Friday, February 13, 2015

The Harley Has No Clothes

This is "Harley Quin" Month.  Why I do not know.  Except for the possible reason that sexy-time cupie-doll, cutesy Quirky Girls get straight guys hot and sell books.

Well, someone needs to cry foul on this disturbing violent sexist crap, so I'll do it.  

Hey, kids! Comics!

Harley Quinn is a dangerous, murderous psycho.  There is nothing cute or funny or sexy about that.

Plus, the double standard on this is terrifying.  If DC started treating the Joker, Deathstroke, Lobo -- ANY male villain -- as a fun playful sexy symbol, the public would--

well, honestly, I can't imagine how the public would react.  Because the idea that DC would do such a thing is so ludicrous.

Okay, I get it; I remember the '90s, too, and I watched BTAS.  The FIRST time it was on.  And I read all the comics, too.  I don't dislike the character at all.  She's a great character.  And I get how amusing she could be in the context of the show and those books.  

But she's not in that context any more.  And you know what allowed that context?  In BTAS (and associated comics) Harley never killed anybody.  A crazy crook? Yes.  But she wasn't a psychokiller, and the principal manifestation of her madness was her infatuation with the Joker.

Once she becomes female sexy-time Joker (as she has in the comics)....
well, I don't think it's funny. Or sexy.  It's disturbing, like, "modern Japanese-culture" level disturbing.

Is no one else speaking out about this?

Are you? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

He's a Lumberjack, but it's okay

So, it seems one of TV Supergirl's first foes is going to be *snicker*...Lumberjack.

I can only assume that "The Gang" and John Ostrander were unavailable.

Now, not that the Lumberjack can't be exciting.  He certainly is in this clip (even though a strong Virginian accent--"Ah inTEEND to!"-- doesn't really scream Brother from Another Planet); shivers my timbers, for sure!

Actually, he's being played by this guy, Rory McCann, who's some gigantic actor from Some Other Show I Don't Watch.
That is NOT a 'lumbersexual'.

If  you've never heard of the Lumberjack, well... you're perfectly normal.  He only appeared once, and not very memorably  They can't all be the Human Flame, you know.

He's probably just a 'getting up to speed' villain. I mean, it's not like you'd expect them right out of the box to start with some big, classic Supergirl villain like...




That IS a potential problem for the Supergirl showrunners, isn't it?  Not only does Supergirl have zero recognizable villains of her own, she pretty much has zero villains of her own at all.  Or even somebody else's villains whom she's been know to fight. In fact--hey, what they heck HAS Supergirl been doing all these years?

You can just "her foes" for yourself, but most of the ones with even a little substances are from elsewhere (such as the Superman or LSH or Batman or Aquaman or the JLA)

Of course this problem can also be viewed as an opportunity to create a mythos around Supergirl, one that will help solidify her in the comics.  Expect to see:

Repurposed secondary supporting characters (such as Jimmy Olsen and Cat Grant: I'd bet dollars to donuts Cat Grant is there).  Flash and Arrow do this a lot (e.g. Felicity Smoak, Cisco Ramone, and Caitlin Snow, all of whom are lesser-known comic characters NOT associated with Flash or Arrow).

Cast-off secondary villains. Just as Batman offloaded Ra's Al-Ghul to TVArrow and Starman bequeathed the Mist to TVFlash, so too some secondary villains from someone else's rogues gallery will be appear as hand-me-downs for Supergirl.  Most likely candidates are lesser Superman villains, since there's no Superman tv show to save them for and they won't rise to silver screen.  Female villains would be especially useful, so expect to see Livewire and Silver Banshee.  

Reimagined native villains. What few villains that are really Supergirl's are likely to be spruced up for teevee. Simon Tycho, for example, is a recent villain native to the Supergirl stories. I would expect him to appear in some form.  Perhaps Satan Girl?  Oh, and Bizarrogirl, because there is no way they will pass that up.

What do YOU imagine they will do for Supergirl foes?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fantastic Foreshadowing

I'm often mystified by what outrages the internet fanbase (and by what doesn't).  Seldom has that been true than by the underwhelming response to the recent trailer for the forthcoming Fantastic Four film.

Perhaps it just Marvel fans I don't understand.  Face it: the Fantastic Four is one of Marvel's more ludicrous IPs.  Its extremely Kirbyesque archtypes are as subtle as bricks, underscored by their embarrassing 'battle cries', their incessant squabbling, and the fact that their principal adversary is the most laughable exercise in self-parody ever created by comics (evil scientist/evil wizard/evil European tyrant/evil semi-cyborg/evil vengeful college roommate/evil drama queen Doctor Doom).

There are no amount of stories that can make me take THAT seriously.  And I'm afraid of acid-scarred attorneys and unstable clowns.
And jeez can they YAK. Doom's self-referential monologues, Reed's longwinded scifibabble, Ben's needless nonfunny earthy commentary, and Sue's endless inner monologues of suppressed self-doubt are the stuff of periphrastic legend. All they do is TALK, TALK, TALK.

You tell 'em, Doctor Doo-, er, I mean, Dr. Domino.

And the goofy powers.  Stretching? Being on fire?  Being a big rock guy?  Invisibilizing? In the DCU, they'd be in the Doom Patrol, at best.  Or the Legion (like, say, Elastic Lad, Sun Boy, Blok, and Invisible Kid).  The main thing they've got going for them is Sue's force fields (very cool) and Reed's genius. (which are basically Brainiac 5 as a married couple).

Marvel-fans like to talk them up, like the FF are so all-revered-n-stuff for having put Marvel and superteams on the map.  Yes, that's true; they did that.  But don't lie to me or yourselves, Marvel-fans; you don't really 'revere' them. You don't like them or their comics and you haven't for a long time.  You abandoned the FF for the X-Men about 1000 years ago, and never looked back.  

Until you see a movie trailer that tries to give them exactly the dignity that the didn't get in their previous film versions, Something that emphasizes the awesomeness of science and the unknown, like the original Fantastic Four was intended to do.  Something that gives them an iconic significance for the general public who've not spent the last 40 years taking Victor Von Doom seriously.  Something that dares to realize that 'superhero' isn't a genre, its a mode that encompasses other genres, such as a science fiction.

THEN suddenly you decide no longer to remain unseen as a "FF-Fan", are up in elongated arms about the trailer, flame on about it on the internet because it's clobbering time.

The truth is you don't care about the Fantastic Four.  What  you care about is the implication that, after several years of rejoicing that the general public was starting to embrace the goofiness of comics thanks to AvengersCaptain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. somebody finally decides, "yeah, no, we need to sober this crap up a bit before we take it to the general public".  You're mad because instead of praising geekdom as normal in the media, this trailer points at your cosplay out and says "not what we're going for, sorry."
Me? I'm finally interested in the Fantastic Four and I think a lot of other sci fi fans will be too.  We hope to see you at there at the cinema.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

James Olsen, Underwear Model

This,  apparently, is the actor (Mehcad Brooks) playing Jimmy Olsen in the forthcoming Supergirl series.

Suddenly, the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club makes a LOT more sense.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

Hint: it's not that this guy isn't a white guy with red hair and freckles.

Because, after all,  these guys (although white) don't really have the red hair and freckles thing going that (visually) is always what made Jimmy Olsen recognizable either!

Except maybe that first guy.  He was fairly Olsenesque.  Which is now a word.

I don't care whether Jimmy Olsen is black. Or has red hair or freckles.

I care that he seems like... Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen was frankly, a geek. He was a stand-in for the comic book reader, a Superman fan but one who got to hang out with Superman. He had an unreasonably high opinion of his own abilities and his biggest power was lack of foresight.   Jimmy Olsen was a mess, but he was a mess that readers could identify with.  Was he a little goofier than you? Maybe.  Was he occasionally smarter at some crazy Silver Age last minute idea that save the day? Probably.

But Jimmy Olsen was not an underwear model who's two inches taller than Superman>

I'd really really like to identify with that.  But I can't.

ALL they had to do to make this work smoothly was NOT make him Jimmy Olsen. Make him Richard Malverne, who actually WAS Supergirl's love interest.  

Supergirl needs a man like this in her story (don't we all?!).  But she deserves her own, not one borrowed from her cousin's storyline for the sake of name recognition.  It's one thing to do that on the Flash with the likes of Cisco Ramone and Linda Park; it's quite another to do it with Jimmy Olsen, who's know to the entire viewing public.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Everything New is Old Again

The Marvel Universe is rebooting.  The Archieverse is rebooting.  The DCU is, well, 'converging', if not exactly 'rebooting'.  It's hard to tell what 'rebooting' would mean in the modern DCU any more..  Rebooting, in the DCU, is no longer an event, it's an on-going state of being.

Whether hard or soft, universal or partial, continual or sudden, premature or long long overdue--

the comics-based universes are all rebooting.

Comics aren't alone in that; many other fantastical properties, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, The Terminator, and, of course, Little Orphan Annie, are being rebooted whether YOU think they need it or not.  Leprechaun reboot?  Absurd! How could one hope to improve on the Leprechaun series!?

I mean, what are they smoking?!

I have certain friends and fans who are, frankly, fed up with reboots. On the one hand, I feel their pain.  When you've invested so much (time, energy, emotion) in a literary universe, it's sad to feel like it went to waste.  Characters you cared about, that meant something to you are suddenly reset at square one, or completely re-imagined, or in limbo, or flat-out nonexistent/impossible.  Particularly if  you were with them during a period where they had a lot of character development to which you were committed and liked. But, as I was moved to say to one of them:

"If you want character development, don't read comic books."

It's ironic, really, Given that some comics, and the characters born in them, have been going strong (more or less) for some seventy years now, there's no better venue for carrying out long-term character development. Very very very long-term.  In fact, longer than most humans get for character development.

But that can't happen and if it does it's generally terrible (q.v. "Gasoline Alley"). So instead, such characters live in an ephemerium, an eternally renewed present that adjusts its past accordingly.  Retcons-- and reboots when retcons are just not enough-- are built into the very genre.  For example, do you know the original reason the brilliant surgeon Dr. Ekhart wasn't available to repair Harvey Dent's face?  He had been captured by the Nazis.  That's not really an evergreen element in an origin story.

For some people, this sort of thing is a downside of comics (and things like comics).  They want to see Wally's kids grow up and Dick marry Kory. Or Barbara. Or Mary Sue.  But for me, in the final analysis, it's an upside of comics.  Whenever a character's story takes a turn you really don't think it should, one that just changes things too much, or goes too far, or is just, well dumb, you can wait it out, knowing that eventually time will erode it away.  It may be a large and imposing castle of a story... but it's still made of sand, all of which time will at some point push through the hourglass. becomes part of the myth.

Did you read Scott Snyder's "Death of the Family" storyline, about the Joker wanting to rid Batman of the encumbrance of the rest of the Bat-family?  One of its plot points was the Joker doing 'call-backs' to highlights of his career in fighting Batman.  Problem is, this was pretty much only the second Joker story since the New52 reboot.  Plus, how many times could the Joker have encountered Batman in the "five years previous"?  So a vague reference was made to poisoning the reservoir (something everyone just feels that the Joker has done, even though no one has read a story where's he actually done that and the closest thing is the time Cesar Romero turn Gotham's water supply into strawberry jam)

If there is an exception to Rule 41, it's Chief O'Hara covered in jam.

and another to killing Henry Claridge (the Joker's first victim, in his first story).

"If ya gotta go...go with a smile!"

But other classic Joker stories -- the Joker's utility belt, the Jokerfish, killing Jason Todd -- gone, really.  Only shooting Barbara Gordon remained, and that was only because that's part of HER story, not his.

These things stresses out those who do not truly embrace the mythic nature of DCU denizens.  They aren't 'characters'.  Characters have development; characters have continuity.  Batman; the Joker; heck, even Jim Gordon; they are now myths.  Your 'version' of them, the one you remember most fondly, the one imprinted on your brain during whatever your formative reading experiences were: THAT is a character, around whom specific stories were told.  But characters only become mythic when there is more than one version of them.  The Batman of  "Brave & Bold' animated, or the Stupid Bronze Age Batman, or the Adam West Batman, or Tim Burton's Batman-- they may not be YOUR Batman, but that doesn't make them as less "Batman".

Each of what you think of as a character is actually only an instantiation of the platonic form that is the myth.  Each of the stories you read with, say, 'Batman versus the Joker', is just a different way of presenting their conceptual conflict.  This is when things REALLY get interesting, when the characters become more that just literary people and become literary concepts.  Something like Star Trek, for example, was epic almost instantly; but didn't become truly 'mythic' until the Abrams reboot where Kirk/Spock/McCoy/et al.  were finally 'freed' from the actors who created the roles (regardless of how you feel about the reboot otherwise).

This is the aspect of comics (and similar pop culture lit) that I find most interesting and in which I find most value. And, in the long run, it's well worth stories that you love being excised from continuity.  Stop viewing continuity as some sort of Comics Code Seal of Approval, without which a story has no meaning.  Stop pretending that you can no longer enjoy a story if it's no longer "in continuity" or that you can no longer enjoy continuity if it doesn't contain a particular story.  Don't get so hung up on particular characters that you can't enjoy the myth that underlies them.

Go back and read how Milton Fine became Brainiac or how They Saved Luthor's Brain.

I just LOVE that story.  One of the ballsiest Superman stories ever.  And it was NOT a hoax, NOT an imaginary story!

Then get ready for a whole new set of stories that will be told after Convergence.  You are allowed to enjoy them all.  Don't be mad that 'continuity' (whatever THAT means) isn't large enough to contain all the stories you love.  Rejoice that there are SO many comic book stories and characters that you love that there is simply no continuity large enough to hold them.