Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Running of the Grey

(A guest piece, here at the razor-thin end of Miserable Annals' guest-blogger April, by Mike Norton)

[Note: Written and submitted at the last minute and probably anti-climactic after the other contributions, this isn't a piece I've been struggling with as the month rolled on. It came to mind during the course of this weekend. So, indolence and circumstance make the last guest-spot of the month likely the least auspicious and most likely to include a dropped letter or even word, but all of that's more to my detriment than anyone else. Sorry, no refunds for the time lost reading it. Hopefully none of this makes me a terrible guest.]

I've been wondering if we're in some unspoken competition.

"We", at the moment, being Crypt Leak, Abbygal and me, though I we're all doomed to join in the race in some way at some time.

See, as we headed toward the weekend - the three of us having lunch together at a nearby restaurant on Thursday - the topic of parental health issues was on the agenda. Abbygal was going to be with her parents since her father (a man worthy of at least one entry to himself, though I know him almost entirely anecdotally, but it's not my place in the world to write much about The Rev) was going in to have a shunt installed due to an enlarging aortal aneurysm. Meanwhile, Cryptleak was heading back to his mom's place to help take up some of the burden from his brother who's much more local and been helping their mother -- who just recently took a spill down some steps and ended up with a compression fracture in a lower vertebra. No fun stuff there.

I, on the other hand, was planning on a more relaxed weekend, including going back to visit my mom on Saturday, take her out to lunch and to get some shopping done. She's looking to get some new curtains, so I was going to take measurements and we'd take care of it in the course of the day. I called her Saturday morning to reconfirm when Nick (the younger of my sons) and I would be heading her way.

About 40 minutes later the phone rang. It was mom, calling me to tell me she though the plans were off because she'd fallen and thought she'd broken her leg. She couldn't move it and she was in a lot of pain. That's my mom for you, though, more immediately concerned that I not waste time running out that way than, well, with calling a friggin' ambulance.

Call the ambulance, mom.

And, so, then she did.

My brother was there, and while he's been an asset to her in some ways in others, well, that's another piece likely never to be written, but it's fortunately not terribly germane to this piece.

I'm a good 40 minutes away, so I caught up with them at the ER, where the elder of my two sisters - who's also an RN, though working these days at a different hospital, was also already there. Cindy's one of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet, and in many ways is an inspiration -- another subject for another piece, and one I might eventually get to. I will note - though it's not important to any of the rest of this piece, that Cindy is a mother of seven, who is eight years older than me and began her work & academic career down the E.R. path seven years ago. (Hmmm. Maybe that "inspirational" was a more loaded term for me than I realized.)

Accelerate through the day and the triage tangle. Finally there's an X-ray and a prognosis: Fractured femur, high, towards the "neck" of the bone. Admitted. Before the evening's out surgery is scheduled for the following morning. Hip replacement -- they're not going to try to repair the bone that high up in a patient in her mid-seventies.

The surgery was this morning, and she was resting comfortably when Travis (older son) and I visited this afternoon. Tomorrow the plan for recovery - the whens and wheres - will be mapped out. (I'm trying not to focus on how the hip that was replaced is on the leg where she's been having knee problems, so recovery's going to be... a challenge.)

What all of this is bringing to mind is that, at least in the circle of us three, that we're each, undoubtedly, wondering at some point is how much of our own futures are we looking at thirty odd years down the line?

Certainly, thoughts of doing what we can to avoid perceived pitfalls each parent may have taken along the way are sound. There's nothing like having the child/parent roles reversed, with the wrong one looking bewildered and shaken, to scare the shit out of a person. No, no, no... I'm the kid here, remember? We had a deal, right?

So, yeah, one good thing is if this gets me to take better care of myself. Something else to think about -- but don't take too long, boyo! It's later than ye think!

Still, I wonder what we have to look forward to thirty to forty years hence - forgiving my brobdignagian presumption, of course - with what jokingly passes for healthcare here in the U.S.A. Oh, make no mistake, I'm not knocking the tech -- most of which is excellent and getting better by the day it seems - but I'm wondering mostly about the healthcare system, most pointedly as in the costs.

Oh, we can hope that the great demographic hump that is The Baby Boomers (the result of some wartime and post-wartime humps of a different sort) will prove to be such a magificently potent voting bloc that substantial changes will soon come to keep us from being written off and placed at the curbside as we reach what we, increasingly sarcastically, have called The Golden Years. Hope that no effort will be spared and no check of solvency and credit will be a factor in deciding treatment. Still, such hopes are more rightly termed wishes, and I suspect shares of WishCo (and, no, I don't mean her) aren't doing as well as Pfizer's.

It's such a huge task, I'll admit, but we have to get behind something. We have to bring accountability and a prioritization to government. We cannot continue to accept the word of paid pundits when it comes to the feasibility of universal healthcare for U.S. citizens. If money and resources can be found to send men and women off to kill and be killed for a raft of shit - for a list of lies offered like cards from the hand of a cheap magician (Pick a card! Any will do!) - then we can find it for a future with healthcare with dignity.

We cannot continue to allow people who are connected to almost limitless amounts of money speak to the mass of the american public and sell them a bill of goods they cannot afford. Lying, connivers who will smile and tell you "It's your money! We're trying to let you make choices the buy the healthcare that's right for you!" Listening to this from some callous, pompous prick who plays up a public image of being a good ol' boy - a hardworkin' everyman... who's had his every failure bailed out by the money of others... and here we are, in 2006... and guess what? Not only are we paying for more of his failures, our parents, children and very possibly grandchildren are, too.

I'm running afield of the healthcare focus, and for that I apologize, but after the "solutions" pushed through for Medicare last year it was inevitable that it come around to the current administration.

This year is an important mid-term election. We're the electorate. We can decide what the issues are. No, really, we can. We just have to push hard enough, to shout the messages loudly enough.

Do what the damned politicians have been doing for the past six years - in some respects what they've been doing forever, but it's become a high art in the past five: Scare people. Scare them with a future in which they're not merely old, but sick and told in not so few words that it's in their best interests to just go make their peace with God and decrease the surplus population. How can we miss? We have something real to scare people with. Look how far they've come with imaginary hobgoblins about how a third-rate dictatorship that'd been bombed back nearly to the stone age was an imminent threat to us?

For now, do some research on who's up for re-election in your state and who's running against them. If you don't know their records, then do some digging.

Next, start to look into organizations who have already made national healthcare their central issue. (Note: I've yet to carefully sift through the following, so don't take any of these as a specific endorsement. That's yet to be determined.) Physicians For A National Health Program is one possibility. Healthcare NOW! is another, each of them pushing for a single payer system of some sort. As you find other, better sources, please let me know.

Do some searches and start digging. Pull up what's offered as fact and compare it with what's being presented by other groups. You get plenty of junk email, why not get on some mailing lists that might be helpful?

Don't be dissuaded -- many special interests are involved, and those in opposition to upsetting the highly lucrative health insurance system in place are sparing no effort in making the case for change seem hopeless. It's not. We don't have to turn on each other in a mad scramble. We're not rats. Don't allow yourself to be turned into one.

Once you feel you've gotten a handle on the issue, go back to the list of candidates and write letters to those in the race. Let them know you won't be mollified with hollow promises, and if they have any sort of record on the issue find it. We're part of the most amazing information-sharing era mankind's ever seen, the growing challenge is to make sure that the information one's gotten hold of is factual. It can be a challenge, because juicy and/or simple lies often proliferate far faster than the truth, but not only is finding out worth the effort, it's a matter of Life, Death and human dignity.

We're all in the Running of the Grey, even if some try to hide it under hair coloring kits. Hiding it's fine, but this isn't a race one can bow out of -- well, aside from dying. No pun intended.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sinister developments

I'd been excited about the newest HeroClix set in the offing, and in point of fact, I still am... but the latest additions to the official Sinister release list to date have taken a little of the spring out of my eyes and the shine out of my step. Or something. Here's the dealio:

On balance, I'd been wavering like the needle on a broken speedometer about this set, but the arc of my swing was in the upper areas of the dial, peaking with 'ecstatic', bottoming out at 'satisfied'. An early photo of several of the figs had shown me that quite a few characters on my Oh Jebus I Need Them NOW NOW NOW!!! List were part of this set, including (in a development so incredulously bizarre that I'm still delightedly freaked out about it) the Stilt-Man, a character I'd long lusted to see incarnate in plastic form, while never seriously believing there was a shred of a chance it would happen. (I still have difficulty imagining what WizKids is going to put on his dial -- after all, here's a guy whose main gimmick is that he built a suit of powered armor with extendible legs, and he also rigged up some sort of experimental 'z-ray blaster', which usually just, you know, blasts people, but occasionally had unpredictable effects on the Stilt-Man's more hapless foes, such as when it seemingly disintegrated the too-damn-cumbersome-to-dodge Black Goliath, but actually teleported him to a planet around a distant star. How do you define that using HeroClix powers and abilities? High movement, a great deal of Leap-Climb, some range attack, and some Incapacitate, I'm thinking.. but I hope to be surprised. I guess they could give Stiltie some Perplex; he sure as hell is a pretty baffling guy.)

The set also includes Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, his crazy ass brother Maximus (you can tell he's crazy by his usual sobriquet, the Mad), the two members of the Frightful Four that haven't been made into clix yet (the Wingless Wizard and the Trapster), an original member of the Masters of Evil I've long awaited called The Radioactive Man, villains turned heroes the Beetle/Mach-1/2/3, Nighthawk, and the original Swordsman, all characters with long and interesting histories in the Marvel Silver Age.

Of those figs we'd seen so far, dials hadn't been as disappointing as I'd come to expect after Armor Wars and Collateral Damage. I am getting a little bit tired of every character seemingly have a starting attack value of 9, but I can understand why WK's new senior game designer is insisting on doing this -- stat inflation had really gotten out of hand by the time the Icons set came out, and something had to be done... and knocking superhuman attack levels back to being consistently less than a 9 would probably have kept hard core players from bothering with any of the new pieces. Even with the 9 Factor in play, the dials we'd seen to date had shown an interesting, imaginative, and generally useful array of powers. All told, I was pretty psyched about the set.

And I still am -- but the latest entries on the list have left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

First off, there's Meggan, a character whose existence I was completely ignorant of, prior to seeing her name added to the Sinister roster on Friday. Having looked her up in Wikipedia, I now know she's yet another really dopey Modern Age mutant/X-character, with an idiotic origin and truly fucking retarded powers:

Meggan has three powers; empathy, elemental powers and shapeshifting. These powers actually blend together, aspects of one power affecting the others. Meggan has been referred to as an "elemental empath", an "empathic metamorph", and an "elemental metamorph". Meggan's primary power is her empathy, a telepathic talent which enables her to sense the emotions and feelings of all living creatures (from people, to animals, to plants) and can broadcast her own feelings to influence other people's emotions. She can also psionically "see" psychic, natural, and mystical energy auras. Her empathic powers are highly sensitive, and make her vulnerable to telepathic manipulation. Her empathy also lets her connect to the "life force" of the Earth itself, which brings up her second power; elemental control.

Thanks to Meggan's empathy, she has a psionic link to the natural forces of the Earth. By "speaking" to the elements, Meggan can command the environment around her, and her emotional state can affect the local ecosystems. She can extinguish forest fires with a thought, summon gale force winds or part the waters of a lake with wave of her hand, cause earthquakes in a flash of anger. Meggan has even been observed causing electromagnetic pulses by commanding the magnetic fields around her, freezing opponents by rapidly dropping the air temperature around them, or increasing the powers of elemental mutants (such as increasing the temperature of Peter Wisdom's heat blasts). Meggan has used her elemental powers to affect man-made objects, such as actually making the atoms in a building's roof move apart, creating a hole in the roof that resealed itself (without a trace of ever having a hole) once Meggan passed though (which suggests that Meggan's elemental powers may have a psychokinetic quality). Meggan can focus the elemental energies around her into devastating energy blasts. She has also been observed controlling mystical energies. And she can fly (either by levitation or controlling wind or gravity)

Finally, Meggan is a shapeshifter who can assume the form of any living creature, even those who only exist in legends (once she became a Godzilla-like dragon and actually breathed fire, and another occasion she became a werewolf that looked like fellow X-Man Wolfsbane, and had all of a wolf's natural abilities). Meggan can assume the form of other people as well. Thanks to her empathy, Meggan's body will actually change in response to the emotions around her, becoming beautiful when she feels loved, or hideous when she feels fear or anger. Her elemental powers also cause Meggan to change in response to her surroundings, growing fur in extreme cold, or gills when she is submerged underwater. She can even increase the density of her muscle tissue to boost her strength to superhuman levels. In Excalibur #25, she also altered her own stature to become as big as Galactus for a moment.

The Wikipedia entry doesn't mention which obviously untalented hack created Meggan, but her "she can do anything the plot requires or I feel like scripting at any given time" power non-definition stinks so badly of Chris Claremont, who never met a largely undefined plot device super-power he didn't like, that if it isn't him, it has to be someone who learned everything they know about comics non-writing from him.

Obviously, given that I'd never heard of Meggan yesterday, I couldn't have any strong personal feelings for her. However, I do have very strong personal feelings for all the truly frickin' dumbass mutant X-team characters who have flooded the Modern Age of Comics like effluvium from an overflowing septic tank. There are a seemingly endless legion of these mutant wankers out there, most of them suck so hard they could easily be mistaken for singularities, and Wiz Kids has to date kissed the collective ass of all the dimwitted X-fans in their market demographic by coming out with at least a few more of these nose-monkeys in every damned set -- which would be okay, I suppose, except for the fact that they've actually dedicated two entire expansions, Mutant Mayhem and Xplosion, to these genetically gyrated goobers. The fact that this set, which I'd had high hopes might actually be mutant, or at least, X-cretin, free, is suddenly being cluttered up with yet another one of these lame ass losers, really kind of exasperates me. It's not that I seriously didn't think there wouldn't be any stinking Modern Age mutants in this one, but I guess I was kind of hoping that a set called Sinister, specifically themed to super-villains, with an apparent emphasis on classic bad guys of the Silver Age, might give the Claremont Brigade a big miss.

But leave that aside. The distaste I feel for Meggan is a vague colonic spasm compared to the vitriolic loathing that surges through my throbbing forehead veings when I think about the other new addition to the Sinister roster --
some truly appalling Brian Michael Bendis creation named, alternately, Jewel and/or Jessica Jones.

Straight out of her Wikipedia entry:

Introduced in the Marvel Universe as a retcon character, Midtown High student Jessica Campbell was present when Peter Parker was bitten by the irradiated spider that gave him his powers. She had a crush on him, and had just plucked up the courage to speak to him when he was distracted by the bite. Jessica also had a celebrity crush on teen heart-throb Johnny Storm.

Soon thereafter, Jessica was riding in a car with her family when they collided with a military convoy carrying radioactive chemicals. Her family was killed and, after spending several months in a coma, she was placed in foster care and adopted by the Jones family. Months later she awoke, stirred by the first coming of Galactus outside her hospital room.

Jessica later discovered that the radioactive materials she was exposed to in the accident had granted her super-strength, limited invulnerabilty, and flight (which she never fully mastered). The Joneses re-enrolled Jessica at Midtown High, where she was ostracized by her classmates, especially Flash Thompson. Peter Parker (who had since become Spider-Man) sensed in Jessica a kindred spirit — someone who had also lost family due to a tragic circumstance. Jessica mistook his kind attention and lashed out at him, believing he was merely pitying her. At that time she found out she had super-powers.

As Jewel, Jessica was an upstart heroine with a fairly uneventful career until she intervened in a distubance at a restaurant involving longtime Daredevil foe Zebediah Killgrave, the Purple Man. Killgrave effortlessly placed Jessica under his mental control, a situation that would continue for several months. Though she wasn't sexually assaulted herself, Killgrave enslaved and humiliated Jessica, forcing her to watch as he raped a succession of college coeds whom he had abducted and mind-controlled for his amusement. Killgrave also forced Jessica to beg him to have sex with her, often until she broke down in tears, only to deny her, as a form of psychological abuse. After eight months under his control, Jessica began to lose the distinction between his will and her own, developing a kind of Stockholm Syndrome.

In the midst of a temper tantrum, the Purple Man sent Jessica to kill Daredevil, erroneously directing her to the Avengers Mansion. Since Daredevil is not an Avenger, Jessica attacked the first hero she saw there in a red costume — the Scarlet Witch. The mind-control began to wear off and Jessica attempted to flee, but she was caught and received a severe beating at the hands of the Vision (the Scarlet Witch's then-husband), and Thor. She escaped death due to the intervention of the only Avenger who actually knew her, Carol Danvers, who took her to safety.

Jessica remained in a coma for months, under the care of S.H.I.E.L.D., while also undergoing psychic therapy with Jean Grey of the X-Men. In addition to assisting her emergence from the coma, Grey placed a special mental command in Jones' subconscious that would protect her from further mind control. During this time Jessica developed a doomed romantic relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clay Quartermain, who would prove to be a valuable friend and contact for her later in life.

The intensely violating nature of her experience with Killgrave, combined with the fact that no one noticed she had been missing for eight months, forced a demoralized Jessica to give up being a costumed superhero.

Jessica tried being a superhero one final time before giving up, adopting a darker identity as the Knightress. Intercepting a crime meeting between the Owl and a mafioso, she met up with fellow superhero Luke Cage. After defeating the Owl and his goons, she discovered that one of the thugs had brought his children with him. Jessica Jones took off her mask and revealed her identity to the cops so that they would allow her to look after the children for the night. Luke Cage took her home and the two shared a talk, initiating their strong friendship.

Jessica Jones, now no longer a superhero, opened a private detective agency, and, given her background, was sought out by clients with superhero connections. Despite her wishes to leave the superhero life, she found herself repeatedly drawn back into it. Longtime friend Carol Danvers set Jessica up with her fellow Avenger Scott Lang (the second Ant-Man), and the two dated for several months. She also had an off-and-on affair with Luke Cage, which led to her becoming pregnant.

Having escaped from high-security incarceration, Killgrave was now obsessed with Jessica and attempted to break her spirit by making her experience her worst nightmares — that she had walked in on both Lang and Cage in bed with her friend Carol Danvers. This time however, the mental defenses Grey had given her allowed Jessica to free herself from his control. She knocked him out and he was recaptured.

In the final issue of Alias, Jessica revealed to Luke that she was pregnant with their child. Luke, elated, admitted his strong feelings for her, and the two entered into a committed relationship.

Following the end of Alias, Jessica took a leave from the detective business and joined the staff of the Daily Bugle as a superhero correspondent and consultant, becoming a main character of the comic book The Pulse, and a contributor to the same-name fictional newspaper supplement within. She also became a supporting cast-member of Young Avengers.

As of 2006, Jessica and Luke are living together, and she has given birth to their child, an unnamed girl. Luke has proposed marriage, and at the close of the final issue of The Pulse (#14), Jessica decided to accept. Marvel Comics has announced she will marry Luke in the 2006 New Avengers Annual.

Now, before I go further, let me state that having learned about the existence of this wretched miserable worthless vestigial excuse for a character, my primary rage is not directed at Wiz-Kids, but, rather, at the contemporary editorial management of the Marvel Universe that has allowed this rotted blight to be inflicted on their universe. And I'm not even as mad at them, as I am simply sick and tired of being unable to turn around or take a step in the Modern Age Marvel Universe without tripping over yet another deeply rooted and appalling Brian Michael Bendis creative abortion.

Having said all that, if whoever is currently in charge of Marvel doesn't have to let Bendis run amok with their continuity, and if Bendis doesn't have to piss all over everything he sets his fingers to, then certainly, WizKids doesn't have to waste three slots in any of their expansions perpetuating this kind of rubbish. And yes, I'm certainly aware that the motivations for all three are the same: Marvel pays Bendis because idiot fans buy Bendis' work, and WizKids most likely feels that if they include a few of a very popular writer's characters in each of their expansions, then their product will have greater mass appeal. I just don't care.

I'm also aware that there are far more important things to become enraged about than which fictional superhuman characters WizKids decides to make into little plastic figurines. But this is the one I'm on about right now, and it's not like anyone is required to read this blog.

With all the disclaimers out of the way: Where do I start with how much this ridiculous and appalling character enrages me? Well, let's define 'ret-con', for those of you in the audience who aren't geeks. The phrase is short for 'retroactive continuity', and as a general rule, any time you see it, you are fairly safe in assuming that this is a story or concept that one should approach with nose plugs and tongs. Implanting previously unheard of elements, plot devices, and characters in long established continuity is a tool that can be handled well, but it takes a very disciplined, very knowledgeable, and very talented writer, which, to paraphrase The Committments slightly, means Brian Michael Bendis is fucked for starters. The very idea that we're just supposed to accept that this poor abused bitch was actually standing next to Peter Parker when he got bit by that fateful radioactive spider is bad enough, but then you add into it that apparently one of her primary personality drivers is some encounter she had with him back in high school where she mistook his interest for pity and reacted badly -- an encounter no one ever saw in the original Amazing Spider-Man issues detailing Parker's high school era adventures, for the ample reason that she didn't actually exist then -- well, it just aggravates me. This is straight up bad writing. It's bad writing when Frank Miller does it to insert a previously unheard of collegiate love interest into Daredevil's early continuity, and it's bad writing when Brian Michael Bendis does it, too.

A few paragraphs further down, we're also supposed to just blithely swallow that in response to her being mind controlled into attacking the Scarlet Witch, while she was trying to retreat in confusion, the Vision and Thor very nearly beat her to death? That, in fact, this miserable chick's life was only saved by the intervention of Ms. Marvel? News flash for Brian Asshole Bendis -- the Vision and Thor don't nearly beat ANYone to death, much less a bewildered young woman who is obviously trying to get the hell away from them. However, if we assume that the Vision and Thor are this borderline psychotic (and I don't), well, if Carol Danvers gets in their way, Carol Danvers is going to wake up in a hospital bed with her ass on backwards. This is truly, I mean, grotesquely, bad writing no matter what angle you look at it from -- but, you know, that's what I'd expect, from a writer who had Tony Stark very nearly get down on his knees and give Wolverine a hummer in order to get the dumb Canuck bastard to join The New Avengers.

Leaving all this aside, in general, I have to ask myself, as I generally do when I'm suddenly confronted with yet another piece of terminally toxic horseshit spewing from the printer of Brian Michael Bendis -- what the fuck is this guy thinking? What is this catalogue of horrible emotional, mental, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse supposed to teach us about the superhero syndrome in general? What lessons are we to draw from this?

The first interpretation that springs to mind is an extremely misognyistic one -- chicks shouldn't try to be superheroes. I mean, here's this girl, same age and background as Peter Parker, present at the time he gained his super powers and exposed to the same radiation. Later on, she undergoes much the same experience as originally gave a young Matt Murdock his super powers. Now, young males given less powerful super-abilities than Jessica go on to illustrious and highly effective careers as superhuman crimefighters. Jess, on the other hand, is such a screw up that she gets psychologically enslaved by a fourth rate villain that both Spidey and Daredevil have handled easily in the past, then gets beaten into a coma by two Avengers who normally don't beat baffled young women into comas, to say the least, and upon coming out of her coma, discovers nobody even noticed she was gone the whole time she was unconscious.

I'll give Bendis the benefit of the doubt and say this isn't the message he's trying to put forward here, and there's no deliberate chauvinism meant to be manifest in this girl's background. Perhaps he's just trying to give her an arc, to show that heroism can take many forms, and the fact that she's managed to rise above all these terrible trials and tribulations, forge a life for herself, become professionally successful, and has embarked on a new life as a parent in a committed relationship with the father of her child, is all a wonderful tale of triumph and a tribute to his young woman's towering inner strength. That is, in fact, almost certainly what Bendis is trying to do.

However, in my opinion, he's nowhere near a good enough writer to redefine the entire paradigm of 'heroism' in four color cape operas all by his lonesome. So when we're given a character who has been lucky enough to be gifted with super-strength, invulnerability, and the power of flight, who can't even fully master how to fly, and whose major accomplishment as a bad Huntress rip off with a truly lousy name is to manage to beat up the Owl (with Power Man's help)... I don't know. Maybe I just can't appreciate the subtleties. But it seems a great deal to me as if Bendis is saying (whether he intends to or not) "Girls, you know that whole 'with great power comes great responsibility' thing? That's not for you. Even if you get superpowers, you'll be much happier if you just get a job somewhere and have someone's baby".

None of which really matters as much as I'm making it out to, although it's certainly going to make it harder for me to undo every awful thing Bendis has inflicted on the Marvel Universe when I finally get to write the Avengers, if every time I open my eyes I find yet another disfiguring blotch he's authored staring me in the face.

What does matter, though, is that the Jessica Jones sculpt is just about the worst thing WizKids has EVER done.

And, adding insult to injury, I'll probably have to play the Vet version occasionally, just because the Avengers so badly need another Perplexer. Dammit. Why can't they give us a Hank Pym fig as well-dialed as the Atom?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Conservative courtesy

Liberals, of course, are widely known to use offensive, insulting, even threatening invective when they argue with conservatives. We're the trolls under the bridge in political debate; the toxins in the water table. We pollute everything with our foul language and our complete unwillingness to be civil or rational or polite. You just can't have a courteous conversation with us; we're unhinged and can't be trusted and potentially psychotically violent.

From Digby's blog, these t-shirts, which apparently are being sold on several conservative sites, including Michelle Malkin's new one:

In this spirit, I hereby present my very own


The main diet of the conservative is horseshit, intermixed with varying amounts of bullshit. This gives them really bad breath, but on the other hand, makes them easy to detect and avoid.

Conservatives will attempt to insult, threaten, harangue, and denounce you into accepting their narrow-minded biases as scientific fact and their own personal and peculiar, often medieval, codes of behavior as binding universal law. When you respond with a preference to continue thinking for yourself, they will demand that you be arrested and/or hung. Avoid them. There is no reasoning with them. Eventually they’ll go back into their holes, after we vote enough of their greedy, power-crazed representatives out of office, and/or put them in jail.

Asking guests to give up their firearms at the door will keep conservatives from entering your home.

Conservatives are violently opposed to anyone doing anything they personally disapprove of, but have yet to suggest any remotely valid reason why anyone else should care.

If you see a massive fuel-hog SUV on the road, it’s probably being driven by a conservative. It would be wrong to follow it until it parks and then plaster its windshield with REELECT GORE IN 2004 stickers. Wrong. Wrong.

Conservatives are constantly threatening liberals with violence, imprisonment, and/or death. They seem to forget which side has the brains.

The most dangerous predator of conservatives is an honest special prosecutor.

Inspired by deceitful television ads and emotional catch phrases rarely composed of multisyllabic words, conservatives ‘support the troops’ by putting stickers on their cars and talking their children out of enlisting in the armed forces. What this accomplishes, other than making conservatives feel smug about themselves, is anyone’s guess.

Conservatives are always demanding that lawbreakers go to jail, until they get caught breaking the law, at which point, they scramble frantically to hire expensive lawyers to get them out from under. Just go to jail, bitches!

And then there’s


Some equal application of law required

I don't know. My t-shirt would have to have really small type on it. But conservatives have such short attention spans, it probably wouldnt' matter, anyway.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

100 percent

Well, I started this once, and then Internet Explorer just HAD to crash, and the one thing I hate about working in Blogger is that you can't conveniently save your work as you go, so... so much for about two hundred words. Fuck.

Anyway. Most people seem to be doing this Fifty Things About Me List, except for Slacker Mark Gibson, who only did 25. Well, I am vast and contain multitudes, so I'm going to do a cool hundred things about me. Except some of them won't be true. (Or, for that matter, cool.) And, you know, Internet Explorer may well crash again, so I may never get done.

But. Here we go --

1. I like dreamin. Cuz dreamin' can make you mine. Also, sometimes I have super powers.

2. I worship Gozer.

3. I know for a fact Ty Pennington is gay. Look, don’t get me wrong. I normally wouldn’t watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition with a gun to my head. But SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids love the crap, and sometimes I get exposed to like eight seconds of it at a time as I’m running shrieking out of the room. So I’ve seen Ty Pennington, with that amazingly gay frou-frou hairstyle that looks like he just got into a slap fight with the entire cast of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and that precious little goatee, and the way he just prances around yipping like a goddam poodle, and I totally frickin’ know he’s gay. I mean, he’s just SO GODDAM GAY. So come on. Somebody back me up here.

4. I invented solipsism when I was about 11. Unfortunately, some fucking Greek invented it about 3,000 years before me, so he got all the credit. Prick.

5. I get paid to deal with idiots all day long. But I don’t get paid enough.

6. The idiot on the phone with me right now is really pissing me off. Swear to God, if you could hook a thermoelectric coupling to this woman’s mouth you could reenergize the Iraqi power grid. Is she finally going to shut up? Oh, no, now she’s remembered another question she had. Fuck.

7. I can’t be sure I’ve never eaten dog food. This is because I’ve eaten in SU dining halls in the mid 1980s, and I’ve eaten military MREs. You think I’m just doing the standard school and Army food dissing, but in point of fact, Syracuse University had a scandal in the mid 80s where it turned out the woman in charge of purchasing for their residential dining halls was embezzling about three quarters of her budget, and the students were getting fed crap, and her public rationale was she was educating us by letting us eat the way 2/3s of the world ate, i.e., a lot of rice, plus, I guess, a great deal of horse meat. And Meals Ready to Eat? Every word in that acronym is a filthy lie.

8. Hey, she finally shut the hell up.

9. I enjoy the song “Slit Skirts” by Pete Townsend, but I cannot agree that all the best cowboys have Chinese eyes. What about Jimmy Stewart? What about Clint? It’s madness. Madness, I say.

10. I’m as gay as I can be. Which isn’t very gay. But still, it’s the best I can do and I think that should be worth something to someone.

11. I occasionally try to fly. It never works. But I still have hopes.

12. If I’d looked out of my house and seen a bunch of frickin’ midgets dancing around yodeling about the Lollipop Guild, I’d have started shooting. Or at the very least throwing things. Heavy things. With sharp edges. I mean, you live through a goddam tornado, and your little dog lives, too, and that’s cool, and suddenly you’re besieged by hyperactive dwarves who are clearly cranked up on waaaay too much sugar? I’d have been pouring lighter fluid into empty Coke bottles and tearing old shirts up for wicks, I swear to baby Jebus.

13. When Atlas Comics, which published nothing but monster and horror stories during the 1950s, suddenly struck gold with the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in 1963, they changed their name to Marvel Comics, but they still had all these magazine titles like Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense and all kinds of weird stuff like that. Most of those titles were gradually phased out over the course of the 1960s, but the rather campy sounding Journey Into Fear survived well into the 70s, and featured Man-Thing for quite a while, as well as Morbius the Living Vampire. All of which is pointless, except that one of the titles I’ve always wanted to use for a comic book, more or less inspired by Journey Into Fear, is Hurtle Into Danger! Like, you’d have in small letters at the top of the cover Hurtle Into Danger, and then, underneath, the big superhero logo, like, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, and between the two you'd have a little 'with' off to the left side. So you'd end up with this logo that said something like Hurtle Into Danger with SOLDIER OF FORTUNE. Yeah, I know, it’s pretty retarded. You try and come up with a hundred things about yourself all at once, buddy. See what you come up with.

14. I think Star Trek is a vile and unconscionable blot on the escutcheon of all speculative fiction. I really, truly do. If I had a time machine, well, yes, my first priority would have to be the 2000 Presidential election, of course, I don’t know how I’d fix it, maybe I’d take some videotapes and some newspapers back to show to Ralph Nader and convince him to throw his support to Gore or something. But after I did that, I’d go back in time, find a young Gene Roddenberry, and kick him in the testicles over and over and over again until I had to stop because I had such a wicked charley horse in my upper thigh muscle. Not because it would prevent Star Trek from coming into existence, because it probably wouldn’t, but just because he’d deserve it.

15. “Flash of Two Earths” is one of my all time favorite comics stories, because it reveals that Barry Allen is a comics geek, and he called himself the Flash because the Golden Age Flash was his favorite comic book hero when he was a kid. And then he accidentally travels to an alternate reality where all his favorite comic book characters from his childhood are actually real! I mean, how cool is that? And yet, did anyone ever mention again in the forty years Barry Allen had his own strip that he was a comics geek, or that the members of the Justice Society had actually been published as fictional characters in the 1930s and 1940s on Earth 1, and all the other geeks on Earth 1 should therefore know their secret identities? Nooooooooo. It sucked.

16. When I first created this blog I was going to call myself “Monkey Boy”, but SuperGirlfriend absolutely balked, and wanted me to call myself “Highlander”, because the neighborhood I live in is called “the Highlands”. Ironically, I pretty much loathe the Highlander movies and TV series, although I will admit, for a long time Adrian Paul was very high up on my list of candidates for a body swap.

17. I am the luckiest man in the world, and this is an objective fact. If you’d met my girlfriend or her kids, who I am privileged to share my life with, you’d have to agree with me.

18. When fellow geeks ask me what super power I would most like to have, I generally say ‘super intelligence’, although flight tempts me, too, as does immortality. Sometimes, in more thoughtful moods, I consider the potential advantages of being able to shapeshift. And on occasion, I admit, mind control looks really good to me, too. But you know the power I’d really like to have, although it hardly ever occurs to me when I’m thinking about it? I’d like to be able to walk into books, like Gumby and Pokey used to. That would be really cool.

19. I really wish I knew all the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”.

20. I am a master of kung fu.

21. I am an amazingly charismatic man. At least, I am if you redefine ‘charismatic’ to mean ‘annoying’.

22. When I was a kid, my family had two dogs, named Frenchie and Ringo. I still miss Frenchie. She was a cool dog.

23. Here at work, I’m supposed to document every call, and I’m also supposed to get a daytime phone number and an email address for every participant who calls me, and I’m supposed to ask them if they’d like to take the customer service survey at the end of every call. I do this about half assed. Sometimes I actually doc a call, and sometimes I actually take down all the information. Other times I ask the participant for it but don’t bother taking it down, and occasionally I do that and don’t even doc the call. Someday it will all catch up to me. In the meantime, I figure my job is hard enough without all this mickey mouse horseshit added in, and the participants tend to get a little annoyed with me when I ask them for phone numbers and email addresses and offer them a survey, too.

24. I used to love Captain Scarlet and Speed Racer when I was a real little kid. I haven’t seen Captain Scarlet in probably close to 40 years, but when Cartoon Network first came out, I was really psyched to check out Speed Racer again. And oh sweet Christ did it suck. It was even more disappointing than how terrible Scoobie Doobie Doo was, because, you know, I really didn’t expect that much of Scoobie Doobie Doo.

25. I have no nostrils.

26. Me and this guy I used to know were once arguing about a name one or the other of us was suggesting for a character one of us had made up, and he said “that’s a really stupid name”, and I said “Well, that never stopped anyone before”, and he said “I don’t know, probably someone wanted to name a character ‘Elbowman’, and somebody else said ‘no, that’s a really stupid name’, so there’s no actual character named Elbowman.” Which is why I’ve always wanted to create a character named Elbowman. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what his powers would be.

27. One of the first CDs I ever bought was “Achtung, Baby!” by U2. I played “One” so much I actually wore the paint off the REPLAY button on my first cheapie stereo with a built in CD player.

28. I am godfather to two blogs, and both of those blogs are better than mine, and I'm very proud of the fact that I was instrumental in these blogs coming into existence. Both of these blogs belong to women I have had the good fortune to have my life entwine with, one for a short period when we were both in college, and one at present and I sincerely and desperately hope for the rest of my life.

29. I intensely dislike all organized religion. I think, in a better world, there would be no organized religion, and no political parties, either, and it would be considered to be gravely impolite to talk about religion or politics in any kind of social setting beyond the intimate, one on one conversation. Matters of god and state should be private things, things one keeps to one's self or shares, at most, with one's closest friends and family members; things for the prayer closet and the curtained off voting booth.

30. I would never in my life have the hubris to create a Hundred Best Songs Of All Time list. But if I did, there sure as shit wouldn't be any goddam Frank Sinatra anywhere on the list.

31. Star Wars isn't a terrible fantasy setting; it's nowhere near as bland, earnest, gutlessly PC, and scientifically nonsensical as the Star Trek universe, for example. The major conceptual flaw with Star Wars is that the technology apparently never changes -- the human race that lives in that galaxy far far away seems to have lost all its talent for innovation. (I'm getting this more from the Star Wars games, which are set in periods crossing thousands of years of the timeline, but in which all the technology -- hyperdrive, energy weapons, light sabres, droids, antigrav -- seems essentially the same.) It's almost as if all of these technological innovations were given to, or found as relics by, the humans there, and while they've learned how to take apart this stuff well enough to manufacture new spare parts and do basic maintenance, they simply don't understand any of the underlying principles of the machines they use all the time. So they can build copies, or repair the existing ones, but they can't create anything new. So their culture remains largely static for millenia, with governments steadily growing more and more monolithic and oppressive, then fragmenting into a period of chaos, before beginning to form again. It's a good backdrop for an unending cycle of largely unoriginal adventures Xeroxed from the old galactic adventure stories in the 40s and 50s pulp magazines, but it's hardly science fiction at all. Still, it makes more sense than transporters and holodecks.

32. I couldn't ever be a vampire. I mean it. I'd throw up.

33. It's not a crime on a level with, you know, the Gitmo concentration camp or the invasion of Iraq or shooting your hunting buddy in the face while drunk off your ass, or anything. But still. I think the way Joss Whedon simply abandoned the Buffy franchise flat, as well as all the fans that made him a success, is some kind of offense. Probably not a felony. But I'd like to see him fined for it. Heavily. Especially since the concept he shucked off the aging, perhaps somewhat saggy old wife in favor of was this completely moronic space western thing that is, hard though it is to believe, even less scientifically literate than Star Trek.

34. I once thought that if the Legion of Superheroes was going to have a Karate Kid character (somebody who was a 'master of super karate') they should also have a Kung Fu Kid character. And I was dead fucking earnest about it. But I think I was like 11 at the time. And even back then, at that early age, I felt that Karate Kid was kind of a cheat. I mean, to get into the Legion you have to have at least one unique super power, and let's face it, martial arts is not a super power. If they were going to let Karate Kid in, then they should let in, like, Robin the Boy Wonder. He didn't have any super powers either, but I was pretty sure he could kick Karate Kid's ass, especially if he had access to his utility belt during the fight. "Here, Val Armorr -- let's see you do Crane Style When Done Properly Nothing Can Defend with a face full of mace, bitch!"

35. There are some movies where all you want is for a meteor to hit the fictional Earth they are set on and kill everyone living there, because all the characters in the film are just so goddam annoying and you can't imagine there is anyone less annoying anywhere on the planet that spawned them. One of those movies is Boys Don't Cry. And The Royal Tenenbaums would be on that list, too.

36. I honestly don't mind that SuperGirlfriend and the SuperKids all like TOTAL MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION, although I wish they'd just admit Ty Pennington is gay and get over it. I mean, I can just go in the bedroom and read or play X-Box or something while they're watching it, and it doesn't bother me. But I don't think I could live with someone who really really liked Gilmore Girls, I mean, to the level of buying the DVD sets. And the day a Seinfeld boxed set shows up anywhere in a house where I am living is the day I have to start packing my bags. Or someone does, anyway.

37. I stay away from the poli-blogs done by women, right or left. Why? Well, the right wing women bloggers are all vitriolic she-trolls, for the most part... and not very bright. Folks like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter and that dimwitted implant queen over at Atlas Shrugged. Left wing chick bloggers are all smart as hell, but they tend to focus on women's issues with a fanatical vengeance, like, you know, abortion and sexual harrassment and stuff like that. And here's what bothers me about that -- why is it that I can call a guy I don't like a 'dick' or a 'prick' or a 'dickhead' or something like that on the Internet, and it's okay, and female bloggers do it, too, but if I were to call anyone a 'cunt' or a 'pussy', suddenly I'm being misogynistic? And why is it you can call guys 'bitch' now, and everyone laughs, but if you call a chick a 'bitch' you're a rapist or something? I suppose this is all best summed up by that really exasperating character Mary Louise Parker played on West Wing for a while. Although it would take me to too long to explain why.

38. I'm starting to think that doing a hundred of these things is going to be a pretty major chore.

39. Sometimes I find part of my mind making up its own words to songs. Often this has an unfortunate effect. Like the way I have the chorus to "The First Cut Is The Deepest" on repeat in my brain right now, only some imp of the perverse in there somewhere is insisting on substituting a vulgar word for 'vagina' in the place of 'cut'. Which is just ruining the song for me, and it's a song I like a lot. Other times, though, it's amusing. I can always make the older two SuperKids giggle by singing out loud "Who's the leader of the gang that's killing you and me? M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!"

40. Like many people, I’m too fat, and I’m just not going to do anything about it. I hate being so fat, and the way all my button up shirts seem to uncomfortably strain across my huge protruding gut, but at the same time, I’m not going to diet and I’m not going to exercise, and that’s pretty much that. I would love to have a more athletic build and be able to wear smaller sizes more comfortably, and, you know, have all the chicks think I’m hot and envy SuperGirlfriend for having such a babe of a boyfriend, but I’m absolutely not going to make the slightest effort or sacrifice to achieve that goal. They need to create a miracle pill that I can take, go to sleep, and wake up with a body like Toby McGuire has at the start of Spider-Man, when he first wakes up with super powers.

41. One of my childhood ambitions was to be the guy who nobody can understand because he speaks in such big words. I read about a lot of those guys – Encyclopedia Brown, “Brains” Benton, Johnny from Doc Savage’s crew, Reed Richards – all these guys who would say something using these gigantic multisyllabic impressive sounding words, and then some dumb guy like the Thing, or Monk Mayfair, would sneer something like “Okay, now say it again in English, perfesser.” I always wanted to be that guy – the perfesser, not, you know, the dumb guy. Now, I had other childhood ambitions as well, but they were to do really impossible, insane, unattainable things like build an atomic powered rocket ship in my basement and fly it to Mars, or get super powers and fight crime, or make out with Cheri Bohadlo… somewhere… those ambitions generally didn’t come with a specific backdrop. Now, I never got to do any of that other stuff, but one Friday when I was in my late 20s, I was up at the bank on my lunch break with a bunch of my co-workers from Sunburst Optics Labs, and we were all standing around in line to cash our paychecks, and they were all bitching about work and the lousy 12 and a half cent raises that Bill and Norm passed out like candy after yearly reviews, and I said something like “Well, you have to understand that there is an essential perceptual dichotomy between ownership and labor that is for the most part insuperable”. And I paused to gather my thoughts before plunging on in to how what labor views as wages and disposable income, ownership naturally views as necessary but annoying overhead which must be kept to a minimum to maximize their own profits… and I noticed that all my co workers were staring at me with dropped jaws. After a second or so, a girl named Cindy, who was totally hot but just as dumb your grandmother’s hitching post, said, “Okay, now say it again in English, Mr. Spock” and I realized, I had become That Guy. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

42. Sorry to tell you I’m fat, up at #40. See, I know, as you’re reading along at one of these things, it’s jarring to suddenly have someone tell you something like that. It upsets the idealized, not fully coherent subconscious image you may have somewhere in your mind of the person whose ‘voice’ you are listening to. Nobody ever imagines an unseen person as fat or otherwise unattractive; we all prefer to believe we are interacting, on whatever level, with smooth, flawless, beautiful people, like in the movies. But, well, I’m fat, and that’s just how that is.

43. Only 57 to go! Yay!

44. Everyone complains about the lousy customer service they get when they call an 800 number to bitch about their bank account, or their cable, or their phone service, or whatever. And I do it too. But you know what? At least I know what it’s like on the other end of that phone. Dealing with rude ass motherfucking bitch-punks all day long; people who think that for the duration of their phone call to customer service, the normal rules of civility are suspended, because, you know, they have a problem, and the customer service rep they are speaking to isn’t actually a human being who is just trying to get through another day doing a really shitty job like everyone else, but, rather, some subhuman drone who exists only to be slapped around over a fiber optic line.

45. I’ve never been very good at any tabletop or board game I’ve played , other than Scrabble. I was a mediocre Magic: the Gathering player, and I suspect if I played HeroClix competitively, even under my own House Rules, I’d be mediocre at it, too. I don’t seem to excel at electronic games, either. I like roleplaying games, especially ones where you sit around a table and roll dice and interact with a real human being DM, and I like to be the DM, too. But I’m wondering if such games haven’t become obsolete, given how difficult it’s been for me to find players lately.

46. I wish I was smarter. (Many of you are reading this and going “Yeah, we wish you were smarter too, dude.”)

47. Super Dependable Teen came with me and Super Adorable Kid to the park last night, and while Super Adorable Kid was running around at hypersonic speed from one piece of playground equipment to the other, Super Dependable Teen asked me if I could be any kind of animal, what would I be? I didn’t think about it, I just said “A porpoise”. Which, actually, if you have to be something other than a human being, I think that’s about the best thing to be. Assuming I can’t be some, you know, cool humanoid alien guy with telepathic powers and Klingon-level strength and a blaster. Because I’d like that better.

48. I read a book once when I was a kid; I think it was half of an Ace Double. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember that there were these two alien races on Earth, both of them posing as humans, and they had some kind of psychic powers they were always fighting each other with. The thing I remember most vividly was one of them getting on a bus and giving the driver a nickel that had a tiny row of stars imprinted along the edge of it, which identified him as one of the alien agents. I’ve never been able to find anyone who knows anything about it. It’s probably a terrible book, but I’d love to find out for sure.

49. If you’re a guy and you watch WEST WING, you yearn mightily to identify with Sam, because he’s really smart and very good looking and all the hotties want to jump him. But if you’re me, and honest with yourself, as I try to be, eventually you just have to give it up and embrace your inner Toby Ziegler.

50. I suppose if you’re a black guy you’d yearn to identify with Charlie, actually, because he’s the only black guy on the show, and he’s pretty cool.

51. I really like the lyric “And I know that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me as ‘him’, but unlike me she don’t work off her frustrations in the gym”.

52. I also really like the Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays”, which is from their album, The Fine Art of Surfacing. I remember all that from listening to the radio in the late 70s and early 80s. I never owned the album or anything.

53. I spent a summer with my buddy P.J. Peppard when we were both about 14, I think. He owned like 3 45 rpm singles. One of them was “On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. The B side was “Queen of the Silver Dollar”. Another one was “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks. The flip side was this truly lame ass song called “Put The Bone In”, which may have been a really vulgar double entendre, but if so I didn’t get it at the time. I can’t remember what the third single was.

54. I wonder how people would feel about a show where, say, the President and all his staff were black, or Hispanic, except for one white character. I suspect it would have a hard time finding an audience.

55. Sometimes I write idiotic doggerel, as follows:

When Captain America cleans his mighty shield
all dirt and dust and specks of rust must yield
it’s a highly polished thing
that he hurls with quite a zing
and if it hits you in the head you will be keel-ed

When Captain America hurls his mighty shield
To machine gun bullets Cap is now revealed
Though his chainmail does its best
Still they pierce his mighty chest
And now Captain America’s buried in that field

56. I also sometimes sit down and try to win some imaginary contest for writing the absolute worst line of dialogue imaginable for a comics character, or coming up with the worst possible storyline. Here’s my Worst Possible Line of Dialogue:

CYCLOPS: And now, BEAMS from my EYES will TRANSFIX you!

My Worst Possible Storyline entry: Captain America finds a hidden valley somewhere in the Far East and spends a year studying ancient oriental meditation techniques. He learns to become ‘one with his shield’ – he can now project his essence into his shield and cause the shield to fly around by itself, while he perceives what is going on around it, and can cause his body to manifest itself ‘through’ his shield in any location within arms reach of his shield. Thus, the criminal element in New York City soon learns to dread the sight of Cap’s colorful shield, hovering in the air outside their tenement windows, or lurking above them as they skulk towards a jewelry store they’re planning to rob.

57. One of the more common, and amusing, manglings of the English language I hear from Indian and Asian participants is “I am trying to fill up this claim form”. I know. It’s stupid of me. But it always makes me grin.

58. I don’t understand why some people don’t like Kevin Costner or Nicholas Cage. They don’t bother me. They’ve made some good films, and some bad ones. On the other hand, I can’t stand Sally Field. I mean it. I just can’t deal with her. Rosie O’Donnell is another one I can’t even remotely tolerate. And what’s her name, the giant black woman, Queen Latifah, there you go. Can’t watch anything with her in it. And for a long time, if a movie had Maria Conchita Alonso in it, it needed to be directed by Walter Hill and feature Nick Nolte and a lot of other cool action stars firing gigantic automatic weapons to get me into the theater. Otherwise, I just walked on by.

59. On the other hand, I will generally see anything Reese Witherspoon is in, regardless of how stupid it is. (This is one reason I’m very grateful Walk The Line did as well as it did; I’m hoping now she’ll stop making retarded high concept comedies about funny funny hicks and start making more films I can actually watch and enjoy for something besides how good Reese always looks.)

60. I wish people would stop calling me.

61. I also wish SG’s ex husband weren’t such a blithering, clueless dolt. I mean, look, I’m not that foolish. You luck into the greatest significant other on the planet and she’s got three fabulous kids, well, there’s going to be a piece of broken glass lying around on the floor somewhere, and he’s it. And he could be worse. But having said all that, he’s still such a twit. Apparently the last time he was in MY house he was sneering and giggling at some of Jeff’s original artwork on the wall. I try to be civil to him – I am, after all, balling his ex wife and parenting his kids most of the time now; I can certainly understand him being a tool to me -- but it’s good I wasn’t there for that. I only have so much slack to cut. I certainly don’t laugh at his crappy-ass little Matchbox cars when I happen to be in his house, or wrinkle up my nose and go “HoooEEEE what’s that SMELL?” at the mildew in his kitchen. Fucker. Laugh at Jeff’s artwork? Let’s see how many times his ass bounces down my front fucking stairs.

62. SuperAdorable Kid made me this really cool bookmark. And lately she’s taken to wearing a few of my old t-shirts as night shirts – I actually gave her three of them a while back, and she seems to really enjoy wearing them. Of course, she’s swimming in them, but I admit, I love to see her wearing them, too.

63. I try very very hard never to lose my temper, especially in front of the kids. So far, I’ve been surprised and gratified to find I seem to be able to pretty consistently keep my cool, even when they’re at their brattiest. I’ve been even more surprised and pleased to find that all the kids, even SuperAdorable Kid, will generally respond pretty well to me when I talk to them in a calm, reasonable tone and make courteous requests.

64. I have a very addictive personality. That’s why I don’t drink and have never messed around with drugs. I have a very strong feeling that if I ever tried pot, for example, I’d be one of those guys like my little brother, who stays stoned every waking moment of the day, and who gets extremely agitated when he’s out of weed. I don’t want that. But it would definitely be me, if I let it.

65. I’ve always been pretty much dirt poor, and I’ve never learned to handle money with any kind of discipline. I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. I’m getting a bit better at budgeting now that there are kids in the picture, but I’m still not exactly thrifty. Lazy, worthless rabble indeed.

66. Like almost everyone else, I crave more attention than I receive. In my experience, though, there are only two kinds of people in this regard – the vast majority, who don’t get enough attention, and a tiny tiny percentage of celebrities, who get far, far more than they actually want. Virtually no one anywhere gets “Goldilocks” attention – just right.

67. I don’t know who my favorite superhero is. Maybe Hank Pym. Maybe Hal Jordan. It’s a tough call. My favorite member of the Legion of Superheroes is Chuck “Bouncing Boy” Taine, though, because first, he’s the only overweight hero in the history of comics, second, he has an amazingly cool power, and third, he’s happily married to Duo Damsel, a gorgeous babe who can, at will, turn into two identical gorgeous babes with one mind. Imagine the possibilities.

68. My favorite movie is It’s A Wonderful Life, but the only way the whole “here’s a world where George Bailey was never born” sequence can work is if we accept that God is a sadistic prick who enjoys playing head games with us mortals. I mean, come on – if George was never born, Harry Bailey wouldn’t have broken through the ice and drowned that day. For one thing, Harry Bailey would probably have been named George. Second, that was clearly George’s clique of friends Harry was sledding with that day; if George hadn’t been around, Harry would never have gone. Third, we’re presuming that nobody else there – not Burt, not Ernie, not Jackass Sam – would have the presence of mind to fish a little kid out if he fell through the ice, which seems like a stretch to me – George is the only guy in Bedford Falls who can be a hero? Leaving that aside, why the hell is Mary an old maid librarian? She’s a babe, and with or without George, we know Sam Wainwright was sniffing on her trail. She wouldn’t be an old maid, she’d be married to the richest guy in Bedford Falls… and probably she’d be miserable and doing the gardener, but still, she wouldn’t be no damn librarian, or if she was, she’d be the hot librarian every kid in Pottersville was jacking off over. And exsqueeze me, but why the fuck is there a library in Pottersville anyway? Why hasn’t that goddam book barn been rezoned for an adult use of some sort? Why isn’t Violet doing a pole dance where the frickin’ periodicals used to be back when this was Bedford Falls? And nobody better tell Nick the Bartender that in a world where George Bailey was never born, he owns the frickin’ bar. He’ll slip someone his left as a convincer. So, all I’m saying is, there’s no way this makes any sense unless we assume it’s all just a great big dope-dream God cooked up to scare George straight with. Which I wouldn’t put past him. But if God cared that much about George, why did he send him a retarded angel in the first place?

69. I like this number. Especially in context with, say, the phrase ‘the Olsen Twins’. Don’t look at me that way. I have no pretensions to decency.

70. Today was supposed to be my day off. Somebody offered to trade their day off for mine, though, and since their day off is Friday, I said ‘sure’, after mulling it over for about 3.9 picoseconds. But that means I’m here today instead of home. Nothing matters but the weekend from a Tuesday point of view. In fucking deed.

71. Why can’t they give the name ‘Darren’ to anyone cool on TV or in the movies or even in comic books? It bugs me.

72. Plus, try and find a keychain or a coffee mug or something like that with the name ‘Darren’ on it. Go ahead.

73. I think it’s needlessly sadistic to make me wait until May 23 to get Season 2 of Deadwood on DVD.

74. I have a fully functional Army surplus hand grenade.

75. I think they should have made a Star Trek movie with Harry Mudd in it.

76. I lost my mind once, but it turned up under the couch cushions. There was a quarter in there, too. Plus some gum wrappers. I threw those out.

77. I have no patience with computers. If a program or a website takes longer than a second and a half to open, I’m pissed. If it takes longer than ten seconds to open I’m ready to set fire to whatever is handy. I want to click on something with my mouse and have it work. Instantly. I think I need to buy a Pentagon surplus supercomputer, or something.

78. 100 of these fuckers is way too much, but I’m gonna stick it out, goddamit.

79. Shadow Lass has a power that really freaks me out. I mean, how do you create areas of darkness? I mean, what is she doing when she does this? Darkness isn’t a force, it’s the absence of light. Is she destroying all the light in certain areas under her control? Shunting it somewhere else? Or is she just selectively controlling the dilation of all her targets’ retinas, so they think its dark but it really isn’t? See? Freaky shit.

80. I need about t’ree fitty.

81. Ever hauled off and belted a tree with a baseball bat? I have. I walked out of this kid’s house one time when I was pretty young and right there on the grassy verge by the curb, there was this aluminum softball bat lying right next to a big elm tree. Seized by an utterly inexplicable but irresistible urge, I snatched that puppy up and let fly. KRUNGGG! Felt like someone set off a bomb in both of my palms. Oddly, I’ve asked other people about this over the years, and discovered that it seems to be a nearly universal experience, at least among guys – at some time in our childhood, we’ve all seen a baseball bat lying next to a tree, or a phone pole, or something, and been overwhelmed by that same idiotic impulse. I’ll tell you what, though – no matter how foolish you may be, if you do it once, you will NEVER do it again. It’s the kind of experience that even Tom Cullen could learn from.

82. I am by nature deeply uneasy when surrounded by large groups of strangers, and for that reason, and others, I don’t attend concerts much. In my life, I doubt I’ve seen a dozen. The first one I ever saw was in the summer of 1979, when Mike Mahiques and I went to see the Eagles on their Hotel California tour, at the Buffalo War Memorial. Later that summer, he and I and a couple of girls – I took Ellen Stamper, I can’t remember who he took – went to see Triumph, in a smaller venue in Buffalo. In college, I saw a few shows – Carolyn Mas did a free concert on the quad which I enjoyed so much I bought her album, but I haven’t listened to it in a very long time. I saw the Kinks with my ex girlfriend Laurie in, I think, 1981 or 1982 – the show was opened by some not particularly good singer-guitarist we’d never heard of, didn’t like at all, and that we both agreed wouldn’t have much of a career; his name was Bryan Adams, so don’t buy any stocks either of us recommend, either. I also saw Blue Oyster Cult once in the Syracuse War Memorial with Jeff Webb, Ann Huntington, and Rob Morrison, and several more times in a little biker bar called the Lost Horizon with Jeff. And Jeff and I went to see Adam and the Ants at the Landmark Theater (we got free tickets from some guy on University Union Concert Board), and later we saw Styx Hotel Paradise tour at the Carrier Dome, and much later than that, I saw Pat Benatar at the Landmark, too. (Jeff and I also saw a live performance of the Rocky Horror Show at the Landmark somewhere in there, but I’m not sure that counts as a concert.) Much later, my mom and my girlfriend at the time Kristy and I saw Don Henley in Florida, and I took Kristy to see Billy Joel at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for Valentine’s Day one year. And I think that’s all the concerts I’ve seen, although my brother Paul, cock-mongrel that he is, went and saw Counting Crows while I was staying with him, but I had to work that night.

83. For a very long time, I thought the Natalie Imbruglia song “Torn” was actually about some guy named Tor.

84. My favorite fantasy novel is still Lord of Light by Roger Zelazney. My favorite SF novel is… harder to quantify, but still most likely something by Heinlein, or maybe Startide Rising by David Brin. My favorite work of fiction is still most likely Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula K. LeGuin, although it could also be Blood Games by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. My favorite comic – is probably still something by Steve Englehart… one of his Avengers issues, or maybe a Detective… but I suppose it could also be an issue of Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Or maybe even something by Moore… maybe one of the Top Ten issues. Although there could be some Carey Bates Superman or Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes stories in there, too.

85. I could never be elected to any kind of office. But I’d run a fun campaign.

86. SuperGirlfriend and I are a truly formidable team at Scene-It.

87. I have no favorite flower.

88. I intensely dislike lying. But I can do it really really well if I feel the need.

89. I stole a chair once. But I don’t have it any more.

90. Long hair is a fairly large hassle. I keep my hair long, though, because I like the way it looks on me, and so does Supergirlfriend, and it irritates a great many people whom I feel badly need to be irritated.

91. I honestly believe gas prices are too low in America, and have been for decades. Only when gas prices are so high people simply can’t afford to fill up will the American electorate, vastly fat and hugely lazy and enormously spoiled as we are, make any effort to take the needle/nozzle out of our arms/gas tanks and demand our government look seriously at alternative energy sources. On the other hand, I’m part of a household that spends a significant amount of our paychecks filling up the car, so I feel the pain of our not-at-all-high-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-world per gallon prices very deeply, and can’t help but feel relief when gas prices tip down again. But it’s the relief of a five year old at learning that yes, there actually was another half gallon of ice cream in the fridge, and he won’t have to go without a scoop on his pie tonight after all. It’s unenlightened and short sighted and foolish. We need to find another source of energy, and we needed to start looking for it probably back in the 1950s. We’re in an enormous shitload of trouble, and I can’t help but think it’s going to get much much worse before it gets better. And it may not get better any time soon, as in, in my lifetime.

92. I’m a big believer in honesty… but not as much as I used to be. Truth is important, but so are people’s feelings, and sometimes you have to put on a show to get along. I dislike that, but it’s just the way things are. Still, I will always prefer, and when I can, choose, to hang out with people I can be for the most part truthful with. And it’s one reason I never get tired of hanging out with SuperGirlfriend – I can always be honest with her.

93. I have had four girlfriends in my life. The two that I am fondest of are both much smarter than I am, although SuperGirlfriend doesn’t think she is, and she’s just plain dead wrong about that, too. I’ve heard that most guys don’t like smart women, especially women who are smarter than they are, but I’ve always found them to be amazingly sexy.

94. Casual sex doesn’t work well for me. I’ve had a few relationships that were pretty much just sex and nothing else, and I get bored with them and break them off pretty quickly. After being celibate for a while I usually regret it and call myself an idiot for doing it, but still, if I don’t have some emotional intimacy, sex generally seems kind of pointless. Not that it matters, since I’m unlikely to ever be celibate, or involved in a casual sexual relationship, again in my life. Which is a very pleasant feeling.

95. I consider myself to be a non-conformist, just like all the rest of you.

96. A guy named Jake Marek and I once made up a fictional political candidate for Student President in high school, because it offended us that Burt Farrant was running for the office unopposed. We made posters in art class for “Worthington Carbuncle” and put them up all over school. And he won. Our social studies teacher tried to make us be Co-Presidents, but saner heads prevailed and Burt got the job anyway. But he ran unopposed and lost… to a fictional candidate. That had to hurt.

97. So Super Drama Teen was telling me David Boreanaz was going to be on Ellen next week, and I said "So? It's not like he's going to be making out with her or anything", and Super Dependable Teen said "He's married!" and I said "Yeah, he's married to Seth Green" and they were like "nooooooooo" and Super Drama Teen said "Dude, he's got a kid" and I said "Yeah, that kid is actually the monkey from Friends." And they all felt that was ridiculous. But I don't know. Has anyone seen the monkey from Friends lately?

98. I look over and Super Adorable Kid is lying upside down halfway off the couch, and her socks are on the floor. So I say "Can you please pick them up and put them in the dirty laundry?" And she shakes her head no. So I say "Super Adorable Kid, I'm asking to be polite, but what's actually happening here is, I'm telling you, pick up your socks and put them in the dirty laundry." Which she did. Which is good, because next up was the Cool Hand Luke speech. And nobody wants that.

99. I was going to put something in here about cans of biscuit dough, but SuperGirlfriend pouted at me, so I'm not allowed to.

100. I really like bread. And rolls. And biscuits. My family learned very quickly when I was a kid that at big holiday meals, you do not park me next to the rolls. If you do, two minutes later you have a carb-bloated little kid and an empty bread basket.

Comic Books, Comic Books

(sung to the tune of a TV theme song no true Silver Age comics geek should need me to further explicate)

Comic books, comic books
trashy four color comic books
Is that Daredevil story good?
Dude, it's pencilled by Wally Wood
You know it's a great comic book

Comic books, comic books
Marvel or DC comic books
If you read Harvey, you're a twat
We sneer at you and your Li'l Dot
Hey chump -- read some real comic books

Off the spinner rack
for a few paltry dimes
you could read about
some guy made out of slime!

Comic books, comic books
your vast collection of comic books
you won't keep it, there's no doubt
your mom will at some point throw it out
it's true -- all mothers hate comic books

Monday, April 24, 2006

Working can wait, this is paradise

An idyllic weekend. SuperGirlfriend has touched on it a little on her own blog, which I know you're reading if you're reading this one. Still, it was truly lovely, and as I wasted much of the spare time I had this weekend doing the first part of a goddam endless Infinite Crisis post that no one is ever going to read or comment on, I may as well take what time I have between Monday calls to note some highlights here:

I had Friday off, which was nice. I slept in until, oh, about 8:30 -- which may not seem particularly late to any readers who don't have kids, but trust me, when you have a six year old who wakes up, on her own, at around 6:30 to 7 am every morning, and then wants EVERYone in the house to get up, sleeping until 8:30 is a rare treat. I got up, did a few chores around the house -- unloading and reloading the dishwasher, taking the garbage out, taking the laundry out of the washer and dryer in the cellar. While I was down there, I played out another turn of the OMACs vs. Society HeroClix game I have going on the basement gaming table (Mr. Freeze froze 4 OMACs in blocks of ice, while Black Adam came up and beat the snot out of another one; meanwhile, Dr. Psycho blew his Mind Control attack roll on the same OMAC, The Mad Thinker -- subbing for the Calculator -- gave him a reroll, and he blew it again, and Deathstroke similarly blew his own shot at that particular OMAC -- all this, even after Luthor had used Brilliant Tactician to Perplex up everyone's attack, what a bunch of blithering dolts).

SuperGirlfriend only works until 11:30 on Fridays (she works 9 hour days the rest of the week in order to get that half day off) so she came home about then and we did a little of this and a little of that, some of which involved going out to Mark's Feed Store for barbecue, which we brought home and ate while watching one of my NYPD Blue tapes, and then wound up taking a nap until the kids got home around 3:45. There was no sleeping then, though; both older SuperKids were yowling at each like caged cats when they came into the house. So we got up, and then had to field a minor crisis when Super Dependable Teen discovered wrappings from Mark's Feed Store in the trash can and threw a major hissy because we haven't taken HER to Mark's Feed Store in over a month (she's usually nowhere near this spoiled; she's been under a lot of stress lately). At which point, SG and I left to go get SuperAdorable Kid at her daycare, hoping Super Dependable Teen would chill a little while we were gone. We got home, ate dinner, took all the kids with us to get SuperAdorable Kid's nearly waist length hair cut back to just below her shoulders (SuperAdorable Kid wanted it, SG was nearly in tears). Then, as a surprise for the kids, because it was my first anniversary with SuperGirlfriend, I took them all over to the HomeMade Pie Kitchen, a nearby place pretty much legendary for its desserts. (I got the double crust apple pie, Super Drama Teen got chocolate chess pie, Super Dependable Teen got cheesecake, SuperGirlfriend got pineapple upside down cake, and Super Adorable Kid got an ice cream cone.)

Saturday the kids went over to their dad's for a weekend overnight visit. By the new visitation agreement, we have the kid for three weeks, then he has them for one, but the first weekend of our three weeks, they go over there Saturday at 10 am and come back Sunday at 6 pm. We've only been doing this since the start of this month, but it seems easier and more workable for everyone.

Left to our own devices, SG and I decided to rent a few movies, and ended up buying a used copy of Jumanji when Hollywood Video didn't have a rentable to go along with the Zathura DVD we rented. Both movies are essentially silly, senseless excuses for a lot of not particularly good special effects, although I'd say that Zathura was the better of the two, despite the fact that no one involved in its script seemed to understand that in space there is no gravity, no warmth, and no air, so, you know, when the kids set fire to a couch and shove it out their front door to distract heat-seeking lizard-aliens, the couch should stop burning pretty much immediately. (I'll accept that somehow the Zathura game is magical and it keeps the atmosphere, gravity, and other living conditions inside the kids' house intact, although that's a stretch. But accepting that it somehow fills outer space with burnable atmosphere is a leap I'm not willing to make, sorry.)

Saturday evening I took SG out for our anniversary dinner. That I was taking her to dinner wasn't a secret, but I'd kept where we were going on the lowdown. See, 8 months or so back, we'd been walking around the neighborhood and she'd commented, as we went by a restaurant no more than a block from our house, that it looked like an interesting place. This was one element in my nefarious scheme. The other goes back even further; when SG drove down to Florida to rescue me from the shithole I was inhabiting then, I took her out walking that one night she spent there with me, and wound up that walk by surprising her with dinner at a favorite local eatery of mine that I wanted to share with her.

So, we went out to get the videos, and the plan (as far as she knew) was, when we got back, I'd tell her where we were going so she could drive us over there. This caused me to scramble, because my real scheme was to just happen to walk by Diamante's, the restaurant I actually had reservations at, and surprise her by simply taking her inside. At the last minute, SG announced that she had one pair of shoes she wanted to wear for our walk, but another pair she wanted to wear when we went out to dinner. Fortunately, she then went into the bathroom, so I managed to grab her dinner sandals and stash them in my bag. So, when we got to the restaurant, which has an outside area with a picnic table, I sat down on the bench and said I needed to rest -- then dug out her sandals and told her we were here.

She seemed very pleased with my surprise, even more so when it turned out the place not only was nice on the inside, but actually knew how to prepare food, too. I'd stopped in a few weeks before on one of my random weekdays off to check it out, and they'd made me an excellent cheeseburger, but I'd had no idea they could do such a good job with a rib eye.

Then home, where we watched Jumanji and she went to bed, while I continued working on my seemingly endless Infinity Crisis blog entry. By the time I got to bed, she was utterly crashed.

Next day, we both slept in until probably 9:30, then watched Zathura while still in bed, which is one of the nicer ways to spend a lazy Sunday morning, even if the movie did mostly suck. Then we got up, did a few chores around the house, I played a little more of the clix game down in the basement (Mr. Freeze got KOed, and Black Adam took a pretty bad beating, when the OMACs responded) and we got the kids back at 6. A fabulous spaghettin dinner, then some watermelon on the porch when SG's parents came over for a while, a little Soul-Calibre 2 with Super Drama Teen, where I was pleasantly surprised to find myself holding my own against her (since she started playing the game last week she's discovered a brilliant talent for it, and has managed to beat virtually every aspect of it, running every different character and unlocking a great many new features over the past six days or so) in the VS. feature, although, admittedly, I had to play Kilek, the quarterstaff guy, who is very hard to beat, to do it... whenever I tried to play Spawn, or Mitsurugi, she kicked my ass all up and down the screen).

An excellent weekend, all the way around. But, you know, the past is a bucket of ashes, especially from the bottom of the Monday-pit. Still, today I'm working 8 to 6:30, so I'll be home a little earlier and have a little more time with the girls before they go to bed tonight. All told, life is pretty sweet, since I met the love of my life.

Oh, yeah, in clix -- while we were running around Friday, I picked up the last three boosters I saw of ARMOR WARS over at Comic Book World, and snagged a Veteran War Machine... not one of the biggies still missing from AW (that would be Vet Captain America or Vet Ultron) but still, I'll take it. And Super Dependable Teen traded me her Monsieur Mallah & The Brain for my extra Kalibak, so now I have a complete REV of Monsier Mallah, the Brain, and, you know, Monsieur Mallah AND The Brain. Which is cool.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The downhill slope

DC's major event of the year -- perhaps their major event of the decade -- has been Infinite Crisis, an 8 part mini series (if you count the 80 page COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS that functioned as a prelude, which I do). Billed as a sequel to the near-mythical Crisis On Infinite Earths from 1985, designed to 'set to rights' a lot of continuity gaffes that have sprung up in the DC Universe since '85, this would normally not be a series I'd have the slightest interest in.

However, where Crisis On Infinite Earths was drawn beautifully by George Perez, and plotted/scripted appallingly by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and remains to this day (in my opinion, obviously) one of the single most wretchedly conceived and executed blots on the visage of superhero comics as a whole (other than its transcendentally lovely art), Infinite Crisis is being drawn, occasionally wonderfully, generally only capably, by the reasonably talented Phil Jiminez... and written by pretty much the only writer DC has I would not hesitate to hang the accolade 'brilliant' on... Geoff Johns.

That's made a huge difference. It was what got me to start buying the series, and it's what has kept me interested, over the course of the 7 issues that have appeared to date.

And the series started out beautifully, even brilliantly. In fact, although I am usually loathe to start reading new writers about whose work I know nothing, so good was the writing on Countdown that I resolved to check out the four different miniseries leading up to Infinite Crisis itself -- The Rann Thanagar War (which concerned itself with a lot of SF/interstellar storylines, featuring most of DC's space-based heroes and villains), Villains United (pretty much showing the formation of Lex Luthor's Society, a creepier, nastier, more grim n' gritty version of the rather goofy Silver Age Secret Society of Supervillains, and their ongoing conflict with a similarly new incarnation of the Secret Six), Days of Vengeance, a thing where all the supernatural heroes and villains got to do all this supernatural crap for six issues, and The OMAC Project, which pretty much followed DC's Big Guns (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the rest of the JLA, for the most part) battling Batman's Project: OMAC gone berserk, which was in and of itself a tribute to an obscure mid 70s Jack Kirby concept named OMAC, the One Man Army Corps. All of these separate storylines would eventually be woven into the grand, universe shaking thread that was to be Infinite Crisis... and after reading Countdown, I was firmly on board for the whole trip, regardless of the fact that I had no idea who the writers on two of the four series (Gail Simone/Villains United, Greg Rucka/OMAC Project) were, and was unimpressed with what I knew of the other two (Bill Willingham/Days of Vengeance, Dave Gibbons/Rann-Thanagar War) as writers.

Each of the four lead in miniseries was, at the very least, readable. About the worst of them was Days of Vengeance. Any series featuring a team of obscure occult super-types called the Nightpact, led by Detective Chimp for the sweet love of Baby Jesus, is going to have some credibility problems at the very least. Given that the series was scripted by Bill Willingham, the guy who created The Elementals for Comico, I believe, I didn't expect much of it, and I didn't get much. Over the course of the series, the two most notable things I can remember happening were the Rock of Eternity blowing up, leading to the final death of the astral form of the seemingly immortal wizard Shazam, and the groundwork being laid for the creation of a new Blue Beetle character, who from what I've seen, is pretty much a waste of paper and ink, anyway.

As to the other three, Rann-Thanagar War entertained me pretty well with each issue, but I'm goddamned if I can remember much of what went on in it now, mostly because it had to do with a lot of latter era Modern Age characters I really don't care about much, along with a few I'd personally enjoy seeing fed into a shredder, like Kyle Rayner and Blackfire. Tossed in with this were some old favorites, like Adam Strange, whom it seems clear I don't know anything about any more, because last I saw (back in the 80s) Alan Moore had revealed a great many things about Adam's back story that are, apparently, no longer true. I have no doubt many notable things happened during this miniseries as far as DC's space continuity are concerned, but writers and editors pay at most scant attention to such things; when some creator gets a wild hair up their ass and decides to do a space story at DC comics, they always tend to pretty much ignore everything that's been established previously about whatever characters they decide to write. It's been that way since time immemorial and I don't expect it to change, so the fact that I can't remember much of anything that happened in this series probably doesn't matter, since no one else will, either.

Villains United and The OMAC Project were the two IC lead in mini-series I enjoyed the most. The first was just straight up untrammelled Modern Age anti-heroics at its grungiest, and it hit all the lowpoints a Modern Age 'superhero' comic conceivably could -- explicit violence, cold blooded murder, torture, sex both straight and gay, blackmail, the most gruesomely detailed mayhem imaginable, even a very brief episode of cannibalism -- but no rape; ultra-feminist author Gail Simone refused to use the character Dr. Light in this series, reportedly because "he was now a rapist", which still strikes me as a strange double standard -- she'll write torture, she'll write murder, she'll write disembowelment, she'll write characters who use mind control and poison and acid and god only knows what the hell all else, she'll write Scandal Savage biting off someone's ear and eating it... but she won't write Dr. Light, because he's a rapist, and, you know, that's a particular form of violent assault she just can't get behind... some people are very strange. Still, I was fascinated to see the various machinations as the Society attempted to expand its numbers. I never much cared about any of the characters in the book, but it was interesting to watch everyone interact with each other, even if they were all scum.

The OMAC Project was great fun to read; watching control freak Batman try to come to grips with the fact that his OMAC Project, which he had designed to covertly monitor all metahumans to keep them from getting out of hand, had gotten entirely out of hand, was vastly entertaining.
And while I generally don't approve of lesser creators trying to reinvent Jack Kirby concepts (and they're all lesser creators than Mr. Kirby), still, this 'homage' was a pretty well done one.

All of that -- Countdown, Rann-Thanagar War, Villains United, Days of Vengeance, and The OMAC Project -- were just detailed build up to Infinite Crisis. Some of it was excellent, some if it was merely good, but given the general quality level, as I said, I was strapped in for the whole ride. And when Infinite Crisis itself finally began, it certainly didn't disappoint me. But the quality level dropped off steeply... or so it seems to me... with each passing issue. With one issue left, well, I can only say, at this point, I'm really not that impressed.

But... oh, that first issue -- !

We start out quietly enough, with the Big 3 -- Humanity's Greatest Heroes, at least, in the DC Universe, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman -- standing around in the wreckage of the JLA Watchtower, discussing their significantly different points of view and subsequent opinions as to exactly how each, and all, of them should proceed at this point, as what is obviously going to be a major crisis for humanity shapes up.

Our heroes are at odds, for various reasons requiring some backstory. Superman and Wonder Woman are pissed off at Batman, because it turns out Batman created Project: OMAC to covertly surveille all metahumans on Earth, including his fellow heroes, to make sure that so metahumans ever abused their power again the way his fellow Justice Leaguers did several years prior to this, when they erased Dr. Light's memories of raping Sue Dibney, and also erased the memories of all the JLAers (including Batman) who voted against doing it.

Batman is pissed off at Superman and Wonder Woman because of the above memory erasure -- he considers his mind to be his only real weapon and super power, so finding out his allies and trusted friends had tampered with his memory against his expressly stated will was a real betrayal. Beyond that, Wonder Woman has just (in her own series) cold bloodedly murdered Maxwell Lord, because it was the only way to free Superman from Lord's mind control. Everyone on the planet knows she did it, because Lord had hijacked control of Project: OMAC at the time, and Brother I, a covert surveillance satellite of Batman's design, recorded and broadcast the murder world wide. Batman, as you could guess if you knew anything of his background, has a little problem with cold blooded murder of any sort, regardless of any justifying circumstances.

Wonder Woman is pissed off at Superman because of the memory erasure thing, which she would have voted against if she'd been a member of the League at the time, and she's pissed off at Batman over the OMAC thing, and she's generally feeling defensive and unloved because everyone is down on her over the murdering Maxwell Lord thing, even though Lord had complete mental domination over Superman and had ordered Superman to kill Wonder Woman, and he was pretty close to succeeding at the time, too. Lord himself, under the control of Wonder Woman's magic lasso, had told her that the only way to release Superman from his control was to kill him. Yeah, she had no idea she was doing it on live worldwide TV, and her act has badly shaken humanity's faith in its heroes because none of them know the circumstances surrounding it, but she really thinks her fellow heroes should be a tiny bit more understanding.

Superman is pissed at Wonder Woman because, you know, he has a little problem with murder, too, and the second largest sequoia-sized stick up his ass regarding moral issues in the entire DC Universe. (Batman has the biggest one, no contest.)

So they're all pissed off at each other, because things are going to hell in a handbasket really fast. Some mysterious entity has destroyed the JLA's lunar base and done something unknown to the Martian Manhunter, who was on duty at the time. There's an interstellar war going on that a third of Earth's heroes have decided to go off and fight in, there are weird OMAC things attacking superhumans everywhere for no known reason, and all the supervillains on the planet are organizing into their own evil Society... and something's going wrong with magic, too, although none of them have more than a vaguely uneasy notion as to that.

Naturally, they need to get together to jaw things over. I have no problem with this; in fact, I, like Richie Howell, love little more than seeing my favorite fictional characters stand around and interact, when they're being written well. Johns is a wonderful writer, so I would have liked nothing better than to watch Bats, Supes, and WW stand in the wreckage of the Watchtower and yak for 20 pages or so. However, editors do not trust Modern Age fans to be able to focus on talking heads for longer than a couple of pages, max, without getting bored and heading for the X-Box, so an obviously editorially mandated, and otherwise absolutely pointless, battle with Mongul is thrown in. (The only good thing about the fight is that it's probably an ass backwards homage to Moore's "For The Man Who Has Everything", a story in which Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all have to fight Mongul in Superman's Fortress of Solitude -- something that I'm pretty sure no longer even exists in the Modern Age DC Universe.)

Meanwhile, we discover that four mysterious figures are watching everything that is happening from some detached, omniscient vantage point -- and apparently, they aren't happy with how things are going.

"His jaw clenches as he opens his shirt. For a moment, I see the man he could be instead of the boy he believes he is."

"But sadly, only for a moment."

Beautiful stuff. And this first issue is only getting started. A few pages later, Nightwing gets a look at the fruits of his mentor's genius --
-- a million OMACs blotting out the sky.

From there we go to a double page spread featuring a lot of characters few if any of us care about way far away in space somewhere, looking at this gigantic rift in the very fabric of space/time. Kyle Rayner, Adam Strange, Guy Gardner, L.E.G.I.O.N. (who I was a little shocked to see still existed, but whom I still don't give a shit about) and the Guardians all talk about weird cosmic phenomena that none of them understand and try to make us feel like we care. Yawn.

Then we see a couple of pages detailing the chaos that currently reigns in Gotham City, as a soulless Spectre rampages across the face of the planet destroying every magic user it can get its hands on, releasing long bound demons in the process, and as the Society wages war on the forces of law and order, while a panicked citizenry riots in the streets. It's a beautiful page, and its central image, the projection of the Bat signal on the Spectre's chest, led me to conjecture in an earlier post that the new Spectre might well be Bruce Wayne.

It's a fabulous idea, one that makes perfect sense given Batman's obsession with vengeance and with punishing the guilty... but alas, we have since then learned that the new Spectre will in fact be some dead black cop I'd never previously heard of, because, you know, DC wants more minority characters, it just doesn't want them to be anywhere anyone will have to really pay any attention to them.

From here we go to IC #1's most viscerally hard hitting moment. It starts with the following panel:

From left to right: The Human "My Superpower Is To Blow Up Real Good! Yes! Honest To God!" Bomb, The Phantom "Take A Good Look At These Hooters, Boys, You Don't See Gazongas Like This Every Day, And They're All Real, Too" Lady, Uncle Sam, the embodied fighting spirit of the U.S.A. his damn self, Black "I Have The Power To Fly! Plus I'm A Frickin Comanche Or Some Shit!" Condor, the Modern Age version of The Ray, because the Golden Age version was smart enough to die and get the hell out of this Hoser Brigade, and Damage, another Modern Age character who had his own series back in, I don't know, the late 80s or something, and it failed so spectacularly that DC felt they had to do something really really bad to the poor guy, so they stuck him in with these schmoes.

That's the Freedom Fighters you're looking at, and a bigger bunch o' goobers ye've never seen, fella-me-lad. Originally thrown together for a not-short-lived-enough series back in the 1970s by relentless comic book hack Marty Pasko, the Freedom Fighters were, back in the Golden Age, a bunch of not particularly auspicious characters published by Quality Comics. When Quality went bankrupt sometime in the 50s, DC bought the rights to all their material. Pasko got the nod to try and use some Quality characters in an ongoing series, and came up with the brilliant idea of organizing these rubes into a sort of All-Weiners Squad whose exploits were set on Earth-X, a world where the Axis had won World War II.

A better writer might have done something with it, but Marty Pasko admits superiority to no mortal born; in the rotten comics writers sweepstakes, even veteran hacks like Gerry Conway, Tony Isabella, and Elliot S! Maggin have to shrug haplessly and step aside for the Man Named Marty. The series was appalling; worse, even, than skludge like Tony Isabella's Black Lightning and the nearly infamous Brother Power The Geek. It stunk up the spinner racks for less than a year, I believe, before being mercifully canceled and consigned to oblivion.

Since then, we've occasionally seen these wretched losers cluttering up the backdrop of various different stories in various different issues of various better characters' series. I've never liked them, and I don't think anyone else ever much did either, but it's a tribute to Geoff Johns' writing ability that in two pages following this panel, he actually manages to make me at the very least kind of empathize with the guys, and start to actually regard them as being something kind of approaching real, and sympathetic, if not exactly cool or even remotely worthy of respect.

And then the poor dumb bastards opened the wrong door.

You've heard the phrase "it's all good"? For the Freedom Fighters, this is all bad. From left to right, that's Dr. Light, Zoom, Dr. Polaris, Deathstroke the Terminator, Psycho Pirate, Black Adam, Sinestro, Bizarro, and Cheetah... shock troops for the Society, here to kill them a few useless superheroes. Now, Dr. Light's a twit, and Dr. Polaris is a pretty big loser too, and I personally think Sugar & Spike could probably outwit that dimbulb Deathstroke. Psycho Pirate's a lightweight and Cheetah ain't such a much, either; the Freedom Fighters could probably take her, or any of the other four, and maybe all five of them. But Black Adam, the bad ass version of Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Mortal? Christ in a leaky rowboat, this guy can take most of the Justice Society by himself, much less Team Dipshit here. Throw in Zoom, who is basically an evil Flash, Bizarro, who is essentially a crazy version of Superman, and Sinestro, the psychotic former Green Lantern, and you can practically here the Lord Humungous, Ruler of the Wasteland and Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah, somewhere in the background intoning through his scratchy PA system "I promise you -- NObody gets out of here alive."

Uncle Sam tries to rally his troops, but as the page to the left clearly shows, the good guys are outmanned, outgunned, and shit out of luck. In the Golden or Silver Age, this would just mean they'd take a beating, wake up in some crazy-ass death-trap, and have to escape in the next issue. Here in the Modern Age, though, the bad guys can and do kill... and even a hero -- or a heroine... can die.

The Human Bomb, at least, manages to take an honor guard with him to hell, and even better, it's that wank Dr. Polaris, who has badly needed killing since his first appearance.

In the end, though, the Freedom Fighters are helpless...


...and other than the two Modern Age members, whom DC probably figures they can do something with sometime...


The death of the Freedom Fighters was like a punch in the gut. Yeah, this series was billed as the sequel to Crisis On Infinite Earths, and yeah, the first Crisis certainly had a body count. The Silver Age Flash and the Silver Age Supergirl both died 'heroically' in the events of the Crisis... but their deaths were impersonal. They died fighting cosmic forces, they were killed by energy vortexes and other wildly unlikely shit. And those death scenes were monumentally overwritten by one of comicdom's biggest and most histrionically hammy hacks, Marv Wolfman. Even with Perez drawing tears running down every superhero in existence's cheeks as a weeping Superman held his cousin's broken, battered body up in his arms, all I could feel was anger that a character I'd liked as much as I did Supergirl had been chosen to get hit with the mortality stick, while all those rotters in the New Teen Titans and goddam Infinity Incorporated came through it without a scratch.

There was nothing impersonal about the deaths of the Freedom Fighters. Dorks though these guys may have been, they were characters who went back to the Golden Age of comics, characters who had been around forever, character we all knew and, if not loved, or even liked much, still, we accepted them as an unchanging part of the superheroic backdrop. Just as we accepted that supervillains might strive mightily to kill the heroes, but they would never actually succeed. Yet here, the heroes were overmatched from the start, and instead of fighting back bravely and somehow, against all odds, managing to triumph against overwhelming evil... they just died. Their deaths were brutal and vicious. Their killers, for the most part, walked away unscathed. And if the death scenes in the first Crisis had been written by someone who played his keyboard like Captain Hook on crack cocaine, this particular sequence was scripted by the comic book writer's equivalent of a Beethoven or a Mozart.

More than a gut check, it was a reality check. More than anything, the deaths of the Freedom Fighters served notice -- this wasn't the old days any more. All bets were off, as were the kid gloves. Worlds would live, and worlds would die -- and so would characters you thought were unkillable.

And even then, Johns wasn't done with us. We had one last big, brilliant, brain-busting plot twist left. Remember those four people we saw watching everything from somewhere far above, talking about how much they hated how things were going?

If you don't know anything about DC's Silver Age continuity, if you never read the first Crisis, then the page above means nothing to you. You won't recognize the Earth-Prime Superboy, the Earth-3 Alexander Luthor, the Earth-2 Lois Lane... or the Earth-2 Superman. The Golden Age Superman. The original Superman, the first superhero ever... faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound... that Superman. You wouldn't have gasped as you realized that, after all, Johns wasn't kidding, and this really is a sequel to the first Crisis, because the first Crisis ended with all these characters drifting off into some strange white light together, presumably never to be seen again, as they had no place in DC's brave new post-Crisis world... and yet, here they were again. They were back... and they were determined to save the day.

Man, what a mind blower.

I was psyched to get the next issue of Infinite Crisis. How in the world could Johns ever top this?

Unfortunately, he didn't. I couldn't know it then, but this issue was the best this mini series was ever going to be. Infinite Crisis was on the downhill slope. It was descending slowly... the second issue would be nearly as good as the first... but the decline, the decay, would rapidly accelerate. The rot was in the wood. It just wasn't showing yet.

And we'll see the beginning of the badness... in Part II.