Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Be careful what you wish for

I was just reading about a guy who was in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world's largest Dalek collection, and my first thought was "I bet he just mentioned to some friends one day that he liked Daleks, and it just stuck."

It's inevitable really. Let it ever be known that you have an interest in a particular thing, be it Daleks or cheese-graters, and immediately everyone will sieze on it and assume that this is your thing. Every birthday, x-mas, or other gift-related occasion will bring more of the sodding things because it saves anyone from making any effort to think about what you might like. It's one step up from the completely random generic present, and it does give the illusion that they actually put some effort into getting something you might like, but actually it just means that they grabbed the first Dalek (or cheese-grater) related thing they saw and called it done.

And the trouble is that once it starts it's almost impossible to stop. Even a person who has no idea about your supposed cheese-grater obsession will assume it's your thing as soon as they see the shelf full of the damn things that others have already stuck you with. And you can't just throw them out because then you'd be hurting the feelings of the friends who put all that effort into bringing you back that Dalek-shaped cheese-grater from their holiday in Wales, and before you know it, you're in the Guinness Book of Records and you can barely move for colourful and oddly shaped, novelty cheese graters from the far corners of the world.

No, the only way to stop yourself being forever saddled with the unwanted obsession is to kill it before it takes root. Your best bet is to somehow link the despised object with some tragedy: "I can't even look at a cheese-grater since my pet rabbit died." not only makes anyone who attempts to give you yet another tawdry variation on the theme feel guilty about opening old wounds, but gives you an excuse to be rid of those which you have already accumulated.

Either that, or let it be known that you are into something so obscure (or expensive) that it defeats the laziness factor by requiring more effort on the part of the gift-giver than a regular present. I mean everyone knows I'm a big fan of Doctor Light, but I've already got both action figures that were made of her and the trading card. At this point the only option is hunting through back issue bins or searching online for comics that don't have her name in the title, and that's way too much like effort.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Flash of Light

Can you imagine how delighted I am to hear that Kimiyo Hoshi will be appearing on The Flash TV show? Either I'm not her only fan, or the Flash producers were desperate to find a female character in DC's archive who wasn't a blonde.

More info at The Mary Sue.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Hobbit Princess

A rather... loose adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit produced in 1966 for the sole purpose of fulfilling Rembrandt Films' licensing contract and retaining rights to the book.

I have to say I'm disappointed that the princess was cut from Thorin's band of adventurers in Peter Jackson's version. It makes the movie such a sausage fest.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Difference in Doctor Who

There are countless opinions on the difference between classic Doctor Who and new Doctor Who, but once you get past all the technical aspects, the period specific stuff, and the differences in the society it was created for, it seems to me that the main difference is that old Who was about people in crisis, with the Doctor acting as a catalyst to change the situation, where as new Who, specifically Moffat Who, is all about the Doctor.

I think it's fair to say that a lot of the time in the original series there was too little Doctor, with virtually no background given to the character until the series had been running for ten seasons, and the TARDIS, that wonderful place, often serving no function other than transporting the characters from story to story. But in Moffat Who it seems like everything is about the Doctor. The tedious season-long story arcs are all focussed on the Doctor, seemingly intent on probing mysteries to which nobody really wants to know the answer. There was even an episode that consisted of little more than characters wandering around the TARDIS, which, apart from a few nice moments, served to make it less interesting than it had been when it was all a mystery.

New Who has now reached the opposite extreme from the early days of old Who, when what would work so much better is a lot closer to the mid-point between the two. Neither a complete absence of Doctor stuff, nor a total fetishistic obsession with the character. I only hope that the next person who is put in charge of the show has some understanding of this.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Why are there never any ballet-dancing taxidermied mice on ebay when you want one?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Light show

I'd been under the impression that Doctor light had been dropped from current DC continuity, along with a number of characters who have more than two fans, but while that's likely true (and given current editorial attitudes I tend to think she's well out of it) it doesn't stop her turning up in Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen's excellent Lil' Gotham, which against explicit editorial mandate even managed to sneak a blonde Batgirl into one issue.

Thanks guys. It's nice to know Kimiyo still gets a little love.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spoiler resistant Dr Who Review: Angels Take Manhattan

Two seasons ago the Daleks took Manhattan, but they must have given it back because now the Weeping Angels have taken it.[1]

Steven Moffat's Who seems more continental than previous versions, if your idea of continental is New York and a couple of other places in the USA. I get that this is for the American audience, but surely part of Who's appeal to Americans is the fact that it isn't set in all the familiar places, like New York.[2] How about going to some truly exotic locales and setting an episode in Japan or Finland for a change?

This episode has some good bits and some astonishingly stupid bits. The stupid bits include the plot, and the idea that the Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel.[3] For the sake of a sight gag, our suspension of disbelief is required to accommodate the idea that a 151 foot tall statue can stroll through one of the busiest cities on the planet and nobody would bother to look at it. I mean I know New Yorkers are famously blasé, but you'd think a few might give it a second glance.[4]

Not as deadly dull as their previous appearance, but this episode does confirm my original view that the Weeping Angels were a fantastic one-off, but are terrible as ongoing characters. Ultimately we learn almost nothing more about them than we already knew, and the little that is added is stupid. They are still scary things that jump out at you in the dark, but that's all they are, and putting them in different settings so they can go boo somewhere else is not character development.

I'd add something about clunky plot devices and the way that once again the rules of time only appear to be unbreakable when it suits the story, but then it would be spoilerish.

Ultimately, it seems like Moffat is trying hard to wedge the Weeping Angels into the Who villain pantheon. But it's not going to work because they have no depth. I predict that they will disappear as soon as someone else takes over as showrunner and will not be seen again for at least ten years, when they will be viewed with nostalgia and reappear for one episode, and unless they are then reimagined with greater depth, everyone will realise why they only worked for the one episode and they'll be dropped again.

1. Seriously, you couldn't do better than reuse a title from two years ago?
2. Plus British actors doing American accents are often as laughable as American actors doing British accents.
3. Not really a spoiler. We find out before the title sequence.
4. Also how is the Statue of Liberty a Weeping Angel? Are they now able to animate ordinary statues? This is a major departure from the characters as previously seen, so it would have been an idea if someone had mentioned it in the story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Zero tolerance

In comics traditionally issue #1 is the origin story, where we first get to meet our hero or heroes and learn how they become the characters we'll be following. This is the most important jumping on point, so it always bewilders me when the first issue is not used to introduce the character; it's the opposite of welcoming.

DC's big relaunch last year gave every title a new number #1, but in an absolute festival of missing the point, most writers didn't bother with an origin story. Some, notably Green Lantern, opted to ignore the entire event and continue with the story in progress from the previous series, apparently unaffected by the universe changing events that spawned the renumbering. Others commenced with a story to introduce the characters, but not an origin story.

Only a handful, and those mostly being the series that introduced entirely new characters, opened with an actual origin. And I think this may stem from DC's odd idea of taking a clean slate and then squeezing out all the possible freshness by burying it under five years of back story.

So a year later we are getting issue zero of everything. If issue #1 is traditionally the origin, then issue #0 is a tale of what happened before the hero became the hero. Of course when issue #1 opens five years into the story, then issue #0 can be any time before that. But at least in these days of glacially paced, writing for the trade decompression, the issue #0 at least tempts you with the prospect of a done in one single issue story, which is why I've taken another look at several titles I dropped early in the relaunch.

Birds of Prey actually has something closer to an origin than issue #1 had, giving us the first meeting of Black Canary, Batgirl, and Starling. And while it is a done in one, it is caked in plot hooks for other comics; the upcoming Team 7 book, the current BoP, the new slimline Amanda Waller, who I still didn't recognise without a label, and whatever book she's in now that I'm not reading. Even so, I enjoyed it enough to consider giving BoP another go, although the gratuitous underwear shot cooled my interest a little. How many issue zeros with male leads are going to show them in their boxers, I wonder?

Wonder Woman was a delight. A fun Silver Agey tale about Wonder Woman as a teen, writer Brian Azzarello having spotted that you don't need to overload the narrative with a bunch of story hooks to keep readers coming back, you just need to tell a good story.

I enjoyed half of Batman #0, with it's origin of the Bat-Signal and the effect that light in the sky has on several members, or future members of the Bat-family. Yes, it was continuity-heavy, but still a nice mood piece. The other half was a story set immediately before Bruce thought of dressing up like a bat, which featured Red Hood, who is now a gang, the leader of which has the original Silver Age Red Hood dome, but misses the point of having it completely covering his head by having it only go down to nose level. It's kinda stupid. Is it still the Joker? I don't care.

Green Lantern followed its course of ignoring the rules that everyone else has to follow by continuing the story currently in progress. This did involve giving an origin to yet another male, Earth Green Lantern (seriously, that's five now. Are women constitutionally incapable of "overcoming great fear" or are the rings just sexist?), but only because it had reached that point in the story. And issue zeros have never been associated with origin stories particularly, anyway. This is issue twelve and a half to all intents and purposes.

Supergirl was kind of the first part of the story that we met in the middle at the beginning of issue #1. It might even have been better placed as issue #1, since it introduces us to the character and gives us some background, which the actual issue #1 failed so badly at, being basically a fight scene between someone you didn't know and some other people you didn't know. If this had been issue #1 then at least you might have had some investment in one of the characters when they got to the big fight scene.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hunger Games Barbie

If you ever want to know the definition of inappropriate, it is this: Hunger Games Barbie.

A Barbie in an anorak, armed with a bow with which to murder other dolls.

I can't decide if it's more of an oxymoron than Elektra Barbie. I think it has the edge because despite being an amoral, murdering antithesis of all things Barbie, Elektra, as a female comic character, at least has the requisite body shape, whereas Katniss isn't supposed to even be able to walk in heels.

Of course I want one now.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Just another Dalek horde

So anyway, one of the things you notice about the Daleks in the latest episode is that there is a fuck of a lot of them. Which is interesting, since the entire species was seemingly destroyed about three years ago, with only a couple escaping (and possibly Davros) to World War 2 to usher in the ugly rainbow Daleks.

And those were only created by Davros from his own genetic material, and presumably a lot of scrap metal. Not an easy task when you have only one good arm and one mad Dalek to help. And he was only around because mad Dalek Sek Caan rescued him from the Time War, which killed all the previous Daleks. Except, you know, the ones that ran a satellite TV channel, back in the first season.

So what I'm thinking is that when the Dalek horde claims to be all the Daleks there are, what they mean is they are all the Daleks in this part of the galaxy, and there are lots more Dalek hordes elsewhere.

At the very least I think they must have some automated assembly line cranking out little Dalek shells as needed. I see it as some massive spaceship, slowly travelling through space swallowing ore-rich asteroids and stripping out everything it needs to build more Daleks, just waiting for Davros, or the Dalek Supreme, or whoever is in charge of any given horde, to send in an order for five million Daleks to be dispatched to the front lines.

And another thing; given that the Daleks are supposed to be the most formidable force in the universe, when was the last time we actually saw a planet they'd conquered? I guess it's just possible they mine them for parts and move on, except for the ones they fit motors to and pilot around the galaxy for shits and giggles, and maybe play conkers with them, but I'd still like to see that side of them. It would be a nice change to see Daleks that aren't either front line troops or upper management.

EDIT: It occurs to me that the Daleks shown in Asylum of the Daleks were described as the Parliament of the Daleks, and while skipping past the notion of the Daleks having anything like a democratic society, I am left thinking if all those thousands of Daleks are only representatives of many more Daleks, then my theory of multiple hordes seems to be borne out by the show.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Spoiler resistant Dr Who review: Asylum of the Daleks

So, Asylum of the Daleks.

Not bad. Hugely self-indulgent, obviously. Given that, I was a bit disappointed that they didn't spend a bit more time on Daleks through the ages, which seemed to be the whole point of the exercise. And how exactly were the mad Daleks different from the regular kind, apart from being all old and worn out?

As for the big twist, I guessed it might be something like that in the first ten minutes, so not a huge surprise. 

Still better than most of last season, though.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jack Kirby: One Panel

I was going to do something to mark the birthday of Jack Kirby, and then it was too late, and then I thought what the hell, I'd do it anyway.

There's this one panel from Tales of Asgard that really sums up everything about Kirby to me.

It's Knorda, the Normal-Sized Queen of the Mountain Giants*. She appears in one episode of Tales of Asgard, back in Journey into Mystery #109. But what she epitomises to me is how much Kirby cared about his work. He could create comics at a rate almost unheard of today, and yet even throwaway characters who only appear in a couple of panels, like Knorda, have their own style and personality.

*Yes, I know I've posted this panel before. I really like it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Post Postmodernism

I used to enjoy all the little pop culture injokes and references in the stories I read or watched, but these days it's feeling a bit done to death. I think a lot of it maybe has to do with the way so many movies now are retreads of what's gone before, either sequels or remakes, while comics are lost in finding 'iconic' versions of themselves, which translates loosely as two parts silver age, three parts 90's extreeeeme in the case of DC, but again results in the rehashing of old stuff. And instead of building on their rich heritage to tell new stories in a well defined universe with a strong history, they relaunch a messy do-over, where some titles follow established continuity while others have restarted from scratch, and no one seems to have any clear overview of how it all fits together. And that's when they're not pilfering Watchmen to create all sorts of new material that are supremely irrelevant to the work they are based on, because the original was complete in itself.

And then you get fan stuff, which takes the concept of a throwaway pop culture reference and expands it beyond all sense of restraint to stealing entire scenes from movies and repeating the script word for word, as the Nostalgia Critic has been doing lately. Lifting five minutes of dialogue from The Search for Spock without adding anything original (beyond the production values of a school pantomime) IS NOT FUNNY. The sequence itself is boring because you know exactly what is going to happen, so then pointing out that it's a reference, when we'd worked that out ourselves five minutes earlier because it's one of the most iconic moments in the history of SF movies you are making a shabby copy of is also NOT FUNNY.

It doesn't help that the majority of these in jokes are referencing the same old classics that everyone else references. Entire generations have grown up knowing the original Star Wars movies, not from watching the films, but from seeing choice bits of the script endlessly recycled in everything from kids' cartoons to political satire.

It reminds me of the story about Jack Kirby, who read an interview with some new guy on the CAPTAIN AMERICA comic. The new guy said he wanted to produce CAPTAIN AMERICA "in the Kirby tradition."

Kirby grunted and said, "This kid doesn't get it. The Kirby tradition is to go create a new comic."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Race against Time

The comedian Louis C.K. does a great routine about white privilege, part of which talks about time travel.

He says:

I could get in a time machine and go to any time and it will be fucking awesome when I get there. That is exclusively a white privilege. Black people can't fuck with time machines. A black guy in a time machine and it's like, "Hey, nothing before 1980. I don't want to go."

Which may be funny, but is not strictly accurate.

Sure, Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries would be problematic, to say the least, and America up to the 1960s (or later), but while a black person earlier than that in Europe might be considered exotic because of their rarity, they would not be actively discriminated against. There are records of black people living in England that go back many centuries before the slave trade without evidence of discrimination.

And then again, if we assume the white person with a time machine is an English speaker, there are plenty of times and places where he would be unwelcome, liable to be pressed into slavery (it's never been just for black people), or shot on sight for being English.

Women, on the other hand, are stuffed. Doesn't matter what race they are, without some man to support them, they'd be considered property most times and places prior to the twentieth century.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Having cake and eating it beforehand

It's blogiversary time, being seven years since I started this nonsense, so I thought I might mark it with one or two musings on the subject of time travel.

At the end of the first Superman movie, our hero is faced with the dilemma of either saving a whole town, or saving Lois Lane. Spoiler alert: He does both. But how he does it is interesting.

First he saves the town.[1] Then he rushes off to save Lois, but Tragedy! He's too late, and she's dead. So he flies up into space and starts whizzing round the world.

He is not making the planet spin backwards, as some people seem to believe. That would be stupid. He's just accelerating past the speed of light, which causes him to go back in time,[2] which makes it appear that everything else is going in reverse. I don't know why this is confusing. It always seemed obvious to me.

Anyhow, he's gone back to the point where Lois hadn't died yet and rescues her. Yays all around.

the question that I don't think is ever addressed is; does this mean that he now hasn't saved the town? Has him appearing in the past overwritten the previous timeline? Or are there now two Supermans at this point in time? And if so, what happens to the spare?

For the sake of argument, let's say that the Superman who saves the town goes back in time to save Lois, even if she has already been saved before he leaves. That way there is only ever one Superman, it's just that his timeline is a bit tangled.[3]

Of course once you've established that you can always fix stuff later, it all gets a bit Bill and Ted, except worse. Bill and Ted time travel never overwrites an incident, it just allows our heroes to decide to have done something, and then subsequently go back in time to actually do it. They don't cheat. Ted's dad's keys are missing in the movie long before B&T decide to take them, so they will always have stolen them. The timeline is not changed. When Superman goes back in time he adjusts the timeline so events happen differently.

Which means that not only can Superman go back and change any event he doesn't like, he can be in several places at once. He can oversleep, and then go back in time and still get to work on time. He can be defeated by Lex Luthor, but so long as he escapes afterwards to go back in time, he can get a do over until he gets the best outcome. If necessary he can go back and destroy Luthor's Big Zappy Gun of Doom and at the same time defeat Luthor himself at a different location, and also stay home to watch the Superbowl, if it happens to clash and he's into sports.

The downside is that he ages at the same rate, whether he's going backwards or forwards in time, so if he overdid this kind of thing he'd getting older than everyone else because of all the side-trips he was making, but Superman doesn't seem to age at a normal rate so it probably wouldn't show. It might also get a little confusing after a while, so I imagine his To Do list would get complicated.

1) it's been a long time since I've seen it, so the details elude me.
2) Though you'd think it would be difficult to fine tune how far back you went at that kind of speed, even for the Man of Steel.
3) And let's not think about the original timeline, where she isn't saved, that sets the whole thing up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A little bit of politics

Dear America,

The way to have fewer gun massacres is not to limit access to Batman costumes, it's to have fewer guns.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Other time She dated a Girl

Adventure Comics #384 (Supergirl Showcase vol. 4 maybe, one day)

Now it has to be said, Silver Age Supergirl is a terrible flirt. In fact it's Supergirl standard plot trope #2: Supergirl falls for someone inappropriate and it all goes horribly wrong. Consequently, it's hardly surprising that she'd occasionally fling herself at a guy who was actually a girl in disguise.

No, I lie. That's still weird. But it is all very Shakespearian. Except, despite all the cross dressing, Shakespearian couples invariable end up as male/female.

So in Adventure #384 Linda is jealous of her friends of the issue, who have been computer dating. She's sad that she can't use the service to get a proper match because she couldn't give her true details, and anyway, no Earth boy would be up to her standards.

It then occurs to her that she can use Superman's super computer as a dating aid. Superman is a bit put out at this frivolous usage of his technology, but he will get his own back, oh yes.

Superman's advanced high tech computer concludes that Supergirl would be best matched with Volar of the planet Tomar. Why it picks this person requires some speculation. I'm guessing that either 1) Superman, at his most passive aggressive fixed the results, b) the computer knows more about Supergirl than she's admitted to herself, or iii) it's a piece of junk.

Superman warns her off following the machine's advice, but in a vague way, so that when she gets back he can be all "I told you so" even though he didn't bother to give her the information he has that would have allowed her to make a much more informed decision.

Superman really is a dick sometimes.

Supergirl flies to Tomar for the weekend, and immediately finds Volar. He invites her home to meet his parents, which is maybe moving a little fast, but she's keen. Meeting Volar's father, she notices that his mother is treated as a servant. Tomar explains that women are considered inferior on his planet. It's been this way for centuries, since some galactic Republican misogynist stopped by to preach that women need to be kept in their place, and zapped everything with an X chromosome with his Suppressor Ray to make them docile and obedient. And apparently all the guys went "sure, why not?", subsequently indoctrinating all women from infancy to see themselves as inferior.

The two continue about their superheroing business, catching crooks and rescuing people, but Supergirl finds herself mocked and belittled because she's female. Whether this is the first time Supergirl has faced prejudice, I don't know, but she doesn't like it.

But then she's also put out that Volar is failing to, um, put out, complaining that after several hours in her company he hasn't yet tried to kiss her or even hold her hand.

Later that day, while spying on Volar having a quiet chat with his father, Supergirl learns that Volar will have to give up his career as a superhero the very next day, as they've run out of a mysterious serum and can't make any more. His father tells Volar to get rid of Supergirl, so she won't see what happens.

She hangs about all night, and when they see she's still there in the morning they invite her in. The shock sends Supergirl fleeing back to Earth "where I belong!"

Yes, you've guessed it. Volar is a girl in disguise. The mystery serum just made her boy mask work. She had planned to give up being a superhero and go back to being a second class citizen once she was no longer able to keep up the facade of being a guy, but Supergirl's example has inspired her to continue her career, despite how she knows she will be treated, and maybe she can set an example that will fight against the prejudice.

Supergirl comes off as spectacularly self-centred here. She's embarrassed by her own behaviour, and can't see beyond that to the plight of her colleague, so ground down by prejudice that she has to save the world dressed as a guy or she won't get any respect, or the society which has cast their entire female population into virtual slavery on the word of some visitor who, by his own admission, was out to get back at all women because he got dumped. But then, as is clearly indicated, Superman knew about the entire situation beforehand, and he was entirely okay with it.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Bandette #1

So I thought I'd try this thing where I review a comic that's actually currently available once in a while, and try to stick to things I either want to recommend, because they are very good, or ones that are so bad I can rant entertainingly about. Bandette would fall into the first category.

Colleen Coover is awesometarts and always has been. Paul Tobin I'm still not sure about. The only thing of his I've read before is Gingerbread Girl (also drawn by Colleen Coover), and I was a bit nonplussed by the weird narrative device. I'll give it another try some time.

Bandette is, I'm fairly sure, inspired by the French series of novels and comics Fantômette, which in turn was (I think) inspired by the novel Fantômas. How much more there is to it, I don't know, as Fantomette doesn't seem to have ever been translated into English. Which is a sad thing, as it looks like heaps of fun.

Issue #1 of Bandette sees our heroine breaking into a mansion. But things don't go to plan and a chase ensues.

The art is expressive, in Coover's light cartoony style, supported by detailed, if slightly impressionistic backgrounds. In every panel. Tobin's script compliments the art, such that within a few pages you get more of a sense of who Bandette is and what she's about than many comics manage with their acres of exposition.

It's only thirteen pages of story, but it's also only 99c, so by my calculation that's a still cheaper page rate than any comic from the major publishers, and to be honest there's about as much story as a typical DC or Marvel anyway. And it's prettier.

Plus it's 99c. Who can't afford 99c to try out an excellent new comic?

Currently only available digitally from Comixology, but for those who are technologically deprived I have a suspect that it will turn up in trade paperback when it's finished.