Friday, December 19, 2014

Poem, "Apocalypse"

10        Dust blowing over the empty cities
10        Hard as stone the forest of withered trees
10        Mountains of chalk crumbling, the rocks slide free

12        A yellow sky with twisting clouds of poison, sick
12        Clouds that shimmer with the colors of an oil slick

4          The oceans grey
4          The soil ash
7          The breath of life has left them

6          The sun’s color changes
5          The star grows, explodes
5          A world is consumed

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poem, "Most Issues"

13        Existence defined by toil in eras previous
13        Broken, scattered, lost, in an age of convenience

10        A fear of the tide of modernity,
10        Old traditions lost out to new reason

10        Fear of uncertainty, an undertow
10        To take them far from a familiar shore

10        Of the new, of knowledge they make a foe,
10        They denounce with cries of, "corrupting lore"

10        So many childish and pedantic
10        Gnashing teeth, the animals are cornered

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 8

(Continued from part 7)

            When it comes to superhero work there are many opportunities to interact with dangerous technology.  Shrink rays, robots, hacking computer terminals because people think that hacking involves a lot of fast typing rather than just looking up a person's facebook profile and using their personal information to brute force password possibilities in hopes that one of them sticks... I digress.
            The point is you need and want someone on the team who knows technology, not in the goofy weird science sort of way (Atom) and not in the vaguely believable sort of way (Batman), but it a very shiny tech kind of way.  Unfortunately there seems to be some sort of trend I have noticed in DC comics and I feel the need to point it out cause I find it to be a strange coincidence.

7) The Tech Savvy
            I do not know how this became a thing, but it is a thing.  Cyborg, Steel, and Mr. Terrific, three of the most prominent black characters in DC (mostly thru their involvement with the "Justice League Unlimited" and "Teen Titans" cartoons) are all very technology oriented, and all in very different ways.  They are not the only black characters, I have pointed out Jon Stewart and Icon in these blogs, but they are (to my knowledge) the 3 most prominent black characters in the current New 52 DC universe, and they are all based around very slick chrome technology that is actually a rather distinct appearance.
            I haven't seen any other superheroes with that sort of distinct look (maybe the Rocket Reds, Russian super cops who use power armor that looks deliberately cheesy, and while Adam Strange deals with alien technology, he's an archaeologist and is not tech savvy at all).  And when I went look for alternative characters to fill the more tech oriented roll for the group I only came across Hardware an obscure hero from the 90's publisher Milestone, invented by one of my favorite creators, Dwayne McDuffie... Hardware is a black man with a distinctly chrome technology appearance.  So this will be the first category I put in whose entire pool of candidates is African American... I guess that just stands out to me because all the prior categories I felt like I had to stretch a bit to not just have a bunch of white guys.
            The first candidate is Cyborg, or as he used to be known, Victor Stone.  Victor was harmed in an accident and his father used strange technology as a prosthesis to save Victor's life.  Cyborg is a genius in his own right who previously liked playing football, now he focuses on becoming the ultimate living machine and helping other heroes who use technology like his to become more powerful and effective.


            Steel, or John Henry Irons uses power armor.  Designed to emulate the powers of Superman so that he could follow in that heroic tradition after Superman had ostensibly been killed in the 90's (Superman was once dead, and that was considered a big deal) Steel is one of the most stalwart and heroic figures in comics, actually standing in contrast to Iron Man his closest counterpoint in Marvel.
            I also love him because of his involvement in my favorite "52" in which he fights off a plan by Lex Luthor to create an army of superheroes who suck at being superheroes and keep getting killed in action.  There is actually another Steel, John's niece, Natasha Irons who is a more headstrong and youthful character.  She is also a tech genius but more rash and impulsive, she tends to take on the mantel of Steel when John is too busy working on his company.

John Henry was a Steel driving man.
Unfortunately Nat has some notoriously bad power armor designs.  This is the best.

            Mr. Terrific, aka Michael Holt is a super genius who uses gadgets and his wealth to be more Batman than Batman.  His family died in a car accident and overcome with grief he nearly committed suicide before discovering and taking on the legacy of the original Mr. Terrific (a white guy with no gadgets).  He actually had his own title at the launch of the New 52 and it quickly tanked, but I still love the character because he was the thinker/leader of the Justice Society of America comic from the late 90's and early 2000's that I really got into.

He also got one of the worst costumes of the New 52.  Put him on the League for no other reason than he can get a new suit.

            Hardware I think should also be considered, though I do not think he should get the seat at the table, mostly because he has not appeared in a cartoon or other media for the last 20 years.  Curtis Metcalf was a child prodigy who grew up to use his fantastic intelligence and the backing of a business icon to fight against organized crime... Only to find out the person running organized crime was his financier.  While I do think that he is an interesting character, he does not have the presence to be on a Justice League, I would hope that they would give him his own series to try and grab some audience and if he proves to be well liked then have him join a team, but as of right now he is so obscure that even I had to look him up.

His costume is part of 90's comics commitment to pure insanity and his modern look is still rather silly.

            Mr. Terrific, Cyborg, and either Natasha or John would be great additions to a Justice League.  They are all are fun, interesting, and flawed in their own ways and are far more than their race, even though their inclusion in much of the work they appear in always itched me as a form of tokenism (for instance, in the early 2000's when Steel decided to leave the League, Plastic Man out-n-out states, "the one black guy can't quit", which bothered me then and it bothers me now even though it was a joke).  I would really like to include each of them because I like all of them and want them to continue to be cool characters beyond the demographic appeal.

(Continued in part 9)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 7

(Continued from part 6)

            The Justice League also tends to showcase lesser known heroes with zany powers/premises because that strangeness adds many options to adventuring possibilities.  You want someone whose whole deal is to make people go, "Wait, they do what?"

 6) Goofy Mad "Science"
            This is where the Flash comes in for the typical team, Barry "CSI" Allen is the one in circulation currently (even though he died in 1985... Geoff Johns can't let anyone stay dead and keeps using fanboy necromancy to bring them back).  Barry is also the star of the current FlashTV show and is present for most of the sheer madness that the Flash is known for, like a time traveling treadmill.  He is a boring nice guy who is also boring, a strange combination, at least Wally West (the Flash that followed Barry) was not as smart but much funnier.

Gotta Go Fast.  Gotta Go Fast.  Gotta Go Faster.  Faster.  Faster.  Faster, Faster, Faster!
Wait, I am thinking of someone else.
            Flash is paired off with Vibe on the current Canadian Justice League.  And I have no trouble with Vibe taking the second slot.  Vibe started out in the 80's as an attempt to make the DC universe more diverse, he was mostly known for break dancing and talking in a hilariously racist accent.  The way they altered Vibe's persona and abilities is pretty cool, originally he could just create vibrations to cause earthquakes, now he vibrates in strange frequencies that lets him disrupt electrical equipment or attack, and rather than being a racial stereotype who is arrogant but not competent, instead he is a cool rookie character, eager to learn and proud to be a part of the team.  Geoff Johns took a stupid racial character that bordered on minstrel show and turned him into a cool guy with unique powers... one of the few wins I will give to the New-52 universe.

Baby I'm just gonna Shake, Shake, Shake... Shake it off!
No, wait, wrong person again.
            BUT, who is number 3?  There are some potential candidates easily filling the role of the Flash... or there would have been in the old DC, New 52 though... Not so much.  No Jesse Quick, no Wally West, and no Max Mercury.

            So now (as the inclusion of Vibe indicates) this role is more about having weird powers that are sort of super science-ish?  And maybe just emphasize how different they are.  Not all leagues will have their own guy with super speed to work with, but each will have a bit of a wild card, in this instance I think it should be The Atom, Ryan Choi.  His powers are about size changing.  Choi was killed unceremoniously in the old DC continuity, and undoing that was another big win for the New 52, being an Asian character that has nothing to do with kung fu already puts him into a unique position in the universe, and he is a legacy character (carrying on the role of Atom from Ray Palmer) in the New 52, legacy characters have become much rarer because they regressed the universe, so Ryan is set apart.

Particle Man.  Parti--  Wait, that song if definitely unrelated.
            Vibe is about vibrations, Flash is about speed, and Atom is about being really tiny.  They all have there own thing that fits into zany powers derived from mad "science".

(Continued in part 8)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 6

(Continued from part 5)

            The Justice League is a gathering of the top skills in the DC Universe, brought together to face things ranging from psychos out of Gotham City, Giant Robots from Metropolis, Mythic creatures like Cyclopes and Minotaurs, and Aliens with complex politics and strange ways.  But sometimes stuff gets really weird and suddenly you need access to a witch, wizard, warlock, demon, or angel to help plug up the gate to hell that has just opened.  Who are the best candidates for this roll?  I am going to introduce a lot of characters I imagine most people have never heard of.  Welcome to the world of the mystic.

5) The Mystic
            This character exists to hit on the occult side of magic.  While a character like Wonder Woman fights gods and monsters from mythology these guys fight demons, witches, vampires, and the like.  While there are dozens of these types of characters (though which ones exist in the 52 universe is anyone's guess), I think the obvious candidates would be Jason Blood, Zatanna, Zauriel, Raven, and Doctor Fate.
            Jason Blood was a knight of the Round Table (this is his origin story told during the cold open of an episode of "Justice League") and betrayed King Arthur for the love of a demonic woman who then killed him with a venomous kiss.  The Wizard Merlin was so hurt by the betrayal that he decided death was too good for the treacherous twit and bound Jason's soul to Etrigan the Rhyming Demon (though his rhyming is rarely played up outside of comics, it's hard to fit the rhythm of it into a fight scene, when it works though it really works).  This binding brought Jason back to life and made him immortal, he also has the unfortunate moral question of having to turn into the demon in order to try and fight greater evils, but since Etrigan is hard to control this is a gamble.  He is a frequent ally of Batman and has been on a Justice League before under the leadership of Nightwing.  "Gone, Gone, The Form of Man, Rise the Demon, Etrigan!"

Etrigan has tried and failed to conquer hell before.
            Zatanna is on the current Justice League Dark and has a long standing history of being in the Justice League, appearing as part of Batman's various love interests, and generally being a cool character.  Her gimmick, that she says words backwards in order to cast a spell really only works in a comic book, as reading the backwards speak can allow you to decipher what it is she is saying, "srewolf otni nrut snug" becomes "guns turn into flowers", but in my opinion it doesn't work in cartoons or audio because you could literally put any gibberish in there, and there would be no way to check the work.  Either way she is a strong character to be in there.  (She was also featured as a main character in the "Young Justice" Cartoon).

Much Like Power Girl, Zatanna's costume is sexy to the point of overshadowing her as a character,
but she is a good character.
            Zauriel is an angel that fell to Earth in order to date a woman he fell in love with, he also helped the Justice League stop an invasion of Earth by a legion of rogue angels who were preparing to pull a coup de tat on God.  Those angels failed to defeat the Justice League and Zauriel joined the team specifically to be the team's adviser in occult matters.  And when atomic war threatened to end Earth he called on the army of angels in heaven to stop the annihilation of human kind.  Zauriel has some things on his side, aside from being a romantic noble character with a an interesting look and a sort of distinct place in DC as the most Christian of all the characters.  He also has the distinction of being invented by my favorite comic writer, Grant Morrison.

He looks like the cover of an 80's rock album.
            Raven, being one of the core members of the "Teen Titans" hardly needs an introduction.  she is the half demon daughter of Trigon, one of the biggest bads in the DC universe.  Her powers manifest as a telekinetic shadow that she can shape like a Green Lantern construct, use to enter the neither world, or teleport around terra firma.  Her powers are controlled by emotion so she is constantly using meditation to keep them in check against her thinly veiled demonic rage which could crack the world.  She is a great kill-joy character and adds a unique character trait to a group she is on: sullen-for-a-good-reason. "Azarath Metrion...ZINTHOS!"

Also a character made famous by a well done cartoon, "Teen Titans".
            Then there is Doctor Fate, a character I both love and hate.  What and who he is varies based on what version of DC you are in, sometimes he is a spirit that lives in a helmet and takes over the mind of whomever dons the helmet, in other continuities the helmet is merely a tool that can be worn by any magic user of capable enough skill and allows them to access the knowledge and spell casting power of all those who have worn it.  Either way works for story reasons and since the helmet is more the character than anything else you could give it to a new character, hell finding a new Doctor Fate could be the first mission for the team allowing them to fight the numerous bad guys who want the helmet for their own use (or to put in a concrete box somewhere so they won't have to deal with Fate ever again).

I also think this is one of those slots that should be filled by a minority woman.
Cause there are not a lot of them doing stuff in DC.
            There is another guy, John Constantine.  He has appeared in live action mainstream TV and could be considered one of the most prominent characters in circulation, like Green Arrow and Flash.  In my opinion I was shocked they brought him into this universe.  His stories are more dialogue focused and I could more easily see him and Swamp Thing teaming up to call Neil Gainman's Dream an emo.  Rather than be on or lead a team with superheroes.  Then again, Justice League Dark never appealed to me, maybe his could be great, but I think that everything he does can be done by Jason Blood  who I am also not picking.

A guy who references felching shouldn't be in mainstream comics (IMHO).
            If I were to make a final decision, Zatanna, Raven, and a new Doctor Fate would be who I would go for.

(Continued in part 7)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 5

(Continued from part 4)

            Now that I have talked about the big three of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, I will continue into the other typical slots for the Justice League, and one of the big traditional parts of the group has been the inclusion of a Green Lantern, a space cop with a magic ring that can create green force fields in the shape of anything the wearer can think of.  They are chosen for their great willpower (courage) and are pretty cool in their own right, because rings of power are awesome.  Especially when colorful and worn to fight evil aliens.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!!!

4) The Lanterns
            This is pretty easy, Earth has 5 Green Lanterns just pick 3 of them.  And let me bring up this gripe: Can we get a girl in this category?  Why is there no female Green Lantern?  And Aliens do not count.  Whatever.
            I find the latest addition to the ranks, Simon Baz to be 'meh'.  I have yet to really dive into his stories having heard that he was some kind framed for a crime and is now trying to clear his name... Which I would just show everyone that I have a Green Lantern ring and say something to the effect of, "I am gonna go play Captain Kirk, you all can stew in your Earthly bullshit while I bang beautiful blue skinned women out among the stars while kicking space pirates in the teeth with a magic force field.  PEACE."  But since Simon is a dipshit he decides to hang out on Earth for... Reasons.  His mask looks really stupid, and the fact that he carries a handgun is also stupid.  That being said he should probably be on team just to give him some time and space to develop in relation to other heroes.  I want to give him a fair shake, and a chance to not wear a stupid mask and carry a gun that would be meaningless to the sorts of alien monsters he fights with his magic ring.

I actually cited this guy's design as one of the big issues I take with New 52.  That being said, maybe he can be fixed.
            An obvious pick is Jon Stewart, who is popular from the "Justice League" cartoon that was on thru the 2000's.  I would go so far as to say that more people know of him as the Green Lantern than any of the others because of his involvement with the series.  While the comic iteration is very different and responsible for some of the worst decisions any superhero has ever made including the complete destruction of a planet (on two occasions) he shows remorse and aspires to be a better person.  Jon illustrates one of the harsher personality types that get Green Lantern rings: a will to do good, but also hard headed and prone to catastrophic failure when that hard headedness picks the wrong plan to go forward with.  John has his own fan base, and is a good pick to be an icon of the DC Universe.

He is also a Marine, making him one of the very few superheroes with a military background.
            Now to pick between the other three: Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, and Guy Gardener.  Kyle, being my favorite should be the shoe in, as he is a young artistic character that started at the bottom of the hero latter, getting recruited in a back alley while his buddy was 10 feet away puking.  Kyle attained godhood and then used that power to remake the Green Lanterns and then joined back up as a rank and file member designated "Torchbearer" to mark his importance to the rest for his service... unfortunately DC turned Kyle into some kind of rainbow god, like he just unlocked the Elements of Harmony, so even though he was the last and greatest Lantern of the universe for decades, and was the only Lantern for a generation of readers (myself included) he is now kind of out of play for being too epic.

He actually had several uniforms while in service, aside from the wide mask his costume is most in flux.
Kyle is most known for his elaborate constructs.  The character was an artist and that allowed the writers and creators of the comic to justify massive and elaborate things from giant gorillas, to teddy bears, sumo wrestlers, power armor... it made the stories a lot of fun to read, and I imagine very fun to work on.  To see some examples, follow this link.
            On the other end of the scale is Guy, a hard drinking, thick skulled, and comically dickish character that is a hell ton of fun to have on any team because he adds to the dynamic, rather than filling a role.  He countermands orders, he questions authority, and he gets shit DONE.  He was a big wheel in the last season of "Batman: Brave and the Bold" and is mostly seen as the dirty cop who does the jobs no one else will take by the Guardians (the leaders of the Lantern Corp) so it tickles me to think of guy getting stuck on Earth while the other choice, Hal Jordan (one of the most boring characters in DC) is off in space trying to do... stuff, mostly politics involving the various other Lanterns, the Reach, and other space crap that no casual reader could ever hope to keep up with.

He especially doesn't get along with... Everyone...
            So we have Jon Stewart, Simon Baz, and Guy Gardener (who I like to think was sent to Earth by the Guardians with a note saying, "We hope he doesn't fuck anything up too much"). 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 4

(Continued from part 3)

            As discussed before there will be 3 teams, based around the "Truth, Justice, and the American Way (Liberty)" tagline used for Superman (and by extension the DC universe as a whole).  Since Wonder Woman has a lasso of Truth, she will lead the Truth Team.  Batman is always banging on about Justice, so he will lead the Justice Team.  Superman will be taking Liberty Team, because that is actually what fits him the best.  So each will lead their own team, but will need members to fill in for the others, Batman might need a flying super strong alien or a hero familiar with the magic of the Greek gods for instance, and Wonder Woman might need a ninja detective.  So we will need to grab characters that can fill these heroes roles and work well with others.  Today is the role of Wonder Woman.

I am actually not the biggest fan of this character, but I know that she is an important part of the mythos, and has a lot of appeal to a very wide audience.
3) The Wonder Women (Leader of Team Truth)
            This one I actually feel is less about the "Woman" part and more about the connection to mythic aspects, you know, the "Wonder".  To that end I think that Billy and Mary Batson, or as they are known Captain Marvel and his sister Mary Marvel should fill the role of super strong magical person who has access to Greek gods.  (I wrote a long blog explaining who the character was a couple years ago before he underwent a make-over for New 52.  There is also a video by internet personality, Moviebob on the topic).

He is probably the best metaphor for superheroes in existence.
            For those who do not know, Billy Batson was an orphan who was summon to the mythical Rock of Eternity by the Wizard SHAZAM, and given the ability to transform into the mightiest of mortals whenever he cried out the name of the wizard.  He later discovered his long lost sister Mary and she too managed to gain the power of the wizard (along with a whole cast of characters).  He is most notable for at one time being the best selling super hero in the world to the point his company was sued by DC because he looked too much like Superman (I even listed him as a Superman knock off above).  But really he is not all that like Superman in my opinion aside from design, and to be clear, cape and tights was pretty common at the time, and flight and super strength are so common that it is a running joke in the comic "PS238" (I consider "PS 238" to be a must read, the characters are rich and fun to read, almost all of it is online and hard bound versions are available for the collector, please do read it).

Mary is consistently one of the most fun characters around, and when she and the rest of the Marvel Family (a pantheon of Children and Teens) appeared in costume in the New 52 it was one of the coolest turns a story has taken so far in New 52.
            The Marvels connection to a broader mythic universe much like the Island of the Amazons for Wonder Woman is what matters.  There is another possibility if you wanted to play up the Woman aspect of this category, Power Girl, but she is not mythic, and does not exist in New 52 in the same way she did in the old universe, having replaced her keen scientific and business skills with... using her sexuality to seduce Mr. Terrific to steal tech from him; which is probably the most damn argument against the New 52 as they turned a fun and sexy super heroine into one that was more conservatively dressed, but acted like a floozy.

Shockingly, in spite of her costume being far more conservative, her character is much thinner and shit.
This iteration from the 2000's is a fantastic character.  Smart, funny, and with the wisdom of a leader.  Her comic was full of fun and adventure and strange space age concepts.  I am sad that she no longer exists.
            There is also Donna Troy, who used to be Wonder Girl and became a super heroine in her own right, she has Wonder Woman's powers, with a magic lasso that gives her mind control rather than truth powers.  Unfortunately like Power Girl her place in the New 52 is uncertain, she is alluded to but has made no appearance, even though she would have worked a lot better in some recent stories than other characters.

Goodbye other cool character.  I am sorry that the world seems to not long for your type.

(Continued in Part 5)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 3

(Continued from part 2)

            As discussed before there will be 3 teams, based around the "Truth, Justice, and the American Way (Liberty)" tagline used for Superman (and by extension the DC universe as a whole).  Since Wonder Woman has a lasso of Truth, she will lead the Truth Team.  Batman is always banging on about Justice, so he will lead the Justice Team.  Superman will be taking Liberty Team, because that is actually what fits him the best.  So each will lead their own team, but will need members to fill in for the others, Batman might need a flying super strong alien or a hero familiar with the magic of the Greek gods for instance, and Wonder Woman might need a ninja detective.  So we will need to grab characters that can fill these heroes roles and work well with others.  Today is the role of Batman.

You all know who this is.
2) The Batmen (Leader of Team Justice)
            Batman actually has dozens of Batmen operating all over the world as part of his private security company "Batman Inc" and most would be worthy candidates, but I think there are two that are ahead of the pack for becoming members of the Justice League alongside Bruce Wayne.  Nightwing, the original Robin who is arguably the coolest and most fun character in DC (and aside from Gambit is considered to be one of the most attractive comic book characters to straight females and gay men), the other is Batwoman, who I am partial to because of her involvement in "52" my favorite comic ever, and that she does well sustaining her own comic line just like Nightwing.

If there is an abdominal workout, I am sure he has mastered it.
Why they both have red outfits currently is anyone's guess.
            This is an easier category to solve.  The only objection people might have is that Batwoman is not Batgirl, Barbara Gordon.  Why did I leave out the most iconic woman to ever dress like Batman?  Because until the start of New 52 Barbara was a different hero, Oracle and was in a wheelchair.  Barbara was one of the few superheroes in DC comics that had a significant disability but still used her skills and knowledge to help people.  Oracle was a member of the Justice League in the late 90's and early 2000' and operated her own super team called the Birds of Prey; most notably she appeared in the Arkham video games.  In my opinion, Oracle is her most iconic role in the DC universe.  This regression is one of the bigger issues I had with the New 52 universe.  I don't want her to be Batgirl, So I am not going to put her on a Justice League.

Yes, I was shot in the spine by the Joker.  Now I manage my own superhero team.

Her being returned to active duty smacks again of Geoff Johns'-esc rebooting for no good reason.
(Continued in Part 4)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 2

(Continued from part 1)

            As discussed before there will be 3 teams, based around the "Truth, Justice, and the American Way (Liberty)" tagline used for Superman (and by extension the DC universe as a whole).  Since Wonder Woman has a lasso of Truth, she will lead the Truth Team.  Batman is always banging on about Justice, so he will lead the Justice Team.  Superman will be taking Liberty Team, because that is actually what fits him the best.  So each will lead their own team, but will need members to fill in for the others, Batman might need a flying super strong alien or a hero familiar with the magic of the Greek gods for instance, and Wonder Woman might need a ninja detective.  So we will need to grab characters that can fill these heroes roles and work well with others.  Today is the role of Superman.

1) The Supermen.
            Superman is one of the most copied characters in fiction, I can name 8-9 versions of the character off the top of my head (Sentry, Omni Man, Apollo, Gladiator, Mr. Majestic, Icon, Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel, Hyperion, Centurion, Samaritan, and arguably Thor and Martian Manhunter... 13) but since we already have Superman himself for a team now we just need 2 more.  So lets look at the 13 I picked and knock out any not from DC leaving us with Apollo, Icon, and Martian Manhunter.

In the New 52 universe Superman is much younger and more alienated from the rest of the world.
            Icon is an alien that fell to Earth back in the 1600's as was transformed to look like a human so as to pass in the world, he is virtually immortal and lived his life as a normal person until he was discovered to have powers by his current sidekick, Rocket, and convinced to be a hero.  He was also featured in the "Young Justice" cartoon show, which I love.

He was created by one of my favorite writers of comics, Dwayne McDuffie,
            Apollo is a genetic super being powered by the sun and was part of the "WildStorm" comics company and is not really tied into the regular DC universe.  His biggest feature was in a book called "The Authority" in which he killed super villains by the bus load and married his long term boyfriend Midnighter (who is himself a much more violent interpretation of Batman).

He would add some diversity in that he is a married gay man.  But since he uses lethal force regularly, he is not a good fit.
            Martian Manhunter was the last of the Martians, formally their societies version of a police officer he was brought to Earth by a scientist who was studying teleportation.  He is a shapeshifter, so J'onn J'ozz took on human form of John Jones and became a police officer on Earth.

He was a main character of the "Justice League" cartoon from a decade ago and was featured on "Young Justice".
            I think the best pick for this group should all be aliens because it opens up the story telling to include more extra-Earth threats, and allows for more general alien weirdness (though the New 52 has tried hard to make things very bland).  Icon, Martian Manhunter, and Superman are the 3.  Apollo will have to resign himself to the team he is already on, Stormwatch.

(Continued in part 3)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Let's make some Justice Leagues, part 1

            Currently DC comics (which I remind you, the 'C' in DC stands for 'Comics') is in a bit of twist.  about 3 years ago they decided to do a bold reinvention of their old line of comics to bring them into the modern era, called "The New 52" drawing its name from my favorite comic series of all time "52", and is totally unrelated to that piece of art.
            In my opinion the New 52 was a terrible move.  It has done nothing to make DC more accessible.  It is a darker, edgier, more boring iteration of what had already been done.  With the exception of Batman and Green Lantern pretty much everyone was rest to their 60's self and vast amounts of history was confusingly rewritten.
            Many characters I liked, Power Girl, Wally West, and the Justice Society were pushed out, and while there were some new takes on old idea "Demon Knights", "Dial H for Hero", and "Animal Man" all being good examples... I cannot emphasize enough how all of their stories could have been told without the New 52 rewrite of DC.  I dislike a lot of the costumes too.

I especially hate this idiot's mask and the fact that he carries around a gun.  He has a Green Lantern ring... and carries a gun.
            DC in many ways invented the classic and modern idea of a Superhero Team idea with the All Star Squadron/Justice Society in the 40's and Justice League in the 50's/60's.  The success of the later book spurred the editorial decision to create the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Avengers over at Marvel's house of ideas.
            Currently in the New 52 universe there are 3 Justice Leagues, the classic which is made up of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and... Cyborg (because, and I am certain of this, they wanted a black character and due to the success of the Teen Titans cartoon he was the most known).
            The other two teams are Justice League Canada, a publicity stunt by a secret organization so they could fight the main League should it ever come to it, and Justice League Dark, which as a lot of magical heroes and they fight magic things.  There was a 4th, Justice League International, but since it was about lesser known heroes, wasn't written by Geoff Johns (love him, really, but might be getting a bit too much of him), and JLI a lighter tone, so it got the ax after desperately trying to get attention by killing characters out of nowhere and failing to attain profundity for the cynical effort.

Also, for some stupid reason they spend agonizing amounts of time fighting each other rather than bad guys.
Cause... I don't know.
            I find this to be a strange mismanagement of the property, if you want multiple Leagues to serve as major titles for your books why not make them more deliberately and with less cynicism.  How would you do this?  I will show you.
            The basic group should have 7 core members, any larger and characters will not have enough panels to tell their stories, or it becomes more of a FEATURING title which has a guest star show up each issue for an adventure (that title also already exists, it is called "The Brave and the Bold", and is now defunct for some reason).  The 7 members should try to capture a broad collection of skills, powers, and personalities.... What I am saying is, you need a Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman on each team, plus four others to round things out.

Truth, Liberty, and Justice.  They are the iconic characters of the universe, so we use them as such.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My thoughts on "Interstellar" (Spoilers-ish)

            In "Interstellar" aliens or highly evolved beings (think the Prophets from Star Trek) create a wormhole in our solar system to help humanity escape as ecological plague is destroying the Earth's ability to cultivate human life.  Using NASA's last hail Mary pass a crew sets out with an incubation system able to create hundreds of test tube babies on one of the worlds beyond the wormhole.  The movie is dense with character and motivation.  You see why these scientists need to go on what could be a suicide mission and I felt legitimately sad watching the hero, Cooper drive away from his home and family.

Also, I thought the score was great.
            In short it was great.  At no point did it feel its length, I was engaged throughout.  They dole out information in small enough bites that I never felt overwhelmed, while at the same time information is given out readily enough that I am never left questioning what is going on (this might be a side effect of having seen so many science fiction movies, read so many books, and so many comics, people less immersed in the genre might find the information coming too fast or not deep enough).  I have heard the exact same speech on how wormholes work in another movie ("Event Horizon") and as a kid watching "Star Trek Deep Space 9" I visualized how a wormhole would look to a human eye, envisioning tunnels, disks, cubes, and spheres.  I like science (especially astronomy) and "Interstellar" has lots of science.
            Much like "Man of Steel" there is an environmental message and a commentary on how the government lies to people to keep them from panicking, but that in turn only halts efforts to turn back the apocalypse.  I love that this movie has a sly sense of humor, lots of wisecracks especially from Case, one of the robots.  The robot's design is a really cool concept, maybe my favorite thing in the movie; an obvious homage to the Obelisk in "2001: A Space Odyssey" but able to unfold and move and communicate in such a way that makes them unique and full of character.  The fact that the robots are treated like members of the crew and people showing concern for them was great, serving to illustrate how to correct one of my biggest issues with "Prometheus" (which had a totally human android treated like dirt by crew members who acted less like scientists and more like impetuous asshole children).
            Scientists act like scientists, using rational thought to come to rational solutions, but at the same time they are people and they take actions out of love, madness, fear, or hope and rationalize them the best they can even if their actions are a huge danger to the mission.  I have heard people complain that the concept of capital 'L' Love being some kind of cosmic force that guides people is too irrational for a character like Anne Hathaway's, and that the idea is called back to in the climax betrays the hard science the movie is going for.  I disagree.
            Love is the explanation that is given, but as an audience member you don't have to accept it.  The aliens are time travelers, you can say that love is helping people navigate the time stream because love is so strongly keyed to memory, but at the same time the aliens could be responding to hormone levels that occur in a certain area.  Who knows?  Who cares?  It doesn't matter for the story it is just about a father trying to help his family live thru the apocalypse and in doing so becomes a ghost to them, vanishing from their lives when they felt all was lost.  But even if you take it as a canonical fact that Love is real and it is some kind of psychic force in the universe like gravity... Then that is just a sweet sentiment and the break with reality that makes this science fiction movie more fantastical in tone.  Why would that break the movie?  Doesn't for me.  (Not like there isn't precedence of love reaching across time, more if you include various movies I did not watch).
            The only real issues I had was two distracting choices in casting, Topher Grace shows up as a doctor in the third act, and Matt Damon as an astronaut with cabin fever who acts as the movies' second act complication/tension heightening device (like HAL in "2001").  Neither does a bad job with their roles, but seeing big name actors show up out of nowhere like that took me out of it a little.  But at the same time you need some big names because they are major characters in those sections of the movies, especially Damon's role (maybe we are supposed to act surprised to see Damon as the characters in the movie would feel a sense of awe at meeting a very heroic astronaut/scientist).  Not sure how to fix that complaint, but as I wrote the last sentence the issue bothers me less.

Kind of like Buzz Aldrin would be hugely recognizable to astronauts, Damon is recognizable to movie goers.
            People also seem to think "Interstellar" is too long, but like I said before it doesn't feel its length to me.  People complain that they explain too much, especially Matt Damon, but considering his character has been talking to himself for months and is a raving nut job I can't see an issue there either.  And this is a movie about explaining things.  What did you expect?  I think I will have to play the 'Robots in Pacific Rim' card, you have to accept certain things will happen in certain types of movies, you should have known that going into the theater.  Sure I heard a lot of it before (almost verbatim) but not everyone has, and imagine being a kid in the audience who has never heard a serious discussion on wormholes before, the last few "Star Trek" movies and shows were even less scientific than this movie.
            I also detect strange levels of vitriol directed at Christopher Nolan, who I find to be a fantastic filmmaker.  I haven't actively disliked any of his movies, and even his weakest ("The Dark Knight Rises") only failed for its ambition.  He has a distinct style, visuals, pacing, and dialogue scheme.  I found this movie to be a bit outside his comfort zone with the dynamics of parenthood which he only ever touched on in "Batman Begins" and as an afterthought in "The Prestige", but it is good to grow as an artist and he did.  Apparently "Interstellar" was originally intended as a Spielberg movie, and I can see it, but I am glad that they gave it over to Nolan, changed up the feel of what might have been too emotional a movie (Spielberg hits the parental issues a lot in his work.... almost all of it, "Minority Report", "Close Encounters", "War of the Worlds", "Jurassic Park", at least half of the Indiana Jones franchise, even in "Lincoln" there is a prevalent subplot about Lincoln's son)  This would have been another Spielberg science fiction movie, instead it is a broadening of Nolan's pallet.  That is good.
            I am actually liking the movie the more I think about it.  Yeah there is some stuff in there, like no one on the ship realizing how the time dilation would work on the first alien planet, but I write it off that they were experiencing tunnel vision because of the urgency of their mission.  Or the super nit picky: how in the world was that space craft able to go down to the surface of a world with such high gravity and then make it back to the ship?  Hell the extra gravity should have kept the landing gear from working, and landing in water would have caused them to sink into the ground unless they had exceptionally wide feet on the landing legs.  Escaping Earth's gravity is the big issue of the movie, let alone escaping the impossibly heavy gravity of tidal wave world.  Again: who cares?
            I also want to note this: it was better than "2001: A Space Odyssey".  "2001" is boring, soulless, and revels in its own dated special effects under the guise of letting the audience take it in.  While I respect the visuals (not really, the monkeys look fake even by the standards of the time, and the light tunnel to a nice apartment is lame) "Interstellar" has broader appeal, and is just as high minded without wasting my time staring at things.
            "Interstellar" is a movie.  It has a lot of science, a good bit of adventure, some high minded philosophizing about Love, and a very simple metaphor about how parents leave children behind and how those children grow into adults.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Preview Chapter: "Foresight", Chapter 19

A while back I wrote a short novelette.  It took me a very long time to write it, but I have written almost as much on this squeal in the last year as I wrote entirely for "Hole in a Field".  To show that I have been doing something with the little mystery I created I present you with a sample chapter for what will become "Foresight" (Ironic).
The last preview was of Chapter 9 and is linked here.

Chapter 19: Down to Business
            "Sir?" came the secretary's voice from a cracked door.
            The Man in the Suit was looking at the digital pictures of what had been found in the hole in the field.  A black pillar or stele covered in arcane writing.  It was vantablack and seemed to be emitting some kind of signal.  Four of the five people who had been investigating it had died, and the bodies of random people had been found in the underground chamber.  Was this what the Cloak had warned him about?
            "Yes?" asked the Man in the Suit.
            "I know it doesn't seem important," she said.  "But I wasn't able to cancel the meeting you had set up for this morning."
            "Which meeting would that be?" he asked staring into the black on his monitor.
            "It's with the TV producers about the show," she said sheepishly.
            His chin dropped to his chest and he buried his face in his hands, "okay."
            "I said OKAY!" he yelled.  Followed immediately by, "Sorry.  Sorry.  I'll do the meeting.  Sorry to yell."
            "It's okay," she said.  As the door nearly shut she said, "I heard what happened."
            Part of his job was the management of the image of the White Hats.  The organization was still seen as a group of weirdoes by the public, and those were the few who knew they existed.  As funded and official as they were, they were at best seen as cryptic specialists in investigative work, unable to get the funding necessary to be proactive in research and development constantly taking work outside of the stated mission of the group.
            The obscure hipster mystic image suited the founders of the group just fine, they had started it as graduate students and had spun it into an online community, that was all the fame they ever wanted and they liked doing the work.  But for the financiers, the management that knew how important the work they were doing really is, they needed the public to want the help, they needed the public to offer to help them, they needed more money, more applicants, more trust.  They needed a TV show.
            "Well if it isn't the notorious Man in the Suit," said the gleaming white smile that walked as a man, Tyler.
            "Such poise," said bombshell in a pantsuit, Judy.  "I could sell a horror anthology series with you as the Rod Sterling in an instant."
            Why did everyone always reference the Twilight Zone?  Thought the man in the suit.  "Tyler, Judy, we have spoken in email, good to finally meet you."
            "Ooh," said Tyler.  "Do you hear that voice Jude?  Sounds like Morgan Freeman."
            "I was thinking Yul Brynner," said Judy.
            "You are right, that is the voice of a pharaoh," said Tyler, sitting down first.  "Have you ever considered voice over work?"
            "No," he said.  "I've never managed to get out of management fields."
            "The world of movie trailers weeps for their loss," said Judy taking a seat.
            "We wanted to alk to you about what we see the show being," said Tyler.
            "So you have agreed to a show," said the Man in the Suit.
            "Tentatively," said Judy.  "You have enough material to fill three shows, case files for a police procedural, enough history to fill a history channel hidden mysteries series, and enough investigators to run a Cops style reality show."
            "So you want three shows?"
            "Not so fast," said Tyler.  "We are just worried that horror fantasy entertainment is getting played out.  We have shows that are deep into horror, we have shows that are deep into alternate history."
            "What?" asked Tyler.
            "You said 'alternate history'," said the Man in the Suit.  "It isn't alternate anything.  It happened, people just don't want to admit that."
            "You say that with such conviction," said Judy, smiling and fluttering her eyes a bit.  "Makes a believer out of me."
            "Thank you."
            "Point is," continued Tyler, his smile having never left his face, though his eyes weren't smiling completely.  It was a forced smile, he hated being here and hated the show ideas, he thought the whole thing was a farce, like every hack script with the words 'based on true events' written on the cover.  "The point I am trying to make is that you need a hook that sets yourself apart from those and I think we have the idea.
            "It's actually brilliant," said Judy, her smile was legitimate, she probably talked Tyler into coming, probably threw this idea at him to keep the project alive.  She was flirting with him.
            "We want the characters to be really relatable," said Tyler.  "But funny.  We were thinking a comedy like 'Seinfeld' but instead of comedians they are researchers.  The core of the show is actually the dialogue between the characters and them being in the various restaurants and hotels, but with the work they do being the background."
            "Stop a second," said the Man in the Suit.  "I had four people die in the last 24 hours."
            Tyler and Judy went pale, Judy's mouth dropped open and Tyler's forced grin broke.
            "I know you have to worry about media markets," he said.  "I know that things are about selling.  But the reason we want the show is because we want people to know that what we do is dangerous, and the things in the dark are real, and they are here."
            There was a shimmer in the room, just for an instant, and Judy started shrieking.  No, wait, Tyler was shrieking.  Judy was shivering and remaining motionless.  The room was covered in tiny wolf and daddy long leg spiders.
            "I'm sorry," said the Man in the Suit.  "I think I have another appointment that takes precedence."
            "I can come back," said the Cloak stepping out of his door that had materialized in the office.
            "I was talking to them," he said.  "Judy, Tyler, it was good talking to you, but my friend has something important to tell me I am sure, he never shows up for any other reason."
            "My apologies," said the Cloak, as Tyler ran shrieking out of the office, nearly going thru the Cloak's door into the place of harsh yellow light and discordant clicking.
            "It was a good meeting I think," said Judy standing in the most rigid way possible, she had a card.  "Here is my personal number if you want to get together later and talk.  I never got your name."
            "No one has heard his name in a long time Madam," said the Cloak.
            "I'll call you, Judy," he said, taking the card.  "I know it is a lot to ask, but I am going to need your help, I don't believe Tyler is going to have a lot of faith in the show."
            She smiled for a half second, before a spider crawled on her face causing her to cringe, and close her mouth and eyes.
            "Shall I fetch my creature to dispose of the little pests?" asked the Cloak.

            "Judy, we're going to get something to get rid of the bugs, going to need you to keep your eyes closed for a couple minutes," he said.  "Trade secret, has to be protected."