Saturday, February 28, 2009

Revenge of the Living Schmovies

In case anyone's interested, I've resurrected my other other blog, Movies Schmovies. I should be resurrecting this one any day now.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cthulhu! You don't have to put on the red light!

So, I bought a Lovecraft anthology over a year ago, and I still haven't mustered up the time and energy to sit up one night and read "Call of Cthulhu." In my defense, it's been a busy year. Anyway, consequently, my knowledge of Lovecraft's Mythos still comes mostly through Lovecraftian homages.

That being said, I've seen and read a lot of Lovecraftian homages, so I'd like to think that my R'lyehdar is fairly accurate. A recent encounter, though, has left me questioning my sanity.

See, I've picked up a bunch of CDs recently. A used CD store near me had a Buy 3 Get 1 Free sale, so I got Rush's "Moving Pictures" and The Police's "Synchronicity" (both of which I'd been looking to listen to, before committing XBox Live points to the songs on Rock Band) with Green Day's "Insomniac" and KT Tunstall's "Drastic Fantastic" (since I liked her first album) on the cheap. I also recently picked up ABBA's "Gold," but we'll leave that aside for now (guess which movie musical I just watched!). Anyway, listening to "Synchronicity II" tonight, I thought it had a distinctly Lovecraftian bent to it. Take a look for yourself:
Another suburban family morning
Grandmother screaming at the wall
We have to shout above the din of our Rice Crispies
We can't hear anything at all
Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration
But we know all her suicides are fake
Daddy only stares into the distance
There's only so much more that he can take
Many miles away
Something crawls from the slime
At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake

Another industrial ugly morning
The factory belches filth into the sky
He walks unhindered through the picket lines today
He doesn't think to wonder why
The secretaries pout and preen like
cheap tarts in a red light street
But all he ever thinks to do is watch
And every single meeting with his so-called superior
Is a humiliating kick in the crotch
Many miles away
Something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish loch

Another working day has ended
Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race
Daddy grips the wheel and stares alone into the distance
He knows that something somewhere has to break
He sees the family home now looming in his headlights
The pain upstairs that makes his eyeballs ache
Many miles away
There's a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark Scottish lake
Many miles away, many miles away

Now, granted, Lovecraft stuck more to New England than Scottish Lochs, but this thing "crawling from the slime" and climbing up to a cottage's door doesn't sound much like Nessie. And on the other side of the song, there's the creepy-but-familiar suburban setting, with dehumanized humans ("lemmings," the senile grandmother), the disgusting industrial imagery, and our patriarchal protagonist heading down the dark road to psychosis.

So, is there something here, or am I just flailing at shadows?

Can you spare a dime?

Okay, allow me to be totally shameless for a moment: I've decided to thin out my comic collection a little bit, which means I'm selling some stuff on eBay. I've got three auctions up now, with more to come in the next couple of days, and it'd be great if you'd all go and check them out and maybe bid on them so I can pay my loans and bills and stuff. Okay?

If that doesn't interest you yet, how about this partial list of the things I'm selling:
  • "Astonishing X-Men" #1-12
  • "New X-Men" #135-154
  • The complete "Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive" issue collection
  • "Civil War" #1-7 (first print)
  • "Civil War: Front Line" #1-5, plus the Wizard World Chicago exclusive #1
  • "Secret Invasion" #1-8
  • The complete "Truth: Red, White, & Black" miniseries
  • Issues #1-13 of the 2001 "Captain America" relaunch
  • The complete Batman "Hush," "Broken City," "Hush Returns" and "Snow" story arcs
  • "Thor: Blood Oath" #1-6
  • Early issues of "Spider-Girl" (including #1) and other MC2 comics
  • "Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do" #1-6
  • Kevin Smith's first "Daredevil" issue

And a bunch of other stuff. I know, I know, some of it is stuff I'd probably not buy again either, but there's bound to be something of interest to someone out there in the blogohedron.

Now if only I could unload all these copies of X-Men #1...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Superman without Superman

So as you probably already know, the New Krypton story is going to be taking Superman away from Earth for a year or so. There are lots of people griping about various aspects of this. You all know how I feel about Superman by this point, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I'm stoked. I've enjoyed the New Krypton story so far, and I plan to continue enjoying it.

One of the complaints I've heard from the beginning is that this glut of Kryptonians dilutes Superman's uniqueness. Superman, after all, should be the Last Son of Krypton, period. In some sense, I agree; I was a big fan of the Byrne relaunch status quo, and I was quite incensed when the Kryptonian Supergirl returned, when we had a perfectly good Supergirl already, who didn't expand the number of extant Kryptonians beyond 1.

But she grew on me (at first, like a particularly contagious wart), and I've revised my opinion based on how her character has developed. Supergirl, done well, provides an interesting insight into Kryptonians and teen superheroes and humanity and so forth, and that's great.

Plus, it's kind of hypocritical of me to like Linda Danvers and Kon-El and Mon-El and so forth, and then think that other Kryptonians dilute Superman's uniqueness. Sure, he might be the last official full-blooded Kryptonian, but what does that effectively mean? He's not the only one with his basic power set, he's not even the only "last member of an extinct species" superhero in the DCU--he's not even the only one on the Justice League (okay, maybe he is now, with J'onn temporarily dead). Superman's uniqueness is artificial, essentially a matter of nomenclature with no bearing whatsoever on the stories he's in.

Except, of course, when it's used as a source of angst or drama or whatnot. "I'm only a man in a funny red sheet," and that sort of thing. Krypton's explosion is Superman's Crime Alley, his Uncle Ben, his character-defining tragedy. And yes, it's going to dilute the impact of that tragedy on Superman if he's forced to think "I feel so alone in the universe, the only one of my kind...except Kara, of course. And the Eradicator, technically. And Krypto, after a fashion. And I guess Kon-El, at least halfway. And all the people in Kandor. And the hundreds of criminals in the Phantom Zone. Other than that, last of my kind."

What I like about this story is that I don't think it's going to dilute that uniqueness. First, I'm approaching this story the same way I approached the Electric Superman story--as a finite story that will eventually restore the status quo. Eventually, I imagine the Kryptonians will be placed back into the bottle, and everything will return to something close to normal. I don't know that I'd like that; I think it'd be interesting to have New Krypton floating around out there for all manner of new and cool cosmic stories, but status quo is god. We can suspend our disbelief that the Daxamites aren't waging destruction across the universe because they don't have any particular ties to Earth, our atmosphere is toxic to them, and they've been consistently portrayed as fiercely isolationist. Kryptonians have none of those issues, and consequently face the same set of problems as General Zod. In short, nigh-omnipotent characters must somehow be bound by limitations. Nigh-omnipotent superheroes are bound by morals and ethics, or they become Dr. Manhattan. Nigh-omnipotent villains rarely have such qualms (with Black Adam's code of honor being a rare exception, and making him often more antihero than villain). In order to hold up the audience's disbelief as to why the nigh-omnipotent supervillains don't just take over the universe or kill everyone, they need to be otherwise hampered--Zod keeps getting put back in the Phantom Zone, Superboy-Prime gets imprisoned by the Green Lanterns, Cyborg ends up locked in a gem or trapped in the Source Wall, and so forth. If the Kryptonians are going to be out as a race of superpowered spacefarers with something of a grudge against the Man of Steel and a desire to spread the Kryptonian lifestyle through any means necessary, then they're going to stretch the bounds of believability to breaking. New Krypton is temporary Krypton.

Second, there's the point that I think the authors are going for: being confronted with what Krypton and Kryptonians are really like is only going to make Superman feel more alone. It's been a point of most of the (scant) visits to Krypton: dashing any idealized views Superman might have about his long lost homeworld. We're reminded in each case that Superman's heroism comes not from his powers but from his upbringing and his strong moral character. Superman's exposure to Krypton will show him that he's just as much an alien among them--if not moreso--as he is on Earth. Superman's actual uniqueness will be underscored, even if his artificial in-backstory-only uniqueness is temporarily compromised.

The other complaint I've heard is that people don't want to read Superman comics that don't have Superman in them. I understand the complaint, but I also remember the last time Superman was absent from his own titles. And you know what? It was fairly good. There's plenty of story value in removing the central character from the venue and seeing what happens with the rest of the cast. Plus, Nightwing has tactile telekinesis, and apparently Adventure Comics hinted at a return of one of my favorite characters, so there's that. Again, folks, it's a story

My big reason for excitement? As far as I know, this story has never been done before. It certainly hasn't been done in the modern age. It's so rare to see a Superman story that hasn't actually been done a dozen times before that I'm waiting on tenterhooks to see how it turns out. I can understand people's complaints, but I think the promise of an original story ought to be intriguing enough to give it a shot. Plus, Greg Rucka's back, and he wrote one of the best runs on Superman that I've ever read. There's a lot to like about New Krypton so far, and I can't wait to see the rest.