Monday, April 30, 2007

Beware Jake's Power

U.S. Foreign Policy, as explained by Resident Evil 4

In short, when you have only a knife to fend off an entire village of people hellbent on killing you, you warrant sympathy and support of the world community.

But when you have a rocket launcher and you're facing off with a group of monks armed with torches and their teeth, sympathy swings the opposite direction no matter how evil you insist those priest are.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

If This Be Doomsday...

So, as you may remember, I got into comics through, of all things, the death of Superman. It happens.

Anyway, I always thought it would make a pretty cool movie. Not the death itself, of course, which is just a brawl against a mindless monster and pretty predictable when the title is (spoiler alert) "The Death of Superman". But the "Return of Superman" was a lot of fun, with enough over-the-top action (the destruction of a city, four supermen against an army of aliens, Superman shattering the Cyborg) that it could translate to a cool roller coaster movie.

Well, it looks like someone agreed with me, um... sort of:

This cartoon actually seems kind of... odd to me. If it takes place in the DC Animated Universe, well, they've already done the "World Without a Superman" bit in a Justice League episode called "Hereafter," and Steel, at least, was introduced in Superman: the Animated Series. They've even already had Superman fight Doomsday. Twice.

Which means this movie is just going to repeat a lot of what's already been done, cut out the stuff that actually makes the story interesting, and make me pay $20 to buy it (or $4 to rent it, or I could NetFlix it, but you get the idea).

Now, I'm probably just being grumpy with not much to go on. The film is co-written by Bruce Timm and features the acting talents of some Joss Whedon alums, and the trailer does show a fully Fabio-ed Superman in the Black Costume, so maybe this thing is better than it seems...

But it isn't helped by the narration. I just get a creepy vibe by the leering way he says "See, Superman in love. See, Superman be dark and dangerous. See, Superman get the shit kicked out of him by a walking plot point!" Or the time spent lavinshing praise on the 70 minutes of EXTRA FEATURES (Note to future publicity people: "Extra Features" are enticing if and only the film they come from was any good to begin with). Or maybe it's just the portentousness of the narration feels more like the trailer to Comedian than like something I should take seriously.

Then again, Jerry Seinfeld would like it either way, I guess.

Friday, April 27, 2007


The Roar of Comics steps into The Ring

"Quick, Eat the Children"

So Hippolyta turns to her top generals and says, "We're going to march on Washington D.C., slaughter their leaders, destroy their monuments, and kill one little boy."

There's some muddled confusion so Nubia steps up and asks "Why one little boy?"

And Hippolyta turns to Wonder Woman and says, "See, I told you no cares about Washington!"

Okay, so anyone who knows the original version of that joke knows I just did a bad, bad thing, but the point remains: no reader cares when they see Amazons blow up the capital building (which is certainly full of people) or invade the Mall by the tens of thousands. But kill one little child right in front of the reader, and everyone decries the violence present in Amazons Attack.

Or to put it another way, one dead child is a tragedy. One thousand dead children are a statistic.

I honestly don't get you people, sometimes. The ones that don't think such violence belongs in superhero comics. To me, that's just unfathomable. Superheroes use violence to protect people from extraordinary, fantastic threats. Those threats themselves have to be horrible. An army that has no mercy for children? There's a word for that... what is it? what is it?

Oh, I remember, "Bad Guys."

NEWSFLASH: The Amazons are the BAD GUYS of Amazons Attack. That's in case you didn't get it from the F*&^ING TITLE!

Within the first four pages, Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods establish the threat as a large, superpowered army that kills everyone they come across. We know what the Justice League is up against and why it NEEDS to stop them, immediately. That's called good writing.

And as for those who think that it's out of character for Amazons to be so warlike, all I have to say is, "ARE YOU HIGH?" The only consistent part of the myth of the Amazons is that they are a tribe of Warrior Women. Think Xena. Think the "Amazons" in Y, the Last Man.* Even if we limit it to DC Amazons, this was a tribe last seen pulling out the "Purple Death Ray" against a horde of invading OMACs. They do nothing but fight or train to fight! And considering they learned their combat strategy and tactics three thousand years before the Geneva Conventions, they're probably not taking many prisoners.

But maybe you just don't want to deal with the consequences of large scale violence on a personal level, or maybe you just don't want to think about children dying. I almost understand that, I guess. I suggest you read something more all ages appropriate, like Jeff Smith's Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil. Nothing bad happens to children there...

Oh Dear!

*See, I do read non-superhero comics.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

... One to Go

52 is coming to a close, so far it's been really satisfying. The pleasure of multiple plotlines is when they cross and merge, and with this week's revelations of what Evil Skeets is and what he wants, tying the Space Heroes to the Mad Scientists to Booster Gold, and with Renee Montoya, Will Magnus, and basically every superhero on Earth preventing Intergang's attempt to destroy the world in the last few issues, all the last issue has to do for me is explain what any of this has to do with Ralph Dibny's magical mystery tour or Lex Luthor's Everyman project.

Plotwise, that is. Thematically, I think I've got this egg cracked.

Over at the indispensable 52 Pickup, Douglas Wolk asks, "in a sentence, what's 52 about?"

And my answer is: "52 is about change, those that try to change the world, those that try to change themselves."

Thematically, global change vs. personal change is what ties the major plot threads together. Each plot features at least one character out to remake the world, whether it be Intergang with their Crime Bible, Lex Luthor and his mad dreams of Planet Lexor, Black Adam's "Freedom of Power" treaty, Lady Styx and her hunt for what the Space Heroes saw outside the universe, or Evil Skeets, whom I'll get to later. Even Ralph Dibny was trying to re-write the laws of the new age of magic to get his beloved wife back.

And they all failed. As they learned, real change can't be imposed from without. Anything that can be changed easily can just as easily be changed back, and difficult changes will be fought and rejected by the world itself. This is the pattern of DC's major crossover villains, from the Antimonitor to Parallax to Superboy Prime: they keep trying to destroy the universe in order to remake it as they want it to be, only to be beaten back by characters who refuse to go. (Ironically, it's always in storylines in which the writers and editors are specifically destroying the universe to remake it as they want it to be, only to see the changes they made undone with the next five years).

52 argues that change IS possible, though, but it has to come from within. Ralph can't bring back his wife, he can only become the hero he once was. Natasha has to build her own armor. Dr. Magnus rediscovers his inner mad scientist. And Vic Sage can't make Renee Montoya the new Question, she has to become The Question on her own.

It all comes back to transformation and the question "Who R U?"

Therefore... of course the caterpillar is the Big Bad of the series!

The villain of 52 had to be Mr. Mind, a character capable of making the personal change that Black Adam and Lex Luthor could not. Mr. Mind doesn't just change; he endures a literal metamorphosis! And it is only through metamorphosis that Mr. Mind can adapt to the new world (or worlds, I should say) before conquering it!

Doug Wolk worries that if you don't already know who Mr. Mind is, the reveal that he is Evil Skeets makes no sense. But I think it's a Fair Play Mystery. Mr. Mind's clearly seen in the very first issue, where Sivana talks about whether science or magic changes the world, and the image of his cocoon ominously ends both issue 3 and issue 10. Issue 39 even takes two panels out of the deployment of the Four Horsemen to introduce background info on Mr. Mind in a "We can't tell you why, right now, but this is important information" kind of way.

In a genre and medium famously criticized for the stagnancy of its characters and stories, it's nice to see a story devoted to the very idea of change, taking on new identities and new forms, growing from experience, or falling from grace. And in that context, a villain evolving before our eyes is the only kind of villain that makes sense!

Read More (spoilers)...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


This Wordballoon interview with Greg Rucka (which is independently worth a listen for his thoughts on 52, Wonder Woman, and bringing Bucky back) ends with a discussion of the viability of a new Lois Lane-centric ongoing.

Rucka states the conventional wisdom, that setting a book in a superhero-universe without having a superhero lead is a non-seller, and points to his own critically praised but low-selling Gotham Central as proof. When the interviewer, John Siuntres, counters that a Daily Planet-ensemble book would still feature Clark "Superman" Kent and therefore might be viable, Rucka laughs it off, hoping that DC doesn't have the same idea, because while he'd love to write such a series, he just doesn't have the time.

Well, Greg, as much as I truly enjoy your work (and I do), I don't think you're the best writer for a Lois Lane ongoing. You have the characters you do well (i.e. Montoya), but Lois isn't a hard-drinking soldier dealing with a dead partner and a loss of identity.

Lois Lane is a driven, quick-witted, sharped tonged reporter with sometimes more brass than common sense dealing with real, topical issues set against a fantastic/science fictionopolis, and whose hard-bitten cynical exterior protects the surprisingly vulnerable heart of a true romantic. But, most importantly, Lois Lane takes crap from no one.

Which, let's face it, is Spider Jerusalem.

I know (my MySpace friend) Warren Ellis has that pesky "exclusive" contract with Marvel, but I honestly think he'd make a fantastic Superman writer, and an even better Lois Lane writer. Anyone who's read Transmetropolitan knows he can do the journalist hero; anyone who's read his run on The Authority knows he can do the super human action; and anyone who's read New Maps of Hell knows he has the Lois and Clark playful, competitive banter down cold. Their dialogue comes off as two people who both love each other and continually want to impress each other.

So what say you, Warren? Ready to give up writing "The New Adventures of Dark Speedball" in favor of "The Continuing Adventures of Lois Lane's Husband: Clark Kent"?

C'mon, Lois Lane deserves her own bowel disruptor!

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Moon

In honor of the anniversary of the birth of Lisa Fortuner, I present the first appearance of Kyle Rayner's butt:

And again, in close up:

Happy birthday, foul one! Keep on keeping on!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

It Had to be Said #5

Professor Xavier is NOT Martin Luther King Jr.

While both have a dream of a better world for their respective repressed minorities, Martin Luther King was a pacifist who refused to use violence, even to defend himself.

Professor X trained his students to be masked vigilante freedom fighters who beat the crap out of anyone, human or mutant, who gets in the way of his goals.

No, Professor X's belief that mutants have the right, and sometimes to the need, to use violence to defend themselves makes him a lot closer to, appropriately enough, Malcolm X.

It would be an interesting story, I think, if Xavier and his small army of demi-gods met a truly King-esque mutant rights activist, someone who thinks the violent tactics of the X-Men themselves hurt the cause, one who refused to attack the Sentinels, but rather lay in front of them, absorb their blows and refuse to budge. This would be particularly entertaining if said pacifist was the Blob.

p.s. And here is an excellent post on why Magneto isn't Malcolm X

Friday, April 20, 2007

Salt Lick

Comments like this make me angry:

I bought WWIII because I thought it would give me some answers on what happened in OYL.

I bought all of Infinite Crisis, Identity Crisis, all of 52 so far, and will probably buy all WWIII garbage too.

Then my collection of how DC went into the toilet will be complete.
So let me get this straight, he bought World War III because he wanted to get answers to continuity questions, then complains that it's nothing but answers to continuity questions? And somehow that's DC's fault? It makes my head hurt!

First off, it's hard to say DC is "going down the toilet" the same week they release The Spirit, Manhunter, and The Brave and Bold, and a week after they put out All-Star Superman. They clearly can and do produce quality books. And one can't fault a company for releasing books like this when "fans" buy them no matter what; fans more interested in accumulating facts about fictional people's lives than in reading, y'know, good stories about characters.

If this disgruntled fan truly didn't approve of this material, why did he buy it? It seemed clear that WWIII was always going to be what Jog calls Gonzo Continuity Porn, moments of explanation without context, subtext, or meaning of any kind. That's why I didn't buy it, (and from what I've read, I'm glad I didn't. Thanks, BB!)

Continuity, to me, is the by-product of having ongoing characters in a shared universe setting turned into its own form of communication. Sure, continuity's great, if it enhances a story, but it's not a story in and of itself. It's like salt, a flavoring, and WWIII is a salt lick.

Fans like this guy are addicted to salt, asking for more and more until the original flavor of the story is buried under the same seasoning. Then they complain that everything tastes like salt and their blood pressure is too high. Yes, DC's going to keep giving you salt as long as you keep buying it, but they offer healthy alternatives. In fact, they really, really want you to try their healthy alternatives. So it's just not DC's fault when you have your heart attack!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tha's More Like It!

Now that I got that off my chest, I can talk about all the really amazing comics that I DID buy yesterday. There were so many truly great comics (in a week in which All-Star Superman didn't even come out that it's hard to know where to start.

My favorite, right now, was The Brave and the Bold #3, featuring the two best things to come out of Infinite Crisis, the new Blue Beetle and a kinder, gentler Batman.

Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, is a character we think we've seen before: teen hero, chosen by chance/fate, gifted with phenomenal power and immediately dropped over his head into the craziness of superhero-dom. But the differences from Spider-Man et. al. are telling: he doesn't hide his powers from his family; he rarely encounters other heroes, living out in El Paso, TX; and perhaps most telling, he doesn't have an "Uncle Ben" moment of personal tragedy that drives him. He just does what he thinks is the right thing to do, given his extraordinary situation. In this way, he's one of the most relatable superheroes in comics today.

And the "new" Batman is a hoot as well. He's still scary as all get out, but Mark Waid and George Perez make it clear that it's an act, a purposeful attempt to seem more than human to fit in with the supermen around him. So, to the thug he interrogates, he's nothing but shadow and menace, but to Jaime he's reassuring, asks for help, and on page three, even though it's hard to "hear" in the snowstorm, he makes a joke about hot chocolate (true fact!). It's a hell of an improvement over his treatment of Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern, when Kyle was the novice with more power than experience.

And while the two of them tracking down a missing alien is fun, the real joy comes when they fight the Fatal Five, whose members include a guy who can cut through anything, a guy who can burn through anything, a woman whose magic eye can DO anything, and Validus, who is ALWAYS flipping out! The Fatal Five, remember, routinely make trouble for an entire LEGION of Superheroes, and Batman and Blue Beetle face them down. No, that's not true, Batman runs away while Blue Beetle bravely and foolishly holds them off all by himself. Since he's not killed, I'd say he does pretty well.

Though really, I don't think I'm conveying how much FUN this book is and how well the writing compliments the art. George Perez's skill as a detailed storyteller has only improved over the years. He fills his backgrounds and characters with wonderful details but his staging is clear, his characters feel real, and their emotions are expressive. Similarly, Waid's script is filled with details culled from DC long and extensive history, but the book is absurdly new-reader friendly. Even Batman's origin is retold on the first page. I never felt that I HAD to read Blue Beetle's own series to understand this issue, but I'm sure glad that I do.

Most of all, Brave and the Bold is exactly what I want a Justice League title to be. A romp through the ginormous playground that is the DC Universe. In the first three issues alone, the characters have gone from the Batcave to Las Vegas and from Space Casinos to the Mexican Border, with suggestions of both the far future and the Endless!
Furthermore, while being a fun romp, it's also an exploration of how varied the superhero genre itself can be. So far it's crashed through police procedural, teen romance, sci fi actioner, buddy comedy, and if next issue's cover is any indication, BIKER FLICK!

There's a palpable feeling that anything could happen, that the joy of comics is that the story could turn in any direction, and that only in superhero comics could anything as whacked out as THAT last page ever happen.

And that was only ONE of the amazing books I read yesterday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'm a Sucker

No, I didn't pick up the World War III "mini-series" (but if anyone who read them tells me they're any good, I still might).

No, I'm an idiot for buying Justice League of America #8. I had dropped the series with issue 6, when I figured that a Brad Meltzer Justice League just wasn't for me, but then they go and have a crossover with Justice Society of America, which I am enjoying, so I thought, what could be the harm?


This comic pissed me off in so many ways that it's hard to know where to start. As always, the most frustrating thing about Meltzer's writing is that it is has so many good ideas running through it that my hopes get raised, only to be dashed against the rocks of piss poor writing. For example, this issue has a fist fight between BATMAN and KARATE KID! (EDIT: better link here.) Unfortunately, it happens ALMOST ENTIRELY OFF-PANEL so that Meltzer can devote nearly seven full pages to Arsenal being unable to play capture the flag without breaking his neck!

(Update: the fight is actually seen in Countdown #50, which published one month later)

Other things that pissed me off include (but are not limited to):

The cover.

Michael Holt, Mr. Terrific, is, in fact, smart enough to beat BOTH Black Canary and Green Lantern at chess blindfolded without resorting to a trick I learned when I was seven. That's the kind of stunt Robin should be pulling. When the World's Third Smartest Man does it, he just looks like a chump.

That two page spread of the two teams "just hanging" by Shane Davis is just awful. First off, if this is such an emergency that they called in the full roster of both teams in under twenty minutes, maybe they shouldn't be standing around swapping stories and drinking, god help me, espresso out of dainty cups. Then there's the blocking. Though the dialogue suggests they're just milling, they are all facing front and turning awkwardly to talk to each other. If this had just been broken up into four panels on each page, it could have looked so much better.

And then there's the mis-characterization on that page. I know Meltzer has a reputation for "knowing" these characters, but he doesn't seem to here. Why is Stargirl gushing over Wonder Women? They've met before. Heck, they've eaten Thanksgiving dinner together. Twice! Why's Black Canary shutting down her old boyfriend Dr. Mid-Nite? He's giving her a compliment, not hitting on her. Why does Power Girl know Batman's real name? And for the love of God, why is Hawkgirl self-conscious about being at a JSA/JLA team-up? This ain't her first rodeo!

But all of that pales, PALES, in comparison to that last page. (Once again, I lament the lack of a scanner and ask for the aid of someone else in the blogging community. Thanks, uh, Wizard!)

Honestly, it's like a When Fangirls Attack nightmare. Ostensibly, it's supposed to show off the two new chairpersons of the JLA and the JSA, with the kicky awesomeness that both are former Birds of Prey! Yeah, you've come a long way, babies!

But let's face it, that's not the way it plays, is it? First, there's the sub-Greg Land photo referenced faces, which don't match the bodies they're attached to. They're not porn faces, exactly, but Power Girl's come-hither glance and lush, slightly parted lips don't scream leadership either. Black Canary's okay... but she's literally pushed into the background by Power Girl's swinging hips and bulging chest. Are these the leaders of the greatest heroes on Earth, or a couple of party girls?

And then there's the head shots. I know the roll call's traditional, but the five squares with question marks in them makes it look less like a comics page and more like a JLA/JSA fighting game with unlockable Legion of Superhero characters...

... nevermind, I would totally buy that game...

No, what pissed me off was the JSA roll call. Obsidian isn't on it! It's bad enough he was reduced to "wallpaper duty" in the first four issues of Justice Society, now he isn't even on the team? That sucks! Where the hell is he? Where's Todd Rice?

... oh, he's over here in Manhunter. Oh good. Now there's a title that's worth the price!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Lance"? Really? "Lance"?

I'm not a fan of the theory that every comics character with the same last name is related to one another. I understand it, since everyone with MY last name, "Padnick", IS related to me (ah, Ellis Island), but "Gordon" is a common name, so the Commissioner of Gotham City and the original host of Eclipso aren't necessarily related at all. AND I don't see how it helps the story to know that Jim Harper, The Guardian, happens to be the uncle of Roy Harper, The Red Arrow.


...that said...

If there is any justice in the world, it should somehow get back to the rest of the Green Lanterns that Guy Gardner is somehow, someway related to LANCE Gardner.

Oh please oh please oh please....

JLA/Batman Syndrome

Hyper-Competency in Team Setting Disorder, or "JLA/Batman Syndrome", is a disease of writing in which an under-powered character, in order to be useful in a team setting with much more powerful allies, is written as much more capable than he is in his own titles. Symptoms include: heightened intelligence, strength and speed, the inability to make or appreciate jokes; a lack of fear; obsessive devotion to "The Mission"; prone to bouts of anger and frustration with his teammates for having neither the training nor commitment he has.

Named for Grant Morrison's handling of Batman in JLA (where a character that occasionally has trouble fighting more than four street punks at the same time could run headlong into four Superman-level Martians and beat them handily, off-panel), this malady has the paradoxical result of taking the most physically human characters and rendering them the most emotionally inhuman.

While Batman is the most famous sufferer of this disease, his sidekick Robin suffers from it that much worse. Batman is always somewhat distant, calculating, and scary, but Robin is much more cheerful and emotional, prone to crack jokes after a fight or freak out a bit when encountering the fantastic.

In fact, in his own title, Robin freaks out A LOT! Seeing a demon baring down on him, Robin gets scared. Losing a lead, he might doubt himself. Captured by the Joker, Robin might begin to panic. Not that his fear cripples him, he still saves the day, but it gives him a relatable moment. In his own title, Robin is allowed to be Tim Drake, teenager, high schooler, awkward dater, recent orphan, and all-around human being.

But put Robin on a team with a kid who runs at the speed of light or an Amazonian powerhouse, and JLA/Batman Syndrome kicks in. To prove that he has a right to stand with these young gods, these teen titans, Robin has to be written as more than human, a Nietzschean √úbermensch, who does not let human concerns get in the way of his goal.

It would be neat if this was intentional on Robin's part, if Tim Drake was purposefully putting on an act to hide his insecurities and fears, but I've seen little evidence of that. Only once in Young Justice did I recognize the Tim Drake I knew from his own series. Forced to play baseball to stop a fleet of aliens from invading a planet based on 1930s Brooklyn, Robin just breaks down in the locker room, questioning not only his place in this cosmic and bizarre setting, but also his very sanity. But he realizes he has to suck it up and go back out there, because his team depends on him. That was something I could latch onto, something I could feel for.

But too often it is not an act at all, but the terrible writing disease tearing Robin in two. But there is a cure! Writers on team books just have to remember he doesn't have to be written as Batman-Lite. He can, in fact, be written as Robin, the Boy Wonder, the kid detective, the laughing daredevil, the little ninja, the human protagonist in a crazy world. These are all different, interesting, and, dare I say, FUN ways to approach the character, and they are all already present in his own monthly title. So please, let him be human again, and working together, we can make a better world.

Operators are standing by.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Oh you've GOT to be kidding me


Director: Julie Taymor
Music and Lyrics: Bono and The Edge of U2
Musical Supervisor: Teese Gohl
Book: Julie Taymor and Glen Berger
Producer: Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle, Martin McCallum, Marvel Entertainment
Casting Director: Telsey + Company
Rehearsals: Begin 7/2/07 in NYC
Reading: 7/12/07 and 7/13/07

Oh my God, they're ACTUALLY doing Kiss of the Spider-Man!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Who Ya' Got?


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who Wanted Him?

David Goyer, screenwriter of Batman Begins, has a sold a movie script to Warner Bros. called Super-Max, in which Green Arrow goes to jail and must team up with some of the supervillains he put there to escape!

That's a pretty strong premise, a story I'd like to read, but I'm curious why it's Green Arrow, of all superheroes, that's being sent up river in this movie. He's not exactly a name draw. In fact, Oliver Queen is down there with J'onn Jonzz, the Manhunter from Mars as least recognizable member of the Justice League, and no amount of guest turns on Smallville and Justice League Unlimited is really going to change that. For the vast majority of the movie going public, this will be their first exposure to the character.

So why use Green Arrow at all, and not some other, more famous superhero? My guess is that it was another hero at first. The plot seems fairly similar to Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's Devil in Cell Block D, which is what I'm guessing Goyer originally pitched to the suits at Warner Bros.

Then one of the suits said,

Good story, but why should we buy the rights to Daredevil from Marvel and 20th Century Fox, when we already own the rights to these DC superheroes over here?

And Goyer said,
Okay, BATMAN goes to jail and must...

And another suit cut him off and said,
David, bubby, you're already writing us a Batman movie. How about someone else?

And Goyer thought and said,
How about a character who is like Batman in every way only more so?
It's not that I have a problem with Green Arrow. I actually think "superhero Robin Hood" a really cool and underused character concept. I just don't see the point in introducing him to the vast majority of the public in a film he's only in costume for the first five minutes of.

Why not use a more famous hero, like Green Lantern, who's instantly recognizable to MUCH more people? Or, if other heroes come with too much baggage to be exposed to the public and sent to jail, way not create an original superhero with whom you could do whatever you want?

In short, centering a film on Green Arrow, in which he's not called or dressed as Green Arrow for the majority of the film, assumes a public familiarity with the character that I just don't think is there.

Maybe I'm wrong.

p.s. Whether or not I actually see the film depends almost entirely on the director. Goyer is adept at translating comics to film, but the quality of his movies ranges from mediocre (Blade, directed by Stephen Norrington) to brilliant (Blade II, directed by Guillermo del Toro) to abysmal (Blade III, directed by, erm, David Goyer).

p.p.s. Green Lantern in jail image found on James Meeley's new site. Thanks, James!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


What is the true mark of success for a crime fighter? Is it solving crimes, or is it preventing crime from happening in the first place? Or is it something more?

For some years now, at least since The Dark Knight Returns if not earlier, a persistent fan criticism of Batman is that he just catches criminals, criminals that, thanks to the serial nature of comic books, will merely escape and commit more crimes. This critique seems even stronger as the Joker moved from being a colorfully clad bank robber back to his original conception of serial murderer. In light of those circumstances, says the criticism, Batman should just pull a Punisher and shoot the bastards in the head. It would save lives and a whole lot of time.

But what that criticism misses is that the criminals Batman hunts are, to him, human beings. Human beings with complex inner lives, capable of learning the error of their ways, capable of change and actually improving society. We, the readers, know that they are characters, villains who will play the villain roles forever, but Batman has hope.

And sometimes that hope is even rewarded. Catwoman. The Penguin. The Riddler. Three of Batman's most iconic foes have all, over the past fifteen years, basically abandoned a life of crime. Now, only Catwoman has taken a truly altruistic calling of protecting the East End of Gotham, but nightclub owner and private detective are not bad ways to make a living.

Think about the crimes Edward Nigma himself has solved. Think about the men and women employed, legally, at the Iceberg Lounge. Think about the lives Selina Kyle has saved in her role as midnight vigilante. (or for that matter, the life she gave birth to).

None of that would have been possible if Batman had just offed them the first chance he got.

A great story which hits this idea two ways sideways is the latest issue of Detective Comics. Not only does the main plot feature a Harley Quinn who sincerely wants to reform (or at least seems to), a key flashback is about how, while capable of killing, Batman's rogues are also capable of kindness, fear, sadness, and longing. And occasionally, acts of bravery.

Just as Batman himself has a lot of darkness in him, despite remaining a good guy, his enemies have some light hidden inside them. And given the choice between snuffing out that light in order eradicate the darkness, and letting that light remain in the hopes that it will someday shine through, Batman always chooses the later. Always.

Because Batman can solve crimes, or he can prevent crimes, OR, as a true mark of success as a crime fighter, he can help even his enemies become better people and actually improve the state of the world.

No point in throwing out the Harvey with the Two-Face.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

For Kaitlin...

... who bought me Bone, who had a bad day, and just because:

Wonder Woman and kittens:

via Yet Another Comics Blog

Monday, April 02, 2007

Who the Hades is Wonder Woman?

I just don't get Wonder Woman. I don't understand her character. I don't get her appeal.

I get Superman. I get Batman. I get Catwoman, Batgirl, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Supergirl, Power Girl, Big Barda, Manhunter. I understand these characters. I understand what attracts me to these characters (or other fans to these characters). I feel that I have a good idea of what they would and would not do, say and would not say.

But Wonder Woman? Clueless.

Which is to say, I have no idea how to write her, what her reactions to the world are. How would she react to criminal, a dictator, a monster, a killer, in a way that is noticeably different from Superman, or Batman, or any other member of the Justice League?

Even the usually awesome Justice League cartoon couldn't quite get a handle on her, as her character slides from naive teenager in season one (worrying what she is going to say to her mother after running away from home) to angry warrior woman in the first season of Justice League Unlimited to Ambassador and inspirational Leader in the last season.

Who is this woman?

I understand her appeal as an icon, a symbol of women's power. I understand the appeal of a wonder woman, a being who steps out of myths in the "real" world, bringing a era of gods and monsters with her.

But who IS Diana, clay golem, Amazon princess, ambassador for peace, warrior for Justice? What does she like? What does she fear? What amuses her? What angers her? Gods, I don't even know her favorite cookie!

I've heard this complaint before, and people have said the problem is that Wonder Woman doesn't have a civilian identity, a place she can go to be human (arguably, this is what the new Wonder Woman series is about, but it's hard to tell). But I call shenanigans on that! There are plenty of superheroes with negligible civilian identities, but that doesn't mean they lack character!

Take the late Superboy. From 1993 to 1998, he had no name other than Superboy! A clone of Superman, a superhero literally since conception, no part of his background has anything civilian or human to it... but that didn't mean his character couldn't be defined, or his strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and tragedies couldn't be relatable.

Similarly, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, is a shape shifting telepath, FROM MARS, who witnessed the death of his entire planet. We shouldn't come close to understanding him, but we do. We understand his loss, his alienation, his anger, his wry humor, his love for Chocos.

So what the hell is wrong with Wonder Woman? Why can't I know her, why can't I get her? Is there just too much there? Too many writers over too many years imposing their unique visions of a strong woman onto one character, until the original is lost? What is her core, her essence? What the heck is going on?