Saturday, November 24, 2007
Directed by Felix Alcala
Written by Michael Taylor
Frak me if the postapocalyptic sturm and drang of Ronald Moore's Battlestar rejig isn't still the seismic motherlode of current longform sci-fic TV- - - as opposed to shortform sci-fic TV, which is what Doctor Who is, which is every bit as grand so far. Nowhere near series best, though, this recursive, supersized episode flashing back to the brutal goings-on aboard the Battlestar Pegasus under Admiral Helena Cain's watch means to hinge everything so far - - - the new signposts to where Earth is, New Caprica, the Baltar trial, the four new unmasked Cylons, the return of Kara Thrace and the repercussions of what she brought back with her, that Bob Dylan song and what it means- - - with its looming final leg and is so vigorously co-dependent on at least the last two seasons that it has no autonomy as a piece, is so of a piece , really, that rookies to the mythos - - -essentially a spacebound Book of Exodus but so much more than that - - - should back off and boot up with the pilot, suck in that aura of haggard doom then work their way here before all the backstories and foreshadowings and reveals start to pack brunt and bristle. The choir of geeks it preaches to, though, is bound to shudder with glee - - -at what was going on between Cain and the Number 6 she had on board, at the old school Cylons and what they're guarding, at the eleventh hour revelation that darkens everything to come. It isn't so much the severity of the sociopolitical mirror this new Galactica holds up to the world as we know it post-911 but the way interpersonal dynamics mutate under such conditions that resonate more with me- - - less the space opera than the space soap opera. Cain has one line epitomizing her venomous temperament that somehow nails, too, what the show, at its core, is ultimately about: “Sometimes we have to do things that we never thought we were capable of, if only to show the enemy our will. When you can be this for as long as you have to be, then you’re a razor. This war is forcing us all to become razors. If we don’t, we don’t survive, and then we don’t have the luxury of becoming simply human again."
Friday, November 23, 2007
I cannot believe that there are rumors going around that DC might bring Stephanie Browne back (Spoiler/Robin). The poor kid who died trying to prove herself to (Goddamned!) Batman. His bad handling of Stephanie should have disqualified him to become Tim's adoptive father - if only child services had any idea! I would sic social workers to kick his ass!
I have mourned Stephanie. Project Girl Wonder is asking for a same memorial case like the one Jason Todd has. (Unless the bastard was lying when he told Stephanie at her deathbed that she really was Robin.) See? People have moved on! They have accepted her death! I've had enough of resurrections.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Spinning off from the obscenely massive Deathnote movies is L, which stands to be the finest thing to emerge from making a movie franchise out of the terrific Ohba/Obata manga.
Why do I think so?
Directed. By. Hideo. Nakata.
February 9 2008. And a fuck, yeah to that.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Komikon with no new work from us does feel a little off, like running with a game leg. But no small thanks to the belated return of Reno's Tabloid Komiks,you'd hardly notice the limp.
Ask me, the scrap of Maskarado fanfic we've got in there, Sa Mamihan Ni Ah Long, is Bong's finest hour. I kid you not. Makes me smell good, at least. Josel Nicolas has new stuff in it, too. Oh , and this also emerges from hiding. Cover alone's worth your milk money, children. Massive apologies to Reno for not finishing the short story I promised I'd do. Work has been brutal.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Being the second installment of an essay on the subject of Mutancy as Meme in the (Mainstream) Marvel Universe. Part 1 is here.
Borrowing from Gladwell, one may posit mutancy as a kind of "social innovation", in the fictional culture of the Marvel universe. So, over time, it should (theoretically) gain acceptance within the broader population, down an echelon of levels:
- ... from a limited number of "early adopters" (the first batches of the X-Men and the rival Brotherhood of Mutants),
- ... to a larger number of "secondary adopters" (the pan-cultural 'Second Genesis' that was initiated with Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975),
- ... and from them to "tertiary adopters" (the younger New Mutants; and even later, Generation X, who probably came of age with the experience of mutancy as a fairly common occurrence),
- ... then to "quadranary adopters" amongst the general non-mutant population, etc.
This diffusion of "the mutancy meme" within 616 society follows (appropriately enough) the self-replicating nature of a virus, as it spontaneously adapts to its host bodies.
This process was further egged on by the paradigm shifts taking place in the "real-world" comic industry that keeps the X-men franchise in business. A handful of innovative writers started to recognize that mutancy's central tenets needed to be retooled and updated to fit the increasing complexities of a globalized world. Unstable trans-national boundaries and the spread of information across the world marketplace made the over-simplistic tropes of past decades now seem like hoary clichés -- was it honestly conceivable that a large and potentially influential minority would remain despised and marginalized forever? Not likely.
Nevertheless, it would be an uphill struggle to present mutancy as a respectable condition, when the species' most prominent radical terrorist group, the Mutant Liberation Front, looked as hokey as this sorry bunch:
Something urgently needed to change. And so, after the line-wide "Revolution" campaign in 2000, we began to see a more nuanced vision of mutancy. Mutants are still hated and feared by the public at large, but they're also the subject of much fascination and envy. They're marketed, branded, and commercialized, in the same way the mainstream culture has deigned to adapt specific aspects of other minority cultures (the design sensibilities of queer aesthetics, for instance; or the macho posturing of black American hip-hop).
Joe Casey introduced the X-Corporation as a way of establishing mutant presence in the realm of transnational business -- a concept that was sadly never fully realized (in the Marvel universe, anyway). Meanwhile, Brian Bendis conceptualized the synthetic Mutant Growth Hormone as a lethal means for humans to simulate the mutant experience, mimicking the advent of "designer drugs" in the 'real world'.
But perhaps nobody redefined the scope of mutancy quite like Grant Morrison, over the course of his run on New X-Men. Yeah, I know -- the hype! But you know what? It's almost entirely deserved. Srsly.
Let me count the ways:
- :: He took the concept of unchecked evolution a step further with the innovation of secondary mutations.
- :: Morrison's run brought to life an entire mutant-centric youth culture, with its own music, iconography, slang, and (perhaps most radically) fashions catered to mutant physiology.
- :: His stint replaced the sewer-dwelling Morlocks with a more believable immigrant-style community of lower-income mutant outcasts. Known informally as Mutant Town, the neighborhood was later fully realized by crime writer David Hine, in District X.
- :: He posited the idea of the U-Men, a contraband paramilitary organization that harvests mutant organs to bestow powers on wealthy human clients. These memorable villains combined the real-world horror of illegal medical trafficking with the outlandish notion of a uniform-wearing sci-fi death cult.
And that doesn't even begin to cover individual figures like Sublime and Xorn, each of whom are inspired by the key themes of the franchise, in their own unique ways.
Of course, all of this would soon be undone by the (completely misguided) advent of House of M, and the resulting Decimation storyline. But i'll save that for my next installment...
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Anyway, one of the regular features at UC is a bi-weekly Dreamcasting game (two, actually -- one strictly for comic-derived franchises; another for broader geeky interests, like remakes or novel adaptations). I thought i'd share a few of my older entries from previous Dreamcasting rounds.
Of course, I'd highly recommend that you offer suggestions, if you think you've got better choices than mine (and I have no doubt that you do). So without further ado, I give you...
The Justice Society of America
1958: The Good Soldier, the Scientist, the Working Class Hero, the Detective, the Industrialist, and the Magician join forces, using their abilities to stop a Cthulu-esque extra-dimensional evil summoned by an Immortal Villain, temporarily sealing both in a pocket universe. As a result, they are forced to unmask before a fearful public, due to McCarthy-era paranoia.
2008: OUr aging heroes run a Hogwarts-style academy to train future government-registered superheores (including the proteges and successors of many of their old collegues). The Immortal Villain somehow reenters our world; seeks revenge; punks out an entire field team of younger heroes. The surviving Old Guys show the kids how its done, Silver Age style.
Straightforward, no-frills superhero action. Light on complex plotting; big on heartfelt world-saving and retro macho bombast.
Alan Arkin as The Flash.
Anthony Hopkins as Green Lantern.
Harvey Keitel as Wildcat. Working-class tough guy with nine lives, portrayed by veteran of street-level Scorsese films.
Christopher Walken as The Sandman. Former teen sidekick turned eccentric billionaire with a passion for sleuthing.
James Cromwell as Dr. Fate. Timothy Leary-esque oddball. Adept at chaos magicks.
THE STUDENTS and TRAINERS
Don Cheadle as Mr. Terrific, 21st century version of the sagely negro. Thinks in quantum mechanics, speaks in ebonics.
Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly, Thank You For Smoking) as Power Girl.
Jake Busey (The Frighteners, Contact) as Hourman.
Olivia Wilde (Alpha Dog) as Stargirl. Relative unknown to play the untested Stargirl. Wilde also played lesbian hellraiser Alex in season 2 of The O.C.
Rip Torn as Vandal Savage, immortal gentleman-rogue.
Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata) as Mordru, would-be trans-dimesnional conqueror.
If you want to see the casts picked by other users, click here.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Messiah Complex: Chapters 1 & 2
Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan
It has been a while since the last X-Men event. I have been religiously following the various X-titles. I have dropped only one - Excalibur - because I just couldn’t get my head around what was happening to Captain
In wars around the world that were motivated by tribal rivalries and grudges and where the hate for the “other” was so deep that conflicting parties aimed for genocide, children were targeted first. Kill-off the next generation and there won’t be replacements for soldiers/militia who were killed in battle. Targeting children also caused despair and hopelessness among the adults – leading to a demoralized people losing the will to live. This was palpable in the X-titles. Stryker’s cult killed of a bus load of de-powered students and murdered around three students (with powers). The apathy of the humans, the government, and even the other super heroes was blatant – some parents did not even claim their children’s bodies, not one parent demanded justice for the death of their children, no investigation was conducted by the authorities, and when Ms. Marvel came to the Institute to inform the faculty and the kids that another student was dead, they asked her where was the Avengers when Stryker was murdering the children. She had no answer.
McCoy’s desperate and useless search for a “cure” was a sign that the adults were slowly giving in to hopelessness and to the prospect that they were the last mutants. The X-men’s lame stand on the Registration Act was another symptom of the hopelessness – why bother when they have their own problems – when they were being targeted not only for registration but for extermination.
Thus, the birth of a new mutant is everything to the X-men. Ed Brubraker’s Chapter 1 of the Messiah Complex was very well written – I was kinda traumatized with his run last year in Uncanny X-men. With the Cerebra overloading because of the birth, the Purifiers and the Marauders both scrambling over the baby and practically erasing a town from the map (murdering the children first), the urgency and gravity of the situation was established. Chapter 2 focused more on getting the different X-teams together, setting aside differences and grudges, and setting up plans of action. The tension of who will lead the team was tackled. This is the first major crisis where Xavier is present after recovering his powers. He wanted to lead but since Xavier left the X-men in the end of Morrison’s run, Scott has effectively led the X-men and the Institute with Emma Frost. For the first time, Xavier doubted his place among his X-men and this was perfectly presented and drawn in one page with only one overheard dialog from Scott.
A plus point for me is Billy Tan's drawings of Jaime Maddox, Rictor, and Layla Miller—my beloved X-factor. It has been two (three?) years since House of M where Layla Miller first appeared and in Billy Tan’s drawing she has grown up and is a teen-ager. In X-factor, Layla didn’t look like she aged since M-day. Tan’s Wolverine, Colossus, Angel, and Nightcrawler were awesome in the skirmish with some Marauders. Also, the four X-men executed the fight and interrogation with solid team work that made me want read the fight sequences again (the details are excellent!). So far, I am extremely satisfied and excited. Next week, it’s Peter David and X-factor. Yuhoo!
Astonishing X-men #23
Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
“I am diamond, Ms. Pryde. I am by definition, my own best friend.” – Emma Frost
The verbal fencing between Kitty and Emma are always the highlight in an issue of Whedon’s Astonishing X-men. Sometimes I forget that Scott Summers has balls—I seem to be always connecting the character with doubt and self-pity. Whedon reminded my why he is the leader of the X-men. Summers’ plan of misdirection and strategic plays and positioning were flawless. The final part of the plan was classic and it made me put the comics down carefully and cheer! Scott just let go and the anal retentive man that he is, that was a breakthrough. Cassaday’s drawings were detailed and marvelous especially his Wolverine and the tortured Scott Summers.
Kelly Puckett, Drew Johnson, and Ray Snyder
It started out good—Batman was testing Kara by sending her a gift. It was lead lined so she didn’t know what was in it. Of course she opened it! Inside is a note that said, “mistake.” Then Batman called to tell her show stupid she was. Funny. Then a portal opens and she was brought to…somewhere and there was Superman fighting with the Green Lantern Corpse (presumably during the Sinestro War). I liked that detail that the Corpse were speaking in their own languages and because no one was addressing Supergirl, she didn’t understand any of it. Then she was sent on a mission where she would shadow a Sinestro ship in deep space. She needed to stay exactly 10 meters away from the ship.
Again, I appreciated the detail—Superman told her to hold her breath—she will be flying through the vacuum of space and she has two hours before she asphyxiates. Then follows 10 pages with no dialogue with Supergirl shadowing the ship, becoming bored, tying up her hair, becoming paranoid of being detected, being forced to “dip” in a sun, overcoming the impulse to press the panic button that was given to her, being detected and shot at, needing to breathe, and finally hitting the panic button which opened a portal that brought her back to a disappointed Superman and Corpse. She lost the ship. She was sent home. Then she realized something that for the life of me didn’t make sense.
Did I like the issue? I liked the panels with-out dialogue (Thor would be expecting that) because it was evocative and well executed but on the whole, the plot was confusing. What was happening? Why was Batman testing her? *SIGH* I want this title to be good because Supergirl is one of three of the solo heroine titles in DC. These are my Barbies!
Friday, November 09, 2007
What makes you think
you can cure our disease?
Maybe its just our biology
Maybe its time to make room
for another species
This is the 21st Century!
"Modern Day Catastrophists",
Bad Religion (1993)
In the past decade, Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell has become an established talking-head of pop sociology, largely due to the unexpected success of his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In it, he details how "social epidemics" take place, bringing about radical, sudden and often chaotic shifts in the state of affairs within a particular social network.
Indeed, Gladwell's theories apply rather neatly to the changing perception of mutant society within the fictional Marvel universe (MU) from the start of the new millennium onwards -- at least within the continuity designated as "616" by loyal fans.
However, I'm jumping the gun here. Before I get into that, a quick recap...
When the concept of mutants was first developed in the MU, it was simply a matter of people born with a unique genetic quirk -- an "X" factor -- that bestows them with amazing, frequently dangerous powers (usually manifested during adolescence). In all likelihood, the whole "Children of the Atom" schtick was probably a timely, catch-all narrative device that allowed creator Stan Lee to free himself of the responsibility of writing elaborate origin stories for each character with superhuman abilities. However, as part of the concept, Lee decided that these mutant youths should deal with all the usual mundane teen bullshit that "normal" kids go through, ostensibly to better cope with everyday realities, in the face of their overwhelming power. And so that proto-Hogwarts -- the Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters -- was created as the home-base for the nascent X-Men.
When the X-Men series was revived in 1975 after prolonged hiatus, subsequent writers made a conscious effort to use mutancy as a kind of narrative short-hand for discussing the prevailing social and ethical mores of the era. Advances in the field of genetics and theories of evolution led to the concept of mutants as homo superior -- the next step in the progress of evolution. And this, in turn, informed the separatist agenda of totalitarian arch-villain Magneto. He is depicted as a Jewish holocaust survivor, and father to a pair of half-Roma (gypsy) children, definitively announcing their outsider status within 'proper' Western society. Like the veterans of so many resistance movements, the spurned victims had embraced the megalomania of their oppressors, seeking to establish an insular society of Nietzchean uber-men.
In contrast, Professor Charles Xavier advocated his MLK-esque "dream" of a quasi-utopian world of harmony between mutants and 'baseline' humans, echoing the Civil Rights disputes of the previous decade, whose legal repercussions were only starting to be felt across the fabric of everyday American society.
Interspersed within this over-arching framework were allegories of multiculturalism (including the creation of a handful of culturally diverse -- if tokenistic -- mutant adults), ghetto isolationism (via the deformed, sewer-dwelling mutants known as the Morlocks), environmental conservation and neo-Darwinism (by way of the Savage Land, a verdant jungle landscape where dinosaurs have survived extinction). It was all very topical, but couched in the visual and textual language of "soft" sci-fi and four-color pulp adventure.
As the 80s wore on, the series had largely grown out and franchised, on the strength of heavy character development and over-dramatic soap opera dynamics. But it also gradually lost its focus on mutancy as a theme, with memorable but non-topical epics (the Dark Phoenix Saga), intergalactic campiness (the Shi'Ar, the Starjammers) and quasi-mystical themes (Inferno, the Shadow King).
Mutants were still hated and feared by a world that refused to understand them -- but it was mostly in a vague, general, foreboding kind of way. Still, you'd get the occasional return to form -- such as the one-shot graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, which inspired Bryan Singer's second X-Men film, and threw religious fundamentalism into the mix. But for the most part, the mutant-as-outsider leitmotif receded into the background, usually invoked during single tales as a metaphor for everything from the nascent recognition of Gay/ Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgendered identity, to the difficulty of living with AIDS (by then, already a burgeoning epidemic).
Which all leads me back to Gladwell's Tipping Point...
Friday, November 02, 2007
Perfect comic book casting is so rare. But . . . look!
Born to play the part? Bit of an understatement, that. Count me officially excited about the Shazam! movie more than any other superhero movie being made right now. Except maybe the Deathnote spin-off L.
Helps to be a Rock fanboy, too. Which I am.