Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Friday, December 29, 2006

The End

After two years and two hundred-some-odd posts, I'm ending Filing Cabinet of the Damned.

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I began this blog shortly after discovering the miracle of the Comic Internet Blogosphere Talkathon. The delightful madness of dickering over comics and pontificating about What It All Means beckoned to me. I had to join in.

Among my friends and family, I’m the only comic book reader. Filing Cabinet of the Damned provided an avenue to discuss matters that would only generate confused stares and eye-rollings from them.
Harv: “The prophecy says that Darkseid would be killed by his son…but who is his son, really? Orion, the child of his hated wife, a boy he traded away as a youth, a boy he never knew? Kalibak, the offspring of his mistress, a boy he ignored? Or Mister Miracle, the son of his greatest enemy, the boy entrusted to his care? The only boy he himself raised, the only boy who Darkseid cared to mold? Scott Free is Darkseid's true son. Scott will be the one who kills Darkseid in the end!”

Mrs. Harv: “That’s nice, dear. Is this ‘dark side’ the same one Darth Vader talked about? Is Pink Floyd involved? Whose son got away scot free?”

Filing Cabinet was intended to be an outlet for my enthusiasms and pet ideas, and as such, it succeeded, and succeeded brilliantly.

But after a while, I just plain ran out of things to say.

I still enjoy comics, but my excitement over yammering about said funnybooks isn’t there anymore. Recently I picked up a decent-sized stack of comics and the long-awaited Essential Defenders Volume Two, enjoyed the books quite a bit, and yet felt no desire to blog about either of them.

I also farted around with a jokey piece paralleling trends in modern comics and the horrors of Prog Rock, but the damn thing just wouldn’t gel, and, unlike a few months ago, I felt no urge to tinker with the piece.

And thus, I knew I was done.

Playing critic and the general yapping fool was fun for a time, but criticism is not, nor has it ever been, in my blood. Constructing semi-intelligent pieces about other folks’ work no longer feels rewarding. Instead, it feels like time lost from my own work.

All that said, I am not disappearing from the comic blogosphere, nor am I retiring the dumbass pseudonym of “Harvey Jerkwater.” The greatest joy I’ve derived from the comic blogosphere is the connection to like-minded fans it provides. It’s why I blogged in the first place. I’ll continue to read other folks’ comic blogs and make the odd comment here and there.

I’ll also be found elsewhere on the internet, though in non-comic-blog media. Pendant Productions has an upcoming anthology podcast show called Seminar, and I have scripts in the first and fourth episodes. Other junk from my fevered brain will wash up from time to time in other places, I’m sure.

On my way out, I’d like to thank some folks in the blogosphere who’ve made me feel welcome.

Mike Sterling, Neilalien, and Tim O’Neil, a trio of kind gentlemen who gave me my first taste of sweet, sweet publicity.

Scipio Garling of the Absorbascon and Devon Sanders of Seven Hells, who took significant time out of their busy Free Comic Book Day 2006 at Big Monkey Comics to chat with me about a great many things comical.

Dave Campbell, of Dave's Long Box, for his hospitality during my recent visit to Seattle. While in the Emerald City, he charmed the hell out of my wife; for the Dave, the Dave is a smooth devil. He also entertained us with a fine anecdote about Erik Estrada. Sadly, I myself have no anecdotes about Erik Estrada.

The whole crew at Comics Should Be Good, where I was an infrequent poster.

Peter B. Gillis, who wrote not only one of my all-time favorite comics, but a supportive e-mail as well.

Steve Englehart, who granted an interview to this psuedonymous nobody from nowhere.

And, most of all, a big fat thanks to all the readers and commenters on this here blog. I appreciate all of you folks. Really. No foolin'.

It’s been groovy. I’ve had fun.

And rather than drag on a blog I don’t feel like continuing simply for the sake of dragging it forward, it seems proper to end the whole enterprise.


Truth be told, there's another reason beyond simple burnout. My burning out isn't new--I’ve nearly killed this blog a half-dozen times out of disinterest, only to come back when my enthusiasms for comics and nattering about comics rises up again. (“You know what the world needs? A country song about Garth Ennis…I should write one…”)

However, new demands on my time, attention, and enthusiasm have emerged, and, as per the grand cliché, my priorities have been rearranged, likely for a long, long time.

Said priority-rearranger is small, bald, and loud. And it’s not Brian Michael Bendis.

Wee Baby Jerkwater is coming in a day or two.

Damned if the prospect of figuring out how to fit clothes on a squirming baby and which end of the kid to diaper hasn’t sapped my will to prattle on about Steve Ditko and Alan Moore.

(It’s the head, right? The diaper goes over the head, doesn't it? Dammit, where’s that book…)

Eh, who knows. Maybe in three months I'll come crawling back to comic bloggitry, desperate to escape the tyranny of the tot. Probably not, though.

To all the fanboys and fangirls out there, keep it four-color, yo.

See you in the funny books.

Your Internet Bud,

Harvey Jerkwater

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Kirby Character Meme

I’ve been tagged by Plok of A Trout in the Milk with a simple meme from Sean Kleefeld.

Here’s the original challenge from Kleefeld:
The past few years, I've been writing a column for Jack Kirby Collector that looks at Kirby's visual design of characters. It's been infinitely fascinating for me, and I almost always find some surprises in my research on Kirby's design processes for the characters I write about.

I thought I'd bring other people into the fold by my first attempt at starting a blogosphere meme. Here's the premise:

Forget Jack's overall storytelling, forget his characterization, just look at the visual representation of his characters -- the actual drawings themselves. Now tell us what YOU think is the best character design Jack Kirby ever created and why. The challenge, it seems to me, isn't so much finding a good (or even great) character design; it's narrowing the field down to just one!

What is my favorite Kirby character design? Before I give my answer, I’ll start by saying that I love Captain America, and Kirby did a tremendous job with him. But the costume is more than a little goofy.

The basic idea is great: a modern-day knight, with chain mail, gauntlets, and a shield. The flourishes, though, are strange. Wings on the head? The striped midriff? Ah, well.

Much as I love the guy, he looks a little like a dork.

Who is Kirby’s best design?

Who else?


Doctor Doom is the counterpoint to Mr. Fantastic. He is the Dark Side of Genius. Where Richards lives in a bright white tower, open to the public, Doom lives in an ancient fortress in a police state. Richards wears a bright blue jumpsuit and creates inventions to push back the boundaries of human knowledge. Doom wears armor and a mask, and his work is purely for the Greater Glory of Dooooooom!

Richards represents intelligence for the good of all and looking to the future. He is the American Space Age. Doom represents intelligence for personal gain and anchored to the nightmares of the past. He is the Gothic Villain.

Doom’s design has a few great touches. The basic form of his costume is the armor. The armor looks medieval, hinting at Doom’s preoccupation with the occult, as well as Doom’s status as an old-tymey genius, the sort who was feared by the populace and kidnapped local maidens for purposes too horrible to contemplate. Over the armor he wears a green tunic, a little reminiscent of Greece and Rome, and a hooded cloak, which reinforces Doom’s sorcerous flavor.

The true genius of Doom’s design is in the mask. Doom’s look is, for the most part, simple: smooth armored limbs, circles at his joints and clasps, the simple green clothes, and the holster. Nothing notable. Doom’s mask is entirely different, without betraying the basic thrust of the design. It draws attention to Victor’s face though it does not disrupt the harmony of the design while doing so.

Nooks and crannies give the mask a sinister look, and draw attention to Doom’s crazy, crazy eyes. The mask’s mouth is full of techno-gadgetry, hinting that Victor’s true insides are not man, but machine. Moreover, the ugliness of the mask hints at the horrible, scarred face beneath it. Doom’s mask is as ugly and frightening as the man who wears it.

(That’s my pet theory as to why cartoon versions of Doom fail—without the details in the mask, the strengths of his design are lost.)

Kirby’s Doom was the greatest ranting, larger-than-life villain the comics have ever produced. It’s a hell of a look.

Of course it is!


Who do I tag?

Oh, let's see if the Big Dawgs of the Blogosphere are paying attention.

Dave Campbell, paging Dave Campbell. Chris Sims, paging Chris Sims. Bully the little stuffed bull, paging Bully the little stuffed bull. Devon Sanders, paging Devon Sanders.

Kirby meme on the line.

(Devon doesn't much like Kirby, as I recall. That'll make it fun.)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Today's Obvious Joke

Coming This Fall!


In the aftermath of the world-wracking, senses-shattering miniseries event CIVIL WAR comes RECONSTRUCTION!

Wounds will heal!

Alliances will be reformed!

Shattered friendships will be mended!


With malice toward none, with action for all... RECONSTRUCTION!!

A just and lasting series, coming this winter from Marvel!

Click here to read more!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You Could Remake Wings of Desire. Or Not.

[I’ve been puttering with this for a few days, and then Tom Foss of The Fortress of Soliloquy posts something very similar. Dammit. Ah, well…]

The Martian Manhunter, beloved by many comic fans and ignored by the general public, has a miniseries out now that’s supposed to redefine and reinterpret the character. This isn’t a big deal. J’onn J’onzz has been redefined and reinterpreted a half-dozen times. What reviews I’ve read of the miniseries have been negative, and that this revision of J’onn (a grim, X-Files-esque grim-n-gritty conspiracy character) is wrongheaded.

Superman is considered a challenge to write by many because of his vast powers and strength. What can give the Ultimate Man difficulty? The Martian Manhunter possesses that challenge squared.

J’onn’s powers range so widely, it’s hard to make a comprehensive list. To begin with, he has the “Superman Package:” super-strength, flight, invulnerability, “Martian Vision” (a sort-of heat vision), and the now-ignored super-breath. He doesn’t have these powers at the same level as Superman, but he’s not that far off.*

Then there’s his telepathy, shape-shifting, intangibility, and invisibility powers.

I’m probably forgetting a few.**

The Martian Manhunter has been around since the mid-fifties and has never been a major player. In all likelihood, he’ll never be one. But consarn it, the character can be a good one, and I’d love to see him carry an ongoing series again.

Because ideas are cheap and easy, and so am I, here are a couple of ten-cent ideas out of my four-color brain for a workable ongoing Martian Manhunter series.***

Beetle-Brows of Desire
The Logic: J’onn can read minds, travel invisibly, and become anyone. He is also the last of his kind, a lone Martian among billions of humans. More than any mainstream superhero, J’onn could transition to a Vertigo title. The “alienated outsider moping” potential for a Martian Manhunter series is enormous.

The High Concept: Wings of Desire meets The Fugitive. An invisible protector and agent of change, the Last Martian rights everyday wrongs among a group of unhappy people and seeks his place in a world where he does not belong.

You can just smell the clove cigarettes and coffee, can’t you?

“I walk among them unknown. I am with them, but never of them. Alone, forever and ever, to know them to the depths of their souls and yet never truly know them.” And so forth. Anguish! Angst! Arty-fartyness!

A doomed love would be a necessary component to the series, I’d imagine.

Soundtrack by Morrissey.****

The Hunter of Men
The Logic: Most efforts to shape interest in J’onn as a solo character stress his Martianness. But that’s only half of his name. Put the accent on the second half: Manhunter.

J’onn has had flirtations with detective stories throughout his history, and a brief superspy career. During the James Bond Era of popular culture, also known as the mid-sixties, the Martian Manhunter infiltrated, fought, and brought down the eeeevil criminal conspiracy V.U.L.T.U.R.E.

Given J’onn’s less common abilities (telepathy, shapeshifting, etc.), espionage is a genre for which he’s well suited. Particularly comic-book espionage, with its orbital laser platforms, mad scientists, killer robots, and so forth.

The High Concept: The Human Target meets Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, with a hint of Superman. J’onn joins Checkmate, the superspy organization. They may or may not know who he really is. The Manhunter infiltrates and thwarts threats to humanity ranging from the globe-spanning Cult of Kobra to a handful of disaffected soldiers causing trouble in Mexico City. He can uncover anyone’s secret, reach any spot on the planet, and has the power to obliterate whatever stands against him. He was made for low-profile work.

Also, conspiracy masterminds make more sense as foes for J’onn than most villains. With his ability to read minds, the only way to keep him from discovering your plans is to make sure that the people you send against him don’t know your plans. Or know the wrong plans. Or use robots. Y’know, mastermind stuff.

My Three J’onzz
The Logic: The Martian Manhunter has been on Earth since the nineteen-fifties. He’s from a highly advanced civilization that was dedicated to both science and spirit. He’s been reading our minds and living among us for sixty years. In short, despite being a Martian, nobody knows the human heart half as well as J’onn.

Moreover, he’s well-known for being kind, loving, and compassionate. He was a family man on Mars, and he has close bonds with many humans. Due to his great losses on Mars, he appreciates the value of those bonds.

The Manhunter’s greatest success as a character came when he acted as the “heart” of the Justice League, especially in its comedy years. J’onn the kindhearted ringmaster of a loopy circus was a character readers loved.

The High Concept: The Brady Bunch meets Runaways meets Explosiones Grandes en Cuatro Colores. Plus jokes.

Cast J’onn as the patriarch of a clan of orphaned and/or abandoned superhumans. The children of fourth-rate supervillians, like in Runaways, or maybe just random kids. They range in age from ten to eighteen, and include Cindy Reynolds, also known as “Gypsy,” a teenage superheroine towards whom J’onn has felt paternal since her days in the Justice League, oh so many years ago.

The kids can vary in personality and be downright loopy. I figure there'd be about four of 'em, each with different whacked-out powers. A robot dog would be mandatory, as would Oreos. Lots of Oreos.

The Martian Manhunter knows that to keep the kids safe, they have to pretend to be a normal human family. The kids may or may not put up with this at any given moment. Also, since they’re the only superhumans in the greater Denver area, they’re also called upon to act superheroically on occasion.

To round out the family, J’onn and the kids share the house with Elaine Cannell, a character I just made up. Elaine is an ordinary woman with an ordinary life, despite being a telepath. She hides her power, since it freaks people out. Her telepathy is remarkably similar to the Martian flavor, which captures J’onn’s attention. She’s also warm and groovy. They fit together perfectly, and dadgumit if J’onn doesn’t have a love interest.

J’onn helps support the family through detective work with his old partner, Diane Meade. When not on the job, he trains and protects his proteges, as irritating as they can be. And, when the need arises, he leads them into big ol’ super-fights.

The series would have to be kept light and fluffy, with the occasional dip into Big Scary Drama. Sibling rivalry with superpowers! Date night drama! Lex Luthor has sent an army of Bizarros to attack, and they’ve torn up the vegetable garden! The world is ending and Gyspy has a term paper to finish! One of the boys has built nine robot dinosaurs and is attacking the school!

Just spitballin’.

* Also in the Superman vein, he has a signature weakness, in the manner of kryptonite: fire. For most of his career, he’s been pretty much a Superman copy with a stronger emphasis on the alien side.

** Ye gods. It’s almost easier to make a list of things he can’t do. I’m pretty sure he can’t speak to fish. Though I suppose he could talk to fish if he applied himself…dammit, this is hard. He can’t time travel! There ya go.

*** Please note that all of these are “continuity lite.” No retroactive changes, but also not a lot of attention paid to the past. The brief ongoing Martian Manhunter series often got bogged down in explaining old storylines or retrofitting assorted junk into a more coherent shape. As a fan, I appreciated the effort to sort out the past, but it didn’t help the series. As far as these proposals are concerned, the Ostrander/Mandrake interpretation of J’onn J’onzz’s history is just fine.

Comics that exist only to clarify how old comics fit into new comics makes me sad. Infinite Crisis depressed me.

**** I date myself by my musical references. For you kids today, replace "Morrissey" with "Dashboard Confessional."

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Weird Comics: Avengers #1

Early Marvel was really, really strange. Take Avengers #1.

The story begins with Loki, the evil Norse god, tricking everyone into thinking the Hulk was a menace. (Which, come to think of it, he was. Details, eh?) To keep safe, the Hulk goes into hiding...

As an elephant-juggling robot clown in a circus.

Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.


Better still, people fall for it. They "just happened to find" a giant green clown robot with superhuman strength. For that to seem normal, well, let's just say that Marvel Earth must be a very cool place.

Yes, the people fall for the Hulk's cunning disguise. The ant in the panel's lower-left corner doesn't. Take that how you will.

Said ant alerts Ant-Man, who has been searching for the Hulk. Ant-Man rushes to the circus and unleashes his secret weapon and a great catch phrase: "Release the steel cylinder, my tiny warriors!"


Later on, the Hulk fights the Wasp, a tiny flying heroine, with the best tool for the job, and a tool I suppose he always keeps on hand: fireplace bellows.


Near the issue's climax, the mighty Thor comes after his eeeevil brother, only to fall prey to...mad, hot, sweaty hairy-backed troll love.

Yeah, I love comics.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Sub-Mariner's Rogue's Gallery, Improved

Today's dippy thought: The Sub-Mariner's name is "Namor." A good faux-foreign name. Twenty bucks and a box of doughnuts says it was derived from spelling "Roman" backwards.*

That being the case, shouldn't he have a Rogues' Gallery made up of villains named Labinnah, Nainigahtrac, Htogisiv, and Ladnav?

I'm just sayin'.

*The Wikipedia claims that Namor's creator, Bill Everett, got the name to Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I'm not buyin' it. A quick scan of the poem shows no such name, nor even a similar-sounding name. I sez it's "Roman" backwards. The poem may have inspired the character himself, but the name? Nah.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Like a Thief in the Midafternoon

It’s amazing the things a blogger will do to come up with content, especially during National Novel Writing Month.

Take this lame-ass stunt: Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog is taking reader questions. The best question wins a prize.

What’s so lameass about that?

The lameass thing is that I’m stealing a bunch of the questions and answering them myself.

Yeah, yeah, it’s weak. Real life has made me its bitch of late and demanded a lot of my time. As always, the blog is the first thing to suffer.

So...on to the stolen questions!

Fiendenstein said...
Beta Ray Bill is an alien, a cyborg, and an 80's icon....but why does he have a skeletal horse's face?

--THE ANSWER IS: Intimidation purposes. Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot. Thus, he became…an alien cyborg thunder god horse. Makes sense to me. C'mon, tell me that a real-life Beta Ray Bill wouldn’t strike bowel-loosening terror in you and I’ll call you a liar. A dirty, horse-faced liar.

Dave Lartigue said...
Could Lockjaw clamp down on Mjolnir hard enough to prevent it returning to Thor?
--THE ANSWER IS: No, but it would rule if he could. Instead, he’d latch onto the hammer and get dragged back to Thor. I have to say, Lockjaw is far and away the coolest character named after tetanus. Other Inhumans with similar names, such as “Rusty Nailgun” and “Brigadier General Stiffness of Muscles,” were not as popular.

Gordon said...
[Harvey], why isn't there more punching in comics?

--THE ANSWER IS: Kicking is all the rage these days, especially with the rise of soccer-style kickers in the modern era. That being said, I predict a “back-to-punching” movement in the next few years as heroes age. Easier on the hamstrings.

Jim said...
If you were bonded to a disembodied head that only you could see and talk to, who would you want as your Prof. Stein?

--THE ANSWER IS: Emeril Lagasse. He’s cute, he's friendly, and he's so close to a perfect superhero catch phrase it breaks my heart. If Emeril were my Invisible Disembodied Head Buddy, I’m sure I could push him over the top and it work. “BAM! Let’s kick him up the crotch!” And I would.

jacob munford said...
I was reading some comic blog the other day and it posited the theory that due to the insular nature of the superhero comic book industry, it is only a matter of time before Marvel and DC become the same thing. Which made me think...Can Batman and Luke Cage coexist in the same world? And if so, what happens when they run out of thugs to brutally wreck and then sass?
--THE ANSWER IS: Yes, they can. And if that happened, the two of them would put aside their super-identities and open an erotic bakery. Bruce would shape the cakes with a Bat-knife, and Luke would perform the delicate icing work. He's a demon with a pipette. Sweet Christmas!

Shon Richards said...
What reccomended music do you suggest as the soundtrack for your blog?

--THE ANSWER IS: The Tom Jones cover of “Kung Fu Fighting,” available on the soundtrack to the Jackie Chan movie “Supercop.” Or the Tony Bennett album “The Beat of My Heart.” Tony Bennett + Art Blakey = Unfettered Awesomeness.

Brandon said...
Super-expensive Dr. Doom replica costume, jetpack and laser pistol included? Or lifesize remote-controlled Devil Dinosaur that you could ride around on?

--THE ANSWER IS: Assuming the Doom-suit was functional metal armor, I'd pick the Doom suit. Why? Because I already spend an inordinate amount of my time plotting revenge against the Accursed Richards, building super-science gadgets, and yelling “Bah!” The suit would complete the look. A Devil Dinosaur replica would be pure radness, but it’d be hell to keep the damn neighbor kids off of it.

Norrin2 said...
If the original Green Lantern was powerless against wood, how did he handle unwanted erections?

--THE ANSWER IS: His comedy sidekick, Doiby Dickles. “Doiby” was an old hobo term meaning…um…never mind. Hi Mom! Anyway, the answer is “Doiby Dickles.”

Ragnell said...
I can't believe no one else has asked this: What is the meaning of life?

--THE ANSWER IS: A friend of mine struggled with the Meaning of Life for years and then one day it came to him. The key insight? “You know what’s good? General Tso’s Chicken. You know what sucks? That movie Point Break.” He lives his life by these words, as do I.

Christopher said...
Why do people like the Authority so much when the characters are two-dimensional, it doesn't address the implications of its premise, and the fight scenes are purfonctory and lacking in suspense.

--THE ANSWER IS: Because it caters to people’s contempt for others. Reading it allows fanboys to vent their misanthropy and feel superior at the same time. There’s a little portion of each and every one of us that wants to rule the world and suspects the only reason that we don’t is a lack of (metaphorical) balls. The Authority indulges that portion of us. Thus, The Authority is a purer wish-fulfillment book than most, and thus, it stinks at the zoo.

Anonymous said...
such a horrible time for us blog readers;
Dial B for Blog ends
the 4th Rail was already gone
Hypno Ray said he was quitting.
Dave's Long Box takes vacations
the fortress keeper hasn't reviewed much for nearly 3 weeks
The Absorbacon is witty with Golden Age Bondage but where's the review section?
and Devon's slacking.
C'mon [Harvey]'ve been the one constant guy...don't stop now!
My buddy trent told me to start a blog. I did and it's already on hiatus.

--THE ANSWER IS: I myself am going to stop writing this blog at the end of the year. I’ll explain why then. (Of course, I might change my mind. I’ve nearly killed this thing six times.)

Ryan O said...
is the springfield monorail faster than the flash?

--THE ANSWER IS: In my family, we call fires “uh-ohs!”

Johnny said...
where do babies come from?
--THE ANSWER IS: Diamond distributors. I have one on back-order. She’s a holofoil beauty! Hope she has the right number of staples.

djmikerdee said...
Dammit! Why have you not done an overview on the greatest comic series of all time: "Skull the Slayer" - 8 whopping issues of Marvel madness with dinosaurs, aliens, Aztecs and - for two Marvel Two-In-One issues - Benjamin Grimm! C'mon [Harvey]! It's the bestest!!!!

--THE ANSWER IS: I own one or two issues of Skull the Slayer, purchased from a quarter bin. Holy crap, it was a weird series. Also, during the mid-seventies, Marvel experimented with "jackass heroes," and Skull was one of ‘em. A very unpleasant man. A strange, strange book. I may have to dig it out for a post.

Brian said...
Oh no, a huge stack of longboxes full of Good copies of 'Rom Spaceknight' has collapsed and crushed your body! Fortunately it's a Wednesday, and there's a mad scientist at your store ready to transplant your brain into a new body. What body, m'friend? A super-ape? Luke Cage? A cyborg whale with laser cannons sprouting out of its blowholes?

--THE ANSWER IS: An air-breathing octopus with laser-eyes and suckers so powerful they could open up tiny wormholes in the space-time continuum, should I so desire. And I would. Also, the body would have a voice like Barry White. And smell like maple syrup.

Devon said...
Don't hate the playa, hate the game, [Jerkwater]! *wink*

--THE ANSWER IS: I have enough hate for everyone. Not to worry. Plenty to share.

Rick said...
Can you confirm or deny that Batman is the Chuck Norris of the DC Universe? In Justice League Unlimited episode: Destroyer, Batman starts to yell at someone as their bodyguard readies to attack him, yet runs into batman's fist, all with batman focused on talking to his target!

--THE ANSWER IS: I deny it. The Chuck Norris of the DC Universe is…Chuck Norris. His comics have never been published,* because the technology does not yet exist for a printed page to kick each and every reader in the head.
(*No, “Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos” does not count. That was Marvel, and he’s already kicked to death everyone invovled in that fiasco.**)
(**Except Steve Ditko. Even Chuck Norris won’t mess with Steve Ditko.)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

El Dia de los Muertos

Today, November 1, is the beginning of the two-day celebration Dia de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead." The holiday has special meaning to me, as part of my mixed heritage.

To honor my Mexican-American heritage, I celebrate the day by decorating my house in festive skulls and bake some tasty pan de muerto in memory of loved ones and friends who have passed away.*

To honor my Ninja-American heritage, I celebrate the day by killing a lot of people.** The Day of the Dead is big in Ninja culture, what with the traditional emphasis on killing. Killing and family, that's what Ninja are about. Well, and barbeques. Nobody barbeques like Ninja. Anyway, killing on this day ensures that I'll have plenty more friends and loved ones to mourn and celebrate next year. I ask you, what is a Day of the Dead without plenty of dead? A lame-ass holiday, that's what it is.

Even if you aren't of Mexican origins or trained in the deadly arts of ninjutsu, I suggest you take some time out today to remember those who are no longer with us, and celebrate their lives.

And if the mood strikes, go ahead and kill someone. That'll make next year's celebration all the richer.

* This is a blatant lie. I am not Hispanic.

** This is a blatant truth. So watch it. That noise behind you five minutes ago that you didn't hear? That was me, and that was a warning.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Self-Defense Tip #1

We here at Filing Cabinet of the Damned feel it important to give back to the community from time to time. Not only do such acts serve the common good, thus benefitting each and every one of us, it also cuts into the public service time mandated by the courts.

Below is a diagram of a vital self-defense technique, certain to be of use should you ever be threatened: the Twisker Sock.

With this, no one will dast to risk your fisk.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I’m Just Saying, Is All.

The Cranberries’ song Zombie, a mid-nineties hit, would have been a lot cooler had it not been about The Troubles in Ireland and instead been about The Troubles with the Living Dead.

But you see, it's not me, it's not my family.
Eat your head, eat your head, they are biting,
With their stench and their lurch,
And their lurch and their mung.
Eat your head, eat your head, they are coming.
Eat your head, eat your head,
Zombie, zombie

Not everybody is Irish. Everybody fears zombies. Simple as that.


Quote of the day:

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”
--Mark Twain, “Life on the Mississippi.”


I miss super-villain deathtraps. Cheese-laden though they were, they combined ingenuity with visual flair, capturing the purest heart of comic book madness.

There should be a deathtrap renaissance. Fans might dig it.

At least one of the traps should revolve around a theme of air hockey.


Marvel Comics is tying into the soap opera Guiding Light. The soap will have a character get super-powers and mention the comic in episodes, and a few Marvel comics will have Guiding Light stories in them.

It would work so much better with Wife Swap.

“Sue Richards, mother of two and full-time adventurer with her science-hero family in New York City, is changing places with Alice Dolphy, a fun-loving junk food junkie from Tallahassee!”

Well, y'know, assuming that comics were real and stuff.


The expression “a crimp in your style,” meaning something has hindered you, should have an opposite expression. I suggest “a chimp in your style,” meaning that things are going great.

“That raise put a chimp in my style, man!”


National Novel Writing Month kicks off in about a week. To prepare, I absconded with a stack of “how-to-be-writin’-books-and-suchlike” tomes from the public library. After a few days of scanning through them, I have reached a conclusion about books on writing.

To paraphrase Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, I poop on them.

I’m very, very tempted to review the books as a NaNoWriMo countdown. They’re not all entirely useless, just most of them. Then there was John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, which, while giving a few very fine points, also went out of its way to intimidate the reader and stress the need for perfection in all aspects of writing. Ugh. I drew a bit of stone-hearted comfort in the knowledge that Gardner’s own fiction falls well short of his standards.


A recent post by Booksteve reminded me of a movie that every lover of cheap cinema should check out: Roger Corman’s production of The Raven. Not only did it inspire Dr. Strange, the movie itself is a riot.

Roger Corman, King of the Hacks, made a string of Poe-inspired movies in rapid succession. The common themes meant he could re-use sets and even shots, thereby saving tons of cash. This was a typical Corman idea. The Raven was one of the last Poe movies, and he had fun with it.

The cast was incredible. It starred Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Jack Nicholson, and Boris Karloff. Ye gods. To see the traditional actors Price and Karloff against the Method Acting madness of Nicholson and Lorre renders the movie worth the price of rental.

It didn't take itself at all seriously--the story begins with a raven speaking with the voice of Peter Lorre. How cool is that? Very. The Lorre-bird tells sorcerer Vincent Price that he had been transformed into the bird by an eeevil sorcerer and he needed Price's help. The movie gets loopier from there. And yes, it has a woman named Lenore.

The Corman Poe movies were hurried, slap-dash affairs, and they were all the better for it. The very last one, The Terror, took this approach to the extreme. Corman had Karloff on contract for one last day, so he shot a few scenes of Boris doing assorted things. Later, Corman and a group of assistants (including a very young Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicholson) shot a bunch of other footage around the Karloff footage, making the story up as they went, creating a glorious mess.

Hell yeah.


After decades of avoiding them, I've started reading The Legion of Super-Heroes. A reboot, plus Mark Waid, got my attention. So I bought the first two trade paperback collections.

Danged if I don't like it. Waid plays into the zeitgeist very well. He is a clever, clever bastard. I'll write a longer post about it soon.


I would kill a man right now for a sweet, sweet doughnut.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Mark Trail's Newest Ally in the War On Naughtiness!

The Mark Trail comic strip for Thursday, October 16, 2006 introduced a bold new character, one certain to become a fan favorite:


He's ready to lend a bill to help Mark Trail arrest a pair of dastardly poachers!

He'll find them and bring them to web-footed justice if he has to tear apart the city to do it!

Crimefighter Duck is a relentless manhunter! No crooks can shake this drake!



On a mostly unrelated note, I just found out that the upcoming Dr. Fate ongoing series will be written by Steve Gerber. The Gerb was responsible for some of the great whacked-out comics ever produced, including the recently-cancelled and damn fine book Hard Time. His fondness for the absurd, his gift for strange imagery, and his strong humanism should make the series a high point for DC.


Whoever hired The Gerb for the job, I owe you a fruit basket.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Joys of Super-Villainy

Bully over at Comics Should Be Fun recently asked:

[What about the] lower level of science villain who's smart and savvy enough to create technology powerful enough to at least temporarily go up against Spider-Man or Superman or Batman or the Flash, but doesn't cash in on it: what's his story, I always wonder? Why has the megalomania gotten in the way of him seeing that he just developed a dandy radioactive-powered ice gun for which world conglomerates would pay millions to lease or buy the technology, and instead decide to use it to rob the Second National Bank of Keystone City?

Oh, innocent stuffed bull. So young.

Say you've been puttering around your garage and accidentally invented The Mighty Veeblefetzer, a device that allows you to transform, um, adult contemporary radio hits into deadly force blasts. A Phil Collins CD would be enough to shatter a mountainside, Kenny G albums could liquefy the flesh of an entire city from a distance of twelve kilometers, that kind of thing.

If you took your mind-blowing invention and went legitimate, a typical day might go like this:

Begin the day with a board meeting. Then enter a conference call with two subcontractors, a customer, and a government observer. Later spend six hours going through spreadsheets to calculate monthly EACs. Stay at the office late into the night to polish up a report that will hopefully keep the research funding flowing.

If you took your invention and went eeeevil, a typical day might go like this:

Begin the day by donning your Invincible Battle Armor. Take to a stage in front of millions of your brainwashed minions. Bellow to them that you will destroy the world should the fools in Washington not accede to your all-too-reasonable demands. Tell your minions of their need to sacrifice themselves for your glory. Then shake your fists above your head in triumph as you cry out "WHO WILL DIE FOR ME?" and celebrate as those hapless millions scream their desire to end their lives simply to please you. Feel the world tremble in fear beneath your feet.

Granted, the first instance would probably end with a viewing of "Law and Order" reruns and a nice conversation with the spouse back at home, and the second would probably end with a gaggle of super-beings caving in your skull or disintegrating you.

Until that moment, what a rush.

The key to villainy is that it's so much fun. Life without the occasional power-mad cackle or cry of "seize him!" is a life hardly worth living. Super-villaining is choosing to live in a universe ruled by a bipolar god: the lows are lower than you'd ever believe, and the highs are greater than a normal person could ever fantasize.

Imagine that your favorite sports team has won the World Series/Super Bowl/whatever, you've struck a massive gold vein in your backyard, the Sexiest Man or Woman Alive has shown up on your doorstep seeking your affections, and the news announced that your face will be added to Mount Rushmore in light of your total awesomeness.

Now imagine all of that happening at the exact same time.

The best parts of super-villainy are like that. But better.

The finest explanation of villainy comes from a true American pioneer in the field. Henry David Thoreau stalked the forests of New England in the mid-nineenth century, clad in a green mask and tights. He called himself "The Verdant Caesar" and used a primitive robot, a "steam-boiler man" of his own construction, to attempt a conquest of Concord, Massachusetts.

Though he failed due to the interference of an unnamed "Wonder Horse," Thoreau's account of his career inspired generations of super-villains. To quote from the original, unedited text of Walden:
I went to the woods because I wished to live villainously, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived.

Preach on, brother Harry. Preach on.

By the way, I'm starting up a super-secret world-conquering conspiracy. So far I've got a few telepathic gorillas, a ninja clan on retainer, a mid-sized flying saucer, some doohickey I bought on eBay called a "Magma Bomb," and a line on a fixer-upper Giant Nazi Robot. (I'm good with tools, so it should be operational by Christmas.) Those wishing to volunteer now as either elite guards or goon-class henchmen, please notify me in the comments section. We will conquer, they will bow at our feet, the world is ours, etc., etc.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hector Hammond, MODOK, and Me: The Benefit of the Epic Melon

I have a big head.

Not just in the figurative sense; it is also true in the strictly physical sense. According to current medical literature, my head fits in the technical category of "Epic Melon."

How epic? I cannot wear hats, save for those available at Big Head Caps. My skull's circumference is greater than two feet. The only people I know of with larger noggins than mine are a pair of NFL linemen, both all-around enormous men, both over six foot six. I'm five foot ten.

The advantages of giant heads have proven to be few. I do save a lot of money in souvenir caps, since nobody makes 'em in my size. Nobody dares to engage me in head-butting competitions.

Today I ran across this tasty tidbit from Reuters News Service:
Head growth in infancy tied to later intelligence
Head growth in fetal life and infancy is associated with later intelligence, new research hints. Moreover, catch-up increases do not appear to compensate for poor early growth.

"Brain growth in early life may be important in determining not only the level of peak cognitive function attained but also whether such function is preserved in old age," the study team writes in the journal Pediatrics. "Older people with a larger head circumference tend to perform better on tests of cognitive function and may have reduced risks of cognitive decline and of Alzheimer's disease."

Several studies in children have shown that those with larger brains, measured with imaging studies or as head circumference, tend to score higher on tests of cognitive function. Similar associations have been found in adults.

For their study, Dr. Catharine R. Gale, of the University of Southampton, UK, and colleagues examined the effect of head growth in fetal life, infancy, and childhood on brain power at the ages of 4 and 8 years. Included in the study were 633 term children who had their head circumference measured at birth and at regular intervals thereafter.

By age 1, mean head circumference increased from 34.9 cm at birth to 46.6 cm. Head growth after infancy was slower. Mean head circumference increased to 50.9 cm by 4 years and to 53.4 cm by 8 years.

Average full-scale IQ was 106.3 at 4 years and 105.6 at 8 years. The investigators report that only prenatal growth and growth during infancy were associated with later IQ.

At 4 years, after adjusting for parental factors, there was an average increase in full-scale IQ of 2.41 points for each 1 standard deviation increase in head circumference at birth and 1.97 points for each 1-SD increase in head growth during infancy. This was conditional on head size at birth.

Head circumference at birth was no longer associated with IQ at 8 years. However, head growth during infancy remained significantly predictive, with full-scale IQ increasing an average of 1.56 points for each 1-SD increase in head growth.

SOURCE: Pediatrics October 2006.

That's right, bitches. Fear my Alzheimer's-resistant mega-mind.

The article speaks of "tendencies" and "averages." Bah! As the proud possessor of a considerable coconut, I know perfectly damn well that I'm extra-brilliant, courtesy of the extra skull space. Moreover, that extra space isn't just for holding random facts about comic books, either. No, no. It serves a special function.

Should you ever see me, or any of my massively-meloned bretheren, squinting, it's because we're using our extra-big brains to read your puny mind.

Think nice thoughts, human.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

A Notion, Rooted in Cross-Dressing

Since I'm sharing random brain farts today, here's another.

Something that would be super-cool to see in the upcoming Iron Man movie...

A conceit from the movie Tootsie.

Tony Stark, a boy genius grown up, an alcoholic womanizer, and a multimillionare munitions magnate, is forced by circumstances to assemble a mechanized battlesuit. He uses the suit to fight monsters and do good deeds. This public-spiritedness is supremely out of character for the arrogant Boy Wonder. Even he is a little mystified by it.

It has a parallel with Michael Dorsey in Tootsie, an actor who masquerades as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, to get an acting job. Dorsey, to his surprise, finds himself acting differently when pretending to be a woman. Midway through the movie, Dorsey relates to his roommate a difficulty he'd had that day on the job. "If it were me, I would have bawled the guy out," Dorsey explains. "But she didn't." Michael then has a minor epiphany. "I think Dorothy is smarter than I am."

Imagine a scene where Stark's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Whitney Frost, finds him in the armor, sans helmet. She asks, "Tony...really? Fighting bad guys and saving kittens in trees? You?"

Stark sputters for a minute, confused. He stares at his helmet and then blurts "Iron Man is better than I am!" He pauses again, confused at what he just said.

Once freed from expectations and his past, Stark discovers that he isn't the petty bastard he always thought he was, or that he at least has the potential to be a good man.

(...okay, okay, the movie is almost certainly centered around this very idea. It's kinda obvious. I just wanted to work in the "I think Dorothy is smarter than I am" quote into a post. I think it translates well to the world of superheroes and the nature of the secret identity. Plus, I don't work in enough references to cross-dressing in my blog. Have to work on that.)


A bonus picture: Abraham Lincoln at RFK Stadium, working the crowd during a Washington Nationals game. He'd just participated in the "Presidents' Race" down the first base line.

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The Viola

The viola. Every team has one.

The mid-range character who never truly establishes himself or herself as a major player, but without whom, the team feels wrong somehow; off-balance. Violas generally fill in harmonies, occupying the gap between the violin and the cello. They play vital roles in chamber music. But few solo concerti or sonatas have been written for them.

Violas are not “second fiddles,” backup characters who labor in the shadow of a superior version of themselves. No, violas provide something unique, yet something ill-suited to stand alone.

The Martian Manhunter, Wonder Man, the Vision, all are classic violas. They provide texture and depth to their teams, but seem ill-suited for solos. The Black Knight. Maybe Cyborg? I don’t know.

I ask you, o comic fans: What makes a character a viola? Is there a surefire technique to spot a viola-in-the-making? Can a character overcome that status? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, though I’m sure it’s happened at least once. Is Cyclops the viola of the X-Men? Who are some key violas? Who is your favorite?

This is the kind of stuff I think about during my commute.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gray Hat: Hooerhouse America and an Appreciation of the Peculiar Heroism of One Mister Jonah Hex

The last Western hero in comics was a disfigured bounty hunter, a man of dubious moral fiber who brought pain and death wherever he went. Long after every other cowboy hung up his sixguns, he rode on. He lasted because he brought something to comics that no other hero did, and he brought it well.

Little Bill Daggett: I don't deserve this... to die like this. I was building a house.
Will Munny: Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.
Little Bill Dagget: I'll see you in hell, William Munny.
Will Munny: Yeah.

Jonah Hex was a killer. He’d kill to fulfill his job, and often he killed to carve out a little justice. Yet there’s a difference between him and the killer vigilantes of comics set in the modern era, such as the Punisher.

The Punisher’s stories are also filled with horrible crimes and murderous retribution, but they center on a different idea. The story of the Punisher is, at its heart, the story of a good man’s fall into hell. Frank Castle’s world is forever split between the Good Life of before, when order and love reigned, and the Nightmare World that an act of senseless violence threw him into, where all is chaos and hate. The Punisher kills to restore order to the world and to give himself the satisfaction of punishing those he feels to be evil.

Hex’s world was of a wholly different substance. Jonah had no fall from grace, no lost golden age. He was not trying to restore order to a world gone mad. The heart of Hex's story is that the world was always mad, and Jonah had to live in it. Hex was never on a great moral quest; he was just trying to get by.

He was decent and honorable in his way, simply because that’s who he was. A form of decency was innate to him, something he couldn't ignore even when he wanted to. And therefore he killed, because sometimes his world required that a decent man kill.

Mordecai: What happens after?
The Stranger: Hmm?
Mordecai: What do we do when it's over?
The Stranger: Then you live with it.
--High Plains Drifter

Hex’s world was filled with the greedy, the immoral and the amoral. Examples abound in his recent Showcase Presents volume. In one story, a cute, bumbling sheriff with a pretty little lady love sets off on the trail of violent thieves, joined by a protective Hex. In short order, Hex found that the sheriff was in on the gang’s crimes, seeing another woman on the side, and ready to kill Hex to keep it all secret. In another story, a young boy sold out Hex to a gang of killers for a quarter. A story about a corrupt tollbooth owner showed two children drown in swamp muck on-panel. Hex later finding the corpse of their mother rotting in a lime pit. It’s a cold, hard place, that West.

The worldview of Jonah Hex isn’t sophisticated. “The whole world ain't nuthin but a hooerhouse” is hardly a groundbreaking idea in and of itself. But it was unusual for both comics and westerns, entertainments notorious for clearcut black-hat villains and white-hat heroes, where virtue won out and everything was always fine in the end. By contrast, Hex’s gray-hat world was confusing and cruel, where good men were warped into villains by necessity and bad men often got away with their crimes.

In the seventies, Superman and Batman comics told you that bad men wore silly costumes, gave obvious clues to their intentions, and were always stopped by the forces of good. A kid could find issues of Superman Family, Batman Family, and super-teams a’plenty, and there he would find brotherhood and clean-cut adventure. On that same spinner rack, Jonah Hex told kids that the world was a treacherous place, everybody looks out for number one, and that when it matters, we all walk alone.

Will Munny: Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess he had it comin'.
Will Munny: We all got it comin', kid.

Constant messages of shiny hope and glowing optimism feel false after a while. Hex was a counterbalance to regular comics, a recognition of the unsavory side of existence. Rather than wallow in power fantasies of conquest with Superman or the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Hex reader wallowed in dark fantasies of alienation. Marinating in a stew of cheap cynicism can be a hell of a lot of fun.

Both the new ongoing Jonah Hex series and the recently-published Showcase Presents volume reprinting his early years are worth the time and money. Buy ‘em, fanboys, and enjoy the bitter taste of a world long gone loco.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

So Close To My Childhood, It's Spooky

I haven't heard a lot of positive things about Judd Winick's superhero comics. Not having read them, aside from a few issues from his stint on Green Arrow, I am in no position to talk about them.

About his masterpiece, I will rave: The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. So good. So very good. Barry is, as one would hope, a hoot with loads of charm and imagination. But more than that, it captures the flavor of being a young boy--the close friends, the misadventures, and the foul language. Oh, the foul language. Below is a little introduction Barry gives to the reader in his second miniseries (click to enlarge).

The comradery, the sense of possibility in every single day, the bad hair, the endless all rings true.

Despite the superscience, aliens, and occasional cloning, Barry Ween is a hell of a lot closer to my childhood than Peanuts ever was.

I had a strange childhood, yes.

C'mon, Winick...the third and best Barry Ween mini finished a long time ago. Make with the funny, dang it!

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Two Plus Two Does Not Equal Four Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twelve: A Partial Defense of Mark Millar and Civil War

Mark Millar and Marvel editorial painted themselves into a wicked corner with the Civil War miniseries. They announced their intentions to both approach the issues of the day and to give the differing sides an equal hearing. Online critics have been blasting them for failing to live up to this goal of even-handedness.

In Millar's defense, that has to be tough.

Not in terms of the “Superhuman Registration Act,” the core of the comic story. Looked at in a vacuum, there are many good arguments to make on both sides of the Act, and the story could be a rich exploration of the politics of a science-fictiony universe. The Marvel Universe would be pulled in a different direction, and characters would be pushed and pulled in directions that they’d never seen before.

However, that’s not what Marvel is doing, now is it?

The motivator behind Civil War (aside from sales, of course) is dealing with the political issues of the real world, not their fictional one. The entire series is, as we’re all well aware, a hamfisted allegory of the struggles between civil liberties and security in America. As is the case of so many badly-written stories in serial fiction, the writer had a story he wanted to tell, and crammed pre-existing characters and situations into that story, deforming and distorting those characters to say what he wants to say. The goal was to interpret real-world events through fictional-world constructs.

In the real world, the split between sides of the issue is difficult to approach with even hands.

One side argues that the threat of terrorism is real, and that to fight it requires that it be pursued vigorously while maintaining a sense of proportion. They argue that if we could maintain our civil liberties in the face of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, surely we could maintain them in the face of a dork whose plan was to stuff explosives in his sneakers. This side argues that the threats to our safety lie not only with bombers, but also in our own fears, and that courage and responsibility in the face of terror is the only valid response.

The other side is a combination of shrieking hysterics and power consolidation. Insisting that a handful of tragic bombings and terrorist acts have created a paradigm shift in human history, they support secret prisons, the suspension of basic legal protections for individuals, and the suppression of dissent. We must trust our leaders to do the right thing without oversight, because dammit, they said so. This side argues that the threats to our safety lie with both a unified army of shadowy operatives in far-away lands and with the countless quislings at home who would open the gates of America to let the terrorists run rampant, because, well, because they’re spineless traitors or something.

(Thankfully, the latter side is small and largely confined to the White House and Fox News. Finding a regular citizen of any political persuasion who takes that side anymore is a tough one. Honestly, I’m not sure if even the White House believes it.)

When Millar wrote his story, he was confronted with a significant problem. How does one present the sides even-handedly when one side argues for courage, steadfastness, and getting the job done, and the other side screams “AAAAAH!!!! DO ANYTHING!!!! FREEDOM BE DAMNED, I DON’T CARE!! ROUND UP SCARY-LOOKING PEOPLE BEFORE I WET MYSELF AGAIN!!!!! AAAAAHHH!!! DO ANYTHING YOU WANT, JUST LET ME BE SAFE!!!!”

The Civil War storyline begins with a tragedy that leads to hundreds of deaths. A group of concerned governmental-types exploit this tragedy to enact legislation they’ve desired for years. That this new legislation happens to increase their own personal power, well, that’s just a happy side-effect of Making America Safer, now isn’t it? That the legislation is both of dubious effectiveness and questionable legality, well, that’s not as important as rallying behind it, right?

Yeah, that’s not a direct comment on modern America or nothin’.

How can one present this situation and “be fair to both sides?” When one side argues that two plus two equals four, and the other argues that two plus two equals nine thousand eight hundred and twenty, should one tell a story where two plus two equals four thousand nine hundred and twelve and call it “fair?”

And thus we are led to Civil War, where Millar resorts to the only sense of even-handedness that one can have in such situations: page count. The sides do have equal time to express themselves.

If one side happens to express itself by creating killer clones and recruiting armies of violent psychopaths to accomplish its ends, so be it. In the real world, its counterpart side has declared checks on executive power as outdated, rejected the long-held and carefully-crafted structure of law as an enemy of security, and exploded with outrage when its program of secret prisons was exposed. It’s hard to paint that as other than exploitive power-hunger at its worst.

Granted, were I in Millar’s shoes, or those of Marvel editorial, I would never have told the story in this fashion. Men in multicolored tights punching each other out can indeed tell allegorical tales, but they tend not to be the subtlest of fictional creations. To force these characters into stories that violate their long-standing appeal is wrongheaded and makes for bad comics, and moreover, it ends up making weird, simpleminded, and confused comments on the actual events.

Real-world issues tend to be complex and lacking in absolute clarity. Comic books revolve around men and women in primary-colored tights kicking each other in the head. "Exploration of complex political issues" and "boot-to-head make-with-the-explodo four-color action" are difficult to reconcile. Politics in superhero books isn't, and I'd argue can't be, much more complex than what you'd find on a bumper sticker.

I suppose the inclusion of sophisticated politics could be done well, but I can't think of a place where it actually has been. No, I don't read Ex Machina.

("Politics are complex and lacking in clarity" is a notion that runs counter to the spirit of this post, I know. Generally, my political thinking is filled with caveats and conditionals, but some issues are simpler than others. Plus, you'll have to excuse me, I'm ranting today.)

All that being said, if you’re gonna hew to the real-world parallels and political relevance, “balance” can’t be done at the cost of reality. Millar understands that two plus two does not equal four thousand nine hundred and twelve, and that calling people traitors for pointing it out doesn’t change the facts.

Civil War isn’t much fun or a comic I’d recommend to anyone. But I can see where it’s coming from.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

First I Cook, Then I Chill: A True Story

On my wedding day, a delivery truck came to my door. In the truck were several large boxes, addressed to me. Within the boxes was a gift. A gift from an absent friend.

The gift?

Two hundred and forty dollars worth of pudding.

It arrived in seven-pound food service cans. Cans that, to this day, rest in my house.

Why two hundred and forty dollars worth of pudding?

Some of you know why.

For those of you who do not understand or appreciate the gift, here's Levon and Barry Sagittarius to lay it all out.

Awwwww yeah.

'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

What Is to Be Done About Nightwing?

Nightwing nearly got himself cacked in Infinite Crisis. Lots of bloggers around the internet have lamented that the cacking didn’t happen.


What can be done with this guy?

As many others have pointed out, Dick Grayson’s root problem is simple: he’s redundant. He’s not Robin anymore, he can’t be Batman, and so he’s just sorta…there. Stuck as a "Junior Batman," Nightwing hasn’t been established as anything in particular over the last twenty years.

Tim Drake has taken his place as both Robin and The Next Batman. The recently-resurrected Jason Todd has taken the gig of "embittered ex-sidekick." What is Dick?

Best I can tell, Nightwing’s current niche is "Emo Batman." He's a Batman who feels emotions beyond rage and frustration. He’s a brooding avenger of the night with a pseudo-Byronic angle. Oh, the torment! Oh, the agony!*

Which, while it does differentiate him from his stoic mentor, can be powerfully, profoundly irritating.

Twenty bucks and a box of doughnuts says this has been forwarded by many others before, but hey...that never stops me. Here’s my ten-cent Monday Morning Quarterback idea:

Make Nightwing the Batman of the Sixties.

Facing a murderous rampage by axe-wielding Filthy Pierre the Breton Butcher? Call Batman. Need to fight a fourth-dimensional pirate on top of a giant typewriter? Call Nightwing.

With this split, Batman can maintain his "dark avenger of the gritty streets" gig and Nightwing will have a new niche, one that Batman abandoned decades ago. Dick will become the tech whiz/strategist/acrobat for the Justice League. He'll be the laughing daredevil with the brilliant mind and the undertones of dark violence who spends time with Superman and Wonder Woman.

Set him up not as "Junior Batman," but "Social Batman." He's the one the League calls when they need help. He's the one who jet-sets around the world and romances the ladies. He's the one who gets tied up in spy rings in Indonesia. He's the one who invents crazy gadgets, travels through time, and solves murder mysteries in Gorilla City. If anyone should have a Whirly-Bat one-man helicopter, it should be Nightwing.**

In essence, I'd flip the team memberships. Nightwing belongs in the League, the most visible superhero group in the world. Batman belongs with the Outsiders, hiding and fighting the weirder menaces.

This isn't all that different from Marv Wolfman's original interpretation of the character, of his "graduation" from being Robin. (I think.) Because dammit, this approach makes sense. Nightwing is a circus performer by birth, a detective by training, and a whoopass fighter by nature. Robin was created to fill the gaps Batman left. Why not continue that as he reaches maturity?

It would not lessen Batman to have his foster son become a different man in his own right, nor would it rob the character of Batman of anything. It's not like he's fighting four-dimensional pirates on giant appliances these days anyway.

Bring on the Gorilla City murder mysteries and the mad scientists. Dick is ready.

* Granted, I haven’t read Nightwing in a while. I’m going by the reactions of the blogosphere and issue solicits. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know.

** Or me.

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