Saturday, February 25, 2006

In lieu of actual content...

A random panel from The Golden Age Flash Archives, Volume II.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Allan Who?

I'm very tired tonight, and didn't get much reading done. In fact, I hadn't even intended top post, but by way of Respendant Beard I found out some important news.

They've announced the Wonder Woman writer finally.

Allan Heinberg.

Who the hell is Allan Heinberg?

Apparently he writes Young Avengers, which I have never read.

I know there's a featured character named Wiccan. This means that Heinberg is aware of non-monotheistic spiritual movements. I'm afraid to find out, however, if he's going via Buffy-route of Wicca. A superhero named "Wiccan" will almost certainly have mystical powers (to be fair, one named "Christian" will probably be able to turn water to wine), and to me that would indicate Hollywooditis and a total lack of respect for this spiritual path.

I suppose I could pick up Young Avengers and make a final judgement, but don't think I could get past the name to judge the quality of writing. So you know what? I'm not going to.

I'm goign to let Allan Heinberg remain a mystery. I'm going to approach the next Wonder Woman relaunch with a clean slate or, at least, one of minimized negativity). Let the writer surprise me.

I have a unique opportunity here, to form an opinion of a writer based entirely on how he handles the most difficult character in comics, and I'm not going to squander that by reading something I expect to offend before he even picks up the book I'll probably like a lot better.

So, this summer, I meet Allan Heinberg. I'll judge the writing then. (Shame it's going to be side by side with Terry Dodson's art. Dodson has talent, sure, but all of his women look alike. Not a welcome thought for a book that traditionally features a majority female cast)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Am I Dreaming?

Green Lantern #9 came out today. (Kalinara has gleaned more meaning from this one than I was able to.)

This makes the book officially back on schedule.

This, actually meeting a real-life Hal, the disturbing lack of the Flash in my pullbox (The Flash is the one title I have consistantly read since I started reading comics), my unexpected sadness at Jade's fate, and my sudden attraction to Obsidian all combine to make this a truly surreal month for me.

I just hope I don't wake up and find myself on January 31st again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Todd Rice

Todd Rice has somehow become one of my favorite characters during the last couple weeks. I thought it was because he was outed, and dating a really cute guy. Especially, as that enables me to turn the page and find this (spoilers/slasher's dream) in any given issue of Manhunter.

Really cute blond-haired guy + really cute brown-haired guy = Major Turn-on for me.

But, no, that wasn't exactly right. It's actually what Kalinara has pointed out.

"I spent most of Todd's appearances in JSA thinking "Okay, your life sucks, get over it."
-And he seems to have."

And that is why Todd is now officially the Best Thing to come out of Infinity Inc and will likely be the only ex-Infinitor active next month.

(Oh, and I totally agree with her about Polly too)

Ethnocentricism in the Real World

Since many of us are here to discuss religion, there's a current ongoing controversy to chew on. The Muslim outcry against a few cartoons depicting Mohammed in a less than favorable light (although, I seem to recall from World Cultures class that an image of Mohammed in any light was forbidden to their religion)

On the one hand, there is clear overreaction and a definite lack of reason here. But I find myself empathizing a bit with the offended, if only at their taking offense and not their method of demonstrating that offense.

But other people have laid out far more clear and rational opinions. Peter David points out the obvious insanity of the reaction, and Tegan delves into a more cutting aspect, the manipulative nature of the media (and her followup). On the other end of the opinion spectrum, the writer at Definition centers on the news coverage also.

There's probably more, but I'm not following this particular topic too closely. Religious freedom is a big issue for me, but much as I'd like to empathize more with the offended religion, I can't. I mean, I know of cartoons wherein they have actually killed off someone's patron diety and others where they've demonized them beyond belief. I've seen people express deep offense, but never causing harm. It weakens the sympathetic stance a bit.

And to make it seem wrose, I've seen people take it with a good sense of humor. But, as this is my own particular subculture, it's probably wrong to judge through that standard.

Depressing, all the same.

(Update: There is still this piece of news)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wonder Woman and Religion

Most of us blame the difficulty some writers have understanding Wonder Woman on gender. "She's a complex woman," I've heard. "They're each writing their ideal woman," I've read.

Read On

Most of these writers, of course, have no trouble with characters like Lois Lane, Barbara Gordon, or Dinah Lance. Those who do, they don't have problems to the extent they have with Diana. Lois, Babs, and Dinah seem to have much more clearly defined personalities than Diana. Diana seems almost schizophrenic, as every writer explores a different aspect, every writer makes their own personal stamp on her. For Perez, she was a total innocent, a full optimist. Loebs wrote a rebellious daughter who ran off to see the world and tried to become part of it. Byrne wrote a stiff, formal princess. Waid played up the warrior side. Morrison played up the disciplined competitor. Luke's Diana seemed lost to me. Jimenez wrote a highly emotional woman. Simonson introduced a rational, thinking woman. Rucka took to the rational, thinking side, too, but he added regality and spirituality. But the other three mentioned tend to be the same. Even lackluster writers have a basic handle on those characters, but it takes a really good writer to make Diana work.

Diana's problem isn't her gender, it's that she's from an alien and ancient culture. Not simply in attitude and philosophy, but in the religion. I think that's where it breaks down.

Most of the writers and editors (though not all, I'm sure) can be presumed to be from a monotheistic religious background. Supreme Deity, pitch perfect in all ways, representing the good and only the good in the universe, that's the measure of divinity. Most of their readers are from this background too. From this background, Diana's Pantheon seems like a kindergarten class with cosmic power. Hardly respectable or acceptable in their view of divinity (even though it's supremely unfair to judge a foreign religion in terms of your own). Divinity is good, and anything that's bad is not divine, after all. And if anyone finds the behavior of the Greek Pantheon acceptable in polite society, they need serious counseling. It's bad sometimes, therefore it can't really be divine.

Here's the thing, though. To the Modern Pagan Mind (I can't speak for the Ancients), this isn't the way to view divinity. Divinity is not good or bad, Divinity is good and bad. The Gods Just Are. Their behavior can be truly awful and truly wonderful. Their nature encompasses the extreme best and extreme worst of their spheres of influence. They aren't "people," they are "ideas." Aphrodite isn't a woman, she's the Love/Lust -- The Need to Continue/Protect the Species. Her arena includes lofty, self-sacrificial love and wild, self-(and other-) destructive lust. Ares' realm is protection and defense in addition to excessive force and violence. Athena's gentle compassionate wisdom exists alongside coldblooded scheming.

Some people who've read the Greek stories ask "How could they worship this?" (which is fascinating because I have a pagan friend who's read the Old Testament and constantly asks that about the Judeo-Christian religions). They have trouble reading in the abstract, I guess. They don't realize Athena and Aphrodite aren't women, they're concepts. Where it says "Athena does this" you should read "Wisdom does this," or "Knowledge does this." Apollo would be Reason or Light. Aphrodite is Love and Lust. Ares is War...etc..

Zeus alternately behaves as a loving father and an utter dick. I've seen it analyzed that Zeus represents Men in Power Positions (Kings, CEOs.etc..), or just Power itself. Power blesses, sets rules, rewards, creates and destroys, exploits, brutalizes, tyrannizes also. Worship of Zeus isn't necessarily embracing the worst indulgence of power, but it's representing Power as it is and accepting that it can harm and help. Aphrodite is the full scale of love and lust -- from the lowest urge to the highest regard. Her worship is respecting and accepting the nature of relationships/bonds between people, at the best and worst of it.

But people don't think this way. So, in order to write a character who worships these gods, and still use them, the writers need to find a way to make it acceptable to the majority.

They usually use one of three approaches: 1) Suck all of the life and personality out of these vibrant, energetic deities, 2) Write down the gods, making them subordinate/lesser than the supreme deity, or 3) both of the above.
Then Greek Gods are just background characters, and supporting cast in Wonder Woman. This would be fine, if they were used to support the story and move along the plot without being without being degraded in the above ways. Since the Post-Crisis Reboot, Diana's gods have been arbitrarily put in danger (Hermes, the entire Pantheon a few times), depowered (Hermes), made evil (Hecate), made ineffective (Persephone), rescued by her (Poor Hermes!) and even killed off (Hermes, Hades) in order to make Diana look stronger, and to make their existence more palatable to the majority of readers.

The trendsetter here was Perez. Sure, he told a fine story about a god being made flesh and suffering humiliation and depowerment as a human when he used Hermes. But in doing so, he drained Hermes of all of the personality that made Hermes so likeable. It could have been an acceptable result of this ordeal, but he did the same to the rest of the Pantheon. He turned Olympus into a funeral home. Even when Zeus acted like Zeus, he was so stiff and formal that it was unbelievable. Every god was the walking dead. A cipher. This is what he expected to represent the most vital pieces of life? Even Hades, the god of the dead represents a primal, energetic force in the universe that every human being knows in the deepest part of their soul. Perez's Olympus just didn't convey that. He couldn't even get their appearances right! (Artemis is Not A Blonde!) I groaned every time I saw the gods (with the exception of Hermes, whom I was excusing for his being weakened) when I read Wonder Woman for a long long time. And the death of Hermes was a continual sore spot which was only healed recently.

As I see it, Rucka seemed to have the best approach. The stories were heavy and plodding, like a Greek Tragedy, because he was playing up the cultural aspect. Ultimately, though, he has had my favorite Wonder Woman run to date. He'll always have a special place in my heart for returning Hermes to the living (conversely, he'll always be a sore spot for killing Hades). He wrote the gods as their personalities, introduced a mildly metaphysical (Cotton Candy Symbolism) explanation for their fluctuating power levels called "Indirect Worship" which reinforced the idea of the gods as Concepts with Consciousness as opposed to Normal Characters.

If you follow the maneuvers of Athena throughout Rucka's run, actually, you'll notice a parallel with what's going on inside Diana's head, which is truly an effective way to use the gods (if he did it on purpose -- and I have trouble believing the Hermes part at least wasn't on purpose). During his run I noticed:
-- Artemis -- the joy of the hunt, isolationist feminism (Themiscyra itself, which Athena and Hermes encouraged Diana to leave), seems to have been cut out of the picture (I know it was a name thing, but it still makes a great subconscious pattern especially considering that during Perez's run she was the one equated with Diana's personality the most) as Diana finally takes serious steps to spread her message to the world at large and tries to get away from chasing supervillains in favor of her professional life. Sure, it doesn't work, but notice the heavy themes of the run -- Supervillains scheme in the background while Diana focuses on the embassy, then they seek her out at work -- unlike the other runs, where the scheming took place during a lot of onscreen fighting and maybe a little side lecturing that is referred to but not shown.
-- Athena moves to take the throne as Wisdom, Strategy, and furthering her Ideological Goals moves to the forefront of Diana's thinking.
-- Diana is practically a cipher, seen through other's eyes for much of the run. She's not communicating herself to the reader, her supporting cast is. First person narrative, which is the standard of modern superhero comics, allows us a glimpse into her thoughts only once before Hermes, the God of Communication, Thought, and Learning is returned from the Dead. (Interesting how the single time we saw this method of narration is the crossover with the Flash -- a representative of Hermes if there is one in the DCU)
Rucka disappointed me, though, in Wonder Woman #225. Athena's narration is reverent of Diana, and hints at self-hatred. As though even the gods themselves cannot accept themselves as they are.
Diana's religion, once again, is undermined by the writer, even as he tries to build the character up. In a way, this cancels itself out. Diana is such a spiritual character, brought to life and empowered by the gods, given a mission by the gods, that anytime you undermine her religion you undermine the basis for her personality, and you start to lose what little ground you had.

I'm still really impressed, mind you (Despite my massive annoyance at Hades' treatment, and my irritation with Athena's attitude last issue) with Rucka's handling of the gods. I love using the events on Olympus as an allegory and a catalyst for the Earthly plot. I even more like the gods with their Homerian personalities, the sometimes benevolent, sometimes malevolent, always interesting Greek Gods that I've read about since Elementary school.

The clerk at my LCS knows this, and so he asked if I was angry by the implication in Infinite Crisis #4 and Wonder Woman #225 that they won't be an active part of Diana's life again. I don't think that's true, but on reflection, I don't think I'd mind if they are shuffled to the origin story and never used aside from retelling that. Too few writers can handle them correctly, and it gets downright insulting after a while.

(And yes, that was another Image stolen off of Poison Ivy)


X-Men 3: Last Stand

(They look like CD covers to me)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Satin Worship

One of the best reasons to own The Best of the Spirit (by Will Eisner) is the fifth panel of Page 20.

That's the introduction of Satin. I've liked Satin since I saw her in Vol 12 of the Archives (She's dressed like a nun there for some reason). This was the first time I saw her introduction. It helped solidify my opinion.

I want to be her when I grow up.

In the first half-page of her existance, she walks in wearing what I think is one of my favorite comic-book female outfits ever, and immediately starts to make everyone around her squeamish. She's been shot. Yes, that is her striding in after being shot in the arm. No indication of pain. The entire scene, she doesn't show any indication of pain. Without even the slightest hint of whining about it, she takes the razorblade and hot water she requested and extracts the bullet from her own forearm. The wussies she's working with faint at the sight.

Also, note that she's using her right hand to do this. Later, she uses her left hand to club Spirit with a vase and hold a gun on him. Ambidextrous, too.

And the hat is very cool.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rare and Awe-Inspiring Panel

I snatched this off of Poison Ivy's Livejournal and it is a beautiful picture for one compelling reason.

It's not because I enjoy seeing Batman says "Ragamuffin" (can't you just hear Adam West there?). It's not because of the angle of the Flash and Green Lantern (I can see Green Lantern from that angle anywhere). It's not because I'm impressed by Aquaman's shaven swimmer's chest.

It's not just because all of the men have strategically torn clothing .

No, its because Wonder Woman is standing in the middle of it, costume completely intact.

I mean, how long has it been since we've seen a team scene with one female, and four males, and the female is the only one still fully clothed at the end of a fight?

Possibly since this panel was first published.

What I Learned in Nevada

I was thinking about you all while I was gone.

Partly because it was a work trip, and I was stuck in a strange city, feeling pretty sick, with a lack of money and no access to the Internet. Partly because I was not with my normal crew (one person for each freaking system!) and I'm actually very shy in person, so I didn't hit it off with all of the others. Partly because I despise the singles scene -- loud clubs and smoky bars -- that everyone else there was so enamored of and so, with my dehydration headaches amplifying my ill-will towards all humanity, I ducked out of most socialization opportunities and I didn't have my cat with me. So I was a little lonely in Nevada.

But mostly, its because of my addictions. I'm addicted to blogging, and even with my normal crew in Oklahoma I can't express my thoughts in person without being tuned out. For example, we were discussing the USAF Academy, and I started describing the guy I knew who went there -- who had had a beautiful head of blonde hair that they had made him shave off, and his head was not shaped for it at all, and as a result I hate most military haircuts -- and the hydraulics guy fell asleep! That never seems to happen online. I'm not sure why you guys read when no one in person will listen, but you guys read and I never tell you how much I appreciate that but I do.

I'm also horribly addicted to comic books, and did not have access to them for two weeks (aside from the too few trades I brought with me) or access to anyone else with an interest in them for two weeks. So, all of these thoughts kept coming to me that I really couldn't share. I wrote some down, but mostly I just filed those thoughts away under "Will blog about, don't need to ramble on."

I planned to do something different when I came back. I read Manhunter, and thought I'd share how much I liked it. I thought maybe I'd discuss Grant Morrison's late cat, or share some of the panels from World's Finest that make me particularly happy.

But after a few days of actual work, I knew I had to go back to Green Lantern.

Read On

You see, I got two things out of this trip: $23 and a deeper appreciation for Hal Jordan. At first I appreciated that character because he was cute. Then, after Emerald Knights, I appreciated him because he could learn that he's destined to turn evil and destroy everything and try to move past that crap. In back issues, we all learned he was easy, which just completely upped my esteem of him. Now, I really learned to love him when Scipio pointed out what a klutz he is. You see, I hit my head a lot, too. On the plane. We have parts in awkward places and if you try to stand too fast -- Ouch! But I digress.

Anyway, I've learned a new way to appreciate Hal. I now appreciate him as Tom Kalmaku appreciated him.

Professionally, I mean.

(What did you think I was going for?)

You see, I got to spend two weeks in Vegas working on aircraft. This isn't the normal stuff I do in OKC, because there was minimum people available. So, they needed help with a lot of the ground crew preparation stuff (Normally I only deal with the plane AFTER the dangerous, unpredictable crew has left).

I got to be a wingwalker (the guy to the side with his thumb up so the pilot knows he has enough room to either side -- not the guy in front in the safety vest with cones. The guy in front is called a marshaller) for two different pilots. I came to call them Hal and Bizarro Hal.

First, we launched Bizarro Hal, the Yellow Lantern. I will say, right away, that I didn't like that crew that much. The co-pilot was a moron, the navigator was a moron, and the radar guy was a fucking moron. I won't go so far as to call the pilot as moron, but he was certainly afraid to taxi (drive the aircraft from parking to the runway).

He asked for wingwalkers not only for his first turn (as is standard), but in front of every other aircraft on the parking ramp -- just in case. Even though there was ample room. But that's okay, it was his first day on the airfield. It's understandable. After everyone was onboard, he took an extra 15 minutes talking to the crew chief to triple check and make sure everything was okay with the plane before he taxied out.

Safety First, huh?

It was a full twenty minutes before he got off the ground.

When he got back, he was late. He had a missed approach (when the pilot is ready to land then changes his mind for whatever reason.) He stopped on the edge of the taxiway for about ten minutes. I'm not sure what he was doing, but he was probably annoying the Ground Controller in some manner. We waited, in our marshalling positions, for a long time. He finally started taxiing to parking. There was a sign to the side of the ramp. He freaked out, and had a wingwalker come in and stand by it.

Again, his first day. Understandable.

By the fourth day, we were all getting a little perturbed with him. Especially the crew chief who talked to him before each launch.

The second week, they switched. Bizarro Hal had to do night flying, and we get to work with Hal.

Hal gets into the aircraft, does his checklist, double checks his stuff, and shoots the shit with the crew chief while he's waiting for the rest of the crew to show up. Once everyone else is onboard, they close up the jet and he asks for the marshals.

"Do you need extra wing marshals?" the crew chief asks him.

"Nah, just enough to make sure all the ground guys are out of the way as I pull out of the spot," he answers, and taxis off once he gets the signal from the marshaller.

After a week of the Yellow Lantern, we're all in awe of this. The same crew chief who cursed Bizarro Hal every day is dancing and singing the praises of Hal.

Five minutes later, we see the jet leave the ground. Wow!

I'm thinking, though, that maybe it's since a week has passed the other guy's gotten better.


Well, we came into work one morning and saw the notes from night shift about the state of the other plane: #3 was "Crew is a pain in the ass."

It seems that Bizarro Hal behaved precisely as he always did, and, in addition to that, had heard something strange in the first engine. But, of course, the co-pilot stated that it was the second engine. The Navigator heard it in the third engine. Could we please look at that?

Oh, and the radar tech broke his seat.

Nightshift had their engine guy, their flight engineer, and the supervisor of flying listen to the engines. They sounded fine.

We had our engine guy, our flight engineer, and our supervisor of flying listen to the engines. They sounded fine.

This was possibly the eighth thing that radar guy had broken this trip.

The jumpy pilot showed no signs of relaxing, and continued to monopolize the ground crew when taxiing.

Meanwhile, his more relaxed counterpart continued to look better and better. Taxied off every morning without a hitch, got off the ground on time, landed on time and early each time.

We loved him.

I can see why Tom Kalmaku put up with Jordan's stupidity on the ground. His piloting skills were worth it. A jumpy pilot is like a nervous puppy who pees on the carpet whenever he's startled. Tom attached to Hal pretty quick, despite insulting nicknamed. His previous pilot was probably a jumpy, nervous person who needed all sorts of babying whenever he was taxiing. (I wonder how guys with that temperament can fly -- I mean, you can't use your brakes in midair) A confident, comfortable pilot, even an oblivious racist who kept hitting his would be a relief afterwards.

I was originally scheduled for Bizarro Hal's flight home, which had me nervous, until they switched me to Hal's flight. That was fun, but also kind of scary.

He's a great pilot when you're ground crew, but if you're waiting on the plane for everyone to board and he's got "Eye of the Tiger" playing over the loudspeaker, it's a bit intimidating. The hydraulics guy (who had exclaimed "I LOVE this pilot!" the day before) voiced his concern for us ("I'm not sure I'd wanna fly with these crazy motherfuckers") before he left to help launch.

It all turned out all right, though. Even got home with enough time to pick up the cat and my comics before snow started falling.

Go Hal!