Shallow & Pedantic 8 – Comic Books and Other Shenanigans

There’s probably a thousand podcasts meeting that description, but whatever. This one is ours. And we run through a host of topics, some silly, some deeply silly. And we go on for the length of a Bible on them.

I’m using the YouTube embed because WordPress is being every more exponentially garbage at embedding what Spreaker gives me. WordPress’ Podcast Player block refuses to embed my RSS url, and for some reason known only to God the episode permalink, a hack which worked just fine last month, will not embed now. The lengths to which WordPress is willing to go to hobble embeds for paying customers feels like emotional abuse. I’m not going to pay another $300 for your Business Plan so I can have plugins just so things that aren’t YouTube embed normally, WordPress. You can go pound sand.

Merry Christmas.

I Don’t Feel At Home in Pop Culture Anymore

Probably that’s not news. I haven’t felt at home in some time, really. Maybe that’s just getting old, but even when I was young I’ve found the pseudo-devotion off-putting. One thing I’ve said for years is that the reason I never became a Trekkie wasn’t because I didn’t like Star Trek, but because I didn’t want to have conversations with nerds about it.

Nerds are the absolute worst. I never felt comfortable as one. I refused to dig deep into comic books, D&D, or anything else, because having to devote that much mental energy about being right about something that doesn’t matter felt strange to me.

But Andrew, you say, there’s like fifteen essays scatterered around this blog about Star Wars. You’re absolutely a Warsie.

No, I’m absolutely not. I tried to be. I found it distasteful. I loved Star Wars when I was a kid, wanted to transfer that love to new movies, and couldn’t. The idea of raging at someone on Twitter about it seems like dumb games for dumb prizes. Star Wars is over. Even Disney has said so. It will exist as a niche market for streaming content on the Disney+ app, until the cost overlays get to be too much, and then it’s over, it’s done.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some comic books. If you want to have a chat about Watchmen, or From Hell, or Superman: Red Son, or a handful of others, I’m your guy. I’ve got no animus against the MCU. If those fans are happy, great. Keep doing more of that, or whatever.

But this I do not get:

Again, nothing against Stan Lee. I always reckoned him a cool dude, and have since he showed up in Mallrats for no particular reason. And it’s fine to admire him as an artist and creator. But crafting icons on his feast day is bizzarre, creepy, and kind of blasphemous. Yet this is what so-called “nerd culture” seems to bring out of people: the glorification of the mundane.

And quite frankly, I find this boring, and much of the conversation about his creation: stupid games for stupid prizes. That’s why I’ll ignore everyone who tries to get me to care about Mandalorians. It’s not that I’m prejudging it as being poor quality: I don’t even care if it’s good.

I want something else. I want to make something else.

That’s why this exists.

You Ever Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight? In Praise of the First Batman Movie

Yes, I know. The first Batman movie came out in 1966, and was filled with moments of epic hilarity such as “Some Days You Just Can’t Get Rid of a Bomb!” I watched it a little while ago with my oldest. It’s grand, campy fun. We all know what I’m talking about, nerds.

Red Letter Media, casting about for horrible movies to mock, as they do, settled upon supplying a commentary track for Batman & Robin, the ne plus ultra of ridiculous cartoony nipples-on-body-armor dreck that sank the franchise like a filagreed Batmobile at the bottom of the harbor until Nolan made art out of it.

And I suppose that said moldy pile of creative leavings deserves the mockery. I say “suppose” because I was wise enough not to see it, having been warned by my brother how bad it was. I wasn’t really that interested anyway. The franchise had been declining since the first sequel. Yeah, I said it. Batman Returns, the one that still had Keaton as Batman and Burton directing, is a confused, sloppy pile of whatever that people got excited about at the time because it had Michelle Pfeiffer in a tight leather suit with a whip (once, in the before time, in the long long ago, that was a thing). It has Penguin as some kind of drooling special-needs freakazoid rather than the most intellectually astute of Gotham’s rogues, and the actual bad-guy is Christopher Walken, as some kind of non-canon business dude. It’s boring, and it’s to Batman what Corpse Bride is to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

And Batman Forever is overwrought and underwritten, with way too many threads in the air and none of them given proper time. The silly Schumakerness of it replacis the Goth-ish Burtonic dread with a weird nod to the 1966-style camp, while trying to make us take it seriously. Only Jim Carrey’s over-the-top rubberface Riddler stands out (which is saying something). So overall, anyone would be better off watching the Nolan series, grim as it may be.

But there was that first movie. A movie that stormed the box office in the summer of ’89, proving that they could be successful. A movie that seems to smell like the 1980’s. A movie that was purple and black and bloody and may still be better than anything that followed it.

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Comic Book Post #5

Being the continuance of a series abandoned…

I never read any of D.C.’s New 52, because I objected to it on principle. The whole point of comic books is that they provide the balance of new tales as part of a coninuity. I get that managing said continuity can be a challenge. But re-booting is pointless. Every issue is a reboot.

Plus, stop “killing” characters. It’s lame.

But D.C. Has abandoned all of that, and given us Rebirth, which is supposed to restore everything as it was without erasing the New 52 stuff. So …

This doesn’t mean I haven’t read anything. I checked out the first few issues of Marvel’s Star Wars reboot, and that was fine. Decent Luke storylines, anyway. I stopped because they started spreading the storylines over five or six separate titles, so I have to buy Princess Leia #8 to continue Darth Vader #11 to continue Star Wars #9. And that’s too damn nerdy for me.

I also kept up on Dark Horse’s Conan titles. Conan the Avenger had a wry humor to it, occasionally at the expense of the title character, while Conan the Slayer is tonally more in line with the original Robert Howard stories.  Both are enjoyable, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I also got this:

Because Deadpool is funny, and he makes Spider-Man funnier, and I have the Erik B. And Rakim album this cover references. You got me, Marvel. You got me.

But what finally broke me from my D.C. boycott was a little documentary I caught on Hulu, Batman & Bill, which chronicles the campaign to get D.C. to officially credit the man who created much of the Batman universe, Bill Finger. Bob Kane, who claimed all the credit as the creator of Batman, apparently came up with the name, and not much else. Everything around the name, from the costume, the villains, the secondary characters, even the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, was Bill Fingers work. But Kane made the deal with D.C., so every Batman comic and movie and TV show has “Batman created by Bob Kane” in the credits. Kane died a millionaire and Finger died in poverty and obscurity.

But the truth will out. As early as the 1960’s, people whispered the truth that Batman was not a solo act, but Kane vigorously stuck to the legend. And after he died, so too did D.C. Finally in 2015, after generations of Finger’s heirs and the nerd community shouted loud enough, D.C. agreed to change the credit, starting with the Batman vs. Superman movie.

So I picked up Batman #23, a Swamp Thing crossover with an interesting nihilist villain. It’s well-drawn and appropriately gloomy. And on the first page:

That’ll do, Bats. That’ll do.

March Comic Book Post: Please Don’t Humanize the Comedian

I finally got the last two issues of Three today, and I am absorbing the boulder-to-the-face that is their finale. At the fifth issue, finality. That’s several pleasant layers of verisimilitude mixed with  economy of storytelling. I’m saving it for next month’s post.

Plus any thoughts she might have about Darth Bader (sic).

Besides, I thought I might chime in on something that DC’s been doing that’s annoying me. No, not killing Batman. That was merely lame. No, not the whole New 52 reboot. That’s merely desperation. No, I’m talking about the whole “Before Watchmen” franchise, and specifically what it did to the Comedian.

On paper, the characters from Watchmen should be ripe for some prequel exploitation. They’re masked heroes who had a decades-long history in an alternate universe. Plenty of story to tell, and plenty of freedom to tell it in – provided you don’t abuse the chronologically-later storyline of the original graphic novel.

But this right here, this is garbage: Read more

January Comic Book Post: The 70’s Punching You Right in the Face

This was supposed to be January’s Post, but I didn’t get around to it. There will be a February post as well…sometime in April, the way things are going.

The most Jedi way to handle this situation.

I’ve been meaning to address this scene, from Issue #2 of The Star Wars, but I was waiting for it to get addressed. I’m waiting for Annikin to have to, you know, apologize for knocking a Princess the hell out. Leia does start to complain to Luke Skywalker in the following issue, but is cut off by the death of her father at imperial hands. That’s where it’s been left, and both characters seem as though their fine with it. We even see the obligatory romance blossoming between the two, for which this event must be the obligatory hair-pulling.

The other reason I haven’t gone after it with the vigor of say, this blogger, is because this is a rough draft. This is the part of the creative process when you just kind of throw things around and see what sticks. This is, thankfully, something that didn’t stick around. The actual princess Leia has far more spine than this silly little girl getting all upset about her lack of entourage (she’s more like Vespa from Spaceballs, really), and neither Luke nor Han ever lay a finger on her, not because they’re so fond of her (“no reward is worth this”) because it’s not necessary to beat a woman in order to awaken her to danger.

My guess is the contrary cliche worked its way through Lucas’ noggin onto the rough draft page, where it was excised as a cheap piece of tension that didn’t fit either character (both of whom largely ended up being other characters).


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December Comic Book Post: No, Batman is not Fascist.

I picked up the new Three and The Star Wars yesterday. They’re pretty awesome, but I’m saving my discussion of them for a later post.

Today I’m going to pick up a gauntlet cast down last month, and talk about Superman: Red Son, which will dovetail nicely into this piece by Chris Yogerst in the Atlantic, “Stop Calling Superheroes Fascist”.


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November Comic Book Post: The Geek Returneth

photo (2)

Yesterday I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for years, organize and file my comic books. It took me the better part of a morning, but I’m terribly pleased with the general sense of imposing order on chaos.

I am no more than a dabbler in comic books. I read them sporadically as a kid – Mostly Batman, in the wake of the 1989 film (although I do have a vintage, wrinkled Transformers comic, from that long plotline when Optimus Prime had had a core dump or something and Ratchet was leading the Autobots).

In recent years, I’ve put my money in large-scale graphic novels, to the idea of getting more for my buck. I’ve got the Alan Moore masterpieces (Watchmen, From Hell), a few of the “classic” Batman Graphic novels (The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke), a few lesser-tiered (Dark Victory, Hush), and some of the USE-ALL-THE-DC-CHARACTERS tomes, Infinite Crisis and such.

I also have the Batman that was on the shelves in November of 1976, when I was born. Birthday present from my wife, who – bless her – encourages my nerderies.

Yeah, I’m a DC kid. Deal. Read more

Gay Green Lantern is Gay (UPDATED)

This is why I pretty much only read Batman. Because Batman is too completely messed-up a character to have a normal sexual life, his comic is also blessely free of this kind of horsefeathers.

Green Lantern sucks. I know this because I have never read it. I have never read it because it’s a dude/series of dudes who have magic rings which enable them to do pretty much anything they want. Any conflict in any Green Lantern story is therefore completely manufactured.

Superman has the same problem. Superman is God in a fancy outfit. Superman can fly, shoot heat from his eyes, blow cold from his mouth, survive a nuclear blast, and see through anything except lead. The idea that such person can be held in check by a corrupt Moriarty-type staggers all reason. It’s boring, and so is Superman.

Whereas Batman is plausible. Batman is self-made. He’s a rich guy who decides to make himself a terror to the underworld to avenge himself. He wasn’t forced to become Batman by a galactic gamma wave or a secret government project or a (ahem) radioactive spider.

Not pictured: Cancer.

But best of all, Batman stories are not about Batman’s idiotic love-life. Which is good, because — news flash — a lonely plutocrat orphan who devotes his energies to beating the crap out of criminals and sociopaths is emotionally retarded. Yeah, he knocked up Ras al-Ghul’s daughter, and then abandoned her. Yeah, there’s Poison Ivy, Gotham’s resident vegata dentata. And the on-again, off-again Catwoman flirtation. But Batman is never going to be anyone’s husband, or really anyone’s lover. He’s a warrior-monk.

So I don’t have to deal with the question of Batman preferring sausage to taco, because it’s completely irrelevant to being Batman.

So why is one of the Green Lanterns now gay? Is being gay really important to the intricacies of being chosen to have the magic ring and then flying all over the universe fighting alien warlocks or whatever?

Of course not. We know why Green Lantern is now gay. Green Lantern is now gay because DC Comics wants to show themselves off as the kind of modern, sensitive writers who could totally write a gay superhero. Because we’re all expected to applaud themselves for having the courage to show the Protector of the Universe furtively eyeing other guys’ butts. And if anyone has any kind of objection to so doing, we can pat ourselves on the back for being better than them.

If they made Batman gay, then that would be because they decided Batman really was gay. Making Green Lantern gay is a sad attempt to make Green Lantern more interesting. It won’t work.

UPDATE: Bill Quick thinks me a fool. So does one of his commenters. I’ve been away from my blog, so I hadn’t even noticed until just now. So I guess that makes them right.