In Response to the Aurora Theater Shooting Verdict – A Personal Essay

Today the world stood still in the town of Aurora, Colorado. It’s not the biggest city in the state. People who don’t live here may have never heard of it before 2012, but it’s my hometown and it holds some of my best memories. For many people, though, it holds some of their worst.

On July 20th, 2012, James Holmes walked into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and he set off tear gas grenades and opened fire just as the film began. Many patrons were unsure if it was a publicity stunt that was part of the show, or if they should be alarmed. James Holmes killed 12 people that night, and injured 70 others. News outlets covered the crime 24 hours a day for many days, questioning why and how someone could do this, and for the first few hours updating the death toll. No one could understand why he would do something like that. Holmes was dressed in tactical gear and had his hair colored as a homage to the Batman villain the Joker, who appeared in the previous film. He was arrested at the scene, and since then a debate has raged on as to whether or not he should pay for his crimes due to mental illness and insanity. 

Since Holmes’ crime, our nation has suffered through several more unwarranted mass shootings and the issue of mental illness has become a hot topic. It’s no secret that there are not always resources available to those who suffer from mental illness, and way too many people fall through the cracks and are left with no other options than to succumb to their illness. I am not here to argue the validity of an insanity plea in this case. My goal is not to sway opinions or cause an argument or debate. As the prosecution said in their closing arguments, what matters here is that James Holmes walked into that theater on July 20, 2012 intending to kill every person in there.

As I mentioned earlier, Aurora is my hometown. I went to high school maybe a few miles away from the Century 16 Movie Theater, and I saw countless movies there in my youth. I should also mention that I suffer from mental illness, and have for many years. It has brought me to some very dark places – drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, self-harm, and even attempted suicide. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable to share that with the world, but now finally feels like a good time to open up about my struggles. It took me many years to come to terms with my condition, I self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, convinced myself I was fine without meds for many years, and hit some very scary all time lows that lasted for years at a time before I finally accepted that I needed help. I am in control of my illness now, but the ongoing debates about whether or not people like me can be trusted, or held responsible for our actions when we do something wrong always hits very close to home for me. Yesterday, at 4:15 p.m. James Holmes was found guilty of murder in the first degree for all twelve deaths, as well as every count of attempted murder and I couldn’t be happier. Now let me explain to you why.

First of all, part of dealing with my illness as an adult is understanding that there are some things about myself I cannot help, but I have to try every day to overcome my demons. In turn, when I fail at defeating the monsters inside I alone am solely responsible for what I’ve done because as a human I have a choice everyday on how I handle myself. Yes, on many days it is harder for me to do the reasonable thing, but I am still the one in power – not my illness. Whether or not I’m on my meds, that will always be the cold hard truth.

Second, when James Holmes attacked the patrons of that theater – a bunch of excited movie and comic buffs eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises – he attacked my peers. Not just my peers, my family. I am part of a close-knit group of, shall we say, geeks or nerds. We’re fanatic; we’re easily excitable about the things we love and the people in that theater were likely in a state of pure elation until Holmes took everything from them. I’ve gone to those midnight openings, my friends have gone to them and other than the fact that I had to work the next day there was no reason that my husband and I wouldn’t have been at that theater with all the other fans. Those victims are people I relate to; they’re people that I have shared experiences with. Seeing the midnight release of a film is a fun and exhilarating experience for fans. It used to be a sacred rite for the truly devoted, and on that night, James Holmes demolished that joy for a population and turned it into pain. He attacked my community – my friends, my family, my fellow Batman and movie fanatics, but it goes even deeper than that.

When James Holmes walked into that theater he attacked people, he attacked human kind. He tried to take innocence and bliss from well intentioned human beings that had done nothing to warrant such an unjustified act. He tried to instill fear and terror into the world, to remind us that there was no safe place and he succeeded. Movie theaters now run PSAs before films informing people of how to quickly and safely escape should another armed lunatic try to attack. James Holmes changed our community and he changed our world for the worst. Our children will grow up in a society where knowing that there is no safety from armed maniacs is just a part of life, and that is just too fucked up for me to wrap my head around.

For a long time, something inside of myself rejected learning Holmes’ name – I called him John Holmes (famed 70’s porn star who died of AIDS) for at least a year because I refused to give him the name recognition he so obviously craved. It was never on purpose; it just kind of happened. But I know his name now – he is a convicted murderer and domestic terrorist James Holmes. He took so much from us that we will never get back. He was found guilty almost exactly three years after that fateful night, but watching the coverage certainly doesn’t make it feel like any time has passed at all.

As someone who suffers from mental illness, I completely understand the tragedy of a person being found guilty because they were unable to get help in time. That being said, I am also someone who understands that when that kind of darkness starts to creep into your mind you have a choice – and James Holmes chose to let that darkness take him. When he gave in, he changed the world forever and he took something from all of us. He destroyed countless lives and families and he turned something that should have been so fun into something horrific. Aurora, Colorado is my home and I will never be the same after seeing how something so horrible could happen to my peers, in my community, in my own backyard. Justice was served today, James Holmes deserves to be punished for what he did. It will never give anyone back what they’ve lost, nothing can ever do that.  At least this way there will closure for a community that was forever changed.

Denver Comic Con 2014 – From Kitten to Catwoman: How Cosplay Empowered Me

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles


Denver Comic Con 2014 was a weekend I will always remember. I spent it with my roommate, cosplaying with her as Sherlock and John from the BBC Sherlock, attending engaging panels and meeting some of our most beloved stars. One of those stars made a huge impact on me. I was able to tell Julie Newmar (in full Catwoman attire) how she and her character had empowered me; she took my hand and inspired me all over again.

In 2009, I was a freshman in high school and had just escaped a tortuous relationship with my middle school peers. I was only starting to discover that my preconceived notions that being a nerd was something undesirable were wrong. The extreme contrast between the Catholic middle school where liking Star Trek warranted harassment and the arts magnet high school that condoned nerd expression had my head spinning. I had two friends who were exceptionally nerdy. Together we would talk for hours about everything from Harry Potter to Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were a nerd trifecta and they had made me realize that reading comic books wasn’t something to be ashamed of. However, it didn’t help me become any less timid or socially awkward.

One day, my friends approached me about a Science Fiction convention called “StarFest”and asked if I was going. I told them I had never heard of it and they promptly said, “Then you’re going.” So I bought my ticket and, a few days after, they asked if I wanted to Cosplay with them. It was as if they were speaking another language. Again, when I told them I didn’t know what they were talking about, they made the decision that I was going to join them in their costumed escapade.

They were going to Cosplay as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy so I decided I would complete their femme fatale and go as Catwoman. Their costumes were amazing. Mine was…less so. At the time, my Catwoman Cosplay consisted of a long sleeve black shirt that was fraying at the sleeves, black skinny jeans, my mother’s black leather boots and my friend’s mask. If it weren’t for the mask, I would have looked like just another person attending the convention, but it was the funnest weekend I had ever had. Those leather boots and that mask made me feel like a literal superhero, even though I was Cosplaying as a villain. Nothing could cut through the euphoria of running around the convention center and having our picture taken over and over again. Having been bullied relentlessly for liking Catwoman in middle school, the fact that that character empowered me now felt like I had finally won the battle.

gotham sirens

Over the years my Catwoman Cosplay evolved, becoming more complex. One year, I traded my shirt and jeans for an actual catsuit. The next, I got my own cat ears and began painting my mask on. I kept my mother’s boots as an homage to her, and because they still worked perfectly for the cosplay. I dawned a belt and this year bought a whip and googles to complete the transformation. To this day, the Catwoman I become every few months is still evolving, much like myself outside the convention center. I’ve gone from an emotionally scarred girl who didn’t think she’d make it to age sixteen to a strong woman on my way to college, determined to achieve my dreams. I’ve gone from kitten to Catwoman.

“Never let any barriers hold you back, Charlotte,” Julie Newmar told me this weekend. “If something feels right, you do it! And if it doesn’t, then you don’t.” I was unable to hold back the tears as she spoke to me. “And look at you! You’ve got the suit, the ears. You even have the whip!” She then signed my cat ears and though it was supposed to cost money, she got out from behind her booth and took a photo with me. Even at age 80, she is inspiring, sassy and purrrfect as ever. I don’t believe in epiphanies, but I think that moment with Julie has set something in motion in me. I no longer have to slip that catsuit on to feel powerful. I am.

Cosplay, Consent and Those Who Respect Neither

Cosplay is fun! You watch, read about, or play a character that you fall in love with so hard that you decide you have to be them. This involves spending an enormous amount of time and money to create your costume, tweaking it with all the creativity you can muster. It means slaving over the entire ensemble day after day until the convention arrives and you finally get to slip it on. Wearing it makes you feel like a total bad-ass, like you can take on the world the way that character does. When you walk into the convention center you get tons of compliments, people want to take your picture, and you’re proud of what you’ve created. You feel awesome… That is, until you don’t – until someone decides to take that feeling away from you and you feel creeped out, violated, and in some cases unsafe. Harassment and stalking has taken Cosplay from a fun, creative hobby to a borderline dangerous one. As we count down the days to Denver Comic Con, this topic is of particular importance.

Charlotte Renken, Catwoman
Charlotte Renken, Catwoman

“Cosplay does not equal consent.” You may have heard the phrase before, but some people don’t seem to get the message. While this topic has just recently started to be addressed in the media and by convention organizers, Cosplayers have had to deal with all kinds of harassment for years. Mostly directed towards female Cosplayers, it can range from cat calling to stalking to even physical harassment. Being a Cosplayer myself, I’ve had to deal with this on numerous occasions; being told  how I should alter my Catwoman Cosplay to show more skin or being purred at as I walk down the hall.  Luckily I have never been stalked. Some people are not so fortunate.

Mike Rosenberg, Bilbo Baggins
Mike Rosenberg, Bilbo Baggins

One such Cosplayer, who wishes to stay anonymous, was forced to face both harassment and stalking at and leading up to StarFest 2014 in Denver. At Animeland Wasabi, an anime convention in Denver,  the Cosplayer had met someone.  The two became intimate quickly, but things stopped when the other con goer revealed they were underage. The Cosplayer then turned them down as they did not want to engage inappropriately  with a minor. This was the right thing to do; however, the con goer didn’t seem to agree. In the next two weeks, the Cosplayer began receiving messages to the point of harassment and asking for their address. The Cosplayer blocked them on all their social media accounts as well as their phone number. At StarFest 2014, the con goer began following all the Cosplayer’s friends in an attempt to find the Cosplayer and once the con goer did, cornered them. At this point, the Cosplayer ran away but later that night was chased into an elevator. Feeling panicked, the Cosplayer turned to their friends to calm them down, then later became angry as their stalker had now violated their security in a place they once felt safe.

This same Cosplayer, like many others, has also faced sexual harassment. However, much of this came from larger and older people, making them afraid to say anything. Many Cosplayers feel this way. Trying to balance your need to call someone out on their inappropriate behavior and self preservation is a difficult thing to achieve and the scale is usually tipped towards the latter. Cosplayers are forced to remain silent about these matters for their own safety, which only worsens the feeling of being violated. Con goers must become aware of the harm they are causing by being inappropriate this way. They need to understand that wearing a Slave Leia costume is not an invitation for them to act like Jabba the Hutt.

Jake Lichliter and Meg Coulburn, Superboy and Poison Ivy
Jake Lichliter and Meg Coulburn, Superboy and Poison Ivy

Denver Comic Con does not tolerate harassment of any kind towards anyone regardless of their ethnicity, creed, religious background, political background, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, fandom, etc. They define harassment as “physical assault, verbal harassment, sexual harassment, stalking, unwanted physical contact, unwanted advances, or inappropriate media capture”or anything else that makes someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They go on to define inappropriate media capture as “photography, video, audio, or some other form of recording where the subject feels they are being stalked, exploited, degraded, or disrespected through being recorded.”

Their harassment policy is detailed on their website and should be read by everyone attending the convention. The important note on this page is that harassment is defined by the victim regardless about how the perpetrator may feel about the situation. If one is determined to be harassing someone, Denver Comic Con reserves the right to ask the perpetrator to leave the convention or even ban them permanently. Con goers are encouraged to report any harassment to the nearest Denver Comic Con volunteer or security personnel or call the police at either 911 or The Denver Police Department District Six non-emergency number 720-913-2800.

Stormy Cone, Human GLaDUS

There are a few rules that should be followed when interacting with Cosplayers. While most Cosplayers are happy to have their picture taken, it is always important to ask first. They may not want their photo taken or simply do not have time. In addition, asking a Cosplayer to pose in a way they are not comfortable with is not okay and can easily be deemed as harassment. It’s fine to have fun with the photos you are taking, but when a Cosplayer says no understand that they mean no. When speaking with a Cosplayer one must be respectful and steer away from inappropriate topics. While you may think you are flirting, they may not. Unwanted attention is never a compliment.

While the change needs to come from the perpetrating group, there are things Cosplayers can do to protect themselves both during conventions and outside them. While an online presence is important to grow your audience it’s more important to keep yourself safe online. Having Cosplay accounts separate from your personal social media accounts is a good start. Never display your personal information on these pages and keep an eye on who is liking or following your page. If something seems fishy, report it. Better to overreact than under-react.

Raya Jade Lieberman, Sherlock Holmes
Raya Jade Lieberman, Sherlock Holmes

Studies suggest that if you are being stalked, to change your routine frequently, instruct friends, family, and employers not to give out your information to strangers, take note of each incident, and in extreme cases, file a restraining order. If you feel your life is in danger, always call the police. If harassment occurs at the convention, remove yourself from the situation. Walk away but stay in a crowded area. Sticking with one or two friends is also a good way to stay safe. It is perfectly fine to report the harassment to a convention volunteer or security personnel, or call the police. They are there to make sure you have a fun, safe weekend.

Never enter the hotel room of someone you don’t know especially if you are alone. If you plan to drink at the convention, keep an eye on your cup and toss out anything you haven’t been paying attention to. If you come in contact with someone who you feel has been paying an inappropriate amount of attention to you, report them immediately. Too often victims of stalking and harassment ignore what is happening and try to rationalize the situation, and by the time they report something it is often too late for officials to do anything about it.

Conventions are one of the best things about nerd culture. They are exciting, often host some of our favorite actors, artists, and writers, and only come around once a year. They are one place were we undeniably know we can be ourselves without judgement. For some people, it is the only place they feel at home. It is our duty as nerds to keep these safe havens free from harassment and fear. We’ve faced enough of it already.

In order of appearance photos courtesy of Sydney Nicollette Hall Mayhew, David Chandler and Kat Colvin, Charlotte Renken , Mike Rosenburg  Jake Lichliter  and Meg Coulburn, Stormy Cone, and Raya Jade Lieberman 


Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A synopsis from the pages of Ms. Marvel

Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A Synopsis From the Pages of Ms. Marvel


The Women’s Rights Movement in Islam is a fight for more than equality and freedom. It, in some ways, is a fight for humanity. The Western world has been put on notice that the women of Islam will no longer suffer the indifference of cruel and stubborn men. We see it everyday in our high schools and malls. Young Muslim women wear colorful hijab and dazzling outfits equipped with Gucci bags and Air Jordans. We hear it in their poetry through the voices of those like Suheir Hammad and Amal Kassir. We see it on the streets of Tehran and Bahrain. Social media has made it impossible to ignore. Sites like Wikileaks and Instagram have given a face to this head covered revolution.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf gives us a haunting description of growing up Syrian-American. When I picked the book up in 2006, I needed it to reaffirm my faith as a practicing converted Muslim. In its pages you can find similarities in almost every civil rights movement in modern history. Couple that with the struggles of assimilation in a society that perceives diversity as a weakness, and you have the basis for a constitution.


This is why Ms. Marvel is more than a comic book. When it was first announced that Marvel would give the secondary title a much needed make-over, most of us were skeptical. In the film age of Avengers and The Dark Knight, there seems to be very little space for the lesser-known heroes. Most of the big companies are keeping their cash grabs going by reissuing past story arcs for future films and keeping the public interested in what the studios are putting out on the silver screen. But Marvel gave writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona a chance to do something out of the ordinary. The result is the tale of Kamala Khan, a teenage girl from Jersey City. She lives in world that doesn’t truly see her for who she is. At school, she and her friend Nakia are the subject of ridicule from the female Flash Thompson, Zoe Zimmer. She is not allowed to spend time with boys. Her parents, although not restricting her to strict Sharia law, do not give her the independence she believes she deserves. Her brother Aamir loves her, but is focused on prayer and devotion to Allah. Did I mention that she is nerd? This twist allows us, the reader to fall in love with this character on a very base level. Readers can connect with her through the awkwardness of being a teenager or by being a social outcast in school. She is everyone. Her accessibility gives her a human feel that most comics lack, for obvious reasons. She is empowering. Her character sees the hypocrisy in gender bias and questions it outright. This alone makes her a hero.

But Kamala is obsessed with the Avengers. She daydreams of battles with intergalactic invaders and wants nothing more than to change into her hero, Captain Marvel.

Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!
Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!

One night, her wish comes true. She transforms into Ms. Marvel, a super human with the ability to change her shape. How fitting. Whether as a nerd, woman, or culturally disenfranchised youth she dreamed of acceptance. Her newly found powers allow her to be anything she wants physically, but she remains the same inside.

Kamala sneaks out to a party that her parents forbid her to go to. Once there a strange mist envelopes her and she is greeted by the Avengers, speaking Urdu! They tell her that they are of faith, and speak all languages of beauty and hardship. This type of writing gives this book the type of authenticity it needs to be impactful. If Wilson decided to attack Islam for its treatment of woman alone, the book would take a preachy and holier-than-thou stance that would immediately offend. But this book doesn’t do that, it shows both sides, from the inside of an Islamic Masjid where women are separated in prayer, to the dinner table of a family with first generation westerners. Her first act of heroism saved the life of her mean-girl tormentor, Zoe Zimmer. This selfless act will shape the type of hero she will become. Wilson could have easily made her first heroic act saving the life of a Muslim kid in the midst of being victimized by a hate crime. But that would be the easy way out. In saving her perceived enemy this book takes a traditional Islamic pretense, to offer enemies love, from Al-Mumtahana, and that saving one life is like saving an entire people, from Al-Maida.

Sometimes, the bullies that affect us the worst are those that think they are being good people.
Sometimes, the worst bullies are those that think they are being good people.

The reality of our world is harsh. Women in most countries on this planet are subjugated to cruelty and treated as subservient. And before our glorious Stars and Stripes have their say, let’s not forget the shadow it still casts on our history. The Slavocracy of the South and Jim Crow laws that proceeded allowed for the ownership, rape and torture of African American women. Hell, the ruling class didn’t even allow their women to vote until 1920 and sexual health issues are still being fought today on a Congressional level. But Ms. Marvel is a glimmer of hope in a small pocket of our society. It’s pages are meant to inspire the oppressed, and objectified. Bravo for Marvel Comics, and Al-ḥamdu lillāh.

Ms. Marvel #1

Below is my review of issue #3 that I wrote for the weekly reviews (see all the week’s reviews here). The five part introduction to the new Ms. Marvel is entitled Meta-Morphosis. I suggest you purchase from comiXology or support your local comic book shop and strike a conversation with the guy behind the counter!

Ms. Marvel #3 – A
I can already envision the “What if” issue where Zoe Zimmer drowns. Tell me you saw the somewhere on the west side ave JC electronics sign or you noticed the sarcastic look on the New Jersey pigeons? This book screams of nuance. More than the cultural tension of growing up Muslim so close to Manhattan, I find the awkwardness of being a teenager compelling. Kamala frantically searches the web for answers…”Super-powers, Shape-shifting powers, Woke up as a polymorph, Embiggening. Come on interwebs, don’t fail me now–I can’t be the first person this has happened to–” The book feels real because we would ALL do the same thing. Still subservient in a world where woman are not allowed to worship with their male counter parts, Kamala struggles to find her purpose. It’s been a while since we have seen a hero’s genesis story. Watching Kamala awkwardly try to control her powers is like watching an eager tadpole.

After responding to his text, she heads to the Circle Q to meet Bruno. When she looks in the window she notices a masked man flashing a gun. Assuming that he’s being held up, she springs into action and makes a magnificent declaration.
“I am 911!”
“Strange things are afoot at the Circle Q.”

Shout out to the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure quote from Bruno.
Kamala learns a valuable lesson about being a hero this issue, if she makes it out alive she won’t make the same mistake again.

Post originally from John Soweto’s blog

In Defense of Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager


I’ve been hitting my head against a wall the last couple of days trying to figure out the best introductory article I could write. I always hope for something that would awe and amaze. However, all of my ideas could be dissertations and long drawn out tangents better suited for a bar. So, for now I’ll start with something I can always talk about: Star Trek.  More specifically Voyager, because if I’m going to go on a tangent, Captain Janeway seems like a good place to start.

I’m a fan of most Trek series, but for me, my first obsessive relationship with Star Trek began with Voyager. It was the first series I was old enough to watch as it aired on television. Countless actors and writers have talked to the fact that seeing certain characters on Trek have deeply impacted their creative adult lives. The biggest example being Whoopi Goldberg and her first introduction to  Lt. Uhura of the original Star Trek series.  Uhura gave Whoopi a female black role model that existed outside positions of service help. It seemed plausible that there was a future where white people could get past racial bias and stereotypes. For a child this kind of inspiration is monumental.  When Whoopi was older, she went to Gene Roddenberry asking for a part on the The Next Generation and thus Ginan was born. She in turn inspired many more sci-fi watchers.

Seeing Captain Janeway on the screen was my Lt.. Uhura moment. As much as I love other Trek characters, there will always be a special place in my heart for the cast of Voyager. Janeway stuck with me in a way that still clings to me in adulthood. I think Trek was the first place viewers saw women who talked less about their romantic relationships and more about the dynamics of their careers and their relationships to the scientific world around them. Janeway was the ultimate role model for me. Here was a woman who was not only a Captain in charge of star-ship but first and foremost a scientist. On top of being a scientist, there was the added burden of getting her crew out of the Delta Quadrant and back home.

Watching Captain Janeway talk to Da Vinci in order to work out scientific problems made my heart giddy. While I never grew up to be a scientist, watching Janeway was the first time I felt my mind was represented in media. What I mean by this, is that while I can be a romantic, what I valued more was my creativity and my intelligence. Janeway let me know that this was okay. I finally felt it was okay to be intelligent first and something that my emotional relationships could exist in tandem with.  She taught me I didn’t have to be alone in my mind, that I could base my relationships off of intellectual interests. To this day I haven’t compromised my need to connect to people in an intellectual level.


Janeway was constantly discussing and debating with Kess, B’elanna, and Seven of 9 in ways that were complex and dynamic and reached past romantic love. These women were her go to experts, the ones who saw her plans through. Then, there was Chakotay, a man who was okay with being second in command. He respected her power wholeheartedly as an authority and as a scientific thinker. In the seven seasons she was on air, her character was never compromised or changed to fit a mold our culture needs women to belong to. In turn, I never compromise my intelligence in order to fit in with what others expect of me. That is why Science Fiction exists, to give us a future that is socially evolved and different from our own. It is the last place where we can hold on to our optimism that says we will one day exist in a better world and in one where we are fleshed out and dynamic individuals. For some of us nerds, Science Fiction is the last home we have.

There is a reason Science Fiction doesn’t get the respect it deserves; it’s trying to articulate what other stories ignore. That there is a place for everyone, that there are people who will fight for it. These are the  stories that inspired millions to be the change the want to see in futures to come.

Voyager may be the least liked series of the franchise, but it will always remain my favorite. There, I’ve said it! Voyager is my favorite Star Trek series and I will continue to defend it until the end.  Many more tangents on the subject to come later. Till then, cheers!

written by Jené Conrad

Using Fear to Prey on the Fearful

“Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.”

Christopher Nolan released this statement earlier yesterday about the “Aurora Batman Shooting,” a phrase that will come to describe the events that unfolded at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado – and will ultimately ruin anything with the words “Aurora” and “Batman” in the same breath. In a neighborhood we grew up in, in a movie theater we have frequented since we were getting rides from our parents to sneak into movies they would not approve of, our city’s safety and well-being were violated by a gunman who shot 71 people, killing 12, in pre-meditated act of cruelty in Theater 9.

That night, the Hush Comics (Adrian Puryear, Panama Soweto, Evan Lowe, Sara Elkhatib, a couple other friends, myself) family were excitedly awaiting the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. We had decided on the Arapahoe Crossings Chinese Mann theater, choosing it over Century 16 because Fandango would not allow me to buy tickets for Century. The reality is that we were very close to going to that theater and it is a fact that I am very grateful for. Unfortunately, we all had friends in the theater and many of them will be scarred for life, physically and emotionally.

People inside, and outside, of Aurora always joke that Century 16 is and always has been the “ghetto” theater. Being the most heavily populated black community, those jokes are always thrown around. We said it when my parents had their catalytic converter stolen from under their 4Runner in broad daylight a few years back. We definitely said it eight years ago when I, a scrawny 16 year old at the time, was stabbed and robbed of my car after a midnight showing of Aliens vs. Predators by a group of desperate kids. But this, this was much worse. This hit so close to home. I think what makes me feel the sickest about it, is that it wasn’t just a group of desperate kids, nor a rise of testosterone. This was a planned attack on a movie theater full of young people. This coward walked into a dark room, trapped and killed defenseless members of our community while wearing full ballistics armor. A 24 year-old PhD neuroscientic, James Holmes goaded police officers with his master plans as if he were Jonathan Crane. Oh, and by the way, asshole, the Joker has green hair.

To add insult to injury, the response I get from everybody is, “well yeah, it’s Aurora.” This kind of this should never happen in Aurora, never anywhere. When I went places today, it was business as usual. No empathetic looks, no common courtesy; it’s like the whole world has been numbed to tragic violence. There needs to be more to this than Facebook statuses and news coverage. There must be real substance in our reaction as a society, not just a gilded excuse to push gun control and political agendas.

In time, our wounds will heal. Just as New York City has with the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Aurora will become hardened from the scars left. After that night, 8 years ago, when my sense of security was violated, my parents forbid me to go back. Understandable from their point of view, but I needed to face my demons. If I allowed my demons to keep me from feeling safe in my own hometown, how much longer would I go on running from things that scare me? It was very similar to taking the same route home from school as a kid, even if it means the school bully was waiting for me every day. To sum it up, I will not allow anybody to make me feel weak, and I implore the city of Aurora to stand behind this landmarked theater, instead of allowing it to wither into a frightening reminder of that night.

I am pretty sure now that, although a superior movie, The Dark Knight Rises will not outsell The Avengers. I can only predict that somebody will trick the ignorant into believing that Batman somehow caused this massacre (much like the way he is accused of causing the sociopaths of Gotham to exist in the comics). I also would like to point out that, at the time of writing, I have not seen any Marvel social media that has raised any awareness of the situation, losing my money and support for quite a while. DC Comics and Warner Bros., however, have been very understanding in the matter, canceling shows, supporting blood drives, as well as showing an overwhelming amount of support from writers, artists and publishers through various social media outlets. What we should take this as is a wake-up call. We have been fooling ourselves, thinking that we can disappear into a digital world, in effect disconnecting ourselves from our community with this bullshit “not my problem” mentality and expect those in power to take care of us.

I will take it one step further to infer that from the ashes those bullets laid at our feet to say that we need a Batman to rise from the pit of despair we find ourselves in. We cannot let Aurora become Gotham City. To give in to the fear is to stop believing in Batman.

written by Sherif Elkhatib