Monday, December 25, 2006

Should we, or should we not, watch the galactically stupid Battlestar: Galactica?

So, we watched the first two episodes (after the pilot, I mean) of Battlestar Galactica's first season. And, yeah, interesting characters, fascinating human interactions, decent dialogue, hot naked blonde chicks in virtual hot tubs... I get the appeal. Really, I do.

But does it have to be so, well, galactically stupid, from the scientific POV?

First -- as with nearly any TV SF, I'm already working hard to ignore so much on this show. I mean, these characters are, literally, unEarthly human beings. Which is to say, they are not from Earth. They have never been to Earth. Earth is naught but a vague, ancient legend to them, and it's not even the human race's common origin point from millenia in the past... no, it's the mythical '13th Colony', that is 'beyond the farthest star', a place which is as exotic, alien, and utterly unknown to them as their planetary settlements are to us.

And yet, they wear the same clothing styles and fashions as we do, not just on Earth, but in Western 21st Century culture. Their clothes hangers, their padlocks, their bricks of plastic explosive, their detonators, their carrying cases and tool boxes, their flashlights, their small arms, their books... all are virtually identical to the items that perform the very same very specific tasks in our own Earthly culture.

Plus, while the actual cards are somewhat differently shaped and designed, these unEarthly human beings pretty obviously play poker, too.

And they use the exact same kind of money we do. And they're all free market capitalists, and their government is a republic that places an obvious premium on individual liberty which is ruled by democratically elected representatives. And their chief executive's title? President, naturally.

Now, I think it was Shakespeare who noted that tools designed to be used by similar beings for similar purposes will often end up similar in appearance, and I'm not discounting that, but these are very very specific artifacts designed to perform very very specific tasks, and there's no reason why, for example, we need to be watching characters from a distant star system who have never set foot on Earth opening what is obviously a clothes closet and taking what is obviously a military jacket off of what is obviously a clothes hanger. Why can't they have some kind of oddly geometrical gridwork with hooks jutting off it at irregular intervals that folds into the wall once you hang your clothes on it? Why can't their hand weapons look like laser pointers or chrome eggs or headbands or jeweled brass knuckles or wristbands with metal spigots or something? Why can't they read geometrical printing on triangular plastic scroll sheets wrapped around metal batons, instead of Earthly printed volumes? Why can't their explosives be lengths of metallic cord, and their padlocks be open triangles of metal with little dial-rings embedded in one vertice?

And if I can come up with all these viable, completely exotic seeming alternative presentations of very common, everyday artifacts in five minutes of free association while I'm typing, why can't the professional writers employed on Battlestar: Galactica come up with something even better? Why do they seem so absolutely determined to never, ever remind us that these people aren't from Earth, except when someone mentions it in a specific bit of expository dialogue?

And, for the love of the jesus, why can't these characters wear articles of clothing besides jackets with zippers, and skirts, and V neck sweaters, and button up collared white shirts with neck ties, and goddam nylon stockings with goddam high heels? I mean, NECK TIES? A race of humans from beyond the furthest star completely independently invented NECK TIES as formal wear for the male half of the race? And I completely balk at the idea that any other sentient race anywhere has ever inflicted nylons and high heels on their women. I just absolutely balk.

I mean, I'm already willfully ignoring -- not suspending my disbelief, there isn't enough titanium alloy cable in the universe to let me do that, but by sheer force of will, straight up refusing to think about -- stuff like what the hell these people do for gravity when they're out in space, and how they have Hispanics and Asians and Africans and other very recognizable, very specific Earthly human subraces, and how is it exactly that they can create artificial intelligence and live comfortably for an indefinite time period in the harshest natural environment known to man and travel faster than light, and they can do all this and yet, still, the remainder of their clearly evident technological infrastructure is exactly identical with that of industrialized 21st Century Earth?

They have cheap, apparently limitless power, but they don't have focused energy weapons. They have artificial gravity, but they don't have anti-grav. They have some kind of effective radiation shielding that works for years on end in space, and highly efficient environment control technology, and they can create autonomous, self programming artificial intelligence, yet they don't seem to have any kind of cloning, or genetic engineering, or rejuvenation of injured tissue, or any sort of advanced medical technology at all (although they do have some kind of anti-radiation medicine they can inject themselves with, when, as always, the plot requires it).

They can jump entire fleets of space ships across parsecs of empty space instantaneously, and yet, they still use motorized vehicles to get around on the surface of their planets.

There may be plausible explanations for some of this, but the only reasonable explanation for ALL of it... for the exact technologies we need to fulfill the requirements of the ongoing story arc to be the only advanced technology they have, and to have those things have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the surrounding technological infrastructure -- is that godlike aliens showed up at some point in their past and gave them everything they need to travel in space. The ability to construct viable long term artificial life support environments, the artificial gravity, the cheap and apparently limitless power, the faster than light drive, the capacity to build self aware artificial life forms -- they can't possibly have actually invented or developed any of it themselves. Because if they had, this stuff would have grown out of other technological advances and it would have spawned other advanced technological offshoots. That's how an actual advanced technology works... but not on Battlestar Galactica.

So I have to willfully ignore all that to watch this show, and I do it, and it's damn hard work. But they'd make it enormously easier for me to do this if they'd put just a little bit more imagination into dressing the sets. Hire some actual SF geeks to work in the props department. Come up with some truly alien appearing tools, weapons, and wardrobe choices. And, hey, maybe even spend a little money making a few extras up as members of an exotic, unEarthly in appearance human sub-race, as well. Maybe a completely hairless people with visibly reddish skin. Or a group of overly hirsute dwarves with pointed ears and epicanthic folds around their eyes. A gold skinned race with solid black eyes, and webbed fingers and toes that lives on a mostly aquatic planet. People with really weird hair. People with antenna. People with horns, or chitinous spurs projecting from their heels and wrists. The possibilities are endless, and you wouldn't need to have many of these weirdos around. One regular supporting character, and the occasional sight of a few others in the background would go light years for establishing verisimilitude on this show.

But while SF in books is for the intelligent and the imaginative, SF on TV and in the movies is nearly always for brain-dead droolers who not only don't notice any of this shit, but who would probably be deeply troubled (without understanding why) if a nominally science fiction TV show presented any kind of truly exotic, unEarthly environment or characters on a regular basis. So I understand why they can't do any of this, or why they choose not to, anyway.

It tasks me, but, yeah, I get it.

But here's what I don't understand -- in the second episode of the first season, a stinking Cylon saboteur blows up half the Galactica's water tanks, and 60% of their available water gets vented to space, and this is a huge thing, because suddenly a water supply that would have lasted for several years with their completely efficient recycling systems will now only last, maybe, three hours and twelve minutes if they go on strict water rations. So Edward James Olmos has to order all his cool little cargo ships out scout around the nearby star systems desperately looking for water, and if they don't find it by the end of the episode, then they're all doomed to die... a horrible death.

And nobody apparently is aware that there's plenty of water -- in fact, there is exactly as much water as they need to replace what they've lost -- traveling in the exact same ballistic path as the Galactica, in the form of a cloud of ice particles surrounding the Galactica. I mean, jesus christ, you idiots, the water didn't vanish into a fucking black hole when it blew out of your tanks, it turned into ice instantly and is still floating out there in the vacuum of space. Yes. RIGHT THERE, you fucking dumbasses. Give your crew-guys in their dorky orange coveralls some space suits, jet packs, and butterfly nets and go get it back, dipshits.

I mean, I'm sorry, but this is just galactically stupid.

Now, as I said, I like the interactions and I like the drama and I like the humanoid Cylons and I like the dialogue and the characters and the actors and all that stuff. But you know what? The backdrop, the science, and the essential internal conflicts in the plots themselves are also important stuff.

I don't know why I'd expect any better from Ronald D. Moore, a man who has mastered the art of creating utterly craptastic and completely brainless hack non-science fiction for television while toiling in the moronic franchise vineyards of post Roddenberry Star Trek and the likable but perpetually stupid Roswell. And honestly, I don't know why I keep hoping for real, honest to god science fiction to show up on TV. And I'm perfectly aware that on the very rare occasion when SF does show up on TV and the internal science makes sense, either the human elements are hackneyed and utterly predictable (Babylon 5), or the show itself lasts only eight episodes before vanishing forever (Max Headroom).

I'm still very pleased I got this for Christmas. But I'd be a great deal more pleased if the producers of this show would hire, like, the Comic Shop Guy from The Simpsons, or some other ubergeek, to fact check their scripts and make intelligent suggestions to the prop department.

Actually, I'd really really like it if they'd hire me, because, you know, that's got to be way better than working in a call center.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas comes but once a year

Looking for a little Christmas cheer? Well, there's this.

Or, you can just look at all these:

You can see most of the books SuperFiancee gave me to replenish my sadly depleted in- stack in the photo. The one you can't see is OLD TWENTIETH by Joe Haldeman.

In addition to the DC comics hat, and the buttons on it, and the books, and the Magic cards, and the cool Captain America t-shirt, and the new robe and the new pajama bottoms and two other shirts (including a fabulous purple moleskin shirt from SuperFiancee that I already adore) and a new pair of corduroy pants, I also got BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Season 1 and LUCKY SLEVEN on DVD, Machine Man and Super Skrull Unique HeroClix from SUPERNOVA in my stocking, Snap Wilson and Skymax Limited Edition HeroClix from Mike Norton, a great deal of chocolate including a Tobler Chocolate Orange in the toe of my stocking and a packet of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate squares, three obviously randomly chosen comics, including SECRET ORIGINS #29 featuring POWER OF THE ATOM, MR. AMERICA and the Golden Age RED TORNADO, from Super Drama Teen (she also gave me the buttons on my hat) a Spider-Man toothbrush, a work-oriented CARE package from Super Adorable Kid full of Kleenex and snacks and plastic cutlery and various other things that will come in handy when I'm off at Craptastic City taking calls... all this, plus the Comic Shop Guy book from the Collets... I mean, holy cow, legendary dragons don't have hordes like this.

None of this is anywhere near as important, of course, as the fact that SuperFiancee and the SuperKids obviously had fabulous Christmases as well... a joyous holiday I was pleased and privileged to be a direct enabler of.

I'll tell you, you haven't lived until you've been allowed to live for someone else's happiness.

What did I get the pleasure of giving to my family this Christmas? Well, I helped finance most of their swag, but directly from me to them, I gave --

Super Adorable Kid a Barbie American Idol singing stage with a toy headset for her and real recording machinery so she can make her own music;

Super Dependable Teen a Puzz 3-D Millenium Falcon (something that wouldn't have happened without SuperFiancee's incredible E-bay savvy and determination);

Super Drama Teen a light box, so she can trace her favorite comics panels and improve her own already enormously talented artistic style;

and SuperFiancee -- well, I gave her a new food processor, a gigantic skillet, a four piece Wok set, some sexy undies, some tin signs she'd wanted to put up in the kitchen, a salad shooter, some Magic cards, a Nickelback CD, a little wooden box, a snow globe with a polar bear inside it, the Led Zep concert t-shirt she's wearing in the picture, and a lot of sugar free chocolate, including some cherry cordials she's already gobbled several of. And probably a few other things that are escaping my brain at the moment.

In addition to all of the above, Super Drama Teen got V FOR VENDETTA on DVD and a hoodie and a great many art supplies for when she goes to art school next year and a STRANGERS IN PARADISE collection and t-shirt, and new pants. Super Dependable Teen got a Boba Fett t-shirt and pin, a sweatshirt with an iron on transfer of one of her new boyfriend's STAR WARS cartoons on it, X-MEN III on DVD, some Punisher pins, and new jeans. Super Adorable Kid got Amazing Allysen (boy, that doll won't shut up; she reminds me of another girl I used to know named... okay, never mind that), some plastic food and dishes (she loves to play restaurant), a Princess Jasmine Barbie, a toy compact with toy make up, an Olivia book, that adorable jacket and some other clothes, and honestly, I can't remember what all else, but she got a TON of stuff, and seems overjoyed with every bit of it.

And now, we're off to eat an early Christmas dinner (around 12:30) as the SuperKids still have to head over to their dad's to spend Christmas afternoon with him. Ham, mac n' cheese, corn, dinner rolls, garlic smashed potatoes, deviled eggs, broccoli casserole, and fruit salad, followed by lemon squares, gingerbread with home made whipped cream, and/or a Milky Way cake for dessert. Whooo! All this, with the Grinch (the cartoon, not that godawful live action thing) on constant loop in the background.

Seriously. Life don' ged much bedda dan dis.

I mean, yeah, it's raining outside instead of snowing, but I refuse to let that get me down.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Day of the Dead

Now Updated With Mad Trade Offers!!!

They had one Supernova booster left at my local gaming shop when I went in there for stocking stuffers and the latest 52 today. ONE. So I bought it. Upon opening it, I found a Vet Nova on top -- which is nice, but I already have a full REV. So I kept digging. Next down -- Unique Machine Man! Okay, so it's an excellent booster. But there are still many Supernova figs I'm missing, so maybe it will get even better... I'd still like a Thor, or a Silver Surfer. So I pull out Machine Man and there underneath him, it's one of the Vance Astros with Captain America's shield. Ho hum, got a full REV already. So I pull him out, and there's an Experienced Badoon... ::sigh:: Okay, but I got a Machine Man... let's see what card I pulled...

...hey, what's this... some kind of extra printed piece packed in... hey, that looks like a Horrorclix card...

My head swivels at hypersonic speed as I search the tabletop for that Vance Astro. It's NOT a Vance Astro... it's... OMG, it's...


Unfortunately, the Machine Man ruined one of SuperFiancee's Christmas presents for me, an eventuation I've been kicking myself, and abjectly apologizing to her for, all day long.

So that Machine Man (the one out of the booster) is trade fodder, and the one I'll get from SuperFiancee on Christmas is the one I'll keep, and put on display with my Avengers mob. Best I can do with a bad sitation entirely of my own making.

And yet... still... the last Supernova booster they had in the store... and it had both a Unique, and... A ZOMBIE CAPTAIN AMERICA.

I have no hope of getting all of the other Marvel Zombies, of course, and I've never read the series that inspired the figs... and while I'd be happy to have it as a gift, it's not something I'd ever spend any of my own money on. And the fig itself is going for... well... just under $100, from what I can see, on Ebay. And I'd imagine if I'm ever going to have anything that anyone might trade a Kingdom Come Green Lantern (and maybe something else) for, this is it.

So I doubt I'll end up keeping it. I mean, I like the fig... if I could have chosen to pull any one of the Zombie figs, it would have been this one... but I don't like it more than I like a hundred bucks cash, or any number of other figures I want more and could feasibly get in a straight up trade.

Still... it's really frickin' cool to have one now.

Although I wish I hadn't so monumentally screwed up one of SuperFiancee's Christmas presents. That I deeply, deeply regret. I'm very very sorry, baby. ::head hung in shame::

ADDENDUM, 12/24/06

Whew! Pull a Marvel Zombie, you get some respect!

Usually, I post a trade offer over at the WizKids site and I get maybe, if I'm lucky, 1 or 2 private messages within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Last night, I posted my Colonel America piece as a potential trade. This morning, I log in and there are SEVEN PRIVATE MESSAGES. That was three hours ago. I just logged in again... THREE MORE.

Here's the kind of offers I'm getting:

Choose one of these:
Ultimate Thor
KC Superman
CT Nightcrawler

Plus all of these:
V Night Thrasher
R Marvel Boy
V Starhawk
V Vindicator
V Silver Surfer
V Radioactive Man
R Kraven
E Shadowcat
V Jack O' Lantern
E Mach-3

Whew! And then there's --

I'm interested in your Cap Zombie. Here's what I could offer you for him:
Jack of Hearts
Super Skrull
R Thor
R Surfer
R Dr. Spectrum
R Vision
E Guardian
R Kang
RE Bulldozer
V Nocturn
R Marvel Boy
V Night Thrasher
Mental Shields

Kingpin of Hells Kitchen

Other Stuff:
Mr. Fixit
Ultimate Phoenix


Shield V
Shadowcat E V
Deathlok V
Spiderman E V
Radioactive man V
Daredevil E V
Bullseye E
Kraven R
Badoon V
Skrull V
Marvel Boy R
Nocturne V
Bulldozer R E
Kang R V
Vision R V
Mantis V
Silver Surfer R
Thor R V
Binary U
Graviton U
Mr Fixit U

And then there's --

Hi, here's my offer for Colonel Zombie:

Kyle Richmond LE w/out box
Vet Night Thrasher
R Bulldozer
R Kang
E Guardian, V Vindicator
R Dr. Spectrum
V Silver Surfer
V Thor
Jack of Hearts
Phoenix (Ultimates) (glued)

And then, finally (for now, anyway):

U Binary
U Ult IronMan
U Mr. Fixit
V Shield (sinister)
U Forge
LE Kyle Richmond
V Night Thrasher
R Marvel boy
R/E Bulldozer
E Guardian
U Super Skrull
E Mach IV
V Jack O Lantern
R/E Kraven
And all the cards

Plus, this just in:

For your Colonel America I'll trade you

Kyle Richmond
R, Vision
R, E Dr. Spectrum
Jack of Hearts

Ultimates Iron Man

As they say in the underground funny books - Yow Yow Yow! Are we having fun yet? ;)

A little later, Christmas Eve:

Two more:

I have for trade:

Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen

Vet Kree
Vet Badoon
Vet Night Thrasher
R Marvel Boy
Vet Nocturne
V Starhawk
R, V Kang
V Vindicator
R, V Vision
V Mantis
E Dr. Spectrum
Jack of Hearts
and Parallax

for your Zombie?

And --

Trading all these for your zombie col america

Vet Jack O'Lantern
Exp Mach-3
Vet Daredevil
Rookie Kraven
Kyle Richmond

Vet Kree
Vet Badoon
Vet Night Thrasher
R Marvel Boy
Vet Nocturne
E Bulldozer
R, Kang
E Guardian, V Vindicator
V Mantis
R, Dr. Spectrum
R Silver Surfer
R Thor
Jack of Hearts


Mr. Fixit
Silver Dreadnaught (Dreadnaught LE)

Of all these offers, it's tough to say which I favor. It's not just quantity of figs. Several people seem to have spare Ultimates Iron Man figs, but if I have to choose between that and Ultimates Thor, well, I'd rather have Ultimates Thor. Only one person has offered me that particular figure, and his accompanying list of REVs ain't bad, either. If he had a Supernova Thor on it, I'd be very tempted.

Then there's the third guy down... no Ultimates at all, but he's cleaning up nearly all my SINISTER and SUPERNOVA REV wants, and tossing in a few Uniques.

I mean, if I could just pick and choose from each offer, and assemble an ideal list...

Well, I've decided to take the week between holidays to think all offers over. I may get a few more figs tomorrow, too, assuming I don't bungle any more of SuperFiancee's presents by then and get thrown out of the house.

Yet another addendum 12/27/06

A few more offers thrown on the pile:

Here is my offer for your Zombie Cap. Everything you see is everything you may have for him!

From Sinister I have:

>Exp. Hydra Technician (w/ healing)
>Exp. Shadowcat
>Exp. MACH-3
>Exp. Spider-Man (single base Transporter Ability)
>Vet Radioactive Man
>Vet Deathlok
>Vet Jack O'Lantern
>Rookie Kraven

LE Kyle Richmond
LE Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen


Here's what I have from SUPERNOVA:

Rookie Marvel Boy
Vet Nocturne
R & E Bulldozer
Rookie Kang
Vet Vindicator
Rookie Vision
Rookie Thor

Jack of Hearts

and all the cards you needed from this set.


Ill give u the following for it
Vet Jack O'Lantern
Exp, Vet Spider-Man
Rookie Kraven
Scarlet Spider
Kyle Richmond
Vet Kree
R Silver Surfer
R Thor
Jack of Hearts
Super Skrull
Mr. Fixit
KC Hawkman

And, finally (for now):

I don't know what Kind of offers you have gotten for your Col America
BUT heres another

your Zombie Col America

for my

V Shield Trooper x2
REV Hydra
V Jack O' Lantern
E Mach 3
E Spiderman
V Radioactive Man
RE Kraven
Vet Kree
Vet Badoon
Vet Skrull
Vet Night Thrasher
R Marvel Boy
Vet Nocturne
RV Kang
E Guardian
R, E Dr. Spectrum

Yes all of it for your Col America

Of course, this morning I posted on the WK site that I'm not going to ship the zombie fig until I receive whichever offer I accept in the mail. That may very well cause some if not all of these fine traders to withdraw their offers. If so, well, I can always trade with Mike Norton. In the meantime, I'll just wait and see, since I've already announced I'm not making a decision until this weekend, and not posting my decision until New Year's Day.

This may be the winner...

Hard to imagine anyone beating THIS:

After I got your last PM I dug through my collection and pulled out a couple sweeteners. I'm trying so hard because I primarily play Horrorclix and have been laid off my job, I can't afford boosters or the E-bay price for a zombie so trade is my only option... I will trade ALL of the following:


The Atom U (puck) JLA
Plastic Man U (mailbox) JLA


Hydra R
Shield troopers Rx2 Vx2
Shadowcat E V
Spiderman E V
Radioactive Man V
Daredevil E
Bullseye E
Kraven R


Badoon V
Skrull V
Marvel Boy R
Bulldozer R E
Kang R V
Vision R V
Mantis V
Silver Surfer R
Thor R V
Binary U
Graviton U

MUTANT MAYHEM (you listed these as little interest)

Nastirh U
Black Queen U


Cyclops V
Marvel girl V
Colosus V


Mr. Fixit U

More on the DC side there is:

Dan Cassidy LE
Jefferson Pierce LE
Kyle Raynor LE
Arthur Light LE
Clark Kent LE
Omac 5674 LE
GeneGrafted Brain LE
Shazam (KC) LE

Friday, December 22, 2006

Stopped short never to go again

I love Sadly, No! If you haven't checked out Sadly, No!, you're missing a pretty good poli-blog. The boys there can get awfully mean spirited and juvenile at times (as here, where the Sadly, No! team and their crew of regular ass kissers all decide to gang up and punch the living shit out of some poor, literally brain damaged right wing nutjob) and alas, the level of sycophancy in their comment threads is about the standard you find at any site that gets a great many hits... but, still, their stuff is generally quite funny, and they have three or four rotating contributors, so there's usually something new up pretty often... a condition one will not find obtaining at other, similar poli blogs like The Poor Man or Whiskey Bar, where the content level is high, but you can occasionally have a couple of birthdays waiting for a new post.

Sadly No! is, as mentioned, a popular site and it gets a lot of hits, and generally, the comment threads there run into double digits pretty quickly. Today, however, I happened to be over there, and saw a post that began as follows:

We missed the big Eschaton switcheroo today, when Blogspot exploded, sending our own Earth Prime Atrios briefly to Earth II, before everything settled back to normal again. Earth II is properly the demesne of the Golden Age Atrios, who had a green costume and a teenage sidekick named Cracky, and fought gangsters and Japanese saboteurs instead of Republicans and clueless media figures. In the ’60s and ’70s the character became grittier and more complex, and I think the origin story changed, and I’m not sure what I’m talking about, honestly.

The rest of the post is all about how people should contribute money to an entirely different blogger (Digby) and has nothing at all to do with the cool, if totally geeked out, first paragraph. In fact, the entire first paragraph is pretty much nothing but an extended, utterly nerdy non sequitur.

However, I like non sequiturs and I'm always up for some geeky fun, and the comment threads hadn't gotten out of hand at that point, so, in between calls from people who hate me and want me dead, I laboriously typed up and then posted the following:

December 22, 2006 at 17:39
Handsome said,

I remember the Golden Age Atrios! From his very first appearance as a back up in MORE POLITICAL COMICS #71 (August-December 1942) he was obviously a memorable character, even if all he really did in that four page short was hector supporters of the New Deal to get out and unionize, and land a single right cross on the jaw of some goddam Bundist pretending to be Santa Claus.

After that he appeared infrequently, but with increasing page counts to his stories, until he finally took over MPC as the lead in #83, in a story called, as best I can remember “Lest Auld Stupid Harding Era Economic Policies Be Re-Enacted”, a rousing romp in which he kicked the living crap out of a bunch of war profiteers who were scheming to overthrow FDR and replace him with a Corporate Fiduciary Board led by ‘Colonel’ Henry Ford (don’t ask).

Atrios continued to headline MORE POLITICAL COMICS through WWII. Afterwards, though, he was specifically targeted by the dreaded Dr. Wertham (it seems Wertham detected some subversive and/or deviant subtext in Atrios’ ongoing relationship with Cracky, perhaps having to do with the fact that Atrios and Cracky were notoriously the only Golden Age heroes who sported prominent codpieces as part of their costumes) and both the title and the character fell victim to the general superhero implosion that occurred in 1947.

I don’t believe we saw the Golden Age Atrios again until that seminal story in CONGRESSIONAL SUBCOMMITTEE CAPERS #17 (Sept-Oct 1954) when the Silver Age Atrios accidentally triggered The Red Menace’s cross-dimensional bicycle and wound up on the then-unchristened Earth-2, where he met his childhood comic book hero, the Golden Age Atrios, whose fictional adventures had inspired the Silver Age Atrios’ costume and choice of superhero name! That classic romp eventually ended up with the creation of Earth-2 and the revival of the Grassroots Activist Society of America, the very first super-pundit team ever, whose adventures are still going strong today, even after the Eternal Crisis of Confidence consolidated every multiple timeline into one, ending up with eighteen different version of Atrios, and half a dozen jaded, alcoholic or drug addicted Cracky’s, existing side by side.

I do have to correct one thing, though — the Golden Age Atrios never fought Japanese saboteurs. That was the Modern Age Atrios, who administered street justice to the Japanese subway bombers “from the barrels of his roaring twin .45s”, to quote Jim Lee’s perhaps somewhat over the top captions in POLITICAL ACTION featuring ATRIOS! #23. Lee was trying very hard to write the story in a Golden Age style, though, and that may be where the confusion comes in.

Hilarious stuff! Yet so generally hated and feared am I at Sadly, No! ever since my shameless orgy of blog whoring of a week or so ago, that... well... in the several hours since I've posted that comment, the comment thread it's in has grown by all of one additional entry.

It's amazing. I apparently have the power to kill otherwise popular comment threads using only my wit.

Mine is the superior intellect, indeed.

Of course, this is my fault entirely. I've posted several times in the Sadly, No! comment threads since "Handsome" was apparently put on permanent iggy, under various of my better known webnomens. It's obvious that anything "Handsome" posts will be ignored, and in fact, I'd planned to put "Highlander" on that comment, and then I got rushed because of where I was posting from, and forgot to do it. So, you know... mea culpa, and all that. Had I posted as "Highlander", or someone else, no doubt the comment thread would have continued to grow and prosper, and someone might have even commented on my comment itself.

As it is, though, I've carelessly destroyed something that could have been beautiful.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Sometimes, though... I forget.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I got Wood

The much missed Hartmut sent me an email today, and in it, he included a few links to things he thought 'might be of interest to me'.

And they all were, and none more than this, the legendary 22 Panels That Always Work by Wally Wood.

Wood was, as a human being, a sad, miserable train wreck. But as an artist, he was unparalleled and peerless. Taking a look at these panels cannot help but make anyone with any desire to draw comic books better at the job they aspire to.

Hartmut also sent me this, a link to some scans of a very early issue of ALL STAR COMICS which is interesting to anyone who cares about the original adventures of the nutballs currently running around in JSA... except, of course, for the fact that Batman and Superman didn't exist back then; they didn't come along until the 70s/80s/90s whenever it was nowadays that Clark Kent dashed into his first phone booth and that ominous bat first flew through Bruce Wayne's window.

He also sent me a link to some stuff whereby a publisher is looking for certain very specific types of submissions, and I'll be looking into that, too. More on it as and if it develops.

Meanwhile, thanks, Hartmut. And have a great Christmas!

All praise! He's found the awful truth!

None of us can do it alone -- and even if we could, we really wouldn't want to. So it is that I take a moment to praise every person out there without whom I just wouldn't want to even bother getting up in the morning --

ALL PRAISE to SuperFiancee, who is always the lead off batter in any appreciation line up I throw together. SuperFiancee always rocks, and all of you reading this know what I'm talkin' about, too. Today, though, she successfully preserved my lazy peaceful morning off from the depradations of an overly eager landlord who, having discovered he could get a drywall contractor over here a day earlier than previously arranged, was all hot to do it. I was blissfully sleeping while SuperFiancee diverted full power to our energy shields and deflected the otherwise inevitable intrustion into my sweet repose, and while this is perhaps the least of an infinitude of things I am grateful to her for, still, it's the most recent way, just today, she's made my life so much better than it ever was without her. PRAISE SuperFiancee! PRAISE HER, I say!

ALL PRAISE to the SuperKids, without whom my life would be a much, much bleaker place. PRAISE THEM!!! PRAISE THEM!!!!

ALL PRAISE to Tony and Kathy Collett, who sent us a surprise package of gifts that we found on our porch yesterday, upon arriving home from work (after a quick stop off at UPS to ship out what is hopefully the final wave of our own Xmas goodies and greetings). I am now the proud, happy owner of COMIC BOOK GUY'S BOOK OF POP CULTURE, and must admit, in the diorama showing the BEST APARTMENT EVER, there are several items that I would give several limbs (not necessarily my own, mind you) to own, like the Bender Blender and Wookie-Skin Rug. I admit to a sneaking, furtive fondness for the Zardoz Floating Head Hanging Lamp, as well, not because Zardoz is anything beyond a crappy movie, but just because it's such an obscure reference as to be cool in and of itself.

SuperFiancee got a really lovely vase that she likes a lot, and I suppose that's okay, too. The SuperKids also all got presents, but they're at their dad's this week, so I don't know what they are as yet. Still... PRAISE the Colletts! PRAISE

ALL PRAISE to my brother Pat and his family, who sent us a three month membership in the Blockbuster Movie Club, which will give us three month's worth of candy, popcorn, and movie rentals starting in January. PRAISE PAT!!! PRAISE HIS FAMILY!!!! Seriously, bro, thanks a bunch.

ALL PRAISE to me mum and stepdad Carl, who sent us a package of goodies that awaits me over at the local post office, as soon as I get off my lazy ass and trek over to snatch it up. Thanks, Mom and Carl.

ALL PRAISE to the Always Esteemed Scott Shepherd, who has already advised me that he'll be shipping us his own package of gifts for the whole family... someday. Yet it's not the space-time coordinates that matter, but the incredibly generous gesture of friendship that counts, so I say PRAISE Scott Shepherd! PRAISE HIM!!!

And, finally, ALL PRAISE to Mike Norton, Nate Clark, Scott Ryan, Laurie Boris, Mark and Lisa Gibson, Your Girl Friday, and other absent friends whom we wish were less absent, but whom our hearts and thoughts remain with throughout this Christmas season. I cannot praise true friends enough, or those in my family who love me enough to remember me here in the holiday season. All Praise to all you folks... and Merry Christmas, too!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good King Wence's car backed out on a piece of Steven

Tis the season to be bitchy… so, let me be bitchy about a few random things that have crossed my Bitch Threshold over the past couple of weeks…

Last weekend, SuperFiancee and I dropped by The Zone in quest of Christmas presents, and so I could get a few comics. Max Bitch Points must go to the counter guy at The Zone, who on this occasion magnificently upheld the Zone's reputation (with me, anyway) for Employing The Most Astonishingly Rude And/Or Straight Up Couth Free Employees In Any Comics Shop Ever. Usually you can count on Zone employees to know little to nothing about their store's stock from one moment to the next, to ignore you while talking to other people they find more interesting for ten minutes or twenty minutes at a time in the most abhorrently and repulsively vulgar fashion imaginable, and generally to do the most astonishing impression of a bunch of emotionally retarded rejects from a Kevin Smith movie I have ever encountered.

This guy, whoever he was, carried on in that wonderful tradition by repeatedly, and with increasing volume, saying "I HAVEN'T READ JSA YET" while a friend of mine and I were discussing our opinions of the issue as I was paying for some comics.

Now, normally, it’s a fine line in these situations. Two or more people who have read a particular book, or seen a particular movie, or a particular TV show, want to discuss details of said entertainment, and someone else there would prefer they don’t, because they haven’t read/seen said entertainment yet and don’t want it spoiled for them. Which party is being rude can generally depend on many factors, not least of which is, the manner of the presentation of one party’s desire that the other party or parties shut the fuck up.

However, in this case, the counter guy was being flat out rude, and here's what I should have said to the idiot, and I might have said it, too, if I didn't want SuperFiancee to see me being all confrontational and shit, and risk getting her banned from the shop along with me.

Still, here's what I should have said: "Okay, jackass, I understand you haven't read JSA yet. I heard you the first time, and I ignored you, which was giving you the benefit of the doubt as you were being unbelievably impolite, but now that you’re repeating your unbelievable impoliteness at even louder volume, okay, here is my response -- the issue has been out two weeks, and you work at a comics shop, and your goddam slowness to get around to reading something is neither my fault nor my problem, and beyond all that, I'm standing here giving you some of my money for some of your merchandise, and, finally, WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM, you goddam rude ass dimbulb receding hairline douchebag?"

I didn't say that. But I should have.

The friend I was trying to discuss JSA with was Bane, who happened to be there in The Zone when SuperFiancee and I walked in, and it was very nice to see him again. Hi, Bane. Your buddy behind the counter is a fucking jerk. But it was cool to see you for a couple of minutes. Drop by over here soon.

Moving on to other bitchworthy things -- let’s talk briefly about mindless goddam participants in Flexible Spending Accounts who are apparently completely incapable of connecting Concept A, I've been on hold for ten/twenty/thirty/forty minutes now, with Concept B, Maybe I should call back tomorrow. These are the people who, unable to hurdle that miniscule ideational gap, hung on their phones for half an hour at a time all day yesterday until they finally managed to get hold of me, at which point, they all initiated our exchange with some variant on "I HAVE BEEN ON HOLD FOR FORTY MINUTES!!!!"

Some minor praise is, perhaps, due to me, for never once pointing out to any of these people, however badly I wanted to, that it is the nature of Flexible Spending Accounts that there are absolutely no emergency situations, and there is never anything about a Flexible Spending Account that requires you to speak to your FSA administrator right that very second... unless you're a dipshit and you let things go all year until some deadline suddenly looms, in which case, to quote a somewhat popular contemporary aphorism, your lack of forethought and/or planning in no way constitutes an emergency for me.

I should, however, take a moment at this moment to offer sincere gratitude to Fangirls Supreme Ragnell and Kalinara, who are apparently so consumed with guilt for how badly they've treated me in the past that they just keep linking to anything even vaguely comic book related I post here. This sends huge, infrequent swarms of lemminglike chick and chick-whipped traffic my way, and I occasionally end up with a comment from it, too.

I will also offer up a moment of thanks for all my lemminglike chick and chick-whipped traffic, too. Over the past couple of days, hundreds of viewers have hit on my JSA article, taken a second or two to scroll all the way down to the end of it, slapped their hands to their cheeks like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone, shrieked "HOLY FUCKING JESUS THIS THING IS REALLLLLLLLY LONG!!!!" and gone flitting away again, in search of something that they can, as Elayne Riggs once described it, "finish reading before my work computer’s word processing program fully opens in the morning".

Lest anyone think I'm joking about lemminglike chick and chick-whipped traffic, go here. The post, brief though it is, is emotionally retarded enough in its own right – another in an apparently endless array of Ragnell's "I have found yet another thing that offends me in this world, now ATTACK, my winged monkeys, ATTACK!" type psycho-hissy fits -- but the real hysteria (in every sense of the word) lies in the comment threads.

The chicks themselves I can nearly understand -- they're young, they're strident, they're on hair triggers, they have no senses of humor about anything they take seriously, and they are simply incapable of understanding something like, um, gee, well, if an alien gem possessed the body of a comely Earth woman and sets out to use that body to attract a particular Earth man, said alien gem might well garb it in a manner designed to get and hold the libidinous attention of said Earth man -- this isn't a depiction of an actual woman actually dressing this way for no reason other than artistic whim, as, alas, happens so often in superhero comics.

No, I don't expect chicks like Ragnell to get any of that, so, as I say, I very nearly understand them, to the extent that any sane human being can really comprehend such as they. These are nearly sentient humanoid entities who do not think, they simply feel, and this particular image viscerally offends them, and the entire world must and shall revolve around their own particular emotional hot buttons, and so they're off to see, and, they fondly hope, castrate, the Wizard. I get that. I do. It's insane and unbalanced, and they all badly need to get back on their medication, but still, I get it.

But the accompanying comment thread is long, and has a lot of male commenters in it, too, and... okay, I get them also, kinda. They're equally young, and they haven't yet learned that sympathizing with the hard core insane femazon as she's strapping on her armor and sharpening her melon-baller will not ever get them any, and even if it did, it wouldn't be very good. So there they are, throwing their skirts over their heads and pissing their panties over the outfit an alien gem puts on a comely Earth woman in order to attact the attention of a particular Earth man, right alongside the chickie-poos. Yeah. I get them. I pity them... but I get them.

Also making the Bitch List -- my dear beloved employers, who have given me a job, albeit one for which I am substantially underpaid, where people scream at me all day long largely due to my employers’ incompetence and/or their unnecessary and idiotic policies, where I get no Christmas bonus, and where I can rejoice in the knowledge that all the uppermost executive positions will take home millions in bonuses this year, mostly due to my efficiency at answering the phones for them.

While I’m bitching, I would be remiss not to include brilliant fantasist and all around bitter disappointment George R.R. Martin, who has recently announced on his Not A Blog feature that he's been too goddam busy fucking around with Wild Cards bullshit to finish the newest Westeros novel, as he has repeatedly assured us he would by the end of this year. But at least he's learned his lesson; having failed millions of loyal paying readers abysmally and utterly, he's rising above any temptation he might have to blame himself for being a lazy faithless undisciplined wank, and instead putting all responsibility for his own fecklessness firmly where it irrefutably belongs -- on us, for believing him and expecting him to do as he'd told us he would. No longer will he promise anyone a hard deadline for anything, he declares, or, perhaps, snivels; it's just too tedious for him, when he fucks around and fucks around and fucks around and then, suddenly, he can't get the work he's promised done, and everyone gets mad at him. So here’s a glass lifted to you, George R.R. Martin. Never has one man done so little for so long for so many.

Oh, yeah, and he may put up a different preview chapter of the forthcoming book, eventually, but if he does it will be something that he's had up before, because he found that nearly half of his previous book had been previewed on the Internet before it was actually published, and he doesn't want that to happen again. The notion that it couldn't possibly happen again if he'd get his thumbs out of his ass and FINISH THE MOTHERFUCKER is, apparently, a bizarre and outrageous concept, anathema to all thinking beings, and not to be borne for the most fleeting instant. You go, Mr. Martin. You’re a man among men.

Let me also take a moment to thank Blogger, for letting me vent regarding a lot of minor little annoyances like, you know, dipshits on other blogs and dumbass people who call me at work and feckless dopey goddam authors who lead millions of people up a beautiful, beautiful beanstalk and then leave us stranded on a leaf for years at a time while they (heh) jack off. If not for Blogger, I’d be one of those people who writes this stuff up longhand, Xeroxes it all off, and staples it to phone poles. Thank you, Blogger, for getting me here. Ooo wah, Magic Blogger.

Despite the generally sarcastic nature of this post, let me close by noting that even with all this annoying and irksome stupidity hurtling past the windows of my existence, my life in particular is an oasis of wondrous blissfulness in a sea of raging chaos, and that’s all due to SuperFiancee and the SuperKids. Ex husbands and their current paramours may rant and hate and scream and spray spittle; politicians may take bribes, send our soldiers off to their doom, break campaign promises and murder foreign children with mad élan; authors whose house payments I contribute to may continually disappoint me and then bitch that it’s all my fault for being so mean in the first place; participants may shriek and supervisors may spew; but at the start and end of every day, I have the finest woman and the finest children any man has ever shared life, breath, hearth, and heart with, and I am a lucky, lucky individual indeed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Follow up

I've already let enough venomous, vindictive, agenda driven, entirely personal (and, frankly, no little deranged) bile distract from the substance of my previous post and its comment threads, so I'm going to put this up as a separate entry:

HoosierGirl5 has left a new comment on your post "She ain't heavy":

Oh my God, are you full of yourself?! You criticize ME for posting anonymously when you yourself bragged at how you have to come up with different names just to get some attention, because if they knew it was YOU, they wouldn't respond? My, aren't you smart to have a tracker?! I have one, too, and I know how often YOU lurk on MY page, even though you continue to deny it to the woman you live with.

You, who fill page after page of insults for those I love? You have decided you know so much about me, when we have not exchanged more than 10 words?

And yes, I am PAID to teach children, because I'm damn good at it. At least I bothered to get an education and pursue a career, instead of living off my significant other and her children's child support! At least I can support MY family. I wouldn't want 3 particular children I care about to read all the crap YOU hang out on the Internet. And all the JUNK you waste your money on? What a guy!

Why should this time of year be any different for YOU? You have said, quite proudly, that you don't believe in anything. What a role model!

Get a grip and spend all the long-winded energy on yourself. It is totally wasted on all the garbage you spew on the Internet.

Merry Christmas! (sweet smile)

That I'm posting this at all... well, I guess it's just so that whoever reads my blog can see it, and see for themselves what SuperFiancee and I deal with far too much of the time. I'm not going to comment on the substance, such as it is, of the follow up itself, other than to note my own belief that much of the hostility and vitriol spewed above does not actually originate with the poster; I think it's pretty much the straight party line on Everything That's Wrong With Highlander, sourcing from the person the poster is currently dating, who happens to be SuperFiancee's ex husband, who, you know, happens to despise me.

However, regardless of who actually originated the sentiments, this post makes it clear exactly what standards this person uses to judge me, and presumably other people, with: what kind of college degree they have. How much money they make. Their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). The hobbies they choose to spend whatever money they may have left over, after paying the bills and supporting their family, on.

These are the things she feels qualify one (or not) as, in her phrase, 'a role model'.

These are the values she models for her children and her students. This is the behavior she seems to be proud of. It's doubtless what makes her DAMN good at being a teacher.

This is what my future step kids are exposed to, one week and one weekend a month.

Oh, wait, I do want to add one more specific comment: I do not have any idea what she is seeing on her particular stats tracker that causes her to think I have been lurking on her blog, but, straight up -- I have not. I have no interest in her, or in her life, and would live just as long and die just as happy if I never had any interaction with her again. In fact, that's pretty much all I want from her -- for her to go the fuck away and leave me, and the people I love, alone. She won't do it -- apparently, she can't do it, for some reason, she desperately requires my and/or SuperFiancee's attention on at least a semi-regular basis -- and, well... well. Never mind. I'm just not going to go there, I've said all I need to say on the unfortunate subject of this deeply unpleasant, miserably unhappy, fundamentally self loathing person in the comment threads on the post below this, and I will leave it at that.

But -- I ain't been on her blog since back in the days when she was still pretending to be Carmichael, and trying to convince SuperFiancee and I that she was somebody other than the person we knew her to be. And even then, I think I may have gone there once, shuddered, and moved on.

One more thing, and I've mentioned this before, but I will take the opportunity to mention it again -- anonymous commenters are not necessarily vicious, cowardly, self serving, self hating turds, but that's generally going to be the presumption I have when I see such a comment come up for approval in a thread. So, if you're reading this, and inclined to comment anonymously, please understand you are setting the bar a bit higher for yourself than you would be if you were willing to let me know who you are.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

She ain't heavy

There's this gigantic fat black woman who rides the same very early morning bus that I do. I'm on flex time, so I catch different buses on different days depending on my hours, but when I work 8 to 6:30, which is at least once a week, she's always there. Probably about my age or a little older. Huge -- I mean, just vastly corpulent. Very dark skinned, very Negroid features. She looks like a bag lady, as she's never to be seen without several plastic grocery sacks and a bulging at the seams bookbag all crammed full of God only knows what.

She rides the bus all the way to the end of the line, like I do, and gets on the same shuttle I do, out to Bluegrass Parkway. She works at the Citibank call center, which is a mile or so from my job.

Everything about her is annoying. If you get stuck behind her as she gets on or off a vehicle, you may as well grab a Snickers bar, because you're not going anywhere for a while. She huffs and puffs and carefully sets down (or picks up) each of her multitude of bags with the same level of delicate precision as you'd expect to see in a demolitions expert defusing a Claymore mine. And she's earnest, and she's unctious, and she will not, probably can not, mind her own business. If you make the mistake of even accidentally allowing eye contact with her for the most fleeting instant, she will gabble at you incessantly for the next half hour about whatever ephemeral stimuli or vague, wispy concept enters her vaporous brain at apparent random. If you don't, well, she'll bray at someone else. You get no peace from her; you certainly get no goddam quiet.

She's just aggravating. I mean, if Allah Herself had set down on a coffee break and calculated exactly what sort of human being would be most easily and casually regarded, and then contemptuously dismissed, by me as 'other', well, this annoying fat black woman would fit the divine bill as if custom made by ingenious orcs.

It may be important to understand here that in the morning, I am an even surlier lout than I am most other times, especially when I am trapped in mass transit with fellow humans not of my choosing on my way to a place I only go because I am paid to do so. I do not want to have people I do not like try to engage me in cheerful conversation about church or Jesus or the college basketball game that was on TV the night before or what the weather is like or what they've heard I do at my job and isn't that interesting. People who do so, do so at their own risk, because, well, I don't like it. On workday mornings when I am on my way to work, I am nobody to attempt to be friendly with.

Although that's not entirely true. Sometimes I can join in the banter, with some of the other regular riders. In fact, I remember one time, after this particular woman got off, one of the other folks speculated as to what she had in all those bags, and someone... okay, it was me... shot back immediately -- "Probably her lunch".

And, you know, everybody laughed.

So, it's possible it's not just that I'm a surly bastard in the morning. It might be that on some level, I'm just a mean motherfucker. At least, towards gigantic fat annoying black women I cannot regard as being in any way part of my particular tribe.

So this morning, she's on the bus and I'm on the bus and I'm ignoring her as is my wont and I take out my copy of JSA #1 which I took in my bag so maybe I could work on the blog post I'm writing about it in between calls.

And she says something to me about it.

At first, I thought it was "So, how's that comic book working out for you there, mister mister manny-man?" in that happy-sappy, Jesus-loves-you-yes-I-know tone she has no matter what she says.

And I was aggravated, and inwardly rolling my eyes, and thinking Why the fuck does she have to fucking bother m...

...and I realized, about half a second after she'd finished speaking, that what she'd actually said was "So, how's that new JSA comic working out for you, with Geoff Johns writing?"

And I was fucking hammered.

She knows who the JSA are?

She knows who Geoff Frickin Johns is?

"Uh," I said, finally. "Well... I don't like it. I don't think there's much story in it. And there's too much stuff in it that he's not explaining fully."

And she nodded. "I think he's overextending himself," she said. "52, Teen Titans, now this... I just think the poor dear is worn out."

And then we pulled into the Citibank call center's parking lot, and she got up and said good bye to everyone on the shuttle in her unfailingly cheerful fashion, and carefully picked up all her myriad baggages, and clambered slowly and ponderously off the vehicle.

And left me sitting there, dazed.


...she's just like me.

Holy shit.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not so great Society (JSA #1, plenty of spoilers)

I keep trying to type something on JSA #1. God clearly doesn't want me to, as he keeps throwing not quite lethal disease microbes and high school Christmas concerts and various other things at me just when I feel like I might be able to sit down for longer than ten minutes at a time and get it done. But, it's 8:31 in the evening and I've been home from work all day with this appalling flux and I seem finally to be on the mend. The kids are all elsewhere and SuperFiancee is in the back bedroom, trying to recuperate from her own bout with the same killer shit that laid me low yesterday, last night, and most of today. (To complete that score card, while SuperFiancee seems to have the variant of the bug that I caught, and is mostly laid low by profound diarrhea and stomach upset, Super Dependable Teen seems to have picked up the Super Adorable Kid strain, as she started throwing up this morning and kept doing it until early in the afternoon.)

Anyway, enough of that depressing real life shit, let's move on to some depressing, disappointing fantasy life shit instead:

JSA #1, by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham is... well, what the hell is it? Depressing, sure, and disappointing, yes, but why? Where did it fall down so badly? How did it so comprehensively fail to live up to even the most basic expectations I might have for a Geoff Johns JSA issue? Let me count the ways:

Page 1 - World War III? Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do. See, I knew this was going to be a problem when they announced that they were going to shift the entire DC Universe ahead a year following Infinite Crisis, and then fill in that missing year in a weekly comic running 52 issues over the 12 months -- while, of course, simultaneously continuing to publish their regular monthly titles, all now set after the events of the miniseries.

I knew that they weren't going to be able to pull it off, and, well, here we are, jumping headlong into a much awaited first issue of an ongoing series that apparently takes place three months after something called World War III, an event that is seemingly pivotal to the Justice Society, and I don't know a goddam thing about it, because the miniseries hasn't gotten that far yet.

This is unacceptable, and pisses me off no end. Page 1 of the new Geoff Johns JSA series, and already I have no fucking clue what's going on. Not a good way to start out a book I've been looking forward to this much.

Page 1 also strongly indicated something I may or may not mention again -- when I'd heard that Dale Eaglesham was drawing this book, I was very pleased, but I must have been somehow mistaking that name for the name of an artist who is actually competent at his craft. Now, I realize that it's tough to draw a team book in which the team itself has 15 or 16 visually different characters, who are all of wildly differing ages, genders, and, to the extent that DC Comics is capable of doing so (not very much) ethnicities. And maybe artists weren't exactly lining up for the gig, and perhaps anyone who could actually do it well couldn't do it very fast. But whatever the case, Eaglesham sucks, and putting a nice Alex Ross cover on the front of the issues is only going to underscore and exacerbate just how badly he sucks.

How does Eaglesham suck? First, the only way you can distinguish any of his characters is by their costumes; in terms of faces and physiques, they might as well be clones. I'm not kidding about this; Liberty Belle has the exact same face and physique as Stargirl, and that's a problem that is repeated everywhere you see two or more members of the JSA standing near each other in the same panel or even on the same page.

Now, being unable to tell one character from another other than by clothing, gender, and/or race has been a constant problem in superhero comics since the Golden Age, but contemporary artists have made great strides towards correcting this visual issue, and there's no excuse for anyone drawing a high profile comic like this who cannot visually differentiate between an acrobatic 16 year old high school student with a magic stick and a mid 20s former superspeedster who dresses like a crimefighting equestrienne.

Beyond that, Eaglesham can't keep his faces balanced in close up if they're at anything other than a straight up 90 degree angle to the top and bottom borders of the panel. Look at Mr. America's face on page 6, panel 5. Why is his right eye blacked out by shadow? Is it because otherwise we'd notice Eaglesham can't keep it in proportion to his left eye? I think it is.

Speaking of Mr. America, why does he have this kind of Confederate flag thing going on with his cape in the splash panel on page 4, with the white stars on the blue stripe on the red background, but he's completely lost it by his next appearance in costume where we can see the detail, on page 15 (I think it's page 15, jesus, could we have some page numbers, please?) It's not that I like the Confederate flag look, and I imagine some editor spotted how similar it was to the racist supervillain's Confederate flag look and changed it from that point forward, but, you know, we can't go back and clean up the preceding artwork too? This is just sloppy.

And then there's that horrible, horrible, horrible pose Eaglesham forces Hourman and Liberty Belle into when they first show up to confront Damage... and I could go on and on, but never mind. Put Rags Morales on this book, NOW.

Page 2 - The JLA kisses the JSA's collective ass. I suppose they should, the JSA hasn't murdered anyone recently, or wiped out anyone's memories. All this, plus, Alan Scott has an idea. I guess that idea is for the JLA to track down a lot of JSA legacy heroes so they can be inducted into the new JSA, but you kinda have to figure that out for yourself, since Johns never bothers to make it clear.

And lest you think this is a minor quibble, ‘making things clear’ is the primary bullet point on the job description of anyone who writes or draws comic books, or who in any way attempts to communicate any kind of idea of any sort to any other human being whatsoever. If you aren’t making stuff clear, and you’re lucky enough to be in a job where you get to tell stories for a living, you have fundamentally failed to perform your basic tasks. And not making things clear is probably the fundamental reason, which keeps coming up over and over again, that I was so grossly disappointed by this particular comic book.

Page 3 - Introducing the new Mr. America. Does this mean there's never been a Golden Age Mr. America? We don't know. Nobody tells us. The new Mr. America is fine with beating and torturing a confession out of somebody he just knows is guilty of raping and murdering a 15 year old girl, making him pretty much the John Ashcroft Superhero Of The Year for the post 9/11 JSA. Why is it I think the JLA won't have to kiss the JSA's ass on moral grounds for very much longer...?

When we first see the new Mr. America, his cape is somehow attached to the shoulders of his shirt, and his shirt has a white collar with blue stars on it. A few panels later, the cape itself has a red collar with blue stars. C'mon, guys, this is the JSA here. Take a few more months, get the bugs worked out. Maybe by then we'll all know what the hell World War III was.

Let me dwell for a moment on this new Mr. America character. In many ways he seems to be the heart of this particular story, and as such, the way he’s written, what we are told about him, and what we aren’t, seems to almost entirely sum up all the bad, sloppy, lazy writing in this issue.

Page 3 is his intro, but page 4 is a splash page, showing Mr. America walking through a door, with swirling snow all around him, his cape blowing in the wind, his name in a big logo in the only caption on this page up at the top, above his head. He looks cool as shit and dramatic as hell… well, given what he’s wearing, anyway. There is no other text whatsoever on this page, other than the title and credit sequences at the bottom, and therefore, there is a lot of room for captions. Here’s what would have been good writing at this point:

CAPTION: My name is actually Trey Thompson the III, and I am the second Mr. America. My grandfather, the first Trey Thompson, was also the first to wear this costume and bear this name. He gained renown as a Nazi fighter in WWII, both on the home front and behind enemy lines in Europe. He often worked side by side with the original Justice Society of America.

CAPTION: Those were dark times, but in many ways, it seems to me that these are just as dark. Evil no longer wears a uniform. It has a thousand faces. And the horrors I have seen enacted here in my lifetime rival anything that my grandfather ever fought.

CAPTION: But evil now still has one thing in common with evil then – it still fears justice.

The text may suck – I’d never in my life claim to be as good a writer as Geoff Johns – but the reader needs this information. For those of us who have been around long enough to be aware that Mr. America is actually a Golden Age Nazi fighter, this tells us that, yeah, the new guy is a legacy hero, and thus, has a legitimate place in any JSA title, even if we’ve never heard of him before. It also tells us that the JSA has a history with, if not this particular individual, then at least with the Mr. America identity. This will be important, later on in the issue, when the new JSA is abruptly confronted by the new Mr. America in extremely melodramatic (if, unfortunately, monstrously cliched) circumstances.

It also makes many things much more sensible. Mr. America's costume, and, for that matter, his name, are products of another time, and stick out like sore thumbs in a contemporary superhero context. But if he's a legacy hero, carrying on his grandfather's tradition of superheroics blah blah blah, well, we can at least understand why someone with no superpowers at all is willing to dress up like the illegitimate child of Zorro and Betsy Ross, and attempt to fight supervillains armed only with his gay little Clark Gable mustache and a friggin' bullwhip.

Otherwise, you know, he just seems a tiny bit silly.

Anyway, he's just walked into a crime scene in a private home, where a woman and two kids have been killed by some unknown bad guy. The FBI is all over the place, and an APB has been put out on the missing husband. Mr. America pulls off his mask as he falls to his knees. The APB won't be necessary -- he's the missing husband. Oooh. I got chills.

It’s not that the sequence isn’t emotional and moving. It’s more that it reads like seventeen different clichés smashing into each other at the intersection of Say, Isn’t This Familiar Street and Whoa, We’ve Seen This All Before Boulevard, and then exploding. You feel for the guy, but, at the same time, you’ve seen stuff like this so many times at this point that you’re bemused by the sheer repetitiveness of the data.

Page 6 -- here's a bunch of young legacy heroes who will be in the new JSA. Say, didn't Jesse Chambers used to have super speed? How did she become the new Liberty Belle? We don't know. Nobody tells us. (This is going to become a very familiar refrain.)

Page 8 - Hey, here's the JSA's three oldest members looking at a bunch of photos of prospective recruits, just like the JLA has been doing for the past three issues. Very original.

Page 9, panel 2 -- That's the Golden Age adult Robin from Earth-2, right between Power Girl and the Star Spangled Kid. What the fuck? Does Eaglesham even know who he's drawing as he tributes the cover of an old issue of the Levitz/Wood ALL STAR? Does DC have any editors who realize he's just drawn a flashback panel featuring a character that can't possible exist in the current continuity? Or that care? This is retarded and ridiculous.

Page 9, Panel 3 -- Apparently, Atom Smasher's head does not grow when the rest of him does. Sand looks pretty awful, too. Folks, this is just not professional quality art here. RAGS MORALES. NOW.

Page 9 and 10 - Wildcat is going on and on about how he doesn't get attached to people, he's a loner, he just trains the new kids and lets them go on their way. Say, is some long forgotten family member of his going to show up at the end of the issue? Stay tuned.

Page 11 - Atom Smasher is fighting some goon named Rebel. Wait! We turn to page 12 and Rebel is calling Atom Smasher 'Damage'! What the fuck? I was promised Atom Smasher! Why is that lame dumbass Damage wearing Atom Smasher's costume? Say it with me... 'We don't know. Nobody tells us.' Jesus, this is getting old.

Rebel advises us, as he's jumping up and down on Damage's head, that he's heard things about Damage -- how Damage wears that mask out of shame, because the Reverse Flash destroyed his face, and when it happened, Damage cried like a little bitch. Now, Reverse Flash did indeed punch Damage in the face about three thousand times in Infinite Crisis #1, and maybe it did ruin Damage's face, and maybe he even cried like a little bitch about it, but if so, well, it's the first we've heard about it to this point. Some people call this sort of thing 'retroactive embellishment of a previously established story arc', but others (like me) just refer to it as 'bad writing'.

Damage then shows himself to be entirely worthy of the New Age of Superheroics, as he uses his explosive punches to (a) utterly pulverize Rebel's kneecap, (b) knock Rebel into the side of a police car, wrecking it and (c) punch Rebel through a brick wall, shattering Rebel’s teeth as well, setting him up nicely for his new career as jailhouse punk.

Well, Rebel's a brutal villain, and he needs to be dealt with in a brutal fashion. I guess I'm just old fashioned, yearning for the days when superheroes subdued their enemies with minimum necessary force and turned them over to the authorities without involving any permanent maiming in the process. And I'm especially nostalgic for the times when, after maliciously crippling their opponents, superheroes didn't then walk up to said fallen enemies as they writhe in agony on the ground and say "Hey, Rebel. Now who's crying like a bitch?"

Remember those times? When heroes were actually better than the villains they fought? Whew. Long time ago, huh?

Page 15 - Hourman and Liberty Belle show up to recruit Damage into the new Justice Society. Apparently, Damage is the son of the original Atom. Apparently, the Teen Titans and the Freedom Fighters have already offered him membership, and he's turned them down. I say ‘apparently’ because, well, I had no idea, but, I admit, I’ve stayed as far away from anything to do with this character as I possibly could, so I’m kind of annoyed that DC is sticking him into JSA where I’ll have to deal with him. He's like, all broody; a snarling, defiant young punk with a baaaaaaad attitude. God, this is exciting. We've never seen this before. What a brilliant, fabulous dynamic to introduce into the JSA. What an amazing internal conflict -- the wild kid who badly needs mentoring, but who will resist it every step of the way. I can't wait to see this storyline get started... again.

Page 16 - Hourman badly needs a shave. His wife lets him go out to fight crime like that?

Page 17 - Back to Mr. America. He's figured out who killed his wife and sons. It's some loser villain named Catalyst. Apparently, Catalyst is now busy murdering Mr. America's younger brother, and some woman we never learn anything about at all. Mr. America beats Catalyst to within an inch of his life and advises him he'd better talk -- before he can't. Because now, Mr. America has nothing left -- but justice.

Boy, it really sucks to be related to Mr. America in the first issue of the new JSA title, I guess.

Let me take a moment here to say how mildly appalled I am to be reading a comic book in which a supervillain has just viciously slaughtered two entirely unknown people, and the writer only bothers to identify one of those people, and then, he doesn’t even do it by name. This is, apparently, Mr. America’s younger brother, who merits no further identifier, and the large bosomed woman who has just been killed with said younger brother doesn’t even deserve that much individualization. It’s just ‘okay, here’s the hero’s little brother, and some dead ho, now we’re moving on’. I understand that the Modern Age comics audience is desensitized to this sort of thing, but, still… it strikes me as rather callous. I mean, at least the little brother will become part of Mr. America’s heroic motivation and get a recurring mention in his origin flashbacks from this point on. The mysterious dead woman? We’ll never know a thing about her. Wife, girlfriend, casual boink, someone who dropped by to watch DEAL OR NO DEAL because the younger brother gets better reception on his TV? We have no idea. And we never will.

Page 20 -- hey, it's Mary Jane Watson. No, wait, this is a DC book. Okay, who's the redhead? Well, she's gabby. And pushy. And seems to have no friends. And... wait, wait... oh, she's going to jump off a building. But... Good Lord, man... she seems to have some kind of tornado powers. Oh, here's Mr. Terrific and Power Girl, recruiting her into the new JSA. Seems she's Ma Hunkle's grand daughter Maxine, and she got kidnapped and experimented on by T.O. Morrow, and ever since then, she's had these strange tornado powers. And, wow, she's REALLY gabby.

My guess is, she’s going to be the redhead in the odd looking, very 40s-esque green costume we see on the cover. What her code name is going to be, we don’t know, because, well, Johns either can’t be bothered, or isn’t allowed, to put that much plot into one issue. Still, I have no real problem with the character as she seems to be shaping up.

Page 25 – although we won’t actually see him until page 26, this is the beginning of the new Starman’s intro. How can I adequately describe how badly I hate this character? Well… first… and primarily, I guess… he’s ‘crazy’. I cannot tell you how much I despise ‘crazy’ characters. Mental instability is a crutch for crappy, lazy, dumb ass, archly self aware writing. It basically lets a writer put any kind of dialogue into a character’s mouth that the writer wants to, allows any inconsistencies in characterization or behavior to be acceptable, because, you know… the character’s crazy!

It is, and always has been in comics, TV, and other generally lazy entertainment media, a creative cop out. Nobody ever does any actual research on real forms of mental illness. when a character is ‘crazy’ in comics or on TV or even in most movies, they do not have panic disorders, or phobias, or OCD, or post traumatic stress disorder. They are not schizophrenic. They may be ‘psychotic’, but that’s very nearly a subjective term that can mean pretty much anything the writer wants it to, which, again, is why writers like the ‘crazy’ characters.

So, I already intensely dislike Starman, because, you know, he’s craaaaaaaazy, meaning, he sings and dances and tosses out apparent non-sequiturs and generally acts dopey, and all this is is a crutch to let him behave in a whimsical fashion while continuing to be mysterious, because he’s actually frickin’ Supernova, and DC just doesn’t want to tell us who Supernova is yet.

And I hate that.

I will tell you who Starman is not… he’s not the adult Star Boy from the Legion. That’s a head fake. Johns is working a little too hard on that one for me to buy it. Who I suspect he is, is… Hourman (the new, android Hourman). But I could be wrong. I could even be wrong about him being Supernova. But I’m not wrong about him being craaaaaazy, and I swear to God, the next time some craaaaaaazy character works in another cutesy dialogue reference to “52”, I’m gonna buy a Raggedy Andy doll, name it Keith Giffen, and then run the lawn mower over it. It’s cheap therapy, but it works.

I should also note, if it turns out that I’m right about who Starman actually is, I’ll like him a lot better, but then I’ll want DC to either let Tom Peyer write JSA (wouldn’t that be the shit) or let him write a new Hourman series.

The Starman intro is encouraging in one way, though; it doesn’t feature any nameless dead female victims. There’s a female victim who needs to be rescued by a big strong male hero, but at least she has a name and a profession, and while she may be a useless dingbat female cliché (the pushy female reporter trying to make a name for herself covering a superhero), she’s not “tragic superhero’s dead wife and/or tragic superhero’s younger brother’s dead mystery female acquaintance who just happened to be in the room when a crappy supervillain showed up”. This is a big step up for female characters as portrayed up to this point in this story, and I for one applaud it.

And it keeps getting better… well, kind of. Two pages later, Starman has returned to his loonie bin, and we are introduced to his psychiatrist, a comely young lass (well, this is superhero comics; female characters can generally be safely assumed to be comely young lasses nearly by default, unless they’re Ma Hunkle or Aunt May or something) who immediately starts hitting on Dr. Midnite.

I say this is a step up, because not only does this comely young female character actually survive more than two sequential panels of this harrowing story, but she is also being depicted as an intelligent, reasonably competent professional, and astonishingly enough, she’s not wearing a miniskirt or a top that shows her cleavage. Mind you, she’s behaving in an overtly sexually aggressive way because, you know, that’s the way all us fanboys fantasize hot women should behave towards us, and if they won’t, then at least we like it when they behave this way towards our fantasy surrogate characters. (Although the new Dr. Midnite has never been a fantasy surrogate character of mine; I mean, does he ever do anything besides stand around in the JSA medical lab and look learned?)

However, for all that this seems to be an advance over how female characters have been treated to this point in this story, we have to then take a big step back again, because this character has no name.

I cannot underscore this enough: you have to give your characters a name. If you don’t give your characters a name, it is by default and without any possible doubt bad writing. This is true in any medium. Unless your character is supposed to be iconic and mysterious and unknown, like the Smoking Man in X-Files, you have to give them a name. The Horned Rim Glasses Guy in Heroes? Needs a name. The dead wife, dead sons, dead younger brother, and dead anonymous chick in the Mr. America arc in this issue? Need names. And the hot psychiatrist chick who wants a mouthful of Midnite? Give her a name, please. I’m just sayin’.

Also, I’m not wild about the dynamic of the female professional psychiatrist who can’t help the crazy superhero, but, you know, here comes the big strong male superhero doctor who doesn’t even specialize in mental disorders, and we just presume he can… why? Because he’s got a pet owl?

And no, this wouldn't bother me if there were any examples in this story of the opposite happening, which is to say, a male character being depicted as ineffective or incompetent to do his job, and requiring help from a female character. However, that simply doesn't happen. Throughout this issue, women get killed, women get into trouble, women find they can't do their jobs adequately... and A Man Steps In. Or, women just stand around looking all sweet and dependent while their big strong husband catches the thrown police car and does all the talking to the new JSA recruit. Either way, women do not seem to be being portrayed as anything remotely like equal partners in the new JSA.

Page 30 -- back to Wildcat, hitting a punching bag. Does Wildcat ever do anything besides hit a punching bag? Having asked that vital question, I'm led to pose another -- how is it that Wildcat, out of every person who has ever been a member of the JSA, has managed to survive this long? I mean, he's a frickin' boxer. He has no super powers. He has no advanced technology. He has no magical devices. He's, frankly, not very bright. So how is it that, when the JSA goes into pitched combat with people like Extant and Parallax and The Anti-Monitor and the Injustice Society and Solomon Grundy and like that, frickin’ Wildcat doesn’t get killed? This is even sillier than superheroic archers. At least Hawkeye and Green Arrow can stay a few hundred yards from the melee and still be effective. Wildcat runs up to the huge humanoid supernova and punches it in the mouth! How is this guy still alive?

Anyway, we’re back with Wildcat. GL and the Flash show up and tell him he has to come with them, right now. So he does.

Page 31 – Mr. America also needs a shave. He’s brooding about his dead family, who still don’t have names. He’s waiting for the person who hired the dipshit supervillain to kill them to show up. The person shows up. We don’t get to see who it is. Yay.

Page 32 – Maxine shows up at the new JSA HQ. Did someone blow up the old JSA HQ? I guess this is more stuff we aren’t supposed to know about yet. Obsidian is the new JSA security guard! Um… okay, well, I hope he makes more than minimum wage.

Page 33 – It’s the new JSA! Well, about half of them. The other half we don’t get to see because 38 pages of story still isn’t enough for DC’s best writer to actually introduce everybody pictured on the goddam cover, or even tell us the names of everybody he did manage to shoe horn in. I don’t know. Maybe if we didn’t spend like half the issue on the adventures of a non member who is going to apparently die on page 30, a half dozen more pages at a shot on pointless fist fights and crazy superhero introductions featuring nameless hot psychiatrist babes, 3 single page splashes, and 4 double page spreads, Johns could squeeze in some actual story about the actual fucking team that the actual fucking comic is about . But, maybe not. Maybe I’m just kidding myself.

Page 34 – It’s all coming together. A badly battered, bleeding, probably (hopefully) dying Mr. America is vaulting across rooftops like nobody’s business in his torn, bloody costume, trying desperately to get somewhere so he can warn someone that he was only the beginning. Wildcat, GL, and the Flash are hurry-hurry-hurrying somewhere else. The various other JLA members are chit chatting.

Page 35 – Mr. America is falling towards someone’s skylight. It can’t be the JSA’s skylight, because then Obsidian would be kicking his ass for trespassing without the proper identification. But maybe Obsidian is watching Breaking Bonaducci, I don’t know. God knows it would beat reading this thing. Anyway. GL and Wildcat and the Flash see some young kid walking out of tenement. Mr. America falls through the skylight. Who’s that, Wildcat wonders?

Page 36 – Hey, it’s a double paged spread. The mystery kid lights up a cigarette. Somebody – we don’t know who, and honestly, who cares, really, right? – says from off panel “His name is Tom”. Then, Mr. America falls bleeding and hopefully dead into the middle of the JSA conference table! Whoa! Shocker! Never seen anything like that before! Guess Obsidian is sleeping on the job after all. And, finally, somebody from off panel – again, we don’t know who, and again, who really cares; I mean, it’s not like it’s important that we know who actually speaks what dialogue, it’s not like that would be good writing or anything -- advises Wildcat “He’s your son.” OH! BURN! Get it? Wildcat’s son’s name is Tom? Tom… Cat? ROFLMAO!!!! Jesus, that’s funny! I mean, OMG!!!!

Then there’s a house ad. Because we wouldn’t want to sacrifice a house ad to an extra page of story in a $4 comic, no way.

Then there’s a ‘Coming This Year In JSA!’ page. Four panels. One has the new Sandman who looks like the old Sandman! Yay! The next one is part of the head fake about the new Starman. No way. The third one is pretty clearly a hoax, a dream, or an Imaginary Story. (What was the middle thing…?) The fourth one features Kingdom Come Superman, which is horrible, horrible, but… well, no, it’s just horrible, horrible, and that is all.

So, what do we end up with for our four dollars? 38 pages in which nothing much happens except some guy we don’t know gets his entire family killed, beats up a crappy supervillain, and gets his ass kicked; plus, some other guy I couldn’t care less about wearing Atom Smasher’s costume beats up on some dumbass bad guy I’ve never heard of before for no reason that is ever explained to us. Some other guy I couldn’t care less about rescues some chick I don’t know from a helicopter crash, then flies through a plate glass window on his way back to the nuthouse where he lives. And in between all these riveting action sequences featuring characters I don’t know and wish were dead or at least being published by Dark Horse so I wouldn’t have to trouble myself with them, doing inexplicable things for no clearly or even vaguely articulated reason, the remainder of a very large cast essentially stands around exchanging wry quips with each other while the men flex and the women swoon.

So, we have mass slaughter of nameless non-supporting characters, mindless violence, mindless chick rescuing, blather blather blather blather blather, and a double cliffhanger ending we can hardly bring ourselves to care about because none of the characters involved in it have managed to rise above two dimensional status for the entire preceding 38 pages.

But, hey, there’s hope – next issue, we might actually get to see the three characters on the cover who didn’t even manage to make it into this installment. Yay!

Plus, Kingdom Come Superman! ::ralf::

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wild and woolly weekend

I've been sick all day. It started... well, it seems to have started shortly after I finished lunch -- leftovers brought from home; a piece of fried chicken I actually ate at 11:00 because I was hungry and that was when I got my first break; and then some mac and cheese and green beans, which I ate three hours or so later, when my scheduled lunch time rolled around.

After logging back in from lunch, about fifteen minutes went by. My stomach started to act like a rebellious province; I hit BREAK on my phone and went to the bathroom, where I found I had diarrhea. I went back to my desk, took a call, then went to the bathrom again. Repeat about three more times. Finally, a longish call threatened to see me soiling myself right there at my desk, so I advised my supervisor I needed to go home, called SuperFiancee to come to my rescue, and wound up back here around 5 or so (three hours before my shift ended). I felt miserably tired, and after dropping some more liquid from an area that shouldn't be producing liquid in the toilet, I went to bed. Where I found my stomach discomfort was too profound to really let me sleep, so, yeah, I'm pretty much utterly exhausted at this moment, as I type.

So that's how my Monday has gone, although there have been some developments I'll get to in a bit. First, though, let's head back to Friday, when we got the weekend off with a bang upon hearing the news that SuperFiancee's ex husband was in the hospital with bad chest pains, and they were keeping him overnight for observation. I immediately felt bad; not for The Ex himself, but because I knew the kids would be desolated if anything happened to their bio-dad. Super Adorable Toddler would especially be shattered if he were to suddenly be gone from her life, so I can't wish him any ill, given the givens.

So, that was our Friday; an inauspicious beginning for a weekend where every single minute was already scheduled out the ying-yang. But good news came later Friday night; The Ex had passed all the tests they'd given him and was resting comfortably in a hospital bed. SuperFiancee got special permission to take the kids over for a fast visit after visiting hours were officially over, which set all their minds to rest. I didn't go; if anything would have hustled that man into the grave, it would have been my beaming face, smilin' down at him in his bed of pain.

We were already worried, at that point, about Super Dependable Teen's tortoise. After much importuning on her part we'd gotten her a tortoise as a combined Christmas and birthday present (her birthday is a few weeks before Christmas, on Pearl Harbor Day, and tortoises are amazingly expensive, for, you know, a frickin' reptile) and while she was delighted, the goddam thing would not eat. We brought it home on Wednesday and by Friday we were all still anxiously awaiting the news that Boba (Fett; the Middle Child has a bit of a Star Wars fetish, especially focusing on bounty hunters with buckets on their heads, it seems) had taken his first mouthful of greens. And it hadn't occurred at that point, so, you know, we were all worried, because if we had to take the tortoise back, or, worse, if the fucking thing actually DIED, Super Dependable Teen would have been inconsolable.

Beyond that, Wednesday had been my floating day off for last week, and SuperFiancee and I were over at the doctor's office (my first physical in fifteen years) when we got a call from Super Drama Teen's school. More, as you'd expect, drama. So off we went to make our concern and presence known, and naturally, the Ex was there as well, and boy, he looked awful, too... pasty faced, obviously tired, with a fresh scab by his nostril and another one on a facial mole. He might have cut himself shaving, but he looked like he could just as easily have had some horrible immunodeficiency syndrome. I wanted to ask him if he was okay, but when he saw me walk in with SuperFiancee, he radiated such palpable, furious waves of absolute rage that, well, I just sat there and shut up.

See, last time we had a crisis with one of the kids, all three of us attempted to intercede, and while he didn't say a word to me or about me in front of me, he sent SuperFiancee some very pissy emails advising her that in the future, when the kids had problems, his preference was that he and she alone dealt with it. She advised him right back that I am the kids' parent as well and they spent more time with me than they did with him and I would damned well be involved in their parenting, and he didn't like that one little bit. And it was obvious that seeing me there all but paralyzed him with wrath; in the ensuing discussion with Super Drama Teen and her counselors, he didn't say a word, although he did shake his head vehemently several times when SuperFiancee introduced me to the counselors as Super Drama Teen's 'step father'.

For what it's worth, I'm aware I am not the SuperKids' step father -- yet -- but I am absolutely as much or more of a parent figure in their lives than he is, and hurtful/hateful though it may be for him to deal with the notion, I'm a much better parent to them than he is or has ever been, too. Or so the kids and SuperFiancee seem to believe, and frankly, that's good enough for me.

Beyond all that, SuperFiancee specifically asked the counselor if I should come, and was specifically told yes - that if Super Drama Teen regarded me as part of her support network, then I should certainly be there.

So, anyway. Come Friday, between Boba not eating and Super Drama Teen maybe being in a downward spiral to Funky Town once more, we had a little bit on our plate.

And then, you know, The Ex's chest pains came and piled on.

But we got through that. Saturday was our annual Christmas trip to a nearby town with an antique gallery sited in a converted Victorian girl's school. Visiting this particular place is a Christmas tradition for many local families, including SuperFiancee's, as the antique gallery really goes nuts with the Christmas theme and decorates all their rooms in gorgeous, and usually, rather idiosyncratic fashion. I like to look at the furnishings, but what I mostly love about this place is just the old building itself; the hardwood floors, the gorgeous staircases, the antique interior design features, the old wood of the door sills and frames, the fireplaces in nearly every room... it's a gorgeous place. They have a pretty renowned dining room on site, too; the menu is limited, but they prepare the dishes very well. We all ate there, and it was maybe the most expensive meal we've ever taken the family out to, but it was a good time for everyone.

It was Super Adorable Kid's first time there -- family tradition up until this year had been, no males at all, and the girls don't expedite until they're 13 -- but I am, as always, the Exploder of All Tradition, and after being earnestly lectured every day for hours for the three week period leading up to the expedition on "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!!" (because, my God, you break a Wilson-era Christmas tree globe in this place and you're suddenly selling all your HeroClix on E-bay to pay the piper), she behaved extraordinarily well, given her age and, well, the fact that where Super Adorable Kid goes, Hell nearly always follows after.

On the way back we detoured to Target to pick up some candles (SuperFiancee wants to arrange a great many of them in our fireplace, which we cannot be sure is a functional fireplace or not, for Christmas Eve and Morning) and a few other what-nots. And then we got home, had some supermarket fried chicken along with SuperFiancee's always exquisite home-made mac n' cheese and some green beans, and retired for the evening, a long, hard, but pleasurable day behind us.

Sunday we had essentially two things on the schedule -- get the Christmas tree up, and get Christmas cookies baked. (Yes, let me get this out of the way right now -- the adults in this house are all agnostics -- the kids are whatever kids are; the eldest is some kind of weird half assed pagan/Wiccan when she remembers to be, the younger two more or less reflect their father's not particularly intense Catholicism, though they choose not to go to church when they're with us -- but we still celebrate Christmas, not in a religious manner -- no manger scenes here! -- but because the two syllable word 'Christmas' is fraught with positive emotional associations for us, and that's the end of any and all debate on the subject. And we wish others 'Merry Christmas' on our own time; we don't intend it as any sort of insult or assault, and y'all are welcome to celebrate anything else you like as a MidWinter Festival, or not, we don't care. But we celebrate Christmas in this house, and any of my fellow lefties or agnostics or atheists who find offense in that need to, as Wong once said in another context entirely, resolve the matter within themselves.)

Our Sunday schedule went straight to hell, and I was truly baptized in my parental role at perhaps the greatest depth to date, when at 4:30 in the morning, Super Adorable Kid came to our room and announced, in tones of gravest import, that she thought she was going to throw up. Hustled into the bathroom, she promptly DID throw up; from what I could see over her shoulder, pretty much everything she'd eaten since the visit to the antique gallery.

Then it was like clockwork; for the next eight hours or so, until shortly after noon, she would throw up whatever she tried to put down -- mostly water, or Sprite, or a little bit of cracker -- every twenty to thirty minutes. This wasn't dainty, ladylike ralfing, either; these were big shuddering spasms of reverse peristalsis, violently racking her tiny little frame each time she had to heave. It made me want to cry, but that wouldn't have done anything for anyone else's morale, so I forbore.

So the family fretted, and tried to stay calm, and SuperFiancee went into SuperMom mode, which is a wonder to behold if you've never had the privilege, and nothing got done while we waited to see if this was something that would pass, or if we were going to end up in the emergency room. And, as I say, finally, shortly after noon, she stopped upchucking and from that point on, rapidly rejuvenated to her normal cheerful hyperactive self (the only has a four click dial, but the first two clicks have HyperSonic Speed on them, and then she's straight into Leap-Climb). Whatever it was, it had apparently run its course, with no real consequences except putting us badly behind schedule -- which, given the relief of seeing The Baby apparently recovering, meant little or nothing.

Also, Super Dependable Teen discovered a trick for forcing Boba to eat, involving pushing on the hinge of his jaw to make him open wide, and then shoving a bit of greenery into it, at which point, he would chew and swallow. So, double relief... the Baby stopped heaving, and Boba could be force fed. Plus, the Ex was out of the hospital by that point -- triple joy. What's losing a few hours of activity (and, yeah, sleep) compared to all that?

It made the day a tizzy and a blur once we launched into it, though. A mad baking frenzy ended up with several dozen Christmas cookies, about half of which required frosting once they cooled. Leaving the older two kids home to watch over their convalescent baby sister, SuperFiancee and I hit the road to get some take out and a Christmas tree. On the way, we passed a Blockbuster, and I remembered a $15 gift card that my cousins had given me in the 2004 Yule season. So we got a nice tree strapped to the roof of our car (and paid only $30 for it, too, as it was one of the lesser desired soft needed pines, but still, it makes a lovely appearance all decorated in the front window next to the perhaps-functional hearth) and stopped back at Blockbuster, where I was surprised to learn the card was still funded after all these years. So I wandered around a bit, thought briefly about picking up a $10 second hand copy of some Indiana Jones game for the X-Box, overruled myself and got an identically priced copy of LAYER CAKE ("It's Bond before he was Bond!") on DVD instead, along with some candy for the kids. Then we dropped by a local barbecue place for one of their family packs and headed back home again. Ate dinner, got the tree decorated with only minor skirmishes with Super Dependable Teen, who obviously badly wanted to prioritize aimless, endless phone chats with her current boyfriend over family Christmas tradition enactment, and even got the cookies frosted. Then, off to bed.

So, now it's today, and I'm home with the diarrhea, and my stomach has started feeling worse and worse all evening and night. I've taken my Prilosec (two a day for the rest of my life is the price I'm paying for a madly licentious youth devouring anything I could find with pepperoni on it), a Gas-X, and finally some Pepto Bismol, which I despise, and nothing has helped. A little milk and a small dry cracker aren't doing much, either. I'm sitting in our bedroom with SuperFiancee and suddenly I'm sweating like a pig and feeling vaguely light headed. I get up to walk around, my stomach feeling heavier and heavier with each passing second, and abruptly, with no warning at all, I do not so much begin to vomit as the contents of my stomach simply ERUPT from my mouth onto the hardwood floor. I stagger to the waste basket in the corner as several other involuntary eruptions occur; I swear, I've never upchucked so hard or so painfully in my life. I finally manage to get into the bathroom for the last of it, leaving SuperFiancee with one of the outer circles of Hell to clean up behind me. Jesus. Sometimes I wonder what she sees in me.

Perhaps not at all amazingly, the relief I feel after emptying my stomach all over our bedroom and nearby bathroom is profound and shocking. I have been worrying that perhaps I'm moving into a stage of something much like Super Adorable Kid had yesterday; but the puke-volcano went off 90 minutes ago, and hasn't rumbled since, so maybe, just maybe, I've purged whatever it was that was giving me trouble and can finally get to sleep. Maybe.

In the meantime, the mop bucket is now my Faithful Companion. I'm devoutly hoping not to test this new friendship with the same kind of baptism I recently subjected our bedroom floor to, though.

Will I learn to hurl myself through the air, propelled by a jet of liquid feces? Or must I instead master the art of zooming about through the ether backwards, impelled by an explosive vomit-blast like some particularly unsettling version of that lame-o The Basilisk? Stay tuned, True Believers, for more adventures in illness!

Oh, and I'm doing some of my best work ever, over at the poli blog, specifically in this new entry. As always, all the Cool Kids are ignoring it, but if you happen to come across any blog awards that allow open nominations, you might keep that particular entry in mind for a mention. And I'll also remind my few, but proud, readers of this choice bit from nearly a year ago, which I still think brings the funny as well as any of those other blogs that get all the big hits. Hmmmph.

Oh, yeah, the physical turned up nothing untoward, but of course they drew blood and we don't have any results from that as yet. The doctor suspects I may have sleep apnea and has opined that he "wants to get some weight off me", and seemed taken aback when I advised him in return that when they could put that in convenient pill form I was definitely in, but until then I'd just have to waddle along in my current rut, because exercise sucks and dieting blows and I won't countenance any of that rubbish, especially when sharing my life with a woman who could and should have her own cooking show on Food Network. I mean, what's the point of living forty years longer if it's forty years without SuperFiancee's home made pizza, or lasagne, or spaghetti with garlic bread, or potato salad, or baby back ribs from Mark's Feed Store? Fuck THAT noise.

And that, for the moment, is all. Except Super Adorable Kid has woken up twice now with a tummy ache, so I'm somewhat worried about that, but SuperFiancee is in sleeping with her, so she'll be on hand for any emerging crises, and I shouldn't be touching anyone anyway until we know if what I have is contagious.

Hmmph. Tortoises are notorious carriers of salmonella. I'm just sayin'.