Thursday, November 08, 2012

Vibe: the Series

Vibe: The Series.

By all rights, I should be exulting about the fact that Vibe, history's most unfairly maligned of all Justice League members, is not only part of the New 52, not only in the Justice League of America, but also being given his own title.

I'm not exulting not because I am not overjoyed about it; I am. But, quite frankly, I simply consider it appropriate; it is time; it is his due.

Newsarama is, wisely, opined little on the development, having already ruined their own credibility to with their puerile and ignorant comments on Vibe before.  Fortunately, writer Andrew Kreisberg is more voluble about it, and there is much that he immediately gets right in his approach to Vibe.

(1)  "I owe Vibe one." says Kreisberg.  As does all of DC and its fans, Andrew!  DC's first Latino superhero was, on the whole, a well conceived character but not one well handled.  

(2) Vibe is Hispanic.  This may seem like a no-brainer.  After all, making Vibe a non-Hispanic would be like, I dunno, making Aquaman into a sword'n'sorcery title or the Martian Manhunter into a sane person or Green Arrow into a television series.  You should never underestimate just how stupidly and off-model a character can be 're-imagined'.  

(3) "Paco" is not actually a name, it's a nickname.  I almost fell over when I read Andrew call him "Cisco Ramone", since, of course, his name would actually be 'Francisco', but almost nobody not familiar with Spanish names would know that.  Certainly not the boneheads at Newsarama, who could never even manage to remember that Paco's family was Puerto Rican, not Mexican.

(4)  Vibe lives in Detroit.  Look, I've got no big love for Detroit; in fact, I don't know anyone who does.  I don't think of it as some wonderful, under-appreciated urban gem or faded star of industrial past.  It's not special to me at all, it's not my hometown.  But it IS Vibe's hometown.  Paco was a normal kid in a real-world city drawn into the bizarre world of DCU superheroes by virtue of his powers, and nothing symbolized that better than grounding him America's arguably least glamorous city.

(5) There is a reason for Vibe's powers.  The fact that Vibe had powers in the old DCU was just... a fact.  No one addressed it.  The world 'meta-gene' was never uttered.  Was he bitten by a radioactive tuning fork?  Only later, after he was dead did we 'discover' that one of his brothers (Reverb) had the same power.  And no one ever seemed to notice or care?  I can't help but think that even in a world as power-full as the old DCU that teenaged brothers with the ability to cause earthquakes would go wholly unnoticed.

(6) Paco's got a love/hate with a ne'er-do-well brother.  It's one of the few identifiable and unique elements of his origin.  Paco's brother always symbolized the path that Paco rejected, making the tough choices to do the right thing and become a hero.  And for me at least, it's the thing about him I can most easily relate to.

Oh and of course...

(7) AGENT DALE GUNN.  Because that's just freakin' genius/hilarity, people!

Li'l Gotham

Okay, I'll say it, since apparently no one else will:

I detested "Li'l Gotham".

I didn't just 'not like it'.  There are a lot of thing I just don't like it.  Like, say, Marvel comics  But I don't care if you do.  Then there is 'disliking' something;  that's when how I feel about something makes me actively surprised that you like it.  Then there's 'detesting' something; that's when, if you like, it actually makes me frown or grimace.

I detested "Li'l Gotham." 

First of all, it was... soft.  The lines were soft, water colors are soft.  There are many ways to draw Batman stories.  A Bob Kane Gotham is very different from a Neal Adams Gotham or a Bruce Timm Gotham.  But all of them are ... not soft.  I have a big problem with Renoir's Gotham.

Second of all, it was... cute.  Now, I don't need Batman to be always grim and gritty; I am not one of those fanboys.  You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of the "Batman: Brave and the Bold" series or "The DC Super-Friends" book.  I never miss an issue of "Superman Family Adventures" which, while very juvenile, is hilarious and entertaining.  But I do not want to see cute loveable versions of the Joker and the Penguin; they aren't plushies.  Or for that matter Batman.

Third of all, it focused on the odious "Damian" character, a monstrous little thug, the kind of person Batman should be incarcerating, not training as Robin. And, again, making his awfulness ... cute.

Adorable sociopathic children. Adorable murderers and psychokillers.  Adorable bone-breaking vigilantes.  Who buy criminals lunch.  Perhaps I am curmudgeonly, but I cannot imagine to whom all this is supposed to appeal, other than adolescent girls who like to imagine that adolescent boys aren't really sex-starved hormone-addled monsters (like, say, vampire and werewolves) but are rather cuddly sensitive souls who just need someone to love them.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Justice League versus Sandy

Like many of you, I live on the mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S.A, recently buffeted by the "Frankenstorm".  I personally was unharmed and suffered no inconveniences (such as power outage) at home, although, of course, the closing of the entire federal government, all local public transportation, and my nail salon were rather limiting.

During the many hours of enforced home-bound idleness (for there are only so many times one can re-watch Dr. Giggles and Midnight Meat Train), my mind naturally wandered to imagining how events would have been unfolding had this been Earth-One or if the Justice League lived here.  Surely, Batman would have come up with a plan whereby:
  • Superman and Flash troubleshot rescue situations,
  • Wonder Woman in her invisible plane would ameliorate the storm with, say, the Cerulean Calming Ray,
  • and Aquaman would telepathically link the combined willpower of all the citizens of Gotham and Metropolis and funnel them through Green Lantern to create a gigantic wall along the sea to blunt the force of the storm's landfall.
  • Oh, and Shazam might do something dramatic involving lightning.

It would look something like this.  Except much more focused on Hal's butt, I'm sure.

What a wonderful world that would be to live in, I thought.  One where superheroes were on hand to help protect us from such disasters and difficulties.

But then ... I thought some more.  And the Li'l Lex Luthor we all carry inside us started to speak his mind...

I deplore the damage, destruction, and death the storm caused; who would not?  But I am also reading a lot about some of the secondary effects of the event.  People (and politicians) who have pooh-poohed the power of the federal government are re-thinking the need for it in times of crisis.  Important weaknesses in our urban infrastructure have been revealed and the need to invest in and revamp them brightly highlighted.  The potential damage of unchecked global warming has become a real and palpible thing, forcing many to re-assess our committment to addressing the most pressing environment issue of our time.

If the Justice League had been here to protect us, would any of those things be happening?  Or would we, with gratitude and complacence, simply be saying, "Oh, thank goodness for the Justice League; our heroes!"

Like personal crisis in our private lives, public crisis makes us take stock, re-examine our priorities, and make (hopefully) healthy changes.  Like parturition, the process is painful, but the outcome can be delightfully life-changing. 

Invasions by alien armadas and supervillain attacks are one thing.  But if the Justice League were here to save us from every natural or man-made disaster, every malfunctioning space-plane, every unstable nuclear reactor, every STAR Labs mishap...

would this wind up being a better world or a worse one, in the long run?

I'm not sure.