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. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Heroclix Custom of the Week: Illoralan Wingors

This is the fifth in my ongoing series of custom figures I have made or had made to add to my collection of regular Heroclix figures.

In our last installment, we immortalized Green-Hatted Exposition Man, whose transquartomuralistic communications let even the most dense readers follow the otherwise incomprehensible exploits of the Silver Age Martian Manhunter. Despite his extraordinary function, Green-Hatted Exposition Man is the most ordinary-looking of characters.  Not so this week's featured customized character!

In honor of Hawkman's impending return and newfound prominence in the DC "Metal", I give you:


Or as oi polloi would say "the winged gorilla".

Yeah, back in the Silver Age, all the heroes, even down-to-earth detectives like Batman, dealt with really weird creatures, often from space.  How much weirder, then, it used to get when the hero was an actual space alien himself, particularly on given to dressing like a bird and using tricked-out versions of ancient weapons, for no sensible reason.

And the Silver Age penchant for gorillas is legendary.  So it was quite inevitable that Hawkman would at some point fight a winged alien gorilla.  It's impossible to explain simply, but suffice to say the planet Illoral suffered from some sort of reverse-evolution plague, which turned its winged humanoids into winged apes (called "Wingors").

The Wizkids company has (oddly!) never chosen to make proper Heroclix figures for the Illoralan Wingors.  Fortunately, I found a ready-made sculpt that I changed not at all: the "Derhii" figure from the Pathfinder Battles miniature game. 

Other then being grey instead of brown,
that's spot on I think.  And I let him keep the sword, he seems happier that way.

In since the Illoralan Wingor is technically a generic figure that fights in groups...

...I got myself a posse of them.

There USED to be bananas in that fruit bowl.

Even weirder, the best dial I found for them was Marvel's 75-point Jessica Jones:

Which I have interpreted as follows:

Sure, they take up too much room in my Heroclix storage boxes.  But, hey, it's the Hawks fighting flying gorillas, people; it's worth it.  Beside Hawkman's world is woefully under-represented in Heroclix.  Speaking of which, which Hawkman character would YOU like to see in Heroclix...?

Thursday, August 17, 2017


So, ordinarily long about now I'd be posting about something like, say,

"THIS TIME" is one of the most amusing and redundant qualifying phrases I have ever read.

But current comics have trumped that urge. Specifically, the utter insanity that is the whole "Metal" crossover.  Now, there's all sorts of lunacy I could discuss in a crossover that has evil Batmen modeled on various JL characters coming from the dark multiverse on the blacked out flipside of Grant Morrison's Multiversity map to attack our multiverse.

I mean... this ALONE.

 But, instead, I'm going to focus on Hawkman's role.  Or, more accurately, what the writers seem to be using the crossover to do with him.

As longtime readers of the blog will know, I started this blog for exactly two reasons.  One: I didn't enjoy anyone else's blog enough, so I figured I should write one I would enjoy.  Two: to discuss my pet literary theory, the Dynastic Centerpiece Model (specifically, that in order to become and remain iconic, any comic book protagonist needs to be the centerpiece of his or her own constellation of locations, issues, and related characters).  It's not a revolutionary concept, it's not an original concept; in fact, it's rather obvious.  But it's truly amazing how many characters have been doomed by writers willing to ignore it or actively flaunting it.  For a character to have any hope of becoming iconic, you must build a world tailored around him/her, rather than merely trying to fit the new character into a pre-existing universe. 

Not all the potential elements of such a world have to be in place.  Not every hero needs to collect a permanent full set of tropes: The Older Authority Figure, The Junior Partner, The Civilian Love Interest, The Comic Relief, the Ethnic/Other-gendered Counterpart, The Physical Threat, The Mocking Foe, The Intellectual Threat, The Dark Mirror, et al.  For example, rarely does Batman have a Civilian Love Interest (notwithstanding Vicki Vale), Wonder Woman a Male Counterpart (notwithstanding Warkiller), the Martian Manhunter a Junior Partner (notwithstanding Miss Martian).  And not all of the elements used in building a world around a dynastic centerpiece  have to be completely original; they can be ones that were previously unaffiliated but can be repurposed by serving a role in the main character's mythos. For example, to build a world for the CW's Flash, its creators re-purposed, of all people, Vibe (Cisco Ramone) and Killer Frost (Caitlin Snow). Completely ridiculous and counter-intuitive...yet wildly successful.

I've long thought that DC would benefit from the mental exercise of picking X number of iconic characters and then "arranging" ALL other characters "underneath" them.  Some of you are already typing "but but but the wonderful variety and diversity of the multiverse would be spoiled by trying to box in into arbitrary lines of business....!"  To which I say:

The DCU Online game does pretty much exactly that: superheroes under Superman, magic heroes under Wonder Woman, normal heroes under Batman; boom.  Heck, I have to do it just to organize my Heroclix collection.  

That process alone -- organizing my Heroclix collection -- has made it very clear to me how success/failure in apply the principle of Dynastic Centerpiece Model to certain characters has result in the success/failure of the character.  I have to have TWO boxes for Flash Foes. But my box for Martian Manhunter Foes required some pretty broad interpretation of "foe".  The Atom and Hawkman don't even have separate boxes for their foes, and, under a recent effort of get custom figures for some of their enemies, ALL of BOTH the Atom and Hawkman related figures together didn't fill up a box.

But "Metal" seems to be aiming to fix that for Hawkman.  

There is, as I mentioned, a GREAT deal going on already in the Metal crossover (like the Joker trying to save the multiverse).  But, here on one page, the writers have put the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Metal Men (with Will Magnus), Red Tornado (with T.O. Morrow), and, of all people, the Will Payton Starman, under Hawkman's metaphorical wing.  Already all those characters (not among my favorites, as you may know) are suddenly more interesting to me because they are part of a larger story.  

I still recall the amazing period around 2005 when Palmiotti & Gray did wonders with Hawkman and Hawkgirl and their suddenly awesome rogues gallery; but it all fell apart out of their creative hands.  I'm hoping that with "Metal", DC is going to put Hawkman at the center of new dynasty of adventurers.  

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Haikuesday: "Wuxtry!"

This haiku for Rainbow Man is entitled:  


Rainbow man escapes!

Color King uses paint to

free himself and gang.

What haiku can YOU compose to honor the pale oddity that is Rainbow Man?

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Rainbow Man Song

Rainbow Man, 

Rainbow Man

Does whatever a rainbow can

Spins a wheel,


Spinning hues 

with his guys.

Look out, 

here comes the Rainbow Man

Is he smart?

Listen Bud; 

Vigilante lands with a thud.

Can he swing 

at your head?

Give him lip

and you're dead.

Hey, there! 

There goes the Rainbow Man

In the chill of the night 

At the scene of a crime

Like a streak of light 

He departs just in time

Rainbow Man, 

Rainbow Man

Vigilante foe, Rainbow Man

Wealth and fame, 

he's adored

Color is 

his reward

Look out, 

here comes the Rainbow Man

Rainbow Man, 

Rainbow Man

Vigilante foe, Rainbow Man

Rainbow globes, 

he employs. 

Colored lights

he deploys.

To him, 

life is a great big bang up 

Whenever there's a hang up

You'll find the Rainbow Man!