Readin’ Some Batman!

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and game-playing with little mind to how I could blog about it.

While it has been liberating, it certainly hasn’t been good for blogging.

I’ve actually taken a bit of a break from old Sci-Fi and even the Pulps (though I’m managing to stay on top of my column for Castalia House) to plow through the massive stacks of Batman I’ve acquired over the last couple of years.

At one point, I found a list that put a ton of the Batman trades in Chronological order (Year One/Post-Crisis Batman) and entered them into my Amazon wishlist.  Because I entered them in order, that meant that a bunch of the latter day Batman books were at the top of the list, so, when people bought stuff off my wishlist, I tended to get those books close to the ‘end’ of pre-Flashpoint universe. Meanwhile, when I buy single issue runs, I go for early Legends of the Dark Knight stuff when I can, and I also bought someone’s graphic novel collection which includes bookends of the Cataclysm/No Man’s Land arc which I’m currently filling out.

So, where I’m at now, I’ve been reading the post-whichever-Crisis Dick Grayson Batman and 90s Batman, and eventually I will end up in a place where they will meet. Someday. There’s still a lot of Batman in between.

90s Chuck Dixon/Alan Grant Batman is some of my favorite, with some really great story-telling and creepy villains. The 90s stuff really strikes that great balance of crime, horror, and superhero stuff that tonally sets Batman apart from rest of the DC world he’s in.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Bruce Wayne as Batman – he is THE Batman, but I also really enjoyed the Prodigal arc epilogue of Knightfall, during which a Grayson/Drake dynamic duo fill in while Batman gets his head right (and returns with 3-foot ears and terrible artwork in time for Troika). It was a different dynamic with different psychological baggage to unpack. I don’t really care one way or the other for Grayson’s Robin, nor have I ever gotten into Nightwing, but I really enjoy seeing Grayson as Batman and his struggles to fill the enormous shoes of his mentor. I liked it in Prodigal, and I still like it in post-Battle for the Cowl Batman arcs I’ve read.

It does seem like Tim Drake gets a bit hung out to dry, though. In a lot of ways, Tim Drake is the definitive Robin of my generation – he was the Robin in the comics, he was the Robin in the last season of BtAS, he was probably Robin in Teen Titans, while Dick was the “old Robin” and those of us who weren’t as up on the comics had no idea who Jason Todd was. While I enjoyed the relationship between Bruce and Damien, a Batman struggling to figure out what to do with an ACTUAL son, I think I preferred the Grayson/Drake pairing to Grayson/Wayne. BUT, I can understand why Tim has to be shuffled out of the mix – by the time the mantle has been passed on, Drake and Grayson are too close to the same age, so it’s a different relationship (Drake doesn’t need the mentoring anymore the way Damien does).

It’s still kind of sad seeing the exchange during the earthquake arc where Bruce tells Tim that hopes that one day he will take up the mantle, knowing that it is not meant to be. Jean Paul Valley was a disaster, and Bruce himself says that Dick Grayson was the wrong person. Bruce may have changed his mind on that during the intervening years, but Dick probably knew Bruce felt that way at least at one point, and has that, along with all of his other doubts, hanging over him.

X-Men: Apocalypse

So, during all of the hoopla over how the billboard of Apocalypse choking Mystique was sexist, nobody was talking about what a terrible and boring movie X-Men Apocalypse was. All of the innumerable continuity snarls could have been forgiven if Singer had given us a movie worth watching, but this fell into the trap of so many failed B and C tier superhero movies, spending far too much time ‘building the team’ instead of showing the team doing anything. In this case, it’s worse, because both sides have to build their teams on screen and there’s neither character development nor action. And frankly, I’m surprised that there was not more outrage over the decision to make Storm an Arab street urchin instead of a Sub-Saharan tribal living-goddess.

I went into this expecting some awesome fights, cuz, c’mon! It’s Apocalypse! The main things I remember about him from when I was a kid was that he was 10 feet tall, could change size & shape, and pretty much wrecked the shit of anyone who tried to fight him. Instead of cool fights, we got endless ‘building the team’, leading up to one fight that, by the time it happened, I couldn’t bring myself to care about cuz I was so damned bored. It should not have been hard to make an awesome and exciting Apocalypse movie: Apocalypse wakes up with his 4 riders – he destroys a city, and the X-Men try to stop him and get stomped. The X-Men have to devise some way they can actually hurt him. Heck, maybe they could develop a version of “the cure” that can be administered by using Quicksilver as a human railgun. Xavier could be all “Oh, I don’t think this is a good idea, what if it falls into the wrong hands!”, Magneto all “Who are we to deprive anyone of their gifts, especially a god?” and Mystique all “Screw that noise, we really need to stop this guy at all costs”.

But nope, in the end, Apocalypse gets beaten by a fairly mundane, plan-free “by our powers combined” flash that teased at what will most assuredly and lamentably be a sequel featuring po-faced Jean Grey in another Dark Phoenix saga.

I think that X-Men Apocalypse is a tacit admission that all of the best X-Men stories happened 30ish years ago and the semi-historical grounding of the X-Men they were given following their 1975 relaunch that was once an asset is now a liability.

Don’t be fooled by the jive about X-Men’s relevance to historical struggles; during Civil Rights, X-Men was just another supers comic—that didn’t get added until much later. Just like how Magneto didn’t start out as a Holocaust Survivor; he was given that backstory to give him nuance and some justification for his horrible actions in the 80s.

A lot of X-Men’s cultural relevance was that which it took upon itself during the 70s and 80s, and it coasted on that during the 90s. But now that it’s reaching the mid 10s, stories about that group of oppressed mutant individuals (who were not oppressed during their run through the 60s) struggling with Civil Rights and the moral quandary of a troubled individual who survived the Holocaust and whose strawman may have a point can’t be told in the present day. The ancient and withered husks of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart fighting at the end of the world in Days of Future Past may have truly been the Last Hurrah of the X-Men of my childhood. Either the X-Men will be all old as dirt, immortal like Wolverine, or they will have to be completely new X-men, because retreading the same three decade patch of culture over and over again with the same characters just isn’t going to work anymore. And having the most recent X-Men movie, which can no longer be considered a prequel, as Days of Future Past obliterated the old continuity, take place in the 80s concedes that.

 

X-Men Apocalypse is a good sign that it is not only time to stop making X-Men movies for a while but that the entire X-Men franchise needs to be significantly rethought if it can’t be uncoupled from the time-period of its 70s relaunch through its 80s comic and 90s cartoon heydays. X-Men will have to undergo some very serious, soul-searching changes, rebooting their continuity, abandoning the false ties to 60s Civil Rights movement, and, perhaps most shocking of all, have a Magneto who doesn’t cling to the Holocaust as a justification for his evil deeds because he can’t; it’ll reach the point where he’ll either have to be a hundred years old or he wasn’t there.  X-Men is finally being crippled by the identity politics that had been its strength over the years since its relaunch – right before our eyes, we’re watching a franchise transition from speculative fiction to period fiction.

Katana!

This is the McDonald’s DC Girls toy that I finally had to break down and buy from eBay. I repainted her using the color scheme from Katana’s original costume from Batman and the Outsiders.

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A long while back on Free Comic Book Day, I grabbed an issue of a title called DC Girls in hopes that would be something akin to Teen Titans Go. I’d say it was kind of like Monster High, except the one Monster High cartoon I saw was deep as fuck. Really, DC Girls is a way to sell the DC IP to little girls by taking the characters in a very “girlie” direction using old-as-dirt tropes, such as putting them in high school together, talking about feelings and friendship and everyday problems, etc. etc. etc. In doing so, the characters are necessarily distilled to their simplest aspects.

This doesn’t really work for Katana. You could say the same thing about Harley, but at least childhood regression and actually BEING a child go hand in hand enough to make it work. While most popular incarnations of Supergirl and Batgirl are, well, girls, Katana was a woman.

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Katana was either intentionally or unintentionally created as a subversion of the Asian ‘Dragonlady’ trope – the dangerous femme fatale seductress from the Orient. Though she’s certainly deadly with her blade, Tatsu Yamashiro is a widow in mourning. She has lost husband, whom she loved and still loves deeply, and her own children. This loss is a big part of what defines her, so she is certainly not around to be played up as an exotic love interest for anyone, nor does she use ‘feminine wiles’ in her arsenal. She projects her motherly feelings onto Halo, the youngest member of the Outsiders, acting as her surrogate mother and guardian while she is recovering from her amnesia and has nowhere to stay, and Tatsu fights tooth and nail to protect innocent children put in harm’s way by criminals.

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Katana was ‘Team Mom’ and Batman’s trusted second. Her driving motivation to protect and see justice was as a wife and mother. These are core elements of her character that I can’t really see working if you rewrite her as a high school teenager who is the same age as all the other super characters.

Monday Morning and I am Exhausted: River City Comic Expo Decompression Post

My first con was okay, I guess. I sold 4 things the first day. The second day was a bit better, but mostly because I was giving stuff away for free and had a tip jar out.  I got rid of several of the records and CDs that have been cluttering my spare bedroom for years, but I’ve still got hundreds left. Next time, I’ll bring fewer boxes. If I pretend like the tips I got were sales, and I don’t count the CDs/LPs which I really just kind of want to throw away, I ended up moving the magazine at a not-unreasonable per issue discount.

One of the surprising things was at least a few of the people who grabbed CDs/LPs actually knew who the STDs were; “They’re making a documentary, you know.” “Yeah, I’m probably in it.”

There was a panel in which “gamergate” was mentioned in the description which I skipped (busy at a booth, don’t ya know), but would be moderately interested in seeing if there was any video of it.

The only comment anyone made on my Chuck Tingle Legends of Science Fiction was a strange elderly man stopped me to point out that the list was missing Bradbury and Heinlein.

It was fun people watching, especially with all of the cosplayers.  Best cosplayer, hands down, was this guy who was wearing a big flip-top trashcan with pictures of anime girls taped to it and a banner on the front that said “Your Waifu”.

I didn’t meet (I kinda hate fanboying), but I did see Neal Adams and Nichelle Nichols.  At 83, Nichelle still looked great and seemed to be having a good time. I did get to give Sara Frazetta a copy of issue 2 with Ku’s cover, so that was neat.

The real highlight of the convention was finding out that there’s a pretty prolific pulp publishing company based out of the small town I went to college in.  I need to get to know those guys better, for sure.  I talked to Tyree Campbell, one of the writers on their imprint who was from De Moines, during setup the day before the con started.  I picked up one of his books to read through at my table, and liked it so much that when I’d finished it by 2 on Saturday I picked up the second one.  I hope the gin company doesn’t try to clamp down on him, because I’m really digging “Bombay Sapphire”.

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To anyone considering doing a booth at a con, my advice is get a con-buddy.  My girlfriend thinks she didn’t help out any, but being able to stretch your legs and use the bathroom without having to take your cashbox and register tablet with you is priceless.

The bad news is, I was an unlucky 3rd car in a pretty bad accident just before loading into the con on Friday.  The good news is, all I need is a new front bumper and a bad scuff polished out of my hood.  It just sucks that I’ll have to do the whole run-around on actually getting everything taken care of and all the paperwork dealt with.  At least this time I won’t be without a car for any length of time, but cash on hand may be a bit stretched until the claim is settled.  Also, kitty cat had already been dropped off at home before we were hit; she got a shot and the butt thermometer and was pretty miffed, but after her course of painkillers she’s back to her crazy, bouncy, tear up the curtains self.

Thanks to those who have pledged to the Kickstarter over the weekend and those who’ve had good things to say about the first issue.  Also, Frisky Pagan’s review of Thune’s Vision was a nice pick-me-up during the many long dull spells at the con.  We’re getting pretty close to our initial goal for issue 2.  I’d like to get up to some of the stretch goals for illustrations – folks who thumbed through the issues seemed rather disappointed there weren’t illos, and one kid and an adult (at different times) were sad it wasn’t a coloring book, but illustrations are high cost content.  If we get enough people who are willing to buy and read for the stories, I will better be able to accommodate people who would buy and read for the pictures.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Fanwriter Recommendations!

I saw the first half of the Hunger Games series last night, but rather than blog politics/culture wars two days in a row, I have a better idea: Hugo recommendations!

I’m not listing who I’m nominating, because some of these will come to a coin-toss (not going there, I said I’d stay away from politics!) when I finish my final ballot.  Rather instead, consider these some people who I seriously think are worth checking out:

Sci-fist ( https://scifist.wordpress.com/ ) – This guy does some amazingly in-depth looks at truly rancid classics of sci-fi film, looking not only at the film and the production but everyone who had anything significant to do with it and their careers before and after they worked on whatever schlock-fest he’s reviewing.

Charles Akins / Dyvers (http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/) – Charles has done a great service to the gaming community by curating the Great Blog Roll Call; I only wish he’d been able to do more Best Reads of the Week in 2015, but keeping up with a community of that size, finding and spotlighting the best AND creating your own quality content is a daunting task.

Douglas Ernst (http://douglasernstblog.com/) – Doug Ernst writes about culture wars and Spider-man; he’s in Dan Slott’s head big-time.  In fact, the antagonism between these two is one of the most entertaining ongoing reads online today!

Jeffro Johnson ( https://jeffro.wordpress.com / https://www.castaliahouse.com ) – Jeffro’s a knight-errant on a chivalric quest to find and shine a light on old and sometimes near-forgotten science fiction.  I’ve checked out more authors on his recommendation than nearly anyone else, because his enthusiasm is so contagious, and I’m very happy that I have.

Ron Edwards (http://adeptpress.wordpress.com) – This guy knows comics.  His pieces on silver-age through early modern comics, the zeitgeist certain titles capture and the cultural shifts reflected in them makes for some of the most fascinating reading on the web.

Planetary Defense Commander (https://planetarydefensecommand.wordpress.com/) – The quantity of SF this guy covers is amazing.  He’s one of the few people I’ve seen on wordpress really hitting the magazines hard to look at what’s going on in the SF short fiction world.

Zenopus Archives (http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com) – I don’t use many homebrewed tools in my games, but when I do, they’re from Zenopus Archives!  His love of the Holmes edition has certainly rubbed off on me.  He’s reaching the end of the massive undertaking of going over the Holmes manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, comparing it to the published version of Holmes Basic, spotting and sourcing differences, and creating a treasure trove of old-school fantasy bits on the side.

 

 

Supplement to Quick Musings on the Depiction of Women in Science Fiction

Planet Stories’ publisher, Fiction House, also put out a sister line of science fiction comics called Planet Comics.  A lot of these covers show the kind of women who filled the pages of sci-fi in the olden days better than I can do justice to in words.

Oh, hey, look who has their hand on the gun that's blowing up the solar lens focused on earth!

Oh, hey, look who has their hand on the gun that’s blowing up the solar lens focused on earth!’

That dude will get there eventually, but not before that lady has zapped the monster a few times.

That dude will get there eventually, but not before that lady has zapped the monster a few times.

I guess with no man around, she'll have to zap the 3 headed T-Rex herself!

I guess with no man around, she’ll have to zap the 3 headed T-Rex herself!

 

Whee!

Whee!

Women are crack shots with ray guns, too!

Women are crack shots with ray guns, too!

That is going to hurt...

That is going to hurt…

She looks more mad than afraid; Mars God of War is grimacing because he's about to get zapped.

She looks more mad than afraid; Mars God of War is grimacing because he’s about to get zapped.

ADDENDUM: John C. Wright beat me to this years ago.  Thanks for pointing this out, Scholar-at-Arms!

Feminine Names for Strong Women’s Novels

Is Hercules Sleeping With Dudes a Big Deal

The “bisexuality” of Hercules is now a part of Marvel’s botched pandering to the diversity monger crowd. Their mistake is that Hercules is not bisexual: he is omni-sexual.

Herc ended up with such a reputation for trying to have sex with everything that moved that by the classical Greek period, he’d become a meme. He was shorthand for drunken sex & lechery, a cheap laugh-line. A drunk Hercules could pop up from behind a rock at any moment and go “did someone say sex with animals?” and the Athenian crowds would howl. In fact, he wouldn’t even have to say it. Hercules could pop up and mug the crowd (as best as one can mug through a Greecian drama mask), and someone would probably say “Old Aeschylus better clench his cheeks, for Heracles is on the prowl!”

So, uh… Hercules sticking his dick in a wide assortment of things is not a particularly original concept. What is new is that some folks may actually be trying to make the case that this has anything to do with progressivism or diversity.

Take a look at this panel that I’ve seen going around.  See, this is silly where the characters are acting like getting boned by Hercules is something special. These ladies appear to be acting as though sleeping with the highschool quarterback who has not only screwed every girl who would put out but also the mascot (not just the guy in the costume, but probably him too) is some sort of thing to brag about. In fact, this panel is like the cheer squad wondering why guy who wears the costume isn’t proud of what happened. Plus, it looks and reads like those old wincest memes*…

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Poor Northstar, but thousands of years of western literature should’ve clued him in that Herc would kiss & tell.

*Update: See what I mean?

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