Thursday, May 31, 2007

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Scrubs?

After spending the morning arguing against someone whose idea of rational discourse was repeatedly accusing me of being a pedophile, I needed a laugh. Naturally, Scrubs provided all that I could ever need.

Food for thought

Bruce Campbell may be our generation's Sean Connery.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just like that song 'bout Nabokov

So there's this popular Japanese comedy manga called "Nymphet," which, according to Newsarama, features an eight-year-old girl who wants to have sex with her teacher. While it was scheduled to be translated and released in America, Seven Seas Publishing has decided against that. They refused to censor or alter the book, and so they chose not to publish it, rather than risking the inevitable backlash.

Personally, I applaud Seven Seas. They stuck to their principles and took a hit on this one, and I can respect that. I wish we could live in a society where people would be able to distinguish between "fiction" and "reality," or even "porn" and "comedy," but since we don't, their response was reasonable.

See, the whole "lolicon" thing creeps me out. I don't like the idea of kids in sexual situations, which is one of many reasons why I don't read it. But I also recognize that in these cases, it is just the idea of kids in sexual situations. And while I may find the material gross, I find censorship much grosser.

I don't know, I just can't quite see getting outraged at fictional characters doing things that I may find morally disgusting. I'm no supporter of pedophiles and their ilk, and I'll vehemently defend laws that set age limits for consent. But there's a big difference between people looking at real sexually-explicit photographs taken of minors without legal consent, and people looking at sexually-explicit drawings of fictional minors created by a consenting adult. And apparently with this book, it's not even that, it's a sexually suggestive story about a fictional minor. Even if there were no other value to the story, even if this were just produced for creepy teenagers and would-be pedophiles to get their rocks off reading about Lolita's little sister, at least no minors are being harmed. And you're going to have to show me some evidence before I get on the "people who read about X are more likely to do X" bandwagon.

This whole debate has been really enlightening; the cultural differences between America and Japan are so vast when it comes to sex (and I apologize if I misrepresent Japanese culture here at all, please feel free to correct me if I do). Japan has ranked consistently (as I recall) as one of the most sexually-dissatisfied nations in the world. There's a Victorian-esque repression going on, which is why it's so startling that they would air their fetishes out in the open as they do. Pornographic cartoons and video games cater to every conceivable fetish market.

Meanwhile, in America, we're far less repressed when it comes to social roles and everyday conduct, yet we relegate pornography to brown bags and low-budget films. As far as I'm aware, American fetish porn is remarkably limited when compared to the subtle genres of Japan. In America, there's mainstream porn, there's bondage, and then there's "weird stuff," while the Japanese have individual words for every genre and subgenre.

And the weirdest, the absolute weirdest thing to me is how Japanese society's sexual repression has led to the creation of wholly new fetishes. From my understanding, the tentacle porn that fueled the whole "Heroes for Hire" brouhaha developed because the Japanese outlawed scenes of penis/vagina penetration, and so the next best thing (phallic tentacles) was invented. I understand that the rules regarding pubic hair have been changed (has anyone else lived with an Asian Studies major recently? Isn't it amazing what you learn?), resulting in a bush revolution of sorts. I have to imagine that there wouldn't be such a ridiculously detailed fetish market if people felt more free to express themselves sexually.

And then there's the rape fantasy stuff, which seems to make it into every Hentai game I read about on Something Awful. I've read enough books and watched enough SVU to know that rape's more about power than sex. I have to wonder if the combination of a society that tends to look down on female independence with international contact with societies that promote feminism, along with a male inferiority complex (partially borne out of the same international contact) is why these disgusting fantasies are so prevalent in Japanese media. The male power structure in Japan is being eroded through international commerce, and this destabilized patriarchy is grasping at straws trying to retain that power.

And when it comes right down to it, I think that's a big part of sexism in America, at least among the old-guard of misogynists. But while American feminism was mostly homegrown, espoused and enforced by our loved ones, to the Japanese (and various other cultures) it represents an outside influence, which threatens the patriarchy with inadequacy and obsolescence.

Oy...I don't know about you, but I think I'm done talking about porn and patriarchy for awhile.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This is for Eric

I'm sure he's seen it before, but damn if it isn't the funniest thing I've seen all day.

An open letter to Comics

Dear Comics,

You and I go way back. In fact, I can't remember a time when you weren't part of my life. We've had our share of ups and downs, especially in the '90s, but I've never regretted our relationship. And I still don't! In fact, I doubt I ever will.

But we both know that you have some personal problems, particularly when it comes to the ladies. Things have been extra-tough in that area lately, I understand. Sometimes it seems like you can't do anything right. Once in awhile you'll stumble on something like Sandman or Y: The Last Man or Green Lantern, and you'll knock it out of the park with the women, but every time you try to recapture that or generalize it, you fall on your face. It's hard, I know. But you've got to stick with it. Eventually, you'll find your stride and hit that happy medium where no one feels marginalized and everyone can enjoy a given comic.

I'm saying this because I'm worried about you, comics. These days, it doesn't even seem like you're really trying. Sure, you'll throw a bone like Minx or Power Girl's JSA Chairmanship out to the female readers, but all the while you're drawing up Michael Turner covers and releasing raunchy statues. I think you're backsliding, Comics, and it frightens me.

You were making progress, you know. Honestly, you were. Sure, some people are going to get offended at anything, but you've got to learn to determine what's just offensive to the watchdogs, and what's genuinely offensive to everyone. You've struggled with that since they Coded you, I know, but you were really making some good headway. You were realizing that "Crime Suspenstories" was less offensive than "Superman spanking Lois Lane with a hairbrush." And we all applauded you, with the exception of the anti-Crime watchdogs and the spanking fetishists.

But lately, it doesn't seem like you're making the same effort. In fact, it seems like you're doing things just to piss people off. An ugly Michael Turner JLA cover is one thing, a sexist Mary Jane statue is another, a creepy tentacle-rape cover for Heroes for Hire is still another. As isolated incidents, maybe they wouldn't be so ridiculous. But these have all happened within what, the last month and a half? And that's not everything. It's like you've been gaining steam, decreasing the time period between each subsequent source of justified feminist outrage. I'm not sure how long people are going to put up with it, to be quite honest.

Let me help you, Comics. I know you don't want to be seen as a slavering source of juvenile male fantasy material. But unless you do something to change your image, that's all people are ever going to see in you. The road will be difficult; we can't change your image overnight, you know, but it'll be worth it. I promise.

So, let's take a deep breath, and start with something small. Something that you can definitely handle. Let's go one week without producing something that will offend every feminist in fandom. Let's go one week without inciting a blogger riot. After that, we'll try for another week. But let's start small, and work our way toward something better.

You've done it before, Comics. I know you can do it again. I believe in you.

Tom Foss

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Torah, Batman!

Okay, I know this makes me a bad person. I do.

But every time I see the term "Bat Mitzvah," I can't help but think it's Bruce Wayne's coming of age ceremony. Or maybe it's just a good deed done by Batman.


Does whatever a sequel can...

I want this poster.So, Spider-Man 3. Yeah, I know this is late (given that I saw it in the opening weekend).

I liked it. The special effects get better with each film, and Kirsten Dunst actually seemed like she wasn't annoyed just to be there in this movie. She was actually acting, which was a nice change of pace. I'm one of those people who tends to like Tobey Maguire as Peter, so I thought he was as good as he has been. James Franco turned in a nice performance, up until he thought "amnesia" meant "turn into Goofy."

Oh, it had its problems. In fact, it had a lot of the same problems as X-Men 3, namely trying to cram too much movie into too little space. I could understand the logic that went into it: a movie that had just New Goblin or just Venom or just Sandman wouldn't have really held up (okay, maybe a just-Venom one would). But all three turned out to be way, way too much. The whole film felt rushed, especially the big fight scene in the end. There weren't really any chances for the story to breathe.

The biggest casualty of the "rushed" story, though, is in the villains. One of the main things that made Spider-Man 2 such a great film, and the best of the three so far (and the best of all the films Marvel has released so far) was the characterization of Doctor Octopus. We got to know Otto as a person, we got to watch his ambition and his unfortunate descent. He got a fill character arc--rise, fall, and redemption--in that one film. We felt for Otto Octavius, we identified with him.

Not so with the villains of Spider-Man 3. Sandman's story was cliché on top of cliché in rapid fire. I mean, having the Tiny Tim daughter with the anonymous disease was bad enough, but for him to actually go and say "I'm not a bad guy; I just had bad luck" was...well, what do you have to say about that, Robot Devil?

That will not be the last time I use that clip on this blog, I guarantee. Anyway, rather than letting us spend some time with Flint Marko, letting us see him as a person (as we did with Doc Ock), the movie just took every available shortcut to sympathy. It felt artificial and unnecessarily rushed, which really hurt what could have been a very interesting character.
Then, there's Eddie Brock, with whom we're kind of supposed to sympathize after Peter goes all emo and steals his girlfriend, but throughout the whole thing, Eddie is a complete douchebag. It's hard to empathize with someone who has such a high and obnoxious opinion of himself. 4thletter had a list of scenes that were in the novelization but didn't make it into the movie, and I kind of wish they'd left in the ones where it's implied that Eddie Brock is stalking Gwen, and that he's basically constructed their relationship out of nothing. It would have added a creepiness and a delusion to Eddie's character that would have nicely replaced empathy, and would have added to his intimidation factor later on. We would have seen that Eddie is the center of his own world, so everyone either revolves around him or is out to get him.

Harry's story arc wrapped up nicely, although I'm not entirely sure what purpose the amnesia served. He could have just developed his father's brand of schizophrenia, where Norman doesn't always remember what the Goblin did. I did end up liking the New Goblin costume, especially compared to its predecessor.

But like I said, the whole movie suffered from compression, and that was a result, I imagine, of the primary actors and their continued inability to decide whether or not they're going to stick with the franchise. Picture, if you will, a world in which Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco are all contractually bound to do a fourth film. This means that the third film can take its time, give Sandman and Gwen Stacy and Eddie Brock the development they deserve, and maybe avoid the soap opera amnesia cliché with Harry (replaced with the Goblin schizophrenia, at least).

So the movie proceeds more or less as we saw, though with a little more attention to the new characters and the supporting cast. We approach the end: MJ and Peter have broken up, and MJ is singing a melancholy song at her Jazz club. With her singing as the background music, we scroll-fade to see the Sandman pulling himself out of the muck and mud outside the sewer grate. We continue toward Harry Osborn, sitting contemplatively with a glass of brandy, when he suddenly hears his father's voice exhorting him to kill his friends. He suddenly remembers all that has happened, and we pan away from his wickedly grinning face (or something). Then we see Peter, up in the bell tower, screaming as he tears the symbiote away from his skin. We pan down in the chapel to see Eddie Brock, staring up. "Parker" he hisses, and the first drop of the symbiote falls onto his shoulder. Fade to black.

"Spider-Man 3" could have ended on an awesome cliffhanger, in which all the villains are in the right positions and Peter's at the end of his rope. Then, #4 could have done justice to the three-villain plot and Harry's redemption, rather than being crammed into the last 25 minutes of this film. Would that not have been awesome?

I hold out hope for the fourth film, and I don't doubt that we'll see Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst again. I just hope they take a more leisurely spin on the next one, and remember that they don't need to top the previous films in terms of plot threads and number of new characters. While X-Men III collapsed under the weight of its many plotlines, Spider-Man 3 only buckled and bent, and I think that's got a lot to do with Sam Raimi's direction and love of the franchise. He's a strong, talented director, in ways that Brett Ratner simply isn't.

My ideal plot for the next movie would bring Venom back (I didn't see a body, did you? Ashes don't count) and would introduce the Lizard (which I've been waiting for since #2), as well as setting up some kind of behind-the-scenes new villain. I'd say it should be the Master Planner, and it'd sure be a kick in the pants for Doc Ock to show up, alive and well, but I think the Chameleon or Kraven the Hunter might be a better choice. If they introduced two villains in #4 (including the behind-the-scenes manipulator) and did maybe the Vulture and Electro in #5, we'd be well on our way to "Spider-Man: Sinister Six," and that would make my heart explode with geek-love.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Countdown to Disaster

You may recall that I was all sorts of super-psyched about Countdown, even after a lackluster first issue.

Well, after two more lackluster issues, I'm less psyched. Significantly less psyched. First, I don't like the Monitors. I mean, I dig that they're the continuity cops of the New Multiverse. I hope that they come into conflict repeatedly with Rip Hunter and Booster Gold. In fact, I hope that the driving force in Booster's book is the conflict between Booster and Rip's "let the multiverse continue in its natural state, but let's keep the people from knowing too much about it" attitude, and the Monitors' prescriptive desire to control and dictate what the timelines should be.

But that doesn't mean I want to read issue after issue about the Monitors, particularly not when far more interesting characters, like Jimmy Olsen, are around.

Second, I'd prefer not to be reminded of Emo Freeman and the rest of the Melancholy Marvel Family. And that means that I don't really care about suddenly-snarky Mary Marvel and her turn to the dark side because the boys in the family have decided to hang the "he-man women haters" sign on the Rock of Eternity.

Third, I love Jimmy Olsen, I really do. But Jimmy Olsen is a goofball kid photographer with an overconfident streak a mile wide and a tendency to think he's a lot cooler and smoother than he actually is. None of that amounts to "knowing the secret identity of two of Batman's former sidekicks, and therefore probably knowing Batman's secret identity." I'll believe a man can fly. I'll believe a boy can stretch. I won't believe that Jimmy Olsen could know Batman's secret identity when he can't even figure out that his the only difference between his two best friends is a pair of glasses.

I'm still hopeful about the secrecy of the Multiverse. I don't think that Duela knew about the new Multiverse, only that she (like Power Girl and various JSA members) remembered the old one. So far, who knows? Can we get a running count? Off the top of my head, the following people all know about the current Multiverse:
  • The Guardians
  • The Monitors
  • Booster Gold
  • Rip Hunter
  • Mr. Mind
  • Starman
  • Captain Atom
  • Ion (?)
  • Darkseid
  • Supernova
Is that it? Does Red Tornado know? In any case, it looks like that's still got a pretty tight lid on it, and I hope it stays that way.

But even the mysteries here don't really impress me. Okay, I'm jazzed about the search for Ray Palmer and anything involving the New Gods, but "Who Killed Joker's Daughter"? "Mary Marvel's Heel Turn"? "How Black Adam Got His Groove Back"? Somehow, not as interesting as the Everyman Project, the mystery of Supernova, and the Space Odyssey.

Am I right in remembering that Jimmy was actually made of unstable molecules at this point?I'm a bit curious about Jimmy's newly-rediscovered elasticity. The last time we saw anything like Elastic Lad in the current continuity was--and correct me if I'm wrong--way back when the Eradicator altered Jimmy's genetic structure, allowing him to stretch (with considerable pain). Presumably this isn't a remnant of a resolved plotline from eighteen years ago, and we haven't seen the Eradicator lately, so I wonder how the bowtied bouncing boy came to be this time around. Maybe the universe decided that if Jimmy was going to play redheaded detective, he needed to do it with some Gingold in his system.

And you know I love the Flash's Rogues. Especially Piper, actually, who I tend to prefer as a hero. But I have to ask: why are Piper and Trickster getting all the flak for turning good, and Heat Wave isn't? Heat Wave was the hero of the Quad Cities for years (a distinction only shared by Wild Dog and myself)! So, what, the Rogues accept his "the Top warped my brain but I'm okay now" story, and not Piper and Trickster's? Trickster worked for the government! If that doesn't seal his evil credentials, what does?
But despite my love of the Rogues, their arc so far leaves me cold. Without the Flash--specifically without Wally--they just aren't that entertaining.

And besides all that, the art in Countdown started good, but has gotten steadily worse with each issue. I'm not the sort of person who spends a lot of time analyzing comic art; I only tend to notice it when it's really good or really original, or when it interferes with my enjoyment of the story. And for the last two issues, it's been very much the latter.

I'd like to say that I'm going to stick it out, that I'll be reading Countdown right up until the end as I did with 52, but I just don't feel the same urgency with this book. With 52, I read each issue immediately, as soon as possible. With Countdown...I mean, I just read it today, and that was mostly because I forced myself to do it. I love Paul Dini, but this book needs to shape up real quick, before it flops hard.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reasons to Rearrange the Keyboard #147

No more embarrassing unintentional comments about "superherpes."

No blogging today: I'm sequestering myself until I manage to watch the season finale of Herpes.

What the--? Damn it!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dirty Laundry

Here, we see the female in her natural habitat, presenting to her mate.Other people have discussed in great detail the things that are wrong with this statue. There's the problem with MJ's terribly stretched-out anatomy; there's the fact that she's barefoot and doing the laundry; there's the fact that she's wearing low-rider jeans and the worst thong-wedgie I've ever seen; there's the fact that despite wearing her crappiest pair of ripped jeans to do the washin', she's also wearing a pearl necklace and a nice, low-cut shirt; there's the fact that even though the Adam Hughes image it's based on has the same backwards 1950s attitude toward women, at least it isn't as egregiously distorted; there's the fact that no one washes clothes in a bucket anymore; there's the fact that no one, even someone who actually washed their clothes in a bucket, would do it on such a short table that they had to bend over like that, as if begging for major back problems; there's the fact that "Comiquette" is just two letters shy of "coquette," which is just a little too apt.

Those are all valid things that are wrong with this stupid statue. Any one of them would be reason to be upset, reason to write long and angry rants, reason to rally together and write Marvel and Sideshow Collectibles (and DC, just for good measure) for change.

But for me, my immediate first thought when I saw it, the thing which stuck out most as horrendously wrong, was that Peter Parker does his own damn laundry.
It's really, really sad how often Peter uses a paper bag as his chosen disguise.

I mean, I guess MJ might do it once in awhile, but I've always gotten the feeling that Pete's the more domestic of the two. And either way, neither of them is going to be filling buckets with warm water and Tide in order to wash the Venom-spit out of the ol' red-and-blues, least of all Mary Jane. I think Peter would feel obligated to do his own laundry, that he'd feel guilty if Mary Jane had to do it for him. You know, with great odor comes great responsibility, that sort of thing.

I honestly have no idea who would pay money for this statue; you'd think the people who would be so desperate as to have a burning desire for it are the same ones who would be upset by a glaring continuity error like that.

There is one thing that would make this a little better: if Marvel and Sideshow teamed up to do a statuette with accomplished seamstress Peter Parker, dressed in some tighty-whiteys, sewing up all the rips in MJ's jeans.

And to be completely honest, I'd be far more likely to buy that, than the curvaceous cheesecake monstrosity above.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Inappropriate Interlude

I'm aware of the male gaze. I'm also aware of the female gaze.

But I usually call them lesbians.

Finals are over, content should resume shortly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Second 'verse, same as the first

Betcha can't create just one!I hated the DC Multiverse. Granted, I came into comics mostly after it was dead and gone. Even the issues that introduced me to comics, the random Adventures and World's Finests that survived my mom's childhood, never actually dealt with alternate Earths. "Imaginary Stories," sure, but they were never Earth-4 or Earth-19 or anything.

When Hypertime appeared, I really hated that, too. It was years before I could accept it, and that still took a damn good story from Superboy and a decent story from the Flash to justify its existence. It helped that Hypertime was intrinsically dangerous and was very hard to use. It helped that Hypertime was mostly a way to explain where Elseworlds stories were in the grand scheme of things, and thus had little bearing on the regular universe.

But I'll admit, much to my chagrin, that I'm psyched about the new Multiverse. I was angry when Infinite Crisis suggested it (and relieved when we came out of it with one single Earth). I was groaning and griping and grousing when the 52 "secret message" came out. But after 52 #52, which was pretty darn good (could have used more closure and more clarity), I'm actually looking forward to this Multiverse.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, it's not well-known; so far only Booster, Supernova, and Rip Hunter know all about it, and I like all those characters. I'm sure the big reveal in the next few JLofA issues is going to be that Starman and the Legion are actually from Earth-1, and so the knowledge of these alternate universes is going to expand rather quickly, but for now it's a need-to-know thing, and that's nice. I guess Captain Atom and Ion know bits about it, but it doesn't seem like they have the whole picture. It's nice to see that Rip Hunter and Booster Gold are going to get some time in the spotlight.
Second, it seems like it's harder to get between universes now. So far, the only ways we know are the Bleed and Rip Hunter's Time Sphere. The former seems to have some rules (the one-for-one trade that we saw in Ion--I wonder if the Breach's death is why Captain Atom can traverse it freely) which is one of the things I liked about Hypertime; and I doubt Rip will be lending out his time bubble anytime soon.
Third, there's a limited number of worlds, which means writers are going to have to use them sparingly. There won't be any of the "o-ho! But you thought this was Earth-1, when in fact it was Earth-124, where Red Kryptonite, not Green Kryptonite, is fatal to Kryptonians!" twists that I understand were not uncommon in the pre-Crisis era. It also means that they're defining specific worlds for a reason, and hopefully that reason is "more stories."

So, now that I'm all pro-Multiverse, here's some stories I want to see, and some questions I want answered:
  • What about the antimatter universe and its Anti-Earth, with the Crime Syndicate from "Earth 2"? We saw an Earth-3 in 52, with its own version of the CSA, but they weren't quite the same as the ones we've seen previously. For instance, J'onn's counterpart on Anti-Earth was a White Martian who Ultraman claimed to have killed, not a savage green Martian like the one seen here.
  • How many Oas and Qwards are there? How many New Geneses and Apokolipses?
  • I want to see a story where the JSA and Infinity Inc of Earth-2 invade New Earth to retrieve Kara and punish Superman-2's killer.
  • I want to see Renee meet Earth-4's Vic Sage and challenge his Objectivist A=A notions.
  • I want to see the LSH of Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-10, Earth-22, etc.
  • I want to see more of Earth-10 in general. Nazi Superman? How can I refuse?
  • I want to see Booster Gold's quixotic quest to turn Earth-4's Ted Kord into his lost friend.
  • I want to see the term "Megaverse" never, ever used again.
  • I want to see Captain Marvel of Earth-5 smacking some sense into New Earth's Freddy Freeman. In fact, I want to see an all-out Marvel war. A Civil War, if you will, in the Mighty Marvel Manner.

    ...on second thought, scratch that last one.

But all the rest would be great. And I really want to see the new Earth-1. I suspect it's going to be like pre-Crisis Earth-1, but I might be wrong about that. In any case, I'm psyched for the future of DC. So, hey, I guess 52 worked.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I can has sight beyond sight?

Edit: Okay, I swear I did that before I saw Dorian's post.
Except for the whole lolcat bandwagon thing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Partly Real

You know, every other damn '80s cartoon has a huge cult following. ThunderCats is out on (horrendously overpriced) DVD sets, the He-Man (and friends) boxes have set a new standard for cartoon releases on DVD, Transformers keeps on truckin' with a new movie and oodles of new toys (though I wish someone would get around to re-releasing the box sets, I only managed to get the first two), even Captain N: The Game Master managed to get the neo-laserdisk treatment.

So where the heck are the SilverHawks?

Yeah, it was "ThunderCats in space," with even the same voice cast. Yeah, the physics were all sorts of nutty. But it was a fun show with a killer theme song, and every episode would take time out at the end--not for a cheesy moral--but to teach science. And I can't argue with that.

Incidentally, I can think of only one cartoon of that era with a better theme song...

Ah YouTube. Thank you for providing me easy content.