Friday, June 13, 2014

Aristotle, Batman, and Zombie Deer

Now that we've handle the tough issues, like collars on superhero costumes, let's relax into something more 'real-world':

school shootings & gun control.

As I mentioned in a previous post some years ago, I'm from a 'gun family'.  Here, for example,  is one of my cousins. On the right.

He kills wild pigs.  I'm more of "Heroclix" kind of guy, myself.

We always had the odd 'self-defense anti-burglar' revolver in the house itself.   My father was a hunter--a hunting guide, in fact. so my father's office had plenty of hunting rifles. No AR-15s, though.  Really not sure why those would need to be in any civilian home.  Perhaps in case of a zombie deer attack, which is silly, because they only eat other deer.

Zombie deer are just nature's way of dealing with overpopulation.

Plus, I've got untold military connections, which means guns are definitely a thing in my life, so I"m no 'gun-hating liberal'.  But as the Greeks teach us, "Moderation in all things."  And having AR-15s in your house--well, I don't hesitate to deem that 'immoderate'. And our inability to be moderate in a debate where any attempt to adjust weapon regulations is equated with an assault on personal liberty has contributed, in part, to a lot of wrongful and accidental deaths.

The Greeks also teach us that there is more than one kind of "cause" of things. Aristotle, of course, was talking about not news events, but things that occur in nature (such as zombie deer, whose Final Cause is controlling the deer population).  Still, such a concept--that things have different types of causes--can you help you analyze most anything.

And that's the crux of much of the endless debate over school shootings and gun control. Gun control advocates focus on "the material cause" (the gun), situationalists focus on the 'formal cause' (the circumstances of home, school, gun access etc. that dictate the form of the shooting), personalists focus on the "efficient cause" (the shooter himself and why he 'went bad') and no one even tries to assess 'the final cause', because, after all, such attacks have no really point, other than lashing out.

You can slice the types of causes differently than Aristotle does, but the basic problem is that everyone focuses on the cause that suits them best and tends to discount the others.  To take the easy shot, here's an example: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people" is to focus on the efficient cause: the shooter.

It denies that the material cause --the instrumentality of the gun--makes killing REALLY much easier.  That's why we use them, you know.  Yes, disturbed and distraught people can be dangerous, even deadly, without guns.  But it's so much easier when you have them.  There's a reason we don't send combatants into war armed only with a box of rubber bands or a Whitman's Sampler.  Can you kill someone with those? Yes.  But not so reliably.  With so many targets.  From a distance. Darned quickly.

As Batman put it, "We kill too often because we've made it easy... too easy... sparing ourselves the mess and the work."

You know things have gotten bad when I'm using Frank Miller to make my points.

There was a wonderful scene in the "Sub Diego" storyline where Aquaman seeks Batman's advice in how to police a city (in this case, one that was underwater).  Aquaman wanted to arm a police force but was stymied because conventional guns are , to put it mildly, not ideal for use underwater.  I will never forget the impact it made on me when Batman just stared and said, basically, "Your problem is... a city without guns. Imagine."

So, unapologetically, I favor more gun control. Because Batman would.  Just as I favor 12-year-old boys dressed in bright colors fighting gangsters and maniacs on rooftops.  But WHILE we are doing that, we also need to look at the other types of causes.

Such as the fact that the pathological disconnectedness of the suburbs (where the incidents invariably occur) fosters the isolated loner who becomes the 'efficient cause' of all these shootings.  That's why people live in Gotham City.  Sure, you may get killed by a psychotic clown one night;  but you don't have to worry that some kid is going to walk into a school with an effing machine gun and start shooting random victims. You know what the Joker would do if he came to our world? Laugh; then retire.  Because why the heck would he waste time trying to come up with anything more terrifying than that?

Still wears a suit to garden, though.  Man's got style, I'll give him that.

Or the fact that we turn a blind eye when people idolize military service as a glorious opportunity to empower our testosterone with weapons, rather than a solemn duty of trained professional into whose trust we place the nation's safety.  Real servicemembers respect their weapons, rather than use then to gain respect.  We've got bug-eyed weapon-crazy rage-monsters filling our exurb environs--and our military and police recruitment offices--and we just make jokes about it.

We wouldn't laugh if they looked like this.  Not for long, anyway. 

Or the fact that the bulk of the shooters are adolescent boys, whom their schoolmates know are disturbed and their families are oblivious to.

I blame the parents.

Or the fact that we collectively treat Mormonism as if it were normal, instead of the crazy cult that it is and always has been.

from "The Book of Morrison"

Or... well, you get the idea.

We should look at all these circumstantial factors,  yes.  But legislating against crazy is simply impossible.  So when the bulk of these crazy shooters are disaffected suburban boys living in homes stocked with lots of guns, not legislating against easy access to such efficient weapons of opportunity is simply crazy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


It’s high time to talk about collars.

When the New 52 began about three years ago, there was a lot of hype from DC and corresponding kerfuffle from fandom.  Editorial changes and alternations of the characters backstories, settings, and casts were a concern, but those were considered routine.  As discussed before, readers are used to that sort of thing.  But changes in…costumes?!  That’s a different thing entirely!

DC was pretty clearly desperate to fight the ‘crimefighting in underwear’ look, which generally meant:
getting rid of outer-underpants;
adding collars to any shirts without cowls; 
and GELs (Gratuitous Etching Lines)  And, yes, the gratuitous etching lines are... a bit much.

God bless the genius of Yale Stewart.

Fact is, as most comic book readers (should) know, early superhero costumes are based on the outfits of circus performers.  And by imitation, the costume design for later heroes followed suit (so to speak).  While maintaining a clean and classic look is good, there's something to be said for updating ones wardrobe at least once a century (particularly since the circus is no longer the cultural touchstone it used to be).

Everyone knows the GELs are kind of silly and don't matter much. 

Losing the outer-shorts is really noticeable only on Batman and Superman (and Batman already ditched them before the redesign).
That leaves... the collars.

To which I say... GOOD! At last!

Yes, you heard me; I not only don't mind the collars, I wholeheartedly approve and am thankful for them.  Why?

Because decent, classy men wear collars, and I want my heroes to be decent, classy men.  

Let's confine this analysis to DC's six most iconic male heroes (since the rest aren't likely to cause any costume-based heartache in fandom).  Batman and Flash are off the table because they wear cowls and are thus collar-immune.

This leaves:

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
The Martian Manhunter.

Hal's costume has always covered his neck

Not his head.  Just his neck.

So in his case it's really a question of adding a collar so much as replacing his green dickie-unitard (dickie-tard?) mock-turtle thing with a proper swan collar.  

"GOD, my Adam's apple is beautiful!"

I can't imagine anyone not thinking this is an improvement. Anyone who doesn't probably wears lots of turtlenecks, which means his opinion can be discounted.

Superman costume was very open-necked in the Golden Age, in the manner of a circus performer

"I"ll have to use my power of super-lightning-farting!"

In the Silver Age, when it was all much more about being 'super' than being 'man', Kal's sexy sexy collarbone was covered up.

Sometimes there just aren't any cats-in-trees that need saving.

But without a collar it's still essentially just a long-sleeve tee shirt. Which is an adolescent or lower-class thing to do ones work (or super-work) in. Heck, you might as well just have Superman wear jeans and a tee shirt to do his thing.

Not that that isn't really, really hot, mind you.

Clark Kent has always been sort of a 'working man's hero'.  He grew up on a farm, isn't wealthy, has a job that serves as the springboard for much of his adventuring.

Still... he's an adult, and one in a white-collar job.  You may not think that has anything to do with what his alter ego of Superman should wear.  But the fact is, most modern readers don't want their heroes to have the air of independent vigilantes like they had in the Golden Age, when the average man felt particularly powerless and wanted someone to identify with. Nowadays, people taking the law into their own hands is more the kind of thing we FEAR;  we perceive it more as a threat to society than as a short-cut around bureaucracy. 

Therefore, we want our heroes to have an air of professionalism (something I wrote about in my article in Teenagers from the Future, by the way). They are not wildcards in a normal world, they are professional superheroes in a world where Superheroing is a Real Thing That People Do.  We don't want them swearing, or killing people, or making childish quips mid-battle, or any of the things that adolescents thing of as "badass".  We want them to approach their work as soldiers and police do: as a solemn responsibility to do an often unpleasant and potentially violent job for the protection of society using only the appropriate amount of force.  On average, readers aren't adolescents who want to feel empowered, they are adults (or children) who want to feel safe.

So now Superman and Green Lantern have military-style collars to give them that air of professionalism.  So too Aquaman (although in his case, I think his original collarbone-baring shirt has more to do with traditional sea-workers shirts than with circus performer outfits).

Not that that isn't really, really hot, mind you.

Personally, I like my superheroes to look like they care enough about what they do to dress properly for it.  Not like they just threw on tee shirt.

I mean, jeez; even ODDMAN wears a TIE.

I think he and the Batman of Zur-enn-arrh shop together.

P.S.  The Martian Manhunter has been giving nip for way too long.  ANY shirt is any improvement.