Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts On DC's Latest Decision

For those of you who haven't heard...which probably isn't many of you, but I'm recapping anyway...DC has announced that they are going to be unveiling a major difference between the New 52 DC Universe and the old DC Universe. Specifically, one of the major, recognizable figures in that universe will be revealed to be gay in the new version of continuity.

Today, Rich Johnston posted an article suggesting that the new gay character will be Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern. This has not been confirmed yet, and it may yet turn out to be some other character (although I'm pretty sure it's too late for DC to change the character's identity the way they did with Monarch in Armageddon 2001...) But it's worth looking at the news on the assumption that it's true.

The first question is, "Does this pass the 'iconic character' test?" After all, DC made a decision to announce this in a way that risks criticism as a publicity stunt. (I'm still not sure entirely how to feel about the announcement itself in that regard, but suffice to say, I think it's going to be a long while before we see headlines that say, "DC To Announce New Straight White Male Character".) If this is going to be news, it's going to have to be big news to avoid complaints of tokenism and hype.

In that regard, I think it does a reasonably good job. Alan Scott might not be as famous to the general public as some, but in comics terms, he's definitely an elder statesman of the DCU, and one with a long and storied history. This is definitely a better choice than some of the ones rumored (like, say, Vibe.) I still think that the most seamless and most audacious decision would have been to go with Batman, because he doesn't really have a history of strong female relationships--his relationship with Vicki Vale has never had the same kind of iconic status as Superman and Lois Lane, and his girlfriends are frequently shown as "beards" to explain away his late-night disappearances and eccentricities--but I suspect they were concerned about the potential insinuations of child molestation. (Which is a shame, as that's always been one of the nastier and more slanderous accusations directed against gay men--that they "can't be trusted" around straight boys--and it would have been nice to see a character who's not just a role model as a gay man, but as a gay parent. But I can dream.)

Which brings us to the second question, "Does it fit in with the character's history?" Well, certainly people are going to point to Jade and Obsidian, but if having kids disqualifies you from ever being gay, nobody ever told my uncle. Molly Mayne is a bit of a stronger counter-argument, but again, she's not an iconic part of his history in the way that Joan Garrick is with Jay. His relationship with her is something that was added on by noted continuity hound Roy Thomas in the 80s, during the absolute heights of his obsession with connecting all the dots in all the Golden Age characters' histories. I don't think that this should offend DC history obsessives too much. (Although expect most of the homophobes out there to insist that they're mainly bothered by the blatant disregard for continuity!)

And that brings us to the third question, "Does it have potential for good characterization and interesting storytelling?" Well, maybe. I think it would have been a bit more interesting if they'd kept the JSA as rooted in their World War II origins and their pre-reboot roles as elder statesmen of the DCU; a gay character who'd lived through a number of different eras, each with their own views of homosexuality, would have been very illuminating. (Frankly, I just don't think a young JSA is very exciting in general, although I admittedly come to that as someone who didn't pay much attention to DC comics until 'Crisis'.) But really, time will tell. I'm not sure if they handled this well...but I'm certain that they could have done it a lot worse.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Wisdom of Odin (and his lawyers)

Earlier this year, my daughter requested a "Thor hammer" for her sixth birthday, along with a matching helmet. She got her request, and has been happily playing with it, but it was only recently that I noticed that there were actually words written on it. I thought that was an excellent touch, showing clever attention to detail, and I picked up the hammer to read the words written on the side of Mjolnir. Mjolnir Giant-Killer, forged by the dwarves under the mountains. Mjolnir, blessed by Odin himself. What wisdom did Odin carve into the mystic uru metal? I had to know.

Apparently, Odin wrote:

"CAUTION: Do not poke or swing at people or animals. Use away from breakable objects."

"CAUTION: Do not aim at eyes or face."

"TO AVOID INJURY: Use only missiles designed for this product. Do not modify missiles or blaster."

This tells me two things. One, Odin inexplicably failed to account for the possibility of Spanish speakers lifting the mystic uru hammer. And two, Thor's been doing it really wrong all these years...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

We Are Living in the Future


Oh my God this.

At first, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. You watch it, and it seems entirely normal and natural...and then it hits you that it's not a special effect. It was not digitally inserted in post-production, there is not someone off-screen with a joystick or a mouse faking it, that is absolutely 100% someone controlling a robot arm with their thoughts. Prototype, yes; primitive, yes; but that moment where you realize that somewhere along the line your life has become a science-fiction movie and the things that writers once dreamed up are now being tested in labs...it's almost vertiginous. You don't quite know what to think.

And then you see the woman at the end, feeding herself for the first time in fifteen years and smiling as people clap for her, and you do. You think, "This is wonderful."

If this is the future, I can't wait to see more of it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

When Does Ashton Kutcher Tell Obama He Got Punk'd?

So who among us seriously thought that Mitt Romney would turn out to be a more toxic candidate than Newt Gingrich? I mean, it's only May, and we've already got stories circulating about him attacking gay teenagers with scissors. If 'The Onion' had written that headline, we'd all snort at its unbelievability. And this is after him talking about how he "loves to fire people", "[isn't] concerned about poor people", and that he doesn't watch NASCAR, but he knows lots of the people who own the teams. It's like he's running a bizarre piece of performance art in which he tries to see if conservatives will still vote for him even after he straps a dog to the roof of his car and goes for a drive.

At this rate, I'm just wondering where we'll go next...

June: "Breaking News: Romney Had Two 'Underperforming' Children Sold Off'

July: 'Three Additional Wives Found Imprisoned In Basement Of Romney Mansion'

August: 'Romney Admits To Third Horcrux, But Refuses To Disclose Its Location'

September: 'Romney Selects Davros For Veep'

October: 'Romney Discusses Plans To Strap Dog To Roof Of Air Force One'

November: 'Romney Takes Infant Hostage, Vows To Devour It If Not Elected'

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Dangerous Drinking Games: X-Men Edition

While reading Essential X-Men, Volumes 1-10:

Take a sip every time Cyclops thinks or says the phrase, "my uncontrollable optic blasts".

Take a sip every time a character uses a single word or phrase from their native language in a sentence that otherwise contains perfect English, tovarisch.

Do a shot every time the cover contains the phrase, "Welcome to the X-Men", and the phrase "Hope you survive".

Take a sip every ten times Wolverine calls someone "bub". (Hey, it's "dangerous", not "fatal".)

Do a shot every time Kitty Pryde changes codenames.

Take a sip every time Rogue muses on how sad it is that she's unable to touch anyone due to her mutant powers.

Take a sip every time an issue features a cameo appearance by an obscure Marvel character for no reason other than Chris Claremont wrote their now-canceled series and can't let go of said character. (Candidates include Carol Danvers, Jessica Drew, and Misty Knight from Iron Fist. For truly dangerous living, expand it to include villains like Mystique and Deathbird.)

Take a sip every time Psylocke gets lauded or idolized within the text because Chris Claremont clearly had a major crush on a fictional character.

Do a shot every time a major character dies. Do a second shot to commemorate their resurrection.

Finish the bottle when Storm loses her powers forever, irrevocably, never ever to return because Forge is such a brilliant inventor that nobody could possibly undo his work.
Do a shot every time you find yourself thinking that the Marauders are really kind of pathetic, despite Claremont's best efforts to build them up as a threat so major that the X-Men have to fake their deaths to deal with them.

Take a sip every time someone drops a catchphrase into their dialogue that their character would never in a million years use but that Claremont has grown attached to (such as Storm using military jargon that Claremont thinks sounds "cool".)

Take a sip every time a female character gets mind-controlled. Take a second sip if the mind control makes them dress or behave in a much "sexier" manner. (The inventor of the game does not make any kind of warranty against the potential for alcohol poisoning during the course of this game.)

Finish the bottle again when Storm gets her powers back.

Drink when Magneto gets placed in charge of the Xavier School, and don't stop drinking until it makes sense to you or until you pass out. (Note: This is the point in the drinking game where you're probably going to pass out.)