Into the Spider-Verse: a new era of superheros

The new Spider-Man is more than just a comic book reboot

It might be easy to think that the time for superhero movies has passed. The seemingly endless sequels and franchises that have been taking over the industry in recent years have all started to look the same. No one needed another reboot.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has restored and modernized the superhero comic genre with its evolved style of animation, engaging storyline and fresh characters. Both comic skeptics and die-hards can take something of value away from Sony and Marvel’s latest project. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, also the creative directors of 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, have produced something that any audience can enjoy and admire.

The story is based on the pre-existing Spider-Verse comic series, where all different versions of Spider-Man from parallel dimensions come together. The film, however, puts Miles Morales, a Black-Latino teen from Brooklyn at the forefront of the story. He’s joined by other members of the Spider-Verse, including the original Peter Parker, and Spider-Woman, and pig version Peter Parker to name a few. Together, they fight a new enemy unlike any they have faced before.

While the crossover plot idea isn’t exactly new, what ties the movie together is a dynamic, almost psychedelic comic book animation style. With vibrant colours and multi-layered depth and movement, the creators used every bit of space on the screen to push the boundaries of what animation can do. Every scene feels like being pulled inside the panels of a comic book.

Fitting to the animation style, the story is engaging and refreshing. Every turn in the narrative feels genuine, surprising, and natural. Every one of the characters is unique and charming. Smart and well-placed humour makes it easy to forget that it’s a G-rated movie.

The soundtrack, featuring artists such as Vince Staples, Lil Wayne, Duckwrth and Post Malone, is a fantastic addition to a movie that defies boundaries. It brings an energy and intensity that’s hard to find in a family film.

What’s even more interesting than the visuals or music, is the true heart of the story. Through the eyes of Miles Morales, we struggle through self-doubt and deal with the negative side of great expectations. We experience the reality of a kid carrying too much on his shoulders. In facing the impossible, we learn how to take a leap of faith.

As far as originality and creativity are concerned, Into the Spider-Verse has set the bar high for 2019 and has broken new ground on what we can expect from animation and the future of the film industry.


Fighting homelessness with art

The St-James Drop-In centre takes everything into consideration

While a blanket of fresh November snow falls on Montreal, the St-James Drop-in Centre is warm with laughter. The front room buzzes with activity, and dishes clink together as members serve lunch. In the corner of the dining area is a piano painted in bright colors. In the kitchen, crates of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are spread out across the counters and in stacks on the floor. Downstairs in the art studio, drawings and paintings hang on the walls, unfinished projects sit on easels and shelves are lined with supplies.

St-James’s members have painted bright portraits on the piano in the centre’s dining room.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

St-James is a community centre located in the Gay Village, about a block up from Ste-Catherine St. It’s open five days a week and serves as a space for marginalized people. Its members are predominately homeless or struggling with mental illness; as St-James intervention worker Lisa Zimanyi pointed out, the two often go hand in hand.

“We are much smaller than most centres, and the idea there is to make people feel more at home,” Zimanyi said. With just three rooms, the space is certainly cozy. “People who struggle with anxiety or different types of mental illness don’t always feel safe in larger places, so we are kind of an alternative resource for them.”

In addition to offering counselling, crisis intervention or just a conversation over a cup of coffee, the centre hosts poetry, music and art workshops. The centre’s team also hosts several art events in the community, including art exhibitions to showcase the pieces that members make. Although the centre has exhibited work at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the past, Zimanyi said it’s the smaller vernissages held throughout the year that allow members to connect with the community.

According to Zimanyi, the staff at St-James works hard to get to know members on a personal level. Having worked full-time at the centre for five years, Zimanyi said she has had the chance to “accompany them through all different aspects of their life.” Although the centre provides members with a roof, a shower and hot meals, the staff’s focus isn’t just on survival. “We do meet people’s physical needs, but at the same time, we’re trying to build relationships with people,” Zimanyi said.

Members are also encouraged to volunteer and help out at the centre as much as they can. “I actually rely on the members to help me out with running the place on a day-to-day basis,” Zimanyi said. “The members feel at home, and we get to know each other in a more informal context. It’s more like a family.”

The way the centre hums with jokes, and hearing members greet each other when they walk in, it is clear St-James has created a unique atmosphere—one that feels like home.

Concerned with more than basic necessities, the St-James Drop-in Centre and art studio serves as a safe space for marginalized people.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Lysanne Picard is the creative arts program coordinator at St-James and oversees the Concordia art education students who intern at the centre. A Concordia alumna herself, Picard said the students are in charge of running their own workshops with the members and she encourages the students to think outside of the box. “The student workshops really add some diversity and excitement.” This year’s interns, Concordia students Stephanie Talisse and Jude Ibrahim, have done exactly that. With Talisse, members assembled and drew still-life scenes of the things they kept in their pockets. In another activity, Ibrahim had members make prints on postcards, focusing on social change and the message they want to send to the world.

“It’s really neat to see the members meet other artists and experience that artist-to-artist connection they might not get otherwise,” Picard said.

Even after members have gained some stability, they are still welcome to spend time at the centre, and many do. Paul Hicks, a long-time member who also works at the centre, joined the community in the 80s, when the centre first opened. Hicks often participates in the art workshops offered at the centre, but said he particularly enjoys working with the interns.

“I really like when the students come in and do lessons,” Hicks said. Behind him, one of his recent paintings, an intricate and colourful scene of a gondola in the canals of Venice, was hung up to dry.

A few of Hicks’s pieces, along with those of other members, will be available to purchase at the centre’s annual art sale fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. All profits will go towards supporting the centre. Anyone searching for a unique Christmas gift or simply looking to support the centre can stop by 1442 Panet St. to shop and chat with the artists. The centre also accepts donations year-round.

Student Life

Concordia’s annual used book fair is set to be EPIC

Books for a cause

For those who prefer books with yellowed pages and broken spines, mark your calendars for Concordia’s annual Epic Used Book Fair, which takes place in the EV building atrium on Oct. 29 and 30. The sale is perfect for uncovering rare literary finds at accessible prices, and it supports Concordia’s student body and the wider community.

Event coordinator Luke Quin believes that selling secondhand books has the ability to enrich the lives of students by not only raising money towards scholarships, but also by repurposing ideas. “It’s entrepreneurial, but socially driven,” Quin said. “We’re raising money and providing a new home for books that would probably end up in the garbage.”

The event, hosted by Concordia Alumni, raised $25,000 last year, and Quin has even higher hopes for this year. “With support from Concordia and the community, the event has only gotten bigger.” The money raised is funneled into two or three direct scholarships, as well as an endowment that ensures there will always be a Used Book Fair scholarship available. Another portion of the money goes towards the Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre’s Student Emergency and Food fund, which gives grocery cards to students in need.

Encore books and records is a hole-in-the-wall store on Sherbrooke St. W. that sells books, both used and new, records and other collectibles. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“We’re also giving experiential opportunities for the volunteers, a lot of which are international students looking to engage and network,” Quin said. “We’ve really built an event that is students helping students.” He said the great location in the EV building atrium gives the sale a lot of traffic potential from shoppers passing by on Saint-Catherine St., as well as students. The books are priced at $3 and up, and will be sorted by subject, so there is sure to be something for everyone.

Many of the donated books come from professors and students, past and present, but Quin said that more and more donations are coming from outside the university. “Many smaller charity organizations don’t accept books because they’re cumbersome and difficult to sort through,” he said.

Donations for the Epic Used Book Fair are accepted year-round. For those who have large donations, boxes of books labeled “Concordia Used Book Fair” can be dropped off at the receiving dock of the Hall building downtown, or at the receiving dock of the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex on the Loyola campus. If you have a few old textbooks or a smaller amount to donate, there is a pink book bin on the Hall building mezzanine at the bottom of the escalator.

For more information on the book fair, follow the Concordia Epic Used Book Fair on Facebook. The event already has over 7,000 RSVPs, so go early to get the best pick. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both Monday, Oct. 29 and Tuesday, Oct. 30. There is also a pre-sale on Sunday Oct. 28 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with a $5 entrance fee. Stop by and see what you can find!

Feature image by Alex Hutchins.

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