Monday, March 31, 2008

A little bit about my Real Life

OK, since I've been back, I've mostly focused on various comic things, with some asides to general pop culture and a little politics (which is degrading into a separate form of pop culture, but that's a post for another time). So, today, I'll give you a peek into my real life.

I'm a grad student in mechanical engineering, specializing in fluid mechanics, my research nowadays is strictly in artifical heart pumps (Ventricle Assist Devices, or VADs). So, I guess me and Polite Scott could have some nifty in-depth discussions re: Tony Stark here, and his long history (and future) of heart problems and the devices he uses to keep him upright (when he's not busy knocking himself down with booze, that is).

Sadly, my life is not yet as glamorous as Tony's. Most Engineers are far closer to the "Dilbert" or Mitchell Hundred (From "Ex Machina") end of the spectrum than the "Tony Stark" end. On the other hand, Tony's engineering knowledge never comes into play except in the most generic senses: "I need to build something fast!" , "I recognize the design style and the purpose!" "I know science", etc.

Engineering is, and should be portrayed as more than that. It isn't just that you have an idea and build it; yes, that gross oversimplification can work a lot of times in fiction, but it doesn't really do the profession justice. There's also questions of ethics (something that almost never comes up, and probably should), of usability (like, ok, Tony built the armor, but the only problem Rhodey had with it was with some the mind hook up? Not the fact that he was taller and has generally been depicted as having a much more muscular frame than Stark? What the hell?), of safety and redundancy engineering, and of standards for the public and for others. That's a lot, and I think it could make for some really cool stories. But, that I'll leave for future days.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Good Start

Smarter people than me have already commented on the Siegel/Superman/DC comics ruling;
-Alan David Doane
-Christopher Bird
-The Fortress Keeper
-Uncivil Society

Let me for one say this: ABOUT GODDAMNED TIME.

There is absolutely no reason on earth for the comic industry to continue operating in the 1920s. NONE. It is this attitude, enforced by moronic fans (a huge number of those that apparently post on Newsrama) who genuinely believe that giving people what they are due will end their little hobby. Well, newsflash to you people:

  1. No one is going to go bankrupt over this: Time-Warner is probably the largest corporate entity on this planet. They can afford to backpay the family of the creator for his hard work.
  2. And yes, it was hard work, and fuck you for thinking otherwise. Any kind of creative work, whether it is in the arts or technical, like a patent, is worthy of protection and renumeration. And, if you don't think that it's such a big deal, go look up "Nikola Tesla", and then talk to me. I'm an engineering grad, and if I knew that something I made was being used to generate huge amounts of profit, then yes, I'm entitled to my fair share, and yes, it should be used to support my heirs even after I'm dead, because that's part of my legacy to them. Most people work for survival and to provide a future for their families. The reason Paris Hilton, ok, the reason you even know Paris Hilton exists is because her ancestors created a legacy and an inheritance for her to abuse on stupidity.
  3. In relation to Point 1.: Don't worry little fanboys, they are still going to be putting Superman out there in comics, toys and all that other stuff: it's simply too profitable in the long run for them not to. Just that now the family should hopefully start getting their rightful due.

Personally, I hope this is the beginning of more creative rights fights in the industry, and with any luck, it will lead to either to both fairer deals for creators in terms of renumeration for their efforts and contributions, or it will lead to those companies that are simply too stupid or viscious to stop publishing (yeah, I'm talking about Marvel), and then hey, if those characters become public domain, I've shown that I'm perfectly happy with this.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blue Beetle in Ten Posters or Less!

The latest issue, the climax of the story that has been building in the background for the last years is out.


Blue Beetle is one of those titles that shouldn't work if you believe so-called "conventional wisdom":

PROBLEM: A New Character: Really, when has this much positive reaction been sent to a brand new character? The last time I think this happened might, MIGHT have been Impulse.

SOLUTION: Show him learning the ropes, and making rookie mistakes. Show him actually feeling the stress an everyman would feel making these kind of high-stakes battles. Give it Emotional Content, but don't forget to make him likeable.

PROBLEM: Appeasing the fan base of Ted Kord that the new guy is worth their time?

SOLUTION: Being respectful of the kind of person Ted Kord was, and making the new guy earn his own place, not by being a copy of Ted, but by respecting his legacy. (See the "What would Ted Kord Do?" in the first poster below):

PROBLEM: He's in the DCU- doesn't that mean he'll be mixed in with a lot of confusing continuity garbage?

SOLUTION: Well, so long as you keep the DCU references to a minimum, and let the readers fill in the blanks however they want, you get to have it both ways: he is on the periphery of the DCU, so it's not like what happens to the Teen Titans affects him, but at the same time, the Titans can show up and it'll make for a cool scene, as below

PROBLEM: OMG he's a DCU character! His Family is dead, isn't it?

SOLUTION: No, in fact, his relationship with his family is probably one of the most moving and interesting back-and-forths in the series. It's clever, cute, and shows that a full family can actually be, you know, a helpful thing (Joe Quesada, I'm looking at you!)

PROBLEM: OMG, he's a DCU character! His friends must all be idiots not to figure out his Secret Identity!

SOLUTION: What I just said about his family? It goes double for his friends. Blue Beetle has pretty close to the best supporting casts this side of Batman. And none of them are emo.

PROBLEM: All Superheroes have terrible love lives! Joe Quesada Says So!

SOLUTION: TRACI 13, the cute teenage sorceress. His dating life isn't perfect: there's distance, and different commitments, but it's nonetheless a great feature to the book.

And so concludes the lecture: Go get Blue Beetle now!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fashion Night!

Because really, some people should know better:

And some do:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Your Moment of Funny

Real blogging should be back to normal tomorrow. Had a great Easter weekend with the family. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

And while he isn't Jesus, he does communicate the man's teachings as well as anything I've ever read in the Bible.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In which Marvel History is laid bare...

In the few weeks since I've returned to blogging, far and away the post I've received the most commentary on is my list of the many, many failures of the Initiative in Marvel Comics. What's sad is that people are surprised by the level of ineptitude shown by the Marvel Universe's United States government. The truth is, that if you take a historical look at their track record when it comes to government superhumans, well, it doesn't take a futurist genius to realize that this idea was bad from the start.

Here's the list as best as I can get: feel free to add your own in the comments:

-Captain America and the Original Super-Soldier Project: Far and away the most successful thing you are going to see on this list in terms of producing a superhuman who protects the US (The people above the government, but all said and done, the ratio of Steve being helpful to the government far outweighs his occassional strong criticisms). To be as generous as I can, we'll even count the replacement Captains of the 1940s (the Spirit of '76 and the original Patriot) as successes, despite the fact that neither was superhuman. And we'll leave the Cap of the 1950s alone. Of course, you'd also have to consider that to get Cap, the government first did some pretty horrific product testing (See: THE TRUTH and also: Protocide), so you can argue that they did a lot of stuff to get to where they wanted to.

-Sentinels: OK, can someone tell me if outside of "Days of Future Past" the Sentinels have EVER been effective? Because it seems to me that from Day One to Sentinel Squad O.N.E. these guys have been the least competent killer robots imaginable.

-Henry Peter Gyrich: the former Avengers Czar who pushed the Avengers from being US-sponsored to being UN-sponsored. That's got to qualify as a massive clusterfuck, nevermind that time when he was on the Commission of Superhuman Activities and got brainwashed by Baron Strucker, or his problems in dealing with the Black Panther....moving on.

-The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants becoming "Freedom Force": I like to imagine this was the conversation that was had by the MU U.S. Gov't:

"So, we need a team of American Superhumans that will do as we request and serve our interests"
"Well, we've got the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants locked up right now. We could offer them pardons and give them carte blanche as Federal Agents"
"Are we talking about the same group that a few months ago tried to kill a U.S. Senator in broad daylight?"
"Yes, so?"

"And what precautions would we take to make sure that they don't, I don't know, kill the President if they feel like it?"
"OK, fine, just get the paperwork started"

Granted, they EVENTUALLY learned their lesson and then employed X-Factor as their team, which eventually included Mystique and Sabretooth, whom eventually killed a US Presidential candidate. Oops!

-GI Max - basically a low-rent Captain America knock-off from the early days of the Mark Gruenwald run. Of course, when it comes to Cap-knock-offs, you really have to talk about:

-NUKE: Yes, the surgically created, drugged up killing machine. Really, what more needs be said?

-John Walker: Another in the line of failed attempts to replace Captain America

-The "Super Sailor" from Priest's "Captain America/Falcon": See John Walker, but make him crazier. The End.

-WEAPON X: Ah, the Big Dog of Government superhuman manufacturing and control gone wrong. Now, I could spend an entirely separate post on the many, many failings of this group: from that one Hydra section chief they created (Silver Fox) to the random mercenaries (Maverick), but, then again, we've got the two most sterling examples of their work: Wolverine, a killing machine that trusts no government and pursues an agenda that is often at their cross-purposes, and Sabretooth: a pure killing machine that trusts no one and pursues an agenda of "killing whatever is in my immediate vicinity". How was it that when the superhuman community was assembled in the first issue of Civil War, and Susan Richards brought up the question of "what would be so wrong with getting government training?" that Logan didn't immediately chime in "I was registered and trained by my government, would you like to know what they trained me FOR?" DISCUSSION OVER.

So, should anyone be surprised that the current attempt at government superhuman control, no matter how benign, is riddled with incompetence? I think not. But then again, we aren't futurists like Tony Stark.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Take your "Passion" and Shove it: A Rant

Be warned, I'm going to go a little nuts here.

Full Disclosure: Born and Raised Roman Catholic, went to Catholic High school, recieved all the sacraments, etc.

Seriously people, "The Passion of the Christ"? Nothing more than a Jesus Snuff film.

How do I know this?

Let's play a little game shall we? If that movie were about any other character, historical, real or fictional, how do you think the Christian establishment would have reacted to the graphic content of the film?

That's right: Universal condemnation. They would have been screaming their heads off about "liberul Hollywood" ramming their filth down their necks. But because it involves Jesus, well, then it's A-OK! Let's bring the whole family to see the blood!

I see a lot of people (including those I call friends) heavily promote this film during Holy Week as some kind of universal bromide for the faith. Others even promote it as a cure-all for moral decay and for political motivation. I will address these issues below, and hopefully, definitively, state why I think a little reality check is in order for people.

JUSTIFICATION #1: The Stark realism of the film is brutal uncensored true account of the crucifixiton.

I would ask you to check all four of the gospels of the New Testament and note how they are all exactly the same in every detail. Oh, wait, they aren't. NONE OF THE FOUR GOSPELS EXACTLY AGREES WITH ANY OF THE OTHERS. Oddly, you don't find any mention of the details of the Passion in later parts of the New Testament, which one would assume would give some clue as to a definitive version of the tale because it was suppossedly written later. Funny that. Now if you are wondering why this is, you can just go to Wikipedia or Google and put in "Council of Nicaea". You might learn something.

The next reason this particular justification is so laughable:


I cannot emphasise this enough: This was Mel Gibson's interpretation of the events. He may have taken some creative license or input his own religous influences. Just saying, you may want to apply as much critical thought to the passion as you would to the question of "Hey, do you really think the General Lee could jump over that ravine?"

Of course, this is probably the silliest justification, and the easiest to disassemble. The next ones require...well, they require a bit of a strong stomach really.

JUSTIFICATION #2: We need to see this level of violence to help people get back in touch with their faith.

First off, may I say that heaven help you if you require a Hollywood film to reaffirm your faith in the Almighty. Clearly, your religous values mean very little to you.

Now this may come as a shock to some, but in the days before "The Passion", one could celebrate the miracle of Christ's rebirth without a $30 million dollar Hollywood film. Churches, schools groups, and the occassional theatre group would and surprisingly still do put on their own tiny Passion Plays in this season. One wonders what motivates them; an attempt to spite Gibson and cut into the DVD sales? Or, and this is just a thought, that these are people whom, without the aid of millions of dollars of promotion and one of the biggest Hollywood actors of the last 20 years, are committed to actually expressing their faith and getting in touch with it and spreading their word to the communities that they share their values with? No, that's crazy!

I don't need to watch any movie to be reminded of my faith, and I sure as hell don't need to see every gory detail and buckets upon buckets of blood. Do I appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus? OF COURSE. Jesus was a great guy; he spoke out against blind obedience to the authority systems that prevailed in his day, and taught people to rise above their petty hatreds and nonsensical tribalistic dogmas to address that which was truly important. I believe that to truly appreciate the sacrifice of Christ means to follow in his teaching and how he acted in LIFE. I've never understood the people who obssess over the crucifixion; You can't understand what a guy died for unless you understand what were the teachings he was willing to die for. That's why I do go back to the New Testament and occassionally read from it and try to decipher what it means for ME, for TODAY. Everything else is kind of icing on the cake.

Fair warning; here's where the rant gets very politically charged. So if you have any qualms, turn back now.

JUSTIFICATION #3: We need Christian Fundamentalists to combat the scourge of Islamic Fundamentalists.




That's like saying that you need the cancer in your right lung to kill the cancer in your left lung.

Let's compare, shall we? Last I checked, Christian Fundamentalists wanted:

  • The Elimination of separation of Church and State
  • The State to rigidly adhere to a literal translation of Church Doctrine
  • The State to enforce Religious Doctrine on the people
  • The Curtailing of Civil Liberties when they run contrary to Church Doctrine
  • The Suppression of Academic and Scientific pursuits that offend the Church
  • The Repression of Women

and the Islamic Fundamentalists want...oh right, EXACTLY THE SAME THING, just with a change on the name plates. So excuse me if I'm not quite ready to surrender the concepts of democracy and dissent of authority to a bunch of crazy people so insecure about their belief system that they would burn people at the stake rather then engage in any kind of critical thinking. Look, if you want that, please, go somewhere else and let the rest of us actually try to make this whole "Freedom" thing work, k?

That's all for now. Sorry I haven't posted much in the last couple days.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reason #1 why "Superhero Movie" will suck

Because it does not have the glory that is Christopher Lee.

That is all

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Posted for pure Undisputed TRUTH

Stings, don't it?

If Doctor Doom, the (literally) iron-fisted tryant hellbent for leather on world domination and killing a man for looking at his homework says you are a prick, than MAN you need to get some good PR FAST

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens 1955-2003

Rocketeer creator and all around great artist and pulp aficionado Dave Stevens passed away today.

Goddamn shame, that is. My friend Derek and I were actually talking about the film on Friday and whether something like that could ever work (Short answer: no). But, at the same time, there's still an art litho of the Rocketeer movie promo poster still hanging in my room, and it's still one of my all time favorite movies.

I can think of no finer tribute to him than this following poster I made a while back, using art from another great artist taken from us too goddamn soon: Mike Wieringo.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What if we lived in a Comicbook Universe, part 4

Seriously, these assclowns wouldn't be able to move five feet without getting socked in the jaw. Can we please please please tell these people that they lost the war over 140 goddamn years ago and that it is time for them to at least try and join the 21st century? Please?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Notice to Mark Millar

I think I finally get it.

You see, I kind of wondered what the whole point of Civil War was for you, and how the Registration Act was supposed to work. I know in some interviews you compared the idea of Registration to when the gunfighters of the Old West became the sheriffs and that the other gunfighters who wouldn't go along became outlaws and ultimately relics of the past. Which is fine, really. Except for the fact that after that happens, there are no real westerns. That's kind of the end of the genre. So it hardly makes sense to write a story that you figure effectively ends the superhero genre. Not great if you are into job security.

Ok, the next is the "realism" canard. And yes, I will concede, the Registration act would be a realistic response to a world where people shoot lasers out their eyes and fly around. However, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to something: The body of work of Western Literature and drama. From Odysseus to Sherlock Holmes to James T. Kirk to Jack Bauer and Dr. Gregory House, to name but a very, very few, their stories can all be broken down to this very simple cliche:

They were outsiders. They went against the system and fought the stodgy authorities. THEY ARE USUALLY RIGHT.

See that? That formula works 99% of the time because at the end of the day, everyone roots for the underdog fighting the system, no matter how unrealistic it would be or how much, in real life, you really wouldn't want these guys to run amok all the time.

I mean, who roots for the system? Who roots for the guys in the suits with the authority?

Do you root Jack Bauer to be wrong and for LA to blow up in a nuclear explosion?
Would you like to see the criminal outwit Holmes?
Do you cheer on Superman when he went up against Batman at the end of the Dark Knight Returns?

Oh...that's it isn't it?

You are pissed off with Frank Miller. Because when he wrote that, when he dragged down and degraded Superman in order to elevate his vision of Batman, you took it personally. You were furious that they made Superman into a patsy that could be taken down by Batman. And you waited until you could get a chance to rewrite that story, but you couldn't do it with the DC characters. So, you had a powerful, benevolent superbeing that was smarter and "better" than humans (Iron Man) face off against a principled man who was the pinnacle of human achievement (Captain America), and not only did you have the Superman win, but you had the Human renounce his principles in order to hammer home your point. You finally got your revenge.

Well, enjoy it. Enjoy the games where those in power are "the heroes" and everyone else is a misguided simpleton.


I'm rooting for the underdog.


Friday, March 07, 2008

PS238 - The best comic you've never read

As you may or may not know by now, I'm a huge fan of PS238, the series that deals with a secret school for the superhuman children. This series could easily have been very "kiddy" or at worst, derivative and weak. But, it is a testament to Aaron Williams' talent that he can make the children complex and fully developed as characters while still allowing them to be, well, children.
That's not to say that it's all about the kids. In what can truly be called an ensemble cast, the story (and many, many) mysteries of PS238 revolve around the staff. Again, Williams is clearly creating an epic in his own right; there are layers and layers of mysteries in the first 12 issues alone than in the entire annual output of Marvel or DC. All of this is to draw in the readers, and the appeal is to humor that is aimed as much at the kids as at the adults. As a side note, I've spent most of my life in and around people who work in education, so let me say that they would appreciate the attempts at "teacher humor" that are on display in this series;
And really, it's all about a lot of great storytelling, with suspense, humor and intelligent plotting. Great characters who at once embody the archtypes they portray while casting them in new directions. Do yourself a favor: jump over to the website and buy some, right now. Or at the very least, check out the early issues of the series, put up as a webcomic.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Well, there's a downer... least, if you are happy with "Brand New Day"

ICv2 reports that Brand New Day's Debut was the number 2 title, not the number one.

The new top ten reads as follows

134,002 Hulk #1
127,958 Amazing Spider-Man #546
127,626 Captain America #34
113,191 Project Superpowers #0
107,631 Astonishing X-Men #24
105,520 Uncanny X-Men #494
105,070 Ultimates 3 #2
104,793 X-Men 207
101,213 Amazing Spider-Man #547
97,959 Amazing Spider-Man #548

Now, looking at that, you'd still have to say that Spider-Man is doing ok. Well, that is if you choose to accept the following:

  1. That the book lost over 30,000 readers in a single month
  2. That the book lost readers even with there best, most promoted and biggest names on the book
  3. That while the combined total sales are still higher than the Pre-"Brand New Day" sales on the Spider books (Because Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man were selling 40,000-60,000), that the sales on the last two issues of this months Amazing Spider-Man are now BELOW that of Amazing Spider-Man Pre-"Brand New Day"
Personally, I'm just a little sad at all this. The move to "three times a month" for Amazing Spider-Man always struck me as a cynical and exploitive move designed to circle the wagons. And even at that, it doesn't seem to be working thus far.

Another observation: Marvel seems to do very well on the month to month sales, doesn't it? But on the other hand, as someone whom at this point is a dedicated TPB buyer, well, there doesn't seem to ever be any hard data for that. Pity. Because I find I buy a larger number of DC trades. I have no idea why this is. DC just tends to trade more products I want. Oh well.