Saturday, May 31, 2008
We got unfinished business, cape monkey! You think you can come to my table uninvited and eat off my plate! Wolf Gang is my dessert. And Mace Blitzkrieg don't believe in sharing!
This is extremely strong voice. From this one line, I can imagine exactly what Mace Blitzkrieg sounds like-a hoarse, constantly angry, constantly shouting man. He asks a question, and it's still punctuated by an exclamation point, suggesting exactly how the line would be delivered. And even though I have only one comic with Mace Blitzkrieg in it (Will to Power #6), I would be able to identify him in another comic in a heartbeat.
If you're wondering why I wouldn't use a more famous comic example, such as Doctor Doom, it's partly because he's a much more famous example. (There's also been the hubbub lately over Doom's line to Ms. Marvel which most view as out of character; I'll just say that while Doom tends to insult folks, he usually stays civil-and that wasn't civil. Of course, if I understand correctly, he was under a lot of stress.)
As a further note, imagine if a character had the following line.
My life sucks. Suckity suckity suck. Suuuuucks.
While this might be an appropriate line for a character with a life as hard (comparitively speaking) as Spider-Man's, if Peter Parker actually said this, there would be an uproar. Why? Mostly because it doesn't fit his voice. (Okay, if he's ever actually said that, apologies for being wrong.)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The funny thing about Internet-based fandoms of "old*" series is that they're often full of people who insist that things should go back to "the way they originally were." Nowhere is this a more ironic statement than with GIJoe.
GIJoe is probably the most mutable and transmutable toyline ever devised. Here's its basic premise: Army guys.
Seriously, that's GIJoe's premise throughout. But it hasn't exactly remained the same.
Most people think of the '80s GIJoe line when they hear it-most Internet fandom types, anyway. GIJoe really started, however, in 1964. To my knowledge, it was the first toyline put out by manufacturer Hasbro. Hasbro has most recently drawn attention to itself with the success of the summer blockbuster Transformers**, based on the long-running toyline of the same name, but more on that later. A few years later, GIJoe figures were marketed in Britain under the name Action Man. (Keep that in mind-it will be important later. Also note that this was spun off into a cartoon in the '90s, which was further imitated a few years later in a CGI cartoon which had the same main characters with different backstories. Yes I know those links lead to the same page with an inch between them, I don't give a care.) These toys stood at 12" tall.
Following that, there was the GIJoe Adventure Team. (Yes, I know that isn't the widely accepted spelling of that. I'm just being stubborn. G.I.Joe takes longer to type, and G. I. Joe takes longer still.) This was possibly the funniest incarnation of GIJoe, with characters who had appellations such as "Kung-Fu Grip."
Okay, I totally lied. Super Joe was funnier than that. That, incidentally, is probably a more direct origin for the character Joe Colton than the Adventure team. Sometime I'll scan in an ad or two from the old Spider-Man comics I've got that are for that toy. These toys, by the way, stood at only 8-81/2" tall because of rising petroleum costs.
Then came the 1982 GIJoe. The end.
I lied again.
See, many people seem to insist that A Real American Hero is the be-all and end-all of GIJoe. That particular cartoon, and especially its corresponding comic, have the largest and most enduring of all GIJoe fanbases. At the Joepedia wiki, ostensibly about all GIJoe versions, many of the other sections are nothing more than afterthoughts. Having a number of the comics from Marvel's GIJoe, I'm well aware of the quality of the stories, and I wish I had issue 21, which many Joe fans proclaim inspired them to want to tell stories in comics. This is the series whose fans are the primary targets of Hasbro's nostalgia campaign. These figures were 33/4" tall.
To some degree, this series continued into the mid-'90s, with continuously weaker cartoon tie-ins (although I really liked that stupid Dragonfire storyline when I saw it all those years ago), a gradually fading Marvel Comic, and an increasingly weird toyline. Myself, I like the brilliance that was the Septic Tank and the insanity that were the Lunartix aliens and Mega Monsters, but alas, that approach ticked off the traditional fans, and in 1994, the line died forever.
I just can't stop lying once I start, can I?
In 1995, Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles attempted to fill the void of the loss of the Real American Hero. It cleverly combined the origin story of Captain America and the character of Sgt. Rock (with a hint of Nick Fury's WWII adventures thrown in), but despite this fine pedigree the toyline itself was apparently a big piece of epic fail, as it died after just two waves, leading to the only fictional release being a single measly episode packaged with a toy. This is even more ironic since Savage co-starred with other GIJoe characters in the cartoon.
In 1996, Hasbro, determined to keep trying regardless of their flagrant failures, Hasbro released GIJoe Extreme. I remember this one very distinctly-when the "Power Block" featuring Beast Wars was still on early weekday mornings, GIJoe Extreme was the Friday slot. It was a moderately entertaining show, seeing as how it was made in the '90s, but it had a weaker cast than even Super Joe (maybe not; I'm prone to exaggeration), and like Super Joe and Sgt. Savage before it, Extreme burned and died, though less rapidly than Savage. I totally think that they should bring back Iron Klaw, but maybe that's just me.
In 1997, Hasbro thought "Hm. The last real success we had with GIJoe was in the '80s. Let's cheaply re-release a bunch of ten-year-old toys, call them collectible, and see if anyone bites."
Thus began the first wave of Joestalgia. Hasbro then started making toys for kids again in the '00s, first with Spy Troops and then Valor Vs. Venom. Like the '80s version, these were in the 33/4" size. Of course, while they had strong responses from '80s collectors, they had a lot of grousing over poor quality and such.
Apparently, sales were down, because the next step Hasbro took was to completely reinvent GIJoe again (almost but not really) in the form of Sigma Six. These 8" figures received criticism because they were too big to fit in the '80s Joe vehicles. Possibly a source of greater criticism came for the fiction, which was anime-like and thus automatically bad (in the minds of old-er, longtime fans). I find this ironic mostly because, while they didn't make a big deal about continuity with previous lines, they did acknowledge and mention it. For instance, General Hawk (warning-no actual biographical information)was in the process of recovering from becoming Venomous Maximus in the first few episodes, although they kinda forgot he was there or something after that, even though his teenage son had a few more cameos.
Anyway, as previously mentioned, they've gone back to 33/4" for nostalgia purposes, and that's the current phase of GIJoe. But that's not the whole story.
No, I'm not lying. There's a lot more.
When GIJoe ('82) was exported to other countries, it had a lot of figures that were totally made up junk. When I say "totally made up junk," I mean they were supposed to be cyborgs and stuff, which totally didn't show up in GIJoe ('82). Not counting, of course, S.N.A.K.E.s or BATs or Robo-Joe. There was also Action Force, the British version, which was merged with a homegrown toyline of much less articulated figures and a stronger sci-fi theme. (I once had a url that lead to information on this, but I'm not certain what happened to it. I'll probably present it at some point in the future. And no, I have no idea why they didn't just go with Action Man again.)
But that wasn't really the most significant of the interesting permutations of GIJoe. No, that started rather earlier, with Combat Joe, a re-release of the 12" figures for the Japanese market way back. Combat Joe's molds were re-used by Japanese company Takara, for a toyline called Henshin Cyborg, which featured clear figures with visible cybernetic parts inside. Henshin Cyborg still gets a few commemorative releases now and then, but back in the day it was mostly supplanted by a toyline called Microman (a toyline of approximately 33/4" figures, apparently entirely by coincidence as it was a few years earlier than '82 GIJoe). Microman saw some success in the '70s, enough so that it saw release in the USA as Micronauts (which got a comic, coincidentally also from Marvel). They also revamped Microman as an unexceptional series called Timanic or something (an 8" line... hm...).
There were a couple more closely related spin-offs, such as Diaclone (not sure how it's linked precisely, but they say it is-and beware, Japanese site) and Blockman.
Then, there was Transformers.
You might be screeching to a halt about now. "What are you talking about? Hasbro made Transformers!" (If you said something else, such as "Takara made Transformers," shame on you.) You see, Transformers has its roots in two toylines-Diaclone and Microman. Most of its first wave of toys came from Diaclone, which had been previously repackaged cheaply under five or six names by Hasbro in an attempt to sell more toys. Hasbro wanted to do it one more time, but it came up with a brilliant new tactic: Let's give them complicated bio notes and a comic book and maybe a cartoon. Transformers took Diaclone's "realistic vehicle" toys and Microman's transforming "realistic household item" toys, along with a few "microvehicles" from Microman, and declared that they were all actually alien robots that had been locked in an endless war for eons. (See, GIJoe is always about soldiers.)
I don't know just how carefully they planned it beyond the comic series (which was probably intended to be a miniseries) and the cartoon (which was obviously originally intended as a miniseries) and the "tech specs" that they stuck to the toys' packaging (apparently written by the same folks who started off the comic), but Transformers has endured. It's endured, in fact, with far less change and far more faculty than its distant cousin/blood brother/grandfather/whatever GIJoe. (Ironically, Transformers and GIJoe have a long, proud tradition of crossing over with each other. I'll probably blog about that sometime.) The biggest change ever to Transformers was when they briefly started transforming into organic-looking animals in Beast Wars, and while it revitalized Transformers, it was only a brief sideline in Transformers history.
GIJoe, on the other hand, still seems to be floundering, with limited successes here and there. Why does it continue to struggle? Probably because, unlike Transformers, it can't escape from the image of being "war toys." Transformers have guns and fight wars, but because they're mostly unrealistic robots and brightly colored, they can thumb their metal noses at the image; it doesn't stick, while even ridiculous-looking GIJoe vehicles are still clearly built for war. "War toys" are heavily frowned upon as "causing violence." They met with success at least partly back in the '80s thanks to the process of healing that the country was then undergoing with the Vietnam veterans (in the comics most of the team was in fact presented as being Vietnam vets); since then, its reinventions have been efforts to get away from the "war toy" image. And unfortunately, these reinventions fail, because even Sigma Six tends to have "GIJoe" proudly proclaimed on it. It might get some respect from the upcoming live action movie, but this movie has had even more criticism (as far as I can tell) from its fandom than Transformers, which viciously blasted by many fans for being "too much like [insert any random nonsensical thing you like here]" and "not enough like Transformers" by its fans.
*Here, I'm defining "old" as any subject matter which is old enough that I don't remember it from the first time it came around. I'm in my mid-20s and have a cruddy memory, so that means I don't remember much of anything before 1990. If that makes you feel old, I apologize. I don't have much sympathy, though-I've been getting AARP membership offers since before I graduated from high school (a long story I'll talk about some other time, and yes I'm pretty sure I know how it happened).
**Don't listen to Wikipedia-it claims that the 2007 live action Transformers was a remake of the '80s Transformers: The Movie. Idiots. (There's one of my own fandom biases, I suppose. But how anyone could take the '07 film to be a remake of TF:TM is totally beyond me.)
Monday, May 26, 2008
I think the most awkward power of Superman's, the one that causes the most trouble for writers, is his superspeed.
I can understand why he has it-Supes is supposed to be the best at pretty much anything. He's faster than anybody except the Flash (whose reflexes and thought processes are indisputably faster, although Superman can more or less reach the same speeds). But when a character is totally invulnerable, strong enough to push moons around for the heck of it, and has flight and ranged attacks at his disposal, as well as being able to survive in space or underwater for as long as he pleases (well, that depends on continuity, I suppose), how come he needs superspeed?
If one thinks too hard, it's obvious Superman's speed would ruin many if not most if not nearly all of the Superman stories if every writer had him use it to the maximum potential. One blogger thinks that if Superman were to fight the Hulk, he'd sneak up on the Hulk from behind at Mach 17, grab him by the ankle, and throw him in the Sun before he could react. This, of course, makes the whole fight with Doomsday, who is basically a zombie version of the Hulk, pretty silly, even with Doomsday's apparently quick reflexes. Even Kryptonite can't really pose a threat to a superfast Superman:
Metallo: Now, Superman, die! (opens his little chest door to reveal the Kryptonite) Huh? Where'd you go?
Superman: (faintly) Up here.
Metallo: Eh? AAAAGH! (Superman drops the Chrysler Building on him)
Superman: There. Now to cure world hunger.
If Supes can move as fast as his pre-Crisis self, he can even outrun Kryptonite radiation. How is that even a weakness anymore? Not even nigh-omnipotent magic would pose much of a threat, either:
Cthulhu: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh me R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. (fires 1,894,360 magical bolts at Superman [and yes I counted them all and that's an exact figure])
Superman: (from the orbit of Jupiter) You missed! (throws Io at Cthulhu)
Cthulhu: Io! Io! Shub-Niggurath-*smush*
Sorry about the H.P. Lovecraft in-joke there. And, of course, if Supes really threw Io at Cthulhu that hard, earthquakes would be the least of our worries-the resulting explosion would probably wipe out the entire Solar System. (Seriously-if it hit Earth that quickly, it'd be travelling at relativistic velocities, and the effect would be kind of like a really huge particle accelerator. I'd worry about folks living in the Alpha Centauri system, and for that matter the integrity of the space-time continuum.)
The point is, the superspeed thing is a little much. Superman's got enough powers and is plenty overwhelming already without speed and reflexes to match the rest of his overpoweredness.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I was just going through someone else's blog archives, where he talked about this series and its awesome intro. (When I say "awesome," off the top of my head the only series I can think of with better intros were Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series. The '90s had the best intros ever. [Goodbye, objectivity. I won't miss you.]) He linked a no longer available YouTube video there.
That video turned out to be one of two intros created for the '90s X-Men's Japanese dub (each of those, obviously, linked in the links), and thus is something very fun if nothing else: The cast of the X-Men cartoon (which I am senselessly nostalgic for, I'll admit) animated in a classic late-'80s-early-'90s "serious" anime style. I am and have always been a sucker for late '80s/early '90s anime's visuals, and these intros were no exception.
Perhaps even better, these intros are almost completely nonsensical compared to the actual plot and whatnot of the '90s series.
Let's go over some of what happens in this intro.
- A fleet of blimps (or something-maybe they're Proshes, as their profile seems more similar) making a guest appearance from Batman: TAS are over a city.
- Magneto shows up and summons the Brood. Yes, Magneto summons the Brood. Magneto summons the Brood.
- Jubilee fights with the Brood. They aren't amused.
- Wolverine falls from the sky, lands behind Jubilee, and slices up those Brood like so many ugly chickens.
- Jean Grey uses telekinesis to pick up some Brood. We don't know if she does anything else with them; the visuals cut to Cyclops.
- Cyclops cuts off a bunch of Brood heads with an optic blast. If you've ever seen the '90s X-Men, you know that Cyclops' optic blasts never cut or tore anything, even paper.
- An insane Japanese rocker (not shown in the visuals, sadly) screams SHOCK! a whole bunch of times. Brilliant.
- Cable shoots some kind of robot that looks very anime and nothing like anything from this series. Like, five million times. With guns that look ridiculously oversized even by anime standards. (Cable with normal arms; in the earliest part of this series Cable had no origin explaining he was from the future and no seemingly cybernetic parts.)
- Gambit charges a card and throws it at something that may be a robot. I can't tell.
- Some dark figure that I can't make out cracks the ground. Maybe it's supposed to be Beast.
- Professor X is clearly a pimp, as he has Rogue and Storm on each arm. I'm stone cold serious.
- More Brood and weird robot things.
- Wolverine and Omega Red have a hilarious midair battle in looped footage.
- Shots of the characters paired off and looking really funky realistic anime. (The pairs are Cyclops and Jean Grey, Gambit and Beast, Storm and Rogue, and Wolverine and Jubilee.
- Babe shot(TM), of Storm, Jean Grey, and Rogue in that order. Rogue looks fetching in this style, and does an anime babe wink(TM), which is totally in character for her. (Of course, I'm a huge sucker for Rogue, but whatever.)
- Totally inexplicable shot of this hallway where the X-Men come flying from random angles to showcase... something. (Cable is once again inexplicably among them.) Wolverine wraps it up with the classic "claw-based wipe" scene change.
- To that Japanese rocker screaming again, we get a still team portrait. It "slides out" dramatically to a couple of guitar riffs.
The other one has only a couple of great moments, such as the X-Men leaping off of a suddenly erupting volcano, leaping out of the Blackbird at approximately ten thousand feet in order to engage in hand to hand combat with about a thousand cyborg robot things unrelated to the series, and Professor X locked in telepathic battle with Magneto's magnetism. Part of the reason it is less awesome is because the animators showed signs of actually having some idea of what a heck actually went on in the series (things like Apocalypse, Mojo [through Spiral], the Sentinels, the Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine triangle, and Wolverine cutting random props in half). Also, for no apparent reason, Iceman, who if I remember was in maybe one episode, appears. (Maybe they thought it would be cool if he was in the introduction. Ha ha ha ow.)
The series also received some anime break cuts, where some of the characters would fly around anime style and a voice would say "X-Men" in a Japanese accent. I'm not bothering to link those, though.
I usually try not to let nostalgia get to me too badly, but man I miss '90s cartoons. That seems to be the one thing I get really irrational about.
I loved the Iron Man cartoon, mostly the second season. (I would embed some YouTube, but the %#$*ed site's embed code isn't cut-and-pasting like it should. Just look here for a dose of magic shapeshifting superarmor instead.) It's the main reason I was looking forward to the Iron Man movie even before everyone said it would be awesome-Iron Man is one of my personal favorite superheroes. (I don't care how lousy his comics may or may not be.)
Following Iron Man (and its slotmate, the Fantastic Four cartoon, from which comes my love of Doctor Doom and his faint, indefinable accent), there was no end of good stuff in the '90s. And if whatever was currently on didn't suit one's tastes, *click* aha there's something better on. Not only that, but the '90s had some amazingly longrunning ones that were quite consistent.
Now, though, there's maybe three channels with anything on, and only one has anything I want to watch for most of the morning. Here's a local channel's lineup starting sometime before seven, subject to change every other week.
The current earliest show on Saturday morning is a program called "Shop the World for Beauty" or some stupid name like that precedes the network lineup (KidsWB now 4KidsCW). It's all about traveling the world to find local beauty tips. As a redblooded straight male, I can't watch more than a few minutes of stuff like this without feeling nausea. That's really only part of what got on my nerves-the other part was all the gay guys that they had as consultants. I don't usually make judgment calls on people's sexuality, but man these guys sounded "gay."
Then there was the first cartoon of the morning, a musical called Will & Dewitt. (I hate musicals.) I'm not going to post any links, video, or anything of the kind, and if you value your sanity* you will not attempt to find any such. It might not have been quite so bad if it hadn't actually had two songs per episode not counting the introduction throughout the course of the two episodes per block. It literally drove me from the room.
It was followed by a show called Magi Nation, which had a lot of bad catch phrases ("I Magine" is a prime example) but was actually watchable... not watchable enough to keep me in the room though.
There's also a show called Skunk Fu, which is about as full of fart jokes as you'd expect, and an hour of Tom & Jerry Tales, a rehash of Tom & Jerry, the classic cartoon characters with a government-level monopoly on violence. I've seen both before today, and neither held much entertainment value. (Okay, I'll be frank: I HATE T&J Tales. The violence is pointless, stupid, and pointlessly stupid. Tom and Jerry are just about the most cliched of the classic cartoon characters. Take away cartoon banter, which is occasionally quite witty, and you get Tom and Jerry.)
Then, there's the new Spectacular Spider-Man, a show that was previewed for well over six months before it finally came out. It's pretty decent, and was worth the wait, but they showed freakin' "sneak peaks" for AGES, until they took all the fun out of it. (Okay, I lied. The stuff they showed was fun in the show itself despite all their efforts.) I rather liked the '90s 'toon, but this series has less baggage and more vomit-inducing chase scenes. One thing that bugs me about it-hardly anyone is slowed down by the webbing. Man, they've toned down the webbing. Maybe the writers just don't know what to do with it, or maybe they decided it's too much of a Deus Ex Machina. Another minor problem is that a lot of the interplay and such will probably be lost on someone not familiar with the comics. One good example of this: When my sister mentioned Gwen Stacy, a character who is playing a major part in the series, to Mom, Mom says "Who's Gwen Stacy?" Believe it or not, comic fans, not many people know much about Gwen Stacy, and Spider-Man 3 (which I haven't seen) probably only confused people.
Which isn't to say I dislike the show. It's a very fun ride, and the banter is excellent.
The "find" of the current lineup for me is World of Quest, a series which was adapted from a graphic novel (you can find a sample of the creator's work here, and yes that's free, no registration required, and boy oh boy does it have a Calvin and Hobbes vibe). This series is blessed by an annoyingly chirpy happy theme song (yes I mean that in a good way) which is punctuated by the series' two main characters taking verbal jabs at each other. Look here for the intro. The intro is really made by Quest's growly Patrick Warburtony "I hate theme songs" at the end. (I thought the voice actor was Patrick Warburton, but apparently it's someone named Ron Pardo.) I enjoy this series for several reasons, but the main one was the unexpectedness and bizarreness of it. This show can be really creepy. There was one episode where the character they were in the process of introducing, Anna Maht, a bumbling sorceress whose primary talent is bringing apparently inanimate objects to speaking, annoying-as-heck life (I say apparently inanimate because she's always zapping trees and fruit and stuff), tried to provide the group with some food. Of course, she bungles it, and the fruit start talking. But Quest eats the fruit anyway, as the fruit screams its protest. Eeek. There's also a litany of repetitive jokes, some of which, I admit, are very bad, but the primary appeal is the setup:
- Quest hates everything and everyone.
- Especially Prince Nestor, Heir to the Throne of Odyssia. (The character actually introduces himself that way.)
- A magic spell has bound him to Prince Nestor and forces him to (mostly) obey everything Prince Nestor demands.
There's also Johnny Que-er, Test, a madcap show which has the aforementioned I'm-a-jerk-without-warning effect practically every episode. It was funny the first season, but it's been around for three or four, and it's well past its watch-by date. Not worth talking more about.
Then there's Eon Kid, shockingly one of the few dubbed series (I'm not sure about Magi Nation, but none of the rest are foreign) in this lineup. (That'll change soon, no doubt, with the network's change to CW whatever. 4KidsTV, the other lineup managed by company 4Kids, is merging with this one, and it has a much higher proportion of dubbed stuff.) Eon Kid's early episodes had some of the smartest yakking I've ever seen in a cartoon about the subject of hand to hand combat (granted, I watch Power Rangers, so it's not like I've seen a lot of good ones). After the early episodes' setup for it, there are tons of really awesome and insane fight scenes, including ones deemed inappropriate for Saturday morning. (Click here for some unrestrained, undubbed Korean awesome, in which a robot that looks like a futuristic samurai fights a robot that dresses like a 1930s mobster. It makes what I've seen of the Matrix's similar action scenes look tame.)
This brings me to the oddest thing about the lineup-it starts at 7:00 instead of 8:00 for no reason. (Granted, it's best that Search the World for Beauty be sent as far from noon as possible; I just wish it was in the other direction.) Two of these shows are given an hour. (T&J Tales and Spectacular, if you're wondering.) WHY? WHY?
Okay, it's also best that Will & Dewitt be on early, all things considered. Doggoneit.
I guess I'm just really cantankerous when it comes to cartoons. Anyone reading this will probably, at some point, sigh when they read "back in the '90s" during a cartoon rant, because I'm going to say it a lot. I can tell. (Back in the '90s, cartoons weren't restricted to Saturday mornings and cable! Rotten kids and their rotten...)
*This show has songs so bad my six year old brother thought they were stupid. He basically, after being barraged by the doggoned intro, said "Okay. That was stupid." And while he's been saying that more often than he used to, he's rarely said it with such feeling.
Friday, May 23, 2008
The prevailing attitude I'm talking about is this notion that a skimpy costume is the "most sexy" costume for a female character.
Now, I suppose I could be going out on a limb here, but if every single female in a room was wearing nearly nothing, would all that skin continue to mean anything? Some would say yes (probably as they manga-bled to death through their nostrils). I would not. (Of course, I don't especially like seeing such excessive amounts of skin-I'm more of a sweater and jeans kind of guy.)
I don't particularly mind the idea of the occasional "swimsuit issue" or even a character who mostly wears swimsuit-style garments. But there's a significant problem with this whole superchicks wearing nothingkinis all the time: What happens when a bullet slides right between all that cleavage and through a woman's heart?
Now, obviously this isn't a problem for, say, She-Hulk. She-Hulk's cleavage would stop that bullet cold. But what about the dozens of female superheroes/villains who have no durability advantage whatsoever who *still* run around with only a tiny layer of tiny cloth keeping it from being a birthday suit?
They probably ought to be very dead, if nothing else. Wear some Kevlar, consarnit!
I'm not necessarily saying that comic book women should dress like Dust, either. But...
I have to admit that I really like that costume. While I tend to think that it's an honest positive appraisal of what would probably be a typical costume for a male character, it could also be that the reason I think costumes like this one are so doggoned sexy is because they present such a strong contrast with costumes like Emma Frost's "costume" or those tiny things Shadow Lass usually wears.
(image courtesy of Major Spoilers)
I'll admit, there are quite a few "modest" costumes. Aside from Sensor Girl (whose alter-ego, Princess Projectra, goes rather strongly in the other direction), there are costumes like Jean Grey's '90s costume with the headband and the costume worn by Alpha Flight's Nemesis. Lately, though, for every "modest" costume (how modest they really are when they stick to the skin the way they do is rather questionable, of course), we get a costume like the Dark Phoenix type costume worn by Jean Grey in some alternate future where the only thing covering her chest was the Phoenix sigil itself, or a Star Sapphire (my eyes try to explode just from thinking about that one), or a Starfire costume (this one is frustrating because I really like Starfire otherwise), or for that matter an issue of a comic where everyone is running around in underwear.
It's also kind of funny; people seem to think that women can't wear man-superhero costumes, yet practically every single character from MC2 is a woman wearing a slightly modified man-costume (the only modification being the sizing). It's almost as if MC2 is trying to slap the rest of the comic industry in the face with a dose of nonstandardism, but MC2 sadly seems to be too quiet to get their attention. (That, or they're attempting to sexualize traditional superheroes like Captain America and Spider-Man. That seems more likely, actually.) There are a few male costumes that would look rather stupid on women, but let's face it: Most of them look stupid on men too.
Note that I haven't even really approached this from a feminist perspective. Probably just as well, too, since I'm not a feminist, and I'd likely botch any attempt.
If Skurge the Executioner came back, it would take away any meaning his death as a sacrifice to help others and as his shining moment in the sun, his blaze of glory, that would be degraded too. I think Skurge would probably want to snap the neck of some bum who brought him back to life.
Or take Ben Parker. If Ben Parker hadn't died, Spider-Man would probably, after J. Jonah Jameson ran the editorial that put him out of his first job, have instead gone straight after J.J.J. and threatened him, possibly becoming a true criminal instead of a hero. At one point in the original story, Peter Parker thinks to himself "I'll see to it that *they're* [Aunt May and Uncle Ben] always happy, but the rest of the world can go hang for all I care!" Now, maybe I'm reading it differently than Stan Lee intended it, but didn't Peter just basically say "I love my own people, but as far as I'm concerned, everyone else can go die!"? That is a rather teenaged thought, true, but it is also not a charitable thought. Not charitable at all. This is hardly the same person who would stop a random mugger on the street, and realizing what kind of consequences not acting responsibly could have on someone's life is what drives Spider-Man. Bring Uncle Ben back to life, and you've just undone that single consequence that set Spidey down the path of being the worst-off person in Western mainstream comics.
Gwen Stacy's death, ironically, means a lot less, almost nothing by comparison. Its effect on Spider-Man comes less from its "meaning" and more from the fact that it broke the status quo that had been going on for some time in Spider-Man: Spider-Man is dating Gwen, and thinking about maybe marrying her, but he's too poor. Chances are, if the old status quo hadn't been broken this way, Spider-Man would be immensely less popular today, because it'd be all about "Oh no! I *still* don't have enough money for a wedding! Oh, no!" Or possibly, he would have gotten married a lot earlier, and had less of a chance of the status quo being messed up, which would also have stagnated his stories somewhat. No, what Gwen Stacy's death means is change. Gwen Stacy cannot be allowed to come back, because it undermines the sense of Peter Parker having a "real" life, one that resembles that of a real person's, with ups and downs (mostly downs) and struggles and changes over time as the character gets older. (Gasp! People age! Shocking!) This, for me, is the strongest and most important part of Spider-Man's character, and while they haven't undone Gwen's death yet, they've still undermined it repeatedly.
(As an aside, undoing previous deaths can have an undermining ripple effect across a shared universe like Marvel's. Gwen Stacy's death being undone would have a greater detrimental effect, in my opinion, on the Marvels miniseries than on Spider-Man's mythos itself.)
As one last example, take Bucky's death. This death is, by pretty much any standard, "meaningful," but it did a lot less for Captain America than Ben Parker's did for Spidey. Cap is the way he is because that's *always* been the way he is-shooting off cornball lines as he takes down the badguys with improbable skills and weaponry. Bucky's death or undeath makes no difference there. So the return of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier and later as Captain America XVIII (okay, I'm making that number up) is not so bad.
These are all, as I have said, "meaningful" deaths of supporting cast members.
What happens, out of curiousity, when a main character dies?
Practically nothing. About fifteen minutes later, he gets back up, washes off the blood, and is fine. Even if he was vaporized or died of cancer twenty some years ago, he's fine. This is part of the reason I like team books; if a team member dies, unless that person is Jean Grey or Wolverine, that person is probably dead.* Even Barry Allen has come back or will be coming back (might as well be the same thing, he's the Flash), just so you don't think I'm only honking my backseat driver horn only at Marvel.**
(In fact, I'd say that historically, Marvel was a little better about this. There was apparently a pre-Crisis comic where some villain actually brough Pa and Ma Kent back to life in order to hold them hostage against Superman. Seriously, what a heck?)
Sometimes, this is okay, if not especially believable, but it's kinda overused. When I say, "sometimes," heroes are by nature "larger than life." They're more impressive than the normal Joe on the street. Remember I mentioned that Sherlock Holmes came back to life? He did it by elaborately faking his death in front of his best friend, who being of normal instead of exceptional intelligence completely fell for it. Slightly contrived, but Holmes' death was, quite honestly, the less satisfying part of the equation here (hence the vicious campaign to return him to life).
And how about villains? Well, it matters how much appeal the villain has. If the villain is some thug who was fried by the Eradicator-turned-Superman or reduced to an ugly smoldering corpse by a Toastmaster in Reign of the Supermen, then, yeah, he's pretty dead. If he's, say, Doctor Doom, or Thanos, or freakin' Apocalypse***, then death usually means little to them, and they rise from the grave at least as easily as a main character hero type, and sometimes more easily. (Dr. Doom once apparently convinced the Beyonder to restore him to life and his own body by coming up with some convoluted bit of weird logic that, if the Beyonder did not, the Beyonder would not exist because of timestream warping. Stupid Beyonder fell for it, too. Not that, being in the process of bargaining with the Beyonder, Doom was in any sense actually dead; he had hijacked someone else's body.) And in the case of Mephisto, the bugger doesn't even blink if someone eats his heart. (That was in a Black Panther comic, although I can't tell you which one.) Obviously, in the case of some of these guys, death means something different than simple physical dismemberment, but there's a fundamental difference between these guys and heroes.
They're villains. They're monsters. They're horrific and brutal by nature, and willing to do anything to get ahead. (Granted, increasingly we see heroes with at least some of these characteristics, an extreme case being Spawn.) They're willing to do just about anything to stay alive and keep on doing what they do. (There are exceptions to this, I'm sure. Thanos won't come back after the latest stuff with him for two or three years at least-he's "at peace with Death now," which is kinda nutty because he's always wanted to die.) And like heroes (but to a greater extent) villains are often larger than life. And yes, it really can be to a greater extent. Solo villains from team books are a great example of this kind of thing. Characters like Ultron, Thanos, and the Silver Surfer (in his earliest appearances) present huge threats that counter the entire team's skills and strengths, so it's a little hard to trust such a character's death.****
Wow. As opposed to last time, when I was just releasing targeted snarkiness at specific and numerous examples, that was actual verboseness. Next time in Comic Book Death: EDITORIAL HAMMER OF DEATHS!
*Decision subject to editorial approval and acts of God, which in the comics biz are the same thing as far as the editors (and probably the writers) are concerned. At Marvel Comics, they actually deliberately extend this metaphor!
**This irritates me at least partly because I have no attachment whatsoever to Allen (as he died when I was two; that and I like the name "Wally West" better).
***Admittedly, the old clownface seems thoroughly "dead" at this point, captured by the Celestials for some wicked purpose that will have him screaming in hopes for oblivion for all eternity, but I give it another five years at the most before someone decides it'd be a great idea to bring him back.
****By this point, it would probably require the complete destruction of the Marvel Universe to destroy Ultron, with all those backup copies apparently running around and doing stuff in two or three places almost at once.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
- Juggernaut does not yield on any physical field.
- Cain Marko has never had a functional relationship in his life.
It can be speculated that the two factors are related.
In terms of physical power, Juggernaut has few equals, and only one enemy he's ever fought has anything like a greater level of power-the Hulk, who is generally depicted as perhaps the physically strongest character in Marvel Comics. But even the Hulk isn't able to defeat Juggernaut outright-it usually takes a cosmic force of some kind to do that. (Okay, probably that last one only applied in the X-Men cartoon. I don't know.) Juggernaut's unyielding nature manifests itself in two different ways: enormous momentum and inertia, and total unbreakability. When the Juggernaut starts running, it's really hard to stop him. And pretty much nothing, from the hammer of Thor to being buried alive in solid concrete or under thousands of tons of rubble, can hurt him. On those very rare occasions when he has actually been physically hurt while at full power (note that for a while he had lost most of these powers, simply retaining some lesser degree of superhuman durability and strength), he regenerates instantly (even from total vaporization), and he does not need food, water, or air. The only ways to stop him are to reason with him, yank off his helmet and fry his mind, or send him to another dimension. (Or be a cosmic force. That works too.)
The dysfunctional relationships that Juggernaut has suffered through are numerous:
- His father beat him, and liked his stepbrother better.
- His stepbrother upstaged him (by using telepathy to cheat at schoolwork, no less), and as Onslaught punched him into another state, then punched a hole into his chest to reach the internalized crystal that gives Juggernaut his powers to banish him into it (being banished into his own power source is a frequent mishap for Juggernaut).
- He was banished to a dimension called Oblivion so often that this dimension, tired of him, actually banished him back. No, not the inhabitants-the dimension itself.
- His best friend, Black Tom, killed another of the Juggernaut's few friends. He also didn't appreciate Juggernaut's birthday presents.
- That friend that Black Tom killed declared that he hated Juggernaut with his last breath. OUCH.
- Some lady was only after his body-in this case, his life force.
- Cyttorak, the godlike being who granted Juggernaut his powers, would rather have had his stepbrother as Juggernaut. Later, he took Juggernaut's powers away from him, and later still, told him he had to ditch his friends and be an evil loner again if he wanted them back.
- When he found himself trapped in the Ultraverse after Marvel acquired the property, he made some friends-but one of them, also from the MarvelU, banished them back to the limbo he'd previously been banished to because he wanted to stay in the Ultraverse instead. (It's a somewhat long story.)
- A demoness named Spite used the heck out of him. (I don't have any other information on Spite, sadly.)
- He was captured and put on trial for not following the rules of a contest he didn't even know he was part of. (Really, this is another sign of his stinky relationship with Cyttorak, but whatever.)
- He was captured by Prosh (the Ship mentioned in an earlier link) to "battle a threat to humanity" which turned out to be Prosh itself. This event forced him to confront just how stupid his life had been, as Prosh showed him just how much of his time had been spent buried under stuff. (No kidding.)
And now I feel sorry for Cain Marko and think Professor X is a total jerk.
Is it any wonder this guy is so nuts?
But how do you think of the different selves (such as your "normal" and "Internet" selves)?
Is an Internet self an "inner" self? An "outer" self? Or simply an "alternate" self?
Interpret this however you want. I don't really care, which begs the question of why I bothered posing the question.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I often randomly browse through websites like Wikipedia, the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and various others. Sure, there are probably better ways to spend my time, but this generally gives me lots of ideas and occasional genuine insights.
Case in point: I was reading this, and once I read through it, within a short time I realized that the subject, Meggan of the Captain Britain, Excalibur, and X-Men comics, could easily have her character boiled down into three main components.
- She is defined by her relationships, especially those she has with men.
- She is by nature innocent and at least a little simple.
- She is insanely powerful, and the only reason she doesn't trample everyone is because she's not very assertive.
When I finished these thoughts, the first thought that came into my head was, "Man, Meggan's depiction must drive feminists nuts."
The first sentence can be explicated by the vast majority of her interactions with other characters. Meggan's very appearance is dictated entirely by the fancies of the men she loves most, and before she gained conscious control of her powers, it was also dictated by the loathing that others bore for her in her monstrous form. Thus, Meggan can often be summed up in the phrase "wish fulfillment" simply for her appearance. (I'm probably going to dig a hole for myself with feminist types when I say that if Meggan is drawn in a way that isn't especially attractive or fetching, the artist has done a bad job.) Even in Meggan's relatively recent death/disappearance during the House of M, she was sacrificing herself for her friends and husband.
The second sentence can be summed up in various ways. Meggan was illiterate for most of her life, and only recently learned to read. She was cut off from other people because of her appearance, and sheltered for her entire life. These are not in and of themselves bad things; it makes one vulnerable in ways, but it gives the character some distinctive features (such as her perpetual shoelessness), and it also gave her a really nice line at one point: "You think me stupid because I cannot read or understand clever words. But life is bigger than words. Words are just small noises that hide the truth. I see more than you could know."
And that line segways nicely into the third sentence. The only reason Meggan doesn't trash everything in her path is because it isn't in her nature. She has pretty much any superhuman powers she could ever need whenever she wants them: She can change her shape, has some degree of telepathy, can draw energy into herself to increase her strength, resilience, and the like, and she has the ability to disrupt or control any kind of force or energy imaginable. The previous quote attributed to Meggan was one that she made in response to Jamie Braddock, an insane reality-warping mutant (and her boyfriend's brother). (Note: If you are a sensitive soul, don't click the above link, for you may be scarred for life. Jamie Braddock always runs around in his teeny tiny underwear.) The act that brought on the quote itself was her total defiance of his ability to warp reality around himself, to which almost no one else was resistant. And in the aforementioned incident where she sacrificed herself, she used her powers to stop what the others could not-and one of the others was Rachel Summers, sometimes host of the Phoenix Force. (Okay, so the others helped a little.) And according to Wikipedia, she has successfully replicated the powers and abilities of Godzilla, Dazzler, Rogue, Colossus, Longshot, Storm, Wolverine, Havok, and has imitated the powers of a werewolf, Sandman, Hydro-man and confronted Galactus.
I can't even make this stuff up.
So, in closing, Meggan may look cute and innocent, but she can kick your rear end seven ways to Sunday on her worst day.
From Supergirl (vol. 2) #79, an
alternate timeline in a 2003 Supergirl storyline by Peter David, this bizarre
variety of Kryptonite apparently turned heterosexual Kryptonians temporarily and
stereotypically gay; it was seen in just one panel, with Superman giving
flattering compliments to Jimmy Olsen about his wardrobe and decorative sense.
It spoofs the more "innocent times" of the Silver Age (Lois Lane is depicted in
this story as not understanding what's gotten into
So apparently Lex Luthor's goal is to turn Superman gay.
You know, lots of people have made much ado about Lex Luthor's initials, and there have also been comments about Luthor's and Superman's relationship, but I'm going to try to avoid any more commentary. I think this speaks for itself.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing some of the later Holmes stories, he was getting tired of them. He didn't much like them-he thought that they were silly things. (I would look up just exactly what he said, but don't feel like it.) But when he killed Holmes off, thinking he'd laid the character to eternal rest, there was an uproar. He started receiving rather unpleasant letters. One of these letters was from his mother.
That had to be a harsh moment in Doyle's life.
Doyle: Mother's always liked *you* better.
Holmes: Indubitably, Watson.
Doyle: ...A heck?
Anyway, pretty much ever since then, writers have known that you can stage a death for emotional effect. And some people have decided that staging death for emotional effect is a great idea for sales.
Which leads me to just what has me going buggy right this second-the cheapening of death in mainstream comic books. I'll open my snarkiness by quoting something written by Mark Gruenwald in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition (Book of the Dead)
"But for the most part, irrevocable deaths in the Marvel Universe are exactly what they seem to be."
Hmm. I'll list off some of the names which sit on the very same page as the essay (titled "Dead Reckoning") from which the above quote was taken.
Ancient One: Technically dead, although even as of the book's publishing he was still going Obi-Wan Kenobi every five minutes, from the sound of it. Apparently he's been more active in the afterlife than he was while he was alive.
Baron Strucker: Alive. As a long-lived Nazi big wig, he's pretty much unkillable. Not to mention that in some alternate reality he (or a guy with exactly the same name) transformed into a sorcerer named Charnel by merging with Death's Head's corpse. But then Death's Head killed him. (Consider the essay and figure out how that makes sense. If you can't, go here, and be glad that other people put this kind of info on the internets.)
Baron Zemo (I): Okay, he's still pretty dead. But Baron Zemo (II) is still around, avenging his father's legacy or something.
Basilisk (I): Dead. You can't usually get deader than a guy shot by the Scourge of the Underworld.
Beyonder: Dead. Er, maybe. Is Kosmos still around? (That'll be another snarky post on here, I'm sure.)
Big Man: Dead, and so is Big Man's crossdressing daughter, Big Man. Although Big Man's name lives on as the name that obscures viewers of The Spectacular Spider-Man from learning that the big villain is actually-well, you can look that up somewhere else if you want spoilers (not that that spoiler would be much of one by now). (Note: This one's rather hard to find information on.)
Black Knight (I): Dead. He lived hundreds of years ago, he'd better be dead. Although he pulls some Obi-Wannage too, as I recall.
Black Knight (II): Dead. (Note that he's technically connected to the other one-the link above will take you to an article that discusses both of them.) He died a stupid man's death. Black Knight: I was riding on my flying horse, carrying Iron Man, whose armor I had disabled, when the little ------ knocked me off my horse! And I fell a few thousand feet, and for some reason all my armor didn't do anything to protect me! Iron Man: Maybe you should have had thrusters, or at least a parachute.
Blackout: My poor kitty! (cough) If you're wondering what brought that on, I actually used to own a cat by that name. He's dead for sure because Hasbro grabbed the name for a Transformer.
Blizzard (I): Still dead. This is mostly because minor irrelevant guys like him are easily replaced by other minor irrelevant guys.
Bucky: He's so dead, he's been dead forever, and they're never bringing him-wait, they killed Captain America and brought this guy back to replace him? What a heck?
Captain Mar-Vell: Because you must spell it that way to be clear. He's dead, cancer took him out. But it appears that a Skrull has been brainwashed to be indistinguishable from him and think that he is in fact him, so it doesn't matter. He's not really dead anymore no matter the convoluted ridiculous origin story, now is he?
Carrion: A zombie clone of a dead guy who came to take revenge for the dead guy... who is a relatively minor character that practically no one cares about. Okay, that sucker had better be dead. (looks him up) GACK! They made him into an immortal virus entity! What a heck?!
Sharon Carter: She's not dead, and in fact she's apparently pregnant.
Changeling: Dead (maybe), but he sort of lives on sometimes as Morph.
Then, there are a half dozen or so more characters who as far as I know are still dead. The sad thing is, since I'm taking stuff specifically from the table of contents of the one issue, I can't get to some really good ones, like:
Drax the Destroyer (not dead)
Dracula (dead forever but not really haha!)
Ghaur (dead but not dead again by two years after this book is published and his ghost is in two places on the covers!)
MODOK (not dead)
Ben Parker (still dead, THANK GOODNESS)
Professor Power (seemingly dead, but it isn't for lack of thumbing his nose at death-he apparently resurrected himself by possessing someone once already)
Red Skull (not dead, despite being killed again at least once after this, and for that matter evading actual physical death more than once before this)
Ringer (killed dead by the Scourge of the Underworld which should have meant his eternal end but it didn't although he still died later)
General "My Nickname Is Too Long For the Table of Contents" Ross (not dead)
Satana (she was dead but they brought her back as a teenager so old guys could perv at her)
Snowbird (she was dead but rose from the dead out of her empty grave because she's a Goddess of the North and she can do that)
Gwen Stacy (dead, but they almost brought her back, and there's a clone of her running around somewhere)
Franklin Storm (still dead)
Swordsman-who-is-not-the-one-from-Thunderbolts (dead, but his corpse was animated by an alien tree so the tree could get it on with Mantis)
Terrax (not dead)
Thanos (he was turned to stone but brought back to life and *then* killed)
Vampires (as a category, see Dracula's status; note this includes Varnae, previous lord of vampires, who had committed suicide to let Dracula become the lord of vampires but came back anyway with the rest of the vampires)
Adam Warlock (he apparently can stop being dead because he feels like it)
Zombie (who is clearly dead, because he was already dead, but apparently he's even deader-er, no, he came back, apparently)
So here's my point that I'm driving at. How come these deaths mean anything? I'll grant you: Lots of the characters documented in my crumbling old Handbooks are still thoroughly dead. I mean, Turner D. Century? Cheetah? Who even cares about these guys? I suppose that's the point here: Nobody cares about these guys. So they're allowed to rest in the afterlife.
This is the first aspect of comic book death-it has no permanence, and thus, it fails to parallel death in reality. Granted, comic books often flout the laws of physics and life, but death is the one thing in life that is permanent.
I read a lot of comic blogs (far more than actual comics), and it seems more than a little disturbing when folks remark "I hated it when they offed [insert name here], and I hope they bring him/her back." While I can understand that the attitude is a product of liking a character, the attitude also comes from a feeling that the characters can come back whenever they please-which they (sort of) do. And this feeling is created by the extreme impermanence of comic book death.
(Don't think, from the lack of extensive examples from the DC Universe, that I'm not looking at them, too-they're bringing Barry Allen back after over twenty years, aren't they?)