Saturday, May 15, 2021

College Days: Aquaman

Verdict: Aquaman went to college and has a degree.

I'm assuming that my decision on this one may surprise some of you, particular those most familiar with Jason Momoa's Aquaman.

No one can be blamed for being as familiar with Jason Momoa's Aquaman as possible.

It's true; even before Momoa's earthy version of the aquatic hero, Aquaman had always had a more plebeian bent.  He is often seen in working-class maritime milieux, the son of a lighthouse keeper, often disguised as sailor or longshoreman.  We are more accustomed to associating him with trawlers and warships than yachts and cruise ships. 

Unlike Dr. Grace Balin, who's definitely a 'yacht person'.

It's all part of the "princess fantasy" at the heart of modern versions of Aquaman: "despite being raised in humble normal circumstances, I learn that I am special, just as always felt inside, and I'm actually a PRINCE(cess)!"  Aquaman is aquatic Amethyst; it's The Princess Diaries, but Genovia's underwater.

No disrespect to Momoa, but I'd still have enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway's take on the role.

But Aquaman's original origin is rather different.  His father was an explorer and scientist who found a trove of ancient knowledge from Atlantis (although the city is never named) and with the aid of 'training' and 'a hundred scientific secrets' TAUGHT his son to be Aquaman.  Which, by the way, was his NAME.

His REAL dad was Magnum, P.I.

The Golden Age was one of gumption, moxie, and bootstrapping. None of this modern metagene nonsense; you made YOURSELF a superhero, often through arcane knowledge. The Golden Age came down quite squarely on the side of Nurture over Nature.  If Black Condor could learn to fly simply by being raised by birds, then Aquaman could learn to be a water-breather.  

Golden Age writers didn't DO decompression, particularly with Aquaman, who's immune to the bends anyway.

Aquaman (again, no other name) carried on his studies in the sea-bottom city.  Aquaman became Aquaman by STUDYING.  Sure, he lives in a hole in the ocean; he ain't socially elite, but he's highly self-educated. And he needs to be, because...

the ocean is dangerous and ignorance there can kill you quickly, even if you are a water-breather.  And it's not like he's got anyone down there to consult with.

It's not like you can have an Octopus Teacher.

So it makes sense when Aquaman decides he needs to go to college simply to protect himself.

I'd rather like the idea that Aquaman CAN'T 'talk to fish' but does so anyway. After all, it's lonely down there, and you talk to your dog, don't you?

Through some mysterious process that requires no ID, school records, or money, Aquaman enrolls at Weston College for a degree in marine biology, studying under his mentor, Professor Hatcher.  This adventure gives us Aquaman's best pseudonym ever:

M I S T E R   W A T E R M A N.
No first name needed, because Weston is old school.

Note that he uses clothes to hide his 'familiar figure', which (since hardly anyone knows who Aquaman is) I read as "to hide the fact that's he built like Jason Momoa". 

Momoa has a hard time with it, too.

Why didn't he just learn from his father and the ancient seafloor lore?  Because this is the Golden Age, meaning his father is dead, whether we are told that or not.  Golden Age parents were like mother octopuses; having served their narrative purpose, they die as soon as their children are ready to fend for themselves.

No wonder they're so clingy!

I conclude also that the ancient lore of knowledge he was raised on contains no information about FISH.  In the version of Aquaman I'll never be asked to write, Professor Hatcher is still around and he's Aquaman's go-to guy on piscine matters. Of course, my version of Aquaman also has Henry Limpet as his super-pet, so you won't being seeing it on shelves any time soon.

Henry Limpet, your name will live forever;
America owes everything to you.

While at Weston College, Aquaman spends THREE ENTIRE PANELS studying.

You too, can get a degree from Montage College!

That's all he needs to get his degree, I guess.  The Golden Age has no patience for boring stuff; Peter Parker may be willing to stay in college for 40 years, but Aquaman's got aqua-stuff to do.  If Bruce Wayne can become Batman in two panels, Aquaman can certainly get a degree in marine biology in three,  He spends the rest of the story setting records for the swim team and saving lives at sea as a way of luring donations to the college from a sports-obsessed alum. Yes, really.

"I'm a bona fide student, enrolled under a fictitious name and false circumstances!"
"Well... there's nothing in the rulebook that says a dog can't play basketball!"

Golden Age heroes were VERY happy to kick your butt at sports at every opportunity.  None of this "Incredibles" nonsense, they just Ayn-Randed over your face to the applause of the crowd.

So, we have actually seen Aquaman go to college. Even if this story isn't repeated in later versions, frankly, it makes sense: Aquaman needs to know a lot about the ocean simply to live there, let alone do his Aquaman stuff.  It's not really unrealistic; Poseidon knows, we all love Aquaman, but it's not like there are THAT many demands on his time.   And if you are having trouble reconciling this with your modern Jason Momoa version of Aquaman, just remember Jason Momoa went to college.  And majored in Marine Biology.

Friday, May 14, 2021

College Days: Martian Manhunter

Verdict: J'onn J'onnz did not go to college and does not have a degree.

At least, ya know, not on Earth.  H'ronmeer alone knows what J'onn did on Mars, because it simply makes zero sense that there is still life on Mars in the DCU (although maybe this week there isn't, because of, um, hypertime or whatever they are calling their latest hypertimely conceipt these days).

Much like Wonder Woman, J'onn got his civilian life the old-fashioned way: by cheating.

In his original origin, J'onn just sort of walked in off the street and applied to Captain Harding directly, then solved some case he was given and got hired. Which is a thing that totally happened in those days. In comics.

Probably deduced who stole Harding's supersized hoagie from the Department fridge.  Harding does NOT take food theft lightly.

Later versions of J'onn's origin recognize how unlikely that seems to us now, and add in that J'onn just showed up at a police station one day and IMPLANTED FALSE MEMORIES in everyone there that they'd already worked with him for years, which is exactly the sort of typically creepy thing J'onn would do and never feel bad about.  Yet another reason the Identity Crisis windwipe controversy was so absurd; JJ mindwipes people every day and probably has never paid a restaurant tab in his life.

An intermittent part of JJ's backstory is that he was a police officer on Mars, which means he's qualified to be one on Earth (in the same way Diana was trained as a nurse on Paradise Island so it's okay for her to be one in the U.S.A.).  But that kind of implies that Martian justice and police methods are pretty much the same as ours, in which case, what the heck did Katar and Shayera come here for at all?  They could have just asked the Martians.

And boy was Shayera ticked when she found out.

Unlike Diana, however, there is zero way JJ had ANY compulsion to rectify this situation. And if one of his SuperFriends ever had the nerve to call him on it (like Barry-- it would be Barry), J'onn would just say that he knew morally that his time was best spent helping the people of Earth rather than selfishly trying to earn proper credentials for himself, or find some other way to spin it.

Because simply spinning is always J'onn's preferred solution,.

Besides, what on earth would JJ even bother to get a degree in, other than the obvious and redundant criminology?  And the only time I've ever seen him admit that he should learn how to do actual detective work instead of relying on his plethora of powers all the time was in a Sholly Fisch story.

Because Sholly Fisch is a genius
who understands all characters and how to write them better than we do, period.

Really, the only thing I can imagine him studying would be History, since he's from another planet.  

Or Interpretive Dance.
I can definitely imagine J'onn studying Interpretive Dance.

And what's the point of studying History in a world that gets rebooted on the regular?  His time is better spent helping the people of Earth rather than trying to selfishly earn credentials for himself.  At least, that's how he explained it to me...

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

College Days: The Flash

Flash Fact: Of course Barry Allen has a college degree; he's a forensic scientist.

College Days: Green Lantern

Verdict: Hal Jordan went to school but didn't finish his degree.

This one took some thought. Hal is the first character in our "College Day" series not to have existed in the Golden Age, so that's an entire era of 'evidence' missing. Now, I could double-down by re-reading all of Hal Jordan's Silver Age stories for any trace mentions of his alum mater, BUT...

that would have involved me reading all Hal Jordan Silver Age stories, and, frankly, I'm not that dedicated and would rather be hit in the head repeatedly by a yellow lamp.

I simply know of NO mention during that period of Hal having gone to college; please inform me otherwise if you have such evidence.  One of the problems with this is his job: he's a test pilot.

Now, in the Silver Age, it's believable that a private industry test pilot wouldn't necessarily have a Bachelor's.  You don't need a college degree to fly a plane, even to fly it really well.

It's disturbing who they'll let fly a plane.

You still don't. I mean, it's LIKELY that a private test pilot would have a Bachelor's, because nowadays plenty of people do, so surely that would be the industry's preference.  In fact, unlike in the Silver Age, you can now get a Masters in, well, being a Test Pilot.

To get a job with a college degree as a private test pilot with an airplane manufacturer, they'd have to, say, feel guilty for causing your dad's death, or you'd have to be sleeping with the owner's daughter or something.  

But, in more recent times it's become Hal's backstory that he was in the USAF, where pilots get bachelor's degrees in the process of becoming pilots (since all pilots are officers).  He joined the USAF against his mother's wishes at age 18 and then got kicked out for something stupid, like punching his CO in the face so he could go visit his dying mother.

It became Hal's go-to solution.

Which would mean that he was in test pilot school in the USAF, essentially getting a college degree as a test pilot, but didn't finish. So he would still have experience as a "USAF pilot".  

Even though this backstory is a modern invention, it would explain a lot about Hal's life during the Bronze Age. Specifically the jobs he was taking when NOT test piloting.  Toy salesman. Truck driver.  Insurance adjuster.  These are not occupations that demand a college degree (certainly not during the Bronze Age).  

In any case, I'm not going to require of myself that I make sense of a backstory that actual creators may not have fully thought through. I simply can't reconcile whether Hal was or was not a USAF pilot BEFORE getting kicked out. If he was, he got his commission and a college degree.

Even Grant Morrison, bringer of clarity, couldn't make sense of it!

But if there is not evidence in any stories that Hal went to college and his job(s) don't actually require it and the ONLY thing that demands that he get a degree would be becoming an USAF pilot which he never actually go through doing then, I can pretty much come to no other conclusion than that Hal Jordan doesn't have a degree.

That said I'd love to be proven wrong, because I would very much enjoy making fun of whatever college gave Hal "Head Injury" Jordan a degree.

Monday, May 10, 2021

College Days: Wonder Woman.

Verdict: Wonder Woman has a college degree.

This one is tricky...

In the Golden Age--any age, really-- Wonder Woman is from a faraway land that has lots of education but not 'college' per se (and certainly nothing that awards a 'degree').  It goes without saying that in any iteration Wonder Woman, raised with a classical education on Themyscira, is very well educated, certainly beyond the level of a 'bachelor's degree'.  But, in the Golden Age, she actually got by with the favorite method of Golden Age heroes: she cheated.  Because there is little the princess of truth enjoys more than lying her star-spangled pants off.

In the days when South America was, like, a whole other country.

Rather than going through the messy and tedious folderol of getting herself credentialed in Man's World, Wonder Woman simply took the place of someone else who was already credentialed: the REAL Diana Prince.

It's even faster than DeVry.

Yeah; Diana BOUGHT her degree, quite literally.  Because honesty is an alien concept to her, especially when it would stand between her and The Man She Loves.  Now, in fairness: Diana DID have the knowledge to become a nurse. We knows this for a fact because she says "I'm a trained nurse." Oh, wait; I forgot; she lies.   BUT... she invented the Purple Healing Ray.

Which she named 'the purple healing ray' because, unlike Batman, Wonder Woman is not about branding.

If, in five days, you can invent a ray that brings people back from the dead, well, I'm willing to concede that you are probably going to make a pretty good nurse.  

But what about later? When she worked at the War Department? And the Pentagon?  Did she get those jobs as a war nurse?  Or when she became an agent at the Department of Metahuman Affairs?  Or when she was a U.N. tour guide?  

I mean, you don't think they let people without college degrees open mod boutiques, now, do you?

Or in the movies where she's obviously doing prestigious museum work, that must require degrees and experience?  Does she just keeping finding people with the right credentials named "Diana Prince" and buying their IDs from them?

No; at some point, Diana went to the trouble of earning proper credentials (including a college degree) to do whatever job(s) she has.

I mean, it's not like Diana hasn't had TIME to go to college.  

You do know I could post about a thousand more of these pics, right?

Wonder Woman pretty much spent the entire Golden Age at Holliday College with the sisters of "Beeta Lambda Phi" (sic).  There is simply no way that she (and the college) didn't take advantage of that by enrolling in a few classes here and there.  WW surely didn't, ya know, matriculate with a class or anything, but there is no way Little Miss Self-Improvement didn't get a degree or eight in her spare time over the years.   But that's why my verdict was that 'she has a college degree' rather than 'went to college.'  

I mean, can't you picture the panels on the Untold Tale where she corrects all her professors on history, and science, and, well, everything other than ice cream, because she's the g-d Wonder Woman? Of course you can.

Remember, it's been pretty consistently established that (unlike Batman and Superman) she basically has zero social life in her civilian identity; no friends, no family, no commitments.  She didn't spend ALL her free time with a Stereotypical Blind Chinese Sensei/Sage.

Not without snapping his neck, anyway, for being a bossy mansplainer.

SO, although Wonder Woman did not 'go to college' per se, she definitely found a way to get a degree or two along the way, simply because it's the 'have it all/ do it all' kind of thing she would do. PLUS... she would want to inspire young women to do the same.  

Because women deserve greater aspirations than being a fashion model!