Friday, December 16, 2005

Since I've been gone

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. I just don't seem to have had much to say. But I just started reading the whole Seven Soldiers thing, so expect a comment or two on that soon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Violence and the single girl

The Fan Fatale forum over at Big Monkey Comics brings up the subject of violence in comics, and how it differs where women are concerned to when it's just guys. This got me thinking, but it's a big subject and there is no way I can address it properly with one post, so I've decided to make it an occasional series that I'll add to whenever I can think of something to say on the subject.

The forum asks if violence towards or by women is portrayed differently than when it only involves men. I think another related question to consider might be will violence by or toward women be perceived differently by the reader?

I'm going to leave you to think about that for a while and take a look at a scene from Supergirl #3.*

Lex Luthor, who has been obsessing over Supergirl for some time, spying on her and pasting up candid photos over her all over his walls finally confronts her and beats her up. Now disregarding the whole creepy stalker aspect of the situation, what we have here is the classic hero/villain confrontation which can be found in virtually every comic ever published by Marvel and DC. So why does Lex feel the need to justify himself?

There is something distasteful about the whole scene. Is it because it's an adult male beating down a 15 year old girl? There have been teenage girl superheroes for a long time. Supergirl herself has been around since 1957. In the silver age a girl hero would be generally pitted against a girl villain, but Supergirl has fought plenty of adult male villains, and even faced off against Luthor on plenty of occasions. So what is different about this scene?

Is it that attitudes have changed over the years and such a scene carries connotations it would not have had before? Is it that Luthor, known for psychologically torturing women for fun, suddenly feels the need to justify attacking his enemy? Or that the explanation he gives is so thin and pathetic? "You wear the big S and that makes it okay for me to beat the crap out of you" doesn't begin to cover all the creepy stalker stuff that's led to this confrontation.

I think a lot of it is that the fight is so totally one-sided and so brutally depicted. Okay, at the end Supergirl appears to have hardly a scratch on her, but that's just a problem with the artist who has just shown her being repeatedly hit so hard that she's spurting blood but is incapable of actually making her look as if she's been bruised. Personally I think if you are going to show violence then do it properly and show the effects of that violence. I'd really rather do without the brutal beatings at all, but if you have to show one, then don't lie to us and pretend that 5 minutes later the character is all better with barely a hair out of place.

*Disclaimer: I picked this comic because it contains the scene I wish to address and I would have done so regardless of who wrote it. Those people who make a fuss every time I discuss a comic written by Jeph Loeb are free to suggest an alternative comic which contains an equivilent scene that I could address. Otherwise please feel free to get over yourselves.

Glad to be gay

Yesterday Robbie Williams won a libel case over a newspaper claiming that he was gay. The basic report is here but that doesn't give the real significance of the story. According to BBC radio 4's news program PM the dispute was not over whether he was gay, but by claiming that he was gay the newspaper was saying that he was a liar when he said he was entirely hetrosexual.

Why not just do them for calling him gay? Because now in the UK to call someone gay is not in itself libelous. As character defamation it has all the power of calling someone "bignose".

I can't but help see this as a mark of greater tolerance toward alternative lifestyles. It almost makes me feel patriotic.

Ever and anon

I blame Stan Lee.

He was the one who had the odd idea that Scandiwegion gods should speak in elizabethan english which, when you think about it makes as much sense as giving Kali and Ganesha japanese accents. But it kind of works to a degree, and does give the Aesir a sense of difference from ordinary mortals. Well, other than ordinary mortals that use thee and thou a lot, anyhow. The big problem with this is that a lot of the writers on Thor, being American, haven't got much idea how elizabethan english works, so they get it wrong a lot.

Okay, I have an advantage here. I'm british. I may not be able to tell you which way up our national flag is supposed to go, but I was taught Shakespeare well enough to get the jokes in Macbeth. It also means that the occasional Shakespearian word makes it into everyday speech here and there.

Most of the time you ignore the stupid mistakes. Either that or you don't read the comic. But now and again you get something that is so stupid it's funny. Case in point:

Now Dan Jurgens is apparently under the impression that "anon" means "immediately". It doesn't. It means "at another time" or "later". So here we have Hercules saying with great anger "Apologise to my father, Thor. In the fullness of time."

Similarly here we have Balder sent on a desperately urgent mission to Svartelfheim, and he says:

Translation: "If your life matters to you, you must free me at some point in the not too distant future!"

It gives the action a much more relaxed feel to it, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Harley and Ivy

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy: are they totally hot for each other or what?

Well yes, of course they are. But although giving comic characters a homosexual subtext is somehow a whole lot less controversial when they are female rather than if they are male, it's still problematic to openly admit it, especially when the relationship comes out of a cartoon aimed at a 'family' audience, ie. one where the older members of the family don't want to have to explain any of the more complicated aspects of life to the younger ones because the show they are watching was realistic enough to contain any. So although Harley and Ivy are often seen living together, in situations and states of undress that a pair of male characters could never get away with, no details are ever given about their relationship.

Except for one time, in the Batgirl Adventures special, Paul Dini (responsible for the whole situation in the first place) manages to slip in a couple of references that really leave no doubt as to what's going on. The most significant piece of dialogue comes when Harley and Batgirl find Ivy tied up, and at the mercy of the evil Kit Nozawa and her all girl gang and Batgirl says "Why you care about that walking waste dump is beyond me. You'd be safer around a spitting cobra."

And if that wasn't enough, there's also the panel where Ivy describes Harley as "More important to me than you'll ever know." And then when Harley and Ivy are finally reunited...

Aw, it's so sweet.

It's kinda funny that all this paranoid editorial self censorship has actually resulted in a relatively subtle depiction of a lesbian relationship. If they have to pretend it's not there it can never become an issue in the way overt depictions of homosexuality are usually handled.

Go Paul Dini!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

We are all NPC's in someone's game

I was playing City of Villains this morning and some guy calls me out of the blue and asks if he can join my group. I point out that he is much lower level than the rest of the group I'm in, so he says that since his character is more of a support type, his total inneffectiveness against the enemies we would face was not important (which was true to a degree) and he'd get lots of experience points (gaining experience points, for those who don't play these kind of games, is how you progress and get better toys). This is also true, but I didn't feel that inclined to take on a group member whose main skill appeared to be freeloading. I explained this, he called me bad words, and I added him to my ignore list, which blocks me from ever hearing anything he says. But it got me thinking.

Had it been a friend who asked I would have invited them in without hesitation, and expected similar response from them if I was the lower level. We do it all the time among the people I hang out with. But allowing a complete stranger to join my team purely to gain from our efforts while offering minimal contribution themselves? That's going to take a little more persuasion than that they would greatly benefit from it, and I was a little perplexed that anyone should even offer this as a reason.

The only conclusion I could come to was that this guy didn't really understand the difference between a regular solo game and an online game. In an ordinary game there is you, and every other character you meet is generated by the computer and run by the game programming to respond to you in specific ways; these are called Non-player characters, or NPC's for short. In a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) you have plenty of NPC's, of course, but you also have a lot of characters that are the avatars of other players who, like you, are sitting at home playing the game on their computer. It's really not hard to tell them apart.

I sometimes think there are some people who never quite get that the other characters they team up with are real people. Their attitude is completely selfish and self-centred. They will leave the game in the middle of a big fight without warning, because they have decided to do something else, thereby getting everyone else killed who was relying on them. They will go take a break leaving their character parked in a position where they will continue to receive their share of the experience points being won by the rest of the team even though they have gone off to make coffee or are chatting with friends on IM. And they will consider it a reasonable argument that they should be put in a position where they gain maximum reward for minimum contribution, and are upset when this fails to persuade complete strangers.

You know, I think there are people like that in real life, too.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Epilogue: now what?

Several people have asked me what I'm going to do with my story now its finished, and when they'd get to see it.

The simple answer is not anytime soon. While there are parts I am very pleased with, there are others that I dread to reread now, not to mention all the bits where I decided that something which happened two chapters ago had now happened differently or not at all.

I'm going to get a bit of distance from it and write something else before I come back and do a second draft. The month may be over but I find I really enjoy this stuff. I always wanted to write since I was a little kid, but I never really had that much confidence in my own fiction writing ability. Now I do, so I'd like to do some more.

After that I may either try to sell it to a publisher or self-publish through or something. I'd rather make it available as an actual physical book than just post it online.

It may be a while but it's likely that this story will be available in some form eventually. I don't intend to just metaphorically stuff it in a drawer and not let anyone ever see it. That's not really my style. :>

Day twenty eight: final entry

I did it!

I can hardly believe it myself, but it's finished. The longest single thing I have ever written. I am in awe of myself. Well, I might be if I didn't have some idea just how much work will be required for the rewrite. Still feeling very smug, though.

I have this thing about life where I'm thinking if somebody came up to me and asked me what i had to show for the last six months, what would I say? Right now I could say "I wrote a novel".

Anyhow, it seems unfair to end this without a quote from the story, so here's a bit from the epilogue.

Greta’s dad led them out to the car park and stopped at a nice looking car, a deep green in colour. Candy had no clue about cars beyond them all having a wheel at each corner, but this was an impressive vehicle. It was the kind of car driven by people who could afford Rolls Royces but didn’t want to appear flashy.

The man opened the boot and he and Greta’s dad started to pile their cases into it. Oh, thought Candy, he’s the chauffer. Which was nice.

“So what’s my little girl been doing at school this term?” Asked Greta’s dad, smiling that big smile. Now there’s a loaded question, thought Candy.

Final word count for first draft: 50,249

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day twenty seven

One of the problems you often find at the end of a novel is where the reader finally finds out what is going on. At the worst this can involve the heroes taking a chapter at the end of the story to explain the plot to each other after it's all over even though they all know it already, or there's the old cliche of the villain going

"And now before I kill you I shall explain the details of my dastardly scheme."

But how do you get around this kind of infodump cliche? I find as I reach the climax of my story I have to do some of this, partly because I only just worked out a lot of it myself. I started writing it during the final big confrontation, but that just seemed stupid.

Why on Earth would the villain be explaining the plot in the middle of a fight? I read way too many comic books.

So I went back a bit and had various characters who hadn't met before locked up in a cellar so they could compare notes, but it's still kinda clunky. At least it gives me the opportunity to set up one of the final twists a bit better.

Most unexpected plot twist of the day, possibly the whole novel, occured when I realised that the bit of the epilogue I wrote on Friday isn't the epilogue at all. The actual epilogue occurs a little earlier. What I started writing on Friday was the first chapter of the sequel.

Oh dear.

Word count now: 48,133 and on schedule to pass the finish line late tomorrow!! OMG OMG!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Day twenty six

Okay, I'm now getting that whooshing sound as I fly down the hill at ever increasing speed and I'm wondering if I've got any control of this sled or where it's going and am I going to hit a tree.

I had been intending to let the climax of the story build a little more slowly while I figured out what was going on, but given the amount I'm writing right now each day I realised that if I used the last day to tie up loose ends and finish the epilogue, spent the previous day on the climactic confrontation, that only left today to set up the climax.

So about 500 words in to today's episode everything shifts up a gear and the characters who were sitting around being witty and attempting to puzzle out what was going on now have to go deal with a situation RIGHT NOW.

I'm going to have to smooth that out a bit in the rewrite and build up the tension a bit more, but I don't have time to worry about that now.

This is one of the bits I find most difficult to write, when I know I have to get characters from A to C via B and have D, E and F occur along the way. I find it very mechanical, as opposed to when I can just point my characters in the general direction I want them to go and let them get there in their own sweet time, being witty and clever along the way. My main characters are such fun to write that it's like I'm not writing them at all, just running along behind them and taking notes.

One of the most memorable things I read about creating characters was by Dave Sim, back in the sane days. I forget the exact quote (yes, it was that memorable), though I'm sure someone can remind me, but the basic idea was that he reckoned that the mark of good characterisation was that you could lock your characters together in a closet for an issue and you'd still get an entertaining story. He eventually did something very like this in Cerebus #51 or #52 and proved his point. Now I know if I locked my two main characters in a closet they'd just start making out, but maybe if I tied them up...

Meanwhile, back at the novel I did finally work out who the villain was, and it wasn't who I had been setting up at all. And yet somehow it all makes sense and gives the thing a neat twist.

Word count now 45,675.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day twenty five

Things are starting to get exciting now.

There was something about hitting 40,000 that felt like reaching the top of the hill. It had been a big struggle at times, and a lot of fun at others, but when you have reached that point then all you have left to do is something that you've already done four times over. I was still a little vague on a few minor plot points, like who the villain was and what they were up to, but these were just details.

The biggest worry left was really whether I was going to go over or under fifty thou. It felt like the amount of story left was pretty much on target, but it might take a sudden twist and all tie up a little early, in which case I knew there were plenty of places I had only roughly sketched in where I could go back and add description and detail, but I didn't really want to be doing that if I could help it.

Now I have just over five thousand words left and I don't see any danger of under-running. It was a bit of a slow start this morning and I did a bit of the epilogue, since that was more interesting than the next sequential scene, but I can now see I'll be hard pushed to get from here to there in five thou.

I think I might just pull this one off.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Day 22

Just zoomed past the 40,000 word mark. I'm still on schedule to finish November 29th.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Playing with dolls

I have this theory that all these cool grown up computer games we play are really just a kind of virtual substitute for the toys we played with as kids. I mean obviously all these simulation games are thinly disguised train sets, but MMOG's are really just playing with dolls.

Ok, I'll call them action figures if you perfer, but we all know deep down that action figures are just the name some clever marketing guy came up with so that he could sell dolls to boys without the social stigma that would normally be associated with boys playing with dolls.

Hmm. Maybe we can hire the same guy to re-brand comics so it's acceptable for adults to be seen reading them.

Look at the evidence; the classic MMOG is a heroic fantasy with dragons and wizards and heroes with swords and all that. It's fantasy action figures on a stick.

But the real revelation comes with City of Heroes/Villains. You know what the most successful part of this game is? The bit that everyone comments on and which wins it awards? It's the character creator where you get to design your character and then play dress up with them, choosing your costume from hundreds of different styles and colours. As you progress through the game, there are milestone points where your level of success allows you to add another costume or a cape, or special effects. The whole reward system of the game is geared toward playing dress up with your virtual doll.

But that's probably why I like it so much.

The important things in life

You know when you watch some biographical movie or read a story of someone's life, do you ever wonder how much of the detail is made up? Like if they made a movie of your life, would they get your favourite mug right?

I wonder about stuff like that. When they get to make a movie of my life I think it's essential that when they deal with the period of writing my first great novel (look, this is a daydream, ok?) they should know that the timer on my computer that I use to set up 30 minute writing sessions has an alarm that I replaced the easy to miss and rather dull beep with the theme song to Pinky & the Brain. It's important that I have a little clock that sits on top of my monitor that is set to EST so that when I play online games I don't have to work out whether to add or subtract five hours whenever a time is mentioned. It's maybe less important that sitting on the corner of my monitor is a goth doll with one black plait and one red one, but she means a lot to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Things I don't understand

Write a diary of your attempt to scale the mountain of a 50,000 word novel in a month, and nobody comments, not to offer wishes of support or cheer you on your way, not even to say "this is boring, tell us more about Wonder Woman". Stop writing it and you get more comments than you've seen in the best part of a month put together saying no don't go.

Don't misunderstand, I like a bit of feedback at any time. Anyone who does a blog I read knows I read it because I regularly leave a comment, even if it doesn't really contribute anything. Except for Dave's Long Box, which doesn't need my patronage, since it gets more comments during the week when Dave is on vacation and not posting than I get in a month of daily wit and crit. Everyone needs a little support, and unless you are paying to read a blog that you enjoy then it seems only polite to say so now and again.

It's great to find that something I've written has been used in a classroom. But why wait till now to tell me? When I last posted I was going through a very difficult time with the novel and I was getting very depressed about it. The apparent indifference of anyone who read the blog just made me wonder why I was bothering.

So I took a break and didn't even look at the blog for a few days, and I come back and find a bunch of nice comments, so thanks for that.

Meanwhile, somehow the novel just about manages to keep on schedule. Day twenty, the word count is now at 34,374 and I'm in the middle of writing the big lesbian sex scene. Does it count as erotica if they fall out of bed?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Day fifteen


Decided to stop publishing my novel diary since no one is interested in it. I may or may not return to regular blogging once the novel is done.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Day thirteen

Twenty two thousand words in and I still don't know where the plot is going. Okay, I have a pretty good handle on the romantic plot, but the fighting-the-evil-scary-things plot just arrives in little scenes that will at some point blossom into a climax if I'm really lucky. Right now I have no idea who is doing what or why.

The funny thing is that the story does trundle along, occasionally giving me scenes that develop this mythical plot. In fact I've been really enjoying the whole story even though it now bears little resemblence to the one I started writing thirteen days ago.

Until this morning.

I knew I had to start moving the plot along at this point so I started writing without much of an idea where it was going. It wasn't really flowing, but I had a notion and pushed in that direction. But after a while I realised that I for the first time I was not comfortable with the direction the story was going. I don't know where it was taking me but I didn't want to go there. So even though I'd only written about 400 words I stopped. I was tempted to delete what I'd written and start over, but I didn't. Nano is all about the word count, and I could always delete it on the rewrite.

What the heck, if necessary I could take the day off and make it up later (I have faith in my ability to achieve wonders in a last minute panic). I was not going to write something I was not enjoying. So I went for a walk, did some shopping, visited the library, and generally tried not to think about my story.

By the time I got home I had found that the scene I'd written was not going in the direction I thought it was after all, and in fact led in an entirely different direction which didn't give me a bad feeling, so I wrote another 500 words. It wasn't a great 500 words but it moved the plot along a pace or two, and I didn't hate it.

Here's a little snippet from what I wrote yesterday:

“I think we should investigate.” Greta said. “See if we can find this secret passage.”

“Uh huh” Said Candy. “If I come, do I get a Scooby snack?” Funny how almost anything could be a double entendre when your head was in the right place. Greta flashed her a smile that said “Have I got a Scooby snack for you.” in letters of pink neon eight foot high.

It wasn’t until some time later when they had a few minutes alone that Greta explained her thinking.

“You see the thing about secret passages is that they are secret.”

“Also passages.” Said Candy with heavy sarcasm. Greta just smiled and waited for her to get it.

“What’s so… Oh. You mean secret as in nobody ever goes there, so two young ladies might get a little private time together, don’t you, my cunning little kitten?”

Current word count: 22,307

Friday, November 11, 2005

Day eleven

Yesterday I only managed a measly twelve hundred words which I had written in the morning. It was a most excellent twelve hundred words, but my daily minimum target is sixteen hundred and sixty six. Later in the day I sat down to write some more to bring up the total but my mind was blank. My Muse had switched the lights out, left the office, and wasn't taking my calls.

All I needed was a pathetic five hundred words. I could fill that much touching up some of the descriptive passages I had only roughly sketched in. And yet I ended up just staring blankly at the keyboard for about ten minutes, desultoraly playing City of Villains for half an hour, and then getting an early night.

So this morning I woke up with a tinge of panic, wondering what was going to happen next. Two thousand words later I've written some of the best stuff so far and blown straight through one of the most emotional scenes in the story. And yes, sorry, it's a kissing scene. It didn't start out that way but it has turned into what the kid in The Princess Bride would call a kissing book.

Having transcended its origins as a bit of Harry Potter snarkery, I find the fantastic elements of the story almost superfluous. I would have hated this story as a kid. It even has sports in it. I hate sports. One of the reasons I took to cable TV is because they stick the sports onto a whole separate channel where I can safely not watch it instead of having it unexpectedly pre-empt Star Trek with the same boring sports event that is showing on three other channels already.

Okay, so it is Kendo, which I'd be quite interested in trying myself. It's not like my protagonist has suddenly developed a love of football. I am not completely insane.

I also found time for some comics yesterday.

Infinite Crisis continues to fail to impress me. It feels like a trailer for six other comics. And Power Girl looks deformed, and no, not in a good way.

Polly and the Pirates continues to succeed in impressing me. I am still undecided whether the whole story is a dream sequence that started when she went to sleep near the end of issue #1. This issue contains hints that could take it either way. But I did notice an odd graphical quirk in Ted Naifeh's art - in a similar vein to Courtney Crumrin's lack of nose as a purely stylistic device, in Polly we find that none of the little girls have feet. This does not impinge on the story in any way, but were I to ever be in the position of speaking to him, my first question would be

"Courtney's nose. Polly's feet. What's that about, then?"

Word count so far: 19,653

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Day Nine: I know you're out there because I can hear you breathing

I'm glad now that I chickened out of blogging the whole novel as I went along. The fact is that a lot of it is very rough, and I'm scattering mental post-it notes freely as I go along with instructions to polish up or rewrite all the crap bits to make them more interesting, more accurately detailed, and more fun.

Plus there's the whole business of suddenly requiring a character for the plot who needed to be introduced two chapters previously that is part of the whole novel writing process, but which would be a mite confusing to anyone reading the work in progress. At this stage also almost everyone has the same bland voice until suddenly you find that one of them is speaking with an irish lilt and another talks in a very precise, careful way and never uses contractions (always handy when you have a constant eye on the word counter).

And anyway, since nobody has commented in over a week I guess you don't really care about my novelling adventures, so I'm glad I saved myself the additional stress of placing my work in front of an audience that wasn't interested in supporting it.

I'll talk about Kate Bush instead.

I find with Kate's later albums that they take a while to grow on me. Hounds of Love is my favourite and the only one that doesn't seem flawed in some way, containing at least one song that comes across as amateurish on some level - usually because it has an interesting and unusual subject which she has written from the heart, based on some half-remembered experience and then not bothered to research in order to get the facts straight. See my piece on Babooshka for further information.

With that said, my first impression of the new double album Ariel is not great. There's one song whose chorus seems to consist of numbers rather than words, which is interesting and unusual. Do the numbers mean anything? I don't know. There's also what I think may be the first song I've ever heard about washing machines. A quite reasonable and underused metaphor in song, but once you are past the initial oddity, it seems to be just another love song with a peculiar central image.

Don't consider this a review, though. I haven't even listened to the second disk yet. Maybe it will grow on me.

Word count so far: 15,981

Monday, November 07, 2005

Day seven

Ran into a small problem yesterday when I realised that the calculation I'd used to set my minimum daily target was slightly out and that if I stuck to it I'd finish around December 4th. I was already panicking slightly as the story was slowly grinding to a halt for lack of plot.

And yet somehow it continues, and even starts to rise above its origins as an excuse to get snarky about the plot holes in Harry Potter. Although I am quite entertained to find that the character who was originally intended to be the class bully, the Draco Malfoy equivilent, is becoming a running gag so that whenever he catches our heroine alone, before he can do any bullying something dreadful happens to him. The first time they meet Candy punches him in the face and the second time she throws up on him. I'm so bad.

One of the laws of NaNoWriMo is that the first week goes great but by the second week the novelty has worn thin and it's tough to keep the momentum going. For me the opposite seems to be occuring. The first week was a drag, setting out the furniture and introducing the characters without much real inspiration bar the odd Potter dig, but as I hit Day Seven I am all excited about the first big fight scene which I should be tackling today, and which, if all goes well, should shoot my word count well ahead for the first time. We shall see.

In the meantime, here's a snippet from the unfolding adventure:

Candy’s face burned as she spluttered. “Is this really the time and place to enquire about my sex life?” Then she thought for a moment and did a quick sum in her head that went unicorns plus virgins equals...

“Um, okay, I can see it probably is in fact. So, um, no I haven’t actually…” TMI, she thought. To Much Information. No need to give it the Director's commentary. “Uh, yes I’m a virgin.” The word “technically” she left unspoken and decided that this was not the time to debate the specific shading of the term, and hoped that the unicorns weren’t too fussy.

Update: Completely stunned myself by writing three thousand words today, which puts me up to 12,501, and ahead of the minimum daily target for the first time so far. Go me!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Day five

The epic continues. Okay, so 50,000 words is hardly an epic, but it feels like it right now. Especially as I have narry a notion where the plot is going. On reflection I realise it was a lot more clever than I realised at the time to do a school story, since that gives me a ready made structure to work with.

It's still moving in a fairly dull, slow way. But there was a nice moment of sexual tension yesterday, so I have hopes that the two characters I wanted to get together won't need to be locked in a cupboard after all.

I'm surprised to see that some people have already completed the NaNoWriMo challenge and finished their 50,000 words in the first four days. I can't help feeling that they must be in the wrong place. NaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself, and for anyone who can complete a month's work in four days, there's clearly not much of a challenge going on. It reminds me of when Scott Kurtz of PVP did the 24 hour comic challenge and used it simply to run up a bunch of strips of the webcomic he had been doing daily for two years. That's not setting yourself a task that will stretch you creatively, it's just getting ahead on deadlines.

Similarly I have to wonder about those who have already completed their NaNo novels. What are they going to do for the rest of the month, sit around and gloat? It's about personal challenge, and if the official challenge is not hard enough then maybe you should be finding a way to reset the bar to a point where it will be a challenge for you.

Not a lot in the way of Harry Potter snarkery lately, other than to make clear that british school dinners rarely resemble anything as tasty or nutritious as can be found at Hogwarts. Indeed, the Harry Potter deconstruction I'm doing for research makes me realise just what a complete fantasy even the most mundane aspects of his school are. Not to mention the pupils we follow through their teenage years who never watch TV, play video games, or think about sex.

It did also come up with a Potter pun of resounding awfulness that I shall share with you now:

"Oh yes,"” The mermaid was saying, "We also have a most popular sport where I come from. It is played underwater, of course, and we have sea creatures instead of balls. We call it Squiddich."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Day three

In order to get 50,000 words in thirty days I need to average a minimum of 1,500 per day so as I said before I've been aiming for 2,000 to give me a little leeway to allow for little disasters like the power going out when water leaks through my kitchen ceiling and gets into the light circuit, leaving me in the dark. Which was what happened yesterday.

I haven't quite hit the 2,000 words in one day, yet. But it's still chugging along. Nothing particularly witty appeared today or yesterday that I feel like sharing, but bits of plot happened that needed to occur and just about everyone of any interest has now been introduced, one way or another. Frankly it's been very dull, but I'm hoping something interesting will occur soon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My novel: Day One

I can't believe I actually started it. After several weeks of having my head so stuffed full of half finished but contradictory plans and ideas I reached the point where I thought it might explode, so I went and played City of Villains solidly for 3 days, ending in an unexpected all-nighter to get my newly created Gothic fun Barbie character, Necro Sis up to level 7. I just couldn't resist making a character decked out in shocking pink skulls. And it goes so well with the Cyborg Fun Barbie I did for City of Heroes.

Anyhow, so I was in the frame of mind for writing a novel when I woke up that is akin to waking up on the day of your exams to realise that the night before instead of studying for the exam you went out partying in a little premature celebration. This did not seem a good way to start.

And yet somehow I dragged myself up to the keyboard and start writing. I saved myself the pain of attempting to create a witty and possibly profound opening by starting with Chapter Two. I'll get around to doing the first chapter later. Or not. It may be complete rubbish, but I managed 1,500 words, and I plan to have another go later and try to knock it up to 2,000. I reckon if I aim for 2,000 a day then I stand a good chance of reaching 50,000 by the end of the month even allowing for moderate disasters.

Here's a sample of the story in progress.

“Platform eleven and four ninths? What the hell do they mean, platform eleven and four ninths? That’s just stupid.”

Candy looked around to see if she could catch sight of a platform sign that included fractions, and was contemplating asking someone why the station wasn’t in decimal, but then she looked again and realised that it wasn’t platform eleven and four ninths, it was platform eleven on the fourth of the ninth. Today. Phew. She had narrowly avoided making herself look like a complete tool. She stuffed the letter back in her pocket and rebalanced her bags and moved on, looking around for the platform numbers. The one ahead was nine, so she was going in the right direction after all.

. . .

The letter had specified a school uniform. The only place to buy this uniform, along with a list of very odd supplies that she was required to bring, including some text books with the oddest titles, like “Woggart’s History of Illusionary Species” and “Old Fimble’s Introduction to Alchemical Grammar” seemed to be some obscure part of London. Candy had looked it up on her A – Z but it didn’t seem to be listed. In the end she’d managed to get most of the stuff on ebay.

Only another 48,500 words to go.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Nobody home

Regular readers will notice the lack of anything regular to read lately. I know I said that posts might be few and far between during November as I am supposed to be writing my novel then, but my head has been so full of it lately that I haven't had much time to think about a lot else.

For those that are interested the current title is Candy Frankenstein and the Ordinary Phoenix and it's kind of vaguely along the lines of what might happen if Tim Burton directed a transgendered version of Harry Potter. Originally it started as something quite different but after several weeks of carefully plotting out scenes I realised I had only the first half of the story worked out and I had two other competing ideas for novels and I couldn't decide which. The current version is sort of a hybrid of various ideas but with very little in the way of planning other than a couple of interesting characters and an intention to get very snarky about Potterworld. And a lesbian love affair, of course.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How stupid is Superman?

When Wonder Woman gives up her powers in 1967 she goes to the Justice League to resign, and to tell them about a murder they might be interested in that she noticed along the way that implicates Green Arrow, but Superman is more concerned about how a civilian got into JLA headquarters. No wonder he thinks that putting on a pair of glasses is going to fool everyone when he can't recognise an old friend and colleague when she's not wearing her tiara.

Or maybe he just hasn't been looking at her face enough.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Real Amazons: Hercules wasn't so bad

One of the things that's always bugged me about the silver age origin of Wonder Woman is the role of Hercules. First he is the villain that causes all the troubles for the Amazons, and yet later he becomes a benefactor and gifts Diana with great strength.

This inconsistancy is never addressed in the comic when in fact a little closer adherance to the myth on which it is based would resolve the situation quite nicely. In greek myth one of the twelve tasks of Herakles (1) was to get the girdle (2) of Hippolyta (3) for Admeta, the daughter of king Eurystheus. The girdle was a gift from Ares (4) that signified her authority as queen of the Amazons.

When Hercules arrives the Amazons greet him warmly and Hippolyta comes to his ship to greet him. Upon hearing his request, she agrees to let him take the girdle. Hera (5), however, is not pleased that he is getting off so easy. To stop him, Hera disguises herself as an Amazon and runs through the land, crying that Hercules intends to kidnap their queen. The Amazons charge toward the ship to save Hippolyta. Fearing that Hippolyta has betrayed him, Hercules takes the girdle and escapes. Some versions say he slays Hippolyta, but other myths take up her story beyond this point. Either way, it is here that the Wonder Woman version departs from its myth basis, as in no version does Hercules defeat the amazons in battle or enslave them.

But if the encounter with Hercules is based a little more closely on the mythic version he becomes much less of an aggressor, and the conflict between him and the Amazons becomes a tragic misunderstanding set up by mean old Hera. In this situation it makes sense that once he found out, Hercules would feel tremendous guilt for the trouble he had caused the Amazons, and it would be perfectly reasonable for him to bless the baby Diana. A shame the writers of Wonder Woman never researched the myths the story is based on enough to actually make sense of it.

1. the greek name for Hercules.
2. a sort of belt
3. note that the accepted symbolism of taking a woman's belt meant to have sex with her
4. Ares/Mars was the Amazons' patron in myth
5. Hercules' stepmother

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Quis vestiet ipsos custodes?

Who clothes the watchmen?

Or, where did you get that cute little outfit?

Where do superheroes get their costumes from? Okay, so some have outfits that come free with the magic thingy that gives them super powers like Green Lantern and Captain Marvel, and Batman probably has a sweatshop in Hong Kong working around the clock to keep him and his chums in cowls and utility belts, but what about your average everyday hero?

The Spider-Man movie is a good example. When Spidey first shows up in costume he’s wearing this horrible home-made number that any 12 year old would be proud of (except they’d probably include a cape made out of an old sheet). When he later reappears in the ribbed latex bodysuit we all know and love it is without any explanation of where it came from. Clearly he didn’t make it himself because we’ve seen what he is capable of. So where does he get it from?

In 1971 the answer for Supergirl, at least, was Diana Prince’s exclusive little boutique (this being the "unpowered" period of Wonder Woman where Diana ran a clothes shop). Having ripped her costume in Adventure Comics #397 - and not in the modern boobwar level of costume shredding female characters go for these days but a few discrete tears in the sleeves and fraying at the hem - Kara uses this excuse to dump the frumpy eyesore Ma Kent ran up for her in 1957 and heads over to Diana’s place for a makeover.

Kara is in luck and has managed to catch the shop open as Diana is between jet-setting adventures in foreign parts with her ancient oriental transvestite mentor I-Ching, and Di runs her up a neat little number from what she has in stock. And so before you can say “kinky boots” Kara is fashionably attired for crimefighting. Whether Diana is also responsible for Supergirl’s subsequent adventures in fashion is unclear, though it does seem that once Kara finally develops some interest in clothes, she runs wild with it, and subsequent issues of Adventure Comics show some highs and lows in superhero haute couture.

Ah, but if only this idea had been developed and extended to other titles. Diana Prince could have been the superhero costumier, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, only taller. DC would at last have a simple explanation of where everyone gets their costumes. But it was not to be. And within a year Diana had shut up shop and was back in a costume of her own which showed very little influence from her experience in high fashion, due to an amnesia inducing bash on the head and subsequent memory tampering from her mother. It wasn’t until long after Crisis that she was again to show any hints of fashion sense.

But I can’t help wondering that even to this day in some long lost parallel universe there is an exclusive little boutique currently called “Capes and Belly Shirts” (it’s too fashionable to keep the same name for more than six months at a time, dahling) where (by appointment only, of course) an unpowered Diana Prince creates fashion fit for heroes.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Passing Through Air

Kate Bush has a new album out for the first time in twelve years.

The big question is whether the new album will further develop Kate's helicopter fetish.

Hounds of Love is well known for including a helicopter sampled from Pink Floyd's The Wall, but I was just listening to The Dreaming (is Neil Gaiman a Kate Bush fan?) while making breakfast and I noticed a distinctive helicopter sound during Pull Out the Pin.

There are numerous references to flying in her work (The Big Sky, Kite, and obviously Passing Through Air) although only one specific reference to helicopters, from The Red Shoes comes the telling line "They're gonna whip her up like a helicopter". But while I am still waiting for someone to make the definitive study of helicopter imagery in the works of Kate Bush I have to wonder what the new album has in store for us. After all, the title Aerial could not be more suggestive.

A dictionary definition of AERIAL:

aer·i·al Pronunciation Key (âr-l, -îr-l)

1. Of, in, or caused by the air.
2. Existing or living in the air.
3. Reaching high into the air; lofty.
4. Suggestive of air, as in lightness; airy.
5. Unsubstantial; imaginary.
6. Of, for, or by means of aircraft: aerial photography.
7. Botany. Growing or borne above the ground or water: aerial roots.

Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Nailing my colours to the mast

During the month of November you may find things a little quiet around here as I have decided to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge and attempt to write a novel in a month. But just to make sure I really make a complete and utter fool of myself doing it I will be blogging the whole thing.

My novel in a month blogsite can be found here, but don't expect to see much action there until November 1st. After that I will be posting each day's writing as I go along. Any encouragement or support in this mad venture will be welcomed.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I want Elektra Barbie

If anyone is wondering what to get me for christmas and can't find a copy of Sun Girl #2, here's an alternative option: Elektra Barbie.

I don't know what it is about Elektra Barbie that makes it the pure distilled essence of absurdity. I think it's a lot to do with the incongruity of the wholesome, whitebread, superficial, blonde cheerleader, always trying on wedding dresses but never quite getting married, coupled with the ninja assassin steeped in blood.

Okay, so I've had my doubts about her little "sister" Shelly for a long time. The age gap between them is clearly so large that it seems far more likely that Shelly is really her illegitimate daughter and it's all been hushed up in the way these things are. But it's still a bit of a leap from teenage pregnancy to hired killer.

EDIT: I did finally get one of these, some time later.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Babushka connection

When my friend Sleestak (who always says nice things about me, so it's about time I gave him a well deserved plug for his excellent blog) did a piece about Kate Bush over at Lady, That's My Skull which prompted a comment about her dressing up as Red Sonja, this set off my Amazon Trivia Sense. In fact she was dressed as Raven.

Raven, Swordmistress of Chaos was the star of a series of Five novels by Robert Holdstock and Angus Wells writing under the name of Richard Kirk. They collaborated on the first book and subsequently wrote alternate volumes, Holdstock doing 2 and 4, Wells doing 3 and 5. I was at a convention once where Holdstock talked about Raven. He said that it had been their intention to playfully subvert the conventions of heroic fantasy, thus the heroine named Raven is a blonde, and where most stories of this type are set in a large island landmass, Raven is set around an inland sea.

The original art for the book covers was done by Chris Achilleos. It's some time since I read the books so I cannot now remember how accurate his costume designs for Raven are to the description in the story. Kate Bush wore a costume based on this design (with the addition of a studded bra for the sake of modesty) in the video for her song Babooshka.

Babooshka is an interesting song. The lyrics tell of a woman who wants to test her husband's fidelity by attempting to seduce him as another woman, but who finds a whole new passion for him as a result.

She wanted to test her husband.
She knew exactly what to do:
A pseudonym to fool him.
She couldn't have made a worse move.

She sent him scented letters,
And he received them with a strange delight.
Just like his wife
But how she was before the tears,
And how she was before the years flew by,
And how she was when she was beautiful.
She signed the letter

"All yours,
Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!
All yours,
Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya!"
The video, somewhat incongrously has her dancing around in her Raven outfit and waving her sword. It doesn't seem to work with the song on any level, other than to possibly reinforce a theme of female assertiveness. But what is even stranger is the name the woman in the song takes for her femme fatale. Babooshka is from the russian word babushka which means "grandmother" or "old lady".

There is a another very subtle and clever connection that works. Babushka is also another name for a type of nested Matryoshka doll, known as a russian doll in the UK; a simple wooden shape with an elaborately painted figure on it that opens to reveal another one inside it, and that contains another and another. These can contain a couple or as many as fifty dolls, and would fit the song very nicely as a symbolic name for a woman finding a new aspect inside herself, but I've never seen this interpretation proposed before.

In fact Kate Bush just says this on the subject:

Yes, well apparently it is grandmother, it's also a headdress that people wear. But when I wrote the song it was just a name that literally came into my mind, I've presumed I've got it from a fairy story I'd read when I was a child. And after having written the song a series of incredible coincidences happened where I'd turned on the television and there was Donald Swan singing about Babooshka. So I thought, "well, there's got to be someone who's actually called Babooshka.'' So I was looking through Radio Times and there, another coincidence, there was an opera called Babooshka. Apparently she was the lady that the three kings went to see because the star stopped over her house and they thought "Jesus is in there.'' So they went in and he wasn't. And they wouldn't let her come with them to find the baby and she spent the rest of her life looking for him and she never found him. And also a friend of mine had a cat called Babooshka. So these really extraordinary things that kept coming up when in fact it was just a name that came into my head at the time purely because it fitted.

She is mistaken about the spelling (though this quote is from an interview so it may just be the journalist who is ignorant). Although phonetically very similar, the only usage I have found anywhere that uses the double "o" construction is in her song. Everywhere else it is spelled with a "u" or "ou".

It's hardly a coincidence that she saw Donald Swan singing about Baboushka and then found reference to an opera of the same name in a TV listings magazine, as it was probably the same show . Donald Swan was co-writer of the opera Baboushka (although he also wrote a song called Baboushka's Carol), and it was broadcast on british TV in 1979. Both are based on a russian folktale of the old woman, Baboushka who was too busy to accept The Three Kings' invitation to join them on their journey to Bethlehem, and now seeks the Christ-child throughout the world, leaving presents for good children as she passes.

The fairytale she refers to is probably the story of Baba Yaga, a cannibalistic witch who looks like a little ugly old woman and lives in a hut that stands on giant chicken legs.

As for how stories about little old russian women prompted the name for Kate Bush's character who was rediscovering her sexuality; my best guess is that she had confused two very similar sounding names, and was actually thinking of Varoomshka, a sexy politically satirical newspaper strip written and drawn by John Kent that ran in The Guardian, whose heroine is a far more appropriate source for her character.

The Real Amazons

When you are dealing with events that occured so long ago, it's hard to seperate myth from history and fact from fantasy. Just as real events today are rewritten as fiction, the same was done throughout history. Even more so because there was no mass media to inform everyone what was happening in the world so most events were passed along by word of mouth, getting romanticised in the telling and retelling.

And just to complicate matters further, modern writers with their own agendas seem to spin out great complex theories from precious little hard evidence, and it's often difficult to tell where the historical extrapolation ends and the pure fantasy begins. And while some writers talk of great Amazonian empires, archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball doesn't believe they existed at all, even though the tomb of a warrior woman she excavated in the Russian Steppes is cited by many as concrete proof of Amazon culture.

But there are plenty of contemporary accounts. Amazons are mentioned in the Iliad, where Homer talks of an Amazon army that took part in the Trojan war. Herodotus in his Histories tells of the Greeks at war with the Amazons. There are many records of other matriarchal societies and entirely female armies throughout history, so it seems absurd to deny the existence of the most famous matriarchal society of all.

More to come...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The complicated origin of Wonder Woman

This is the Earth 1/Silver Age origin of Wonder Woman using the version published in DC Special Series #19 (November 1979) as the basis, with additions and variations from elsewhere as noted. I am not including references from the Golden Age version as that would just make things even more complicated. The Amazons are originally created by Aphrodite as a race of super women (1) who will defeat all men that stand against them through force of arms because they have the power of love (2). She gives Queen Hippolyte (3) a magic girdle which makes them unconquerable. At Mars' direction Hercules eventually defeats them by seducing Hippolyte and stealing the magic girdle before enslaving them all. Hippolyte appeals to Aphrodite who frees them (4) but commands that they must forever after wear the wrist bands that chained them "to teach them the folly of submitting to men". Should a man ever chain them they will become as weak as a normal woman and if they ever remove them they will "lose all control of their emotions" (5). The girdle is retrieved though Hippo's sister (6) Antiope, wife of Thesius (7) dies in the battle (8). Aphrodite decides to separate them from men completely and sends them off to Paradise Island and just to make sure, she decrees that no man may set foot there or the amazons would lose their powers (9). Oddly it never seems to occur to anyone that this is a bad weakness in their defences. If any enemy were to attack Paradise Island, all they would need to do would be to get one man onto the island for the amazons to lose their powers. Mars never takes advantage of this however, and in fact never attacks Paradise Island directly (10), so presumably he has some private understanding with Aphrodite about it. At this point the story gets a little vague. We are told that the Amazons have been on Paradise Island for a thousand years, and Aphrodite does bring them the odd toy now and then, like the Magic Sphere (11) that allows them to keep up to date on the outside world, and indeed get well ahead of it on scientific advances (12). But after 900+ years Queen Hippolyte becomes sad for the lack of anyone to love other than all (13) the other amazons and so Athene directs her to sculpt an infant child (14) which is then brought to life by Aphrodite(15). At this point in some versions of the story several other gods visit to imbue the infant Diana with special powers. Oddly, this includes Hercules. Perhaps after all this time he has reformed and wants to make amends for seducing and then mugging Hippolyte before subjecting the entire Amazon nation to slavery, the direct result of which was their cutting themselves off from the outside world and their stuck with wearing chunky bracelets for 1000 years. Sadly, in no version of the origin is this point addressed. What many consider to be the first Silver Age version of the origin story (16) appears in Wonder Woman #105, and although it is the first to involve the gods doing their fairy godmother routine, it does so in a context that is inconsistent with every other version of the story. Here Diana is born well before the Amazons go into isolation, and they only do so because all their menfolk have died in the wars and they just want to cut themselves off from such a savage world. In fact here Diana as a teenager builds the ship (17) they leave in. Its only claim to accuracy anywhere is the gods’ gift, which is grafted onto later versions of the story. Seen purely in context with earlier versions it is one big mess of inaccuracies and omissions. Things then start to get a little surreal. As Diana grows up she is often referred to first as Wonder Tot and later Wonder Girl. At both periods of her life she wears an outfit that contains motifs from the costume she wears as Wonder Woman. We are even shown her performing trials to win these motifs as a teenager. She and her mother are fully aware of her destiny as Wonder Woman as they have a device that allows them to observe her future adventures. The final act of the story opens with Steve Trevor crashing an aircraft near Paradise Island. Diana rescues him and nurses him back to health. The rules about no man setting foot on the island are here severely strained as the spirit of the law is broken even if the letter of the law is observed. Diana carries Steve onto the island and he then spends his time on tables or in beds to avoid so much as a toe making contact with the floor. I am assuming that this is one of the many exceptions Aphrodite makes (18) as she seems to have set the whole thing up. Hippolyte consults Aphrodite who tells her that an Amazon (19) must escort the man home and stay to fight against evil and injustice. Hippolyte declares a contest to choose who will get the honour despite the fact that she has known for years that Diana will win it. I can only assume that she's been sniffing the mists of Nepenthe. She even forbids Diana to take part because she can't bear to let her go, but Diana enters anyway, wearing an unconvincingly small mask. Either the other Amazons are extremely stupid or they must be humouring her by pretending that they are at all fooled by it (20). Inevitably, Diana wins the contest. Probably because of those powers the gods gave her at birth. She is given her costume that Aphrodite has cunningly designed for her incorporating patriotic symbols of the country to which she is heading. Aphrodite has also directed Hippolyte to take some links from her magic girdle to create a magic lasso. Diana flies Steve back to America in her magic invisible robot plane which she just happened to have lying around (21). Arriving in America, Diana is a bit mystified as to what to do next. Although the Amazons have been observing the outside world for centuries and looting it for technological advances she seems oddly unprepared for her situation (22). Eventually she bumps into a crying nurse who coincidently is her identical twin, has the same name, and is tending Steve Trevor. Wonder Woman finances a trip to South America for her in exchange for her identity. There are several mutually exclusive variations on what becomes of this woman later, though all but one (23) refer to the golden age/Earth 2 Wonder Woman. And so established as a nurse in a military hospital where security is so lax that nobody notices the difference, Princess Diana becomes Diana Prince and nurses Steve Trevor back to health. When Steve returns to duty she follows him and somehow manages to get a job as his secretary in Military Intelligence (24) and spends many years having a chaste romance with him despite his treating her like a servant in her secret identity and alternately nagging her to marry him or exhibiting bouts of insane jealousy when she is in her heroic identity and they live happily ever after until he drops dead, gets resurrected, dies again, and is finally replaced by an alternate version from another dimension. Notes 1. from clay according to #159 2. no, I’ve never quite understood how that works, either 3. often spelled Hippolyta 4. or supports them when they free themselves 5. invariably this is depicted as running berserk with overwhelming anger and never any other emotion, which suggests they must be repressing a lot normally, and somehow it doesn't seem to apply to Diana when in her secret identity. 6. if they were all created simultaneously by Aphrodite surely they are all sisters? 7. only mention that the amazons had anything to do with men. 8. in #247 it is an Amazon called Diana who dies at this point 9. other consequences appear to be them losing their immortality and crumbling to dust (#223) earthquakes, and sundry disasters, or immediately falling in love with the visitor (#216), although Aphrodite seems to suspend this law as it suits her (25) 10. except #198 when he is wearing a false beard, calling himself Ares, and claiming Hippolyte is his daughter, but perhaps this is an alternate dimension Ares/Mars. 11. it's a disc. 12. though we never, ever see any of the infrastructure required to create their advanced society. Where are the mines, refineries, factories, etc? It’s not like they can import anything. 13. how many women make up the Amazon nation is also very unclear, as is the size of the island they live on. 14. she usually looks like a toddler, so Hippo is cunningly bypassing all that midnight feeding and diaper changing business. 15. the addition of a second infant only appears in #206 and is otherwise ignored. 16. there’s one in #97 but I’ll probably end up doing a whole separate article to explain why this should be ignored. 17. how many can one ship hold? All the main versions only show them using a single ship, which rather limits the size of the population. See (13). 18. without telling the amazons. 19. in Secret Origins she specifically states "a young Amazon". Since no men are allowed on Paradise Island, they are either kidnapping girls from the outside world or cloning themselves, because otherwise the only young Amazon is Diana. What a giveaway. 20. They are a small closed society who have been together for a thousand years. It is absurd to think that everyone would not know everyone else. They would immediately know who the masked one was, if only by a process of elimination. 21. in Golden Age continuity each of these items is quested for separately. 22. though not as unprepared as Orana in #250 who is so utterly clueless that she mistakes policemen for villains. 23. issue #172. 24. the story glosses over this part. 25. she must have a soft spot for I-Ching, who is allowed to visit in #198 without any problems; unless he is secretly a female transvestite or had a sex change

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If I was an evil overlord

If you've never read The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord then you are missing out on some fun stuff. I always wanted to add something to the list but they seemed to have covered just about everything you could expect to find in Evil Overlording for Dummies. And then I was inspired by a film (which I won't name as it would be a tremendous spoiler) to produce this:

When my #1 agent has seduced an enemy of the opposite sex and led them into a trap, but probably fallen in love with them, I will not then command my agent to take the enemy away alone to a secluded spot and execute them. I will send my agent out to get pizza and while they are gone I will have the enemy immediately executed by a firing squad of people they have never met.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Double Feature

It's true! Not that you'd know it from the amount of feedback I get, but like a successful comic character I'm getting a feature spot in a whole other blog!

From now on I can also be found at Comics Should Be Good where I will be subverting the establishment from the inside with tales of obscure comic characters, and other such revolutionary activities.

This shouldn't make a whole lot of difference to what goes on here. The plan (such as it is) for CSBG is to focus on more stand alone articles, while the long rambling series and obscure Wonder Woman related trivia continue here. How it will work out in practice is anybody's guess.

Edit: It's my first entry over there, and already I've got a crossover going. What next? House of Infinite Crisis of Super Secret Blog Wars?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Other Amazons 2: Marvel's Hippolyta

DC and Marvel have both looted the world's myths and legends for characters and ideas, and even though early on Marvel staked a claim on the Norse pantheon with Thor and DC got the greco-roman gods with Wonder Woman they weren't averse to poaching on each other's territory and doing their own interpretations. I believe Thor actually appeared in a DC comic before Marvel even existed. He certainly showed up more than once after Marvel made such a success of him, though usually in a much more traditional form with a big red beard to avoid copyright issues.

One mythical character who achieved a long history with both publishers was Hercules. He features in Wonder Woman's origin as both villain and benefactor. Despite having enslaved the Amazons and being the root cause of their seclusion from the rest of the world, he becomes one of the patron gods that show up at Diana's birth to do the good fairy bit and ply her with gifts. He also appears elsewhere in DC as a hero, even gaining his own title briefly. Over at Marvel Hercules is often portrayed as Thor's opposite number on the rival greek team. They occasionally fight and often team up. Hercules also had a title of his own at Marvel once or twice.

But at one point in Thor Hercules becomes a regular member of the cast, and it is in Thor #127 that Pluto plots against him and is assisted by Queen Hyppolita (sic) of the Amazons.

It's an interesting sidelight on propoganda that your point of view changes how you tell a story. Since Hercules is the hero in the days when superhero stories were less morally ambiguous, his backstory with Hippolita is at some variance with the DC version and the myth cycle on which it is based, and Hippo is here cast as the spurned lover out to get revenge for his rejection of her advances, rather than the victim of his attack.

And so Hippo plays the femme fatale with Hercules, tricking him into signing a contract with Pluto while masquerading as a movie star in a film production calculated to appeal to Hercules' vanity, since it is a movie where he gets to play himself. But once the contract is signed and the deception revealed, Pluto and Hippo vanish off to Olympus. But sadly Pluto arrives alone and Hippo is never seen again. It's a shame because Jack Kirby was having a lot of fun with her, and she didn't get up to anything nearly as interesting at DC (other than a little light brainwashing) since the Wonder Family were retired.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Other Amazons

In 1942 Wonder Woman arrived in the U.S.A. from Paradise Island as the representative of the Amazon nation to help with America's war effort. Fifteen years later Action Comics #235 featured a story in which Lois Lane is shipwrecked on a desert island and meets another, lost tribe of Amazons.

It's probably just as well she hadn't arrived at the original Amazon homeland.

Superman blunders in as usual to bail Lois out of trouble but in doing so breaks local laws that forbid any man to set foot on the island. Luckily the consequenses seem rather less dire than if he had made the same mistake on Paradise Island, but Amazon queen Elsha declares that by their law he must be sold as a slave. Superman smugly goes along with this for a laugh, and with no real respect for another culture, believing that no chains can hold him, but he has quite forgotten that this is a period where kryptonite can turn up anywhere, and guess what his chains are made of?

And yet the kryptonite fails to affect Supes, so he allows events to unfold while he tries to work out what is preventing the kryptonite from hurting him. The Amazon queen holds a ceremonial auction to sell the super-slave. It is clearly ceremonial since she gets to be auctioneer and also to bid, using funds from the royal treasury, which one assumes would also be the beneficiary of any profits from the sale, so she is basically selling to herself. But Lois fails to understand the ceremonial nature of the event and attempts to destablize the local economy by introducing vast quantities of american money into the country in order to influence the situation.

In an attempt to stave off this foreign imperialism Elsha ends centuries of tradition by declaring emancipation. But there still remains an ancient law relating to male trespass that the queen desperately attempts to enforce, which decrees that the offender will be married to the first woman who can give him a task he cannot perform.
After graciously allowing Lois and her friends to set tasks Elsha once again shows the entirely ceremonial nature of these laws that Superman and Lois have so completely failed to grasp, setting him the task of making her a commoner. The solution to this task is in plain view, but rather than responding with the symbolic gesture that is clearly called for here, Superman acts entirely selfishly and completely destroys her royal emblem of authority, rather than symbolically "losing" it as is all that is required. Thus the culture is destablised further as the legal authority is removed from power due to Superman's blundering self-centred attitude.

And yet his own hubris defeats him, for once Supes has destroyed the crown it becomes apparent that it was this that was counteracting the effects of the kryptonite, and he is so pissed that he immediately leaves the civilisation he has wrecked, never thinking to ask if there was any more where that came from.

And that's the last we hear of the alternative Amazons. Superman never bothers to mention to his fellow Justice League member that he's found a lost offshoot of her race reduced to its last few members, struggling to preserve their ancient ways on a nearby island. But then he's probably just embarrassed about the damage he has done to another culture in pursuit of personal interests.