Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Discriminate thuggery

James Wolcott certainly doesn't need to make any kind of consistent sense -- he's a professional columnist for Vanity Fair, after all, and can sneer at the likes of me, and probably you, too, with the utmost impunity. Still, it strikes me as weird when someone refers to Scorcese's Oscar win for an inferior gangster movie (inferior to Goodfellas, anyway, which Scorcese didn't win for) as "just and inspiriting", and then, a paragraph or so further on, that same someone waxes all truculent about the new NBC show THE BLACK DONNELLYS, because "I prefer hourlong dramas pivoting around smart men and women -- CSI, House, Law & Order: CI -- to watching borderline psychos lose their tempers and pound the oatmeal out of somebody or the latest baroque method of corpse disposal. I past the point of being interested in idiots who think with their fists."

What I get from this is that for Wolcott, or maybe someone like him, an hour of oatmeal pounding and/or corpse grinding just isn't enough. For sixty sweet short minutes at a time he'll tolerate those smarty pants egghead types on all them goddam ce-REE-brul shows, but if he's going to park himself in front of the tube for any longer than that, he needs him some ultraviolence. Fortunately he's got hisself a hook up; if there's anything Scorcese excels at supplying for hours and hours on end, it's "idiots who think with their fists".

Now, it seems to me that Scorcese's storytelling capacities in this regard peaked with GOODFELLAS and it's been a steep downhill slide into a pretty deep abyss from there, but it's nice to see that VF can still be sated by the relatively tepid thuggishness on display in THE DEPARTED.

Me, I can't watch BLACK DONNELLYS but it has nothing to do with my interest, or lack thereof, in mindless punch 'em ups. I mean, I liked the first few seasons of THE SOPRANOS as much as anyone, and am looking forward to next month's return of THE SHIELD more perhaps than many ones. It's just that nowadays, I really can't stay up that late for anything that doesn't feature indestructible cheerleaders or rogue cops who look like The Commish.

It's possible that Wolcott is just pissy at BLACK DONNELLYS because it has temporarily taken the place of a crappy Aaron Sorkin show Wolcott himself never skips an opportunity to take a dump on, but on the other hand, it could just be he had too much cough syrup this morning. I don't know. I generally only go to Wolcott's blog because it's my fastest route to Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation page, anyway.

Monkeys chasing weasels

I have no idea. Sometimes I just type stuff.

SuperFiancee sent me over here. It's a hilarious post, and if you've a mind to, you should hit some of the links to the author's other articles, as well. He writes as funny as I wish I did. But regardless of all that, THE MATRIX is still a wretched, evil movie.

I picked up TITANS AROUND THE WORLD, which is not what a filthy jaded old pervert comics geek like me might hope it was, but is in fact a collection of that last 10 or so post INFINITE CRISIS issues of Geoff Johns' TEEN TITANS. As I've noted before, if anyone had ever told me I'd one day be a more or less avid follower of any comic book featuring a bunch of wretched Marv Wolfman All New All Different Teen Titans, I'd have laughed and laughed. But I would have been reckoning without the genius of Geoff Johns.

I may have said before that Johns' writing reminds me a lot of the Silver Age work of Steve Englehart. Or I may not, but, well, it does. I'm currently (when I have a few free minutes here and there, which isn't often lately) making my way through my ESSENTIAL DEFENDERS volume (a much appreciated Christmas present from the inestimable SuperFiancee), and the enormous upgrade in writing quality that the DEFENDERS title underwent once Englehart took over the scripting from Roy Thomas is very similar to what I see whenever Johns takes over a title from whoever may have preceded him.

The transition from Thomas to Englehart on DEFENDERS is abrupt; nearly as abrupt as the same transition on AVENGERS. Where Thomas comes up with interesting plots based around the background continuity of whichever universe he's writing in, and then throws whatever characters he's working with at the time into the middle of it, Englehart creates stories that derive from the background continuity of the characters themselves. In AVENGERS, this meant the difference between sweeping, cosmic stories like the Kree Skrull War, in which the individual personalities and histories of the characters involved really meant very little as the events were larger than the participants, and more intimate, character driven stories equally sweeping in scope, yet far more satisfying and enjoyable to read, like Englehart's much vaunted Celestial Madonna saga.

In DEFENDERS, Steve E. didn't do his best work, mostly because coming up with character derived plots from the likes of the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, and the Sub-Mariner would be difficult enough on its own; when coupled with the editorial restriction that nothing that happened in THE DEFENDERS could in any way impact events occurring in the regular titles of most of those characters, well, it was a tough gig, to say the least. Still, Englehart did his best with it, pulling together threads from past DEFENDERS 'continuity', such as it was, and interweaving them with the personalities and backgroudns of the characters he was dealing with. It wasn't the pinnacle of his career, but it made reading the book very involving and enjoyable, as for the first time one could actually see some real credible depth to characters like the Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer, who under previous writers had been pretty much two dimensional icons rather than living, breathing personas.

And that's really how I feel about what Geoff Johns does with the characters he takes over. I never in my life would have thought I could find characters like Raven, Jericho, and Cyborg to be either believable or interesting, and yet, somehow, Johns manages to pull them out of all that horrible hyperemotional soap opera twaddle that Marv Wolfman (the poor man's Chris Claremont) substitutes for characterization, and give them actual personalities that actually work.

Other than that generalization, well, I was startled to discover as I perused these stories that apparently this last twelve month period in TEEN TITANS has been Let's Rip Off Jack Kirby Year, as is evidenced by the presence of a Medusa-like character in the Brotherhood of Evil named Goldilocks, and the equally alarming conversion of old Titans standby characters Mal and the Bumblebee into Black Bolt and the Wasp, respectively. Still, I'm not objecting, anything that can make Mal and the Bumblebee more interesting... or, at least, get them into hailing distance of being such... is a startling and brilliant innovation in the annals of the Teen Titans, and I'll take it. And, personally, if you want to make a dead ender interesting, I can't think of any better way to do it than by stealing from the King.

Beyond those non-specific observations, I'll let you read the stories for yourself. Or don't. But if you do read them, you can do so with the assured knowledge that that new crappy Superboy is still dead by the end of the collection.

And you'd think I'd have more to talk about right now.

Maybe later.

Okay, it's later.

I'm enjoying the latest story in CHECKMATE. After the deadly dull previous arc in which we followed the misadventures of a minor CHECKMATE agent trying to infiltrate Kobra, which featured way more of Shadowpact than I ever want to have to read in a series that isn't about them and they don't belong in, it's refreshing to get back into stuff that seems more fitting to, well, international espionage and backstabbing intrigue in the DC metaverse.

For this old time 80s era SUICIDE SQUAD fan, it was very pleasant to see the Wall and the Squad back in action, and I also enjoyed the grungy little 4 dimensional 'hyperrealistic' twists that Rucka brings to the story. Yeah, Ostrander always depicted the Squad as doing 'dirty tricks' type covert ops, but superhero comics universes are usually careful to keep politics out of their story arcs. When Rucka does Amanda Waller, her neoconservative cred pretty much hangs out all over the place, as she's sending the Squad in to steal elections in South America to make sure pro-America dictators stay in place.

Add in to all this that one time Batman villain and social revolutionary Bane was backing the anti-U.S. candidate, and Bane killed old time Charleton character Judomaster during INFINITE CRISIS, which ties into both BIRDS OF PREY (where a new, female Judomaster has recently shown up) and this current CHECKMATE arc (where one of the 'normal', non costumed operatives is the son of the previous Judomaster, who chose not to take up his father's costume and name), and the current incarnation of the Suicide Squad used hokey old FLASH villain Colonel Computron to rig the electonic voting machines, and you've got exactly the kind of continuity-reference rich story I love to see at either Marvel or DC. And Rucka didn't even have to make Wolverine a CHECKMATE member or have every hero in the DC Universe go to war with every other hero to do it, either. Amazing stuff... at least, nowadays.

DC's editorial staff is having just as much trouble keeping its new continuity straight post INFINITE CRISIS as it did back after the first CRISIS, but the One Year Later gimmick is working beautifully for them there. If you read more than three or four ongoing DC titles (and I'm currently reading something like 8) you're going to notice inconsistencies, but until the 52 miniseries finishes, you basically just don't worry about that stuff, because, well, hopefully someone will deal with it in 52 and what's going on One Year Later will suddenly all make sense. On one level, I realize this is wildly unlikely to actually occur, but for right now, it's enough to sedate my frontal lobes and let me move on and enjoy the story.

Which may be something I should apply as a general lesson -- just stop being so goddam anal about every last fucking detail of every story I watch or read having to make sense, relax, and dig the pretty colors, man... but no, that ain't me. If I go that route, eventually I'm watching BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and not noticing how retarded it is that nobody on the show seems to be aware that Baltar is a fricking nutjob. And from there, it's just one or two more steps to voting for Cheney when he inevitably runs for American Caesar, after which I'd have to start watching NASCAR, and I just can't go there.

Okay, I think that is all for now.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Everybody's working for the weekend

Once again, another weekend is swallowed by the coils of inescapable entropy. This one went spinning on by in a mad frenzy of visitors, Apples to Apples, Scene-It, pizza from two different local restaurants, inflatable mattresses, geek shops, Magic cards, comic books, HeroClix, wonderfully prepared hors d'oeuvres and Boston Market food. A fabulous time was had, as always when the Colletts and Gibsons visit. Shining moments that stand out in my memory --

* My constant pride at SuperFiancee's amazing facility as a hostess. She's fabulously adept at so many things, but where she really excels is in making visitors feel at home. Her charm, her wit, her graciousness, and her astonishing skills as a cook and a decorator all combine to make her the sort of person you'd really expect to see doing this sort of thing in the White House for foreign dignitaries. A surly curmudgeon like myself generally just wants to hide in the closet and read comic books by flashlight when the house is full of folks, even folks I like as much as the Gibsons and Colletts. But in this, as in everything else, SuperFiancee is truly my better half, and I am the luckiest guy in the world to have her willingly taking on that odious duty.

* Opening the sealed carry bag Tony C had brought in with him and finding it chock full of Boston Market food, which Tony and SuperFiancee had conspired together to bring to me. SuperFiancee knows that Boston Market and the swimming pool at my former apartment complex were the only things I missed from Florida, and thanks to her and Tony, I got a big hit of some much mourned rotisserie chicken, mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on Saturday. Tony was even nice enough to pick the carrots out of the stuffing for me. And, the fridge is still full of leftovers, so I get Boston Market for lunch all week long!

* Conversation at Fat Jimmy's Saturday night. It emerged, somehow, that not only am I the only person in our group who 'really knows how to order a pizza', but, apparently, I cannot be killed or butchered, either! You have no idea how relieved I am to hear both items stated aloud.

* Tony C. presenting me with another couple of nice little presents upon his arrival -- a Golden Age Wonder Woman HeroClix figure, the New Guy Night giveaway for the upcoming ORIGINS expansion. I hadn't anticipated being able to get one other than buying her off the secondary market, and it really is a nice looking sculpt. The graphics, including the dial, are from Mike Norton's fine website.

The other present Tony gave me was a miniature bust of Clark Kent turning into Superman, modeled on the most recent Superman movie. While that particular version of Superman is far from a favorite here, nonetheless, the bust is beautifully sculpted, and I'm very happy to have it. So thanks for that, Tony. You are officially dubbed a Knight Errant of Castle Anthrax. No, you may not have any peril.

* Hearing Lisa G mention how much her husband Mark likes HeroClix... not the game, but just the little figures. This gave me the opportunity to throw together a box of my spare figures for him, something I always enjoy doing.

* GHOST RIDER -- a memorable movie, if not for anything anyone sane would really want to remember. Predictable plot twists, terrible dialogue, relentlessly bad acting, and massive internal stupidities so abounded that my only real option was to either turn off my brain and just look at the pretty special effects, or poke my eyes out and rupture my eardrums with my soda straw so I wouldn't have to perceive any more of it. To the extent I'm capable of doing so, I chose the former, but still, it was a painful experience. Having said that, though, it's worth pointing out that whoever was in charge of the visuals for the film was a true dyed in the wool GHOST RIDER fan, as everywhere you turned, there was something taken straight out of some panel of a GHOST RIDER comic book. Peter Fonda's Mephistopheles looked like he'd stepped directly from a Frank Robbins panel onto the celluloid.

And I'm sure I'm badly, badly shortchanging the weekend, but time and TARC wait for no man. I'm off into my Monday. I hope all of you who aren't trying to get some stranger attacked in public have a wonderful day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

And there it is... again

When you're bored, when you're tired, when you feel like you just can't go on with life any more... you just go over to Ragnell's blog, and she will once more make you realize how lucky you are that you aren't masochistic enough to read her horseshit more often, and that you never, never, NEVER have to interact with her in person:

This is annoying.

So, someone desperate comes up with a unique idea to get a date:

But really, Comic Book Conventions should be a great place to meet guys. We're talking about a virtually untapped market. In theory: for a smart, (somewhat) attractive girl, getting a date should be like shooting fish in a barrel, no? Thousands of men are gathered in one place (granted, some of them are taken; some are gay; some, undoubtedly, live in their mothers' basements) with a very small proportion of available women around. The statistics alone would lead us to believe there have got to be a few good men in this crowd.

And there it is, again. Ragnell got out of bed this morning and immediately tripped over something ELSE about unruly reality that annoys her.

This time, it's not some fanboy somewhere admiring the way Black Canary looks in fishnets, nor is it a whole bunch of movie previews for films that do not feature female protagonists, or, when they do, do not feature female protagonists acting enough like male protagonists to suit her. No, this time it's some chick she doesn't know, who has made the obnoxious and offensive observation that at a geek con, men tend to outnumber women by a very large ratio, and therefore, the discerning chick looking to hook up might do well to frequent such an event.

Me, I've been pointing this out for years -- we male geeks may be socially challenged, but some of us are damn nice people, and we could be cleaned up real well, too. We are certainly fixer-uppers at best, but, nonetheless, the woman willing to put in a spot of effort on many of us could very feasibly find the results quite rewarding. Seems fairly obvious to me, and I can see nothing to object to in this particular woman's observations as quoted by Ragnell.

Ragnell, however, can discern what we mere mortals may not, or, at least, she can take enormous offense at things that, y'know, sane and/or mature people wouldn't dream of being offended by:

Gee, thanks for perpetuating the stereotype that women only pretend to like "guy things" in order to meet guys.
One can find Ragnell frequently if not constantly singing arias of shrill hysteria about how comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and other typical 'geek' interests are not necessarily "guy things", but, apparently, she's been lying all this time, because here she is, insisting that, in fact, these are "guy things".

But wait. It gets much, much better:

I can tell you that I and my fellow real comic book fans so enjoy being hit on by guys when we're just trying to find our comics, because they think an unescorted woman can't possibly be there to actually buy the Green Lantern statue.
So, in other words, all guys at comics cons are intrusive and annoying pigs who do nothing except aggravate and exasperate Ragnell and her 'fellow real comic book fans', who, I guess, are all women, like her.

The unintentional implication of this statement, of course, is that the guys Ragnell is complaining about are NOT real comic book fans. I'm sure Ragnell didn't mean it that way, but given how she incessantly bitches at people for misreading her words, I would think she could be a little more careful in how she throws them together. But that's a crack hallucination on my part, of course. Ragnell need not make any effort whatsoever; if she is misunderstood, it is ever due to the ignorance, stupidity, and/or active malice of her audience.

We also adore being ignored in comics shops because they assume the guy who walked in after us is the comic-reading boyfriend, not to mention having such a hard time finding female-friendly superhero comics because our presence is minimized by such assumptions. Its a real fucking blast!
I cannot remember the last time I was in a comics shop -- and I imagine I have been in close to a hundred over the course of my life -- when any potential customer was ignored, unless said customer was three years old and being carried by a parent.

Beyond that, I've seen the pic Ragnell has on her profile, and while she's certainly not a young Grace Kelly, there is simply no way on this planet that any comics shop owner or anyone that owner would hire would ever ignore someone who looks like her... at least, prior to talking to her for thirty seconds.

Now, if the way she behaves on her blog is at all indicative of her social skills in real life, I must assume that nearly anyone would yearn to ignore her after getting a big hit of "Ohhhhhhh this is so ANNOYing I hate everything in this STORE oh my god don't you realize I am an empowered feminist comics fan and you should rearrange your entire reality construct to suit my insane and emotionally retarded biases RIGHT NOW", but, prior to her actually opening her mouth and attacking ANYone foolish enough to be in within five yards of her when she decides she's ANNOYED by something, I'm sure she gets plenty of attention in comics shops.

But, wait, she's still shrieking:

Sarcasm aside
I should live so long.

the last con I went to, WizardWorld Chicago 2006 and I noticed a lot of women at the panels I attended. My sister counted at one of the Writer's Workshops and concluded at least 25%. I could swear the DC panels were half and half. So, surely someone will set her straight on her misconceptions about Geekdom, right?

These are monumentally fucked up sentences. Nonetheless, they convey some basic information, sooooooo... Okay. Here's what this woman Ragnell is so pissed at actually said:

Thousands of men are gathered in one place (granted, some of them are taken; some are gay; some, undoubtedly, live in their mothers' basements) with a very small proportion of available women around
Ragnell's rebuttal? She herself noticed 'a lot of women' at the panels she attended. Somebody else she knows counted at one workshop and concluded that at least 25% of the attendees wwere women. Ragnell could swear that the DC panels were half and half, whatever the hell that means... the people sitting on the panels? The people in the audience?

Whatever we're supposed to take from this barrage of badly worded, vague, hearsay, and otherwise utterly worthless 'data', none of it in any way contradicts the equally vague assertion made by the woman Ragnell is so utterly furious with. There ARE a lot more men at geek events than women. The gender ratio may readjust somewhat at specific sub-events within the overall event depending on the nature of that sub-event -- I would even dare to say that if some con hosted a panel on Romance Comics of the Past, Present, and Future, you'd get an almost entirely female audience -- but the original statement wasn't about the makeup of the individual crowds at individual events, it simply said, men greatly outnumber women at comics cons. Which is undeniably true.

So Ragnell should shut the hell up, right? But, no, now she's got to get into what other people dared to say back to this woman:

Well, let's look at the comments:

You'll be surrounded, consistently cloaked by a nebula of men and stink that, while not leaving you alone to peruse the offerings, won't really be able to muster the courage to speak with you either. You'll be hidden in the midst of a dense thicket of confused nerds unable to ascertain just why it is you're there, but effusively (far too effusively!) happy that you are! What's more, they'll be convinced that the fact of your attendance indicates that the best way to "land" you will be to demonstrate an inappropriately plumbed and reworked body of knowledge, criticism and theory on...that's right...COMIC BOOKS!

* * *

I went to the Wizard World Chicago 2005 comic con to see what it is like and I have some bad news. There are actually some very beautiful women at these. You see, the major comic book dealers have booths, big expensive booths. At these booths they hawk their wares to customers, retailers and even distributers. They have also realized they're surrounded by loads of geeky men and capitalized upon it through the use of individuals affectionately known as "booth babes".

* * *

I predict success. A lot of comic book guys I know are decent looking, but very shy. They don't have much of an idea about how to talk to women. If you initiate the conversation and work just a little bit to get them out of their shell, you'll meet some great guys. I suggest going after the artists and writers there to get jobs or sell their work. Artists would be super easy to meet. All you have to do is ask to see their work.

* * *

I think you may be opening yourself up to a world of hurt in advertising this whole concept. This article has now appeared on the frontpage of Digg, so now I suspect the unwashed masses of geek-dom will be on the lookout for you. Hopefully you don't get inundated with propositions. I wish you luck in your search. Finding a good geeky woman is a task onto itself, so I'm sure you'll do alright.

That's as far as I got before I was overwhelmed with disgust for the outside world.

She's being hyperbolic... or she thinks she is... but what is intended to be a fliply humorous exaggeration actually displays a tragic truth about Ragnell. Things do not merely annoy her, they ENRAGE her, and when Ragnell is enraged at some stranger on the Internet who has dared to post something that Ragnell finds unacceptable, then Ragnell is also infuriated with THE ENTIRE TIME/SPACE CONTINUUM. Ragnell is one of those reasons we liberals actually like arms control laws; to slightly paraphrase Bruce Cockburn, if Ragnell had a rocket launcher, some sonofabitch would die.

For further support of this observation, we need only head down Ragnell's comment thread on this entry, where we find her responding to a male reader who has, with the utmost (and entirely unmerited) respect, advised her that perhaps she is slightly overreacting:

David -- I don't despise women who want to meet, date, and marry men.

I despise liars, and people from outside my subculture who drag their assumptions and idiocies to my world in the attempt to trick someone into a relationship, and make no mistakes -- pretending you have an interest just to meet someone you feel has no prospects is a trick, and its an insult to all the fine men who read my blog.

Again... Ragnell is not using these acidic, venomous words in reference to someone who has launched some scathing, insulting personal attack against her or one of her friends. Ragnell is talking about a fellow human being out there in the world who, completely oblivious to Ragnell's existence, posted a few opinions that are not, by any sane or rational standards of judgement, remotely confrontational, controversial, or obnoxious. This is someone Ragnell doesn't know, has never met... and who Ragnell despises. Ragnell despises this woman. Why? Because this woman is... doing something... that... I don't know... has somehow offended Ragnell... no, wait... she's talking about doing something. Speculating on it. Musing in regard to it.

But we ain't out of this particular gopher hole yet, nossir:

Bad enough she thinks all the men are troglodytes and the women are nonexistent, but everyone there insists on validating her idiocy.
Whoa now there, li'l fillie. That dawg won't hunt. In point of fact, the woman who has so infuriated Ragnell is looking for a date, and is saying it might be a good idea to seek said date at a comics con, because there are many many more men there than women, and some of those men may well be acceptable potential romantic liaisons. This is in no way saying that (a) all the men are troglodytes and/or (b) that the women are nonexistent. In fact, she is saying that at least some of the men there may be cool and fun and attractive, and her assertion that there are more men at such events than women is a positive statement that there are indeed women at these events.

But I can understand Ragnell's confusion, because, certainly, SOME woman around these parts has recently been disparaging all the guys who attend comics cons. I'm trying to remember who that was. Hmmmm... lemme think... who was it? Who could have basically said that every guy at a comics con was a creep who couldn't keep his hands off any female unfortunate enough to be in the same proximity with him...

I can tell you that I and my fellow real comic book fans so enjoy being hit on by guys when we're just trying to find our comics, because they think an unescorted woman can't possibly be there to actually buy the Green Lantern statue.
Oh, yeah. That's who.

And she's STILL bitching:

Oh thank you, Elayne, for linking this and destroying my once peaceful mood.
Yes. Of course. It's all Elayne's fault that Ragnell is entirely mental and badly, badly in need of prescription tranquilizers and/or actual anti-psychotic medication. In fact, I have no doubt that everything wrong in Ragnell's life -- and I feel instinctively that nearly everything, or, at least, many things, in Ragnell's life must be deeply, deeply wrong -- is Elayne's fault. Because, you know, nothing wrong in Ragnell's life, or in reality in general, could possibly be Ragnell's fault. She's perfect, immaculate, a gift of the Magii. It's the rest of us who are defective, in that somehow, no matter how hard we try, we can never measure up to Ragnell's demanding standards of quality behavior, which, essentially, seem to boil down to, each and every one of us being able to fit our lips to some portion of Ragnell's ass and then keep them there, 24/7/365.

Everyone else: Her picture is on her site. If anyone sees her at NYCC, please please tape a sign to her back that says something embarrassing, and take a picture for me. I have nothing to reward you with except my laughter. But you get bragging rights.
So. Some fellow human whom Ragnell does not know posts something that has absolutely nothing to do with Ragnell on the Internet, and Ragnell's response is to launch into shrill infuriated arias about something that honestly isn't even tangentially any of her business to start with, said hysterical rant which she concludes by soliciting someone, anyone, to personally assault this woman who has so vilely and egregiously offended her.

Folks, I like to make fun of psychologically disturbed, emotionally retarded, and deeply, deeply obnoxious assholes like Ragnell as much as the next person, or maybe even a little more... but what we are seeing here is genuinely dangerous behavior. Ragnell has just done something that is HUGELY inappropriate, utterly unacceptable, and might even be dangerous. I sincerely hope whoever she just asked her friends to assault sues her ass off.

Now, if anyone needs me, I'll be under my rock.
Life would be so much sweeter, and for some of us, safer, if that were true. But, alas, it isn't.

There's a picture of Ragnell on her site. If you happen to see her coming, I suggest you duck for cover. This woman is CRAZY.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Behind the scenes

A HEROES story conference:

TK: All right. We’re getting a lot of flack on the Internet over Hiro losing his powers, so…

BF: Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

TK: What the fuck are you talking about?

JL: It’s this thing we have stuck in our heads. ‘Save the cheerleader. Save the world.’ We can’t quite figure out where it came from. But it seems like it should be important. Like it should MEAN something...

BF: Probably just an old song lyric or something.

TK: Save the cheerleader, save the world? That’s moronic. You guys are killin me. Forgeddaboudit. Look. On this Hiro thing…

JL: You said he shouldn’t have his powers right now because if he can teleport around it will really mess up the plot.

TK: I know, but, you know, the audience wasn’t supposed to figure that out! You guys said no one would realize it was nothing but blatant story convenience! And now I’m getting all this shit over it!

BF: Well, we had that whole thing where Hiro and the other Jap were talking about how he lost his confidence after failing to save the perky redheaded waitress.

TK: We did? What happened to that?

JL: You cut it.

TK: No I didn’t.

BF: Yes you did.

TK: ::gesturing with his hand:: No I Didn’t.

BF: The old Jedi mind trick won’t work on us, Tim.

JL: We’re not weak minded.

TK: I don’t know, dude. I’ve read “Hush”… anyway. Bygones. Look, if we could let Hiro use his powers just a little…

BF: ‘Bygones?’

JL: Dude, you don’t look anything like Greg Germaine.

TK: No, I’m much better looking. Come on. Work with me. If Hiro could just use his powers a little…

BF: But he has no powers right now! He needs the sword to get his powers back! We’ve clearly established this!

TK: But people think that’s stupid.

JL: It IS stupid, but, we can’t have the little geek bamfing around anywhere he wants to right now, either, or it’s like impossible to keep the characters apart, and…

TK: I know. But there has to be some way.

BF: Maybe he could use his powers at a moment of extreme crisis, when his life is in danger, and he doesn’t know he did it, because his eyes were closed, or something.

TK: I like it it’s working for me tell me more…

JL: How can he use his powers when his eyes are closed?

TK: What?

BF: Well, that’s a good point.

TK: No it’s not a good point! For God’s sake! How can a 90 lb teenage cheerleader carry a 200 lb firefighter out of the middle of a raging inferno? They can do it because we SAY they can do it! So you’ll do the Hiro thing.

BF: Well, okay, I can write it, but I still don’t know how he’s using his powers with eyes closed.

TK: What is he, Cyclops? No he’s not. He’s got power over time and space. Who says you need to see stuff to use power over time and space?

BF: Sure, but, see, I’m envisioning someone fires a gun in his face and in the extreme emergency with his life at stake he somehow reverses time and makes the bullet go back into the gun and it flies out of the person’s hand.

TK: That’s brilliant. Oh, that will look SO cool.

BF: Yeah, but if his eyes are closed how does he see the bullet…?

TK: He doesn’t have to see the bullet! His powerful mutant geek mind reacts to the threat of death and bypasses his normal sensory perceptions!

JL: Well… well… okay… but he’s unkillable, then.

TK: How’s that?

BF: Sure, that’s right. Because, even when he doesn’t have his powers, if he’s in extreme danger, somehow his powerful geek mind can alter time and space to save his life. Even with his eyes closed, he can still do that.

TK: Well… he… that doesn’t make him… I mean… someone could still sneak up on him and…

JL: No, because his mutant geek mind reacts to the threat of death and bypasses his normal sensory perceptions. He’s unkillable.

TK: …
TK: Okay, well, were we going to kill him?

BF: No, but.. you know, it kind of takes some opportunities for melodrama and suspense off the table…

TK: That’s only if people realize he’s unkillable.

JL: You think our audience is stupid?

TK: It… well… most of them…

BF: He was right about that ‘Claire hauling the firefighter out of the inferno’ thing, though. Nobody’s said a damn word about that, and it’s really retarded.

JL: Especially given that her powers shouldn’t keep her from being actually burned, she’d just heal from the burns really fast, and she’d still asphyxiate from smoke inhalation.

TK: Yeah. Bygones. Okay. So we’ll fix the Hiro thing. And… listen… can we make Peter less of a pussy? Because people keep saying he’s a pussy.

JL: Well, he’s got that fucking emo hair.

TK: People like the emo hair. But they think he’s a pussy. Could he hit someone or something?

BF: I guess he could hit that invisible asshole.

JL: God knows I want to.

BF: Fucker threw him off a ROOF.

JL: I’d have smacked his ass.

TK: Yeah, okay, have him hit the invisible jerk. That’s good. But then maybe he could get in trouble and he has to use his powers to fly away. Or vaporize someone. Or something.

BF: Uh.

JL: Er.

BF: I really don’t think he should vaporize anyone.

TK: Nobody would call him a pussy then!

JL: Yeah, but… he’s supposed to be a good guy.

BF: We could have him fly away. Maybe HRG and the Mysterious Haitian show up to capture Peter and the Invisible Twit.

JL: Yeah, they could have like cool helmets that let them see invisible people by their body heat!

BF: Like in that BUFFY episode with Mr. Trick where all those guys were trying kill the Slayers.

JL: Only it was Cordelia instead of Faith.

BF: Yeah! So they have that stuff and we can do the cool infrared POV shots, and Peter has to grab Invisible Guy and fly away with him!

JL: I think he should throw Invisible Guy off the roof first and then have to go catch him.

BF: Excellent! Instant karma!

TK: Well… whatever. If he can’t vaporize someone I guess that’s okay. Also, I want to introduce a new hot chick.

JL: Oh my God no!

BF: Dude, there are way too many characters already.

JL: We can’t fit them all in one episode any more!

BF: We can’t bring in new ones. We have to kill off some old ones.

TK: Sorry, marketing says we need a new hot chick. I’ll let you kill off somebody, though. Maybe Claire’s biological mom.

JL: Are you insane? Jessica Gilsig is totally HOT!

BF: And she’s trailer trash, so we can totally write scenes with her in her panties and bra.

TK: Yeah, I find that persuasive. Okay. Kill the black chick, then.

JL: No, not whatshername!

BF: The hot black chick who sleeps around? Oh no dude!

JL: We NEED a black chick. We don’t have any other black chicks. Let’s kill one of the guys instead.

TK: I’m sorry. What did you say?

JL: Uh… sorry. Sorry. My bad. I forgot.

TK: You forgot The Paramount Unwritten Law?

JL: Just for a second. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.

TK: I think we need a refresher. Say the Paramount Unwritten Law with me.

JL: I don’t need a refresher! I jus forgot! I’m sorry!

BF: Please don’t make us say the Paramount Unwritten Law with you.

TK: All together now:

TK, JL, & BF: We Are The Writers of HEROES. We Are White Males. Therefore, We Never Kill Off A Regular Male Character. We Never Let A Female Character Accomplish Anything Unless She’s Crazy. We Never Let A Non-White Character Have A Cool Power.

TK: Everyone clear now?

JL: Yes. Yes. Yes. Please don’t ever make me do that again.

BF: We’re sorry. We’re sorry. We’re sorry. Please let us kill the hot black chick for you.

TK: Okay. Let’s not let this happen again. Now. I think she should be killed in some really poignant, emotionally charged way. Some real tearjerker. And it should be heavily ironic, too. Irony is always good.

JL: Like raaaaaaain on your wedding day.

BF: Like a free ride when you’ve already paid.

TK: Exactly! I love that song. Anyway, I’m sure now that I’ve provided you guys with the basic idea, you can flesh it out with all the minor trivial little details it needs.

BF: I guess… well… maybe Peter and Isaac are fighting over who gets her, and one of them accidentally shoots her?

TK: I like it. It’s working for me. It’s got pathos and drama and squibs. And it’s tragic and ironic. Yeah. Yeah. Plus the bit where they’re fighting over her reinforces the whole subtext thing where she’s just basically sexual chattel for two white males, which is excellent.

JL: And she dies by penetration. Which is, you know…

BF: Jesus, you and your penetration fetish. Swear to God if I have to hear one more time about…

JL: Well a gun is a very phallic weapon and it’s shooting her with these silvery bullets I mean for the love of Christ if that’s not an obvious…

TK: Yeah! And she gets pregnant… with death! I love it!

BF: Sometimes I feel like that guy on the Monster dot com commercials.

TK: I didn’t catch that.

BF: Nothing. Okay, here’s a thing. So Peter and the painter dude…

JL: Isaac.

BF: Right, Isaac. So they’re flailing around slapping and kicking at each other like a couple of girls because they’re both, like, pussies, and one of them has a gun, and it goes off and kills the hot black chick, right?

JL: Yeah, that works.

TK: Peter shouldn’t be a pussy.

JL: Well, we’ll have him turn invisible, then, and he’s taunting Isaac about stuff, and Isaac has a gun, and he starts firing wildly, and…

TK: Okay, that works for me. As long as Peter isn’t a pussy.

BF: But here’s the thing. Isaac can see the future, right? And if Peter’s in the room with him, then he can see the future too, right?

TK: Sure, sure.

BF: So if they can both see the future how is it that they accidentally manage to shoot the hot black chick? I mean, wouldn’t they see it about to happen and stop acting like idiots?

JL: Uh… good point, dude.

TK: What are you, morons? Do I have to do all the thinking around here? What’s the other Unwritten Law of Writing HEROES? Do we have to chant again?

BF: Oh Jesus no.

JL: Please don’t make us. It’s “The Powers Only Work When We Want Them To Work.”

TK: Exaaaaaaaactly. So, no problem, right? Am I right? Am I right or am I right?

BF & JL: You’re right.

TK: Okay. Now, I like the whole thing with Sylar traveling around with Mohinder and Mohinder doesn’t know who Sylar is. That’s excellent. One of my better ideas.

JL: YOUR idea…

BF: Shhhhhh! Shhhhhhh!

TK: As I was saying. One of my better ideas. Now, people really dig it when Sylar steals someone’s brain. So we need to have him do that again. And we want to give him some really cool power this time.

JL: How about teleportation?

TK: Yeah, that would be excellent!

BF: Then we could take it away from him until he gets… I don’t know… some kind of ancient weapon…

TK: Hmmm… no. Okay. Suddenly I’m seeing teleportation wouldn’t be such a good idea. Good thing you ran that by me first. Maybe something… I don’t know… less… what’s the word…

JL: Difficult to plot around?

TK: Well, that’s a phrase, but, sure.

BF: How about he and Mohinder find someone who has, like, super senses or something? Super vision. Super sense of smell. Something.

TK: No… no, I don’t like it. It’s too passive. Something cooler.

JL: Hm. Okay, how about…

TK: Wait. How about… super hearing?

BF: Uh… well… that’s kind of passive, too…

JL: It’s a brilliant idea. I love the idea of Sylar with super hearing. He can eavesdrop on all the heroes and they’ll never be able to sneak up on him. He’ll know everything they’re planning before they ever do it. It will be great.

TK: Exactly. Let’s do that.

BF: Um… I think maybe he was being sarcas…

JL: ::coughcoughshutupletsjustrunwithitcoughcough::

BF: But if Sylar has superhearing we’ll never be able to do anything… ow! Stop kicking me!

TK: You guys behave. Okay. Another great brainstorming session. Glad I could help you out with all of this. Anything else we should do?

BF: Well, people are kinda getting impatient for some kind of explanation as to what the hell is going on with Horned Rim Glasses Guy.

TK: Well, fuck em. Let ‘em keep watching.

JL: No, I really think we should throw them a bone.

TK: Fine, fine, whatever. Have… I don’t know… one of the goobers… do something, so he can explain something, or something.

BF: It… I…

JL: Okay, we’ll come up with something.

BF: One of the goobers… do something…

TK: Is he okay?

JL: He’ll be fine. Glad you could stop by. We’ll get busy on a script.

TK: Good. Let me see it when you've got a draft. I'll have to tweak it, I'm sure.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

In brightest day, in blackest nutjob

You're familiar with Hannibal Lecter, right? Middle aged fella, very intelligent, underneath the goalie mask he looks a great deal like either Brian Cox or Anthony Hopkins (depending on which movie you're watching), tendency to kill impolite people and eat their organs? Yeah, him. Knew you'd heard of him.

I've gone on at length in the past about how poorly it reflects on our culture, when our most intelligent cultural icon is an insane, cannibalistic serial killer, and one of our dumbest, Forrest Gump, is an almost universally beloved cultural success story. But smarts are something that Americans in particular have always viewed with suspicion; we claim to admire intelligent people, but we refer to them disparagingly as 'nerds' and 'eggheads', while simultaneously electing a village idiot to our highest executive office.

(Okay, in point of fact, he was never actually elected, and I know that, but many many millions of people did indeed vote for him, and I have to assume that if Forrest Gump were a real person and he actually ran for office, Americans would vote for that dimwit in unprecedented numbers, as well.)

Nonetheless, the manner in which our society reveres those who do not make us feel stupid or inadequate, while hating and fearing those who do, is not really salient to my discussion of HANNIBAL RISING, a competently crafted but for the most part mediocre, as well as entirely soulless, film I saw yesterday. (It wasn't my fault. The older two SuperKids wanted to see it.)

What I saw in HANNIBAL RISING was not just the continuation of the mythos of a guy who is much, much smarter than any of us, and whom we therefore fear and despise. No, what I was watching yesterday was even more terrifying than that -- the transformation of a character we fear and despise into a character we kind of like and admire, because however scary his intelligence may be, it's kind of cool when it is used to kill undeniably evil, ugly, brutal, and otherwise thoroughly objectionable men, in cruel and visually interesting ways.

With HANNIBAL RISING, the character of Hannibal Lecter has somehow, well, risen above his previous characterization as a public menace and become... well... a superhero. He's a vicious, sadistic, cannibalistic, obviously insane superhero, but the contemporary Batman often seems to be only a twenty cent cab ride from chowing down on the Riddler's sweetbreads himself, so this is not so much a comment on how exalted a depiction of Lecter this movie presents, as it is one on how debased our cultural definition of 'hero' has become.

The movie's arc follows a basic formula any 21st century consumer of pop fiction easily recognizes -- a young boy's entire family is wiped out in front of him by evil, brutish men. The boy, who obviously possesses an innately superior will that allows him to drive himself to extremes the rest of us can only fantasize about, devotes himself to vengeance/justice, preparing himself through an arduous process of mental and physical training to become the perfect avenger of his brutalized dead. Eventually, he seeks out each of those who destroyed his childhood and brings them to justice, generally in a uniquely characteristic, almost trademarked manner that lets others know that the vengeance enacted was done by this character and this character alone.

Throw in tights, a cape, and a pointy eared cowl, and that's Batman; tweak a few story elements and toss in some webbing and it's Spider-Man. But in this movie it's neither, it is, instead, celebrated psycho serial killer Hannibal Lecter who is our protagonist, and despite the fact that various characters at one time or another cluck disapprovingly at him about what a 'monster' he is, those who reprove him are all universally depicted as a boring bunch of no-funs and goobers, while those he kills are all pretty irrefutably in dire need of killing, and Lecter himself is the smartest, sharpest dressed, most competent, wittiest, and best looking guy in this entire celluloid universe.

The overwhelming message is, yeah, he's a nutjob, sure, he kills people and eats them, but, what the hell, he's still way kewl, dude.

Aware of being manipulated though I was, even I couldn't help but admire the late teen Hannibal Lecter, holding a fork in his hand to block a blow from a bully. It's a neat bit of instant karma; whatever damage Lecter's tormenter means to inflict unnecessarily on Lecter, the force of the blow itself is what determines the extent of the punishment the creep immediately receives as a result of the attack. And when the piglike director of the orphanage later chides Lecter for not "respect[ing] the human pecking order" and "always hurt[ing] the bullies", it's a cold heart indeed that wouldn't warm towards Hannibal, however creepy he may seem.

Thomas Harris, creator of the Hannibal Lecter character and writer of both the book this movie is based on and the movie's screenplay, has Lecter himself rationalizing his actions when he later asks a Paris policeman,in the early 1950s, where the French police had been when French children were being loaded on trucks for deportation to slave labor camps by the Nazis. The clear implication of the remark is that organized, official, authorized police forces are as susceptible to cowardice and corruption as anyone else and, in the end, are no better and perhaps rather worse than an individual agent of justice/vengeance like Lecter. This point is underscored by the way this French policeman is depicted torturing and brutally executing many suspects who cross his path, although he leaves Lecter alone, and in fact, tries to help him, because the two of them both lost their families in World War II.

The concept that an organized police force can be corrupted, or is at least unnecessarily hindered by foolish regulations and bureaucratic inertia, so it takes an outsider to really work effectively for justice in this world, is a prominent element in the basic superhero lexicon. All of this subtext is meant to make the audience view Lecter as being not just sympathetic, but ultimately admirable and correct in his proceedings against the evil, evil men who killed, cooked, and ate his little sister. The occasional mutterings by tedious types as to Lecter's being a monster are thus easily set aside by the audience.

Similarly easy to set aside is the fact that in the context of the character we've already seen established by previously published books and their cinematic adaptations, this version of Lecter makes very little sense. As told in flashbacks in the book RED DRAGON and its two movie adaptations, Hannibal Lecter was a respected psychiatrist who enjoyed a surreptitious avocation as a cannibalistic serial killer for years without anyone suspecting him, until perhaps the FBI's most brilliant profiler, Will Graham, came along and almost accidentally tumbled to Lecter's proclivities.

Yet in HANNIBAL RISING, we see a young Lecter who rampages across Central and Western Europe killing people he doesn't much like and eating them, with a French police detective who knows full well what Lecter has done and is doing in lukewarm pursuit. Even if we assume that said detective was sympathetic enough to Lecter that he never mentioned Lecter's name in any kind of official report (and that's more of an assumption than I want to make, since, at the end of the movie, we're clearly supposed to believe that the French cop thinks Lecter is dead, so why not mention his name?), Lecter's extraordinary background is still a matter of public record. You'd think someone would have done some kind of check on him before he got awarded a medical license in the United States, especially as he was planning to specialize in the area of mental health. And you'd think that the FBI would have looked into him too, given his connection to the case Graham was investigating, and someone might have wondered if this guy, who was connected to so many long ago post WWII murders that had cannibalistic elements to them, might not be a little fucked in the head.

But none of it really matters, because this is pretty much an entirely different version of the Hannibal Lecter character, and a contemporary audience that can acceopt the utter nonsense depicted in George Lucas' three STAR WARS prequels is certainly not going to demand a sensible connection between this film and its future-set predecessors.

Middle aged Hannibal is a scary guy who kills Federal officers and cuts their faces off, or fries their brains in butter. Young Hannibal... well, he's a little intense, sure, and he's got that scary Joker-grin, but still, he had a rough childhood and it's not like he's killing cops or anything.

Again... the overwhelming impression we are meant to take away from this film is that not only is this version of Hannibal Lecter actually somewhat cool, but he is, indeed, no longer a cultural boogieman. He has become a hero. An extremely post-Modern, very anti-heroic hero indeed, but, nonetheless, a hero... someone we can look up to and admire, as he does the things we ourselves wish we could do, and would do, if only we weren't bound and constricted by our own physical and mental limitations, and the restrictions of civilized custom. He is, in short, someone we admire, and aspire to emulate.

A society that would make a monster out of a man with superhuman intelligence, and a hero out of a man who is mentally retarded, is one with profound problems. But a culture that would make a hero out of Hannibal Lecter is most likely one that deserves to be destroyed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Yes, it's that time again -- I've made updates to my HeroClix House Rules once more, despite the fact that I will clearly never ever get to play an actual game of HeroClix against any actual opponent under these House Rules ever again in my life.

This time it's mostly Team Ability stuff, but I did make one general rules mod:

Attacking –

Characters may attack any other character on the board, regardless of relative ownership or control of one character as regards another character. If a character is KOed by another character being controlled by the same player as the KOed character, the KOed character’s victory points are awarded to the controller’s opponent, or divided equally among opponents if there are more than one.

WK's restrictions on this have always been a big pill to swallow; in the comics, if you're a Defender and you need to make Bruce Banner Hulk up, well, slapping him will do the job well, and if you want to make Hulk angrier, well, same thing, more so. There aren't many times when attacking someone on your own team makes sense, but when it does make sense, you should be able to do it. The only reason I think WK forbids it is to keep people from knocking their own badly hurt characters off to prevent opponents from getting points for them. This should take care of all that.

This made Mind Control a little trickier; if you MC two or three of your opponent's characters, and manage to use one of them to KO another one of them, you don't want to end up with him getting the points because you were controlling both characters at the time. So --


This character may momentarily cause an enemy to come under their influence. (Optional) Give this character an action token. This character attempts an attack for 0 damage on an opposing target figure. If the attack is successful, the opposing figure becomes a friendly figure until the end of the turn, or until you give that figure an action token, or until you choose to end the Mind Control, whichever occurs first. If more than one character is being Mind Controlled by the same character, and one or more of those characters are KOed while Mind Controlled, victory points are awarded to the player who is controlling them at the time. Characters making successful Mind Control attacks take 1 click of damage for each 100 points of the target's point value which cannot be reduced or evaded. If a character with this power has a range value of 0, assume that his range value is 4.

And then, I wanted to do some new Team Ability stuff, so, under TEAM ABILITIES, I've added the following --

NOTE: Any team ability which is described with terms like "if every member of your team is a member of this TA" is a unified Team Ability. This TA can only be applied when the team is entirely composed of members of one TA, except for one character, which may have a wild card TA. To avoid having to repeat that over and over in the TA descriptions below, I'm mentioning it once here: "unified" means either "every member has the same TA" or "every member but one wild card has the same TA".

AVENGERS: If every member of your force is an Avenger, you may choose one Avenger on your force per turn. For the remainder of your turn, this character may receive a modifier to their Attack Value equal to +1 for every 2 Avengers on your force (rounding down). This is a free action. If every member of your force is not an Avenger, then Avengers on your force may perform a move action without using one of your actions for the turn. Mark any character who moves this way with an action token.

B.P.R.D. - B.P.R.D. members act as wild cards. They can use any team ability that any friendly figure in play possesses. They may use this ability only once per action.

If all members of a force are B.P.R.D., they may use the following Team Ability instead of their wild card TA: All members of B.P.R.D. are immune to the effects of the Mystics and Crossgen TAs. This team ability cannot be copied by Feats or wild card team abilities.

FATAL FIVE: Prerequisite: Validus, Emerald Empress, Persuader, Mano.

If a Fatal Five member deals damage to an opponent and that damage is reduced to 0, the opponent will receive an extra action token. If the opponent already has 2 or more action tokens, the opponent will be dealt one click of damage that cannot be evaded, reduced, or transferred. If this TA is applied, it replaces any other TAs on the dial.

FLASH’s ROGUE’S GALLERY: Prerequisites: Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Professor Zoom, Weather Wizard, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Trickster.

Flash Rogues add +1 to their Attack Values when attacking any figure with HyperSonic Speed showing on its dial. Whenever Flash Rogues are successfully hit by any figure using HyperSonic Speed, they may roll a d6. On a result of 6, the attack misses. If this TA is applied, it replaces any other TAs on the dial.

LEGION OF SUPERHEROES : Members of the Legion of Super Heroes act as a wild card. They can use any team ability that any friendly figure in play possesses, once per action.

If your entire force is composed of Legion of Superheroes characters, you may choose to use the following TA instead of the wild card TA: Members of the Legion of Superheroes may double any positive modifier to their Defense Values that affects them. Opposing characters must divide their range values by 2 (rounding down) when making ranged attacks at members of the Legion of Superheroes. This team ability cannot be copied by Feats or wild card team abilities.

MINIONS OF DOOM: Members of the Minions of Doom act as a wild card. They can use any team ability that any friendly figure in play possesses, once per action.
If your entire force is composed of Minions of Doom, you may use the following Team Ability instead of the wild card Team Ability: Minions of Doom may copy any Team Ability that any opposing figure possesses, once per action. This team ability cannot be copied by Feats or wild card team abilities.

I also added "This team ability cannot be copied by Feats or wild card team abilities" to GL TA, Batman TA, LSH, Minions of Doom, Serpent Society, Skrulls, Danger Girls, B.P.R.D., Crossgen, Kabuki, and Mystics, since, in all honesty, I cannot for the life of me see how non-sneaky people should be able to wild card Batman's Team Ability, or how flyers without power rings should be able to carry 8 other figures around with them, etc, etc.

Augh! The girls are due back in ten minutes, I'm still in my pajamas, and we have many plans for today, including (urg) a viewing of YOUNG HANNIBAL, or whatever the fuck it is that the damn thing is called. I'm off into it. Later for y'all!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A blast from the past

The first Hawkman I ever knew was the guy from the Silver Age -- Katar Hol, who along with his wife Shiera, had come to Earth from distant Thanagar, a futuristic planet patrolled by a force of winged 'hawk police', of which both Hols were badge carrying members. (Their 'badges', in this case, being their great big wings that were supposedly made out of 'nth metal', although as Joe Kubert drew them, they looked pretty damned feathery to me.)

The Silver Age Hols were pretty goddam goofy folks, as I've explicated at length in this essay. Somehow or other, these frickin' alien infiltrators managed to snag cushy jobs in Midway City as museum curators, which greatly facilitated their covert careers as masked (and winged) vigilantes, because unlike most other superheroes of the time, they weren't content to simply wade into thugs and criminals with their bare hands and feet, oh no. They literally went all medieval on crime's collective ass, swiping maces and swords and spears and polearms and ancient friggin' crossbows from their museum's exhibits and employing them with insane (but never deadly) abandon against any outlaw injudicious enough to cross their flightpaths.

All of this weirdness came about due to the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl characters being largely based on their Golden Age forebears. The editors of National Comics at the time wanted to conserve as many of the characterization elements of the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they possibly could, and that included the basic costumes, the great big wings, the names, and the penchant for beating the jesus out of their bad guys with medieval weapons. Mind you, all this made a great deal more sense for the first set of Hawk-heroes, who were an archaelogist and his wife who were actually the reincarnations of... okay, never mind, go read the other essay if you want all that.

Suffice to say, the Golden Age Carter and Shiera Hall had slightly more sensible reasons to be whipping around the night skies of Midway City bashing the christ out of anyone who looked at them cross eyed with an arsenal clearly borrowed from the History Channel, than alien cops from a futuristic world who had traveled here to 'learn Earthly police techniques' would.

Despite the Silver Age Hawkman's innate and irrefutable coco-puff level craziness as a character, I liked him just fine, probably because I was something like 9 years old the first time I read one of his adventures, and also because he was generally drawn by Joe Kubert in his solo strip. Also, there's just something very viscerally satisfying to a pre-adolescent comics fan about a guy with great big wings who swoops down out of the sky and clocks the bad guy in the melon with a gigantic spiked club, dude. I mean, that TOTALLY rawks. This was a character whose powers were kind of dumb and pansy-ass (I mean, basically, he flies, and he hits people with clubs, and, well, sometimes he talks to birds, too, I mean, jesus help us all, but yeah, he really did) but he was a member of the JLA and folks like Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and the Atom all seemed to have a lot of respect for him, and he looked really cool in his own mag with that insanely bad ass Joe Kubert art, and I wasn't very discriminating back then, and a flame that burns in the heart of a 9 year old can never truly be extinguished, so, yeah... mock me if you must (or even if, y'know, you just find it to be a cheap thrill) but I really like the Silver Age Hawkman.

Now, you can go over here and read Mike Norton's excellent and very thorough write up of the current Hawkman REV that will be coming out in the upcoming ORIGINS set. And if you do that, you will note that every single new version of Hawkman has super-strength somewhere on his dial.

Now, super strength is a wonderful power and certainly, this new prevalence of super strength for Hawkman helps to explain why somebody in the new Justice League comic book referred to Hawkman as a 'tank'. And it makes the character much more something to be reckoned with by the standards of your generally moronic Modern Age fan, who pretty much feels that all male characters should be able to knock down a building and all female characters should wear thongs, fish nets, and halter tops at every opportunity. And I also understand that the character has been ret-conned and we are now supposed to accept that he has always been able to somehow harness the anti-gravity effect of his nth metal wings (or harness, or whatever) to effectively give him super-strength (by letting him negate the weight of huge objects and thus lift them into the air), and nowadays, the nth metal just straight up somehow augments his physical strength itself, making him Mighty, Mighty.

And that's okay; it won't keep me from liking the character when I see him in JSA or JLA, and it wouldn't keep me from reading his own title if they'd just get an actual writer back on it again.

But here's the thing -- this ain't my Hawkman.

My Hawkman doesn't have super-strength.

Now, it should be noted somewhere that the ORIGIN Hawkman is actually the second version WizKids has given us. The first version was so horrifyingly and appallingly bad that, well, we must never speak of it, except to say, his BEST ATTACK VALUE, on his OPENING SLOT, was an 8. An 8. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, why not just do a sculpt of him in a pinafore and a sun bonnet and call him Hawbecca of Sunnybrook Farms, if you're going to give him a fucking EIGHT. There are nameless thugs with higher attacks. A Hawkman with an 8 attack is all but useless; on an average dice roll of 7, the best he can hit is an opposing figure with a 15 Defense Value or less. The Penguin could beat this version of Hawkman into unconsciousness with a jelly donut. He's useless, pointless, and stupid... and yet, this version of Hawkman, with no powers showing on his dial besides Charge and Close Combat Expert, is much, much closer to being an accurate representation of Hawkman as he was depicted in comic books throughout the Golden and Silver Ages, than any of the ORIGIN versions will be.

Because, as I've already mentioned, in the Golden and Silver Ages, Hawkman did not have Super Strength. Oh, sure, the folks in charge of the character are saying NOW that, retroactively, they've gone back and given him Super Strength, so in any flashbacks to the 40s or 50s or 60s we might see from now on in a Modern Age comic, the artists can depict him doing superstrengthy stuff and It's All Right, Mama, It's All Right. But this is a ret-con. The Hawkman I read about as a kid did not have Super Strength. He was, as stated, very much like the original Hawkman WizKids gave us, except, you know, he had a waaaaay better attack. And maybe some Toughness. And a little bit of Flurry, so he could pummel someone twice in one turn (since he often carried gigantic medieval weapons in each hand, as he's depicted doing in his original WK sculpt). And I don't know, a range attack, for all those times when he had a crossbow, or ninja throwing stars, or something, would have been nice.

But mostly, for a real Silver Age Hawkman, the first version WK gave us would have been fine, if he'd just had, like, a single slot with an 11 attack, with a steady decline in attack values of 10-9-9-9-8, and then KO. That would have been fine.

Instead, WK gives us a new Hawkman, and, yeah baby, he's heavy duty rock and roll and no mistake. But he's still not MY Hawkman.

This... THIS is my Hawkman.

No Super Strength here, but my Hawkman, the Silver Age Hawkman, didn't pick up Volvos and hit people over the head with them, anyway. This guy has a great attack, lots of Charge, some Flurry, reasonable damage for a mesomorphic medieval maniac with a mace, some Toughness, some range strike... he's pretty much the whole package. And, he's got the JLA Team Ability, so even after he gets knocked down his dial past his best stat values, I can still use my homegrown JLA TA to keep him in there pummeling for a while. He's my guy. The Hawkman the World Awaited, or, at least, that I've been looking for.

And, what is he? He's a stinking prize-only Limited Edition, available exclusively to people who go to tournaments and win prizes at them. Can't get him out of a booster. The best I can hope for is to find him as a single at one of the local shops, where he'll probably cost (if I'm lucky) $10 or $15.

This just annoys the CRAP out of me.

Ah, well. At least WK actually made a version of one of my favorite characters that I actually like.

These days, that in and of itself is very nearly a miracle.

Hearts & Flowers

Valentine's Day has come and gone. This year I got lucky enough to have one of my floating days off fall on it, so that let me get up fairly early and get over to Kroger's for some last minute flower and stuffed bear purchases. Placed neatly in the antique wooden box I'd gotten for SuperFiancee last week, along with a homemade Valentine's Day card (for some reason, over the years, I've learned people either very much like my home made holiday cards, or, at least, they pretend to; either way, it works for me), all that was waiting for SuperFiancee when she got home for lunch yesterday.

She brought me a gift bag which contained a mug full of Hershey's kisses (labeled on the side 'kisses for you', a phrase that has some significance between SF and I), a lovely if slightly risque Valentine's Day card, a stuffed infant canine I promptly named Puppy Love, and a green T-shirt with a Green Lantern symbol on it, to replace a similar one SF gave me when I first moved here which had long since disappeared (probably stolen from a laundromat washing machine, back in the day when we frequented laundromats, before SF's sister so kindly gifted us with a washer and dryer of our own). Then about 2/3s of an episode of SPORTS NIGHT on DVD before SF had to head back to the grind.

Dinner out at "our" restaurant here in the neighborhood, bookended by [sex scene deleted] before and after, pretty much finished the day.

Valentine's Day is way WAY better when shared.

Wedding plans proceed apace. Most of you will be getting something in the mail sometime this week; for those of you reading this who don't get anything from us, well, we're thinking of you, and if you happen to be in Southern Indiana on a fine Saturday in late April and you see a bunch of geeky looking people having a wedding ceremony at a reasonably well known indoor mall, well, feel free to wander over to say 'hi' and grab some chow.

I had planned to scan a copy of our wedding invitation, which is pretty frickin' unique, in my experience, and put it up here, but our scanner does not want to cooperate with that endeavor at the moment, soooooo... no soap. Sorry.

I have, to date, been able to pretty much eschew commenting on the new Heroclix expansion coming out, ORIGIN, because every time WK leaks a new figure, Mike Norton is right there, doing an admirable job writing it up and saving me the trouble. But Mike has skipped over the new Carter Hall LE, so I may have to do something with that later on this week, as I'm rather impressed with the LE's dial, and annoyed that WK is making it a prize only Limited Edition. Bastards.

Okay, I'm off into the latter half of another bleak week in Craptastic City. Pray for me, or, you know, do the godless liberal equivalent.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Now with mad updates! TWO of them, even! (2/13/07 and 2/14/07)

The longer NBC's new show Heroes goes on, the less sense it makes to me.

The things I'm about to bitch about at great and tedious length probably aren't anything that anyone else who watches this show is going to care about. In fact, it's very likely they aren't anything that most of the show's audience have ever even noticed. If I ever get any comments on this essay at all, I have little doubt that at least one of them will be to take me to task for being overly anal, for taking these things too seriously, for not being able to just sit back and relax and enjoy the show. After all, I've already been slapped around by some nameless nimwit for daring to think about things he or she would prefer I didn't brother to think about (or, if I have to think about them, then, they'd certainly prefer I didn't write about them, and if I have to write about them, then at last and least, they deeply and sincerely wish folks like Jim Henley would stop linking to my bullshit, anyway).

Nonetheless, and notwithstanding any and all potential disapprobation about to come hurtling my way like barnyard animals out of a French catapult, it's my bloggie and I'll cry if I want to. (You would cry too if it happened to you.)

So... Heroes. Strong start, interesting execution... I went into the six week break as anxious as any for NBC to commit to the show and for new episodes to return. And now they have. And... well... they're getting on my last nerve with some of this shit, they really are.

First... okay, I have to ask at this point -- how do these powers work? Up until now I haven't worried about it much -- I have, in fact, been making a concerted attempt to not think about it, as John Doe firmly believes I should and must lest democracy fall, or something. And I've been pretty good about it. I mean, I've resolutely Not Thought About how in the name of God the frickin' cheerleader can regenerate from a lethal brain injury after her body has been physically dead for an entire day. How, for that matter, she can apparently stay in a raging inferno for several minutes and not only not get burned (when we know she actually experiences physical trauma, she just regenerates from it at superspeed) but not collapse to the ground from asphyxiation, and manage to somehow carry an unconscious firefighter who is like three times her bodymass out of the place, too.

I also have refused to think about exactly how the smarmy politician can fly at supersonic velocity and, apparently, not even get windburned, or have his clothes get damaged. And there are a couple of other powers I've resolutely refused to think about, too, like the guy who can generate radiation with his hands... how does he do that? What kind of biological mechanism could possibly explain this? And the guy who walks through walls... how does that work?

But I haven't thought about it, because, well, it's been a fun show and I've been enjoying it, and I read comic books, and, you know, I'm willing to deal with characters in comic books walking through walls and flying really really fast and doing other impossible things with few or no real world consequences.

And yet, this is, supposedly, at least, a more realistic world than the one we see in comics. No costumes, no goofy code names, no villains trying to take over the world, just confused 'real' people trying to deal with strange powers in a very mundane setting, much like Jim Shooter's The World Outside Your Window from the late, unlamented New Universe.

And I'd very much like to see these powers explained in some consistent way, so if certain powers have certain negative consequences, well, we could understand why.

But I've let it go until now. However -- now we have an Invisible Man.

Invisibility is one of those powers everyone fantasizes about having at one time or another, and that being so, I guess it was inevitable that it would show up on HEROES eventually. Like the comics it derives from, the show is very much an adolescent power fantasy.

But... seriously... how does this work? If the guy is bending light around himself, then he can't see, because no light is reaching his optic nerve, because, you know, it's all bending around him. Clearly he can see, so, it can't be that.

The other alternative is that he's not actually invisible at all, but, rather, he's 'unnoticeable' -- his brain somehow broadcasts a telepathic "don't look at me" message to everyone around him. Yet it seems unlikely it's that, either, since when he walked out of Peter's power range, we saw Peter kind of 'fade in' to visibility again. It wasn't that people just started noticing him; he 'phased in', so that people could not only see him, but one guy actually saw him becoming translucent, and then, fully visible.

It could also be that instead of bending light around him, or willing people around him not to see him, Invisible Guy is somehow causing the light that reflects off him to be transformed into non-visible light -- IR or UV, or something. So light comes in, but doesn't go back out. No visible light reflects off him, so nobody can see him. This could be a plausible explanation for the mechanism, but then we're right back at: how do these powers work?

Still, I'm not going to get all hung up on a sensible mechanism. I mean, I'd like one, but not being able to figure out how in the name of God someone can stretch their body like rubber, or burst into flames and fly through the air, or, yeah, turn invisible and project an invisible force field, hasn't kept me from enjoying the Fantastic Four. (What's kept me from enjoying the Fantastic Four since the early 70s is the fact that the writing has been dogshit ever since Roy Thomas left the book. But that's an entirely different subject.)

What does matter, though, is trying to figure out how Peter and Invisible Guy can both be invisible at the same time, continue to see everything around them just as if they weren't invisible -- and see each other, too.

I mean, why should absorbing Invisible Guy's power allow Peter to see Invisible Guy? And if Peter is invisible to everyone else, how can Invisible Guy see him?

The only way this makes any sense to me at all is if Invisible Guy does actually bend light around him -- and if his power also includes some kind of altered perception, so he can still see his surroundings, without actually using the photonic receptors in his eyes. In other words, not only can he turn invisible, but his brain processes exterior stimuli in such a way as he can still 'see', without actually needing to have his eyes interact with the reflected light all around him.

Peter would also absorb these powers, with the result that they would both be physically invisible to human eyes, and they would also both be able to see each other, since they don't actually use their eyes to perceive what we would think of as visual stimuli.

That makes sense to me -- but the notion that such a complementary suite of superhuman abilities came about as a result of random genetic mutation doesn't. Invisible Guy's metagene cluster should make him blind as well as invisible; it should be a negative, and very quickly lethal, mutation -- one that would never get passed along to enough generations of offspring to allow another, complementary random mutation, like heightened perceptions, to come along and combine with it.

Given that, the 'specials' we see on HEROES have to almost of necessity be the products of deliberate genetic engineering. But I'm sure the actual truth is, they're just the products of lazy, sloppy writing. Nobody else (certainly not any of the writers or producers) is going to have noticed this, and if anyone else has, they aren't going to care.

Similarly baffling to any kind of logical analysis is the fact that out of a very very small subpopulation of genetic mutants (I think at one point Mohinder mentioned there were something like 42 different people on his father's 'list'), we've now been told that nearly 10% of that number has interacted sexually with each other and produced children. Which is to say, two different couples have formed and procreated from this extremely small sample group. The two people in one of those couples (Claire's natural parents) don't seem to have had a great deal of interest in each other after the initial roll in the hay, but the other pair (Nikki and D.L.) apparently fell in love and got married.

To say that the odds against this are astronomical is to significantly underestimate the number of celestial bodies there are thought to be in the universe.

Now, maybe there's some other force out there that is somehow compelling certain people to do things without their knowledge or consent. It wouldn't be out of the question, since we've already seen one 'special' who has this sort of power, and although she's dead, certainly there could be others. And a shadowy mind controller would explain a great deal -- not just two different couples from the list getting together to procreate, apparently at random (and one of them liking each other so much that they decide to make the relationship permanent) but also including exactly why it is that Peter sees some guy with a big nose stealing shit on the street, and immediately leaps to the seemingly deranged conclusion that he's found a mentor; someone who can teach him how to control his powers. I mean, where the hell did that idea come from? What in the world could possibly make Peter think that an invisible sneak thief knows anything that would be of value to him, much less, how to turn your super powers on and off? Offscreen mind control seems like the only feasible explanation.

And then, there's this other plot element, where, apparently, at least some of the 'specials', if not all of them, were kidnapped by someone (Claire's adopted father, the guy who apparently, for no reason imaginable, has no first name) who seems to have given them these powers, or at least, activated the powers that were already latent within them, and then given them all tattoos on their necks, too. What's up with that?

Also, Hiro suddenly losing his teleporting time travel powers is entirely too convenient for my tastes. No real explanation for the power loss has been forthcoming; I personally get the feeling that at this point in the story arc, someone who could go anywhere and/or travel through time would severely screw up planned plot developments. So, Hiro gets his powers taken away for no particular reason, and one assumes his powers will stay gone until the plot requires another teleportation, or another time trip... at which point, Hiro's powers will just as conveniently reappear.

Now, I know what someone is going to say: it's necessary to give Hiro an overwhelming reason to seek out the sword he's been pictured with in Isaac's paintings of the future, and Hiro's quest for the sword is apparently a major storyline in the last part of the first season. Well, bullshit. If Hiro is going to get that sword, then, well, he's going to get that sword, and Hiro already had a perfectly good mission -- it was, in fact, the same mission the entire cast is apparently on, whether they know it or not, specifically, keeping someone or something from blowing up New York City. Depowering Hiro for no reason, for a time period entirely to be determined by the writers, is a lazy plot crutch, and really crappy writing.

(And... hey... doesn't it seem that Syler already has the power to regenerate from nearly any injury? That being the case, what exactly does he need from Claire, anyway? People keep shooting him and he keeps popping back up like Michael Myers and dragging his sorry ass off into the bushes. Maybe he's hoping that Claire's good looks are a super power and he can absorb some cute by eating her brain. Good luck with that, buddy.

I'm also a little concerned with how Claire's dad is behaving lately. Kidnapping people, performing medical procedures on them without their consent, mind controlling them into taking drugs, planting surveillance devices and sending agents to spy on them with no warrant or color of authority, locking them up in a secret prison with no due process for an indefinite period while performing inhumane and unauthorized experiments on them, erasing people's memories, ordering people killed... maybe the reason we don't know Mr. Bennett's first name is that it's actually George Walker Bush?

Seriously, though, this guy is out of control. I'd love to know his agenda, and who he's actually working for. I do have to say this, though -- this behavior is perfectly acceptable as long as he is clearly depicted to be a villain, and as long as, eventually, his acts are appropriately punished. Lately, though, the writers on the show seem to have been trying to portray Bennett somewhat more sympathetically. If, eventually, we are supposed to accept him as some kind of twisted hero whose actions are all supposedly justified by some secret, but irrefutably necessary, agenda... well, at that point Heroes will have parted ways with any concept of 'moral fiction' and ventured well down the path into 24 territory.

And Nikki... what the hell is going on with Nikki, and D.L., and Micah? One assumes that somehow or other the mysterious Mr. Linderman is central to this whole thing, and in fact, it seems like he will be what eventually pulls all the disparate threads and characters together into one coherent storyline. And that's okay, if the writers actually have a plan and a plot and both make sense. But until then, they're asking us to take a great deal on trust, and the horrible mess that is Nikki's character -- a kind of weird hybridization of Marvel's THE HULK with DC's ROSE AND THE THORN -- isn't making it any easier. And now she's locked in a mirror while her evil, super powered twin plays Monopoly with Micah? Honest to God, it's hard to keep watching this show when they're spending screentime on nonsense like this.

Speaking of nonsense, I'm a big fan of Matt the Telepathic Cop, but too many more scenes of him whining with his wife or fixing the fucking plumbing and I swear to God I'm going to just go back to watching the first five seasons of Buffy on DVD. Characterization is all well and good, but it's supposed to advance the plot, too. Keeping a character on screen because you're contractually obligated to provide their character with a certain number of lines per episode even when you have absolutely nothing for that character to do... this is bad television, straight up.

Maybe something interesting will happen once Claire gets together with her pyromaniac mom and her supersonic dad. Maybe. But I'm not going to count on it. It's not like the writers have given me any reason to, so far.

It's not that I don't like this show, I really do. But all these things trouble me. I understand they don't trouble anyone else, but, still, I'd really love it if an interesting science fiction show could, just once, be intelligent and internally consistent, too.

Well, I guess I'll have to keep waiting for that.

Addendum, after last night's show (2/13/07)

Let me take a moment to recap what we now know about Claire’s bio-mom:

She supposedly died in a fire 14 years ago. Everyone thought she was dead. Instead, she went to Mexico, apparently because someone was out to get her. Six months ago, she moved back to the same tiny little town in Texas where she supposedly died 14 years ago, rented a trailer, and had a phone installed in her own name. Now that she’s gotten in contact with her supposedly dead bio-daughter, and gotten a big check from Nathan to keep her mouth shut about Claire’s existence, she’s going back to Mexico again. And, somewhere in there, some mysterious entity took the time to activate her ’special’ ability, which seems to be pyrokinesis.

I can see two possibilities here.

a) the writers of the show fell so in love with the scene where Claire dials a nearly random number from the phone book and her real mom picks up the phone, that they just went ahead and did it, and then realized afterward that the shit makes no sense whatsoever, so they’ve been frantically throwing patches on the continuity ever since. Uh… if people think she’s dead, why is she still living in this small town in Texas, under her real name? Well… um… she wasn’t! She went to Mexico! She just came back six months ago! Okay, well, why did she go back to this tiny town where there are still people who would probably recognize her, and why is she using her real name, especially on a phone directory listing? Uh… um… hey, she can start fires with her hands! Isn’t that cool? And Nathan is Claire’s dad! Neat-o! Hey, look over here, look over HERE!

or (b) there’s some mysterious Machiavellian entity lurking somewhere in the background that is manipulating most if not all of the events we are seeing on the screen from behind the scenes, using mind control powers and I don’t know what the hell all else. This would explain the sudden, very convenient reappearance of Claire’s bio-mom at exactly the right moment to advance the plot further, it would explain how in the name of everything sane Peter can spot some guy walking down the street stealing stuff and suddenly think “Hey, this bozo can teach me how to control my powers!”, and it would explain why Hiro conveniently loses his powers when the plot requires him to, as well as probably a whole lot of other stuff we otherwise cannot remotely fathom, like, y’know, the Nikki character in her entirety.

I hate it when a show puts me in the position of actually hoping there’s a mysterious Machiavellian mind controller in the background manipulating everyone like puppets, but that’s pretty much where I am with HEROES right now.

Addendum the second:

From a comment thread discussion over at Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings blog:

Comment by Highlander —
February 13, 2007 @ 9:44 am

Mind Controlling Machiavelli would (or could) explain a great deal, yes. Maybe Nikki/Jessica was subjected to MKULTRA training, Linderman is high up in U.S. intelligence, and this whole thing is a massive psy-op experiment conducted on unwitting American subjects. Maybe Claire’s dad (adopted) is a renegade NSA agent who used to work in the MONARCH program, Claire’s mom is also an MKULTRA mind control subject, and Claire herself was slated for mind control programming before Bennett rescued her. And perhaps his fanaticism for ‘protecting his family’ is all about the guilt he feels for taking part in this stuff earlier in his life.

Nah, probably not.

Still, that would be pretty cool. Some kind of secret domestic intelligence mind control/genetic manipulation experiment would be exactly the kind of overarching story device that could be employed to actually make sense of all this stupidity.

In the end, though, I think it will just turn out to be lazy writing.


Comment by Highlander —
February 13, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

Here’s a thought that just struck me — it would be cool if the Mysterious Haitian turned out to be the mastermind behind everything, assuming there is a mastermind behind everything. I mean, we know he has mental powers (he can, at the very least, erase memories) and he can turn off people’s powers… maybe he can activate them, as well.

Maybe he’s even Linderman!

I really like the idea of there being some kind of supersecret government program for developing mind controlled super slaves that has somehow gone badly awry. It would explain a great deal.


Comment by Highlander —
February 13, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

Also, it’s worth noting that Nikki’s weird power/affliction/mental disease is all tied up with split personalities, which are triggered by her exposure to mirrors. These are key elements (according to what little is publicly known) of MKULTRA mind control programming.

Yeah, I should post stuff like this on my own blog, or in a Rigorous Intution comment thread, I know. Sorry.

I very much like this notion, now that it's occurred to me. However repugnant it may be, the CIA's Project MONARCH / MKULTRA program, in which experimental techniques for creating mind controlled slaves to be used by the government as secret agents (so secret, in fact, that the agents themselves would not be aware of it, due to deliberately induced, carefully manipulated schizophrenia) is an actual part of American history... not a part most of us are aware of, and certainly not a part that is taught in schools, but there's a lot of American history we don't hear about in Social Studies class.

Whether Project MONARCH has actually been discontinued, and never had any actual successes or viable results, as is the U.S. government's official story, or it still exists as a deeply 'black' program today, fully functional and providing thousands of slave operatives to the U.S. government who have been mind controlled through horrible trauma and abuse since early childhood, and who are perfunctorily and casually used as illegal drug and arms couriers, and sex slaves, by all manner of high level government functionaries, is immaterial to this discussion, and frankly, a question that so utterly terrifies me I'd rather not actually consider it.

Not so ancient American history or ongoing U.S. taxpayer funded horror, though, it's still fabulous story fodder. And if indeed a fictionalized version of such a covert government psy-op were to lie at the heart of what we're seeing unfold in HEROES, it would indeed explain an entire host of logical discrepancies.

But, other people have other agendas:


Comment by Jim Henley —
February 13, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

All this enthusiasm for a gargantuan mind-control plot that ties off every narrative loose end neatly leaves me cold. You guys would build a machine with no heart. If everybody’s being manipulated then nobody’s striving; no one has agency. Nathan isn’t struggling simultaneously to suppress his better angels and to heed them. Mohinder isn’t honoring the legacy of a difficult forebear. Claire isn’t avoiding the question of just what started that fire she and her pyro mother lived through - it’s been suppressed. The Invisible Man isn’t keeping Peter around on sufferance. Instead they’re all pieces moved by an unseen mover.

I’d rather have minor causality issues any day.

This is the sort of thing I deal with whenever I point out that something in a particular fictional construct I'm consuming doesn't make sense. Jim has taken this to entirely new depths, though. Inconsistent character behavior? Plot twists that make no sense? Internal continuity that cannot be reconciled with anything remotely resembling reality as we know it? Why, that's not bad writing and it certainly isn't any reason to think a particular show or movie or whatever isn't very good and shouldn't be supported by a discerning audience... no, no, these are just 'minor causality issues'.

Jim, I will note casually and in passing, is a huge fan of the current Battlestar Galactica series.

It troubles me, sometimes. Jim Henley is as thoughtful, analytical, intelligent, and insightful a human being as one will find on the Internet anywhere. His calm, cogent dissections of public policy are among the best out there, and he's got an amazingly acute built in bullshit detector.

And yet, when it comes to televised fiction, he puts his thumb firmly on the EASY button and apparently says to himself, "Nah, I'm just not going to think about that, if I thought about that, it might not be FUN for me any more."

He's even selective in what shows he applies this to. Heroes and BS:G get a free pass, but he's stopped watching 24 this season because, you know, it's just TOO stupid for him. This will give you an idea just how low he's willing to set his mental bar for TV; 24, a show renowned for its monumental brainlessness since early in its first season, took six seasons for its inherent dimwittedness to finally alienate Henley.

Now, someone might well say -- in fact, several someones have said to me, at various times -- that there's a difference in seriousness, gravity, and importance between topics like our current ruling junta's ongoing war on Constitutional liberties and their current campaign of terror and atrocity against a foreign people who have never been any threat to us as individuals or a community, and the stylish non-substance of the twaddle we watch on TV to anaesthetize our frontal lobes from the recurring and unending existential despair that permeates the existence of anyone who thinks even intermittently here in the 21st Century.

That's an inarguable point, so let me argue with it:

It's easy to not-think about things. Hundreds of millions of people do everything in their power to get through every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year of their lives not-thinking as much of the time, about as many different subjects, as they possibly can, and not all of them by any means vote Republican, either. As the big dog himself once put it, most people think just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg.

And it's that not-thinking, or, that minimalist approach to cogitation (just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg) that gives rise to... well, the world we live in today, where horrible things are happening all around us all the time, where any of us could be picked up by armed officers of the remarkably Gestapo-sounding Homeland Security Department, and taken someplace, and held there, and tortured, and even killed, with no warrant, no charges filed, no trial, no outside contact, and no due process of law.

Why can our government do this to us? The last time things were this bad in America, it was the Vietnam War era. Our troops were killing and dying in a foreign land for no good reason, and our government was spying on us, oppressing us, locking us up for dissent... and we stopped it, or, rather, the generation of adult Americans who were alive at that time stopped it, by taking to the streets in mass displays of revolted, revulsed civil disobedience that the government could not ignore, and eventually, did not.

What's the difference now? Well, I think it's largely that we've learned to not-think better, faster, stronger... and television has been the biggest part of the tranquilizer we're willingly taking. Television, more than anything else, has taught us to not-think, and not-care. As long as we're comfortable, as long as the electricity is working and gas is below $2.50 a gallon and American Idol is on twice a week, we're fine.

I think it's bad to not-think. I think it's insidious and narcotic and seductive and dangerous, and I don't care what it is that we allow ourselves to volitionally hit that OFF switch in our brain over. It's unhealthy, and it's far from harmless; every time we shut down the reasoning apparatus, it is a little bit harder, a tiny bit more troublesome, to fire it up again when we perceive that we really should be thinking about something more important.

That's just my opinion. What is an absolute stone cold fact is that when smart people like Jim Henley decide to not-think about the TV they consume, the result is a buttload of really crappy, really stupid TV.

These are not 'minor causality issues'.

But, y'know, whatever. I think too much anyway.

And what the hell is wrong with a world, when "you think too much" is actually considered by most people to be, if not an insult, then, at least, a valid personal criticism?