Monday, May 13, 2019

8 Match-Ups I can't believe haven't happened yet

1. Red Bee versus Killer Moth

I picture a LOT of slapping. Followed by making up and shopping for leggings.

2. The Inferior Five versus the Secret Six

I have zero doubt that the IF would beat the tar out of SS, even if only by accident.

3. The Legion of Doom versus the Legion of Super-Heroes

I assume LoD would win, but only because the Riddler would find some loophole in the Legion's Constitution.

4. Mogo with Mogo

Naturally, they'd be fighting the Planet of the Apes.
You're welcome for that.

5. Gleek with Zook 

GODS, I hate space-monkey-things. Maybe they would hijinks each other to death.

6. The Falcon and the Vulture  versus Hawk and Dove

Before you bet on the heroes because they are 'super', remember that they can't fly.  Air superiority, baby.

7. The Octopus versus the Shark

Well, sure, one is a hyper-evolved killing machine with super-telepathic powers and the other is an escaped convict with an open fish tank in his floor.  But, hey... don't underestimate the power of tentacle hats and self-delusion.

8.  The Phantom Stranger with Secret Squirrel

How they missed THAT opportunity during the DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers I will never understand.

There's room for two MORE to make it a Top Ten list; what are YOUR suggestions...?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Hate-Watching Alex Danvers

I'm not really into 'hate-watching' a teevee show; it seems a little silly. There are so many wonderful things to do and see, why spend time watching something you hate?

SO many wonderful things.

Still, I can't pretend I'm immune to the appeal of watching something because it's ... non-ideal. After all, some -- okay, fine, MOST-- of the movies I watch are terrible horror films I enjoy precisely because of their imperfections.  But I don't HATE them for that.  

In fact, sometimes I am overwhelmed by a near-religious awe at how MIRACULOUSLY bad some are.

And there are shows I watch that I generally like but which have characters in them I can't bear, characters I just LOVE to hate.  Not villains; people you are supposed to like, in theory, but whom the showrunners have made unlikable.  I would mention Iris on The Flash, but of course, she's been supplanted by her idiot daughter, Nora, a character so continually and constitutionally wrong-headed that she could ONLY be the child of CW Iris&Barry.  

My name is Nora West-Allen, and I'm the fastest fool alive.

It's Supergirl that takes the cake, though.  In fact, it takes forty of them. And that's terrible.  Because it's got the ultimate hate-watch character:

Alex Danvers

She's smart! She's sassy! She's spunky!

I'm not sure which one this is supposed to be.

She's a brilliant physician!  She's a butt-kicking ninja!  She's a supersoldier/secret agent!

She's a Brill Creme model!

I (kind of) get it. The showrunners felt they needed Supergirl to have a human female confidante (so they gave her a sister, which she has never had in comics) and chose to make that character sufficiently uber-competent so that Supergirl wouldn't overshadow her.

Unfortunately, despite the continued assertions in every episode that Alex is "the best person I know for the job" and "the most [insert positive adjective of human qualities] person I've ever meet" by virtually every character who's known her for even two minutes, Alex Danvers is a living trainwreck of a human being. 

I think that dress tells you everything you need to know about Alex Danvers' decision making ability.

All the time.  And it's not only constant its omnidirectional.  She can't make decisions in the field, at the office, with her family, to her friends, in her love life.  Alex is in a constant state of emotional turmoil and indecision.  It's like an evil cabal of misogynistic writers got together and said, "We're going to insert a secret asset into the Supergirl show: someone who, at every opportunity, will send the message that women, no matter what their external accomplishments, will always be emotionally unstable and unreliable."  Is Vartox a show consultant?!?

Now, I know what some of your are thinking: "Alex is a normal human, they have doubts, it's great to show that strong people are not emotionally invulnerable blah blah blah."  And maybe you can excuse some of Alex's (endless) stumbles that way.

But it's constant and repeated.  Alex lies to her sister about her work. Alex is dating Maxwell Lord. Alex has trouble admitting she's gay. Alex gloms onto LITERALLY the first lesbian she meets and whine her into being her girlfriend.  Alex suddenly wants children.  Alex doesn't know the first thing about her girlfriend and is shocked by everything she learns about her.  Alex can't live without {cast member].  Alex can't get along with [cast member].  Alex doesn't believe she can help Kara / do her job / run the DEO / make the hard decisions / sleep with Sarah Lance. I mean, who DOESN'T sleep with Sarah Lance?!  

Alex is the perfect self-sabotaging character, because no matter what happens on the show, Alex Just Can't Even Right Now, even when what happens is something SHE fought for.

It's not, Alex. Not if you're in it, too.

Alex Sanders, how I love to rant at the television at you!  You may not be able to order a dessert without having an existential crisis and mental meltdown, but you HAVE been able to teach me how enjoyable 'hate-watching' can be!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Additive Approach

This morning I read #5 of Geoff Johns' (latest) Shazam series (rooted in the character's current cinematic continuity). In so doing I gained insight into GJ's approach to characters that hit me like, well, a bolt of lightning.

How "Shazam Blam" is not the name of some band, I do not know.

Fantastical Shazam has always been an odd concept to try to fit into the regular DCU.  If regular is a word that can be applied to the home of Bat-Mite, Jonah Hex, Wild Dog, Kanjar Ro, Swamp Thing, Starman, and Green Arrow.

Or even JUST Green Arrow.

So just as he did with his renovation of Aquaman, Johns has focused on expanding the "subuniverse" to which the character is native.  As he gave Aquaman seven undersea kingdoms to immerse himself in,

That's for those of you who only saw the movie.

so too has he given Shazam the Seven Magic Kingdoms to thunder around in.

Eh, why bother to come up with a new idea? I mean, what are the odds that the public is going to be paying attention to Aquaman AND Shazam at the same time...?!

This is a bit pat and predictable, but in Issue #5, where Billy's siblings Freddy and Mary are sentenced to death in the Wildlands, a place of talking animals where humans have been hunted to near extinction, Johns does his classic trick of hitting you in the face with something you obviously SHOULD have seen coming but didn't (because he lulled you into a false sense of security by being pat and predictable).

Pictured: Pat and predictable

In the Wildlands, we learn that tigers, having betrayed the cause during the Great Animal Revolution, are essentially political prisoners, considered untameable and unworthy of integration into animal civilization.  Including this one:

Who is cruelly stripped of his clothes (the symbols of being civilized):

"I just had this suit tailored."  There is only ONE tiger in the DCU who would say that (or, for that matter, say anything):

the clothes-conscious Tawky Tawny, one of Billy's best friends from the Golden Age.  

This is a great test passed. If you can't make the likes of Tawky Tawny and Mr. Mind work, well, then, you probably shouldn't be messing with Shazam in the first place.  That sort of inbuilt weirdness and whimsy is part of what keeps Shazam from becoming just another grim and cynical superhero.

And what kind of terrible person would want that?

This is classic Johns' character revivification in action: pare a character down to its core historical characteristics recognizable to the public, embrace those aspects of the character, and built outward from them.  But with his introduction of Mr. Tawny in the Wildlands, I finally noticed something unique in his approach to bringing back characters....

A regular writer working on a such a character usually says

"What can I change about the character to make them fit into our existing universe?"

Geoff Johns, however, asks a different question:

"What can I change about our existing universe to make the character fit into it?"

His approach isn't subtractive (lessen the character), it's additive (expand the universe).  A simple example is "the emotional spectrum" for Green Lantern, which, in retrospect is just a logical rearrangement and extension of concepts that were already in the DCU.  With seven colors. And seven emotions. Because... seven.

Geoff Johns, I publicly dare you to bring back the eight-themed Octopus;
WITHOUT chopping off one of his tentacles to make it seven.

I've criticized GJ for his awkward storytelling before. Oh, sure, there is almost always an ultra-clever reveal, but too often motives are vague and the plot is some variation on 'then it gets even WORSE and now our hero(es) can't possibly win, except, now they DO, for no discernible reason other than that it is time for them to do so, and um, is this story over now or-- OH LOOK something mysterious is happening elsewhere that must be the beginning of another story!"

Literally every issue of JSA.

But with this reintroduction of Tawky Tawny, I've decided to let go of my annoyances at GJ's storytelling. Because Johns ISN'T a storyteller; he's a mythmaker.  He (re)creates the worlds and characters that make great storytelling POSSIBLE.  

People talk a lot about Great Writers and the Great Stories they write and how Nothing Else Matters If The Writing is Great.  If you ask me, great writers (and great stories) come and go.  What do you REALLY remember better: individual stories about heroes or the characters and the world they inhabit?  Stories are told once.  Characters and their worlds, however, go on; I tip my hat to writers, like Johns, who make sure that they do.