Sunday, July 15, 2012

Speed of Thought

.22 bullet = 720mph
M16 rifle = 2,180mph
Speed of sound = 768mph
Speed of light = 670,615,200mph (186,282 miles per second)

Speed of thought* = between 23 and 268mph. Which may seem kinda slow in comparison, but bear in mind it doesn't have to travel very far.

*By which I mean the speed of action potentials in the myelinated neurons of the human brain, if you want to get technical.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Bit Grimm

I'm interested in folk tales, or fairy tales, if you prefer. These days they are generally considered only to be the province of children, but go back a couple of hundred years and they are decidedly not purely kiddie fare.

I'd blame Disney, but to be honest, the rot set in decades before the Evil Empire of The Mouse first started putting their stamp all over them. Thomas Bowdler got the whole thing started in 1807 by rewriting Shakespeare with all the good bits cut out. He has justly been recognised with the introduction of the word 'bowdlerize' to the English language:


transitive verb
1: to expurgate (as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar 
2: to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content 
bowd·ler·i·za·tion noun
bowd·ler·iz·er noun
With the success of the hacked up Shakespeare, other people without the talent to write anything original got on the bandwagon of desecrating important work by taking stories not specifically intended for children and making sure that even the most delicate five year old wouldn't find anything remotely challenging in them. Thus we have the Thousand and One Nights becoming The Arabian Nights (with all the sex cut out) and Andrew Lang's variously coloured Fairy Books.

Shakespeare survived the destruction, but many folk tales were not so lucky. You need to look very hard indeed to find unexpurgated editions of many stories, which is something I've been hunting for a while. I'm particularly interested in Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Originally Jacob and Wilhelm studied folklore, collecting tales and stories from oral tradition and recording them. Their book of Children's and Household Tales was a huge success, and they continually added to it over 17 editions. Unfortunately, they also got a bit overenthusiastic about copy editing the stories to make them stylistically similar, adding dialogue, removing pieces "that might detract from a rustic tone", altering the plots and incorporating "psychological motifs". Over the years, they expanded and added detail to the stories to the point that many grew to be twice the length as the original versions; in later editions eliminating sexual elements, and adding Christian elements. After 1819 they began writing specifically for children (children were not initially considered the primary audience), adding entirely new tales or adding new elements that were often strongly didactic to existing tales.

And that was before the book was even translated into English.  I thought I'd found an early English edition in Google Books.  It was called German Popular Stories and dates from 1823. But as the preface indicates, the English editors were already hacking out bits that the Grimm's hadn't got around to bowdlerising themselves, yet.

I started with Snow White as a point of comparison, to make a quick check of each edition I found. Earlier editions call her Snow-Drop, for one thing. And then there's this curious part where, after consulting her mirror,  the Wicked Queen sends the girl away. In this edition it goes:

When she heard this, she turned pale with rage and envy; and called to one of her servants and said, "Take Snow-drop away into the wide wood, that I may never see her more." Then the servant led her away; but his heart melted when she begged him to spare her life, and he said, "I will not hurt thee, thou pretty child." So he left her by herself; and though he thought it most likely that the wild beasts would tear her in pieces, he felt as if a great weight were taken off his heart when he had made up his mind not to kill her, but leave her to her fate.

Which is odd, because the Queen hasn't told the servant to kill her, just take her away. I spot a clumsy edit. Also, right at the end, the Queen is so annoyed that she falls ill and dies, which is kind of vague and convenient.

So then I hunted up all the other editions I could find of the Grimm's work, under various titles, and looked up Snow White/Snow-Drop in each one. All of them seemed to be derived from this same version except Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm which dates from 1886.

 This variant, entitled Snow-White, tells the story slightly differently. The passage quoted above becomes:

This gave the queen a great shock, and she became yellow and green with envy, and from that hour her heart turned against Snow-white, and she hated her. And envy and pride like ill weeds grew in her heart higher every day, until she had no peace day or night. At last she sent for a huntsman, and said,
"Take the child out into the woods, so that I may set eyes on her no more. You must put her to death, and bring me her heart for a token."
The huntsman consented, and led her away; but when he drew his cutlass to pierce Snow-white's innocent heart, she began to weep, and to say,
"Oh, dear huntsman, do not take my life; I will go away into the wild wood, and never come home again."
And as she was so lovely the huntsman had pity on her, and said,
"Away with you then, poor child;" for he thought the wild animals would be sure to devour her, and it was as if a stone had been rolled away from his heart when he spared to put her to death. Just at that moment a young wild boar came running by, so he caught and killed it, and taking out its heart, he brought it to the queen for a token. And it was salted and cooked, and the wicked woman ate it up, thinking that there was an end of Snow-white.
Which is much more fun, and makes the Queen much nastier. Of course she also gets a much more specific and unpleasant fate at the end:

First she thought she would not go to the wedding; but then she felt she should have no peace until she went and saw the bride. And when she saw her she knew her for Snow-white, and could not stir from the place for anger and terror. For they had ready red-hot iron shoes, in which she had to dance until she fell down dead.

Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm is available free at Project Gutenberg, along with several other, tamer versions of the Grimm's stories.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Black and White Blues

Dear DC,

It's been four years since your last Superman Showcase collection,  and three since your last Superman Family*. I enjoy these collections a lot and I have supported this line by buying all the volumes you've released that interest me, reviewing them, and blogging about the ones I particularly enjoyed, but I'm tired of waiting, so I'm going to go read scans of the comics that would make up subsequent collections while I'm waiting for you to get around to publishing them so I can give you money.



*Okay, I see there's a new Superman Family due next year. If I start blogging about the stories in it now you can consider it a really early review.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Red Shirt of Doooooooooom!

There's an established point of culture that wearing a red shirt in Star Trek (the original series) is the mark of doom.  I recently came across this entertaining statistical analysis of this phenomena, which does indeed bear out the assumption, showing that 73% of all crew member deaths occur to those sporting the fabled red shirt. It also does some other entertaining statistical analysis of red shirt death.

The only element I was disappointed not to find was what proportion of red shirts overall died. After all, the 73% only stands out if you assume that shirt colour distribution is equal. If the majority of crew were red shirts then it would would be expected that the majority of deaths would also be red shirts. And considering the rate they got through them, that's not an unreasonable assumption.

And yes, I guess I could go watch every episode of the show and count them myself, but I don't honestly care that much.

EDIT: Further thoughts

Actually I realise it's impossible to work out what percentage of the crew were red shirts (unless it's listed somewhere in a book or something). The analytical study assumes a stable figure of 430 crew, but this fails to take into account all the replacements transferred in for those killed in action. Also, since we never get to see the entire crew, we can't tell how many of them are red shirts, but assuming that the division of shirt colour is roughly equal among the crew, there would be more red shirts in total because whenever someone dies they are replaced by someone with the same shirt colour and red shirts die the most.

So it remains that in simple numbers red shirts die far more often than other crew members, How statistically significant this is may be impossible to tell, but while it's less significant than simple numbers suggest, you're still better off in blue.

The Problem with Comics

Quite simply, the big problem with comics right now is too little content for too much money.

Currently a typical mainstream title costs £1.99. (UK currency) One issue will typically give me one quarter to one sixth of a story, and will take perhaps ten to fifteen minutes to finish.

I confess to having a short attention span. When I'm reading a story in 22 page chunks it doesn't take too many months before I've lost track of who all the characters are, what they are doing, and why I should care. I recently read the first ten issues of the new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'm going to keep following it.

Why? Because it took five issues to get Miles Morales into the costume. Another five issues and we haven't even finished the opening story. It's entertaining but the pacing is positively glacial, and it's just not good enough to hold my interest while it takes years to parcel out the story in such tiny bits. It almost feels like a cheat to produce this in monthly comic form at all; it would read so much better as a 120 page trade paperback put out twice a year.

Now consider I also have a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  It costs me £2 per digital issue, which will give me something like one novella, four novelets, four short stories (all complete in the issue), and assorted review and commentary columns.  It typically takes me more than eight hours to read, spread over a week or two.

You see why I'm not reading many new comics these days?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lego equality fail

Product Description

Stop Lex Luthor from dominating Metropolis in the Lego Superheroes Superman VS Lex Luthor's Power Armour set. Luthor has built a kryptonite powered suit of armour, complete with kryptonite laser beam. Can you dodge the beam, rescue Wonder Woman and save the day? Includes Lex Luthor, Superman and Wonder Woman minifigures, as well as a bonus comic. 

 Really, Lego? You're making Wonder Woman a victim to be rescued, now? I swear, lately it feels like we are further from equality now than we were twenty years ago.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Superman Vs The Elite
Action Comics #775

Wherever comic fans gather at some point there will be a discussion over who would win in a fight between any two given heroes. The truth is that it depends entirely on who is writing and what comic it's in.

The original comic that the new Superman OAV is based on Superman Vs The Elite took thinly disguised caricatures of Warren Ellis' superhero supergroup The Authority and pitting them against Superman, in what was essentially a fight between the classic DC style and the overblown 1990's Image style. As this was a Superman comic, Superman wins, and teaches a moral lesson about restraint and the rule of law.

The video was written by Joe Kelly, who also wrote the original comic, and the larger canvas gives him much more room to expound on the concepts in the comic. Sadly, he doesn't do this by making the message more subtle or exploring it more deeply, so much as having characters stand around and deliver speeches. It's very obvious and preachy, and you can practically see the big neon sign flashing 'AUTHOR'S MESSAGE' everytime it happens.

There is little that has been added to the story that isn't dreadful. Menagerie, the lone female member of the team, has gone from having no personality or dialogue to cliché sexual predator. Manchester Black's origin appears to have taken place in Victorian London, with everyone speaking atrocious mockney, but it does result in something I never expected to see; Superman calling someone a wanker[1].

The one bright spot is the dialogue between Supes and Lois Lane, which is witty and clever. Their relationship is spot on, which only serves to make their light, intimate scenes bizarrely out of place in such a heavy-handed, preachy melodrama.

The Elite are Kelly's straw men, displaying all the worst qualities of the 90's Image Extreeeeeme style[2]. Which rather makes it odd timing to produce an animated version, when the reinvention of DC has given us a Superman whose philosophy is difficult to distinguish from the bad guys in this movie. Arguably you couldn't even write The Elite in the new DC; their power to shock for their extreme stance loses all its power when Superman and Batman are bahaving as badly as they are.

1) A much more offensive term in the UK where we know what it means.
2) Apart from the pouches. All 90's Image-style characters had pouches everywhere.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Months Later

By Week four of the relaunch I'd been so grossed out by all the sexploitation they'd fitted into their launch month that I lost the will to say much about the final batch of titles, but three months later it seems like a good time to revisit the grand relaunch and see how much of it has stuck.

Not much, I have to say. My reading habits are fairly erratic, and none of the titles leaves me shivering with anticipation, so I often find myself catching up a couple of issues at a time. Which is often no bad thing, since they are almost exclusively paced to be read in the subsequent trade paperback edition. Anyhow, let's see.

From the original 52 (plus one that first appeared a month later), I've got it down to:

Batgirl: I keep forgetting what's going on in the story. Could use a "Previously" page. Or just be published quarterly as a graphic novel series.

Demon Knights: Hooked me right at the start, unlike most of the titles, but my attention is starting to drift. Needs to get on with the plot.

Flash: Hey, I'm as surprised as you. I always found the Flash incredibly dull, but I'm enjoying the new series. Has a lot to do with the creative art style.

Frankenstein: Another that got my attention right at the start. Had enough twisty turns to keep me reading and finished the first story before my attention wandered.

Green Lantern: Opened well, despite being the least "relaunchy" title in the set, but I don't expect it to hold my interest long term.

Green Lantern New Guardians: A stand out first issue achieved what few others managed - introduced a protagonist and gave him enough character to make you sympathetic towards him before throwing him into a bizarre situation that hooked you into wanting to read the next issue. Sadly, by issue four it is sinking beneath the weight of GL continuity and the typically ludicrous behaviour of the Guardians. One bad issue and this one gets dropped.

My Greatest Adventure: Technically not one of the Fifty Two, but after three issues I'm still remembering to pick it up. Having three stories is definitely a bonus for me, though traditionally anthology titles don't do well.

O.M.A.C.: It's entertaining, but there's something really forgettable about it. It might have hooked me in time, but as it's being cancelled, it's not going to get the time.

Wonder Woman: Initially liked the fresh take on the character, but I'm beginning to think it's straying a bit too far from the source material.

That's quite a steep fall off from the first month, and most of those that are left are about one bad issue away from being dropped.

I'm left feeling like whoever DC are aiming their comics at now, it's not me.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

One week later Reviews: Part 3

Okay, this is more like two weeks later now, but I didn't get around to reading half of them for a week after they came out, partly because the poor quality titles are dragging down my interest in the whole enterprise, and partly because I found some European comics I'm enjoying more.  I'll maybe come back to them in another post.

Batman: Batman for architects. Bruce Wayne is building some skyscrapers, but we'll throw in a random fight scene to remind you what comic you are reading.

Birds of Prey: Black Canary and her bird themed sidekick fight some invisible guys in a church, with a car.

Catwoman: I so wished I'd never broken my rule by reading any Winnick.  Is this fanfic? It reads like fanfic.

Green Lantern Corps: John and Guy can't get boring jobs on Earth that they don't need or have time for, and bad things are killing off lots of aliens (and Lanterns) we've never met.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Better than Legion Lost, since I did read it to the end, but I can't remember a thing about it, so not much better.

Nightwing: Nightwing, about a foot taller than seen in this week's Batman, jumps around some rooftops and.. does stuff, I guess.

Supergirl: Supergirl crashes to Earth in a meteor and fights some guys in battlesuits.  That is actually all that happens in it.  Seriously. Is this supposed to get me interested enough to read issue 2?

Wonder Woman: This is Wonder Woman done as a Vertigo title. There's lots of symbolism and references to Greek mythology and horses' heads. I don't remember it too clearly, but unlike most of this week's selection, I am interested enough by it to want to reread it.

After three weeks the plots are getting so samey.  So many of them involve some mysterious threat that is nastily killing off NPC's while our hero or heroes are off having some exposition, until they finally bump into each other on the final page.  The mysterious threats are largely interchangeable, because it's not like they'd want to give anything away in the first issue.

A couple of titles get the fight started early, a couple have fight scenes that appear unrelated to anything, included only to remind you that you're reading a superhero comic.  Some do it better than others. but none of them that I've read stray very far from the template.

Friday, September 23, 2011

One week later Reviews: Part 2

In which I attempt to do something different from everyone else reviewing the new DC comics by judging the impact they have made on me through attempting to recall anything about them a week after I read them.

Batman & Robin: Damien is a brat as ever.

Batwoman:  So pretty! And there's ghosts and stuff.

Demon Knights: Etrigan's in love.  It's so cool. Ystin is my hero or heroine or somewhere inbetween.  Madame Xanadu is there too, and a mysterious horsewoman.  There is drinking and castles and snarkiness and dragons.  I am looking forward to next issue.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: There's this town, see, where everyone's been turned into monsters, and Frankie was vacationing on Mars so he's pissed that he was called in, but there's also the Creature Commandos, who are like a Universal monster movies star lineup, and they fight the monsters the townspeople were turned into and the Frankie's four-armed ex, who I think is called Nina was there too.

Green Lantern: Hal Jordan isn't Green Lantern because of some unexplained thing. Sinestro is a Green Lantern even though he is the bad guy.  The Guardians really need to have someone to point out when they are doing monumentally stupid.

Legion Lost:  I tried, honestly I did.  I got about as far as page three or four several times, but each time I got so far and then life seemed too short to continue.  It's the extreme opposite of accessible.

Mister Terrific: Mr T's girlfriend seems to be Karen Starr who may or may not be Power Girl. I quite liked this one but I don't recall much more than that other than a bad guy shows up at the end.

Red Lanterns:  It's cute because Atrocicus has a cat who is also a Red Lantern. And some stuff happened, I guess.

Resurrection Man: The bad guys are chasing Resurrection Man, who gets killed and then gets better and then gets new powers, but he doesn't wear a cape. And there were these two girls who I read somewhere are the Body Doubles, who I thought were a copy of the Dirty Pair except they are idiots.

Suicide Squad: The squad are on a mission, except SURPRISE! it was a fakeout all along, and I know all the names, but they are being played by different, and less interesting characters.

Superboy: Are they going with the version from the Young Justice TV show?  It looks a bit like that.  Anyway, he spends most of the issue in a tube being studied and then escapes.

Coming next week: I break the habit of a lifetime and read a Judd Winnick comic and wish I hadn't

Monday, September 19, 2011

New52: One week later

This is my "I'm too lazy to actually review all the new DC comics" post.  What I'm going to do is read most of the comics (Judd Winnick is a step too far) and see if I can remember anything about them a week later.

Action: Superman is young and stupid and catches a train.

Animal Man:  Something about blood and ugly sketchy drawing.

Batgirl: This one I enjoyed, then read some reviews of it and then read it again to catch some of the neat little details I missed the first time around.  Must remember to read next issue twice.

JLI: Almost felt like a full comic.  The team got together and then something bad happened; I forget what.  And Batman was cool.

Men of War:  MEN doing MANLY things.  Shooting at each other, mostly.

OMAC: Forget what happened exactly but it was very Kirbyish and fun.  Will prolly reread when ish 2 comes out to remind myself why I liked it.

Static Shock: Static arrives in New York and has backstory.  And then something happens, I guess.

Stormwatch:  The Moon is the villain?  People are looking for Apollo, and then Midnighter shows up at the end. I'd like to care more about this than I actually did.

Swamp Thing: Alex Holland doesn't want to be Swamp Thing and builds a house. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Now it all makes sense

I never could understand why it was that Batman's computer gets hacked so often and all his incredibly dangerous secret plans get stolen.

Batman & Robin #1

It's because he uses the same password for everything. And it's only four characters.

Things I am not getting worked up over #17: Power Girl

In the newly launched Mister Terrific, Power Girl appears in her civilian identity and does not display any superhuman abilities.

If you don't mind, I'll wait until the fight scene gets started (as opposed to the cliffhanger reveal we got to see in the first issue) before I decide whether this means she has no powers in the relaunched DC universe.

EDIT: I kind of lost track of Mister Terrific, so I'm not sure if Karen Starr ever exhibited any powers in that title, but it's since been revealed in Worlds' Finest that yes, indeed, that was a fully empowered Power Girl.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Starting over

Much has been said in many, many blogs about the big DC relaunch currently in progress.  I haven't posted about it directly because I don't have a lot to add.  But I will say this: I'm quite looking forward to it.

Every time a title or character is relaunched, it's another throw of the dice.  And while I have enjoyed a bunch of recent titles, there isn't anything I'm positively obsessive about, that I look forward to every month.  Couple that with several titles that I positively hated last time around, and I'm generally optimistic.

Case in point; while I've been a fan of Supergirl since before I could read, I hated the last model.  The origin was terrible, and only part of a ghastly story that failed on multiple levels, and the series that followed it went through creative teams every couple of issues, with no consistent characterization.  I've heard recently that it did eventually find its feet, and even the dreadful and inconsistent backstory and characterization was explained away and rationalized.   But that's still around forty issues of baggage, not to mention the period where the comic becomes a fourth Superman title.  So as far as I'm concerned, the bar is set pretty low for Supergirl to do better next time.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Codpiece of Doom

There was something that bugged me about the cover of the first issue of the new Justice League, other than the bland new logo and the generic image.  Now what was it?

Oh yes, Green Lantern's massively weaponized Codpiece of Doom.  Created by his magic Ring of Overcompensation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Moffat Regeneration

Spoilers for Doctor Who, particularly the episode Let's Kill Hitler.

Steven Moffat wrote some of the best New Who, and personal favourites like The Empty child/The Doctor Dances and Blink[1] and yet my enjoyment of the series as a whole has been in a downward spiral since he was put in charge.

The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that around the time Moffat took control of Doctor Who, he regenerated into Jeph Loeb.  The hallmarks are all there; the focus on superficial spectacle over solid story, guest stars shoehorned in at every opportunity, regardless of whether it screws with established continuity[2] or is remotely appropriate to the plot.  Convoluted stories that don't work if you think about them at all...

The kicker for me was in the latest episode Let's Kill Hitler, which apart from bringing in one of history's biggest guest stars only to lock him in a closet after five minutes and forget about him, contains one of the classic Loebisms from Hush: introducing a major character's life-long best friend who has never previously been mentioned in the story while having them be central to overall continuity.[3]

At first I thought it was some clever time-travel thing and the Doctor would notice that Amy and Rory's past had been changed, or that their memories had been tampered with, but no.  Apparently it's merely the same kind of bad writing that gives us time-travelling Autons making a plastic robot copy of Rory [4] for their Roman army at Stonehenge, even though they'd never met him.[5]

And that's not even addressing the throwaway concept of previously unmentioned time-travellers going around assassinating history's greatest criminals, but who are so crap that instead of surgical strikes to a time and place where the person won't be missed, they are entirely years off the mark, and when they screw up they leave extremely advanced technology lying around in Hitler's own office for him to reverse-engineer into a super weapon.  But the Doctor doesn't seem bothered about this kind of tampering with time,[6] so let us not mention it again.

1) Though he managed to destroy any interest I had in the scary stone angels by bringing them back and overexposing them.
2) Daleks teaming up with Cybermen?  Did Moffat miss Doomsday, where the Cybermen outnumbered the Daleks thirteen million to four and when they propose an alliance the Daleks sneer at them and kick their shiny metal asses?
3) And even underlining how poorly this is being shoehorned into the plot by handwaving why she didn't appear at both her best friends' wedding, but not why nobody noticed at the time.
4) Who was dead at the time.
5) Did the plot of The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang make sense on any level at all?  I'm sure there are devoted websites out there taking it apart and bodging it back together with ingenuity and convoluted assumption to somehow force it to make sense, but personally I think that's the job of the guy who was paid to write it. And possibly the script editor, who was also paid to check it made sense.
6) It's not like there's ever been previous stories about the Doctor dealing with a Time Meddler...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spotlight hero

Every comic blog has to champion an obscure character[1], and if you don't count Cir-El, Fantomah, Moon Girl, Sun Girl, or any of the others I've written about because it's not like writing about obscure comics heroines is a recurring theme or anything, or alternatively just stick with the one in current continuity, the winner is Doctor Light.

So I'm thinking of doing that hugely fannish thing of reading and blogging every single appearance of Doctor Light in order. But before I do, I thought I should comment on her recent run in the Justice League of America, since it's about as close to current as I ever do.[2]

It starts strongly with Justice League of America #27-30, a tale by Dwayne McDuffie that goes a long way toward telling the story we've been waiting around for since Kimiyo was depowered in 2006. McDuffie can't give us Kimiyo's triumph over EDL[3] as he has in the meantime been turned into a candle by the Spectre, but he does craft a story that fills in a lot of the gaps, and sees her repowered with the help of Milestone heroes Icon, Hardware, and the Shadow Syndicate, and given a snazzy new revamp of her costume.

McDuffie also manages to hint at the kind of power that Kimiyo has not been shown to use in a very long time. Even before she is repowered, and without the new costume that is supposed to focus or enhance her powers in some vague technobabble way, she is shown moving at light speed. Even the Flash only does that on special occasions and needs a good run up; Kimiyo can do that from a standing start. We later find that although she can absorb nearby light sources for power, she is also still connected to the star Vega, which gives her an incredible source of raw power, and possibly qualifies her as a fusionkaster[4]. Basically McDuffie establishes her as the heavy hitter she was always intended to be.
Sadly, this run on Justice League was one of the last things Dwayne McDuffie wrote before he died, but it is a fine example of his strength as a writer and his commitment to diversity, crafting a team that is perhaps one of the most racially and sexually diverse incarnations of the Justice League. He is followed for one story by Len Wein, who writes a decent Kimiyo; she is abrasive toward the frivolous Plastic Man, who she is teamed with, but eventually comes to appreciate his good qualities.

And then the rot sets in, as James Robinson arrives to helm one of the least liked runs of Justice League in recent history.

Remember how I said McDuffie couldn't give Kimiyo a cathartic triumph over her rapist because the Spectre got to the scumbag first? Well Blackest Night means that Robinson can dig him up[5] and tell that now superflous story. But wait, it gets worse. I can only read what happens as somehow a desire to in some way retell the whole rape story, perhaps for those who came in late or something? I don't know. either way, he has EDL being all rapey, and, after licking a dead little girl, attacking Kimiyo, who for the purposes of this story is inneffectual against Black Lantern Evil Rapey Doctor Light, even though the black Lanterns' big weakness is her primary powerset, and tearing her clothes off.

Anyway, after several pages of BLERDL being all expositional, he threatens Kimiyo's children, and she remembers that she can channel a star and fries his ass. It is not only an ugly and obvious telling of a story that now didn't need to be told, but in its effort to hit every wrong note when telling a rape story, also manages to be visually voyeuristic.

Robinson almost immediately replaces the entire team with a combination of white [6] heroes from the Teen Titans and generic Justice League, and while Kimiyo hangs on until #43 she's mostly just standing at the back and filling out crowd scenes. When she does speak she has no recognisable character traits. She's put on a bus off panel, leaving to look after a sick child. Given the way Robinson writes her when he does make her the focus, it's difficult to be too disappointed to have her leave the team.

She's seen twice more, filling out crowd scenes to show how important the story is by having lots of heroes show up, first in #51 and then again in #56, where the artist[7] gives her a costume that is different from either of the two she has worn previously in this series, which seems a bit lazy. She might only be a cameo here, but she was a member of the main team only a few issues previously.

So as the current era of DC fades into the west, I'm glad to see Doctor Light get some good resolution to her story arc and membership of DC's top team for a while.  The good characterisation given to Kimiyo by Dwayne McDuffie is a satisfying conclusion, and anything beyond that is irrelevant.

And so, having told the end of the story, while we wait for Kimiyo to show up in the DCnU, I shall next go back to the beginning, way back to Crisis on Infinite Earths #4.

1) It's in the rules.
2) She guest starred in several issues of Supergirl recently, too, but I haven't read them yet.
3) Evil Doctor Light
4) See Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
5) Even though there was no body. How do you get better from being a candle?
6)Okay, technically one's green and one's blue, but they are still white.
7) Following his example, I couldn't be bothered to look up his name.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Light in the blandness

Kimiyo Hoshi has an annoying personality. She is an astronomer, astrophysicist, medical doctor (1), and very accomplished in scientific fields that few people would even understand the title of, and knows that her time is valuable in costume or out, and so is easily irritated when she feels that it's being wasted.

She has also managed to keep her sense of personal value intact despite being the superhero equivalent of a rape survivor (2).

But it isn't that I admire her inner strength and forgive her irritating personality as an unfortunate byproduct. I like that she's annoying. Unlike many characters that are supposed to be endearingly roguish but just come off as creepy and bigoted, Kimiyo is supposed to be annoying. And where any other character who started off with negative traits would over time have all their rough edges smoothed away, Kimiyo has managed to remain annoying for twenty five years (3).

Admittedly, there was one period during the JLI years (4) when they tried to explain it away as an allergic reaction or something (5) but thankfully it didn't stick.

So just remember, DC. When Kimiyo Hoshi Doctor Light eventually returns in the relaunch (6), Don't even try to sugar-coat her. She's not supposed to be the nice one.

1) Or whatever the current writer thinks it is she has a doctorate in.
2) and it wasn't even thinly disguised; it was flat out stated by her abuser that what he was doing to her was rape
3) Happy quarter century Doctor L.
4) yes, Kimiyo was a charter member, and even leader at one point, of the JLI, though she never seems to get invited to the reunions.
5) does that count as a retcon?
6) and she will.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Clone it, Baby, One More Time

I was in my local comic shop yesterday and noticed a book entitled Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga. It's quite a thick book, and amused me that Marvel had finally got around to collecting it. Perhaps they think the hate for it has died down after fifteen years?

It was only later when I checked that I found out the sheer magnitude of the project. I mean, okay, I knew it dragged on for ages*, and if I'd thought about it I would have realised that it wouldn't all have fitted into even an Essentials/Showcase size volume, but six?!? At £25 a pop?!?!?

Marvel is seriously expecting people to spend £150 to read the most loathed, bloated, misguided, over-written story they ever produced?*

You have to admire their balls.

*I wonder if it will include the "we have no clue how to end this story" special they did.
**To be fair, it worked the first time around. The whole reason it became so bloated was because it was so successful that they kept extending it way beyond its original premise.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fantomah: The First Retcon?

I have no proof that what happened to Fantomah in Jungle Comics #27 was the first retcon, but it has to be one of the earliest in the history of comics.

It's actually sort of Fantomah's second retcon. Her first was in Jungle
Comics #16, but that was a much softer change; a result of the strip losing its original creator Fletcher Hanks. I don't know who the subsequent writers or artists were, but although Fantomah is doing her "spirit of vengeance" gig, she no longer has her characteristic skull-face and she's traded in her little black dress for a blue swimsuit. She later picks up a pet panther in #19, and even a boy sidekick in #23.

No explanation is given, and it's really more a change of style than an actual retcon. It might even be considered simple progression if it wasn't quite so abrupt. The changes that occur in #27 are in a different league.

As the story opens, Fantomah is accosted by an cloaked figure who has been searching for her. He calls her "daughter of the Pharaohs", tells her that her city needs her, and gives her a whole new outfit to wear. Fantomah initially claims no knowledge of what he's on about, but goes along with it. Once she is in the new outfit, her hair magically changes colour.

The old guy is almost immediately killed, but Fantomah mysteriously knows the way to the hidden city she's never heard of. When she arrives, she is immediately hailed as it's queen, and takes charge. By the end of the six page story she has forgotten about her boy sidekick (who never even appeared in the story), and now appears to be a normal woman with some Egyptian-themed magic. She has also acquired an arch-enemy.

So to recap: They've changed her entire appearance, location, powers, and supporting cast. When the only thing left from the previous series is the name, you have to wonder why they didn't just start a new strip.