Sunday, May 21, 2006

Idiot spam monkey at work

I noticed a reply to a recent post of mine started with:

Economics 101 said... This is a great analysis - well done!

Can I bring to your attention AK Comics of Egypt who produce 'Middle East Heroes' which has just started being distributed through Diamond.

And then went on a bit about AK Comics. A little self-serving, but it was comics related and I had been talking about my disillusionment with the comics I'd been reading, after all. But all became clear when I saw exactly the same comment on another blog; confirmation that it was a spam monkey at work. But I was curious so I dug a little deeper.

Our friend Economics 101 is in fact Andrew Stephenson, who runs the AK Comics blog and appears to be involved in the company in some way that he doesn't specify, but he says "we" a lot when passing on whatever inflated piece of fluff he has to say about how wonderful they are.

The competition he promotes is one where, correct me if I'm wrong, Andrew, you create a team of superheroes which AK Comics will then build a comic around, and your fantastic reward is to receive a year's subscription to the comic.

Well cover me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians! How gracious of you to step down from your mighty pedestal and consider that my ideas might be worthy of your consideration. I'm certainly prepared to give up all copyrights to my characters, waive all royalty fees, abandon any control over their usage, and throw away any future interest in them for the sake of a year's worth of what is known in the business as contributor's copies and which are handed out to anyone who has had any input on the comic. Hell, you don't even need to credit me beyond the first issue.

Think how proud I'll feel when I'm buying a T-shirt with MY characters on it (that I wasn't consulted about and receive no royalty from) or maybe one day standing in line to see a movie featuring the heroes I created (which I don't even get listed in the credits for, let alone a share of the huge licensing fee).

And you know what? AK Comics doesn't even need this underhand and deceiptful behaviour. I took a look at what they are producing and well, once you get past the sub-Image gloss it's possible there might be something original going on there. Hell, if I had been genuinely approached about them this might have been a feature on new and different comics worth tracking down. But am I going to make any effort to find out if they are worth it after I've been spammed and patronised in this way?


The truth revealed

Earlier in the week I posed a question about a Strange Tales cover. I can now reveal an artist's recreation of what this cover probably looked like. We may never know for sure.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Batman's double standards

There was this story in JLA a few years ago (I'm sure someone can provide issue numbers, I only read this in a borrowed collection) in which the Bat-computer is hacked by Ra's Al Ghul and he steals the contingency plans the ever prepared Batman had put in place in case any or all of his super powered buddies went bad and he had to take them down.

It's a decent story and of course our heroes win the day. They are a little uncomfortable with Batman for preparing for this kind of eventuality, but they can't escape the hard fact that it's a reasonable thing to do given how often they are individually or collectively brainwashed, possessed, replaced with evil duplicates, and all the other problems with which superhero life is fraught. None of them suggest that the security on the Bat-computer needs a little upgrading.

Something like a year later, after Batman has spitefully kicked out Steph for doing not only what any other Robin would do but I'm 95% certain has done in similar circumstances, she tries to prove herself to him by hacking the Bat-computer and using one of his plans. It's an incredibly clumsy plot constructed purely to make Steph The Flawed Hero Who Must Give Her Life to Atone for the Mistake She Made. I saw where this was going in the first issue and couldn't bring myself to follow it to the end. But I'm betting nobody suggested that Batman upgrade the security on the Bat-computer.

And then we come to the OMAC project. Batman comes up with a new scheme for defending against his super-buddies on the off chance they go bad. Can you possibly make a wild guess what happens? Yes, one more time someone hacks the bloody Bat-computer and steals these most top secret and dangerous plans, reprograms the OMAC control system, and uses it to kill a lot of people.

Batman surely has some responsibility here? Isn't he in the same position as Steph, only with a higher body count? How come Brucey doesn't get to sacrifice himself nobly to atone for his mistake? But no, you see Batman doesn't even acknowledge he has done a thing wrong. In fact he manages to get on his high horse and be disgusted with Wonder Woman for killing Max when she is given no alternative, even while the fruits of his criminal negligence are killing people by the thousand.

Nobody even suggests that his clever schemes (and doesn't anyone think that a plan that involves converting innocent bystanders into cannon fodder is fundamentally flawed?) have caused far more damage than the potential dangers they were designed to guard against, or that maybe it's time he stopped trying to think of ways to hurt his friends, or if he really must do so, he write these plans down in a notebook and keep it in a big safe at the bottom of the Batcave, rather than publishing them on the internet.

Losing Faith

I remember when I was a kid and I really honestly believed it the first couple of times I read a story in which a major comic book character died. There was one time I spent weeks puzzling over why Superman's death (no, not The Death of Superman, another one) hadn't seemed to have caused any repercussions in other comics, and was quite relieved to find everything set right in the second half of the two-parter.

As I read more comics it became apparent that hero death was a regular occurance and not to be taken too seriously. With big-name characters like Batman or Superman it was either a fake out, or at worst an "event" (yes, I do mean The Death of Superman this time). In some ways it felt a bit of a cheat, but I realise now that deep down it was very reassuring to know that however bad things looked, my heroes would always come through, somehow.

It's not like that now. Sure, the iconic name brands are untouchable, but Wonder Woman hasn't been able to hold a supporting cast since before Crisis (the first one), Batman's been largely unreadable for years, and Superman gets retconned so often that I have no idea what Krypton is now supposed to have looked like or whether Kandor is currently only available in bottled form.

And gods help you if you are a B list character. You can vanish from history with a lame explanation, or none at all, and nobody even notices when you are replaced a month later by someone else with the same name. Or you can be built up for a couple of months so that readers will care more when you become the sacrificial goat to make an "event" more... Meanspirited? Depressing? I don't know what the hell the point of that is.

At least once you hit the C list they just use you as dramatic cannon-fodder to show how evil the villains are. Your death may be brutal and violent, but it's usually quick.

So when I read Robin #150 I wasn't excited; I just felt a little nauseous and depressed. It may be, as Kalinara suggests, a misdirection, and Cassandra may yet be saved. But DC already cancelled her comic and they have a new Batwoman all lined up and ready to roll. So I have no deep down tingle of anticipation over how Batgirl is going to get out of this one. No expectation that the clever writer is going to resolve the impossible situation with a surprise twist that I should have seen coming. No faith in DC any more to give me a happy ending.

It's times like this I wonder if maybe I've grown out of comics.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The final Loebotomy/Cir-El's Last Stand

I stopped commenting on Jeph Loeb's work in Superman/Batman some months ago. Time was he could be at least relied on to do something to fire me up with a good rant, but the final storyline of the series was so lame and so much one more dip into his tired old bag of tricks that there was nothing of interest to say. I hadn't even looked at the last couple of issues.

And then I heard he had brought back Cir-El. My delight at the prospect of seeing the lost Supergirl appear in a DC comic, even just for a cameo, was tempered by a degree of anger toward big Jeph. In all the Supergirl stories he had written to date, any mention of Cir-El and Linda was significantly absent, even where it beggered belief that someone among those present never brought up any previous wearers of the cape.

So why now? Especially given that even though neither even appeared for two panels in Infinite Crisis so that they could get their heads ripped off or something, the word has come down from on high that neither are now in continuity.

Why? Because Jeph wanted to fill his last big Bats/Supes story with all the possible versions of his main characters as he could think of, and that included all the available Supergirls.

In fact Cir-El and Linda get three lines apiece (one each of which is "Ouch"), no characterisation or even explanation of how they got there or where they came from. But then given the characterisation of what appears to be some kind of moronic analogue of silver-age Supergirl from Earth-Stupid, I don't really mind so much.

Oh, and one last thing. I know you had a lot of them to stuff into these issues, McGuinness, but if you are going to do fan favourite cameos, you might take the trouble to get the costumes correct.

And that's my last bit of bile for Jeph Loeb. He's off to ruin some comics I don't read so I'll leave it to the Marvel fans to take up the venom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lost and forgotten

Cerisa Tempest is updating the infamous Women in Refrigerators list and I notice that there's one name that didn't make it to the original list and isn't on the new list either.

Okay, look I know she was badly written, had a horrible costume, and nobody liked her, but she had one of the most unfair, pathetic superhero deaths ever, and it feels like the writing her out of continuity was been so thorough that not even the readers remember her.

She may only have been the one between the Peter David one and the skinny one, but she was still Supergirl.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Super self-parody

A friend of mine brought me this back from the UK comic convention in Bristol this weekend. Proof, if any were needed, that Ian Churchill draws Supergirl like a stick figure.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Clea Must...?

The other day I was looking at some old comics on the wall of a store and they must have been a bit stuck for space because the comics were overlapped so you could only see the left hand side of many of them.

My eye was caught by the cover to Strange Tales #154 and I was intruiged. What was it that Clea must do?

Okay, anyone who has ever read a Marvel comic in their entire life knows where this headline goes, but just suspend your disbelief for a moment and tell me what it is you think that Clea must do here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Samplers should be good

Let's be honest, Free Comic Book Day is essentially seen by publishers as a promotional tool. It's a chance to get their product seen by a lot of people who would not normaly look at it.

Which is fine. I heartily approve of enlightened self-interest. Everyone wins.

Anyhow, so most of the stuff that I came home with last Saturday was samples intended to persuade me to read comics I didn't know. Now if I was head honcho of a comic publisher I'd ensure that my sample comic contained the best stuff I could find that would engage the interest of anyone who read it and bring them back for more. Judging by some of the comics in my pile either I am out of step with current strategy, or the rest of the stuff they publish must be real dreck.

Case in point being Arcana Studio Presents; a sampler of scenes from three ongoing titles. Kade had some interesting painted technique but looked just like a zillion other fantasy comics and I haven't worked up the energy to read it yet. Big muscley hero fights firey demon. Gag me with a spoon.

Second up was Ezra, generic fantasy heroine whose most interesting aspect is her inability to ever stop talking, regardless of whether her audience is composed of thugs, woodland creatures, or nobody at all. She tells the thugs her life story inbetween beating them up. She tells a racoon much of the same story a page later. She chats for a page to an empty woodland. I'm almost tempted to pick up this comic to find out whether this is a deliberate character trait or just terrible writing.

Finally we have 100 Girls. I have no idea what 100 Girls is about but I don't think this sample was much of a help as it was entirely about a bad man who stumbles around in some wreckage and then dies. There was some mention of a girl with super powers but since she only appears for one panel in flashback, I have no clue whether she is any more important to the comic this is supposed to be encouraging me to buy than the bad dead man.

Marvel kind of did okay. I don't know whether the Runaways/X-Men 11 pager is a reprint or unique to this comic, but it is a nice self-contained little story that I liked a lot. On the strength of this I could well be persuaded to give Runaways a try. The rest of the comic wasn't so hot. A Franklin Richards story that didn't really do anything for me, what appeared to be half a random fight scene from an Avengers variation I wasn't familiar with, and a lengthy text synopsis of Ultimate Spider-Man that made it sound so hideously convoluted that it put me off ever looking at it. Personally I'm holding out for Penultimate Spider-Man.

As for DC... On the plus side I really like the Justice League Unlimited comic. On the minus side I fail to comprehend the logic of promoting this comic when it's just been cancelled.

Archie Comics were one of the few to produce something entirely original, and although it would be easy to pick holes in the quality of this offering, it's more fun to experience it through Scipio's eyes.

More to come...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The problem with Sluggy

There's a web comic I've been reading for several years now, although it's been very off and on lately. In fact I stopped reading it altogether for three months.

It's called Sluggy Freelance and the problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. The comic started out as a gag strip revolving around a small group of people: Torg; the everyman figure, Biff; the mad scientist (but cool with it), Zoe; the hot babe, Gwynne; the plain one who is also a witch, Bun-Bun; the psycopathic rabbit, and Kiki; braindead ferret. They would fall into other dimensions, fight elves, vampires, and demon kittens, parody pop culture favourites like Star Trek and Harry Potter, and generally have a lot of fun in stories that ran for a few weeks.

And then along the way creator Pete Abrams started moving away from daily gag strips with continuity to epic graphic novels puplished at the rate of 4 panels a day. And even though the stories took a much more seriously dramatic turn, they still dragged along all the gag baggage. You can't do a serious dramatic story where characters struggle with pain and loss and fill it with demons with silly names from the "Dimension of Lame".

And because individual storylines might only feature a couple of the regular cast and drag on for the best part of a year, it becomes hard to keep track of what is going on. The final straw was the science ficton epic "Oceans Unmoving" which only featured Bun-Bun of the main cast, and had a hideously complicated plot involving timeless space that ran for 13 months, broken only by 3 week digression into Harry Potter parody. Abrams tried desperately to keep this behemoth moving along by producing a prodigious amount of comics each day, but that didn't stop it being a big complicated graphic novel chopped up into small pieces and spread out over such a long period of time that you needed to keep going back and rereading all the previous bits to make any sense of it. It was totally the wrong format for the story, and Abrams freely admitted it had got out of hand.

A month or so into this storyline I stopped reading the comic daily and just caught up about once a week in hopes of the story making sense, but to be honest I wasn't that interested in it. It was a clever concept, but it just went on and on. I wasn't very interested in most of the newly introduced characters and I really lost track of what it was about. I wanted to see Biff blow stuff up, Gwynne get all witchy, Zoe make cutting remarks and slap people, and Kiki go "ooh, shiny!". Eventually I stopped reading it altogether.

It was several weeks after the story finished before I even noticed. At first it seemed like things were back to the way they used to be, albeit with some more serious characterisation under the humour. But within a couple of weeks we were off on what first appeared to be a short digression road trip with added ninjas but which has just turned into 3 weeks of soul searching as Torg confronts his feelings for Zoe. Okay, the shadow puppet imagery was cool, but three weeks of it? And when we find that one of Torg's fears is that Oasis will show up and kill Zoe, I was surprised. I mean if she were really out to get Zoe, surely she would have turned up sometime in the last four years?

It's evident that Abrams has moved beyond the format of a daily gag strip, but that is what he is working with and it's an unhappy compromise. And he seems unable to dispense with the broad humour, using it as a crutch even while it is undermining the more serious things he is trying to do. It is not impossible to mix drama and humour. Just look at Girl Genius, for example. But what's going on in Sluggy is sometimes as effective as putting fart jokes in Hamlet. Any laughs it generates are at the expense of the dramatic tension he is trying to create.

I am all for creators pushing their limits, and I am not in any way suggesting that Sluggy should return to some arbitary "good old days". I just wish that Abrams would make a decision and either find a way to do the big graphic novels he wants to, or do a gag strip with limited continuity and puns. Both at the same time is not working, and it hasn't been working for a long time now.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Eggs and bunnies

The lunar month around the month of April in the Julian calendar was called the Eostre-monath. And as the Christian tradition of Easter, which has also fallen in April, arrived in some Germanic-speaking regions, the people named the then-unnamed Christian day after the festival, that is, in English as Easter, and in German as Ostern.

In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, the goddess Eostre (AKA Ostara) is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse then she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts.

Happy Eostre everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2006

My first comic

apparently it's First Comic Week so I'm trying to remember back that far. To be fair it's almost certain that the first comics I read were british, but the majority of people reading this wouldn't have heard of them even if I could remember what they were called, so I'll keep it to the first american comics I encountered.

I don't know how old I was, but it was at a point before I could read when I came across a stash of comics belonging to (I think) a relative. I don't really remember the details, but I was attracted to the colourful and exciting pictures, which were so much more dynamic than anything available locally. One of the comics here may have been Action Comics #324. I couldn't say for certain, but it's the earliest comic I remember.

There was something about Supergirl growing horns and becoming evil that stuck with me. That and the issue of Wonder Woman where she grows to giant size and eats a big pizza. If I had an analyst they'd have a field day.

Is it any wonder why I have a thing for silver age DC?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Power Girl's Phantom Pregnancy

eu·phe·mism Audio pronunciation of "euphemism" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (yf-mzm)
The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive: “Euphemisms such as ‘slumber room’... abound in the funeral business” (Jessica Mitford).

In comics (and other pop culture media) we often see a kind of symbolic euphemism; on the good side, allegory is used to address emotive issues by giving them a fantastic context, for example a racial issue might be played out amongst different shaped/coloured alien beings. On the bad side this is used to sugar coat unpleasant things to make them acceptable, thus robots are often used as antagonists that can be safely torn to pieces without any moral questions raised, and female characters can be made pregnant against their will without all the unpleasantness of having them raped.

When Power Girl announces that she thinks she's pregnant in Justice League International #52 it's a bit of a surprise, not least to her.
Over the next year there is very little visible sign of Power Girl's pregnancy (although it's a little hard to tell at times given how dreadful the art gets on occaision) and she continues to wear the same ghastly spandex outfit and get into fights. And then suddenly between JLI #67 (August 94) and Zero Hour #3 (Sept 94) she swells up like a beach ball having an alergic reaction and changes into a polo neck sweater.

Everyone else runs around and hits stuff, and Wonder Woman gets to tell Captain Atom to piss off while she delivers the baby. The only things wrong with this scene being that Diana grew up on an island that had zero population growth and has no experience of dealing with a birth, while Captain Atom explains that he helped deliver his own two children. You'd think she might at least think to get Karen a cushion or something, but the only pictures we see of her between this point and after the birth show her flat on her back on what appears to be a hard shiny floor, with no support of any kind.

And the next we see of her, the baby is born and all the messy stuff has been cleaned up. In fact she only appears for two small panels in the last issue of Zero Hour, and by the time we see her again in the following month's JLA #93 she has regained her figure and the child looks about a year old. The plot then kicks into gear as we meet the villain of this story and Arion shows up and explains that he was responsible for getting Karen up the duff. And I don't care how noble his cause was, or what mystical euphemism is used, getting your granddaughter pregnant without her consent is not okay, and the way it is treated here is pure misogyny (as is most of the storyline, for that matter).

Even under all the fantasy bullshit they can't get away from admitting that Karen has basically been raped by her own grandfather, so they just gloss over it as fast as possible and get back to the fighting.

In fact it gets worse. By the climax of the storyline it is revealed that Karen's entire life has been orchestrated purely to produce Arion's "mystical great grandson". Until this point she has had no true free will as she had simply been programmed for this purpose, her whole life directed by Arion and his mystics.
It is an utterly repellent and misogynistic storyline, written entirely by Gerard Jones (except for the few brief panels in Zero Hour), and in no way enhanced by a variety of terrible artists. I gather it had been written out of continuity even before Crisis 2 erased the whole Arion aspect of Power Girl's backstory. But brushing it under the carpet doesn't mean DC can pretend it never happened.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Arbitary anniversary moment

Although I didn't start this blog until August, as of today I have been blogging for one year. I used to hang out on a comics based message board called Z-Cult FM, and every so often I would go off on a rant or write some lengthy essay about Wonder Woman's boots or like that. When the Cult set up a blog system of its own I thought I could use it to collate and archive all this stuff I was writing because I was quite pleased with some of it and didn't want it just disappear, not to mention all the time and effort I'd put in to researching stuff.

Don't worry, you're not missing anything. I reposted anything worth reposting here.

Anyhow, I was pleased with the result, but found that even though plenty of people were reading it, I hardly ever got a response, where the same thing written in one of the forums might prompt several pages of discussion. I started looking around for a way to find a larger and more responsive audience, and it was then that I stumbled across this little corner of the blogosphere. I forget the exact details, but I think I followed Sleestak. He had been running a version of the wonderful Lady, That's My Skull at Z-Cult, but soon filled up his allowance for pictures there and so started the Blogger version. At least I'm assuming this was how it happened, I'm sure Slee can correct me if I'm mistaken.

It was then I discovered some of my favourite blogs, like The Absorbascon and Dave's Long Box, which I still read regularly, and decided to set out my own stall here. Hard to believe after all this time I still haven't finished reading Wonder Woman v1. I really must get back to that sometime.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Life imitates art. Or not

I don't usually post about the real world because I find it too strange and scary, but I couldn't resist commenting on this:

I was reading this news report about an airplane sighted over Daytona beach towing a black banner with words written in white: "6/6/06 You have been warned". The report goes on to detail the reaction of Terica Washington who saw it and called the FBI.

"I thought it might be terrorists," she said.

Yes, Terica. That's just the kind of despicable thing terrorists would do. Fly banners in the sky announcing the date of their next attack. Next thing you know they'll be sending cryptic clues to the police commissioner. But don't worry honey, you know Batman always solves the puzzle in time and foils their dastardly plot.

Valerian page 9

It's been a while, but here we go again.

L: Tu es gentil de me avoir achetée… smack… Tu sais elle marche!

You are nice to have bought it for me... smack... You know it [walks]!

I can’t work out what marche means here. Nothing I’ve found fits the context.

V: Bah… Frais de mission! Allons voir lā-bas cet attroupement!

Bah... Mission expenses! Let us see over there this crowd!

V: Que se passé-t-il?

What [last it]?

I couldn’t find any kind of translation for passé-t-il that made sense here. Obviously in context Laureline is saying something like “What is it?” but it would be nice to know what she’s actually saying.

Merchant: C’est la première fois que vous venez sur Syrte? Alors regardez bien… Voici l’un des plus célèbres connoisseurs qui, aujourd’hui, accepte de repondre aux questions…

It is the first time that you come to Syrte? Then look at well... Here one of the most famous Adepts who, today, agrees to answer questions...

M: …Tenez, un riche marchand de la planète Flugil vient le consulter.

Hold, a rich merchant of the planet Flugil comes to consult him

Merchant2: Puissant connaisseur! J’invoque de ta magnanimité une réponse ā cette question: vais-je vivre assez vieux pour voir prospérer mon commerce jusqu’ā ce qu’il soit le plus important dans le domaine qui est le mien?

Powerful Adept! I call upon your magnanimity to answer this question: will I live long enough to see my trade thrive through what it is most significant in the field which is mine?

Hmm. That last bit seems a bit mangled.

Caption: Dans le silence de la foule attentive, c’est une voix assourdie, mais aux résonances profondes qui s’impose bientôt

In the silence of the attentive crowd, it is a deafening voice, but with major resonances which is essential soon

S’impose has me confused here.

Adept: Ma réponse est la suivante marchand, tu vas mourir dans cent jours… Rentre sur ta planète si tu veux metre de l’ordre dans tes affaires car ta maladie.. !!

My answer is as follows, merchant, you will die in hundred days... Return to your planet if you want meter of the order in your business because your disease.!!

I assume there’s a colloquial expression I’m missing here.

Caption: Soudain, ā la surprise générale, le connaisseur s’interrompt et…

Suddenly, to general surprise, the Adept stops and...

Adept: Jeune fille! Approche!

Girl! Approach!

Crowd1: Que se passé-t-il?

That annoying passé-t-il again.

Crowd2: Jamais les connoisseurs ne parlent d’eux-mêmes ā des gens du people…

The Adepts never speak to the common people...

Confusion here over ā. It doesn’t seem to be listed at all in the main dictionaries I’m using, and in at least one case (jusqu’ā) it should have been à. Can someone explain what is going on here?

Adept: Approche!!

L: Qui ça … Moi?!

Who, me?

Adept: Oui toi! Oū as-tu trouvé cet objet?

Yes you! Where did you find this object?

That accent again. It has to be (where) because the only alternative seems to be ou (or).

L: Mais… Mais ici! Je viens de l’acheter au marché parce qu’il me plaisait et…

But... But right here! I just bought it at the market because I liked it and...

Adept: Ā quoi sert oe … Bijou?

What use is it? A jewel?

L: à donner l’heure voyons! Il n’y a rien d’extraordinaire à ça!

For telling the time! There is nothing extraordinary with that!

Caption: Ā ces paroles, la foule s’esclaffe autour de Laureline cependant que, sans un mot de plus, le connaisseur se détourne pour rentrer précipitamment au palais…

with these words, the crowd bursts out laughing around Laureline while, without a word, the Adept hurriedly turns away and returns to the palace...

L: Enfin, qu’est-ce que j’ai dit?

What did I say?

V: Tais toi et felons d’ici! Nous avons dû faire une gaffe, mais j’ignore laquelle.

Be quiet and let’s get out of here! We’ve screwed up, but I’m not sure how.

Crowd1: Donner l’heure ah! Ah! Ah!

For telling the time ah! Ah! Ah

Crowd2: Cette fille est folle…

This girl is insane...

Crowd3: Le connaisseur a été blessé par son impertinence, vous avez vu? Il part…

Was the expert offended by her insolence, do you think? He leaves...

I think we are getting the general sense of what's going on here but there are those few odd words and phrases that have me completely stumped. Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jealous, much?

You know, sometimes I wonder about these two.

Oh no! Jimmy's got all those girls after him. I must rescue him!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kara's incredible Super-Skirt

One thing that's puzzled me since the new Supergirl first appeared in costume is how she manages to keep her skirt from flying up and giving us a flash of her super knickers.

The thing is that it is a short skirt. A very short skirt. As drawn by Micheal Turner and Ian Churchill it barely covers her bottom anyway, and it is a loose pleated design. And yet it remains modestly glued to as much of her ass as it ever covers even when her cape is cheerfully being blown upwards.

Now I know there is a long tradition of superhero underwear defying physics, generally in the whole area of not getting destroyed. They should build tanks out of the material Bruce Banner uses for pants - it might turn them purple but this would be a small price to pay for something that could withstand the direct blast of an atom bomb.

But I digress. The difference is that not only are these panties are intended to be seen, but they are often clearly visible to people around her. Any cheerleader can tell you that there's a difference between what you wear while doing cartwheels in a short skirt in front of 100,000 people and underwear that you don't plan to share with an audience. Silver age Supergirl was flashing her panties all the time - particularly after she started trying out different costume designs in the 70's.

They were usually blue, if you're interested.

When it was just Turner and Churchill it might be a personal choice of the artist, but now Supergirl is all over the DC universe and being drawn by many different artists. They may not be able to agree on what age she is supposed to be, but the skirt remains stapled to her thighs, so I can only assume it's an editorial decision.

So the question is if the sight of a bikini bottom is so terrifying, why permit this costume design in the first place? Why have this absurd situation where the art has to be carefully arranged so reader can't see the super thong even though characters in the comics are constantly getting an eyeful? Why not give her some shorts like Stargirl? Why not give her any other damn costume design but one where you have to keep coyly hiding bits of it that are clearly visible to anyone behind/below her?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hal's Head 2: It's genetic

There's been a lot of speculation about Hal Jordan's legendary clumsiness, but my own researches reveal that it may well be hereditary. In GL #14 Hal's brother Jim gets control of the ring and what happens? The first thing he does is knock himself out, as explained here by his girlfriend Sue Williams, AKA Exposition Girl.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Valerian project (5)

Page 8

…Valerian et Laureline quitient sans encombre l’astroport et se dirigent, mêlés ā d’autres voyageurs, vers la capitale.

... Valerian and Laureline leave the spaceport unnoticed and blend in with other travellers moving towards the capital.

Hang on a sec. Didn't it just say that they landed far away from the spaceport? If it was supposed to mean that they materialised far away and then flew to the spaceport and landed there it's a bit vague. Or did it mean to say that they materialised at an isolated part of the spaceport? That would make more sense. Though if they are supposed to be doing covert reconnaisence, landing at the main spaceport in a craft hugely more advanced than anything else there and then wandering around in their uniforms seems a bit lacking in subtlety to me.

Tout se passé bien pour le moment!

All [se passé] good for the moment!

There are half a dozen meanings of se passé and none of them seem to fit well. Any ideas? From the context I'd guess the meaning of the line would probably be the equivilent of

So far, so good!

Oui… Pas de surprise… La plupart des races sont humanoids, nous pourrons nous perdre dans la foule!

Yes... No great surprise there... The majority of the races are humanoid, so we should be able to lose ourselves in the crowd!

V: Heureusement que l’on rencontre tous les accoutrements possibles! Nous passons inaperçus…

V: Luckily that one meets all the possible getups! We pass unnoticed..

Yeah, I know that line is ugly. I'm still working on it.

L: Quel merveilleux marché! Tiens, l’allée des orfèvres! Allons jeter un coup d’oeil…

L: What a marvellous market! Wait, an alley of goldsmiths! Let's take a quick look...

L: J’ai de l’or sur moi et j’ai vu que c’était une monnaie acceptée ici!

L: I've got some gold and I noticed it was an acceptable currency here!

I'm slightly bemused by all the exclamation points. I know this dates from the early seventies but it's almost reached the stage of "I made a cup of tea!" I can't wait to find out how they denote when someone is really excited/alarmed about something. And isn't it a bit late in the day for them to be working out what is acceptable currency?

V: Oh écoute! Tu ne vas pas commencer ā acheter des tas de choses hein! …enfin

V: Now listen here! Don't you go buying heaps of things!

L: Brrr… Tous ces bijoux qu’on se fixe sur la peau sont superbes, mais je n’ai guère envie de me promener avec ces bestioles sur moi…

L: Brrr... These jewels that you set on the skin are amazing. But I don't like the idea of walking around with little creatures stuck to me...

Would it be stretching it too far to just call them 'skin jewels' here? That first sentence reads so clunky. Does it read so unlike natural dialogue in the french? And if it does, is it appropriate for me to translate it more naturalistically? Should I be improving on the original script, or be doing my best to preserve its faults?

L: Oh Valérian regarde!

L: Oh look, Valérian!

L: Une montre… Elle a l’air tres ancienne avec ces jolies decorations.

L: A watch... These decorations are pretty but it looks so old.

V: Oui… Curieux… On en voit de presque semblables au musée préatomique de Galaxity. Alors, elle te plaît?

V: Yes... Curious... It looks a lot like one I saw in the Galaxity preatomic museum. You like it?

Oh, you just know this is going to be trouble...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Valerian translation project (4)

So far I've been translating connaisseurs as experts, which is quite reasonable but I don't think it really gives them the kind of identity the context calls for, since it fails to convey any sense that this group is supposed to be mysterious and powerful. After consulting my thesaurus I decided that adepts might be more appropriate. It's still (just about) a valid translation but conveys an undertone of mysticism in english that seems to fit, however I just discovered that there is an excellent and comprehensive entry on Valerian in Wikipedia and the part about this volume calls these guys Authorities. Now I don't know what to call them.

Page 7.

Laureline: Tu peux enregistrer, c'est prêt!

You can record. It's ready.

Valerian: Bien! Salut les enfants! ici Valérian appariel XB982 parti le 23/9/2720 de Galaxity pour le système Syrtien...

Good! Hello children! Valérian here, XB982 left the Galaxity as of 23/9/2720 under way for the Syrtien system...

So it's Valérian after all. No accent on the book covers though. And "Hello children"? Is Valerian being facetious here or is there another possible translation of enfants?

V: Rapport oral numéro quatre. Nous sommes maintenant ā proximité de Syrte et avons récupéré les dernières sondes automatiques terriennes qui ont précédé notre exploration. Les enregistrements du langage syrtien nous ont permis d'apprendre la langue courante sous mémoriseur comme prévu. Nous nous préparons ā effectuer le dernier saut spatio-temporel pour débarquer sur l'astroport de Syrte. Rien de particulier ā signaler pour le moment _ Terminé.

Oral report number four. We are now in the vicinity of Syrte and have recovered the last of the advance probes. The recordings of the syrtian language have enabled us to learn the current language with the memoriser as planned. We are now preparing to make the final space-time jump to Syrte starport. Nothing special to report so far _ report ends.

L: Curieuse impression… Dire que nous allons entrer en contact avec la première grande civilisation dans laquelle la terre n’a joué aucun rôle! Crois-tu qu’il y ait vraiment du danger?

How strange... To think that we will come into contact with the first great civilization which had nothing to do with Earth! Do you believe that there is really danger?

V:Mmm… Je n’en sais trop rien, Laureline! Et puis nous ne sommes que de simples agents du service spatio-temporel. Ce qui compte c’est de savoir si Syrte est dangereuse pour la Terre, ou si elle peut le devenir...

Mmm... I don't know if there's anything to it, Laureline. But then we are only of simple agents of the spatio-temporal service. What counts is to find out if Syrte might pose a danger to Earth now or in the future.
L: Mais tout semble prouver que Syrte n’a pas découvert le saut dans l’espace-temps! Si cette civilisation n’a pas essaimé, c’est que la propulsion interplanétaire y reste classique. Impossible pour les syrtiens de sortir de leur système ā moins de voyager pendant des siècles.

But everything seems to prove that Syrte has not discovered the jump in the space-time! If this civilization has not expanded any further, it is because interplanetary propulsion remains [classique]there. Impossible for the syrtiens to leave their system has less to travel during centuries.
I'm stuck again. I think I can see what is meant here but the words are refusing to make sense. The sense of the line seems to be that if the Syrtians have never left their own system it must be because they only have interplanetary propulsion, but the reason it gives for this escapes me. I can't find a translation of classique here that works. And that last sentence just gives me a headache.

M: Je sais bien! Peut étre n’y a t il aucun risqué et c’est pour cela que nous devons étre discrets. Nous allons débarquer incognito et jouer les tourists…

I know well! It is a risk we cannot afford to take, and for that reason we must be discrete. We will land incognito and play tourists...

Parée pour le dernier saut?

Ready for the last jump?



Et, plongeant dans l’espace temps

And, plunging through space-time...

…l’appareil de Valerian et Laureline vient se matérialiser en un point isolé de l’astroport syrtien…

Valerian and Laureline's machine materializes at a point isolated from the syrtien starport...

Busy, busy

Sorry there hasn't been much in the way of deep philosophical essays on the meaning of Wonder Woman's earrings and general ranting but I've been so busy lately there don't seem enough hours in the day. Heck, I've had issue #4 of Polly & the Pirates for nearly a week now and I haven't got around to reading it yet.

Anyhow, what little spare time and brainpower I have I'm putting in to this Valerian translation because in some bizarre way it's fun, and I want to see what happens next. Normal service will be resumed as soon as we work out what is normal anyway.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Valerian translation project (3)

Page 6.

Syrte, enfin c'est un immense astroport qui accueille, depuis que les voyages interplanétaires existent, des fusées venues de l'ensemble du système solaire.

Nulle douane, nulle surveilance... On vient sur Syrte-la-Magnifique sans contrainte, on la quitte librement...
Syrte, ultimately a giant starport which, since the coming of space flight, accomodates ships from throughout the entire solar system.

No customs, no surveilance... Anyone may enter Syrte-the-Magnificent without constraint, and leave as easily...
One of those that isn't too hard to make sense of, but which really needs a little tweaking to turn into readable english.

Et les lourds vaisseaux commerciaux, les embarcations légères font toujours paisiblement le trafic entre l'arrière-pays, la capital et l'astroport. poussés par leurs voiles solaires sur cette planète sans vent, les bateaux sont nombreux sur les canaux...
Heavy commercial vessels and the smaller craft traffic peacefully between the provences, their capital and the starport. Powered by solar sails on this planet without wind, the boats are numerous on the canals...
Another one I took slight liberties with, but if my translation is sound then it gets the sense across. I've translated l'arrière-pays (literarly the back-country) as the provences since it seemed to be referring to the countryside beyond the capital city, but I'm not sure if the outer world or the outside world might be better. Hmm.

I can't help feeling it would be less confusing if the capital city had a name that wasn't basically the name of the whole planet with an adjective appended (which sometimes seems to be dropped anyway). The writing is quite confusingly condradictory as it is, what with in one sentence telling us that Syrte is basically one giant starport, and in the next differentiating between the outer world, the capital city, and the starport.

And a planet without wind? Is that even possible if the place has a breathable atmosphere? This is surely hyperbole for the sake of it.

Pourtant, malgré son ancienne té et sa gloire, Syrte n'est plus ce qu'elle était...
Partout des ruines non relevées, des digues effondrées ou des port d'attache ensablés...
However, in spite of its age and glory, Syrte is no longer what it once was... Everywhere is fallen ruins, ploughed up dams or old docks, silted up and useless...
Less sure of this one but the context is harder to read, and I was stumped for a while when the only translation I could find of is T-square or T-piece which doesn't make any sense . Although there is a clear gap it seems more likely that it's not ancienne té but ancienneté, meaning age.

Le palais impérial lui-même est de plus en plus délabré...
The old imperial palace becomes more and more dilapidated...
...Dans la jungle, oū de pauvres pêcheurs poursuivent le dangereux marcyam, gigantesque serpent d'eau ā la peau précieuse...
... In the jungle, the poor fishermen still hunt the dangerous marcyam, a gigantic water snake whose skin is highly prized...
Seuls les inexpugnables temples des connaiseurs tranchent sur la misère ambiante.
Only the impregnable temples of the experts contrast with the surrounding misery.
Dans l'espace, ā quelques années-lumière de Syrte...
In space, only a few light-years from Syrte...
What's that I spy on the distant horizon? Could it be an actual story? Or at least a character or two? Yay!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Valerian translation project (2)

Some people do jigsaw puzzles; I translate french graphic novels into english. It's not that different in some ways. You pick out the bits of each sentence you understand clearly, which are like the corners on a jigsaw, and then you puzzle your way through the rest relying heavily on the context - seeing how the new bits match up with what you have so far. And every so often you get to something that doesn't seem to fit however you rearrange the pieces and you reckon you must have lost a verb down the side of the sofa.

Page 5.

And straight away we are in at the deep end again.

...schamils hypnotiques de la planete Glimius lesquels on senferme pour trouver l'oubli.

...Hypnotic [schamils] of the planet Glimus which one [senferme] to find forgetfulness.

is the best I can do so far. None of the dictionaries I tried included either schamils or senferme so I'm a bit stumped there. Schamils may be a made up name but senferme has to mean something in context.

...Pierres vivantes d'Arphal qui se fixent a la peau pour faire les beaux bijoux.
...The living stones of Arphal that can be set directly into skin and worn as beautiful jewels.
...Rarissimes spiglics telepathes de Bluxte, animaux familiers qui vivent sur la tête de leur maître en lui communiquant leur bonheur toujours égal par transmission de pensée
...The extremely rare telepathic spiglics of Bluxte, animal familiars that live on the head of their master, communicating a constant feeling of happiness via thought transference.
...Métaux rares, mets raffinés étoffes colorées... dans l'enchevêtrement des ruelles de Sytre, une population venue de toutes les planètes, achète, vend, vole parfois...
...Rare metals, refined [mets] colourful fabrics... in the tangled lanes of Sytre, a population drawn from every planet buys, sells, and occasionally steals.

Only translation I can find for mets is dish, which doesn't seem right.

...On vient aussi sur Syrte pour consulter les connaiseurs, médecins ducorps et devins des âmes, impénétrables derrière leur masque de metal.
...Visitors also come to Syrte to consult the great experts, doctors of the body and soothsayers of the heart, impenetrable behind metal masks.
...leur puissance, dit-on, ne fait que s'accroître, et certains pensent qu'ils sont peut-étre denvenues les véritables maîtres de syrte. Peu nombreux, les connaisseurs sont les hôtes les plus respectés et surtout les plus craints du palais...
...their power, say some, does nothing but increase, and others think that they might be [denvenus] the true masters of Syrte. Though small in number, the experts are the both the most respected and most feared inhabitants of the palace...
Once again I couldn't find a translation for denvenus, and I'm a little dubious about my translation of that last sentence, particularly having used inhabitants where the original is hosts, but it seemed to make the most sense.

...A moins qu'ils ne vivent dans des temples-fortresses perdus dans la jungle Syrtienne

...Except when they live in temple-fortresses lost in the Syrtienne jungle.
Another line I'm a bit dubious about but literally it's "unless they don't live in" which makes no sense to me.

Only one more page of this and we might actually get to Valerian and Laureline.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I went to see the Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman movie Mirrormask tonight and had been intending to review it but the pub I went to afterwards for a quiet drink was hosting a band that performed Kinks covers in the style of Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure which was the more surreal experience.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Five songs I'm obsessed with this week

For no particular reason I felt like sharing the soundtrack to my life...

Pink - Eighteen Wheeler
Ookla the Mok - Stop Talking about comic books or I'll Kill You
K. T. Tunstall - Other Side of the World
Shinohara Tomoe - Ultra Relax
Concrete Blonde - Ghost Riders in the Sky

The Valerian translation project (1)

My copy of Valerian volume 2: L'Empire des Mille Planetes (Empire of a Thousand Planets) arrived today, so my attempt to translate it commences.

I was worried that I'd look at the first page and it would be complete gibberish to me, but in fact I was pleasantly surprised by how much of it I could read, even though my program of building on the french I learned at school is only up to lesson 6 (of 90) of Pimsleur's Learn French course, and I don't expect it to include words like spatio-temporel.

Even so, the words that I don't get in the sentances are usually the important ones, so I'm going to have to look a lot of it up. Looking around at what is available I decided first port of call would be Google's automatic translation service. Here's the text of the opening page in french:

Noirs espaces infinis de l'univers, soleils brulants eclairant des terres in connues. Combien de milliards de civilisations d'etres vivants pouvez-vous abriter?

And Google's translation:

Blacks infinite spaces of the universe, suns brulants lighting of the grounds in known. How many billion civilizations alive beings can you shelter?

Not bad for a machine, although when there are several likely meanings to a word the choice you get seems pretty random. The only word it rejects completely is brulant, and it doesn't even get brûler (meaning to burn) without the accent.

So correcting the mistakes and rearranging it into something that makes sense in english, what do we get? How about:

The black infinite spaces of the universe, punctuated by the light of stars that brighten the known worlds. How many billion living civilisations do you shelter?

Could be better, but I think it gets the sense across.

On to page 2. Well, page 4 actually, since it is numbered from the title page.

To start with I was flying along, only needing to check the occasional word here or there.

In a remote galaxy one planet forms the centre of an immense solar system.
It is Syrte the Magnificent, capital of the Empire of a Thousand Planets.
Syrte, with its fabulous imperial palace, houses the last descendent of a dynasty which, since the dawn of time, has extended its influence over all of the planets of the system.

Only the accredited ambassadors of the empire and the prince's favourites may penetrate the heavily guarded palace.

But then I ran into a problem.

Le peuple qui souvent se presse au pied l'edifice ne peut qu'entendre les echos de fetes mysteriouses.

Which Google tells me means:

the people which often press with the foot the building can only hear the echoes of fetes mysteriouses.

I don't get this. Who are the people referred to here and why/how are they listening to the echoes of mysterious fate by pressing their feet against the building? Is it a mistranslation or a colloquialism that is zooming over my head?

Moving on...

But Syrte is the great marketplace of the empire. In the souks and along the canals one can find anything one's heart desires. The merchants of the empire scour the outer worlds to bring back innumerable wonders.

That wasn't so hard.

Now if only someone a little more gifted with la francais can help me with the whole foot pressing business I can continue.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jumping off point

When comics companies pull an all-change on us and give a comic a new creative team or a big retcon, they like to tout this as a good 'jumping-on point' for new readers. In order to make this a good place to start they often dump a lot of the character, cast, plot and sub-plot of previous issues and start the comic going in a completely new direction. The corollary they often seem to forget is that if you were enjoying the previous incarnation of the comic then this also makes a perfect jumping-off point for the established readership.

This becomes particularly relevent right now as DC gives a number of their titles a major overhaul for a post-Crisis world, even though Crisis hasn't finished yet. Are the guys at DC as sick of the whole thing as we are that they are so keen to move onto the next phase? Starting the post-Crisis comics while the story is still in progress feels a bit like when you find easter eggs in the stores before christmas.

So while you are checking out the new directions for Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman or Hawkmangirl, how many titles that you previously read will you now be expecting to drop as the series you have enjoyed until now is concluded, and all the stuff you liked about it is pushed aside to make way for the shiny new model? And what is the point of getting people interested in one title while alienating them from another? Can't they just tell good stories within established continuity that will attract new readers while keeping the established ones?

And one more thing. While they are constructing elaborate ways of gutting established titles and slapping on a fresh coat of paint to pull in new readers, how is it that when they actually have a new original series they don't use the all time most successful jumping on point of beginning the story with issue #1? Take for example Supergirl, or any of the new Crisis spinnoffs: if you knew nothing about them but picked up the first issue would you find a good jumping on point? No, you'd find yourself in the middle of some story that started in some whole other comic. Would you then go hunting for those other comics which featured characters you knew nothing about having stories that you weren't interested in simply in order to find out what the hell was going on with this new comic that you picked up because it was a first issue?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Supergirl's scary bits made safe for public viewing

I've seen posts in both Dave's Long Box and Tom The Dog on the subject of what Tom gives the delightful name of Editorial Swimwear so my bullshit detector was primed for when I saw this picture in Supergirl #5.

Now this story doesn't strictly require a double page nudie shot of Supergirl, and obviously for the intended market they couldn't ever have considered doing one that didn't have that clumsy old device of hiding her scary parts by placing objects in front of them, and if you look close it is possible to see that the artist has drawn threads of very lumpy looking smoke and cunningly hung drapery to protect us from the terrifying sight of female bits. So what's with the heavy airbrush on top of this, so clumsily obvious because it is seen nowhere else on the page and doesn't fit the style of the rest of the art?

I can only guess that editorial saw the original version and panicked that you could almost see some of the wrong sort of skin and opted for some last minute butchery of the artwork.

And yet somehow they left in the dodgy explanation Zor-El gives his teenage daughter for why she needs to get naked, that odd expression on his face as he stares down at her breasts while removing the last of her clothing, and her delighted response.

Is anyone else seeing a mixed message here?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pretentious, moi?

I've always considered it a mark of pretentious intellectual oneupmanship when someone says that they are reading whatever the text under discussion might be in the original language it was written in. In most circumstances where this is applied to philosophy, literature, religious texts, or whatever it might be there are usually perfectly good translations available that are entirely adequate for most purposes (I make an exception for poetry here; while a translation might have a beauty of its own, it cannot be the same as the original).

So it is with a degree of selfconsciousness that I find myself brushing up my school french in order to read the series of french Valerian graphic novels. But my patience has run out.
Some years ago four volumes were released in english that gave a taste of this fun and wonderfully drawn series, and now after years of waiting for more what we get is Valerian: The New Future Trilogy. Now to be a little pedantic I have to point out that this is not in fact a trilogy in any sense of the word, just 3 self-contained sequential episodes of the much longer series. But the really frustrating thing is that after such a long wait to see this series the translation is so poor.

And by poor, I mean it's so bad that I am not only saying "I could do better than this crap" but I am actually going out and buying one of the untranslated volumes and doing so. I had been intending to start at the beginning and work my way through in chronological sequence, but due to a slight confusion I ended up getting volume 2 on ebay instead of volume 1. Ah well, if I get anywhere with the project I can always do that one next. After all I've already read volumes 4, 5, 7, 10, 13, 14, & 15.

I'm just waiting for the book to be delivered, but I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime I'll maybe review the volumes that have been translated. I already did a brief piece on The New Future trilogy over at Comics Should Be Good, but it's a good excuse to reread the older books.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


People sometimes look at you a bit odd if you admit you read comics, but I have a worse confession; I collect dolls. No, not action figures (which seem to be a legitimate form among comic fans, but dolls. And not just any dolls; I collect goth dollies.

Actually I used to collect all kinds of cool toys that I would have died for when I was a kid, but at some point I felt the need to pack them all up in a box and stuck them in the closet. But my monitor wasn't the same without a cool toy sitting on it, and when I saw these gorgeous goth dollies I had to have one. Now I just bought my seventh (selling off some of my old cool toys to pay for her) and my computer area is starting to look like it's inhabited by a small goth girl gang.

But how does this relate to comics, I hear you ask? Well doll collectors are worse than comic collectors. In the same way that the more obsessive comic collectors buy comics encased in plastic that they cannot ever read, doll collectors buy dolls and never take them out of their boxes. This whole frame of mind upsets me in some strange way that it's taken me a long while to pin down, and I think what disturbs me is that if you buy something and never touch it, can you really say you own it, or are you just acting as a caretaker for it for a while? Comics are made to be read, dolls are made to be played with. The BeGoth dollies have improved tremendously in construction since they started and the newer ones can be posed in all kinds of ways. But what's the point if they are being bought by people who never take them out of the box? They might as well be solid plastic.

Are these people just packaging fans? Do they take esthetic pleasure from the packaging and feel that this is an artform in itself, or do they see the dolls as artworks in their own right (they are very nice sculptures, it's true) and that the best way to display them is in the original packaging? Or are they playing investor, sitting there calculating how much profit they would hypothetically make if they ever actually sold them (which of course they wouldn't ever do)? I guess that for the people that like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like.

Me, I buy my dollies to play with (though I haven't quite reached the point of having goth dolly tea parties), even when they are from a limited edition of 500. And if that makes the packaging fans whimper then they can console themselves with the fact that this makes one less pristine, mint condition, never removed from box doll, and thus gives that tiny bit more value to the other 499.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's in a

It started with Everquest. You'd choose a name and then at level 20 you could get a surname. The official name policy said you couldn't pick a name from popular culture like James Bond, so I'd think of creative ways to get around it. I'd come up with names based on movies like Tamara Neverdies or Diane Otherday.

Consequently when I make a new character in an online game I now have a list that I am adding to. These include:
Alison Wonderland
Angela Sashes
Rowan Deworldineightydays
Sven Samurai
Laura D'Ufthrings
Lars Tangoinparis
Jenny Tothecenteroftheearth
Grace Anatomy
Abby Ridgeovertheriverkwai
Eve Encowgirlsgettheblues
Farrah Fromthemaddingcrowd,
Chris Talvoyager
Candice Camera
Thelma-Anne Louise
Bjorn Onthefourthofjuly
Anne Ightattheopera
Bess Thatshoutedloveattheheartoftheworld
Sam Uraipizzacats
Ahmed Summernightsdream
Neville where
May Tricks


So I'm dieting.

I notice that a lot of places in the UK will now list useful stuff clearly where it is easy to spot about calories, salt/fat content and suchlike, but what really annoys me is that often where they list the calories the small print will say *per half can, or in the case of some desserts *per 1/6 or some such.

What the hell? If I am interested in the calorie count for an item I want to know how much the whole lot contains, not how much I will get if I share it with six friends (like that's going to happen). Give me the total or just forget it.

And what's even stranger is when I find non-slimming branded items that contain less calories than the slimming ones. What's that about? Why not mention this somewhere to save us slimming types time?

Of course the true secret of slimming can be simply summarised:
Eat less
Exercise more.

Personally I'm working on both. Which involves a lot of salad (which I happen to like), Tai Chi, and getting vertigo running accross Clifton suspension bridge, but it's a pain picking up some tasty morsel thinking I can eat it without guilt only to find I can eat 1/4 of it before I have to feel bad.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Breast Thing

I'd read the first couple of issues of Y the Last Man and thought it looked interesting, and I'd been thinking of picking up the collected editions, but hadn't got around to it yet, so when I saw issue #40 sitting in a bargain bin I picked it up.

Turns out this was a good issue to grab at random as it is pretty much a stand alone story, and I am even more encouraged to get the collections, but there was one bit in it that knocked me sideways slightly. In the story one of the characters reveals that she had been a member of a modern amazon group. She does so by displaying the mastectomy scar where her left breast should be. This confused me for a moment because the historical amazons didn't cut off their left breasts. They didn't even cut off the right ones.

Whether the writer Brain K. Vaughan had been taken in by the myth, or if he was just saying that the women in the story had been, I don't know. Maybe that will become clearer when I get to read the rest of the story.

You see it's all based on a mistranslation. According to Wikipedia:

The name Ἀμαζών is probably derived from an Iranian ethnonym, *ha-mazan-, originally meaning "warriors". A connected word is probably the Hesychius gloss ἁμαζακάραν· πολεμεῖν ("to make war", containing the Indo-Iranian root kar- "make" also in kar-ma).

The Greek variant of the name was connected by popular etymology to privative a + mazos, "without breast", connected with an aetiological tradition that Amazons had their right breast cut off or burnt out, in order that they might be able to use the bow more freely (contemporary Greeks drew the bowstring to the sternum); there is no indication of this practice in works of art, in which the Amazons are always represented with both breasts, although the right is frequently covered. Other suggested derivations were: a- (intensive) + mazos, breast, "full-breasted"; a (privative) and masso, touch, "not touching" (men); maza, a Circassian word said to signify "moon", has suggested their connection with the worship of a moon-goddess, perhaps the Asiatic representative of Artemis.

According to the myth the Amazons remove their right breast for a practical reason - to make using a bow easier. The modern Amazon would not be so bow-dependant, and even if she was, champion bow-women seem to manage without resorting to surgery. So a modern Amazon could only be following this non-existant "tradition" for purely ritualistic purposes.

Which seems an awful lot of trouble to go to because of a mistranslation.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Okay, it's not really a competition, but I have a free 14 day trial to City of Villains to give away so if you are interested, drop me an email (mari at blueyonder dot co dot uk) and tell me why you'd like to try COV. It doesn't have to be witty or clever, I'd just like it to go to someone who will really enjoy it rather than someone who just likes getting free stuff. Heck, maybe I'll even show you around the place.

Note that while COV doesn't require quite the top end machine as some online games, this will involve downloading something like 1.5gb.

Update: They sent me another one so I now have two free trials to give away.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fashion Disaster Week: Degrees of Disaster

Okay, so I'm running a bit late on this one, but here it is at last.

There is a difference between costumes that are merely inappropriate - either not suited to the particular person wearing them (although they might look fine on someone else) or to the setting of the story (eg. space suits that include either miniskirts or bikinis) - and the truely disasterous that would look hideous on anyone.

Flower from Kamandi wears a torn red skirt and no top, and appears to have her long hair stapled to her chest. While this is entirely consistant with the circumstances of the story, you have to wonder why Kirby chose to have a female character running around topless in a comic where sight of a stray nipple would be strictly forbidden, requiring such a clumsy device to keep her decent.

A typical way of showing when a good female character has gone bad is to put her in some kind of bondage/fetish costume. A prime example is Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, whose repressed urges were released when she donned the fetish costume of Malice. It is actually a very good story empowering the Invisible Woman, unlike the semi-sequel where the return of the Malice persona is signalled by Sue taking a pair of scissors to her regular costume and cutting a lot of holes in it, and then biting the head off anyone who comes near her.

Costumes with only one pants leg never work, even when drawn by Alan Davis.

Not many comic characters could pull off a tailcoat and fishnets, but Zatanna only works if that is what she is wearing. As a stage magician it is entirely consistant for her to wear such an outfit and it's only when they try to make her look more superheroey that it all falls apart. In the recent mini-series Grant Morrison puts her in a variety of absurd cheesecake outfits but they work because they look like stage costumes, wheras the two she wore while an active member of the Justice League completely jar with her personality.