DR YELWAR’S SOLUTION BOX!

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I’ve read the same article at least five times this week, about that moronic little cum-bubble who got fired for yelling vulgar obscenities at a female reporter outside a soccer game (which he didn’t even do, somebody else did – he just doubled down and defended it, adding a pathetic little flourish of his own, which was even worse). He lost a six-figure income, in an economy we laughably refer to as “uncertain”, for supporting Rape Culture on live tv.

The article (which wrote itself, which is why I read it five times under five different by-lines, the article self-replicates, apparently) goes like this : it starts out by saying that if you don’t know what this is about, count yourself lucky. Then it explains what this is about, this stupid “fad” and how it started and how it’s grown. Then it tsk-tsk’s a bit about how wretched our society is and rightly calls out the men standing around who did nothing. There’s perhaps an optional line that says “What about the children?” or “This is why we need sex education” but like I said, it’s optional. The End.

There are even people defending this spotty wee fuck-head, if you can believe that. They say he shouldn’t have lost his job because he did something “stupid”. That’s what they call it, his defenders, they call it “stupid”. And they’re right about that, anyway. It IS stupid. This story is so stupid, it makes the Ikea Monkey look like a play by Samuel Goddamn Beckett.

This story is stupid on a molecular level. It’s stupid when it wakes up, it goes through the day getting stupider all the time and at night, it falls asleep stupid and dreams stupid, stupid little dreams. And then it wakes up stupid again the next morning and the cycle repeats.

I am, in fact, glad this worthless parasitic little oxygen-thief was very publicly fired and lost his job. Thrilled, I am. Over-joyed, one might say. I’m happier than a 60s bubble-gum pop song, complete with a jangly chorus that’s catchier than V.D. Hopefully, his pal will also soon be toxically unemployed, just like him. I think it’s a good look for a pair of fucking scum-bags like these guys or in fact, anyone who would do such a thing. Fuck them right in the … ear.

In fact, I’d say punish them further, in a very simple way that would cost practically nothing and yet would metaphorically break something that it would be impossible to put a cast on. And it’s not just for them, oh no; this could be implemented everywhere, simply by enforcing existing nuisance laws. You’re not allowed to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded place, right? Well, you’re also not allowed to yell “SIT ON MY FACE!” or “SUCK MY COCK!”, either. Did you know that? It’s true.

It’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s guaranteed effective and it would address a serious problem in our society. If women are literally half of the population and they don’t feel safe? That’s a problem that needs addressing. We can even call it “Sensitivity Training”, if you like. “Community Service”. Whatever.

The idea is this (and you’ve seen it in every prison movie ever made) ~ they have to walk down the range of a prison, from one end to the other and back, while all the prisoners are in their cells. That’s it. There and back. A brief exit interview and then that’s it. That will simulate what it’s like being a woman in our society.

You’ve seen that scene in every prison movie, when the buss disgorges the new inmates and all the convicts in the yard all check out the “fresh fish”. There’s always a white-collar criminal or a kid who gets scared or something like that. It’s a cinematic cliché, like the guy in the war movie who wants to show you a picture of his girl-friend or the crew member wearing a red shirt. They ain’t gonna make it. Make that lesson come to life for these useless swine.

They have to hear every hoot, every holler, every cat-call, every threat, every obscenity, all at once, all for them, all over them. Maybe we can even reward the convicts for creativity in inspiring terror at the thought of imminent sexual violence. “If he pisses himself, you all get an extra pudding cup” or something. There’s a certain poetry in the language of criminals and what the hell. Everybody likes pudding.

I mean, why not? We all know what our society has become. Maybe it’ll work like a shock treatment. Guess what, pal? That feeling you felt, just walking down the range, feeling scared and vulnerable and objectified and in fear of your life and your safety? That’s how women feel all the time because of jack-asses like you.

Admittedly, it’s draconian but then, behaviour modification always is. Ask B.F. Skinner. Oh wait, you can’t he’s dead. Oh well. Anyway, it’s not like anyone actually gets hurt by this. They’re just words. We all love Free Speech, right? Plus, if it changes one mind, it’ll all be worth it.

In fact, we could try it out on, say, Bill Cosby. Maybe then he’d confess. And we can all have pudding.

*Dr. Yelwar is not an actual doctor nor does he play one on tv.

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ON FANDOM PART SIX – THE HOUSE OF IDEAS AND THE DISTINGUISHED COMPETITION

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It’s occurred to me that not everyone in the world has as extensive an understanding of the twin pillars of the American comic book industry as I. And since super-heroes have a strangle-hold on the box office for the foreseeable future and all the cool kids are binge-watching Daredevil, I thought I’d take some time to explain to any neophytes out there the differences in tone and style between Marvel and DC. I’ve had conversations with perfectly intelligent people who think Superman and Spider-Man are the same thing. They’re not, at all. “They’re both super-heroes, right?” Well, yes.  But that’s like saying “Remember that time the Blue Jays played the Boston Bruins?” They’re both sports teams but they’re certainly not the same.

First off, some absolute basics. DC is the older company of the two, started in 1935 as National Comics. Their first magazine was Detective Comics, featuring pulpy tales of gumshoes with colourful names like Slam Bradley in an anthology format. It was a first for the fledgling comic book industry. In 1938, Action Comics did the same for super-heroes with the appearance of Superman. Batman took over the lead spot in Detective Comics as of #27 in 1939 and he’s been there ever since.

Before comic books existed, there were pulps and penny-dreadfuls – lurid tales of spicy crime and weird horror. There was a pulp magazine for every genre – detective, western, sports stories, war adventures, you name it. The publishing industry realized that even little kids had nickels and they wanted those nickels and so the comic book industry started selling pulps to kids, picture-stories with the violence and luridness slightly toned down. And oh, how the nickels rolled in.

Since DC was first, they established a lot of the conventions or tropes of the super-hero genre – the secret identity, the hidden fortress, the pesky but plucky love interest. Most of these were cribbed from pulp magazines like Doc Savage and the Shadow, two direct influences on Superman and Batman, respectively. DC also had Wonder Woman, the first female super-hero to head-line her own magazine.

Marvel used to be called Timely Comics. In 1939, they debuted their first big hit Marvel Comics, featuring the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch. Timely was always an also-ran. They chased market trends rather than innovating. Timely’s other main hero of the Golden Age of Comics was Captain America and even he was slightly derivative of an earlier patriotic hero called the Shield (who was published by MLJ, which later became Archie Comics.) With me so far?

DC was the unassailed market-leader, since they were first. And they were ruthless in both protecting and expanding that market-share. They delivered a product, a very reliable product, month in and month out. They had a ‘house style’ – clean lines dominated their artwork, simple storylines and basic plots and motivations drove their characters. They were family-friendly before that term existed. More importantly, they had an unshakable status quo. No matter how outlandish the premise of the story, it would all be explained away and back to business as normal by the end of it. Superman got fake-married to Lois Lane all the time and occasionally other women as well and it was explained as a dream or a hoax or an imaginary story. This gave the frustrated writers a chance to make Superman be evil or Lex Luthor turn good or let Batman go back to the Old West or whatever.

After the war, super-heroes fell out of favour and both DC and Atlas, as Timely had renamed themselves, were putting out science fiction books, weird tales of science run amok. The whole industry was in a slump because these stories too were pure formula and readership was declining, due to the influence of television and puberty on their audience. Something had to be done and DC decided to innovate by looking back to the past. They revamped one of their B-List heroes, the Flash, for the modern Atomic Era in 1956, thus sparking the Silver Age of Comics.

Green Lantern got the revamp treatment next, then the Atom and Hawkman. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman stayed pretty much the same. The success of the Justice League got Marvel Comics, as Atlas/Timely was now known, to up their game and create the Fantastic Four. Marvel, though, was forced to innovate this time and the FF became as different from the JLA as is night to day. The FF bickered and fought, they were ugly, they didn’t have secret identities. Their stories weren’t formulaic, they mattered and weren’t reversed by editorial fiat by the last page. Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Their art was more dynamic, with shifting camera-angles and p.o.v.s. Their all-new heroes, like Spider-Man captured the public imagination. Spider-Man was an innovation because he was a teen-ager, not an authority figure. He was always broke because he wasn’t a billionaire philanthropist. He had problems, he had a sick aunt, he had girl trouble, his boss hated him. He also wore a mask that covered his entire face. Visually, he definitely stood out from DC’s clean-cut crew.

This outsider aesthetic informed the rest of Marvel’s expanding line – the X-Men were freaks, Daredevil was blind, Iron Man had shrapnel in his heart that threatened his life.  It was a formula, true but it was different enough from DC’s formula and moreover, it resonated in the 1960s. Marvel grabbed a lot of DC’s precious market-share by being brash, bold and different.

Marvel’s audience also skewed slightly older, more towards the college crowd. No longer were comics for little kids, they were for older kids, too. And older kids had more dimes (the price went up in the interim) and they developed a passion for their favourite characters and were willing to try something different (there’s that word again) and once Marvel was bitten by the innovation bug, they couldn’t stop.

DC abandoned their formula and started to copy Marvel’s formula. And as the 1970s dawned and the industry entered another slump, tastes changed once more. Weird supernatural stories became popular and Marvel’s jagged lines and heroes-with-flaws formula was applied to this trend as well. So we got Werewolf By Night, who was, unsurprisingly, a werewolf with problems. We got Man-Thing (DC had Swamp Thing, a shuffling mound of vegetation), who was a shuffling mound of vegetation. We got Son of Satan, a super-hero with problems because his father was Satan. And we got Ghost Rider, a guy on a motor-cycle with a flaming skull for a head. DC had nothing like that. Marvel’s grand innovation, that super-powers were sometimes as much a curse as a blessing, swerved deeply into curse territory.

They jumped on every other trend they could, too. Blaxploitation cinema brought the birth of Luke Cage, Power Man, a bad-ass brutha who talked jive and said “honky” a lot. (He once beat up Doctor Doom because Doom stiffed him on two hundred bucks.) When kung fu became popular, Marvel created Iron Fist and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. This was the Bronze Age of Comics.

DC was still trying to master the art of having heroes bicker amongst themselves. The Justice League comics of the 1970s read today as a bunch of people yelling at each other for no reason, like a group encounter session gone terribly wrong. DC had no demonic heroes (well, unless you count the Demon, who was an actual DEMON). DC was also frantically trying to innovate but always reverted to the mean. They tried to graft Spider-Man’s origin onto their own style of hero and gave us Firestorm. Nobody really wanted Firestorm though and together with the rising cost of paper, he was cancelled. He showed up later to yell at people in the Justice League.

The last great super-hero ever created was Wolverine. He represented a definite stylistic shift. He used violence enthusiastically, even killing his opponents, which was a big no-no for almost all super-heroes but especially DC ones. As part of an ensemble, his character – bold, brash, rough around the edges, just like Marvel itself – contrasted with the rest of the characters in the book and indeed, in the rest of the Marvel Universe. His back-story was also mysterious (until they over-explained it and it was revealed to be incredibly stupid).

DC never had a Wolverine and they couldn’t, really. He’d clash too much with their house style and their family-friendliness. But DC still envies Marvel and that’s why now Superman snaps people’s necks and Batman has machine-guns on his car.

So there you have it. I hope that cleared things up for you.

NEXT – INDEPENDENTS DAY

ON MOTHER’S DAY

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My mother’s dead. Let’s get that out of the way. She died in November of 2012, more than a month before the world was supposed to end. Remember? That stupid Mayan Prophecy thing, that world would end in December of that year? Yeah, well. My world ended a month and a half early.

My mom was awesome, AWESOME. She was the smartest, funniest person I ever met. Anyone who says “Women aren’t funny” obviously never met my mom. She was hilarious and feisty and as much as I’d like to say “she was never cruel”, that’s just not true. She could be more cruel than any villain, real or fictional, and it would hurt all the worse because I knew that she loved me but that I had disappointed her so badly, I practically forced her hand. In fact, she never physically disciplined me at all. She could do it with a look or her tone of voice. When my mother was disappointed (which was often, far too often), the temperature in the room immediately dropped by forty degrees and every heart sank into the pit of every stomach, all because of a sigh or the way she shook her head.

My mom always used to talk to people in line, a “tradition” I carry on to this day.* I once met legendary country singer Tommy Hunter while we were waiting in line for ice-cream because my mom turned around and said “Are you Tommy Hunter?” Turns out he was! I think I was four.

*I was in line at the grocery store today, buying a loaf of bread and, coincidentally, ice cream. The lady behind me in line had a package of liver (*shudder*) and a cake. Me, her, the lady behind her, the guy ahead of me in line and the cashier all had a good laugh about the juxtaposition of items and the combinations to be made thereof. My mom woulda liked that.

My mom took me and my friend Mark to see Star Wars in 1977. According to my birth certificate at the time, I was seven years old and Mark was five and not yet literate so at the massive credit crawl started, after the resounding crescendo that begins Star Wars (I refuse to call it Episode Four or A New Hope, it’s Star Wars, go fuck yourself, fan-boy), my mom had to scrunch down in her seat and whisper-narrate to Mark, as he could not yet read it himself. “It was a dark time for the Rebel Alliance …” she began and he piped up “WHAT’S A REBEL ALLIANCE?!” in the way that only a five-year old boy can. It didn’t get much better from there but once the movie started, we all (naturally) thoroughly enjoyed it.

On the subway home, I bounced around the subway car, re-enacting light-saber battles and clowning like Harrison Ford in a rare public display of youthful exuberance. This was normal in the summer of 1977. Everybody was talking about Star Wars.

Anyway, there was a guy strap-hanging near us, watching my performance (and in creepy retrospect, probably checking out my mom. I know. Ew.). My mom asked Mark, who had been quiet up till then, what his favourite part of the movie was. He thought for a minute and said, after careful consideration, “I like the … boogie.” The guy started laughing. My mom corrected Mark and said “You mean the wookie.” The guy laughed even harder, as the train pulled into the station. The guy says like this – “Don’t worry, kid. I like the boogie, too.” And he got off the train. My mom dined out on that story for years.

My mom loved Die Hard, the original Die Hard. I have no idea why. She loved New York City. She loved New Orleans and Richmond, Virginia and San Francisco, California. When she was a teenager, she went to visit her “aunt” (who was five years older than her) in Washington, D.C. It was raining and she got on a bus she thought would take her where she needed to go. She got on the bus and the bus didn’t move because the driver kept saying “Lady? … Lady? … Lady?”, until she realized he was talking to her. “Are you sure this is the bus you wanna take?” he asked. “Does it go to so-and-so?” she asked. “Yeah, but,” said the driver, “look around you.”

It was a ‘coloured’ bus. Everyone on it was black. And they were all looking at her with amazement. Why did you get on the ‘coloured’ bus, White Lady?

“You sure you wanna take this bus, lady? Or wait for the next one?”

She said “Oh. Well, it’s raining and I’m from Canada so if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to take this bus, yes.” None of the passengers objected and quite a few of them shook her hand. Her great-grandfather had been involved in the Underground Railroad, a fact of which I am eternally proud.

She hated bigots and bullies. She loved animals. She was kind to people, in a way I can’t imagine until after I’ve done it. If I see a woman with a stroller confronting a flight of stairs, I can’t help but help because that’s the way one should conduct oneself. One helps the less fortunate. Be that one. She taught me that. And if she ever taught me one thing at all (and she taught me everything), it’s that.

She was the World’s Best Baker. She taught me how to cook. She taught me to be fearless in a kitchen, not because she was always perfect but because she took chances and when they didn’t work? “You only have to eat it once.”

She could read when she was three years old and so could I. I presented her with a book called “What I’m Going To Do Next Saturday” and pronounced “I can read this, you know”. And she said “Fine! Read it to me, then.”, calling my bluff. When I finished the last page, after managing not to mispronounce words like ‘spaghetti’, ‘the United States Marine Corps’ and ‘evidently’, she smiled and told me to go play outside for a while.

That night, she told my dad when he got home from work ~ “Guess what? He can read. He’s THREE.” My dad, ever the skeptic, didn’t believe her until her saw it with his own eyes.

She survived lung cancer. When she was diagnosed, the doctor brought her in and said “Sit down. I have some bad news. You have lung cancer.” My mom said “Oh, thank God. I thought it was tuberculosis.” Then the doctor had to sit down, as she had never had a patient react in that way. My mom lived for 12 years after that, which is pretty good, when you consider they excised a tumour the size of a dime from one of her lungs.

I miss you, Mom. I miss you every day, every minute of every day. I can remember still what your voice sounded like and your laugh and your eyes. And every once in a while, I get a whiff of your scent or when you visit me in a dream, I remember how much I will never forget how much I love you, still.

Happy Mother’s Day.

ON BALTIMORE

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He didn’t even do anything. A cop looked at him and held eye contact for just a little too long and Freddie Gray knew, knew for a fact, that “here it comes again”.  So he ran and the one thing you must never do, children, is run from the police. That’s how you get a beating from law enforcement, because cops HATE to run. When they catch you (and they will), you’re going to get it and in the eyes of the cops (and sadly, most of Society), it’s entirely your fault. You provoked it, you asked for it, you must have been guilty of SOMETHING or else you wouldn’t have run away.

When they caught him (See? I told you) and “took him down” (reports are unclear but it appears he was Tasered and thrown to the ground while he was being restrained), they chucked him in the back of a van and gave him what is colloquially referred to as a “rough ride”.  They shackle you hand and foot but don’t bother to buckle you in and then they drive erratically so that you rattle around inside the back of the paddy-wagon like a loose screw in a tin can. Now, paddy-wagons don’t have padding in them; it’s a place of cold steel benches and dividers, it’s built solidly enough that even the enhanced strength of the mad or the drug-crazed or the violent and determined can’t damage it. But it can damage you, especially if you have no means to protect yourself from gravity or inertia.

He asked for medical help. He didn’t get any. They made four stops, drove around for a half-hour, all the while with him pleading for help. By the time they got him out of the van, his spinal cord was almost severed and his larynx was crushed. No more pleading for him. They took him to hospital, finally, but it was too late. He slipped into a coma and died a week later.

All this after Ferguson. All this after Eric Garner, whose crime was selling loose cigarettes. (Hey, that’s still a crime. The state needs those tax revenues to pay cop’s salaries.) All this after a hashtag campaign called Black Lives Matter. All this after a neighborhood watchman shot a teenager in cold blood and got away with it. Hands Up Don’t Shoot. I Can’t Breathe. Black Lives Matter? To whom, exactly?

We were treated to a look at Freddie Gray’s criminal record (mostly petty possession beefs) but we weren’t shown a glimpse at the records of the officers involved. (How many of them had Use Of Force complaints? How many of them had, if ever, been reprimanded and for what? We’ll never know.) Then the protests started, as they always do and they degenerated into riots, as they always do. You could practically set your watch by it.

The police tried to sell the line that he deliberately injured himself, which is not only physically impossible, it’s insane. They tried  to claim that they had “credible evidence” that rival gangs were in an alliance to kill police officers, which was another bald-faced and monumental lie. Having learned nothing from Ferguson, they imposed martial law and called out the National Guard after a few aging squad cars that were abandoned got torched by a righteously and rightfully angry mob. A few businesses got burned down, the media showed up and every talking head from here to Timbuktu used their valuable electronic pulpit to denounce the “thugs” (because you’re not allowed to say “niggers” on television anymore). Meanwhile, they devoted every pixel and minute of air-time to show “dramatic” scenes inside the “community” (you’re not allowed to call it a ghetto on television anymore). News-anchors struggled to find “meaning” in this, to find a “narrative” that would help them and their viewers “understand” why this was happening.

This happened because of a determined and long-standing policy of the Baltimore police department to criminalize an entire race of people. This happened because of decades of economic brutality that destroyed all industry except the drug trade. This happened because a cop took one look at Freddie Gray. One look, that’s all it took, and his life was over.

David Simon, creator of Homicide: Life On The Street and the acclaimed series The Wire, gave an insightful interview with The Marshall Project. In it, he explained how things got so bad in Baltimore. There used to be an informal, unwritten code that everybody lived by. Cop tells you to move along, you move along. You can call a cop a “motherfucker” and that was okay but if you called a cop an “asshole”, you were going to jail, because that was a personal insult. The code, he wrote, wasn’t always fair and it wasn’t always right but it was there and by and large, the cops followed it. Nowadays, there is no code. When the cops roll up, they just arrest everybody, regardless. They have been manipulating crime statistics to justify their budgets, even though crime has been declining since the 90s. The perception, the fear of crime, has steadily increased since the 90s. Mass incarceration has created an entire generation that is not only locked up, they’re locked out – locked out of housing, opportunities, the very pursuit of happiness itself. If I were locked up and locked out and shut down, I’d riot too.

A broken window apparently means more than a broken spine or a broken spirit. A burned-down building is a tragedy but a man dying for literally nothing at all is apparently something to be accepted as the cost of doing business.  Feel free to protest but don’t raise your voices because that’s not peaceful. Go ahead and march but don’t make white people feel nervous.

Today, they charged six officers with manslaughter and other offences. I don’t need to look in a crystal ball or read the tea leaves to know, to know for a fact, that they will be acquitted. I know it, you know it, we all know it.

What’s the difference between Freddie Gray and Nelson Mandela? Freddie Gray died in police custody.

THE CASE AGAINST DC COMICS PART FOUR

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Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve regaled you with anecdotes ranging from the very beginnings of the comic book industry and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve told you how DC Comics have swindled their own employees and acted without scruples as a matter of policy. I’ve shown how they’ve mismanaged and misinterpreted their own intellectual property on a consistent basis.  Please allow me one more because it’s one that I find is representative of DC’s cavalier approach to the creation of artistic content.

Who is Donna Troy? It’s a valid question that doesn’t really have an answer.

Donna Troy is Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman’s kid side-kick. What’s that, you say? You didn’t know Wonder Woman had a kid side-kick? Well, she used to.

I mentioned the Teen Titans earlier so perhaps I should elaborate a bit. The Teen Titans were like the Junior Justice League, made up of the kid side-kicks of other heroes (… and Aquaman, who sucks) – Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Chick (… I mean Wonder GIRL.) Scripted by the late, great and utterly crazy Bob Haney (who was channeling Stan Lee at his most frenetic), they were quite popular, at least for a while. By the mid 70s, they’d been cancelled and revived and cancelled again. They expanded their roster to include any young hero, not just side-kicks but poor art and spotty distribution meant low sales. They lay dormant until the early 80s when they were revived yet again, this time Marvel-Style.

The X-Men had been a perennial low-seller for Marvel and was almost constantly on the verge of cancellation until 1974, when writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created a diverse new cast (out of rejected concepts for the Legion Of Super Heroes, Cockrum’s previous assignment at where else? DC) and created the All-New, All-Different X-Men. They were succeeded on the title by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne who took their assignment to new heights. The X-Men were some of the most exciting comics of the late 70s and redefined the team dynamic while introducing the world to the character of Wolverine. The cast was diverse, the art was lush and cinematic, there was globe-trotting high adventure and moments of real character development. DC, always greedily eyeing the zeitgeist, wanted a piece of that success. So they dragooned writer Marv Wolfman (yes, that’s his real name) and super-star artist George Perez to do exactly the same thing Wein and Cockrum did – revive a moribund property by injecting fresh blood into it by any means necessary. And that’s what they did.

The New Teen Titans was an immediate hit, a fan-favourite book and one of DC’s best-sellers for a few solid years. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that that couldn’t last.

The Crisis On Infinite Earths was published in 1985-86. After it was over, Wonder Woman’s origin was substantially altered. She no longer ever had a kid side-kick, which left Donna Troy (and DC themselves) in a bit of a quandary. How could Wonder Chick (… I mean Girl) even exist without Wonder Woman? Wolfman had written an acclaimed story called “Who Is Donna Troy?” a mere year before that retold and clarified her origin that was now completely irrelevant. In fact, the entire run of the New Teen Titans was a contradiction of the meaningfulness of the Crisis, merely because of the existence of Wonder Girl. They tried to “fix” her by monkeying with her origin again, making her the illegitimate daughter of Zeus. Then they sent her into space for a while. Then they killed her off entirely. At this point, she doesn’t exist in the DC Universe, even though a small and dedicated group of fans still hopes for her eventual, inevitable return. Again, another viable character that they just ruined and threw away. To make matters worse, a female character, beloved by fans. DC seems to do that a lot to female characters.

They paralyzed Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and then brought her back as Oracle and then erased that and started over. That’s better treatment than Stephanie (Batgirl) Brown received; she was tortured and allowed to die. Cassandra (Batgirl) Cain was next; they broke her character so badly that fans are still mad about it a decade later. They killed off Supergirl in the Crisis and then brought her back as a non-human blob of goo. Then they mind-melded her with a teenage abuse survivor and gave her wings made of flames. Then they killed her off and started over. Black Canary was viciously assaulted in the Longbow Hunters, a prestige-format miniseries about Green Arrow and they used images from the assault in advertising for the comic itself.

It’s dangerous to be a woman in the DC Universe.

Their licenced products encourage little boys to be Batman-in-training, whereas the best little girls can aspire to be is Batman’s Girlfriend. They cancelled Young Justice, an animated version of the Teen Titans, because the audience skewed “too female”. There have been seven Batman movies, six Superman movies and zero Wonder Woman movies. There’s supposedly one in production but the President of DC (a woman, no less) has publicly opined that Wonder Woman is “hard to get right”.  No kidding. She’s the premiere female super-hero in the world, in the minds of the general populace, probably the only one they know. And a talking raccoon beat her to the screen.

In short, they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s as if General Motors all of a sudden decided that all cars needed to have five wheels on them and then changed their minds six months later because it was a stupid idea in the first place. You’d hesitate to purchase a General Motors vehicle is you couldn’t accurately predict how many wheels it was going to have or whether or not the radio only played death-metal at a volume used to break the will of terrorists, our new standard feature in all General Motors products. You’d be reluctant to slide behind the wheel of a car that was also a boat and was shaped like a baseball because that’s what our market research has told us that that’s what people want – cars that are also boats that are also shaped like baseballs that can’t go faster that 45 mph and don’t actually float. Did I say baseballs? I meant footballs. No, I meant baseball bats. No, not bats, helmets. Would you buy a car from a company like that? I wouldn’t.

In summation, I’m reminded of the words of Grand Guy Grand, the protagonist of Terry Southern’s satirical masterpiece The Magic Christian. Grand relates the advice of his father, Grand Guy Grand Senior, “Dad” Grand, as he was known. He was known to say “If you want them to play your course” Dad Grand was an avid golfer – “if you want them to play your course”, he’d say, pausing for effect. “If you want them to play your course, DON’T PUT ROCKS ON THE GREEN!”

Rocks on the green, ladies and gentlemen. Rocks on the green. It takes all the fun and enjoyment out of a lively round of golf when there are rocks on the green. So too with DC Comics. There are too many barriers and impediments to enjoying them anymore. The whole thing has become a joyless and tawdry money-grab that has spoiled my passion for my own hobby. That’s why I have a policy and that policy is this – “Never ever give DC Comics any money ever again.” I strongly urge all of you to do the same.

*drops mic*

THE CASE AGAINST DC COMICS PART THREE

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Jonah Woodson Hex was a bounty hunter and an anti-hero created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga. From his earliest appearance, he was described as a man with two constant companions – Death and the acrid smell of gunsmoke. His face was scarred, he wore a dirty Confederate uniform and they say he’s killed more men than Hell has souls.

His mother, Virginia, ran away with a travelling salesman. His father, Woodson Hex, was a mean drunk who sold his thirteen year old son into slavery at the hands of the Apaches. After he saved the Chief from a puma, he was formally adopted. Another brave was jealous and had Jonah ostracized from the tribe.

Like many a young man with no direction in his life, he enlisted in the army.  As a cavalry scout in the Confederate Army, he saw action up until the Emancipation Proclamation. Disgusted with war and pointless slaughter and now disillusioned with the cause for which he fought, he surrendered himself to Union troops. Unfortunately, his entire unit was captured and blamed him. A mass escape from their prison camp turned into the Fort Charlotte Massacre, of which Hex was the sole survivor.

After the war, he drifted back to life among the Apaches and was forced to kill his rival  in a rigged duel. The Apache inflicted punishment and torture on Hex, scarring the right side of his face with the Mark of the Demon.

Cast out once more, he became a bounty hunter but one with a strong moral code. He’d kill for a bounty but he was not an assassin. He took no pleasure in killing. He married a Chinese woman Named Mei Ling who bore him a son and left him, just like his mother did. At least she took the boy with her. Jonah Hex was shot and killed in 1904 while playing poker. His body was stuffed and mounted and used as an attraction at a Wild West show. They replaced his drab Confederate uniform for a more elaborate and flashy appearance. An ignominious end for such a fearsome and troubled man.

That sounds like it’d make a pretty good movie. Or a tv show, since most Jonah Hex stories are what’s referred to as “one-and-done” – self-contained, with no need for ongoing continuity. Hex meets the bad guys. Hex kills the bad guys. Hex rides outta town. Hell, it writes itself.

But that’s not what we got.

We got, for some reason, a Jonah Hex who can communicate with corpses. He interrogates the dead. He also has a Gatling gun strapped to his horse because reasons.

Go back and re-read the first five paragraphs. Do you see anything about talking to dead people? How about Gatling guns, any mention of them? No? I’m pretty sure that would have stood out.

So why make that … odd (not to mention stupid) artistic choice? Jonah Hex doesn’t have a damn Gatling gun strapped to his horse, nobody does. BECAUSE IT’S STUPID, THAT’S WHY! That’s not Jonah Hex, at all.  Jonah Hex doesn’t chat with the recently deceased, he’s the one who deceases ‘em.  Why even make a film called Jonah Hex if he’s not even in it? Come up with another name and spare yourself and the audience the humiliation.

And humiliation it was. The Jonah Hex film has a 12% score on Rotten Tomatoes. They wasted more than 80 million dollars on this piece of shit so that we could watch John Malkovich chew Western scenery and Megan Fox play a hooker with a heart of gold who wasn’t actually a hooker. Josh Brolin had just won a fucking Oscar and he starred in this turkey. Why?

Jonah Hex was cool, all on his own. Even his name is cool. He didn’t need an unnecessary, superfluous super-power or a goddamn Gatling gun. There was entirely no pressing need to even make this film. (They keep trying to make Westerns a thing again and that’s great and all; Hell, I love Westerns. But WANTING something to be a Thing and it ACTUALLY BEING a Thing are two different things.) Nobody was demanding this. Not even me, and I love Jonah Hex more than is entirely possible. They spoiled the character, wasted him, for absolutely no purpose at all. They handed everyone in the cast something to regret on their filmography.

Do you know how many school lunches 80 fucking million dollars can buy? I don’t but I bet it’s a lot. Can you possibly think of a better use for such a fortune? I sure can and I’m sure you can too. And who in their right mind looks at Jonah Hex and says “Hmm. Gatling guns are cool. Can he have a Gatling gun?” Now, Gatling guns ARE cool but that’s not the point. The point is Jonah Hex doesn’t use a Gatling gun. Even that time he got sent into the future.

Yeah. They transported him to some lawless, Mad-Max-style dystopian wasteland for a while in the comics. Apparently, somebody thought was a good idea too.

NEXT – THE CLOSING ARGUMENT

THE CASE AGAINST DC COMICS PART TWO

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DC has long had a relationship with utilizing their characters in other media such as radio, cartoons, films and television shows. The Adventures of Superman was not only a classic radio programme, it was also an important staple of the early years of American television. Even if you know nothing at all about comic books, the phrase – “Look! Up in the sky!” has immediate cultural weight. Plus, since Superman was the first “super” hero, the tropes and conventions that surround him apply to all super-heroes, from the flimsy secret identity to the pesky love interest to the secret weakness.

The Fleisher Brothers cartoons of the early 40s are not only masterpieces of animation, they actually set a lot of Superman’s canon in place. In the cartoons, Lois Lane is absolutely fearless and her banter with Clark Kent is actually reminiscent of the best of the era’s screwball comedy. Lois is a damsel in distress, yes. But she put herself there because she thought she could handle it. Superman only saves her because that’s what he’s there to do.

Kryptonite was actually an invention of the radio show, not the comics nor the cartoons. So are Jimmy Olsen and Perry White. Need to round out the cast a bit on a radio show, as radio is not a visual medium. Kryptonite was actually invented because the actor playing Superman needed a vacation. So they came up with the idea that a chunk of his home planet weakened him and he could be played by a random groan while the villain gloated, That’s exactly what they did and the actor came back, tanned, rested and ready to whip the villain, just soon as you get rid of that … Green Kryptonite*. (Other varieties of Kryptonite include : Red, White, Blue, Yellow, Jewel, Pink, Black, Diet and Decaffinated , Low-Fat and Sugar-Free.)

By 1943, Batman, Robin and Alfred were well-known enough to warrant an incredibly racist serial. Robin the “Boy Wonder”, appeared to be about 35 years old. However, it later provided the seed for Batmania ’66. Hugh Hefner used to show them at parties at the Playboy Mansion and a smart producer got an idea.

Superman got his spot on television first, though. George Reeves gave Superman a rare gravitas while crushing his dreams as an actor and even his life. His mysterious death I cannot comment upon. He was also in From Here To Eternity with Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra but everyone knew him as Superman. There’s a story that he once did a personal appearance in costume and a kid, eight years old, pointed a loaded gun at him and wanted to watch the bullets bounce off. “Superman” talked him down, saying the ricochets might hurt by-standers. “Gimme the gun, kid.” And the kid did.

Then there’s Batman ’66 (which I honestly love) but was apparently not as much fun as the senior citizens who used to be on it would tell you now. If you believe either one of their memoirs, Burt Ward and Adam West … enjoyed their stardom a great deal. West writes fondly of sexually harassing Julie Newmar, who shot him down, every time. Holy Inappropriate Behaviour! There was a theatrical film released, too, which gave us that hilarious shot of Batman trying to get rid of a bomb. Larfs!

You wanna talk cartoons? We got cartoons. Filmation cranked out cheap, half-animated junk narrated by Ted Knight (a.k.a. Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore show) and threw everything they had at the wall to see if it stuck. They even brought Adam West and Burt Ward back to voice cartoons. And the older people among you maybe remember the Super-Friends, the watered-down Justice League. Shape of! A FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON! Form of!  A BUCKET OF LUKE-WARM WATER!

There was a terrible live-action Shazam Saturday morning series in the 70s. It had a spin-off for girls, ISIS, which appropriated Egyptian culture around the time of the national tour of the King Tut exhibit. (King Tut, interestingly, was a well-remembered Batman ’66 villian played by Victor Buono.) At least they TRIED to reach out to a female audience. Nowadays, we try not to talk about ISIS and a female audience.

Wonder Woman had an early, strange tele-film starring Cathy Lee Crosby in 1974 (I remember watching it, as a little kid, going “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!”) before the got it right with Lynda Carter. It only lasted three seasons. It’s fondly remembered by millions. It was cheesy and dumb but Lynda Carter actually SEEMED like Wonder Woman. She sold it, the way George Reeves did, the way Adam West never could.

Then we have the Superman movie, 1978. Marlon Brando got an obscene amount of money for mumbling a bit over three minutes. Christopher Reeve (no relation) was note-perfect as both Clark Kent AND Superman. Watching it now, it drags and the effects look cheesy but between you, me, Gene Hackman and a hole in the ground, I’d say it was the best Superman movie ever.

They changed directors for Superman II. So confident of success were they that they actually shot I & II back-to-back but Donner left and Lester replaced him. The result, while very entertaining, naturally felt a bit disjointed. Don’t get me wrong, I love Superman II. Even the part when he tears his symbol off his uniform and chucks it at the bad guys. That’s the best part. That and the hypnotic kiss.

Superman III had Richard Pryor in it, for some reason. It was not very good. Little kids aren’t allowed to hear Richard Pryor talk, for a very good reason, so putting him in a Superman movie seemed an … odd creative decision.

Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, is one of the worst movies ever made.

Superman Returns. The one where  Superman is a dead-beat dad? I’ve never seen it all the way through. I fell asleep.

There was also a terrible Supergirl  film, starring Faye Dunaway.  As the villain, not as Supergirl. If you ever think “Hey! Let’s watch a terrible movie and make fun of it!” you might as well pick Supergirl. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Batman ’89 came in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns and was informed by the new, darker sensibility of Batman. Gone was the goofy silken cape, in was the leather and the spooky voice. Michael Keaton did a fantastic job with the material he was given. He did a sequel, which was terrible and then quit the role. It fell to Val Kilmer who also did the best with what he was given. He declined to return for a sequel so they cast George Clooney, then an up-and-coming television star.

That’s not when the wheels started to fall off the bus. They’d been rattling their nuts off for two movies. The nuts sprung loose when George Clooney played Batman.

Bat-Nipples, ladies and gentlemen. Bat-Nipples. (And that elaborate cod-piece seems to be compensating for something, if you know what I mean.)

The director, Joel Schumacher, took a lot of the blame but George Clooney freely admits that he killed the Batman franchise. However, they just chucked it in the Lazarus Pit of Christopher Nolan and Voila! Batman Begins, a dour and parochial take on Batman’s origin and training, a film that contradicts itself at will and telegraphs the eventual ending. (WE GET IT. THIS IS BATMAN’S ORIGIN. HE OBVIOUSLY WINS.) I can’t say a great deal about Batman Begins because I haven’t seen it in years. I remember not liking Christian Bale as Batman but liking him as Bruce Wayne.  The Bat-Voice was another … odd artistic choice.

This was followed up by The Dark Knight, the film that drove Heath Ledger insane, apparently. Not one lick of this film is really a Batman story, it’s more James Bond In A Leather Dress. It’s not really a very good movie. For all the flash and spectacle of Heath Ledger’s performance, the Joker is a weak antagonist and there are plot-holes you could cart-wheel a tractor-trailer through. The ending is both weak and ironic; Batman takes the Joker into custody but Heath Ledger died in the making of the film.

Ledger’s not the only one, either. The afore-mentioned George Reeves died under circumstances so mysterious, they made a movie about it starring Ben Affleck*. (*Ben Affleck has played Daredevil and Jennifer Lopez’s boyfriend and is soon to play Batman.) Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-backing riding incident and later died.

The Dark Knight Rises was it for me. A maniac massacred people on opening day and I honestly could not bring myself to give money to that corporation anymore. To this day, I have never seen the Dark Knight Rises and I never will. I didn’t see Man of Steel and I never will and it’s a good thing because I never want to see Superman kill anybody. Even the bad guy, especially the bad guy.

Let’s see, what else is in the DC Filmography? When Shaquille O’Neal played Steel, for some reason. Somebody thought that was a good idea. Oscar-winner Halle Berry played an off-brand version of Cat-Woman, for some reason. Again, somebody thought that was a good idea. Both of these films consistently rank among the worst films ever made.

There’s Lois and Clark. Remember that? Don’t bother. The less said about Smallville, the better.

Then there’s Green Lantern, a garish, elaborate CGI fuck-up. I didn’t see it but I couldn’t escape the marketing and they made Ryan Reynolds, a fellow Canadian and I’m sure a good chap, look like Ben Stiller. I hate Ben Stiller, why would I want to go see a super-hero movie with Ben Stiller in it? I already saw a movie with Ben Stiller in it and I didn’t like it. I’d rather stay home and wash my feet.

Then there’s Jonah Hex.

Yer “Honour”, I request we take a recess, as I’m going to need to compose myself before I unleash every flame in Hell.

NEXT! – HOO BOY.