Monday, December 17, 2018

Aquaman the Movie

I was going to try to do a big post about how fun the Aquaman movie is, and all the parts of it I love, and about how even the dumb bits I was able to shrug off, and how you should see it repeatedly, as I will.

Or do a painstaking analysis of director Wan's many choices in storytelling, mythmaking, and characterization that make the film a joy.

I'm going to do neither.

I'm just going to say that the reason thing film will succeed where others haven't is because:

it's a comic book.

Wan didn't try to rise above that, or be more real, or gritty (as too many DC films have done); neither did he wink and nod and undercut all the serious situations with goofiness as way of parodying the very art form that the film is based on (as too many Marvel films have done).

Wan just unapologetically made the biggest, brightest, boldest comic book he could about Aquaman.  And I loved it.

When you see THAT scene, I guarantee you some of you will get pregnant.
And you will name the child Arthur.  Even if it's a girl.

Friday, December 14, 2018

12 things I like about: Martian Manhunter #1

1. John is black.
'Bout time.

2. Engaging and varied panel layout.
"Over the hill". Oh, Diane!

3. John's butt.
Dayum; sign me up!

4. Martian sex.
Oh. Um.... never mind.

5. J'onn is insane.
Why do we worry about Superman losing control when that's pretty much J'onn's STARTING point...?

6. Diane Meade
I want to marry Diane's hair.

7. Samachson and Certa.

Trust me: details are not their strength.

8. Super-physical ignition plagues.
How long before this is a band name?

9. Detecting and deducing.
Spaceman Lizard Tracks. ANOTHER great band name.

10. John is weird.
Diane could make a fortune doing reaction videos.

11. Martian Social Forms.
Megacycles. Heh.

12. Marschitecture.
It's like the Jetsons and Whoville had a baby.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Gunn Takes Aim at Superman

Ugh. Apparently, scriptwriter/director/producer James Gunn wasn't content with taking Marvel characters, known for taking themselves too seriously, and re-making them as goofy clowns.  

In fairness, it does seem exactly like something Chris Pratt himself would do.

That's fine, perhaps.  For Marvel.

But now he's zeroed in on DC characters, known for holding themselves to a higher moral standard, and turning that on its head.  Yes, James Gunn is making a move about the tritest trope in comics: an Evil Superman.

It's been done. Ad nauseum. And with HATS.

Oh, sure, they aren't CALLING him Superman; we all know how THAT would go over in the courts.

Do NOT tug on Superman's copyright.  Just ask Billy Batson.

But all the signs are there in the trailer for BrightBurn.  A barren farm couple wishes for a child and one arrives from the skies in a rocket, which they hide in the barn.  As it grows, this alien child develops super-strength, super-speed, the ability to fly, heat vision, an affinity for red capes and... EVILNESS.

Super-sewing develops later in adolescence, it seems.

It's already being touted as 'a radical new genre': the superhero movie as HORROR.  Because Chronicle doesn't count, I guess. Or any of the other 1000 films/shows where someone gets superpowers and uses them for evil.  No, I guess it only counts when you can clearly recognize the superhero being ripped off and when it's the good-est superhero of all: Superman.

An Evil Superman! Such a modern radical cutting edge concept! Without the vision of James Gunn, who could have thought it before? Except perhaps... ever generation of Superman writers, ever, in every medium.

Simply wearing that much eye-shadow counts as federal crime.

"Coffee.Black. NOW."
He was originally from OUR earth, in case you forgot.

Look. I really like horror movies. And maybe this will be good one.  But was it really necessary to ride Superman's cape to make it?  If you insist on doing that, the LAST thing you have to right to do is make any claim of originality in that idea.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Some People Never Learn

I haven't been planning on saying much about the Joaquin Phoenix "Joker" movie because, frankly, it seems far too much like kicking boxing a 3 year old girl.  Which the court told me I can't do any more.

Next time, Olivia. And when you least expect it.

However, I can't refrain from commenting on these images from its filming, in which the Joker crosses a street incautiously and gets hit by a cab:

Laugh at Cesar Romero all you want... but HE never got hit by a cab.
All I can say about the Joker's little mishap is...


Friday, November 16, 2018

Riters! Don't be igdolent.

Please be careful when you are writing characters who are smarter than you are.  And by that I mean, characters who are smarter than you are, not just characters who are smarter than you think you are.

This warning applies not only to obviously not-smart writers (like the recent Aquaman writer who made fun of my criticism of his work on Aquaman, only to get canned quickly after when other readers had the same view I did).  It applies also to writers like, say, James Robinson, whose outstanding work on re-creating Starman for the '90s and whose imaginative use of Opal City as its setting can be credited with reaffirming the utility of DC's fictionopolises, and whose work on that series I read faithfully (even as it degenerated into an incomprehensible plot-bog of evil midgets, because, I suppose, none of us were really safe from the effect of "Twin Peaks" on pop culture).

Miguelito Loveless woulda kicked this guy's ass.

That's the same James Robinson who is currently writing what already feels like a 17-part exposition-fest in Detective about "Two-Face versus Kobra" for no discernible reason, when 'Two-Face versus Kobra" seems like a story that should be told in one page and resolved with Delicious Hostess Fruit Pies.  Props to artist Carmine DiGiandomenico; it LOOKS absolutely gorgeous, so much so that I've actually gone back and 'read' it more than once (without looking at any of the words, of course, because only two issues in I've already reached the point where I expect an evil midget to pop up).

Who knows? That's a big place, there may be an evil midget hiding in there somewhere.

This story is the latest exercise in misunderstanding Two-Face and treating him shallowly under a stupid 'face-pun' title (credit where credit is due: "Deface the Face" is outstandingly stupid). But I'm not here to pick on James Robinson for not understanding Two-Face or even for not understanding how to plot.

I'm here to pick on him for not understanding the words he's using.

Batman has to use an ersatz code-name for Alfred as he chats with him from the field, because Two-Face can hear him (credit where credit is due: it has always been REALLY stupid that Batman just calls Alfred "Alfred" all the time on comms, and the occasional stabs at creating a more usable code-name for him-- like "PennyOne"--have been worse than laughable).  Alfred, who should probably just be glad he's not named Alexa, bridles at his latest stupid codename: "Voice".

By the way, Mr. Dent is not 'in attendance"; it's not a dinner party or a theater show.  
Mr. Dent is "present".  

Alfred refers to it as a 'nom-de-plume'... which it most certainly is NOT.  A 'nom-de-plume' is the name an author writes under (as distinguished from their actual name), such as "George Sand" being the male nom-de-plume of female French writer Amantine Dupin. It literally means "name for the pen"; it's not a synonym for pseudonym, and is used only for pen-names. And Alfred is NOT a writer.

At least now we know who is to blame for the character of Magog and why he's so stupid.

Okay, fine: in CURRENTLY CONTINUITY Alfred is not a writer.  

In this case, it's almost as if Alfred doesn't know the term "nom-de-guerre"... which ALFRED certainly does, even if James Robinson doesn't.

Even wacked-out Elizabeth Kane knows it.

Later on, Robinson has Alfred describe 'Orphan' (speaking of stupid code-names...!) as "an ample opponent":

Resisting the urge to make an obvious Rowland Atkinson joke.

Opponents are not "ample"; superheroes are not "ample".

Okay, fine; MOST superheroes aren't ample.

"Ample" refers to nimiety; it's about the quantity or supply of something.  One can meet 'ample resistance' but not have an 'ample opponent'.  Seems to me as if Robinson is just playing horseshoes with the dictionary and when you are a writer for a living that's unacceptable (especially in English, where you have a LOT of words to work with).  

Robinson's--well, I think I have little choice but to call it "ignorance", despite the large number of English words at my disposal--Robinson's ignorance infects Two-Face's dialogue as well:

It doesn't take a day for a tailor to make a 'Two-Face' suit; would it have killed them to give him a Two-Face suit?! You just know he has an ample supply of them.

Not everyone nowadays knows who or what Pollyanna refers to, but it couldn't be easier to look up.  Robinson here mistakenly has Two-Face use the term to mean 'a goody two-shoes', which is NOT what it means. Pollyanna means someone who is relentlessly positive, cheery, and optimistic regardless of the circumstances.  Honk if you think that's an appropriate description for Batman.

Also, in what world would Two-Face NOT choose to use the phrase 'goody TWO shoes" when it's an option?!

I have little choice to conclude that Robinson is a darned lazy writer if he can't be bothered to make sure he knows the meanings of the words he's shoving down the mouths of characters (and which would explain a LOT about how he plots... or fails to). 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Dies With Stan Lee

Stan Lee has died. A great many people are writing about that, about how amazing his life and accomplishments were, his larger-than-life persona, his life-long advocacy for the art-form, his commitment to doing something different with it than what had been done before, his commitment to using the medium to speak on social issues.

Fair enough.

But I'd like to talk about what the death of Stan Lee means to me:

there is now no one associated with comic books...

who grew up without them.

The creators who gave us the Golden Age of Comics (and to a large extent, the Silver Age) weren't comic book fans.  For some, comics didn't even EXIST when they were kids (at least not superhero comics as we now understand them). They brought a world of other literary and business experiences to the table; they had written science fiction, detective pulp, romance, and horror.  They had been businessman, advertisers, soldiers, reporters.  But they were creating comics, not re-creating or merely perpetuating them.  This gave them a freedom that no contemporary author/artist can boast, a long-term power none can aspire to, an innocence none can affect, and a humbleness none can claim.

A humbleness that even Stan Lee -- braggadocious self-promoting bombastic hyperbolic Stan Lee -- embodied.  Unlike many modern creators, he had little pretension about what comics WERE, but never let that limit his perceptions of what they might DO and the affect they might have.  Despite being the central, most visible public face of the comics industry in the last century, he managed to remain always an outsider. Unlike many modern creators, Stan Lee was not a fanboy: he CREATED fanboys.

There are many ramifications to the fact that we now ineluctably inhabit a universe (and inherit comic book universes) made by fanboys for fanboys.  But suffice it to say for now that, with the death of Stan Lee, the previous era where creators made comics for new readers

is over.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Overcoming great fear

This is not an easy post for me to write.  

But I'm going to own up, here and now, to racism and prejudice. Not abstractly, not artfully in that "as a person of privilege I realize that I must be racist in ways I can't perceive" way.  No; concretely and specifically. As in, "This morning I was racist and prejudiced."

I was walking home from the farmer's market (where, I note, while lots of the crowd was waiting in line for food stamps to try to feed their families, I was buying my 26th through 30th houseplants, while swallowing a $7 piece of quiche).  

Staggering under the burden of my floral swag, I was surprised when a tall young black man swung around a corner heading in same direction.  He wasn't really paying any attention to me and there wasn't anything objectively threatening in his demeanor other than his sudden appearance. But I was startled and a little scared anyway and my first thought was; "Is this someone I need to worry about?"

It's not something I am proud of ... but neither is it something I intend to apologize for.  I grew up in a rough neighborhood and being wary was just necessary self-preservation; habits of youth do not disappear just because the circumstances that spawned them do.  More essentially, we are all animals and as such we are designed to use fear to keep ourselves alive.  Despite being social animals -- or perhaps because we are -- we have a natural fear of people who are different or people who are physically imposing (and an even bigger fear when those are combined).  And I had been startled by someone who was different than me (black) and physically imposing (younger and bigger).

Those feelings are natural; but so are a lot of negative feelings.  The impulse to be violent, or greedy, or cowardly are all perfectly 'natural'.  Shame doesn't really lie in having those impulses.  Shame lies in giving in to them.  Our virtue lies not in the absence of such feelings, but in controlling them rather than letting them control us.  Isn't that why the Green Lantern legend evolved? Green Lantern is no longer simply a person without fear... because that just means you're stupid.  Green Lantern is a person with the ability of OVERCOME great fear, which is much more impressive and wise.

So I am not here to damn myself for my own racism and prejudice (there are always people who will do that for you).  I am here to point out what helped me control them almost immediately:

Those. I noticed he was wearing those. [He was also wearing a Spider-Man button, but I've read in the Bugle that he's a masked menace, so that wasn't comforting at all.]  Thanks to the icons of DC comics being part of the common culture I share with someone "different", I immediately realized that this was someone with no interest in villainy; it was someone who wanted to be a hero.  

And that his main obstacle was people like me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stop kvetching to me about the new "Joker" movie

I'll start by saying: I agree with you all completely.  The Joker movie shouldn't be made, shouldn't be made by the people who are making it, and shouldn't be about his origin.

That said, I am now going to contradict most of the objections of people who feel this way.

"The Joker doesn't/shouldn't/never has had an origin!"
Yes. I feel that way, too. We are, however, completely wrong.  The Joker has had an origin since 1951.

There it is, although I can't imagine anyone reading this blog hasn't seen that already.

Granted, it's an odd and unsatisfying origin introduced in a terrible way, as a throwaway surprise ending to story that's actually about some collegiate criminology students and how the Joker got pwned by a learning-impaired gardener.  But that's how it was.  No, they, didn't give him a name; but it was still a very clear story about who he was before he became the Joker and how it happened.
The Joker has been around for 77 years and for 66 of them, he's had a known origin story.  That's 85% of his literary existence, people.  I don't like it EITHER, but it's a fact, so stop kidding yourself and deal with it.

In fact, creators can't stop talking about the Joker's origin.  The Joker's origin story has been retold more than the average hero's has.  And sometimes he even gets a name (usually "Jack" because god forbid a villains real name not bear some relationship to their eventual new identity); the ridiculous 1989 film actually named him "Jack Napier", as in "jackanapes", as in "holy crap they think the Joker is like Roy G. Bivolo."

"The director/actor won't do the Joker justice."  Oh, you're right not oh that's right. None ever have.  The travesty of fat, old, crude Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film, playing not the Joker, but himself in clown makeup (and unable to even produce a passable Joker-style laugh).  Mark Hamill's version who, despite all our fond memories and his very impressively varied voice work on the character, was played mostly as comic relief that simply happened to be dangerous.  Jared Leto end of sentence.  60 year old Latin lover Caesar Romero, whose fun-loving interpretation created the mold for all followers, but who performed in the less than serious context of Batman'66.  Ted Knights marble-gargling version in the '60s cartoon? Jeff Bennett's chortling clown from Batman: Brave & the Bold? Loopy barefoot Kevin Michael Richardson? Nails-on-chalkboard-voiced Lennie Weinrib from the New Adventures of Batman?  Generic Zack Galfianakis from LEGO Batman? Ric Maddox?!  PICK ONE.  And don't get me started on Heath Ledger who simply stitched together a disjointed pastiche of Nicholson and Hammil and got wildly disproportionate praise for simply being better than a Hollywood pretty boy had been expected to do. [Mind you, I am not blaming necessarily the actors here (certainly not Romero, who was fabulous) but rather the director/actor combination: nobody 'does the Joker justice'.]

"Such a film isn't necessary!"  No films are necessary.  Film-making is a business. They are made not out of some artistic necessity but for possible commercial success. You went to see "Suicide Squad" because it had the Joker and Harley Quinn in it. Face it, they've got your number because they know that at worst you'll hate-watch the movie anyway.  The math tells them they will make plenty on money on this film AND THEY ARE RIGHT. And that's why you are terrified they will make it.

You wanted a film Joker who will terrify you? Looks like Hollywood has figured out how to do that...

Monday, August 21, 2017

I made you read this post using Mind Control.

This being the big Eclipse Day in the USA, and me being the biggest anti-fan of Jean Loring, I should be writing a post about her time as Eclipso, DC's eclipse-themed mystical version of Jekyll/Hyde.

But I'm not. Instead I'm writing about something that happened to Eclipso, something that has happened to a LOT of other DC villains: the Mind Control Vortex. Specifically, villains that start with one schtick don't maintain it and eventually the power set just evolves toward Mind Control.

Eclipso started, as mentioned as the Hyde persona of Silver Age solar scientist Bruce Gordon after he was magically infected by the mystical Black Diamond.   Billed as 'hero and villain in one man', Bruce Gordon had to constantly work to defeat his alter ego, who mostly used the black diamond's zappy powers to take potshots at people, including Batman and the Metal Men.

Eclipso also fought a giant red robot named Roger.
It was the Silver Age.

A lot of weirdness when down with Eclipso but the only person he ever possessed was Bruce Gordon.  He was Bruce Gordon in the same way that Captain Marvel was Billy Batson.  It wasn't until the early 1990s when DC decide to revamp his as a MUCH bigger threat than before, one would require all DC's heroes to confront (necessitating a giant crossover, natch).  That's when it was 'revealed' that there were actually a crap-ton of Black Diamonds, which Eclipso used to take over more and more characters (including the likes of Mon-El and Superman), with mystical possession, a.k.a. ... Mind Control.

It was a far cry from his days as Queen Bee's consort:

Queen Bee never really recovered from her realization that Killer Moth and Cavalier were more than just friends.

The same thing, in fact, happened to bee-themed crimelord Queen Bee; when she was brought back to fight the JLA in 1999, she was using 'hypno-pollen' to enslave citizens and heroes as a form of... Mind Control.

What's the point of being Queen Bee if you don't wear striped leggings?!

Another femme fatale, Poison Ivy, was originally just a plant-themed villain, introduced in the Batman comics mostly as a foil for Catwoman in her desire for Batman's attention.  Over the years her plant-based schtick evolved toward plant-men that she controlled and then plant-toxins that she would use to control men (often hidden in her lipstick)... another form of Mind Control.

And sometimes non-men.

Why, it's almost as if comic book writers have an inborn fear of women who's nature-based powers give them the power to turn men into mind-slaves.  I wonder what that's about.

She's not the only Gothamite to go this route. The Mad Hatter was originally a Wonderland/hat-themed villain until the Batman'66 show gave him a "super-instant mesmerizing" hat, which he could use to stupefy victims.

I mean, how ELSE would tiny sissy David Wayne be able to knock somebody out...?

When he was reintroduced into comics in the early '80s, that tech became 'mental over-ride' circuit built into hats that he could use to make people into mental slaves as a form of ... Mind Control.  With which he is now irretrievably associated.

So much so that, in Suicide Squad, he eventually faced off against fellow creepy short mind-controlling person, Dr Psycho.

Gothamites do NOT play fair.

Of course, Dr Psycho didn't start out that way, either.

A lot of people can make human bodies, Dr Psycho.
We call them "women".

I mean, sure, he used hypotism, like creepy Golden Age characters did, but his main shtick was the manipulation of living ectoplasm to create physical phantasms under his power.  Typical weird Golden Age Wonder Woman stuff.  But by the time he was brought back in the 1980s, nobody had the patience to make any sense of that, so they made him just another psychic with the power of ... Mind Control.


Naturally, he has at one point been in conflict with one of DC's psychopaths, the Martian Manhunter.

I'm sorry, did I say 'psychopath'?
I mean to say "telepath".  Of course.

And he's another example; the Martian Manhunter himself wasn't a telepath during the entire Silver Age.  He had some mental-based powers, of course. 

I mean, how ELSE would he get an ice cream cone?

But reading and control minds he could not do. In fact it was pretty much the ONLY THING the Martian Manhunter couldn't do.  Yet, when he was brought back in the modern age, no one (again) had the patience to sort what he might or might not be able to do with his mental powers.  So he became just another telepath, with mind-reading and some degree of ... Mind Control.

That's still an awesome and extremely sad scene, though.

The Martian Manhunter's JLI colleague Maxwell Lord had a similar evolution.  Originally, he was nothing more than a rich man's Snapper Carr: an ordinary man around whom the Justice League managed to coalesce itself.

It's less painful if you can't read what they're saying.

But when some genius decided that having Max being manipulative wasn't enough, they gave him the power to 'push' people's minds in the direction he wanted.  His power of mild mental influence escalated in no time in Ridiculous Power Levels.

IT'S OVER 9000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm calling BS on all this.  Mind Control is a lazy writer's short-cut to making a character comprehensibly threatening and DC needs to stop handing out like hard candy at Halloween. At the VERY LEAST, writers needs to learn to make some distinctions between TYPES of mental powers, like telekinesis (tactile or otherwise), mind-reading, telepathy, and mind-control.  Marvel would have already written an encyclopedia explaining all the difference and powers levels (numbered, naturally), with an irrelevant and embarrassing forward by Stan Lee.