Friday, July 25, 2014

Post Batman Day Manifesto

Now, that Batman Day is over, and we're all cleaning up from opening our Batman Day presents and hoarse from singing Batman Carols, I feel I can talk about Batman Day.  Particularly now that I've seen what was and was not covered about it online.

The blogosphere (such as it is nowadays) mostly ignored it because, as has been observed, in the blogosphere every day is Batman Day. 

January = Meth Lab Month
February = :Flout the FAA Month
March = Play Hard to Get Month
April = Youth Endangerment Month
May = Throwing Dangerous Objects Month
June = Paparazzi Month
July = Young Swingers  Month
August = Flout the DMV Month
September = Modesty Month
October = Always Dress for a Date Month
November = Fat People are Fed Up Month
December = Hanging Out With Successful Older Men Month

In the mainstream media, the gist of Batman Day articles was mostly, 'Hey, Batman's still around and currently cool!".  In the geek media, the gist was mostly, "Hey, look how the normals are observing Batman Day and maybe we can get some swag out of it!"

But I don't think I heard anyone express the sentiment I wanted to hear, mostly because Batman is SO much a part of our current culture and has been for so long.  Specifically...

Batman is most important fictional character created in the 20th century.

I defy you to name a more important one. All your private detectives and starship captains and temporary television characters and cartoon figures--is any one of them better known, better respected, better entrenched culturally across all media? No.

I could sit here and MAKE my case. But, frankly, I think popular culture and the media have made it for me over the last 75 years.  Who are you going to challenge it with?

Superman? I don't think so. Certainly he is popular and well known and as the first (well known) superhero,  he is template for all that follows.  But while Superman is someone we can idolize he is not someone we can truly relate to.  In fact, I have read estimates that Batman is twice as popular as Superman, and he certainly is more consistently so.  There's a reason that sales of Batman comics are the yardstick by which other comic sales are measured.  Movies, comics, television--Batman leads Superman, hands down, in all of them.

Mickey Mouse?  Mickey Mouse hasn't been a 'character' for decades.  With the exception of some one-offs over the last 20 years, almost all Mickey Mouse cartoons were released between 1928 and 1953.  "The Mouse" is now merely an icon, more a corporate logo than anything.  Well known, yes, but he has zero literary impact.  Ask anyone what "Mickey Mouse" stands for and you won't get any answer other than "Disney" or "profit".

I don't think there ARE even any other reasonable candidates to oppose Batman at the most important fictional character created in the 20th century, and I defy anyone to assert otherwise.








Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In which I admire Marvel and damn DC


DC asks the question, "Is this character sufficiently popular and iconic to sustain a film?"
Marvel asks the question: "Is this character sufficiently unknown that we can use a film to make them iconic?"

DC is cowed by their trusteeship of important cultural icons and afraid to misstep.  Anything they do can only damage the character's reputation, they feel.
Marvel is content to keep throwing liver at the wall to see what sticks.  "Oh, THAT"s what will make Hulk work...!"  Anything they can do to put their characters before more people improves their reputation, they feel.

DC is afraid to make a Legion movie because the Legion is such a notoriously niche-y property.  I mean, how well can a movie do that's gotten nothing but teenagers in it? With superpowers.  And ethnic diversity. Who live in space in the future.  With lots of relationship drama and sexual tension.  Whose every financial need is taken care of, and live in one giant awesome house with space cruisers.  Who fight crime and galactic-scale villainy.  Yeah, there's no way to sell that.

Marvel looks at Guardians of the Galaxy and says, "A talking racoon! Voiced by an Oscar nominee! The kids'll love it!"

DC inherits a universe that was originally separate characters in their own separate worlds, interacting sparingly.  As a result, each character that's old enough has a grand legacy around them, but they don't fit well together in the same space.  DC inherited characters and then had to try to form a continuous world around them, something they still can't get right, which causes them to reboot every few years, in an ongoing attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable..

Marvel created a universe and start populating it with characters, who therefore all fit in it quite nicely.  Their interaction was their selling point, and while, as a result, none of them stand out too far apart from any of the others, Marvel has a very easy time selling its entire universe in the medium of cinema.  No one seems ridiculous or off-the-table because they are all of a piece.

DC is terrified people will laugh at Aquaman.
Marvel intends to sell people on Ant-Man.

DC is terrified any movie it creates won't satisfy existing die-hard fans.
Marvel is focused on making sure their movies satisfy everyone else.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Greatest Gift is Love

My final gift at my riotous birthday party yesterday was a very special and thoughtful one, carefully schemed by a coterie of my closest friends.

As long time readers will know, one of the (many) things for which I am internet-famous is my richly insightful analysis of the classic Green Lantern story by George Kashdan for Filmation, "Sirena, Empress of Evil", which contains more lunacy in a mere seven minutes than all the rooms in Arkham.

The high point of the tale is when Sirena hits Hal in the head with a brain-wave guided space owl.

Which looks like this, in case you've forgotten.


So when my dragon brother Josh was thinking what to get me for my birthday he hit upon the idea of a customer Heroclix figure commemorating this moment.  With the collusion of Romulan cousin Nick, who doped out the right dial, Josh crafted the powers and power names of the figure, while using Judge Price's assistance to commission Master Modder Dale to create the figure itself.

It was truly the most wonderful surprise gift I have ever received when I opened THIS at my party:


This would have been Kairo's view of it, by the way.


I was uncharacteristically speechless:


That's my happy face, believe it or not.

And the character card was a masterpiece all its own:


I think that henceforth Josh should be allowed to name the powers on ALL Hal Jordan figures.

That's the YGO-054 dial ("Red-Eyes B. Dragon"). A friggin' CHASE, in case you were wondering.
The real fun will be in outwitting that defense and then pelting him in the head with light objects until he's kayoed.


The true gift, of course, is the underlying love that motivated this INSANE effort.  Thank you, gentlemen, for my best birthday gift ever!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"We've all got our faults..."



[pointing to a map of California]







Tim Draper: Everything west of this line is the richest, most expensive real estate in the world: Northern California, Silicon Valley, West California. Everything on this side of the line is just hundreds and hundreds of miles of worthless desert land, which just so happens to be disowned by...

[WHACK!]



Roger Salazar: Uhhh... Tim Draper, the Riskmaster.


Tim Draper: Now, call me foolish, call me irresponsible, but it occurs to me that a multimillion-dollar ballot measure planted at just the proper point would, uh...





Democrats: Would split California into six different states. Millions of innocent voters would be politically neutered. West coast politics as we know it would...


Tim Draper: Fall into the sea. Bye-bye, California. Hello, new west coast. My west coast.

[Roger overlays map with new map]




Lex Luthor: Casa del Tim. Draperville. Marina del Tim. 

Rogersburg... Rogersburg?

Roger Salazar: Mr Case, he's got his own district.





Tim Draper: Rogersburg?


Roger Salazar: It's a little bitty district...


Tim Draper: ROGERSBURG?!?!


Roger Salazar: Okay, I'll just wipe it off, that's all. Just a little district...




Monday, July 14, 2014

Haikuesday: The Shield is poetry in motion





The Shield brings every 

ounce of his giant muscles 

into play, and leaps.  

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Spin the Spy Bottle

So, the latest loser in DC's 'spin-the-spy-bottle' game is Dick Grayson.

Pardon my cynicism, but nothing says "we longer know what to do to make this character work" than recasting someone in the spy-thriller genre. Um... except recasting them in the barbarian-lost world genre.  But that's another story.

DC tried to do this with both Hawkman and Aquaman.  Hawkman used to fight CAW (The Criminal Alliance of the World) and Aquaman used to fight OGRE (The Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement).  CAW had high-tech weapons out the whazoo (including anti-grav guns, acid-bubble bazookas, explosive particlizers, and protonic amplifiers), so naturally they were beaten senseless by the shirtless guy with the mace.  They did, at least have the decency to choose a hawk-themed acronym, so that Hawkman could fight them with less embarrassment.

Stupid CIA.  I bet it's full of GIRLS.

Unlike Hawkman, Aquaman didn't even pretend to need the CIA's help to fight his evil organization of choice, the broadly named Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement. OGRE's fussy about who they work for: "I wish to hire you to revenge myself on those who usurped my father's throne with a democratic movement, and then enslave our hated neighboring country of Backyardistan". "Oh, I'm sorry-- OGRE only does general revenge and enslavement, not specific requests. But we'll send you links to some other evil organizations that do targeted mercenary work."  

But OGRE wasn't fussy about who it hired, including losers like Fire-Haired Karla and the fat perv, The Invisible Un-Thing. (don't ask).  

Now, it's a little less ridiculous to have Dick Grayson as a spy, since he doesn't have Aquaman's superpowers or Hawkman's, um.... wingedness.  But putting him in SPYRAL-- a spy organization that has the word SPY right there in its name, so no one thinks otherwise--has pretty much doomed it to campy stupidity right from the get-go.  Of course, that will be offset by angst of "Robin's got a gun! Will he shoot...to kill?!"

Let's see. Dick Grayson is the presumptive heir to the Wayne fortune, can do anything (he was the Boy Wonder, after all), and has been an independent operator, a team leader, and the partner to the most revered crimefighter on his planet.  "I'm going to join a morally questionable international spy organization!" is perhaps the least credible decision DC could have him make.  

I tell....the DCU is smelling more and more like it's headed to its next reboot next year.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Black and White

White Guy #1
Writer


White Guy #2
Scientist


White Guy #3
Billionaire heir philanthropist playboy civic leader wealthy person


White Guy #4
Royalty


White Gal #1
Royalty/demigoddess


Black Guy #1
Marine


Black Guy #2

Athlete


Black Guy #3


Football player


Black Guy #4
Loud Black Lad/fashionisto


Black Gal #1
Supermodel


Now, I'll admit I'm not being entirely fair. Jefferson Pierce became a teacher.  Marines aren't stupid (that's what the Army's for) and Jon Stewart is an engineer.  Plus, I'm omitting such characters as the brilliant technologist John Henry Irons. 

Here's some balance, then:

Bonus Black Guy:
One of the smartest people on the planet

Bonus White Guy:
Klutz/congenital idiot.
And yet...

I still say that for various reasons our society, even if only subconsciously, values black people for their physical prowess and attributes, rather than their intelligence and acumen.  I believe it's a vestige of American slavery, where slaves were valued for their use as laborers.

You could make a case that:
(a) most black characters were created later than most white characters, at a time when heroes were more likely to have humble origins;
(b) if you start including more characters, such as Steel, in the list above, that the disparity between the treatment of white and black characters diminishes; or
(c) as more new characters are created any such imbalance will lessen.

You could make those cases. But I'm not sure I'd buy them.  

You may find my theory about the ingrained "slave labor values" ridiculous or too distasteful to accept. Okay. Then let's pause to look at the exposed thighs, abs, and cleavage of black men:


Size matters.


Shocking, really.
Oooo, artsy.
Oh, Tyroc.

You almost never see this kind of costume treatment for white male characters (excepting Plastic Man).  Of course, you DO see it for female white characters.  Almost as if our society were valuing women mostly ... for their physical attributes.

I don't mean to make too big a deal out of this.  But I do think it's a real thing, and something we need to pay attention to, lest it continue indefinitely.

You're welcome to dismiss or contest my theory.  But at least think about it, in the process.


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