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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I walk the line

Well, yesterday I had a very bad day. In combination with a typical Monday at work -- a nightmare of epic proportions as we wind down the claim year and everyone tries to get their one yearly claim in and processed so they can have money for Christmas -- I well and truly pissed SuperGirlfriend off, to the point where she sent me an email forbidding me to call her during the day, saying she'd talk to me about things when she picked me up that night... and I spent the day wondering if I'd have a place to sleep that night (yeah, what I did was that bad).

We talked in the car, and managed to salvage things, but I put a big ding in her trust for me yesterday, and gave us both an absolutely miserable day, and I regret it abjectly, but I have no Wayback Machine, and I'm just going to have to buckle down and do what we non-cartoon mortals have to do when we screw up righteously and are lucky enough to get another chance... make it right. It's going to take some pretty serious work on my part, but, well, without SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids I really have no life, and anyway, if this thing fails because of me, I'll be letting them down terribly, and I can't stand that. So I have to make it work. And I will.

Anyway... a little housekeeping blogging for the morning. SuperGirlfriend and I did go see the title movie last weekend, and I kept meaning to blog about it, and not getting around to it, so I'll say here that, given that the film represents a reality tunnel I have very nearly no interest in, it still impressed me deeply. It's one of those films where the lead actors do not seem to so much portray their characters as channel them from beyond the grave... you just can't look at Joaquin Phoenix in this movie and see or hear anyone besides Johnny Cash. I grant you, the whole 'pill popping pop star' thing has become such a cliche these days that much of the movie's storyline seems hackneyed (a terrible thing to say about a man's life, I guess) but it's important to realize that Cash was one of the generation (along with Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley) who first brought that cliche to life, at least, as far as mass perception was concerned.

It's a beautifully made movie. Even if you're not wild about country and western music (and I'm certainly not), I'd say it's still worth watching. Think of it as kind of like Tender Mercies, but about real people.

A minor disappointment for me over the last week was watching the cartoon adaptation of Alan Moore's now classic Superman story "For The Man Who Has Everything". SuperGirlfriend and I were shopping for SuperDependable Teen's birthday (which, as she constantly reminds us in sing song cadence, is tomorrow) and I spotted a DVD with three episodes of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED on it. I've kind of enjoyed the odd, parallel continuity that this cartoon series has established on the few occasions I've managed to catch it in the past, and when I saw that the first episode on the disc was an adaption of that Moore story, I had to have it. But if they'd only put actual credits on the DVD jacket, I'd have known better, since the actual script was written by J.M. deMatteis.

deMatteis seems to have landed a comfy job writing a lot of these things, and it just sickens me, since out of everybody who has ever handled the Justice League concept in the comics, he's the one I would least like to see entrusted with any other aspect of the franchise. And giving a hack like him the job of reinterpreting Alan Moore for a different medium... this is kind of like letting Jack the Ripper do an ice sculpture of Michaelangelo's David.

deMatteis rewrote the story fairly extensively, dropping out the near-essential Robin part in order to focus on just the three adult heroes. He also vastly simplifies the various dream sequences, turning Superman's 'happy fantasy' of a life on a Krypton that never exploded into, well, little more than just an idle daydream with none of the more interesting (if ultimately more cynical and deconstructive than I've ever believed the Man of Steel could truly dream up in such a scenario) details Moore fleshed out the original story with.

Batman's brief dream state never progresses beyond the point where his parents get mugged and his father steps up, grabs Joe Chill's gun, and just starts beating the crap out of Chill over and over again... and while Superman's rather more simplistic and Utopian 'I'm living on a Kryptonian farm with a beautiful redheaded wife who throws me surprise parties for my birthday and I have a lovely son named Van' fantasy does, admittedly, seem more in character for the rather idealistic Kal El (if considerably more boring than the original, darker vision of a still extant Krypton that Moore presented us with), Batman's incredibly simply fantasy would seem to mark the Dark Knight out as being rather unimaginative and, well, brutal.

Both characterizations are spot on for the Modern Age versions of Batman and Superman, and I've made the point before that Moore, in his original story, seems to have mixed up his dramatis persona, giving Superman a grim n' gritty, very cynical vision of a still surviving Krypton that is the sort of thing we'd expect Batman to come up with, while he gave Batman a very pleasantly idyllic normal life on Earth, in which he was married to Kathy Kane and had children, which we'd really expect to be the kind of sweet fantasy Superman would dream up for himself. deMatteis seems to have corrected this, but his corrections are, honestly, just plain goddam boring, which is always a sin when you're writing to entertain.

Beyond all that, deMatteis occasionally lets some of the original Moore dialogue survive, but every time a snatch of it surfaces, all the emotional subtext Moore has carefully laid is gone, so the dialogue itself is little more than meaningless noise. And, well, if you've read the story, you really have to miss the presence of the now missing (and in the DC Universe, now long dead) Jason Todd.

All in all, well, it was a fair let down, watching this cartoon. The other two on the DVD, though, "The Return" and "The Greatest Story Never Told", were pretty entertaining.

I'm getting towards the end of the the GREEN LANTERN SHOWCASE edition SuperGirlfriend got me for my birthday, and it's been a delightful trip so far. A few of these very earliest issues of the Silver Age Green Lantern are so painfully poorly plotted you just have to dismiss them as 'bad reporting' (to use Mike Norton's wonderful phrase for comic book stories about our favorite characters we simply cannot accept as 'real', no matter how hard we try). But most of them are a lot of fun to read. As someone who has always wanted to write comics, I cannot help but be struck by the significance of what John Broome was doing in these early stories... inventing not only the entirety of Green Lantern's future continuity from one issue to the next, but very nearly making up all of DC's outer space terrain as he went, too.

The Gil Kane art is fabulous, especially when he's inked by Murphy Anderson. Kane isn't a particularly good graphic designer, however, which is one reason why the Weaponers of Qward still look pretty retarded even to this day. Still, this artwork is beautiful and clear, something that is absolutely necessary when you are drawing a character like Green Lantern, who can literally do anything he can imagine at any instant.

There's a lot of nonsense physics in this comic, especially the stuff about the color yellow, which is the one thing GL's power ring cannot affect. This was always a bad idea because color is largely dependent on surrounding conditions, and if GL had had half a brain in his head, he would have simply created lightproof containers around every threatening yellow object he encountered. Without light, there is no color, so once GL put whatever yellow maguffin was messing with him this issue into a total blackout, he could have done anything he wanted to it.

This point is especially underscored by a story in which the Weaponers of Qward shoot a 'red' missile at Green Lantern. Naturally, he tries to stop it with his power ring because, you know, it's not yellow... but his power ring won't do anything with it, so he has to dodge it instead (hey, that was hard). After it blows up some poor guy's barn, GL gives the pieces the fishy eye and discovers that the goddam thing was yellow all along... it just had red lights radiating a red aura around it through its transparent casing. Those wiley, wiley Weaponers! Geez! And to think, he almost didn't bother dodging the darned thing! Boy, the joke would have been on him then!

Honestly, the brain boggles at this nonsense. The frickin' weapon has a transparent casing, with red bulbs underneath it radiating a red aura... and yet, somehow, it's really yellow! I'd ask what John Broome was smoking when he wrote this crap up, but, well, all us old Silver Age comics fans already know...


At 9:49 AM , Anonymous The always esteemed Scott said...

It's going to take some pretty serious work on my part, but, well, without SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids I really have no life, and anyway, if this thing fails because of me, I'll be letting them down terribly, and I can't stand that. So I have to make it work. And I will.

Oh dear. Knowing (as anyone who reads this blog at all does) how you feel about SuperGirlfriend, I have no doubt that you'll do whatever it takes to make it right. I really hope that you do - it has given me no end of pleasure these few months knowing how happy she and the Superfamily have made you. Good luck.

At 9:51 AM , Anonymous The always esteemed Scott said...

There's a lot of nonsense physics in this comic

Um, not to be all anal or anything, but isn't this true of most comics? I was never much of a Green Lantern fan (I don't have anything against the character, I just never read much GL stuff) - was the abuse of physics more egregious in Green Lantern than elsewhere?

At 9:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever you did, you sure as hell didn't spend very much time making a public apology for it before going on to talk about your comics. Instead of blogging forever and a day, why not work on not being such a negative person and doing what's right by a person who has gone way beyond what most people have EVER done for you?

Tammy--remember; you are not this person's keeper. I hope you realize that people DON'T change. Especially people over 40, who have set themselves up for failure every step of the way. Look that this guy's publicly acknowledged history; it can't ALL be other people's fault that his life has gone nowhere. You don't need a man, and if you feel you do, look at what motivates you to feel that way.

At 9:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And for Chrissakes, get a haircut.

At 10:22 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Oh, Scott, not to leave you out --

Thanks for the concern and your constant support and friendship. Obviously, I need all the friends I can get.

As to Green Lantern's rubber physics, yeah, the laws of science were applied fairly oddly throughout the Silver Age, especially at DC. But Green Lantern, with his power ring that could do ANYthing except effect a largely hypothetical concept (a particular color) strikes me as being fairly extreme, especially since that one weakness ALWAYS turned up in every story.

I mean, suppose the Guardians just went out and recruited a lot of alien bat people who perceived the world around them by some kind of natural radar. To them, color doesn't exist! So their rings would work on anything! The very idea that every single alien Green Lantern in the DC Universe sees in the same spectrum as Earth humans is just silly. And suppose GL travels to a solar system with a blue sun? Does yellow exist there? If not, he should never leave! I mean, honestly, it's just dorky. Superman's weakness for Kryptonite, or the Martian Manhunter's for fire, makes perfect sense compared to this deranged bullshit.

At 5:29 AM , Anonymous Tammy said...

Even though I told him I wouldn't comment...I thought I probably should. Not only to put to rest the fears of people who genuinely care about either or both of us...but to shut up the stupid people who quite obviously don't.

As far as a public apology, it wasn't necessary at all. Honestly, I'd rather he hadn't even gone there. But, as I've said in the past, this is where he comes to vent...and he definitely needed some catharsis. I'd never try to tell him not to do it. No matter the topic. It can't help but make him come across stilted. Anyone with any sense would realize that. I'm sure he didn't go into specifics as much to save me face as to save some himself. Maybe more. And if you, "anonymous", feel that he glazed over things and changed the subject and that it was at my expense, you couldn't be more wrong. So, thanks for nominating yourself to be my agent, but it's really not necessary. Whether you folks realize it or not...there's a WHOLE lot of behind the scenes stuff going on around here that you never really get to see. And that's all right. 'Cause it's none of your business anyway. Especially you, Nate.

Again, as I've said previously, this is where Highlander comes to vent. Consequently, he's bound to come off HERE as a negative person. The reality is considerably different. If you don't know that, it's because you don't TRY to know that. You have no business commenting on something you know so little about. This is where I totally blow his street cred. He's kind and gentle and considerate and generous and thoughtful and cuddly to a fault. Hardly anything negative there at all. If you bothered to get to know him, it would be pretty obvious. That would also apply to his "publicly acknowledged history" as well. He doesn't always go into all the wonderful things he does here. But, I guess it's much easier to take pot shots from a distance than to try to really get to know the man behind the blog. I'm very glad I didn't go that route. It would have meant that I'd have never met this wonderful, wonderful man. Your loss, I guess. I'm just glad it wasn't mine.

Maybe I have done more than most people have for him. Wouldn't take much. Most of those who came before me...well...they weren't me. And I'm just who I am. Frankly, we're pretty similar in that regard. He's done more for me than most people in my past as well.

As for realizing that people don't change...especially people over 40...I wrote that book. My ex was a lesson it took me 20 years to learn.

Lastly, your snide comment about me "needing a man and checking my motivations for that", I just want to say that you don't have a CLUE what you're talking about. You OBVIOUSLY don't know me at all. And, frankly, I'm fine with that.

My apologies to the rest of you. Clearly, this is where I come to vent, too....at least tonight it is.

At 5:54 AM , Anonymous Tammy...again said...

oh...and for chrissakes, Baby, don't get a haircut. I like it that way.

At 5:57 AM , Anonymous Nate said...

Ok, I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry too.

At 5:58 AM , Anonymous Tammy said...

Nah....you didn't do nuthin'. I just love givin' you shit....;)

At 10:59 AM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

The personal stuff I'm regarding as venting, or at least as nothing I'm going to comment on.

I'm trying to recall if I ever saw the DeMatteis animated version of that Moore story, but it's not coming to mind. The original Moore tale was one I only caught as a remaindered item a year or two later than its 1985 release date, so it's at least initially a tricky affair sorting out influences. Byrne was re-creating Superman that same year, but I don't expect that Byrne's early work on the character would have had anything to do with it -- not that you suggested otherwise.

As I read it, Moore tried to look at the arc Kal-El's life would have taken rather than sticking to the stated wish-fulfillment scenario. It strikes me more as a plot misstep than a character reassignment. It's been years since I read the Moore story, though, and (uncharacteristically for me) I can't conjure a strong mental image of it. What occurs to me now is that in the end I came away from the original story with the idea that the dark elements of the Kryptonian fantasy were elements of Superman's subconscious, trying to help him realize the deception and break free.

Looking more broadly at the Justice League cartoons, especially the Justice League Unlimited ones, they've been a repeated point of confusion for me in the past year as similar - yet distinctly different - plotlines unfold. Both have plots concerning the Lex Luthor administration/fall from grace/secret agenda and an effort by a secret organization to monitor superhumans and seek ways to neutralize them should the heroes ever turn bad.

Consequently, I've had to keep reminding myself that in the comics Luthor isn't some sort of symbiote of Lex & Braniac, and that it isn't Amanda Waller and Cadmus who are behind the actions to protect mankind from potentially rogue heroes. Now that Infinite Crisis is starting to pick up the differences are becoming starker, but it still catches me off guard every now and then.

At 11:58 AM , Anonymous Tammy said...

Oh sure, Mike...take the high road....;)

At 12:34 AM , Anonymous Nate said...

Well, that's a relief! I'm always screwing something up, nice to know this time I didn't.

What's a qazubird?


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