Thursday, August 23, 2007


There's this guy I know that, every time he hears the word 'parent' in the same sentence with my name, he snorts in derision.

In the past, I've heard aspersions on my ability to parent, based on things like my income, my education level, my hobbies, and my ability (or lack thereof) to drive.

This is all, I suppose, fair enough. I am not a biological parent; should I die tonight in my sleep, I will do so without having passed my particular genes along to a new generation. If people out there want to believe that loving children, caring for children, sharing your life constantly with children, supporting children, putting your own wants and needs and desires secondary to those of the children you live with, always, is still in some way inadequate to qualify one for the term parent -- if, in fact, these folks insist that the only way one gets to be parent is through gene donation -- then, fine, I'm not a parent. Not a REAL one.

But last night, my seven year old step daughter came into the bedroom I share with her mother and said, apologetically, that she'd just thrown up, and she had tried really hard, but she hadn't quite been able to make it to the bathroom. And my wife needs her sleep, as she gets up at 5:30 every morning so she can take the kids to school before she takes herself to work. (I generally get up with her, but after they're all off I get to go back to bed.)

So I got up.

Now, let me tell you, I was expecting maybe a little pool of throw up, somewhere near the toilet. I was rather astonished and appalled to find our entire hallway leading to the bathroom splattered and splashed with reddish-maroon puke, much of it pressed into the linoleum in little SuperAdorableKid-shaped footprints. That hallway looked like fifteen 7 year olds had spent an afternoon beating on a pinata full of vomit in it. It looked like an entire 2nd grade class had a puke-balloon fight in it.

So I sighed, and cleaned it up, and cleaned up my 'daughter', and changed the sheets and blankets on her bed, and got her a drink of water, and kissed her on the forehead, and put her back to sleep.

I may not be a real parent. But I swear to God, after nights like last night, and days like today where I washed all the soiled laundry from the vomit festival last night, I really feel like one.

Also, if I'm not a real parent, could an actual Real Parent out there somewhere give me a rebate on the several thousand bucks I've spent on these kids that are not really mine over the past couple of years? I'd really appreciate that.


Something Vicked this way comes

Jim Henson, drat him, is continuing to insist that his readers think about shit, instead of just reveling in our usual emotional hazes. I'm supposed to be all in favor of this attitude, so I can hardly object.

On the recent Michael Vick uproar, Mr. Henson says this:

So, let me hear it! Arguments based on some set of rights for some set of animals; arguments based on some set of obligations toward some kinds of property; arguments that some kinds of cruelty are wrong but should not be illegal and arguments that some kinds of cruelty should indeed be matters of law; arguments that it’s appropriate for one level of government to legislate against animal cruelty but not another (e.g. state vs. federal). Requirement: explain what’s libertarian about your claims. Prohibition: Explanations of how the animal cruelty question shows how awful or at least pitiable libertarians are. I have my own somewhat gestational ideas, but I’m really interested in other perspectives. Post in comments or in your own blog with a pointer. Feel free to critique others ideas in the spirit of rigor.

So, forced to give it some actual thought, I surprise (and annoy) myself by coming down with this (see his comment threads for original, which is probably too long for anyone over there to finish reading):

I can't make any claims to libertarianism, as every time I come over here and ask for an honest definition of same, I come away empty. I won't say what libertarianism seems to be from my perspective, as however I end up putting it, it comes out disrespectful, which serves no purpose here.

My feelings on the law are, the law should not have anything to do with morality, because morality is almost entirely subjective, and generally comes down to being our own personal definition of behavior that pleases us (which we feel should be mandated for all) and behavior which offends us (which we feel should be forbidden, and punished).

When laws try to either prohibit or require behavior on the basis of some notion of right/pleasing or wrong/offensive, things always end up going badly astray. (As a side note, religion is a fabulous justification for all this, because it allows one to make use of the dialectical tool of God within one's moral discourse. Good behavior is that which pleases God, bad behavior is that which offends God. It makes one's pissy, provincial little certainty that heterosexual monogamy is cool, and faggotry is evil, much more palatable, at least, to those who share one's basic belief systems.)

To my mind, legislation should attempt to define what behavior is actively anti-social, to the point where society itself will prohibit said behavior with various levels of applied sanctions when such behavior is detected and confirmed. (As a sidetrack, I'm not wild about imprisonment for lengthy periods being one of those sanctions, especially under conditions which largely amount to constant degradation and/or torture, as our current prison system seems to. I'd much rather see more minor offenses punished with community service of varying degrees of onerousness, while serious transgressions would be punished with either exile or execution. I used to be all for the Heinleinian notion of public floggings for minor offenses, as seen in STARSHIP TROOPERS and a few of his latter-life novels, but I've come to believe that a society that tolerates the torture of its members for any reason is unconscionable.)

With the above in mind, the question becomes, should gratuitously cruel behavior towards lesser order beings be defined as anti-social to the point where sanctions are prescribed for it by society?

Certainly, Vick's actions are offensive to our sensibilities as moral, civilized, rational people. Yet many moral, civilized, rational people find other things, ranging from tattoos and body piercings up through recreational use of chemicals and non-mainstream sexual behavior, to be offensive. But to offend someone, or a great many someones, meets no particular burden as to being judged anti-social, much less, anti-social to a point where sanctions must be imposed.

This is one of the mistakes that many in mainstream society make near-constantly -- that if something has offended them, it has in so doing also legitimately attacked or harmed them, and not only do they as individuals have a right to respond with an attack that may or will do actual harm, but that society has a positive duty to sanction their violent response (but never the original action that offended them, thus justifying their response) but also to sanction the original offensive action in such a way as to make those it has offended 'whole'.

There is no basis for this in any reasonable civil theory; to be an adult is, in large part, to have reached a level of maturity where we can accept offense without becoming violent, because we expect similar tolerance from others of any behavior of ours that may offend without actually harming them.

Having said all that, we Americans have embraced certain lesser order beings as, effectively, 'junior citizens'. In our society, only dogs and cats universally meet this burden. (Many horse lovers regard horses in this way, but nobody buries a horse in their backyard with a little cross made out of popsicle sticks as a marker, and society as a whole feels no umbrage at horses being turned into dog and cat food. Many kids with pet rabbits would insist that rabbits are people, too, but our society does not share those feelings. We are horrified, as a society, at the thought of dogs and cats being served in Asian restaurants, for example, although in many other parts of the world, including large parts of Asia, dogs and cats have not aspired to the emotional status of honorary human beings, and are therefore regarded as legitimate foodstock.)

If Vick had been enmeshed in a surreptitious cockfighting enterprise, I suspect society's response would have been, at best, indignation and disdain, rather than horror and outrage. And said indignation and disdain would not have been intense enough to finish Vick as a star NFL quarterback. His worth to our society as a skilled professional entertainer respected by millions would have been enough to carry him through. He would have faced minor sanctions, but a public display of contrition and a hefty fine would have ended the matter. He'd still be playing ball this season, and my Bucs would be irretrievably once more condemned to the cellar of their division (and John Gruden would probably be coaching for Miami next season, or some college somewhere).

I, personally, don't want to be part of a society that condones or even tolerates gratuitous cruelty towards any living creature capable of feeling pain and incapable of forming consent to the receipt of said pain. And I do feel that sadism is degrading and spiritually corrosive to all participants, volitional or otherwise, although I will fight to the death to defend my or anyone’s else’s right to voluntarily degrade our spirits if it gets us off – that’s what civil liberties are all about, dammit.

But we will take as granted that those legally defined as adults by society can reach a state of informed consent to pretty much any condition or behavior on an individual basis (while noting my intense objection to the concept that any grouping can vote as a majority to give up all individual civil liberties for that grouping, including the minority who vote against said voluntary suspension of individual freedoms). Accepting this, we are still left with a large group of non-adult society members which cannot consent to be degraded or abused, and which therefore have to be protected from such actions and behaviors. Do we limit that group simply to human children, or should the law extend the lesser rights/privileges of human children to non-human orders like animals?

Obviously, certain entrenched financial interests would not want to see any sort of privileged or entitled status extended to, say, cattle, poultry, or swine. (I’ve already said Vick could have gotten away with cockfighting with far fewer sanctions against him; if he’d trained cows or pigs to battle each other to the death, would he have had similar partial immunity to social blowback?) But nobody makes any money off the slaughter of dogs and cats; in fact, many make a great deal of money out of pampering these ‘junior citizens’. Given that, are legal sanctions that protect these honorary humans objectionable? Probably not; the real hypocrisy most likely lies in the fact that so few are willing to acknowledge that we feel such protections should only be extended to dogs and cats, and that reluctance will keep us from writing our laws to that specific extent... but will also keep our institutions from enforcing said broadly written laws to protect, say, swine being raised in iron incubatory crates.

I don’t know. In the end, Vick’s behavior deeply, deeply offends me, and I suspect it reflects some serious, and potentially dangerous, flaw in the man’s psyche. But I do not believe in criminalizing actions that are not egregiously anti-social, and Vick’s actions in this regard do not seem to do any notable, palpable harm to any human individuals, or to human society as a whole. The question then becomes, should higher order animals be accorded human rights, in part or all? And if we say, as we clearly want to, “well, dogs should, sure!”, then, why just dogs? Or just dogs and cats? Why not cows, pigs, and chickens, too? Why not tuna and cod? Or snakes? Can you imagine any outcry at all if Vick had been training snakes to fight each other, and drowning the losers?

Others have argued that while animals should not be accorded the full range of civil liberties or ‘natural rights’ we accord to ourselves, they should still be accorded a primary, universal right to be left alone, or to not be gratuitously harmed. It’s comforting to think this, and I’m comfortable with it… but, still… does training an animal to kill another animal for the pleasure of human spectators arise to the level of an anti-social act so egregious that the state, or society, should interfere with it and impose sanctions against it? Only if we accept that lesser order living creatures have at least some of the same rights as human beings do. And if we do not accept this, then providing this kind of emotional status to certain animals reduces that status to a privilege, which the owner of those animals need not honor. Clearly our society as a whole does not want to accord any real level of ‘rights’ to lesser order creatures (otherwise, several billion dollar industries will have to shut their doors), and just as clearly, Michael Vick and his fellow dogbaiters do not regard the dogs they purchase for these purposes as ‘junior citizens’ or ‘honorary human beings’. (The scarier alternative is that Michael Vick and his fellow dogbaiters simply don’t care about such things and, if the law would allow it, they would happily purchase and train human children to participate in gladiatorial combats for their own gratification and amusement. But I’m not sure that’s germane to this discussion… although equally, I’m not sure it isn’t. Surely no one wants to live in a world where unwanted toddlers can be bought and raised to kill each other in arenas while depraved audiences root and bet; do we want to be part of a society where people who would do such a thing if they could, but who are forced to settle for using dogs as substitutes, walk freely and without sanction on such activities?)

In the end, I’m left with the profoundly uncomfortable conclusion that the State should damn well let Michael Vick and his fellow sociopaths buy, train, and murder all the animals they want, if that’s what they want to do. I can only console myself that I am equally uncomfortable with the idea of free speech for Illinois Neo-Nazis, too, and I’m sure that’s a civil necessity.

Having said all this, our culture does regard dogs and cats as honorary human beings, and even if there were no actual laws against animal cruelty in our culture (as there probably shouldn’t be, until we are willing to practically extend the rights those laws imply to all animals equally), I would like to think that Vick’s dogbaiting activities, once revealed, would have created such a level of opprobrium against him even among football fans that the Falcons would have been forced to fire him (or pour millions into a campaign to educate people out of their hatred of animal torturers; good luck there, fellas).

In the end, I think I'll stick with this. People, including me, certainly want Vick, and anyone else like him in this regard, to be punished for murdering puppies who won't kill other puppies for their entertainment (or who don't do it well enough). It offends us on a very basic level, and to that extent, I think that makes us better human beings (certainly, better human beings than Vick and his ilk). But I certainly don't want the State to act simply because someone (or even a lot of someones) are offended by something; that road leads to gays being sent to re-education camps, spouses being stoned for adultery, and, ulp, people like me being exposed in stocks for the kind of material we read and/or write (or, ultimately, for the grievous thought crime of reading and writing at all). No, thank you. Vick can do what he wants with his puppies, and I'll continue to do what I want with my brain, and we'll call it even... least, until one of his pit fighting champions gets loose and mauls someone. Then I'll be happy to throw the fucker in jail.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's the way of things

We're on the brink of War with Iran, and, just maybe, a global nuclear holocaust. Our national economy is tottering on the far edges of total collapse, with the Chinese about to dump their T-bills, the U.S. housing market imploding into an immeasurable financial black hole, and worldwide energy production circling the drain. Our planet's refrigeration system is steadily melting down, which will lead, maybe by next summer, to a worldwide cataclysm of nearly unimaginable proportions. Our environment is so full of toxins that most of us need to take over the counter or prescription allergy meds every single day just to keep breathing freely, and our cancer rates are so frightening we just don't want to think about it, and it's getting worse, not better, every minute of every hour of every day. Our personal freedoms and civil liberties come closer and closer to extinction every time Congress votes on something. We are, in fact, living in pretty much an entirely totalitarian police state, right now... and the darkness just keeps getting darker.

It's a bad time, neighbors... in fact, it's just about the worst time I can remember living through. Exacerbating all of this is that our day to day existence is almost calculated by the Powers That Be to mask all the symptoms of the various fevers that are raging through our civilization, society, and culture right now. We aren't going to wake up to how this shit actually impacts any of us until our electricity goes out and stays out, or until local law enforcement, accompanied by one or two guys in jackets that read HOMELAND SECURITY instead of LOCAL PD, kick down our doors, or our house heads for Oz on the back of a Category 5 hurricane, or all the banks shut down at once and we find ourselves with no money in our wallets, no plastic that works, and a million creditors, just as desperate as we are, clamoring for cash we don't have any more.

See, that's just how we are. The four or five of you that read this will nod your heads gravely and say "Absolutely, things are awful, it's terrifying, somebody should DO something". But all of you also felt deeply and genuinely reassured when I wrote that the planetary catastrophes arising from global warming could occur as soon as next summer... because, p'shaw! Next summer? That's ten or eleven months away! That will take care of itself; shit, the whole second season of Heroes will be over by then!

Working can wait... this is paradise...

It's just how we are.

Somebody will do something. Congress. Al Gore. Benevolent aliens. Superman. Somebody. Not me. Not us. Our job is to sit on our asses and watch crappy TV and buy what the sponsors tell us to buy.

I'm as bad as anyone. What do I do? Collect Unemployment. Worry about my kids' teeth. Pay bills. Help a buddy find an apartment. Sign electronic petitions advocating the impeachment of Dick Cheney on the Internet. Bitch about things on my blog. Fantasize about what I'd do, if I just had the power of Jehovah for five minutes. (First thing: step outside conventional time and space, so I have longer than five subjective minutes to think about stuff. Second thing... hmmmm. Don't rush me.)

I just... I don't know what to do. In April of 2006, Arthur Silber, perhaps the most eloquent voice of sanity and reason in the blogosphere, proclaimed that "What we desperately need is a hero". He went on to say:

What we desperately need is a hero -- either an individual or a group, or some combination of both. It is entirely possible that it would require only one individual of national prominence to state the issues clearly to the American public. He or she could give a series of speeches and press conferences, preferably starting tomorrow. I still hope and would like to think that, if the issues were made unmistakably plain, enough Americans would respond.

And here, again, we see it. Our best and our brightest commenter and analyst, and what is he calling for? For someone else (Superman, maybe) to save us all.

I don't know what to do.

I don't know if anyone out there knows what to do.

I do know that if the American people could feasibly save ourselves, and the rest of the world, by rolling up our sleeves, pulling together, and giving up... anything... individual auto ownership... mass consumption of artificial substances whose toxic byproducts continually poison the planet more and more intensely every day... our insanely gluttonous appetite for energy... red meat... low prices at Wal-mart supported entirely by cheap energy and slave labor... ANYthing that might conceivably make any significant difference at all... well... the world would be doomed, because we won't do it.

Sacrificing things is somebody else's job. After all, the American way of life is not negotiable.

This is why the current Administration has been very careful to never, never, never ask or demand that the American people sacrifice anything. They know us very well, and they know they can steal and/or destroy everything vital to us as a free people... as long as they don't take away our cars, our cable TV, or our shopping malls.

And I'd planned to make every sentence of my opening paragraph a link, but, alas, one of the SuperKids is home from school and wants to get on the computer. So, consider yourself briskly scolded for your apathetic laziness, and now, go back to surfing porn or watching Rock of Love on VH1.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


So this week has gone by in a blur...

First two days, SuperWife was sick as a dog -- horrible migraine, debilitating nausea interspersed with blinding stomach cramps and generally enervating fatigue levels. Monday she was so bad off I wanted to take her to the emergency room but she wouldn't let me. Tuesday she was improved but not enough to go back to work. Monday was two of the SuperKids' first day back at school, but all I can really remember is worrying all the time about my wife, and being on hand to fetch her stuff as necessary.

Wednesday she felt good enough to get back to work. So life got back to normal and things started to accelerate again. I walked down the street about five blocks in something like 104 degree heat to pick up the keys to Nate's new apartment. Upon doing so, I noted that the tag on the keyring bore a different number than what we'd been told would be Nate's new apartment. Got home, got SuperWife investigating that. Turns out, the managing company had to make a last minute substitution. Instead of a basement apartment, which would have been nice and cool even in a power failure, Nate is getting a third floor slice of Hell that, should the electric go out in the middle of the night in summer, may well end up broiling him in his sleep.

We know this because we went over last night to do a little cleaning for Nate, and there was no AC in the apartment, although the electricity was on. Staying there for any length of time was just courting heat stroke. SuperWife called the managers on it today and supposedly, there are AC repairmen over there right now getting things fixed, and it turns out Nate has a window unit air conditioner anyway, so if worse comes to worse, he won't fry. But it's been just one landmine after another with this apartment rental company.

Nate called from the road and I advised him of all this just a few minutes ago. He has no cell phone and has a difficult time making calls... his call to us wound up costing me $17 on a credit card, as our combined phone/DSL/cable provider, surprise, surprise, has blocked collect calls to their phone customers... something I know from my time at the Sprint call center many third party phone providers do to avoid arguments over collect call charges, but which I had not known, until now, that our provider did. So he gave me his moving company's 800 number and had me call them, where I spoke with a refreshingly professional woman named Barbara, who got the address change taken care of with a minimum of fuss. She also gave me a rough ETA for Nate's stuff arriving, and confirmed that we would get a call with a better ETA 24 hours prior, so we could get down there to meet the guy.

All of this will certainly seem well worth it, and trivial, once Nate is here. But for now, and the last month or so, it's just been a grind. We're overjoyed to be getting Nate here and our lives will improve immeasurably from his proximity, but fate certainly hasn't made the transition easy. On the other hand, if we hadn't been here to do all this leg work (and the vastly majority of it has been done by my charming, beautiful, brilliant wife, and, yes, I am STILL the luckiest man in the universe), I doubt Nate could have gotten here at all. This has all been much MUCH harder to pull off than any move I've ever undertaken.

So that's all that. I also got a little surprise box in the mail from WizKids yesterday. See, a week and a half ago I finally got around to mailing them back a Starhawk sculpt mismatched with a Weapon Alpha base I pulled from a booster of Supernova back before Christmas. Usually it takes months to get a replacement figure from them so I was a little shocked to find a package back from them so soon. I opened it and found two figures inside -- an Experienced Aleta, which I already had (the REV set that Starhawk is from is a mixed sculpt set -- the rookie and experienced are Aleta, a female character who shares Starhawk's physical form with him, while the Veteran, which is very hard to find, is Starhawk, the male half of the Starhawk/Aleta team) and a Power Cosmic Dr. Doom LE, the mailaway from Supernova.

Normally I'd be delighted to get a PC Doom, since I didn't buy a brick of Supernova and didn't send away for the LE. But I'd already gotten one in a trade a few months ago. Still, he's a hard piece to get as he doesn't come in a booster, and he's going for $20 to $25 on Ebay right now. So I've offered him for trade on the WK board, and it tooks like I'm going to get four of the figs I'm looking for from AVENGERS -- Grim Reaper, Yondu, the Ultimates Captain Britain, the Ultimates Quicksilver -- and the Carter Hall LE from ORIGIN, which is the best plastic version of the Silver Age Hawkman I've yet seen. So that's all right.

Over HERE, though, I discover that my buddy Mike Norton also got a little package from WizKids yesterday... an advance booster of JUSTICE LEAGUE.

Yeesh. Some guys have ALL the luck.

So, according to the little paper insert in the astonishlingly lucky Orto's advance booster, here's what's in the set:

Batman C
Aquaman C
Creeper C
Firehawk C
Mento C
Heat Wave C
Icicle C
Lex Luthor C
The Joker C
Bulleteer C
Black Canary C
Crimson Fox C
Dr. Light C
Green Arrow C
Gypsy C
Bouncing Boy C
Parasite U
Firestorm U
Merlyn U
Black Hand U
King Shark U
Professor Ivo U
Toyman U
Chronos U
Dr. Alchemy U
Captain Boomerang U
The Flash U
Zatanna U
Zauriel U
Plastic Man U
Tharok U
Bronze Tiger U
Vigilante R
August General in Iron R
Deadman R
Granny Goodness R
Wonder Woman R
Batman and Robin R
Batzarro R
Hector Hammond R
Mr. Mxyzptlk R
Abra Kadabra R
Dr. Polaris R
Major Disaster R
Aztek R
Superman R
Hourman R
Dream Girl R
Shining Knight SR
Power Ring SR
Lobo SR
Amazo SR
Big Barda and Mister Miracle SR
Doomsday SR
Green Lantern SR
Time Trapper SR
The Flash SR
Batman SR
Wonder Woman SR
Superman SR

Those who care can see a great many of the dials here. For myself, I will just say that I'm overall very happy with the character selection I see in this set. A few are figs I'll have no use for (Zauriel? Honkey, please...), but all in all, this expansion seems to have a nice Silver Agey feel to it. The Flash's Rogue's Gallery gets a nice boost, we get several more Green Lantern villains, the inevitable Batman and Robin Duo Character (along with a less predictable, but still fun, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda Duo). The Legion pickes up a few more members, including the long awaited Bouncing Boy, and for a change, Seth didn't entirely screw up the Special Power on BB... although I will note that my definition of HyperSonic Speed, which allows characters to move, launch a Close Combat Attack, then repeat as necessary until their movement is exhausted, is a much easier way to deal with BB's attack style than the rather cumbersome and not often effective Ricochet power Seth has come up with.

Overall, the set looks good to me. I'd like to see some sculpts so I can tell exactly which versions of characters like Green Lantern and Green Arrow are in this set, as that will make a huge difference as to how much I like them. But, still, for now... and always with the codicil that dial design can still turn a character I'm delighted to see into a crushing disappointment, and noting that Seth seems to screw up 2 Special Powers for every 1 he does correctly... still, for now, this looks like a MUCH better set than AVENGERS.

Which is fucking intolerable to me, but, what the hell.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nood gews!

So, back on July 15th I got told that the new Astonishing Adventures cyberzine had rejected my short story THE CAPTAIN AND THE QUEEN because it was too long. Not a problem; I immediately submitted my much shorter, yet even more pulpy, tale THE ELDRITCH HORROR FROM BEYOND THE NETHER VOID.

I'd heard as regards CAPTAIN AND THE QUEEN within a matter of days; it occurred to me earlier today that I hadn't heard a thing on ELDRITCH HORROR. So I sent a follow up email, and learned within an hour or so that TEHFBTNV has been accepted for publication in the 'zine's first issue. Apparently, the editor sent me an acceptance notice a few weeks ago, but it bounced, and he did not realize it had bounced, but all is well now.

No money, which is a bummer, but maybe this will lead to something bigger and better, somewhere down the line. At least, John Rogers seems to think so, so, what the fuck.

It's always nice to be wanted, but I have to admit, it's waaaaay nicer to be paid. Still, I'll take any good news I can get, these days.

Hey, entry #6 on the Zero Comment Parade. I'm rollin'!

Life under the bridge, part 2

El Pusso Supremo George R.R. Martin snivels in his latest Live Journal post as follows:

I am, however, getting bloody sick of all the off-topic comments, and the trolls who use any LJ post of mine, regardless of subject, as another excuse to slam me about DANCE being late. I can't stop you from posting such comments, of course... but I can and will remove 'em, and ban the posters. LJ makes that pretty easy, I'm glad to say. And life is too short to deal with trolls.

It is, of course, Whinemeister Georgie's absolute right to delete any messages and ban any person he feels like from commenting on his blog, and I may well have already been banned and don't even know it. But it's interesting to me that Prince Hissy-Fit has chosen to typify as 'off topic' anyone who 'slams' him for being late with A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, a volume originally promised for (I believe) 2002, and whose current excerpt/sample, on his blog, carries a 2004 copyright date.

In other words, the book itself is five years late, and even the SAMPLE he has up was written three years ago.

Beyond that, while Martin has certainly seen some success over the years with his other writing projects, I have to assume that the phenomenal success of the ICE AND FIRE series has put more money in his pocket since the late 90s than every other project he has ever been paid for... perhaps even, combined.

All of which means, complaints that the latest installment of his book are late can never be 'off topic', because the completely unacceptable tardiness of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is absolutely the only germane subject when it comes to George R.R. Martin right now, and it is absolutely the only topic he should be concerning himself with.

Martin clearly doesn't like that, but what he likes and does not like is entirely beside the point. We ICE AND FIRE fans are the people who are paying his bills, and WE are the ones who will decide what is 'off topic' and what isn't, and he has only himself to blame for it. All his bullshit about the new NFL season, or whether or not there will ever be ICE AND FIRE miniatures or an ICE AND FIRE movie or when the next WILD CARDS anthology will come out, is stupid and pointless and, by definition, 'off topic'. He needs to be working on ICE AND FIRE. He needs to be doing that exclusively until the fucker is completed, or until he announces that he gives up and there will never be a finished ICE AND FIRE series.

It's interesting that he seems to think this attitude makes me a 'troll', though.

I've often pondered how one would legitimately define the word 'troll' in its Internet context, as it seems to largely be a word that means whatever a certain person is pointing to at the time, in terms of comments on a blog or other message board. I've been called a troll many, many times, and what I get from that usage is, a 'troll' is anyone who posts anything to any website that the owner/operator of said website doesn't want to read or be troubled with.

This seems to be the definition the perpetually tardy (and pissy about it) George R.R. Martin is using. He's tired of having people chide him about how late A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is, and he's certainly not going to bring the topic up, so anyone who does is off topic, and a troll, and he'll delete said off topic comments and ban said trolls from his site.

Still, I'd like to think that if intelligent, well meaning people of good intent got together to discuss the issue, they could come up with a more objective definition of the world 'troll' than simply 'anybody who posts anything I don't like on my website'.

It seems to me that if a necessary component of 'trolling' is personal invective. Someone who talks about a professional's work product, or about whatever the topic of a particular blog or a particular blog entry is, without lapsing into insults aimed at the blogger him or herself, is probably not a troll. Unless, of course, the person only seems to be hanging around a particular blog for purposes of being contrary... but even there, I think being a 'troll' is something beyond simply being unpleasant. I think, to really qualify as a troll, you have to be deliberately trying to fuck with someone (or someones) because it gives you personal pleasure to fuck with them.

Now, I do not doubt that Martin has many angry fans out there (I'm certainly one of them) and maybe a few of them have become so resentful that they would, indeed, qualify as 'trolls' by this definition... but honestly, I doubt it. There's little point to fucking with Martin simply for the fun of it; most of us who are screaming loudest at him to FINISH THE FUCKING BOOK FOR THE LOVE OF SWEET BABY JEBUS are people who are avid admirers of Martin's work. We don't want to fuck with him; we want him to finish the goddam book... and then write the next one... and the one after that.

And this is hardly out of line. If Martin didn't want to have hundreds of thousands of people screaming for the next ICE AND FIRE volume, he should either (a) not have written the first three so well and/or (b) have been professional enough about his writing to get the subsequent volumes out in a timely fashion.

Thus and so, Martin typifying every comment he gets in regard to DRAGONS' lateness as 'off topic', and everyone who posts such comments as 'trolls', is just more self indulgent petulance from a man so massively unprofessional that he not only can't finish a particular book in five solid years, but he's willing to blame everyone else for this personal and professional failure but himself... especially the people whose money he's been taking this whole time, and whose money he will continue to take, not just when he finally finishes the next installment, but whenever someone decides to market yet another ICE AND FIRE line of merchandise.

At first, last, and always, here are the only words George R.R. Martin welcomes from his fans -- slobbering, sycophantic adulation of the most utterly nauseating persuasion... and his own name filled in after PAY TO THE ORDER OF.

Anything else is off topic, and anyone offering it is a troll.

I gotta think, George R.R. Martin's reality must be just loaded to the gunwales with trolls, these days.

Postscript - as it turns out, I already discussed this general subject in some detail in this previous post, which is why I've belatedly hung a 'part 2' on this one.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sometimes, you just gotta say, what the FUCK?!?

So we were over at Comic Book World the other day and I picked up a postcard from the counter emblazoned with pictures of characters from something called Approbation Comics, which SuperWife advises me is a local comic book company. Hey, I'm thinking like the retard I often am, maybe they're looking for writers.

So I get home and I go out to and look around. Right on their front page there's a column of links, and among that column of links is one titled JOBS, so I hit JOBS and see the following text:


It's hard to break into comics (believe us, we know!). There are only so many books and companies on the market and a couple of hundred thousand creators who want to be writers, artists, etc. Of those hundred thousand the hard truth is a majority of the potentials are not ready for professional work. Either they don't have the necessary skills at present time or they are unable to work under a regular deadline and produce quality work.

Now do you still believe you are ready to break into comics? For some this is where doubt may creep in and that's ok. There are places available to help build your abilities and you can return with full confidence. Others may give up right here. Once you give up completely there is no help left. For the few who still want to face this industry now head on, continue reading:

Approbation Comics is a small indy company. We promise to look at each and every submission we receive, but please remember our primary job is to produce comics. Feedback may take the usual 4-6 weeks, or it may take longer depending on our workload. Rest assured if your submission is good enough you will receive a response.

And I’m thinking ‘oh FUCK yes, I will hit this place with so many spec scripts they will be picking their teeth with the things, because I have the necessary skills and I have the the ability to work under a deadline and produce quality work and I could even find a way to write that sentence without using the word ‘work’ twice in the same eight word stretch’.

So then I read further:

We are currently accepting submissions from talented Pencillers, Inkers, Colorists, Painters, and Letterers.

And I’m, like, oh.

This company is run by assholes.

Actually, even at this moment of which I write, I had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my brain that in point of fact, this company isn’t really run by assholes.

So I look around a little bit more. This company apparently publishes several different series, which rejoice in titles like CHAOS CAMPUS: SORORITY GIRLS VS ZOMBIES, CHI-SAI (featuring a female ninja sort who looks enormously like Steven Grant’s crappy female ninja character Whisper), VAMPIRES UNLIMITED, METAMUTOIDS, and AGENTS OF N.O.V.A., among others.

And… yeah… just as I figured must be true… this company isn’t run by assholes. It’s run by asshole, singular. Because, from what I can tell, every single title is written by the same guy, whose name happens to be Bart A. Thompson.

No other writers need apply. Nope. Good ol’ Bart is just looking for talented pencillers, inkers, colorists, painters, and letterers.

I probably shouldn’t call him an asshole. In fact, I frankly admire him. I mean, I would never in a million years have thought of setting up an entire company just to trick… er… lure… um… inveigle… eh… entrap… hm… okay, I mean, provide an opportunity to… talented artists and letterers, to draw and ink and color and letter my scripts.

Mind you, if I had the money to set up my own company where I was the only writer handling all the titles, I would be publishing things with titles like SCORPIO and TEAM VENTURE and PULSAR and FIRE-ANT and PARTISAN and stuff like that… not things called SORORITY GIRLS VS ZOMBIES or VAMPIRES UNLIMITED or METAMUTOIDS. And if I actually had the money to pay people to do creative tasks, I wouldn’t be the only writer; I would, at the very least, ask my old buddy Mike Norton if he’d like to write something for me.

But, still, these are minor and trivial quibbles, and there is really no difference between myself and Bart A. Thompson, other than the fact that I can actually write (but have no money to fund my own publishing company) and he has money (but cannot write a lick).

It’s always the way, isn’t it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More (better) Justice

Just when all seemed bleak with the upcoming Justice League set, things get a bit better. WK has posted pics and stats for two more figures in the set, and these two are as appealing as four of the previous were disappointing.
First off, we have what I believe must be the first (and maybe the last, until and unless WK gets a hard on for the Bug Eyed Bandit)Atom villain ever done in clix form, Chronos.

Now, I'm sorry, but if you're going to be a reader of The Miserable Annals of the Earth, you are simply going to have to accept that Chronos is cool. Yes, yes, you are. Because, yes, yes, he is. Okay, he's an Atom villain, and okay, he's basically a burglar with a clock fetish (well, he starts out that way; later on in his career, he actually sells his soul to a demon in exchange for time travel powers and becomes slightly more formidable) but, nonetheless, he's an old time Silver Age villain, long time Injustice League member, he has a really awesome (in an utterly retarded way) Silver Age costume, and, well, he's just really really cool and I cannot tell you how happy I am to see him included in a HeroClix set.
In terms of his clix incarnation itself, I confess to some minor disappointment that WK didn't have the balls to give us the true glorious Silver Age Chronos costume, with the incredibly fucked up pinstripe tights, red underoos, and really bright bright BRIGHT yellow cape, boots, and gloves, preferring the somewhat more cleaned up and subdued version from the early Modern Age. Nonetheless, I'm so happy to see a Chronos, and one with useful HeroClix abilities at that, that I'm willing to forgive what would otherwise be an enormous transgression against, well, against what I want in a Chronos figure.

In clix form, Chronos suffers from Maximum Attack Value of 9 Syndrome, but, well, he's a goober who routinely got beat up by a guy the size of a pencil eraser, so I'm okay with that. He's a fabulous support piece and will quickly become an essential part of any Injustice League or Society theme teams, with his three opening clicks of Probability Control, several slots of Incapacitate, and, most of all, his Transporter movement mode, which will allow him to automatically move and attack all the way down his dial (with a negative modifier to Attack Value) under WK's rules, and which will make him considerably more useful than that under my House Rules.

He does have a Special Power, which is, essentially, just Probability Control, with its effects restricted only to dice rolls that directly effect Chronos. It's not a spectacular Special Power (nothing like Doomsday's Unstoppable), but it fits the character fine. All in all, I'm very pleased to see this figure in the set.

Happy as I am about Chronos, that's a pale shadow of the joy I feel about this next figure, The Phantom Stranger:

First off, the Phantom Stranger is a character who's been around for forty years to date, and one I honestly never expected to see done as a HeroClix figure. And if somebody was to do him in clix form, I would never have expected him to have this good a dial, in terms of both appropriateness to the character and overall effectiveness.

I could quibble a bit about powers that aren't on the dial -- both Probability Control and Perplex would also be extremely apropos for the Stranger -- but I'm generally so pleased with what we've got here that, again, I'm just not going to quibble. 171 points will be a big chunk of any build total, but the Stranger will be well worth it if only for being a piece with the ability to heal your other pieces after they take some damage. Throw in a decent range and two range targets combined with the two powers that work best with multiple targets -- Incapacitate and Energy Explosion -- consistently high stats, good defensive powers to keep him in the game awhile, a lot of Outwit, and the Quintessence Team Ability that will allow the Stranger to act two turns in a row without taking damage, and that will prevent enemy Outwitters from countering any of his powers, and you've got one of the best support pieces WK has given us yet.

The Stranger is, alas, not a piece that will be available in boosters, but rather, one that I'll need to buy a brick and then mail away the enclosed coupon to get... which means, I guess, that somehow or other, I'll have to buy a brick of Justice League. I just hope the characters in the set continue getting better. Too many more figures like that crappy Superman or that horrible Aquaman and I may have to just resign myself to getting a Stranger off of E-bay...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Out with the old, in with the new

Today SuperWife bought me a couple of AVENGERS boosters, and I got a Giant-Man and a Black Panther, which is awesome!

You know what this has to mean to my HeroClix Avengers line up --

I also got a Baron Zemo, an Iron Widow, a Taskmaster, a Patriot, a Gargoyle, and a U.S. Agent. That's the stuff I didn't already have, of which I wanted... erm... ehhhh... well, the completist in me wants ALL the Ultimate figures so okay I'll take an Iron Widow, and all right I can put the new Zemo over with the Thunderbolts, and the new Taskmaster looks pretty good, and U.S. Agent is okay... but the Patriot and Gargoyle are detritus. And I also got an extra Piledriver and Wonder Man, my first duplicates from this set.

And now Super Adorable Kid wants to get on the computer, so I must go.

JASON BOURNE vs HOMER SIMPSON... who shall survive?

Warning: There are so many fucking spoilers in this blog entry that if you're the sort of person who gets all pissy and whiney about people putting spoilers into their blog entries, you should just take a pair of chopsticks and gouge your eyes out with them and then pop your eardrums with them and then tear out your tongue with them before you read this blog entry. Thank you.

So, okay, on Friday SuperWife and I saw two movies -- THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and THE SIMPSONS MOVIE.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM is just about the stupidest goddam spy thriller I have ever seen, but who cares? Yes, there are two separate sequences in the film where all a particular supporting character would have had to do to foil the evil enemy assassins is put on a frickin' hat, but never mind that. And, yes, the lead character, who has spent three films now being chased all over the universe by every CIA spy in existence, continues to refuse to even consider doing anything that would in any way alter his distinctively Matt Daimonesque features. And yes, yes, yes, there's the brain paralyzingly moronic sequence 2/3s of the way through the film where Jason Bourne manages to discover where the Enemy CIA Agent Who Is In Charge Of All Of America's Black Ops hides the Super Secret Bourne File by watching the stupid motherfucker through a telescope from across the street because the stupid motherfucker is too stupid to close his office window shades while he's walking around with a TOP SECRET file clearly marked CIA SPECIAL OPERATIONS TOP SECRET EYES ONLY in his hand.

It doesn't matter. On Earth-Jason Bourne, being a super-spy doesn't require intelligence or cunning. All real intelligence work is done by specially brainwashed operatives intensively trained in Super Ninja Kung Fu Shit, and they don't need to know anything about disguise or being sneaky or drawing their window shades or any of that fruity crap. In the Jason Bourne universe, super spies simply kill everything that walks, runs, limps, crawls, or even just sits there blinking in terrified awe within thirty yards of them. If the CIA is mad at you, they send out the equivalent of the Hulk in natty pants to fucking DESTROY you. And this works great, too, until and unless they are stupid enough to unleash one of their immaculately barbered neo-Hulks on the greatest and most immaculately barbered neo-Hulk of them all, Jason Bourne.

In the Jason Bourne Universe, Chuck Norris is a whining puling pussy-girl who isn't worthy to polish Jason Bourne's extensive collection of slaughtered enemy skulls. In the Jason Bourne Universe, if you encounter Bourne and he isn't trying to kill you, you had better do exactly what he says the instant he says it, because if you don't (and you're too stupid to put on a hat) YOU WILL DIE!!!!! In the Jason Bourne Universe, if you are foolish enough to do anything to enrage Jason Bourne, YOU WILL ALSO DIE!!!!! Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day, soon, and then every day, for the rest of your life. Piss off Jason Bourne, and Jason Bourne will beat you half to death with the soles of his feet, thrash you nearly senseless with his precisely plucked eyebrows, whack you in the jugular over and over and over AGAIN with your own goddam leather-bound first edition copy of THE PROPHET by Kahlil Gibrain, and then kill you by thumb rubbing your larynx at exactly the precise vibrational frequency to cause your eyeballs to be sucked into your esophogus by reverse peristalsis, where they will EXPLODE WITH A FORCE EQUIVALENT TO A THOUSAND HIROSHIMAS!!!!

And he'll do it all while Julia Styles stands three feet away getting totally hot for him, too. Which he won't notice, or care about, because the hot Franke Potente chick from the first movie is still dead, goddamit, and he will mourn for her forever, even as he's inserting his foot to the ankle in some covert NSA assassin's hightly trained rectum at 345 miles per hour.

Once you understand the basic premises of any spy thriller action movie taking place in the Jason Bourne universe, everything makes perfect sense... well, except for this one sequence, where Jason Bourne breaks into the Evil CIA Guy's office and uses tape on a gun pommel to get the guy's thumb print and a tape recorder to reproduce the guy's voice and manages to unlock the guy's very sophisticated safe so he can steal all the TOP SECRET files. This seems pretty foolish to me because Jason Bourne should have just roundhouse kicked that extremely advanced safe into titanium splinters and then plucked its former contents from within its shattered ruined remnants, as easily as you or I or even Molly Ringwald would snatch a bunch of grapes off a produce display at a supermarket. But what the fuck. Maybe he was tired, or something.

For all the sheer mindless stupidity of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (and I should note in passing that nobody in this movie ever issues anything remotely like an ultimatum to anyone else at any time), it's enormously fun and entertaining to watch Matt Daimon running all over the Earth constantly killing everything within a fifteen foot radius of him.

Now, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE was also incredibly stupid, but, well, THE SIMPSONS are supposed to be stupid, it's pretty much their purpose for existing, and I found this film to be even more hilarious than THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, and, you know, since THE SIMPSONS MOVIE was actually supposed to be a comedy, I was satisfied that this was so.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Justice leaks

Sometime next month, probably around the third week, we'll see the release of the next HeroClix set, Justice League. Over the weekend, WK snuck a figure gallery for the new set onto their website, with graphics of the sculpts, cards, and dials for five of the new figures -- Aquaman, Doomsday, King Shark, Superman, and The Joker.

Now, I'm going to assume that, like the rest of us, you're just too lazy to hit those links and look at what's on the other side, so let me do all that hard work for you, starting from the top, with some stupid ass pointless all boogered up thingamajiggie someone decided to hang the name AQUAMAN on:

Okay, let's go from the top. First, it may be unfair, but clix ain't just clix here at the Miserable Annals. If you're going to give me an Aquaman figure, it better be a figure representing an Aquaman I have some respect for. WK has given us two Aquaman figures before, and, well, to date they still haven't given me MY Aquaman, the REAL Aquaman, the Silver Age Aquaman as drawn by Ramona Fradon or Jim Aparo (in his own feature) and Mike Sekowsky or Dick Dillin, in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.

The Icons Aquaman is the closest to date, and even he's not quite right. Presumably, the Starro Attacks! figure will be the nearest WK is ever going to get to the true blue real deal Silver Age Aquaman, and, alas, he will have a mind controlling space mollusk plastered to his face.

So, WK is clearly determined not to please me with their Aquaman selection, and the horror above is just the latest salt they've thrown in that ongoing wound. Therefore, let us presume that, if I'm grading new figures on a scale of 1 to 20, this particular one has already taken at least a 5 point hit for being, you know, Modern Age crappy-crappy teen age Aquatard instead of what anything named Aquaman is supposed to be, and then, with that always in mind, move on to stuff like the dial.

Imprimis: the judicious eye, on scanning this dial, will immediately note Constantly Recurring Seth Johnson Deadly Sin Number One: Maximum Attack Value of 9. Remember Doc Nebula's Primary Rule for judging HeroClix dials: If Nine Is The Best You Can Do, It's In The Microwave With You. Couple this egregious (but, lately, all but ubiquitous) design failing with a sculpt that I would get near-orgasmic shudders of pleasure from watching melt down into goo through the window on the microwave door, and, well, things look bleak for our little plastic hero.

As an aside: Why in the name of sweet Satan Claus and all his evil elves would an entirely undersea culture such as that in Atlantis ever develop a frickin' SWORD as a hand to hand weapon? First, assuming that an undersea culture can somehow mine and smelt metals, and then somehow forge those metals into metal implements, wouldn't said metal implements rust away into nothing in about a minute? And second, you can't swing anything this big and clumsy underwater, at least, not as fast as they guy who is trying to kill you can lunge forward and get his hands around your throat, or your gill holes, or whatever, and third, in a world where everybody swims everywhere, the last thing you want is ten or twelve pounds of rusty goddam iron weighing you down every time you try to thrash your way through thirty or forty yards of water. I am aware that it was (apparently, I never read the stupid thing so I can't be sure) my old college buddy Slappy who came up with the idea of turning the Aquaman franchise into CONAN, KING OF THE OCEAN DEPTHS, but it's a really really moronic idea, and somebody should have slapped him hard for it and told him oh HELL no when he first proposed it.

(As an even further aside, I cannot believe that the guy who used to constantly mock Jan Strnnad's rather similar re-imagining of the Atom, back in the 80s, as SORT OF THE ATOM, would, two decades later, turn around and create his very own SORT OF ATLANTIS title. But there you are, I guess eventually it is inevitable that many of us will wake up one morning and find that we have somehow become everything we once despised, and are content that it be so, as well.)

Okay, now, if you look at that dial, you'll see two spots where I have boxed off several slots of Defense and Damage stats. These represent slots where this particularly chowderheaded version of Aquaman has 'special powers'. On Defense, he has a power called Parry, which if you look at his card, is defined as, "When hit by a Close Combat Attack, Aquaman can use Super Senses." All of which means, if someone is standing adjacent to this hoser and they manage to nail him with a punch or a kick or something, Aquaman can roll a d6 and 'parry' the strike on a 5-6. Presumably with that rusty length of iron he has in his hand, while it is pulling him down down down into the nethermost ocean depths.

Now, other than all the inherent stupidities with the very concept of a character like Aquaman having a frickin' SWORD, I have no objections to this; as a 'special power' it works reasonably well, and if WK ever gives us another (better) version of the Swordsman, it will be a trenendously spiffy special power for him. So that's fine. Aquaman's defense is pretty lousy on the slots where he has this power, so all its presence is going to do is make any opponent stay a few squares away and blast him into chowder with ranged attacks, but, still, the power is about as sensible as we're likely to see, on a character choice as dreadful as this one is.

But now let's look at the special power on Damage Value, called Telepathic Communication: "Aquaman can use Perplex, but only on [characters with the dolphin symbol]". There's also some verbiage allowing him to use his Perplex ability on ALL friendly dolphin figures within 10 squares that he has a clear line of sight to, except himself, essentially making him a Brilliant Tactician for fish, or something.

So, a quick search on WK's DC database reveals that Aquaman can actually use this power on the following figures: the rookie Animal Man, two other versions of himself, any version of Arcane, any version of Black Manta, any version of the Hypertime Changeling, the bystander Dane Dorrance, the new King Shark figure from this very set, some version or another of Vixen, and any version of Swamp Thing.

Throw in the Marvel Universe, and Aquaman can Telepathically Coordinate some idiot from the Serpent Squad, the Lizard, Man-Thing, Diablo, Hydro-Man, and a Morlock.

I presume he can also use his power on Abe Sapien from the Hellboy collector's set, too, if he really wants to.

You know, I truly love the idea of "special powers". I really, really do. But when you waste them on something as utterly stupid and completely pointless as this, it makes me want to beat my head against the nearest support pillar... or somebody's head, anyway. Why not give some Aquaman figure a special power that would actually be worth having, like, I don't know, a movement special power that allows him to use Charge with +4 to his Speed while in Water Terrain? Or maybe something that modifies all his dice rolls by +1 when he's in Water Terrain? That would be cool. This? For 68 points? This is a baby I would happily throw out with any bath water available.

On a scale of 1 through 20, where the Hypertime Black Manta gets around a 4, well, this Aquaman loses 5 points for being some strange form of Aquaturkey, another 5 for Maximum Attack Value of 9 or Less, 5 more for My What A Retarded Special Power You Have, Grandma, and then drops like 8 for being a guy who lives in a pineapple under the sea and who carries a friggin' SWORD with him everywhere... well, he's way into negative numbers.

Okay, let's move along to the next figure down, Doomsday:
First, Doomsday is without a doubt the stupidest character ever to appear in a Superman comic book, and yes, I'm including Vartox. Beyond that, Doomsday was the essential component to what was, is, and will probably always be the most utterly stupid superhero story ever done at either Marvel or DC, THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN.

Given all of this, WK simply isn't going to be able to win with me once they've made the decision to waste a slot in a finite expansion set along with several cubic feet of plastic and paint on any version of this execrable character. It doesn't matter what kind of sculpt the character has (although, I will point out, it is virtually impossible to make this godawful thing look good, given that in addition to being an appallingly badly conceived character, Doomsday also sports one of the most wretched visual designs ever set to Bristol board) or how useful a dial it might have, I am simply going to hates it, hates it, hates it FOREVER, and deeply resent its inclusion in any set, ever, under any circumstances imaginable.

Having said that, here's what we got:

First, there's no trouble with low stats here; Doomsday has the kind of attack, defense, and, on his first slot, at least, damage values that Seth simply refuses to give any other character who is not either an Ultimate or some sort of god. And when it comes to special powers, well, Seth has done himself proud -- on his third Defense slot, and then again on his seventh, Doomsday has a power called UNSTOPPABLE: Doomsday can use Invulnerability. When you turn Doomsday's combat dial as a result of him taking damage, stop turning the dial when Unstoppable appears in the stat slot.

This is a fabulous special power; Invulnerability the way it should be -- not only is damage from an attack reduced to some degree, but no matter how much gets through, if you hit a slot with this power on it, you just stop turning the dial, no matter how much damage may remain to be done.

If the new Superman figure from this set had this power every two or three damage slots, he would be the greatest Superman figure ever designed and nobody would ever want to play any other version. A Superman with such a power on, say, his third and his sixth power slots would be a far, far more accurate depiction of the Superman we've seen in comics for the last seventy five years than anything WizKids has given us to date. Superman should absolutely have this power.

But, when we get to Superman's write up in this set, you will see that he does not get this special power, or anything like this special power, instead, he gets... but, well... we'll be there soon enough, and it will be a horror, and sufficient unto the paragraph the bullshit thereof, etc etc etc. For now, let me say that this is a wonderful special power, a fabulous special power, and if it weren't utterly wasted on perhaps the very worst character ever to be published by National Comics or Time-Warner Publications, up to and including Ace the Bat-hound and/or nearly anything that has ever been named Azrael, I would be entirely delighted that this power now exists.

As it is, however, on a scale of 1 to 20, and trying to disregard just how appallingly offensive I find the very existence of this character to be, well, I would say, for 261 points, this figure is 11 slots of rompin' stompin' unstoppable nigh invincible fury and I'm still giving it a 0 because I hate Doomsday so very, very much, but even at a 0, this figure is way WAY better than Aquapunk, above.

So, next we have King Shark. I don't know who King Shark is; I thought he must be Green Lantern's old villain The Shark gone all pretentious, and that would have been at least mildly cool, but when I peruse his card, I discover that no, apparently he's some appalling shark god creature from the Modern Age and therefore he can kiss my ass, backwards and forwards, in parallel dimensions, and while traveling through time.

Still, for whatever he may be worth, and it's not much, here he is:

Leaving aside that this is a stupid, pointless character I don't care about, for 100 points, you get 8 slots of mostly mediocre stats. King Shark's defense value starts out quite good at 18, but shelves off quickly once he does get tagged. He's got two opening clicks of Charge to make him somewhat mobile, although an average Speed of 8 is no real help there, and on those Charge clicks he's got Blade/Claws/Fangs, giving him a chance at rolling very high damage. Given that his base damage value on these clicks is 3, though, you have to be livin' large and hoping to beat the odds to substitute a d6 roll for those 3 guaranteed clicks of damage. His third slot is arguably his best, with Close Combat Expert lifting a 2 damage value to a guaranteed 4 if he hits someone with a Close Combat Attack, his attack remains at the best it will ever be (9), and his Speed is also still at its optimum 8 with Charge.

Let Aquadipshit use his weird aquatic Perplex powers on King Shark and you may get enough bang back for your buck to make him worthwhile, but that's also 168 points for a couple of characters that the AVENGERS set's Ultimates Iron Man could most likely take out in two turns each from ten squares away. Given that this character coulda and shoulda been the real Shark, well, as the man says in the song, I am not impressed. On a scale of 1 to 20, drop 5 for Maximum Attack Value of 9 or less, drop another 5 for crappy character selection, and yet another 5 because he's wearing a grass skirt, for the love of jebus. Add 5 back in for four opening clicks of Charge, and at a solid, utterly mediocre 10, the lamentable and ludicrous King Shark is, so far, rocking the entire JUSTICE LEAGUE expansion.

Next up, it's Captain Bullshi -- er, I mean, Superman! Every new DC set gives us yet another version of Superman, although, honestly, they'll never be able to give us a better Superman than the Icons REV, so they should just give it up. Still, sometimes WizKids makes a decent effort and you have to give them some props. Just not this time, unfortunately.

Here's the haps:

First, yeah, okay, I know the set is called JUSTICE LEAGUE, but for 226 points, I need to see some Superman Team Ability action on my Superman dial. The piss poor pud wallopin' JLA team ability simply will not do. One free movement that doesn't count against my movement total for the turn, as compared to, I ignore all effects of Hindering Terrain? Sorry, Charlie, simply on the basis of the Team Ability alone, this Superman is already circling the drain. I'll be generous and only knock him down 5 points for the lousy TA, which doesn't even begin to reflect how disappointing that TA choice really is.

Now let's get a look at that dial. Okay, he's got an Attack Value higher than 9; in fact, he's got 4 straight slots with a 10. For a Seth Johnson dial design, this is astonishing and delightful, like being beaten unconscious by the world's meanest coal miner and then waking up with your dick in Eliza Dushku's mouth and her seeming happy to have it there, too, but still, this is SUPERMAN, and 226 em-effing points of his bad blue ass at that.

Accuse me of moving the goal posts if you must, but for SUPERMAN, the Man of Steel, the primal superheroic icon and the ultimate alpha male, well, for the Man of Tomorrow and Jimmy Olsen's Pal, I will damn well put those goal posts on motorized roller skates and zip the little bastards all over the horizon. A maximum 10 Attack Value for 226 points of Kal El, the Last Son of Doomed Krypton? This shall not stand. I fart in his general direction, his mother was a window dresser, and his father smelt of elderberries.

Still, he's only losing 5 points for that. His other stats are solid or even exemplary (his Defense Values are amazing) and his powers are, well, typical Superman stuff -- Hypersonic Speed, Charge, Force Blast, Super Strength, Impervious, Invulnerability, Close Combat Expert. I especially like the fact that his first 7 slots of a 10 slot dial have movement powers of some sort on them, making him a very mobile, very useful piece, especially when his HyperSonic Speed is coupled with his 10 range value. Ranged damage is mediocre on those HSS clicks (and it's worth noting that HyperSonic Speed works very differently under my House Rules, so he'll be a very different game piece should I play him) but still, all told, if this was all there was to the JUSTICE LEAGUE Superman, I'd knock another two or three points off for the unfortunate resemblance to Brandon Routh and he'd finish out with an 8, maybe a 9, which is pretty respectable given how generally shitty the First Five have been so far.

But... well. This Superman has a special power. Now, after that amazing Unstoppable power that Doomsday got, you'd think Seth would be bringing his A+ game to the greatest superhero of all time, and, unfortunately, you'd be jaw droppingly, mind bogglingly, eye poppingly wrong. Superman's Special Power, the first Special Power that the first superhero ever has had in this game -- is -- SELF SACRIFICE: When a friendly character adjacent to Superman would be dealt damage, you can instead choose to have all the damage dealt to Superman as unavoidable damage.

So, see, Doomsday, The Worst Character Ever, gets this really cool power where, no matter how much damage you do to him, when that power shows up on his dial, you JUST STOP DEALING DAMAGE. Whoa, son! That's the spiff! And Superman... well... Superman, perhaps the greatest superhero in the history of the universe, what kind of nifty special power does he get? Well, on his final five slots, for his entire last run of Defense Value, when his Defense starts at a splendid 17 and ascends to a near Jehovahesque 20, why, you can throw your entire 226 point investment away by having your team's tentpole figure and invincible brick absorb all the damage done any friendly adjacent character! Yes, if you decide you just absolutely HAVE to keep your Experienced Hypertime Batman in play, or if your force absolutely cannot survive the merest subatomic fragment of an instant without your Veteran Saturn Girl, well, just keep them parked next to The Big Blue Boy Scout and he'll be happy to take the hit for them.

Basically, what Seth in his infinite brilliance has done here is design a Special Power that will allow damage to be done to a character whose steadily increasing defense would make him almost impossible to hurt otherwise.

Now, an argument could be made that this power, carefully applied, could allow a cagey player to advance his Superman figure from one slot to another, increasing his Defense Value by very judiciously having him take one or two points of damage that would otherwise go to an adjoining ally. I don't buy that, though. If this power were on the first six or seven of Superman's slots, I could almost see employing it to keep a useful friendly figure in the game longer without hurting Superman's effectiveness too much, but pushing a 226 point character closer and closer to KO when he's already at most 5 clicks away is just nuts. Making such a suicidal capacity into a Special Power is absolutely insane, and again, when you compare this worthless and utterly demented 'ability' to the special power Doomsday got, buddy, I'm telling you, there is no choice but to subtract at least another five points from Superman's final score.

Which means, we're knocking off 5 points for the bullshit TA, another 5 for a Maximum Attack Value more suitable to the Fist of Khonshu than the galaxy's ultimate alpha male, 5 more (which is being really kind) for that stinkalicious 'special power', and, lastly, another two points because the sculpt looks like Brandon Routh. Where does that leave us? With a Superman who scores, on a scale from 1 to 20, a solid 3.

I should probably add a few points back in because he's got all that mobility and a great range, but, damnit, this is Superman, and a 226 point Superman, at that. He needs much, MUCH more for those kind of points, and the JLA TA and that special power are really unforgiveable. He's lucky to get a 3.

Next -- look! Up in the sky!

It's -- the Joker!

In -- a bath robe!

I actually have nothing really bad to say about this figure. It's from a story I've never read and probably wouldn't like if I did, and this isn't what I think of as a particularly interesting version of the Joker, but, on the other hand, if you're going to do an omnipotent sociopath with a truly maniacal sense of humor, well, this is pretty much how you do it.

Seth's done a fabulous job on this piece -- great stats, an excellent spread of powers, imaginative design, and no less than three special powers that really work well. At 199 points, this particular version of the Joker makes the similarly themed Red Skull from AVENGERS look like a very small pile of dogshit indeed.

From 1 to 20, well, I can drop 3 points off the figure simply because it's not a version of the Joker I particularly like. But that's all I can find to bitch about, and with a score of 17, that makes this Joker the best thing I've seen so far in JUSTICE LEAGUE, hands down.

I have to hope that this set gets better, because from what little I've seen to date, this expansion is on its way to being as big a disappointment as AVENGERS.

And that's, you know, hard.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Faster, Cyclone!

Snapshots from my recent life:

* * * So I'm watching THE ADDAMS FAMILY movie this afternoon, because I haven't seen it in a really long time, and there's a knock on the door, and I open it and am delighted to see SuperDrama Teen, who has been staying at her Bio-Dad's with her two younger sisters since Sunday night. And without thinking about it I blurt out "It's my child!" To which she said "It is!" And then Bio-Dad his damn self steps into view. Heh. Bet he just hated hearing that. Now, if I'd known he was nearby I'd have said something different, but, on the other hand, I love it when a plan comes together.

* * * Watching THE ADDAMS FAMILY, I was struck by a couple of things. One is, that snotty Girl Scout who shows up and offers to buy some of Pugsley and Wednesday's lemonade, if they will buy some of her Girl Scout cookies? Mercedes McNab, baby. (I watched the end credits carefully and confirmed it.)

Secondly, a week or so ago I caught about ten minutes of a movie that turned out to be Rob Zombie's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS on Showtime. I was so struck by the utter depravity of the brief sequence I saw (a brother/sister psycho team torturing some poor family to death in a motel room) that I did a little research on the film, and its apparent precursor, HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, on the web. And I went away from that wondering to myself "Why the fuck would someone even make movies like this? What's the point? What would inspire that?" But as I'm watching THE ADDAMS FAMILY, it occurs to me -- if there really were a family like the Addams, well, it would be the family from HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES. In real life, the Addams would have captives chained up in the basement and they actually would lure people back to their house (or break into someone's motel room, whatever) and torment them to death slowly. I can especially that scary little Wednesday chick doing this, but, honestly, pretty much any of the Addams seem game for some random stranger torture/murder games.

Odd how something is funny in a whimsical, fantasy context, and becomes utterly terrifying in 'realistic' trappings.

* * * So we went to a local theme park last week and I lost SuperWife's cell phone, which was stupid of me, but, hey, I'm like that. Now today she finds out from her mother that apparently someone called her mother last weekend and advised that they had found SuperWife's cell phone and wanted to return it. All this, after SuperWife has spent the last several days turning off service, getting a replacement phone, and then getting service turned back on with the new phone.

I don't know what any of this proves, except, next time I get told to carry the cell phone, I'm going to put it in a pocket with a button on it, or something. Plus, if the guy trying to return the phone looks like any of the Addamses, or any of the Devil's Rejects, I'm going to counsel SuperWife to let him keep the fucking thing.

* * * Nate's moving here, and I may get to run my RPG again. That should be pretty cool.

* * * Nobody seems to want to hire me for anything. I had always felt that, if worst came to worst, I could go over and get hired back at Kroger's again. It would be a crappy job with crappy hours for crappy pay, but it would be something. But a month ago it seemed like worse had come to worse and I actually did go over there and get re-hired and after I nearly killed myself stocking produce for four weeks, they fired me. I know, I couldn't believe it, either. Kroger's FIRED me. If you could actually see some of the people who have been working there for years and years, you'd know how humiliating THAT is.

Still, all I can really say at this point is, I've been fired from lots better places than that.

I have managed to line up an interview for a small call center tomorrow, and we'll see how that goes.

* * * So I bought myself a booster of AVENGERS yesterday and along with a lot of relentlessly stupid Ultimates and Young Avengers horseshit, I got a Two Gun Kid. Which is pretty cool. I buy one booster, I get a Super Rare, and not only that, but it's a Super Rare I wanted, too.

* * * My wife's ex-husband's ex-girlfriend apparently wants to make all nice with us again, now that she's not dating the Evil Bio-Dad any more. I guess we're just supposed to forget all the incredibly nasty shit she's said about both of us, and all the incredibly psychotic things she's done. Me, I'm all about forgiving and moving on, generally, but there are always exceptions, and anyone who has publicly declared on multiple occasions that I can't be a good parent because I don't have a driver's license or a college degree is not anyone I'm ever going to want to be palsy-walsies with. I did want to note, though, that a few weeks ago she sent SuperWife an email solemnly promising she wouldn't read our blogs any more, and she actually kept that promise for a little while, but as of last week, our respective hit counters are back up, and, yep, it's all her... she's apparently found the stress of getting through each day without a little hit of me and SuperWife to be impossible to deal with. And, anyway, all it is is her solemn word she's breaking, again. It's not like that means anything. Obviously.

Now I know how famous people feel about THEIR nutjob stalker-fans.

* * * I imagine there's more I could talk about, but it's escaping my brain right now. At least I'm not blogging about Harry Potter, though. I saw something on TV the other day where this weeping circle of kids was abjectly begging J.K. Rowling please please please PLEEEEEEEEEASE don't kill off Harry Potter, and if she actually doesn't, to please please please PLEEEEEEEEASE write more books about him, and I'm like, jesus, you sad, sad fucks, get a life. And then I thought, where the hell are their parents, and aren't they ashamed of themselves, letting their kids grow up like this?

I'm trying to imagine any book series I've ever read where I would get on my knees and beg the author not to kill the main character, or to please please please write more installments. I mean, I'm a pretty serious bibliophile and there are some book series and characters I just love all to pieces, but still, if I heard that Barbara Hambly was going to write a novel in which she killed off Sunwolf and Starhawk, or that Lois McMaster Bujold was going to kill off Miles Vorkosigan, well, I suppose I would be a little bit taken aback. But I wouldn't grovel or anything. Fuck. I'm still aggravated that John D. MacDonald died 21 years ago and to date, no one has yet published A BLACK BORDER FOR McGEE, which was supposed to be the final installment of the Travis McGee series detailing McGee's long overdue death. Mind you, I like Travis McGee, but a little closure would be nice.

* * * So last night I'm watching that new FX show DAMAGES, which isn't bad, although every single startling plot twist I've seen coming five minutes ahead of time, at least. Anyway, the pilot episode was run commercial free, and apparently the local station feels like they have to make up for this, because they were cramming as many commercials in last night as they possibly could, with the result that, the last second or so of one commercial would be chopped off by the start of the next one, and since most commercials these days pretty much follow the formula of "something visually interesting happens for twenty nine seconds and then we show you the product in the last second", well, what was happening was, you'd watch the commercial, wonder "what product is this for?" and then, you didn't find out.

I'm thinking, if any of the sponsors were watching along with me last night, they must have been pretty unhappy.

* * * SuperWife just read some of this over my shoulder and she says that at least two of my kids would be sitting there begging J.K. Rowling not to kill Harry Potter, too, but I refuse to believe it.