Saturday, June 22, 2013

Today's Tom Sawyer (or) My Final Thoughts On "Man of Steel"

It's been almost a week since I saw "Man of Steel" or as I nicknamed it, "We're Going to Prove to You That Hope is Dead." Well that seems a bit long for a nickname so I'll just go with "The Movie That Raped My Childhood". Yeah... that's better.

Let me start with the usual disclaimer that there are HUGE SPOILERS!!!!!  I'm not repeating that or scrolling down to give you time to consider whether you want to continue or not. You were warned. Both of you had better have payed attention.

In the week since I saw this movie I've read and been a part of several interesting discussions about this rather dark take on what many would argue to be the super-hero that stands above all others. I've heard people tell me that theaters erupted in applause and shouts of enthusiasm as Superman snapped the neck of General Zod. (BTW, that was the HUGE SPOILER!!!!!) The theater I was in was deathly silent at that linch-pin moment - except for this total dork who actually whispered the word no in the darkened theater. My children will probably never let me live that down.

That reaction, however, came after nearly two hours of a film that introduced a literary character that I had never seen before, nor do I ever want to see again. Before I go any further, it was pointed out to me that many do not consider Superman to be literature. I reply with this: In a world where young, rottenly spoiled, rich daddy girls with no real redeeming morals or aptitude for anything remotely resembling real intelligence can be considered celebrities,  I think an argument for Superman being a real literary figure is a moot point.

This movie showed, within fifteen minutes into it, that this Superman will not have the very foundation that it was built upon. A foundation that is put in place by Ma and Pa Kent, two mid-western Americans whose gentleness and belief in the human spirit gives Clark the love for his adopted planet and its people that he later swears to protect. No, we are shown a Clark who easily steals another persons cloths for his own needs without even a backward glance. If anywhere in the film they had shown a moment where he returns to leave money or perhaps the same cloths nicely cleaned and waiting for the victims of his larceny that moment could have been easily forgiven. I suppose this shouldn't surprise me since this Pa Kent has raised his adopted son to apparently distrust mankind and protect himself above all others. "Should I have just let them die?" Clark exclaims after saving his fellow schoolmates who were drowning in a bus accident. "Maybe..." Pa mutters with the wooden voice of Kevin Costner who shows us that after all these years he's still too amazing to really give anyone a real acting performance. I suppose we movie goers are still not ready for him to actually... you know... act.

So is it any wonder that by the time we wrap up most of his younger years which include his birth and subsequent exportation from Krypton ( which is really the absolute best vision of this part of the story that I have every seen in any Superman movie or television show) the movie goers are well prepared for a Man of Steel who will focus on his own needs and desires while rationalizing it as being the American hero that his Kansas Father (who may have been a super-hero himself since he can pretty much hold his own in an oncoming tornado) has raised him to be.

The rest of the movie then shows you what a hero of that caliber can really do.

Actually we get our first glimpse when Zod attacks Smallville and our now self absorbed Superman decides to take out most of his hometown instead of worrying about these humans he supposedly loves and wants to protect by taking the battle out of town to begin with. Lesson learned? Uhhhh.... noooooo.... note above picture of Metropolis which gets its just desserts forty five mind numbing minutes later.

By mind numbing I mean a senseless and constant visual of nothing more than mass destruction for the sake of making several billion dollars for the company. They also want to make sure we do not confuse this Superman movie with that milquetoast dud that came out a few years ago. Hey guys! No problem with that! We already figured it out when Clark let his dad die because the old man didn't believe in him that much.

I still believe that this movie fails on its most basic levels of this character. Some have reminded me that back in the eighties (when pastel sweaters tied around your shoulders was all the rage) comic writer/artist John Byrne actually wrote a Superman story where he "has to kill" and swears never to do it again. Yeah I remember that... I stopped buying the book for about five years, after that. Why? Because in no way should Superman be written into any story where he "has to kill". Where the destruction is so massive that the hundreds of thousands that have been mercilessly slaughtered in the cross-fire can in no way out weigh Superman's "win". When you do this you have stripped away the fundamental structure of why this character was created. You have stripped away the hope for mankind. You have dragged Superman down into the mud and muck that we live in on a daily basis.

Oh I hear both of you saying it at this point. "This is just a modern day reflection of Superman." (Note at this point that I've used Superman much more than Clark for one good reason.... Clark (or the humanity side of this character) is rarely acknowledged. Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps I am wrong with my thoughts on this mega-hit. So I'm joining the party. Here is my broad outline of my first screenplay I am going to write. It's called "Today's Tom Sawyer":

Act I: A young Tom Sawyer meets his buddy Huckleberry Finn behind the elementary school where they exchange cigarettes and talking crap about someday being old enough to get a hold of that hot Becky to give her a big stiff one.  We also meet Aunt Polly who has just recently returned from the methadone clinic and Tom's half-brother Sid, who spends his days steeling from department stores and his evenings smoking grass and playing X-Box Live.

Act II: We find a seventeen year old Tom now disenchanted with his wonderful life and not coping so well with being a father. Really it's all Becky's fault and Tom isn't too sure he really is the father. After all there was that night that him and Becky and their friends got hyped up on ecstasy before Becky happily let everyone take their turn with her as a coked up Tom tried desperately to "get it up". (Nobody told me that would happen!!!) Add to this the fact that his good buddy and his own personal Huckleberry has finally come out of the closet and has begun a rather violent relationship with "Big Jim" has him yearning for the good ol' days of cigs and blunts behind the High School. Note that I am using the word "Big" here since in no way do I want to be fired from The Food Network. Act II ends with Tom selling his ass for money so that he can buy the one thing that all kids his age knows is the ultimate happiness.... heroin.

Act III: A now twenty-four year old Tom spends most of his days still living in Aunt Polly's home, playing Playstation with his buddy Huckleberry whose own relationship with Big Jim has finally gone south when Jim left him for an hermaphrodite transvestite. Aunt Polly, miraculously still alive, (because it really is true! Only the good die young) lays in her bed, and in her own waste, begging Tom to go buy her a pack of cigs and a bottle of Johnny Walker. Becky has fared no better, her two year old daughter wanders around the house unsupervised while she lays on the couch shoving needles between her toes and making sure she has enough money for her own cigs and Jack Daniels while wondering how long before somebody comes to take this brat away like they did Tom's punk ass son. Movie fades to black as Tom declares "Fuck the rest of the world, they're just jealous of everything we got over here!"

There you are. Another piece of literature that has been updated to reflect our times. This baby is going to sell!!! 

Now I'm lost. I may have went off on a tangent. The words I use to sum up this movie for me are not my own but come from a friend Eric Palicki: "It was not the Superman movie I wanted, but I suppose it's the Superman movie we deserve, alas."

Friday, March 19, 2010

"I'm Getting to Old for This Shit"

That title is one of the most famous lines in one of the greatest buddy movies ever made. Buddy movies have been around for ages now, harking back to the days of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and (my personal favorite) Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Looking back at thirty some years of comic reading I'll have to say that Marvel has had its fair share of great buddies as well. Probably the longest and oldest would have to be Human Torch and Spider-Man (which is pretty odd since they are both in their late twenties and their friendship has lasted nearly fifty years). But with Johnny Storm constantly off in space or the Negative Zone and Peter Parker erasing everyone's memories every ten years so he can reveal his true identity all over again, they don't really hang out as much. They may have the oldest friendship, but not the strongest.

Then there's Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Now these guys have had a very strong and powerful friendship that has had more ups and downs then the Chicken Ranch. It's unfortunate that they've been split up by that darn Jessica Jones. Leave it to a woman to ruin a great bro love like theirs.

I could really list a ton more that Marvel has had, including my personal favorite: Beast and Wonder Man, but if I had to call one friendship the best that Marvel has ever created, I've got to go with Nightcrawler and Wolverine. A highly spiritual and religious mutant with the looks of a demon and a Canadian killing machine seemed the least likely of friends; but since the late seventies their friendship has remained one of the most honest and compelling that Marvel has ever offered.

Kurt Wagner was repulsed at Logan's blood lust when they first became members of the X-Men and Logan found Kurt's spirtuality and kindness to be out of place in a world where they were a hunted and hated species. Yet, from their first adventure together way back in Uncanny X-Men #129 when they fought the Wendigo, their friendship blossomed and has grown ever since.

Through the years every writer has seen the special bromance that these two have carried for each other and have made sure that at least one issue focuses on it. Occasionally they will throw Colossus in the middle just to shake up the dynamics, but even then, it's all about the demon and the animal.

I think we can take away a lot from this long standing friendship. They've proven that you don't have to have the same belief system to become best friends, you just have to see the heart of each other and work to nurture it.

There's a plaque that a friend of mine from high school, and who I am still very close to, gave me once. It reads: A true friend understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you today just the way you are.

That's Kurt and Logan. That's my buddy Larry and I. It's what I wish for every person in this world. One great friendship that stands the test of time. Everyone deserves that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Are the Glory Days?

Back in the seventies, when I was but a preteen with an over active sex drive, my family would gather together to watch a little sticom called Happy Days. My father loved this series because it took him back to his time when he was young and everything seemed new, fresh, and exciting. At ten years old, I didn't get it.

Thirty-two year later, I think in my own way, I finally do. While my Dad's love was for the cars of the time, mine are for the comics of my time. The great arcs of the seventies and eighties are the muscle cars of my time. The 55-56 Cadillac Elderado is my Uncanny X-Men issues #99-150. The first sixty issue of The New Teen Titans was the 1956 Chevy Corvette of its time. I could go on with the Avengers Korvac arc, the story of Jean DeWolfe in Spectacular Spider-Man but you get the idea.

Now I hear young fanboys talking about how amazing it is to be reading comics at this particular time. Those who are both fans of Joe Q and Marvel as well as Dan D. and D.C. who believe that there is no greater time to be fans of The Avengers or Green Lantern Corps. I have to roll my eyes because as fun as comics are now, they can't hold a candle to those glory days when Deathstroke first appeared and Jean Grey took her life to save the universe from the Phoenix Force. Now that was the time to be a comic book fan.

Or am I just getting old?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can Apples Be Compared to Oranges?

You've heard the old saying, "You can't compare apples with oranges", right? The phrase tends to lend credence to more than just fruit. As I've sat and read the opinions of online comic book fans I believe more and more that this statement also works for the comic book industries big two companies: D.C. and Marvel.

Sure there are surface similarities as both have over a sixty year history of ups and downs that include high profile characters that have become American Icons, like Superman and Spider-Man for example. However when you examine those histories as well as the characters that inhabit each universe, I think you'll find that the similarities stop there. Trying to convince me that Marvel and D.C. are the same is as hard as forcing me to believe that apple pie taste the same as orange duck.

D.C. relies heavily on its rich, colorful history. Their main themes seem to be legacy, history, and family, which is usually brought out in extraordinary events that threaten not only their universe but hundreds of others as well. Look at the list of characters that D.C. has who have been around in one incarnation or another for close to three quarters of a century now: Green Lantern, Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Hawkman, The Atom, The Sandman, and the list goes on. Characters that came not only from D.C. but their sister books at All-American Comics as well. The interaction between the heroes have, for the most part, always been that of a huge family reunion when they get together. Granted my family has never had to fight off a hoard of para-demons or undead family members who came back thanks to crazy Uncle Nekron, but the idea is there. These heroes have been around forever, supporting each other through thick and thin.

Where as D.C. relies on the larger than life events, Marvel has always been known for looking out the window's of their office and seeing the grim and gritty of the real world around them. The House of Ideas have always tried to ground their characters in as much reality as is fit for a medium that includes shape changing aliens and Norse Gods that hover over small towns in Oklahoma (leaving the phrase "There are only two things that come out of Oklahoma, steers and queers, obsolete). With every major and minor even that falls in the Marvel Universe there is always a real life analogy that can be found. The most obvious being the bigotry and intolerance that run through the X-Men books. But recent events like Civil War and Dark Reign came at a time when America found itself heavily divided over a government that appeared to be running the country without regard to the fundamental laws and rights that their forefathers had established two-hundred and some years ago.

So looking at both of these companies I find it interesting when fanboys shout that one sucks over the other. I can't see it that way. There's good books and lousy books in both universes, but fundamentally they are two highly different flavors. It's one thing to say I love apples and everything that can be made with them, but I've never developed a true taste for oranges. It's another to shout out: "Oranges rule and apples suck donkey dicks." Just like food, comics are subjective to the taste of the individual reader.

Well, except for those readers who like the taste of liver. Let's face it, Liefeld sucks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It was the worst of times...

Starlord returns in his second blog! This time I shall enthrall you all with what I thought was the best and worst of D.C. Comics. Keep in mind that D.C. has always been my favorite of the big two, so this was a bit harder for me.

D.C. (The Best)

5. Wonder Woman: Not since the days of Greg Rucka has our favorite Princess been so spot on. With bizarre Gorilla friends helping her, new villains to blend in with the old ones, and a return of the Gods; Gail Simone has raised the bar once again for Amazon stories. I hope the next writer chosen can maintain the quality that this book puts out on a monthly basis.

4. Supergirl: Last year I believe I had this title in my worst category. What a difference a year makes! Probably the best thing to come out of the New Krypton story, Supergirl has finally found her footing. Who would have thought that bringing in her parents was all she needed. Much praise must go to Sterling Gates for turning this book that was not readable in the least to a must read in less than a year.

3. Geoff Johns: Say what you want (and many of you will), but Geoff is to D.C. what Bendis is to Marvel. He's the architect to everything in the universe right now. His Blackest Night is both fun and dark. He's made the original Brave and the Bold center stage once more. His work on changing the status quo in the Superman books have been controversial perhaps, but still well worth reading (for the most part). The man knows comics. He knows what the fanboys like and except for one huge gaff, he delivers time and time again.

2. The Secret Six: Hands down the best book D.C. has out right now. Gail Simone is at her absolute best with these characters. She's able to use her zany sense of humor and somewhat warped persona that she keeps for just this occasion to great advantage. In her hands, Catman has went from a second stringer to one of the best Anti-Heroes I've ever seen in comics. She's even made Bane fun to read. If you haven't been reading this book, you're missing out. This is the reason I fell in love with comics oh those many years ago. Damn near perfection!

1. Blackest Night: This could very well have been nothing more than your typical zombie event that seems to be gripping the comic industry lately, but instead it made a right turn into a much more humanizing story. Under the more than capable hands of Geoff Johns we are shown just how much misery our heroes have faced in the last few years with the death of so many loved ones. The creation of the Rainbow Lanterns is a fascinating twist that I hope continues way after the event is over. But the best part of this is that with the reveal of Nekron we may actually get an explanation of why so many of our heroes have been returning from the death to begin with. 2009 was all about death in the D.C. Universe, and it's never been more entertaining.

D.C. (The Worst)

5. The Web: Actually all of these characters that were purchased from D.C. could probably tie for this spot. The relaunch was weak and the delivery of the series was worse. Even bringing in Oracle to the Web in hopes of tying him more into the D.C. Universe proper did nothing to help this exercise in paper waist If this was their plan all along, they should have saved their money.

4. Superman: I'm going to be brief with this one because really, it's only logical: You can't have a book with its title character no longer in it. It just doesn't work. And really, Mon-El? Come on!

3. Cry for Justice: Even the amazing art of this book couldn't save it from becoming the biggest letdown of 2009. It has languished in "who cares anymore" land for months now. While the rest of the world turns, this story seems to be frozen in time. There has yet to be a real cohesive story involved and it's now obvious that Robinson's original plan for this mini series was changed drastically when he was given the writing position of the JLA. Now the art really is some of the best of the year, but I still couldn't recommend this title to anyone. Really, does anyone else care about any part of it except when it is going to end? The justice in this is if we are given our money back with an apology.

2. Flash: Rebirth: As much as I loves my Geoff Johns, I still can't figure out why this had to happen. I loved Barry Allen. I'm a child of the Silver Age, and even I didn't want to see him come back. One of the greatest sacrificial deaths in comic history was ripped apart with Barry's return and for what reason? So that Nekron can go chasing after him again? So those of us who have fallen in love with Wally as the scarlet speedster can fret about his future? Sorry Mr. Johns, but this really was only for you and maybe Dan. You should have taken notes from John Q's playbook with Spider-Man - the past isn't always worth revisiting.

1. All things Titans: I have never seen a franchise in this much disarray. The Titans book sucks. The Teen Titans are wondering around without meaning or purpose. There is no cohesiveness to this part of the D.C. Universe that needs a total remake like this part. And if they aren't going to fix the problems (and there are so many), then do those of us who love this team a favor and put us out of our misery. Fix them stat or cancel them. I'm pretty sure even Garth would sign a do not resuscitate document if he realized how long these guys have been lingering at death's door with no bright light in the near future.

Now, with all that said and done, I'd have to say that this year goes to Marvel Comics. They were much stronger in story (if not art), and continuity. Their space adventures are better than D.C.'s by leaps and bounds and while Batman and Superman seem to be waisting away; Marvel's trinity of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor have never been stronger.

2009 goes to Marvel. Nuff said!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It was the best of times...

Hello true believers! It is I, Starlord, starting my own Super Geek Blog as part of my New Years resolution. For those who don't know me, I'm a gay man in his forties whose love for everything comics and superheroes goes back as far as I can remember. I have a husband of nearly 13 years and we have four wonderful children that we share with two beautiful ladies who have been partners for over 20 years.

I spend most of my time on two websites, on my down time, and sometimes on my work time. is a fan fiction site that has been blossoming for nearly 5 years now. It has been my privilege to have contributed to this site from nearly the beginning. I'm very proud of what my friends and I have accomplished over there.

The other site I can be found on is The Outhouse: This is a fan based website that has news articles, reviews, and interviews; as well as one of the coolest forums you could ever want to post in. Thanks to Lord Simian (his code name of course), I have had the opportunity to interview such great comic writers as Kurt Busiek, Mike Carey, and actors Doug Jones, Michael Hogan and Galen Tyrol. Now if you don't at least recognize those last two names, please hand over your Geek card.

In the end I'm not sure who will end up reading this, but I hope you respond to my thoughts about everything from comics, television, movies, and online human relationships.

I'd like to start my first few blogs with what I consider to be the 5 best and worst of Marvel and DC comics in 2009. I'll start with Marvel.

Marvel (The Best)

5. Dark Reign: This "event" flowed rather organically from last years Secret Invasion where Tony Stark fell flat on his face as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Who saved the day? Norman Osborne of all people! This started a cascade of events that lead to Norman's rise as the all powerful head of H.A.M.M.E.R. Now I do have one issue about this plot that I will address in my worst, but I can't deny that this story that has wrapped itself so intricately through out the Marvel Universe hasn't been one of the most fascinating stories that either of the big two have done in years.

4. X-Men Legacy: My second favorite of the X-Titles this year. Mike Carey spent more than half a year rebuilding and really humanizing Professor Charles Xavier. The journey that the Professor went on was fascinating as we watched him pick up the pieces of his shattered mind while making up for the hurt he had caused so many of his students in the last ten years. It was an extraordinary journey that more than deserves to be in my personal top 5.

3. The Invincible Iron Man: This spot was hard for me to fill since all three top tier Avengers had a pretty good year, but Matt Fraction's Iron Man was by far the best of the three. The fall of the most powerful (and rather arrogant) man in Marvel was so well done that by the time Tony had lost most of his mind by his own accord (rather than put all his secrets in the hands of that loony Osborne) it seemed that every one who had despised him during the Civil War found themselves once again rooting for him. This was no easy feat to pull off since arguably it can be said that his actions were an indirect cause of the "death" of Captain America. This story is far from over, and as long as Matt Fraction keeps up the great storytelling, I don't see a downward turn in this title anywhere in the near future.

2: Brian Michael Bendis: This is going to be hard to explain, especially if you are from The Outhouse and reading this. I'm not Brian's number one fan - far from it. I've always had an issue with his writing, mainly his dialogue. However, I would be an idiot not to deny that Marvel is what it is because of this man. As a plotter he is the absolute best at what he does (yeah, I said it). Since Avengers Disassembled he's lead the Marvel Universe through a maze of events that have actually flowed one from the other in a nearly perfect way. NOT that there haven't been some HUGE blunders (at least for me), but there's a reason why Marvel is at the top of their game right now and this is the man who has done it. So kudos where kudos are due.

1. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning: I chose them as number one not just because of their terrific "War of Kings" event that brought the Inhumans back into the limelight and made Scott and Alex Summers' other brother an interesting character; but also because they have, this year, created a brilliant piece of the Marvel Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. Add to that their mini's that have shown the after effects of the "War of Kings" and you've got the hottest writing duo on the planet right now. Their dialogue is spot on with wonderful humor as well as some great poignant moments. The loss of Adam Warlock and half their team in Guardians this year was probably my number one read of 2009. Bravo guys! Keep up the great work.

Marvel (The Worst)

5. Brian Michael Bendis: How can he be on both lists? Simple, just take any issue of Ultimate Spider-Man (my favorite Bendis book) and compare it to any of his many Avenger books. Go ahead, I'll wait... Did you see it? Everyone sounds the same! Everyone has a quip and seems to be able to roll witty banter off their tongue as easy as Peter Parker. I think last year I put him number one or two on this list, but he's dropped down to the bottom at least. I don't know if that means he's getting better to me (His one shot story of Ares and his son was amazing - no doubt), or if I'm slowly becoming a Marvel Zombie. GULP!

4. Ultimate Spider-Man: This was my favorite Spidey book up until the whole Ultimatum mess. After wiping out New York City, thanks to the evil mutant Magneto, Bendis changed the status quo of this title by showing New Yorkers just how much of a hero Peter really is. My problem with this book is two fold. First, the stories now feel about stale, where as in the first volume Bendis always seemed to be taking the 616 universe and turning it on its ears. Now everyone seems to be treading water. Second, the art. Way to close to a Manga style for my taste. I miss Bagley horribly. Please come back!

3. Captain America Reborn: Don't get me wrong, my love for Brubaker remains strong, but even one of the greats can have an off title, and this is his (though I was very disappointed with his rather short run on Uncanny X-Men as well). The way he brought Steve back is okay, if not done before in its own way, but the fact that we now have Steve Rogers running around in other Marvel titles while still not officially back yet in this "big event" mini is frustrating. I want my continuity for these moments. What's next? Will we be reading a funeral scene in New Avengers before Siege is finished? Sorry Mr. Brubaker, not only is this poorly timed, but after the most excellent way you "killed off" Steve, the return seems long, dragged out, and slightly boring.

2. Marvel's United States Government: Norman Osborne? Really?!?! Does the government in Marvel's Universe have no secret intelligence at all? Does no one have a clue who this guy really is?! Who in their right mind would place a deranged megalomaniac in charge of the nations defense? This is a man who had done some pretty heinous things that somebody in Washington D.C. had to have known about. You can't tell me that nobody knows what kind of psychotic loon he really is. It's just unbelievable that they would have given Norman this much power to begin... what's that? Dick Cheney? Huh... well... never mind...

1. The Sentry: No big surprise here. Unless Bendis can pull a Harvey sized rabbit out of his hat, this guy is going to go down as the biggest waist of space in Avengers history. In comparison, even Dr. Druid looks good. There's way too much access baggage that has never fully been explored in any of the Avengers books to make him even remotely sympathetic. In fact it would be safe for me to say that if by some luck he has some kind of sacrificial moment at the end of Siege that is totally mind blowing... I won't care. In fact, I'd probably dance on this pretend heroes pretend grave. Here's hoping that Benids, Joe Q., and Marvel will do the right thing by Bob and put us out of our... I mean him out of our misery.

So that's it for my first blog! In the next few days I shall write my second entry where I talk about the best and worst of DC and announce which of the big two I thought was superior to the other in 2009.

Until then, this is your friendly neighborhood geek, Starlord, signing off.