reference points.

Movie Sermons

So far, I have preached full sermons about three specific movies.

They Live (1988, directed by John Carpenter, Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster)

A wanderer finds sunglasses that reveal the world the way it truly is. Subliminal messages keep the population subdued. Our leaders are secretly aliens bent on world domination.

They Live was the first movie sermon I preached. I was at a horror movie convention, and John Carpenter was one of the guests. Since They Live is my favorite of his films (not necessarily the best, I’ll be the first to admit, but still my favorite), I chose that as my sermon topic. A man learns of the beings that are secretly controlling us through subliminal messages, thanks to some lenses that he found at a church. He uses this knowledge to recruit others, and to directly confront evil. This is not a family film, by any stretch, but it has a solid message.

Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Sigourney Weaver)

A team of scientists lose their cushy jobs at a university in New York City, and become “ghostbusters” to wage a high-tech battle with the supernatural for fun and profit.

I preached about Ghostbusters at Wizard World Comic Con, not because it’s my favorite movie, but because of a friend. Ryan E Kemp founded the Western Kentucky Ghostbusters. He loved the optimism and enterprise that the movie’s heroes showed, and wanted to bring that excitement and positivity to those around him. He died three years ago, when he was driving to a children’s hospital to dress as a Ghostbuster and cheer up the sick kids. At first, I was stunned, and wondered what are the odds of dying while doing something like that. But then I realized that the odds weer actually pretty high, in his case. He did that a lot. It got me wondering about how often I spend time doing something that I’d like to be remembered for, if I were to die that instant. Frankly, they weren’t as high as I’d have liked. Kemp’s wonderful example helped me (and just about everyone he ever met) to be a better person.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, starring Robert Downey Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Pratt)

The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and other Marvel superheroes unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet. Thanos plans to collect six Infinity Stones, so he can kill half the entire universe with a snap of his fingers.

When I preached about Infinity War at the Lexington Comic Con, the movie hadn’t come to theaters yet, but was just a month away. Congoers eagerly anticipated the movie, so the timing was opportune. The local FOX News station even filmed my sermon for the Spirit of the Bluegrass segment.

 

Touchstones

Besides movies, there are may other common experiences that we can use to reach our neighbor.

Games

I’ve preached about Settlers of Catan (at a board game convention), Pokemon Go (at a game convention), Football (on Superbowl Sunday), and Dungeons & Dragons (at a science fiction/gaming convention).

Sci-Fi & Action

I’ve preached about pirates (at an author convention), monsters and aliens (at a science fiction convention), zombies (at a horror convention), blood and gore (at a horror convention), and superheroes (at a comic convention).

Comedy & Inspiration

I’ve preached about costumes (at a costume convention), outer space (at a science convention), tattoos (at a tattoo convention), and creativity (at a creative writing convention), humor (okay, that was at a science fiction convention, but it was April Fools Day), and music (okay, that wasn’t at a music event, but it was still cool).

Common Ground

I like to focus on the things that I have in common with my audience. To that end, I often pick a sermon topic that’s directly related to the interest at hand. Instead of trying to get people to disengage from what interests them so they can engage with the Word, my usual approach is to find the ways that what they’re currently engaged is already part of God’s story and purpose for our lives.

My Story

Apart from movies, games, and other potentially common points of interest, there’s another story that I always have up my sleeve. That’s my story. People can argue with me about religion, history, philosophy, politics, science, and just about anything else, but the one thing that no one can refute is my story. I know my life, because I was there.

I’ve done a lot of things and been a part of a lot of things in my life.

Arts

I sported an orange mohawk when I was a part of the punk and new wave scene. I hosted a weekly radio show for years about punk rock and comedy. (What, do punk and comedy seem like different things to you?) I founded the Men Without Hats fan club, over 30 years ago. I help organize a music industry event each year. I’ve been on TV and film. I’ve designed for a living. I write for Nerd Louisville. I make my own costumes. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines. I’ve created crosswords professionally. I ran a publishing company which published hundreds of books for dozens of authors. And much more.

Science

I wrote space shuttle software for NASA when I was just a teenager. I worked in bioterrorism for Homeland Security. (I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve worked for other intelligence agencies that I can’t tell you about, or I’d have to kill you.) I’ve programmed video games. I’ve spoken at dozens of database conferences. I volunteer at global hackathons, and even host some. I’ve founded a technology conference. I ply cybersecurity, and speak at those events. I’m the calendar coordinator at my city’s largest online technology collective. I’ve taught Alexa new skills. And much more.

Education/Community

I’ve taught at college. I’ve founded startups and mentor in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. I’ve won two DTMs (Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest award from Toastmasters International). I dabble in improv comedy, and frequently bring those principles to other areas of my life. And much more.

Ministry

I bring God with me wherever I go. This includes my favorite oddball ministries, which reach out to the freaks, geeks, and weirdos. My people. I co-teach a class at the largest church in Kentucky. I preach on behalf of the Christian Gamers Guild, and have served as its VP for many years. I served a Sector Commander at Fans For Christ until the organization disbanded. I game with Jesus at Game Church. I punk out with the goths at the Grave Robbers ministry. And much more.

My story

I… I… I… I.

That’s a lot of I stuff. And that’s only a selection of some of the larger areas of my life. If I have nothing else in my metaphorical toolbox to help me build a bridge to someone, I’ve always got my story with me. The Bible tells us to always be  ready to give a reason for the hope that we have.

Reaching Others

Jesus GauntletChrist’s last words before he ascended to heaven, often called the Great Commission, were:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19)

Those words were not just meant for the people standing around him at the time; they also apply to us. We are told to bring the good news of Christ’s sacrifice to everyone. But it’s not only a matter of telling — it’s also teaching.

Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah. “Do you understand what you are reading?” he asked. “How can I,” he asked, “unless someone explains it to me?”
So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30)

Those who encounter the gospel won’t make heads nor tails of it without a guide. We are also told to help the people to obey.

How can they call on the One if they do not believe? How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone to preach? How can they preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:14)

The first step is always to take a step. Any step. We won’t accomplish much in life just sitting on the couch. By spending time with people, and building the relationships which are begin based in common cultural reference points like movies and games, we can teach them the Truth.

I have become all things to all men so that by any means some may be saved. (1 Cor 9:22)

The Apostle Paul traveled to many cities to start churches. The first people he’d talk to are those who were already churchgoers, but then he’d go to the cultural centers. He talked to the Greek philosophers in the manner they were most accustomed to, standing in the public forum to explain his ideas. He talked with workers while he himself plied his own trade as a tent-maker (a tentist? did he go to tental school?). He even preached to prison guards while he was shackled to them. To paraphrase the Watchmen movie/comic out of context, “I’m not chained here to you. You’re chained here to me!” Way to make lemonade, Paul.

Stories

Our God is a God that tells stories. Around one third of Jesus’ recorded words are parables (he told 46 of them). A list of facts and figures can easily be forgotten. A list of do’s and don’t’s can easily be disregarded. But a story can last for centuries. We share a culture of movies, television, songs, artwork, and games. We can use those stories as the foundation for sharing the true story of God’s love and our redemption through His Son’s sacrifice.

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.