Thursday, July 31, 2008


isn't about to eat a popsicle while Plastic Man's around.

Why so ridiculous?

When I got home from seeing The Dark Knight last week, one of the observations I made was that I was pretty surprised by the Batman-as-Bush-administration analogy, and that I was unsure what to make of it.

A week’s passed, and I’m still not entirely sure what director and co-writer Christopher Nolan meant by it, beyond pointing out the obvious fact that facing absolute evil is hard, and forces one to compromise their own ethics and morals.

If he was comparing Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent’s fight with the Joker over the soul of Gotham City to the U.S. government’s fight against the specter of terrorism over the soul of America, then the point seemed to be that terror wins, even when it loses.

It’s a bleak, bleak outlook and, as I mentioned, The Joker seems triumphant in the film.

Now viewers often see what they want to see in movies, particularly viewers who are also writers looking for material and are canny enough to realize Hot Topic of Conversation This Week + Political Issues of Our Day = Guaranteed Sale of Piece Discussing Them.

Often, we even see things that aren’t there.

An aside: The conventional wisdom among critics, commentators and most fans regarding 2007’s 300 was that it was not-so-thinly-veiled pro-America propaganda, with heroic, western, white, freedom-loving democracy-havers standing up against the Middle Eastern hordes. And sure, there was a lot of that in there, but my own reading was that the political analogies were horribly confused. While in some ways Sparta seemed like an analogue for the U.S., in just as many ways, the Persian Empire (i.e. the bad guys) seemed more like the U.S. After all, they were the largest, most powerful army in the world, with the most advanced weapons technology, and fighting in the name of a decadent country formed by a co-mingling of all the peoples of the known world. But that was last year’s big comic book movie with a debt owed to Frank Miller.

I was keeping an open mind, and was even somewhat skeptical of the Joker = terrorism interpretation I’d heard.

In a lot of ways, Nolan and Ledger’s Joker is something even scarier than a terrorist, as he seems to have no agenda. He’s not fighting for a homeland or against another country or people or for or against a particular religion. We don’t know where he’s come from or where he wants to go; the little he says about his motivations—in the hospital bed speech to Harvey Dent, for example—could be so much bullshit, like the shifting stories of his scars.

On the other hand, he champions asymmetrical warfare (the line about how he likes gunpowder and dynamite), his weapon of choice is the bomb, he’s not afraid to blow himself up, and, of course, there’s the fact that everyone keeps calling him a terrorist.

I was willing to resist the Batman-as-Bush metaphor for awhile, even past the point where it was clear the doing-bad-things-for-the-greater-good emerged as an issue (Batman asking Dent not to torture that Joker henchman, Batman breaking Maroni’s legs, Batman using enhanced interrogation techniques against the Joker, etc.)

But man, when Batman walks Morgan Freeman into the room with the all those monitors in it and tells him he plans on eavesdropping on telephone calls, Nolan might as well have had Batman look into the camera and tell the audience he thinks the Bush administration was right to support warrant-less wire-tapping.

Again, I don’t know what exactly Nolan is trying to say, beyond, “Man, life sure sucks, doesn’t it?” Batman’s not really right, and he doesn’t win; the Joker gets caught at the end and the Gothamites on the boat choose not to murder to save their own lives, believing in the inherent goodness of their fellow Gothamite, but that doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do with Batman torturing or spying on anyone.

And that’s the only “victory” we get; he’s resigns himself to an endless war on crime, devoid of the love of the woman he loved, the successor and partner he saw in Harvey Dent, and even the hope that he could be an inspirational force bettering people’s lives, as he becomes a vigilante (Little James Gordon still believes, though!).

Andrew Klavan didn’t have the same problems I did trying to figure out Nolan’s message. Klavan, an author responsible for many works of fiction I never read, got it all right away: It’s about how Bush is awesome, and he wrote an opinion piece in the July 25th Wall Street Journal.

I’m pretty sure he saw an entirely different movie than me. Since the theme for today is apparently long-winded responses to poorly-written opinion pieces, let’s parse Klavan’s words, shall we?

The piece was called “What Bush and Batman Have in Common,” and the answer is not merely that they both inherited a great deal of wealth, work out a lot, have access to cutting edge military technology and occasionally hang out with old men in hidden underground bunkers.

No! Both of them of them also fight the War on Terror in person with their fists. Or something. Let’s see what Klavan has to say…

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.

Actually, I have a question about whether it’s a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage of Bush: Are you fucking serious?

Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

Okay, let’s stop there. Batman is vilified and despised by…whom, exactly?

His confidante and close friend Lucius Fox tells him domestic spying is wrong, and only reluctantly helps him with it, but it’s a disagreement in their friendship, not the end of it. His friend and one-time lover Rachel Dawes likes him, but also thinks he’s a crazy, selfish asshole and would rather be with another man. Harvey Dent doesn’t really seem to give a shit about Batman; he supports him enough to take a fall for him in good times, and, when things eventually go wrong for Dent, he seeks revenge on Gordon, not Batman. The Joker loves Batman, because Batman does exactly what he wants and “completes” him.

Batman doesn’t become a popularly despised scapegoat until the end of the film, when he says he’ll take the blame for something he didn’t even do.

So I don’t see the equivalency between the vilification of Batman vs. that of Bush.

Also, while both Batman and Bush (and by “Bush” I mean the Bush administration, because say what you will about the president, he’s only one man, and it’s not like he’s personally doing everything wrong himself) do “occasionally push the boundaries of civil rights” (and by “push the boundaries” I mean exceed the boundaries) Bush and Batman hardly both confront terrorists in the only way they understand.

For one, Batman doesn’t kill, something that has been oft-noted about this Bat-film versus the Tim Burton ones. He fights terrorism as if it were a matter of law enforcement. He’s not above breaking the law, but he is above going to war.

Obviously, Bush’s U.S. has chosen to treat terrorism as something to be solved militarily rather than as an act of law enforcement, and certainly has no compunctions against killing terrorists (and, unfortunately, thousands of innocent folks who happen to live around the people they’ve deemed terrorists).

It’s one place where the Batman/Bush comparison falls apart. Bush is waging a war on terrorism; Batman is trying to arrest terrorism.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society—in which people sometimes make the wrong choices—and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Conversely, time after time, left-wing films about the war on terror—films like "In The Valley of Elah," "Rendition" and "Redacted"—which preach moral equivalence and advocate surrender, that disrespect the military and their mission, that seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism, have bombed more spectacularly than Operation Shock and Awe.

Oh, Jesus. I don’t even know what he’s trying to say in that last paragraph.

In The Valley of Elah is a murder mystery about post-traumatic stress disorder that has few big gong-clashing Important Morales about the Iraq War, but it hardly “disrespects the military.” Rather, it says they bear unfair burdens the rest of the country is exempt from, and that the Iraq war was all fucked up. Do people still disagree with the notion that the Iraq War is pretty fucked up?

I didn’t see the other two; an Oscar-season drama that fizzled (Hey, so did Lions for Lambs) and a documentary. But that’s three movies of the, oh, let’s say ten thousand or so that have been made about the War on Terror in the past seven years, some of which have been pretty damn successful (To stick with ’07 examples like the ones Klavan cited, there’s Oscar-nominated documentaries Operation: Homecoming and No End In Sight, both of which are really great and fairly apolitical; the former consists of filmed stories written and told by Iraq war vets, the latter of which is a politics-free examination about how the post-war phase was mismanaged).

He also said they “bombed as spectacularly as Operation Shock and Awe.” Did he mean that the operation was a failure like Rendition was, or was that simply a tasteless joke?

Let’s move on…

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense—values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right—only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?

Wait, is he honestly asking why conservative values are only espoused in fantasy films set in completely different worlds then our own? How does that help his argument, to ask why films showing the superiority of conservative values always have to have orcs and supervillains in them?

I get a little lost here, to be honest, because his examples kind of bewilder me. I mentioned 300 up top; I think it’s worth noting that the story was created in 1998, and reflected Frank Miller’s worldview at the time, and, since the director was so faithful, much of what we think it says about the current state of the world is the fact that the context changed. Also, I’m not entirely sure if it’s about “morality” (the good guys killed their own young) or “faith” (the bad guys are the religious ones, even if they worship their own king).

The story of Lord of the Rings was written decades ago, before, during and after World War II so, again, a large part of its worldview is informed by J.R.R. Tolkien’s own worldview, in It’s also pretty cartoonish: the giant flaming eye, the prehistoric monsters, the disembodied black cloaks and the goblins are bad guys. There’s not a lot of gray area in it.

“Narnia” is based on a series of novels written by a contemporary of Tolkien’s, one who also happened to be a Christian theologian. It’s not like Hollywood conservatives had to Jesus the material up any; if anything, the films seem less overtly religious than the books. And again, the villains are fairy tale bad guys: Witches, wolves, and monsters.

“Spiderman 3”—without the hyphen fuck you Wall Street Journal spell-check proper names!—is…Jesus, how is that film conservative, exactly? J. Jonah Jameson and Eddie Brock represent the liberal media, the Sandman is made of sand…there’s and in the Middle East…so he’s a symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…or…what man, what?

I don’t know; maybe I’d have to re-watch it, but I don’t recall any real political or liberal/conservative values being espoused.
Wait, the villain was Catholic, right? Isn’t it anti-faith then?

The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?

The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of "The Dark Knight" itself: Doing what's right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.

Here’s where I wonder if we saw the same film. Doing what’s right is hard in the world of The Dark Knight, but “speaking the truth is dangerous”?

The hero of the piece wears a mask and keeps his identity secret, refusing to come forward even when lives are the line. Everyone lies almost constantly throughout the film; the Joker lies to his own men about his plans and to everyone about his origins; Alfred withholds Rachel’s last words from Bruce Wayne; Gordon fakes his own death making his wife and kids think he has died; Harvey Dent lies about his coin-flipping trick to his lover, and so on.

And the “heroes” of Dark Knight and the villains are fairly indistinguishable, are they not? The best of the good guys all must compromise themselves to differing degrees, one of the crooked cops goes crooked for a very good reason, Harvey Dent is both the best of the good guys and the worst of the bad guys (by the end he’s both, with a flip of coin deciding which).

One of Joker’s many tricks is to confuse his enemies as to who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy (think of the scene where his men are disguised as hostages and doctors, while the actual hostages are disguised as his henchmen).

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them—when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

This just seems purely jingoistic, and I’m not even sure how to address it. The “all Americans know” paragraph would be fine, if it weren’t immediately followed by one which says the world does not universally embrace such values. It just turns the rest of the world into cartoon villains like the wicked wizards and witches of the fantasy films he cites.

Do people in countries other than America really think “freedom is better than slavery?” (America spent almost 100 years as a nation that permitted slavery, and it took a war to finally abolish it.) Slavers may prefer slavery to freedom, but slaves don’t. Do people in countries other than America really think hate is better than love? They hate their friends, family and lovers there?

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away—because we have to chase him."

And here’s an essential difference. Batman deliberately chooses to work outside the law, even sundering his relationship with his ally and taking the blame for crimes he didn’t even commit—those Dent murdered—and heroically face the consequences.

When has the Bush administration ever stepped up and said, “Look, this is illegal and morally repugnant; but it has to be done, so we’re going to do it and face the consequences”? The exact opposite has happened in every case, with administration lawyers constructing arguments to make what was previously thought to be illegal legal (the post-9/11 dragnet, enemy combatant detentions, torture), and laws being rewritten and passed after the fact to give immunity to those who broke the laws (regarding domestic eavesdropping, for example).

That's real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life;

Batman doesn’t kill anyone; not even the Osama bin Laden of the piece. He goes out of his way to save the terrorist so he can face his crimes in the court of law.

that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised—then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Okay, now it sounds like you’re talking about Vice President Cheney rather than President Bush, dude. Since when has Bush avoided the bright light and kept to the shadows?

Perhaps that's when Hollywood conservatives will be able to take off their masks and speak plainly in the light of day.

And you lost me again. There are conservatives in Hollywood then? Huh. Nolan is a disguised conservative because he equates Batman in this film to the Bush administration? Even if he’s criticizing the Bush administration, and showing the ultimate failure of moral compromise to defeat terror, which cannot be defeated?

Batman doesn’t win his fight against terror; he simply ties it, and prepares to spend the rest of his life fighting it. He won’t kill the Joker, the Joker won’t kill him and, as the film’s avatar of terrorism says in his last scene with Batman, he could see this going on indefinitely—and is looking forward to their endless cycle of indecisive fighting.

How does that make Bush seem like a hero, exactly? If anything, it makes him seem like a noble but deeply flawed tragic figure.

Gay marriage: Threat or menace?

Orson Scott Card is a professional writer, and, all the circumstantial evidence I’ve seen seems to suggest he’s a pretty good one.

For one, I’ve heard of him, which makes him one of the relatively few science fiction writers who aren’t dead that I’d be able to name off the top of my head.*

I see his books in places where I don’t see any other sci-fi books, and I know at least one local high school had Ender’s Game one its reading list within the past few years.

And, of course, Marvel Comics hired him to write Ultimate Iron Man, and made a big to-do about how they had bagged big-time, popular writer from a respectable field of entertainment to tell the origin of Iron Man for them.

I can’t personally vouch for Card’s abilities as a writer, however, since I’ve never read any of his novels, nor his Ultiamte Iron Man comics. In fact, the only piece of writing I’ve read by Card was his July 24 column for Mormon Times headlined “State job is not to redefine marriage.”

Having read it, now I’m not so sure Card is a writer. Or, if he is, that he’s any good at all at his job (it wouldn’t be the first time someone got popular in a field of entertainment without possessing any discernable talent, after all).

Even being generous enough to accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion and the right to express it—no matter how ignorant and unfortunate that opinion may be—Card’s editorial is embarrassingly poorly written, to the point one might wonder if he were drunk when he wrote it, or if a burglar broke into his house, typed it up on his computer, and then mailed it to Mormon Times using Card’s email address just to embarrass the poor author.

Let’s read “State job is not to redefine marriage” together. It will be a good bonding experience....

The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to "gay marriage," is that it marks the end of democracy in America.

So that’s it. Game over. Courts in California and Massachusetts, a full one-twenty-fifth of the states in the nation, have declared that gay marriage should be legally recognized. Democracy is over. America is now, I don’t know, an anarchy? A monarchy? How will we decide what we are now that deomcracy has ended? I suppose we could vote on it, but that’s something they’d do in a democracy, which America clearly is not.

These judges are making new law without any democratic process; in fact, their decisions are striking down laws enacted by majority vote.

The pretext is that state constitutions require it —but it is absurd to claim that these constitutions require marriage to be defined in ways that were unthinkable through all of human history until the past 15 years. And it is offensive to expect us to believe this obvious fiction.

It is such an obvious overreach by judges, far beyond any rational definition of their authority, that even those who support the outcome of the decisions should be horrified by the means.

Well obvious it’s not beyond “any rational definition of their authority,” since they themselves have rationalized it is within their authority. And while some rational folks have claimed some judges have gone too far in their rulings pertaining to laws, often using the unfortunate derogatory term “activist judges,” judging stuff like laws is actually their job. It’s not simply in their job description, it’s in their name.

It’s one of those “checks and balances” you learn about in grade school. If they are overreaching by checking to hard and unbalancing the governments that Card does not live in, the legislative branch can then check them back by rewriting the laws and/or the constitution, the latter of which will involve the people. Democracy in action!

Of course, if democracy is over, I guess it’s too late to change the constitutions of California and Massachusetts…

We already know where these decisions lead. We have seen it with the court decisions legalizing abortion. At first, it was only early abortions; within a few years, though, any abortion up to the killing of a viable baby in mid-birth was made legal.

Not only that, but the courts upheld obviously unconstitutional limitations on free speech and public assembly: It is now illegal even to kneel and pray in front of a clinic that performs abortions.

Do not suppose for a moment that the "gay marriage" diktats will not be supported by methods just as undemocratic, unconstitutional and intolerant.

While gay marriage and abortion are certainly what you could safely call “hot button” issues, I’m not sure how fair it is to lump them together, or to imply that the enforcement of gay marriage laws will inevitably end up like the enforcement of abortion laws over the past few decades.

Already in several states, there are textbooks for children in the earliest grades that show "gay marriages" as normal. How long do you think it will be before such textbooks become mandatory—and parents have no way to opt out of having their children taught from them?

And if you choose to home-school your children so they are not propagandized with the "normality" of "gay marriage," you will find more states trying to do as California is doing —making it illegal to take your children out of the propaganda mill that our schools are rapidly becoming.

Really? What states are those? What textbooks are those? I would like to hear some examples of this, instead of just hearing how maybe in some places this thing that worries Card is maybe happening.

I was amused to hear Card mention “the propaganda mill that our schools are rapidly becoming,” while in his bio right next to the piece it says his books “are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.”

How dangerous is this, politically? Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a "homophobe" for years.

This is a term that was invented to describe people with a pathological fear of homosexuals -- the kind of people who engage in acts of violence against gays. But the term was immediately extended to apply to anyone who opposed the homosexual activist agenda in any way.

A term that has
mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as "mentally ill"?

How dangerous is this, politically? I don’t know; not at all? Card lives in North Carolina. Mormon Times is based in Utah. Maybe just stay out of California and Massachusetts?

Within the last decade our bitterly politically divided country survived a presidential election decided in large part by the Supreme Court without it leading to civil war or, you know, any bloodshed at all. I’m sure, politically, the union will survive gay folks being able to file joint tax returns and enjoy the other legal benefits of marriage.

As for his mention of people who are opposed to gay marriage being labeled “homophobes,” a word he says means someone with a pathological fear of homosexuals, well, that’s an interesting point. (If true. My Word dictionary defines homophobia as “an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people, and their culture.” I guess you can argue with the dictionary if you want, and say the word “irrational” is unfair there, and that there are rational reasons to disapprove of homosexuality, but fear is but one of three definitions, and it’s the third one).

As a writer, Card should know that the meanings of words drift over time, expanding and narrowing in their meanings. If homophobia meant an irrational fear of gay folks at one point, it has long since come to mean people who just plain don’t like gay folks for whatever reason.

Is there a word for someone that means “one who thinks gay people are an abomination” or “one who hates gay people” or “one who disapproves of gay people?”

Maybe. I don’t know what it is though, and there’s little sense in railing against language usage, which rarely gets anyone anywhere. You know, “comic book” and “graphic novel” are awful, awful terms that don’t remotely begin to describe what they refer to, but those are the words the language has settled on.

So point for Card; “homophobe” may not technically be accurate to describe people who hate gay people.

That’s one for the plus column so far.

But wait, we’re only, like, half way through this!

Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement.

Oh wait, what? We all have to marry people of the same sex as us? Oh man, I don’t even like touching my own body that much, now I gotta kiss some dude on the altar, his stubble all scratching against my stubble? That sucks!

Oh wait, he meant something gay people say is a requirement of theirs…or something. Jesus, are his novels this hard to understand?

Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement. When gay rights were being enforced by the courts back in the '70s and '80s, we were repeatedly told by all the proponents of gay rights that they would never attempt to legalize gay marriage.

It took about 15 minutes for
that promise to be broken.

Actually, if you’re they made that promise throughout the course of the ‘70s and ‘80s, that’s 20 years right there. So clearly it took longer than 15 minutes. I thought science-fiction folks were all supposed to be really good at math?

And you can guess how long it will now take before any group that speaks against "gay marriage" being identical to marriage will be attacked using the same tools that have been used against anti-abortion groups -- RICO laws, for instance.

I would like to hear more about this, actually, since I haven’t heard anything about anti-abortion groups being prosecuted with RICO laws. I’m also curious who would be doing the “ attacking,” since, again, he’s just talking about what’s going on in the court systems of two states.

Does he really want us to guess how long it will take for the federal government to even make gay marriage legal, let alone openly persecute those who speak out against it? I don’t know…let’s say seven-to-20 years for passage, and never for persecution.

Here's the irony: There is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage. Marriage is older than government. Its meaning is universal: It is the permanent or semipermanent bond between a man and a woman, establishing responsibilities between the couple and any children that ensue.

The laws concerning marriage did not create marriage, they merely attempted to solve problems in such areas as inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on.

Yes. Exactly. You got it, Card. That is the irony.

And that is why, for the life of me, I’ve never understood why anyone on earth could possibly oppose legalizing gay marriage for any reason other than that they just plain don’t like gay people (or they want to appeal to folks who just plain don’t like gay people, so as to get their votes, in the case of politicians).

Religious marriage and legal marriage are two completely different things. If churches don’t want to give gay people the sacrament or religious ritual of marriage, but reserve it for only heterosexual couples, that's cool. If gay, religious folks really, really want to get married in their church, well, that’s a fight they’re going to have to take up with their church, not the government, which practices a strict separation between church and state (although not always as strict as they should; and yes, sometimes not strict enough).

And if the state or federal government does want to allow gay people to have the same legal rights in the eyes of the state or federal government, then what right does a church have to get involved? Or someone to argue against such a state decision on religious grounds?

I was raised Catholic (and spent more than half of my life so far attending Catholic schools), and in that church, marriage is one of our seven religious sacraments, with a lot of strict rules about it. If I wanted to marry another man, I couldn’t imagine even bothering to try it in the Catholic church (They're 2,000 years old and still don’t let women or married men serve in the priesthood, so I assume gay marriage might take a few more centuries).

But I sure as hell would expect to be able to go to a courthouse downtown and have a judge declare us married, and I’d expect to be able to use his health insurance or visit him if he was in a coma in the hospital or for him to inherit all my longboxes full of shitty ‘90s comics if I died suddenly.

I couldn’t even imagine telling a legislator, “Hey, you can’t let these folks have that signed piece of paper giving them certain legal rights in the eyes of the state! This one book has a handful of vague passages suggesting that it might be uncool!” Because a) I wouldn’t want to live in a country where everything the Bible says is bad, b) I wouldn’t want to live in a country where everything the Catholic church says is bad is bad (the sexual laws alone…!), and c) there are a lot of religions in the U.S. and, at the risk of anyone who belongs to any of the crazy-ass ones, I would hate to see the words of all these Gods and gods acknowledged in the law.

Okay, almost done now…

Take us home with just one more burst of nonsense, Orson Scott Card!

If the government passed a law declaring that grey was now green, and asphalt was specifically designated as a botanical organism, would that make all our streets into "greenery" and all our parking lots into "parks"?

If a court declared that from now on, "blind" and "sighted" would be synonyms, would that mean that it would be safe for blind people to drive cars?

No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the
same as the coupling between a man and a woman.

This is a permanent fact of nature.

Hey, you’re right! No law could make the coupling of two men or two women the same as that between a man and a woman, because laws don’t actually reorder biology, and if they could, gay dudes and ladies wouldn’t want to make coupling with members of the same sex the same as coupling with members of the opposite sex because why would gay people even want to couple with members of the opposite sex?

So that’s Orson Scott Card, professional writer who gets paid actual money by people to produce writing for them. You can read more of his columns for Mormon Times here. To his credit, he’s not a one-issue columnist; at least, he doesn’t appear to be by scanning the headlines, which include ones like “Singin’, dancin’ Mormons” and “In praise of what’s inside the diapers.”

So, what does any of this have to do with comics? Um, well, obviously not too terribly much, beyond the fact that Card wrote some Iron Man comics and will be working with Marvel on an upcoming Ender’s Game adaptation (He was just part of a Marvel panel at San Diego last week).

But yesterday’s Kevin Melrose noted that as folks around the Internet responded to this piece by Card, some were mentioning him in regards to his working for Marvel and that folks should write in to Marvel to let them know that they think Card’s a jerk and they won’t by his or their comics if they keep paying the man.

The comments include the predictably sad and hilarious ones, and it's always alternately amusing and frustrating to hear comic book fans rationalize buying or not buying a company’s output based on one certain factor (Usually it has more to do with things like Spider-Man’s marriage or Iron Man’s support of a particular law than the politics and beliefs of the creators).

I liked the one guy who equated emailing Marvel that you weren’t going to buy their comics if they keep giving Card work as crossing the line into Nazi territory. I know that when I think of Nazis, the first thing that comes to mind is the way they were always writing letters to comic book companies threatening to boycott if they insisted on hiring creators and telling stories they didn’t like (One of the Nazis’ chief complaints about American comics at the time was the way Hitler was always being punched out on the covers).

Reading that post at Blog@, and then Card's screed inMormon Times, I was kinda glad that I had never read any of Card’s work, because it can be incredibly disheartening when you find out a creator whose work you really like holds beliefs you find repugnant, an experience I imagine most comic fans have had at some point in our current Internet age of comics.

I wonder if there will be any actual outcry against Marvel over this, particularly since Card has only really worked in the fringes of their comics (a couple of spin-off miniseries in their four-book Ultimate line, an upcoming book adaptation more geared for book stores and libraries than the direct market).

Somehow, I kind of doubt it.

Surely Marvel’s committed enough to Ender’s Game that they won’t cancel the project at this point, and its hard to imagine their core customers exerting enough pressure to cause them to drop a particular creator (Surely Marvel’s learned by now that no matter what fans and readers might say, they’ll never drop all their books as long as Marvel’s the only place where they can get their sweet, sweet Spider-Man. Maybe they’ll want to keep Card away from Iron Man however, now that the latter’s star is on the rise.

*Nothing personal against the genre, its practicioners or its consumers. I’ve just never got into any sci-fi that wasn’t written by Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut (if that counts). Comics and movies have long ago fulfilled whatever desire I was born with for sci-fi.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Weekly Haul: July 30th

Sorry for the delay in posting these this week; unforeseen vehicular complications and an out-of-the-ordinary shift in day job hours today resulted in me not getting to sit down and babble about comics until much, much, much later than usual. Having just re-read these, I notice that I apparently swear a lot more when I’m tired, and that I stop making sense around 12:45 a.m., which is when I wrote the last one, the JSoA review…

Fantastic Four: True Story #1 (Marvel Comics) I love these sorts of one-shots and miniseries, moreso than just about any run on the main monthly title that I’ve read. The characters that make up the Fantastic Four are just so sharply realized and defined, and the basic premise so pliable—superhero explorers lead by guy who can invent anything—that you almost have to try really hard to screw-up the characters and their voices, and just about any situation you put them in is going to fit, no matter how wild it is.

Wisdom and Captain Britain and MI13 writer Paul Cornel teams with artist Horacio Domingues for just such a wild adventure featuring the FF.

In the middle of a battle with an alien monster, Reed breaks off to talk to a depressed Sue about her feelings (while Ben and Johnny carry on against the monster in the background for four panels), and they eventually realize someone seems to have placed a sort of wall preventing everyone on earth from accessing and enjoying fiction.

“To look into this, I’ll need to create a new field of human endeavor,” Reed says. “Give me a couple of days.” A couple of days later, they’re traveling through the world of fiction with Dante Alighieri as their guide. First stop Sense and Sensibility to save the Dashwood sisters from an army of horrible demons, where Cornell gives us what has to be the first Jane Austen/Stan Lee mash-up line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged…That it’s clobberin’ time!"

There’s something funny on just about every page of the book, from the revelation that Reed Richards has a crush on Rachel Leigh Cooke (Hey, me too!), to the Four’s four-way banter, to scenes of meta-fictional and meta-meta-fictional gags.

I liked this one, in which Cornell portrayed Johnny and Ben bickering:
Yeah, it’s kind of a cop-out—the pleasure in such scenes is seeing writers try to come up with new ways to do them over and over—but it’s a funny cop-out.

Anyway, read this book. It’s really great. Guest-starring Willie Lumpkin, Tarzan and Rikki-Tikki Tavi.

Green Lantern #33 (DC Comics) Being part five of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’5,647-part origin of Hal Jordan, retrofitting it to better lead into his ongoing rainbow emotions story, and tying more and more of Hal Jordan’s rogues into his story. Pretty solid stuff, if you like this sort of thing; I like it just fine, though I’ve run out of things to say about it, as there hasn’t been anything terribly remarkable or surprising about the story in months.

Justice Society of America Annual #1 (DC) Sigh…

Would it have killed Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Grant Morrison and some other folks responsible for the construction of the DCU to maybe sit down sometime in the course of the last few years and discussed and decided just what the hell is up with their stupid fucking multiverse? And then maybe, like, let us know at some point?

This story, entitled “Earth-2,” is set on the post-Infinite Crisis/52 Earth-2, which is the same as the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth-2. Got all that? Okay, but then on page 15, Power Girl and the various members of the “Justice Society Infinity” (Basically the original Infinity Inc. with some Society members tossed in) get to discussing the state of the multiverse.

The idea was that the post-COIE DCU Earth was a single Earth formed from a merging of five of the infinite Earths (-1, -2, -S, -X and –4, I think it was). According to Dr. Midnight II (a.k.a. Dr. Lady Midnight) and Earth-2 Robin (a.k.a. Terrible Costume Robin), Earth-2 wasn’t folded into post-COIE Earth, but post-COIE Earth was a “New” Earth, which is what the post-COIE Earth was called in Johns’ own Infinite Crisis, and—


I suppose this could all just be bullshit, since a) it doesn’t really make much sense in light of the fact that Johns-written Infinite Crisis made it explicit that post-COIE Earth was part Earth-2, b) Gog could have created this world just to send Power Girl to it, and c) something’s clearly not right with this world, but you know, this stuff really shouldn’t be this hard.

Can’t we just have another dimension? Why does it always have to have a name and a place in a vast cosmology that’s all numbered and mapped out, especially if those names, numbers and maps are going to be in a constant state of flux?

So anyway, page 15 is a real son of a bitch of a page. I hate that page. Fuck you page 15!

As for the rest of the comic? Not too bad. The script, by Geoff Johns, is a particularly nostalgia-driven one, which is probably pretty cool if you are Geoff Johns or are as old as Geoff Johns and/or read the same comics as Geoff Johns growing up. I didn’t, so I don’t really have any great affection for any of the Infinity Inc. folks or the Batman’s daughter Huntress.

Even still, when you suck out the nostalgia, and the melodrama tied-in to a familiarity with the characters, it’s still competently enough told; Johns can really write superheroes angsting, talking, fighting, talking some more and surprising one another with sudden arrivals in his sleep by now, and even if you don’t know or care about any of these characters, it’s still always clear what’s going on and that Johns is in complete control of the narrative.

The art is by Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek, and it’s great stuff. There’s a wonky expression here or there, but for the most part it’s extremely solid work—well rendered designs, crisp, clear storytelling and expressive characters who are all well “acted.”

As much as I enjoyed the Ordway/Wiacek art throughout the book, my favorite moment of the whole thing was probably the two-page pin-up of the JSoA by Dale Eaglesham and Wade Von Grawbadger. It features a Norman Rockwell like painter doing a portrait of the team—all 26 of them, not counting pets—and they are all seated formally in his painting, while in real-life the models are all busy flirting, smoking cigarettes, swilling martinis, smoking pipes, dozing off and so on. It’s a really, really great piece, and I like it so very much that I plan to marry it, as soon as homosexual activists like California and Massachusetts judges allow gay marriage, which will mean everyone is free to marry whatever they want, and Orson Scott Card won’t be able to stop me. We’ll be together soon enough, Pages 37-38 in Justice Society of America Annual #1!

Project Superpowers #5 (Dynamite Entertainment) This is really the only part of the latest issue of Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Carlos Paul and company’s latest issue of putting all those cool-looking Golden Age heroes into a run-of-the-mill, boring-ass modern superhero story:

It’s just a two-page spread in the back marked “The Giants” featuring Ross painting Jack Cole bad-guy The Yellow Claw (renamed to be more PC), Green Giant, Phantasmo and The Boy King.

I really wish Dynamite was telling stories about these characters in their original settings and with their original conceits (or just reprinting their Golden Age adventures) instead of trying to tell a Crisis-style inter-company crossover featuring a bunch of characters who they are just now (re-)introducing.

Reign In Hell #1 (DC) Well that was a disappointment.

Not that there was any reason to get one’s hopes up about this thing. Keith Giffen has said in interviews that the miniseries—about a war between DC’s various Satan stand-ins for control of their version of Hell—was Dan DiDio’s idea and not his; he simply took the assignment. Previous writers to define DC’s Hell and its major players and their power struggles have included Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison and (to a lesser extent), Alan Grant. How does one follow those guys, particularly when one’s not even British?

That said, the talent involved was rather impressive. Despite his failure to be born and raised on the other side of the Atlantic, Giffen knows how to write a good old-fashioned DC Universe super-comic. Weekly comics vet Tom Derenick is providing pencils, and Bill motherfucking Sienkiewicz is inking.

You would think a team that talented would be able to make a halfway decent premise into a halfway decent comic, and you’d be right—this is definitely a halfway decent comic. But that’s all it really is.

Like way too many of these let’s-use-like-fifty-random-characters from DC over the last few years, there’s a weird tension about this book, a steady pulse of frustration rays emanating from the pages. It’s that catch-22 I find awfully tiresome: If you’re not familiar with the characters and literally decades now of DCU stories, you’re likely going to be so confused they might as well have written the book in Farsi; if you are familiar with the characters and literally decades of DCU stories, you’re going to notice all of the little things that are wrong.

The story starts in “Hell,” which has the same map as Earth, only with different place names. Some devil’s in “The Second Province of the Infernal Domain” are under attack by some monster planes, and they spit jargon while talking military tactics (a little like all those Grant and Ennis The Demon stories set in Hell, but without the humor).

Then Lord Satanus, “first seated of Purgatory, ninth province of the Infernal Dominion” appears and gives a speech to the damned like some kind of infernal Barack Obama: “We dare to hope for better than an eternity of debased lamentation. We dare to hope…We dare to hope!

He plans to wage a “war of hope” in Hell, wresting control from Neron (whom I guess is thus John McCain? Or Bush?) and turning it all into a Purgatory.

Meanwhile, in “Pandemonia, First Province of the Infernal Dominion,” Neron, who escaped from Dr. Fate’s tower in some DC comic I guess I missed, is in his castle, which looks a bit like an evil version of the Capitol building, meeting with this court: Lilith, Off-model Belial, Super-off-model Asmodel.

Just when I was losing all hope, there’s a scene involving two characters I really like whose names begin with Z’s, one I really didn’t expect to see here; they’re working with Hell’s resistance, which is stupid, but still, nice to see them, you know? It’s like seeing a character actor you like get a supporting role on a TV drama you might not be all that into but, still, you think, “Nice to see so-and-so getting work.”

On earth, the Shadowpact is busy performing a sting operation on Linda Danvers, the Peter David Supergirl (i.e. the Well-written Supergirl), who we haven’t seen since Jeph Loeb and company reintroduced Supergirl as if there were no previous Supergirls because if there were HOW WOULD IT MAKE ANY SENSE?! Since this seems to be a continuity wound no one is openly griping about constantly, I guess DC felt the need to point it out by including Danvers in this series. Finally, a half dozen minor mystical-ish characters cameo on the last page as they are apparently being press-ganged into the war.

And t hat’s only the lead story! There’s still a back-up. That features Dr. Occult, suddenly talking like a stereotypical private eye, which the ghost of Sue Dibny even points out. Oh yeah, the ghost Dibnys are in this story too because why not? This story is mostly just an origin recap, in which the Dibnys tell Dr. Occult that he should get involved in this big occult thing that’s going on, and he acts like a dick and says, “The occult? What’s that got to do with me?” and eventually summons up a cameo I don’t recognize, the end.

The art in the first half is pretty decent. I don’t think Derenick’s pencils really mesh all that well with Sienkiewicz’ inks, which tend to have a transformative effect on pencil art, but under this inking everything takes on a weird, nervous energy that seems highly appropriate for the subject matter. The design is uniformly uninspired however; short of some of the architecture, nothing really jumpst out as particularly inspired or infernal; Hell might as well be a generic alien planet. And, as I mentioned, many of the models seem off, in both stories. I actually had to consult my DC Universe Encyclopedia to make sure that Asmodel was really the angel from Morrison’s JLA run, since he doesn’t look anything like him here. The need to consult a reference book to make sense of a comic is, I think, usually pretty indication that it wasn’t as clearly told as it should be.

The art in the back-up, by Stephen Jorge Segovia, is pretty great. If I didn’t check, I might have thought it was Leinil Yu’s. And I really like Yu, so that’s a good thing.

Trinity #9 (DC) This issues really demonstrates the book’s ability to use the entire DCU as its setting and its sprawling character catalog as its cast. In addition to the Trinity, we see Wonder Woman’s supporting cast (Etta Candy, Sarge Steele, Nemesis), Batman’s supporting cast (Nightwing, Robin and Alfred), and a cameo from a villainous super-team that should come as no surprise, given writer Kurt Busiek’s previous JLA sory arc. In the back-up, Robin and Nightwing get more scenes and lines, and there are appearances by Oracle, Huntress, Commissioner Gordon and The Penguin. Like 52 then, this weekly is exploiting the positives of the DCU in a way few book’s can, only rather than focusing on the lesser-known characters, Trinity is focused on the top of the pyramid.

Ultimate Spider-Man #124 (Marvel) Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen introduce the Ultimate Beetle in a really fun sequence that takes up the bulk of this issue. There’s some other stuff going on—MJ nagging Peter to see a doctor about his spider-powers, Nick Fury popping up, flashbacks to, um, the last few issues—but the centerpiece is Spider-Man swinging through the New York skyline, spotting a guy dressed like a beetle flying around, and then trying to introduce himself. Amusing violence ensues.


likes peppermint ice cream.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Excuse me Mr. Nolan, there's a villain here to see you; shall I show them in?"

Sifting through the fifteen tons of star-fuckery and product announcements generated over the past weekend

That's what Dirk Deppey said he had no intention of doing today, and the very prospect of doing it would give him dry heaves. But I have a very high tolerance for star-fuckery and product announcements, so here are the big stories that came out of this past weekend's San Diego Comic Con. Or at least the big stories I saw covered somwhere else and cared enough to say something about...


I’d highly recommend Kevin Church’s photos, as he has some experience with a camera, and captures the faces of a lot of the folks you’re probably used to reading the writing of on the Internet, and Bully’s, because, well, comic con photos are usually better when there’s a little stuffed bull in the foreground.

Looks like Bully finally met the girl of his dreams, as well as the girl of Chris Sims’ nightmares (not Anita Blake; the other one).


I was going to congratulate Matt Brady, Troy Brownfield, Vaneta Rogers and the other good folks at for winning an Eisner, but then I saw that Brad Meltzer won the Eisner for Best Single Issue (Or One-Shot) for JLoA #11 (The World Trade Center starring Roy Harper and Vixen issue), and realized that apparently Eisners aren’t the big deals I thought they were.

And that was the last entertainment industry award I still believed in, too.


Oh, wow. Plastic Man, Silver Age Green Arrow, Kite-Man, Jaime Reyes, Gentleman Ghost and a sweet jazzy instrumental Johnny Quest-sounding score…Jesus, I wish I had cable.

Here’s hoping Jann Jones is already rounding up talent for the Johnny DC companion comic…


The Black Panther trailer is a weird beast. It’s extremely faithful to John Romita Jr.’s art on the first six issues, which is great, because he provided what was probably the best Black Panther art since Jack Kirby, but, based on this short snippet, it looks like it might be too faithful. I don’t know what the exact process was, but much of it looks like they just scanned JRJR’s art and used some computer magic to make it move around. Some of it turns out pretty neat looking (the bit of BP running, for example), and some of it just looks cheap (the close ups of the raiders talking to one another).

I wonder what they’ll do after they finish adapting that first story arc, too. That was the end of JRJR’s involvement in the title, and while I’m not 100% positive, I think every single issue after that tied into other Marvel comics (there was an X-Men crossover, then a House of M one, he “Black Avengers” arc, the wedding with Storm, the world tour arc, Civil War, the “Initiative” branded stories that tied into Fantastic Four, and I believe BP is currently fighting Skrulls).


Actually, I guess they were probably the last imprint to use The Unknown Soldier, unless you count the (excellent) Showcase Presents collection.

But where does Vertigo get off grabbing The Haunted Tank? This just confirms that there won’t be a Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Dr. 13 sequel. Or, if there is, the Ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart wont’ be in it.

(Also, The Ghost of General Stuart won’t be able to join the Justice League either).


I would be really excited about this “War of Kings” story if it were about Atlantis and Wakanda going to war, but I guess it’s just some space stuff.

I suppose Atlantis and Wakanda have already gone to war in some old comic I never read though, haven’t they? I mean, they’d have to have had a war by now, right?

I guess I am kinda curious when Blackbolt was replaced by a Skrull, if only because the revelation that he was a Skrull kind of retroactively siphons some awesomeness out of World War Hulk, but I imagine that will be addressed in Secret War: The Inhumans rather than this space story.


Among the bigger DC announcements, at least from a what’s up with the DCU perspective, is that they would be returning both the old Archie comics superheroes (the stars of the briefly extant DC-run Impact line of comics) and the Milestone characters (the ‘90s company which created a line of comics heavily featuring minority characters, including Icon and Rocket and Static Shock).

The characters will be incorporated into the DC Universe proper, meaning that Icon can fight Superman and Static can join the Teen Titans. The Milestone characters will start popping up in JLoA, which Milestone co-founder Dwayne McDuffie is currently writing, and the Archie heroes will be introduced by J. Michael Straczynski in his Brave and the Bold run.

DC has a long, long history of absorbing heroes from other companies to expand their universe, including Captain Marvel and the other Fawcett Comics heroes, the Charlton heroes (Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, etc.) and the Quality Comics heroes (Plastic Man, Uncle Sam, Doll Man, etc.)

They haven’t had a ton of success figuring out how to properly capitalize on any of their acquisitions, however; at least, not for very long, anyway. Just look at the state of the Marvel Family franchise in the DCU at the moment, thirty-some years after they acquired it.

Some of these characters fit in quite well for a while (Plastic Man in JLA for several years, the Denny O’Neil Question series, Blue Beetle and Captain Atom in the JLI books, etc), but DC’s never been able to turn any of them into the next Green Lantern or Flash (or even Aquaman or Wonder Woman).

So this seems like a pretty curious move. It should be interesting to see how it plays out (probably from afar, as I have no desire to see Ed Benes drawing Rocket and Icon in JLoA), particularly since a lot of what made those old Milestone comics so great was that they weren’t sharing story-space with Superman, and could address topics like abortion or racism in a more realistic fashion that is typical of issue-oriented super-comics.

Hopefully this means we’ll get trades of the old Milestone material, and I can quit longbox spelunking to complete my Icon run. I seem to recall the old Impact comics being better than average for the time as well, but I haven’t read as many of those.


Not only did they have the title, cover and estimated time of arrival for the next Scott Pilgrim volume, but we’ll finally be getting more Corey S. Lewis’ Sharknife and, at long, long, long, long last, more of Chynna Clugston’s Blue Monday series of miniseries. Also, more Black Metal, more Salt Water Taffy and more Courtney Crumrin, and a bunch of new projects, some of which sound pretty good and some of which sound kinda lame.


I really liked the superpower-less vigilante serial killer Onomatopoeia that Kevin Smith introduced during his brief run on Green Arrow. He’s a character who spoke only in sound effects, as he was making them. So like, he’d shoot a gun and say, “Blam,” and at the same time the letterer would draw a BLAM sound effect in the panel. A very neat, very comic book-y villain.

Smith is apparently going to write a new Batman miniseries featuring the character, which is kind of exciting, although Smith’s GA collaborators Phil Hester and Ande Parks apparently aren’t drawing it, which is kinda too bad.

I have a feeling the story will address who exactly Onomatopoeia is and what his whole deal is, which is also kinda too bad—the mystery of not knowing who the hell he was or why the hell he was doing what he was doing and why he talked like that is a pretty large part of his appeal.


Of Marvel’s announcements, the one I was most excited to see was that the company was going to go ahead and giving Agents of Atlas an ongoing.

It was my understanding that the miniseries didn't sell too terribly well—although one could argue any Marvel book featuring characters this obscure capable of selling in the thousands at all is pretty good—so I wonder if they've been encouraged by the extremely positive critical reception smaller books from Immortal Iron Fist and Incredible Hercules on down to Captain Britain and Guardians of the Galaxy have been getting to go for more books of similar stature.

Or has Parker's star been on the rise enough from his exemplary work on X-Men First Class and Marvel Adventures Avengers that Marvel wanted to give AoA another shot?

Or do they maybe just love awesomeness?


Good news: Judd Winick isn’t writing Green Arrow/Black Canary any more! Bad news: He’s got room on his schedule to start fucking up some other book/character/franchise.

Andrew Kreisberg wasn’t a name that was on my radar for the next person to write GA/BC, but mainly because I just assumed Winick would write it forever. It’s interesting (to me) that the fact that any TV writer taking on a comic is still treated as a kinda sorta big deal, since Kreisberg is just a writer on Eli Stone and not, like, a big huge hit or anything. (Like, “From a writer on Eli Stone probably doesn’t carry quite the same weight in nerd circles as “From the creator of Lost” or “From the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and That One Show They Cancelled But Still Made A Movie Out of.”)

Anyway, Kreisberg isn’t completely new to comics. He’s written Hellen Killer, which is actually a seriously very, very good comic book, whether you believe me or not.


Details are few and far between, but the artist he’ll be working with is Andy Kubert, which immediately begs the question of how exactly this will be anything like Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, since that was drawn by classic Superman artists, and Kubert is merely the would-have-been-current-Batman-artist-if-he-could-draw-fast-enough.

Does this mean the value of my copy of Secret Origins Special #1, in which Gaiman wrote the framing sequence starring Batman and I’m pretty sure The Riddler story too, will be rocketing up now?


The panel I would have been most excited to go to if I were at San Diego this year would undoubtedly have been the Tori Amos one dealing with the new comic anthology inspired by her songs that I can’t wait to read.

But damn Tori, what exactly are you wearing?


Newsarama’s Eisner-award-winning Matt Brady talked with Mark Millar for a bit about the news he’d be writing some more material for the Marvel’s Ultimate line of books. After some allusions to erections and orgasms, here’s the very end of their interview…

NRAMA: Finally, and to give you one last chance for a vague-ish but exuberant tease, is the artist someone you've worked with before?
MM: No, but I've dreamed about it. He's probably the biggest artist in the industry. This guy is a superstar and Marvel is really stepping up to the plate with this revamp. It's exciting times.

Any guesses as to who the hell he might be talking about? Who’s “probably the biggest artist in the industry?” I assume it’s not Jim Lee or Frank Miller, who both seem to have their plates full of DC stuff, and I can’t imagine Alex Ross being interested in painting the Ultimate Universe characters.

And that would take care of the artists I would think of as “probably the biggest artists” in the (superhero comics) industry.

I suppose going by the latest sales charts, the top artist at the moment is Secret Invasions’s Leinil Yu, and Millar does seem to be a writer remarkably attuned to the goings on of the sales charts, so perhaps that’s who he’s referring too.


Comics companies have been hitting up writers from other media to try their hands at comics quite a lot over the last few years—actors, directors, musicians, book writers, TV and film screenwriters—but Marvel has apparently sunk to the level of hiring a blogger, the lowest form of writer there is (Please note irony of previous sentence, which is appearing on a blog; it’s intentional). And not even one that’s demonstrated any real skill at writing on her blog (Perhaps her scripts are better than her prose, but Occasional Superheroine is probably the most-read badly-written blog in the comics blogosphere).

So I would have been seriously shocked to hear that Valerie D’Orazio would be writing a new Cloak and Dagger series for Marvel, if Rich Johnston didn’t say she’d be writing a Marvel series in his column last week, and Kevin Huxford correctly predicted the title a few days later.

The art looks pretty nice, but an Internet-famous first-time comics writer paired with a manga-style artist on a fan-favorite (read: obscure) property from decades ago? It doesn’t sound like a formula for success, particularly considering D’Orazio has spent much of the last year picking fights with and alienating the online critics and commentators who help generate buzz and enthusiasm for books like these until they can find their (often non-direct market) niches.

I hope it does pretty well though, if only to encourage Marvel to start scouring the blogosphere for new talent. I for one would love to see a Sims-written Batroc: Face-kick Journal or a What If Christopher Bird Wrote Civil War Instead of Mark Millar?.


And that would be this week’s Best Shots column. I contributed a review of the Corey Barba’s extremely cute Yam, which I invite you to go read.


can't eat ice cream as easily as he could in the Golden Age.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My apparently now monthly post about Gotham After Midnight

Wednesday's new issue of Steve Niles and Kelley Jones' Batman: Gotham After Midnight wasn't merely numbered with the standard "3," but said instead that it was the "thrilling 3rd issue." I'm sure DC meant that bit of hyperbole as humorous irony, but, to be honest, I did find it rather thrilling. Or, at least, I found the art half of the equation thrilling.

Here, let me share my thrillcitement with you. Here are the three most thrilling scenes in the comic.

1.) I can think of no better exaample of Kelley Jones tendency to exaggerate the hell out of everything than this panel right here:

It's merely of Commissioner Gordon and Batman having a typical Commisioner Gordon and Batman conversation about a murder case, but regardless of the situation (and what the story would logicaly dictate), Jones still draws Batman as a scary gargoyle monster.

It doesn't look like he's comparing notes with Gordon so much as trying to hypnotize him. Or maybe cast a spell on him. Or getting ready to lean over and bite him.

2.) Later, Batman has returned to the Batcave and is preparing to take a batnap when the batsignal goes up, letting him know that Gotham needs him. How does the Kelley Jones Batman have thngs set up to alert him of danger? Is his cellphone set to vibrate? Is there a blinking red hotline phone under a glass dessert case? Perhaps a siren or alarm of some sort? No, nothing so subtle as that.

Apparently a batsignal is shone into some kind of disco ball, which then covers the entire surface of the batcave in dozens of little batsignals.

3.) As I mentioned in my review last Wednesday, the plot of this particular issue involves recurring Bat-villain Clayface growing to enormous, King Kong size and threatening the city.

When Batman sees what's up, he tells Alfred to forget the batmobile, as he's "going to need something bigger."

We then cut to a couple of pages of giant Clayface wreaking havoc, when, on the last panel of one page, he hears someone calling his name. Clayface turns and, on the very last page, sees this:

That's the first the reader sees of Batman's anti-giant Clayface weapon system too. You just turn the page and, on the next spread, theres' an ad on the left-hand page and a splash on the right-hand page featuring Batman in his giant robot punching machine.

Why does Batman have one of these? How did he build it? What's it look like from the wasit down...does it have legs? Wheels? Does it transform? How did he get it into the city and manage to sneak up on Clayface with it? These intriguing questions are left unanswered, Niles and Jones just leaving us with the impact of seeing Batman appear in his giant robot punching machine.

And as cool as that little surprise is, what really makes this page is the expressions on the two characters.

You've got Batman looking all serious and determined while lookng out through his little bat-decorated porthole, completely oblivious to how silly he looks while manning the shockingly simple-looking controls

and then you've got Clayface making the same blank face of confusion mixed with curiosity that I had when I first saw that thing

And that all adds up to a thrilling 3rd issue. I can't wait to see these guys duke it out in what I'm assuming will be the "fo' real fourth issue."


can have as much ice cream as he wants. Because that's what heaven is like.

Friday, July 25, 2008


will just have some fruit, thanks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I went to the movies, then I went to Wal-Mart, and then I came home and posted all this stuff

I saw The Dark Knight today, almost a full week after it’s midnight opening.

What took me so long? Well, it wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I had missed the critics’ screenings due to my day job, and then decided I’d just wait for a matinee and save myself a few bucks and, as it turned out, I didn’t have an afternoon off until today (Of course, the difference between a matinee ticket and a full-priced ticket is only about $3, so I guess I could have just forgone a Secret Invasion tie-in and saw an evening showing, but my brain just doesn’t work like that—movies are luxuries, whereas comics are more like food, gas and rent in my personal budgeting).

Anyway, I’m not going to bother with a formal review or anything, since you’ve all already read about 80 reviews and have probably already all seen it at least once yourselves.

I will say that I was kind of expecting to be disappointed, given all the rave reviews and even Oscar talk—Oscar talk!—the film’s been receiving. My expectations were raised to the point where if I didn’t walk out of the theater with a full head of hair I was probably going to be disappointed. And I was particularly skeptical because I thought Batman Begins wasn’t really very good. (Not a bad movie per se, but not exactly a terribly good one either).

But my expectations of being disappointed were themselves disappointed. Everything I (and you) have heard about the movie turns out to be pretty much true—it really is that good.

Some more or less random thoughts:

1.) I was particularly impressed with Heath Ledger’s Joker, in part because in the back of my head I was wondering if some of the praise he’s been getting for it had something to do with the his death. That is, when critics spoke of how good this performance was, it was with the knowledge that it was his last, and they were thus not only inclined to be a bit generous, but to conflate it with his entire career, and that man could act.

But no, Ledger’s that good too.

Me and (I think it’s safe to assume) you aren’t your average movie-goer when it comes to something like this; we see The Joker at least once a month, if not more, and have experienced about seven decades worth of different versions of him in every conceivable media, many of those different versions specifically geared at being as scary as all hell. I was pretty confident I’d seen it all when it comes to interpretations of The Joker, and that Ledger, director Christopher Nolan and his team couldn’t surprise me.

Wrong again. This Joker was like nothing I’ve seen before, save perhaps his “multiple choice” origin story from The Killing Joke, and he was by far the scariest, not so much a killer clown as a killer period.

If you would have told me a week ago that Bat-villain The Joker would be a perfect avatar for nihilistic terrorism in a superhero movie about the post-9/11 War on Terror, I wouldn’t have believed you, but they sure pulled it off, without making the character an iota less terrifying (I was actually squirming every time he stuck a knife in someone’s mouth).

Nolan and Ledger really gave us the very best kind of perfect in their version of The Joker. The kind of perfect that you don’t even realize you would think is perfect until you’ve experienced it.

2.) They could have probably gone ahead and knocked the words “The” and “Knight” right off the title and it would have more accurately described the film.

3.) How often do you see a summer superhero movie where the bad guy wins? Ever single character in the movie is forced to compromise their morals for what they believe to be the greater good, and sometimes they’re wrong. The main difference between The Joker and Batman seems to be that the former does the wrong things for wrong reasons, whereas the Batman does the wrong things for the right reasons…but then, do I know what’s right and wrong, really?

4.) I reeeaaalllly wasn’t expecting to see Batman-as-the-Bush-administration in this movie, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

5.) I still think Batman’s costume looks stupid. The one he switches to after his first few scenes is less stupid, but he never stops looking stupid to me. Perhaps there is no way to make it look right in a live action movie—there have been at least eight movies now and no one’s figured out how to make it look awesome yet—but Nolan’s realistic take on Gotham and its inhabitants only accentuates how goofy Batman and his goofy-ass gadgets look.

6.) Did it strike any of you as odd that The Joker didn’t get any sort of epilogue? Given how important he was to the film—Gordon and Batman are talking about him and not letting him “win” even after he’s been defeated and captured—it seemed odd that there was no scene of him in a straight jacket in a padded cell laughing or anything.

I wonder if this was because of Ledger’s death, or if they simply wanted to leave him hanging upside down at the end.

The lack of closure on the Joker’s status quo seemed especially sudden in light of the fact that the previous time he was captured it was on purpose and there was a spectacularly complex escape plan in place to get him out of it. It seems reasonable to assume he had another trick up his sleeve to escape again at the end. If we weren’t already pushing two and half hours by then, of course.

7.) Other than the Batman-related design work—the villains both looked great—the only other aspect of the film I found wanting was the action. Batman seemed to have a pretty well-choreographed fast, efficient and brutal hand-to-hand fighting style, but it sure was hard to see what he was doing and to who he was doing it.

Maybe making violence shaky and confusing was an intentional style choice Nolan made to buttress the realism, but it’s not like what I like to see when I see people fight in movies.

8.) I honestly can’t imagine where Nolan could take the franchise next, in terms of villains. Catwoman and/or Robin seem like the obvious addition/s regarding the story being told in this film—how Batman was hoping to “win” his war on crime and be able to retire his Batman gig at some point to be with Rachel, and how there’s this talk of a successor and so on—but both seem unlikely to fit into this realistic Gotham. That realism seems to rule out so many of the villains too. Like, if the Joker’s just a guy with smile-shaped scars and face paint and the Scarecrow’s a guy with a bag over his head, I have a hard time imagining most of the rest of the Bat-villains.

Villains who can be given a gangster-like touch like The Riddler, The Penguin, The Vetriloquist or Black Mask seem to “fit” Nolan’s Gotham best, but they’ll also seem rather dull after The Joker and Two-Face, and, hell, the whole city seemed on the brink of destruction in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, what’s The Riddler going to do to compete with that?

Maybe a faked-death Two-Face (hey, Gordon did it) and The Reaper…?

9.) Seeing “Harvey Two-Face” in this made me think a Jonah Hex movie could look pretty damn cool after all, skin-bridge and all.

Other things—Dark Knight related and not—that don’t deserve a whole post of their own:

—Immediately after seeing The Dark Knight, I found myself in a Wal-Mart for the first time in memory, with a half-hour to kill. The only thing more dark and depressing than The Dark Knight is driving into one of Columbus’ most depressing suburbs to visit the most depressing store in the world for rather depressing reasons which I won’t get into (Because they’re so depressing).

The plus side of spending a half hour in the saddest ring of retail hell, however, was that I got to wander around Wal-Mart’s toy section, and I was pretty surprised by all the Batman stuff.

Having actually seen the movie now, the rather inappropriate nature of Batman “Battle Rolls” Fruit Roll-Ups and toy Jokers free inside your box of Lucky Charms sure is made rather clear.

The action figures I found were mostly different versions of Batman in different suits, something that used to frustrate me as a child—I already had He-Man, I didn’t want Battle-damaged He-Man, but someone else for He-Man to punch or hang out with—and none of which seemed to have anything to do with the movie (There weren’t any after the credits scenes where Sam Jackson or Robert Downey Jr. show up and Batman fights them off with big neon guns, are there?).

I only saw one Joker, and it was “Destructo-Case Joker.” No sign of “Nurse Disguise Joker,” “Body Bag Joker,” or “Pencil Disappearing Joker.”

I was quite amused to see the “Wayne Tech Combat Gauntlets” that fire plastic spikes, allowing kids to reenact the scene in which the guy wearing them shoots another guy right in the face, and the “Wayne Tech Mega Cape” which folds out into some rather awesome bat-wings, allowing kids to reenact the scene in which Batman jumps off a building.

Why in my day, we didn’t have fancy “Wayne Tech Mega Cape” toys; the dumb kids just tied towels around their necks and hurt themselves jumping off roofs and porches.

It was especially weird seeing these because Dark Knight was PG-13. If you’re old enough to see the movie without your parents, you’re too old for combat gauntlets and mega capes.

The action figures I could see guys my age buying—I mean, I combed through the Indiana Jones action figures looking for Temple of Doom figures pretty thoroughly—but if you could fit into the gauntlets and cape, you’re way too young to see a two-and-a-half-hour movie about moral compromise in the face of terrorism.

The boys toys section was at least half superhero, if not more so, but while I could get cute little Hulk and Silver Surfer toys based on the “Planet Hulk” story arc from The Incredible Hulk comics, I couldn’t find any actual comic books among the magazines nor any actual graphic novels among the books.


—Speaking of—well, linking to—Heidi MacDonald, her archenemy Dirk Deppey parsed one of NPR’s mentions of her in his Tuesday post, the one with the amusing headline.

—Wow, I just realized that Frank Miller wears a hat kinda like The Spirit's all the time now, huh? That's kinda cool. More superhero movie directors should dress more like the stars of their films. Like, Christopher Nolan should wear a cape all the time and Zak Snyder should walk around his set nude with a symbol painted on his forehead. (Link seen at and stolen from The Beat).

The Blurred Vision people have chosen some interesting blurbs: One from my review, and one from Frank Santoro’s response to Jillian Steinhauer’s review.

—Finally, the fifth issue of So Super Duper, containing a back-up story by yours truly, is now available. If you’re in San Diego, track Brian Andersen down and try to buy a copy or ten. If you’re not, check out his site for how to get a copy.