The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Is Batman the Good Lex Luthor?

lex luthor fighting batman

I was thinking about Lex Luthor and his quality as a villain. Cause you know, a superhero is only as good as their bad guy. We remember Joker, Thanos, Killmonger, Magneto, Venom, Vulture, and so on. No one thinks about Whiplash, Malekith, Yellowjacket, or Aldrich Killian.

Lex Luthor is somewhere in the middle. He’s Superman’s primary villain, but he’s never had a real firm MO or personality. Whereas that works for the Joker, because he’s the embodiment of chaos, it doesn’t work for someone who’s essentially Donald Trump if he was the smartest man alive.

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On one side you’ve got the Lex Luthor who was a silly megalomaniacal real estate developer played by Gene Hackman (or Kevin Spacey) whose sole henchman is a moronic cousin. The guy whose hatred for Superman comes from the fact that Supes made him bald when he flew by his lab and caused an accident in an experiment. He’s closer to a Bond villain in terms of showmanship and panache.

On the other side, there’s the Lex who became President of the United States. The Lex who manipulated Supergirl into becoming his slave. Who’s purported to be the smartest man alive in the DC universe (kind of like Reed Richards in Marvel). His primary motivation seems to be fear and ego. Fear of what someone with absolute unstoppable power could do. Ego because Lex is no longer the most loved or most powerful man in the room. Lex knows he can’t win in a fight, so he has to outsmart Superman. To be one step ahead, either by making a trap that Superman can’t break out of or manipulating the chess pieces so that he can never be tied to the crime. Kind of like Batman.

And that got me thinking — Batman and Lex Luthor are both sides of the same coin. They’re both insanely rich (and by extension, insanely powerful–everything in Gotham essentially has the Wayne logo stamped on it). They’re both insanely smart. Like there’s no way a playboy who grew up in a mansion could have become smart enough to build a supercomputer, a gadget-ridden vehicle, a chemist’s lab, a business acumen, and so on. Kind of like Iron Man.

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In Death Battle, they pitted Lex Luthor against Iron Man, but I think Tony Stark has more in common with Bruce Wayne. They’re both so wealthy money has no meaning to them anymore. Both have tragic backstories. Both are inventive geniuses. Both had parents who were tragically killed–but Bruce Wayne’s were nurturing whereas Tony’s were emotionally absent. (Tony Stark’s real “mentor” was Ho Yinsen, who showed him the sins of his past). One learned how to fight, the other creates machines to do the fighting for him. One is motivated by justice, the other redemption.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Lex Luthor feels like the rival to Batman, not Superman. The difference is that Batman earned his power. He had to work for it. Lex Luthor was born with it. This is a key difference in superhero stories, and how you tell the hero from the villain.

And when it comes to the Justice League, who is Superman’s biggest rival? Batman. Despite him being a mere human, he always seems to be one step ahead when Superman goes crazy and needs to be countered. Wonder Woman can’t do it. Green Lantern can’t do it. But Bruce Wayne can, because he outsmarts him. He plans for all contingencies. In Injustice, the comic/video game that poses “what if Superman did finally start using his powers and actually getting rid of criminals”, it’s Superman the benevolent dictator vs. Batman and the rebellion. And Batman holds his own. Shouldn’t Superman be able to use x-ray vision to sniff him out, then laser him to death?

And you know all those memes and gifs of Batman outdoing Supes.

Maybe this is the only way Superman can be defeated–outmaneuvering him. Which is not a great message–strength and toughness (and projectile weapons) are the antithesis to strategy and intelligence. Superman and Batman play off each other like Captain America and Iron Man, but not as much direct conflict. They don’t have any nose-to-nose arguments debating the right thing to do vs. the smart thing to do. Just subtle quips and verbal sniping.

The difference between Superman and Batman is more “I embrace everyone” vs. “repel everyone bad”. Superman saves the butterfly, Batman kills the spider (or beats the crap out of the spider, then puts it away in an easily escapable asylum).

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There are plenty of “alternate universe” Superman stories — Red Son, Injustice, Gods and Monsters, Kingdom Come, New Frontier. There’s even plenty of alternate Supermans within the canon (i.e. Bizarro, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, Steel). But I never hear about alternate Lex Luthor.

It makes me wonder if Lex Luthor’s parents had been killed by a thug while walking out of a theater, would he have turned more into Bruce Wayne? Using his super-intelligence to bring justice to those who need it?

How to Fix Supergirl the TV Series

action comics superman supergirl

I do seem to like to talk about Supergirl. So hey, why not some more. And it gives me a reason to put up pretty pictures.

So Supergirl the TV series started on CBS, the network for senior citizens, then moved to CW, the network for fresh-faced teens. Went from Wheel of Fortune to Dawson’s Creek.

I watched the first season and the first five episodes of the second season. I wanted to get into it, I really did. But the characters stopped me. Don’t get me wrong — Melissa Benoist is a delight. She’s like Emilia Clarke — she’s charming as hell and I’d follow her, dragons and all. She’s the reason I kept watching as long as I did. It’s everyone else that sucks. They’re so milquetoast. We’ve got boring tech geek, boring heartthrob love interest, boring stiff military commander, boring sister who suddenly decided she was a lesbian at thirty years old, boring snippy Ally McBeal.

“Poor supporting” cast joke here

Actually, the best of the cast was Calista Flockhart. But even then, I couldn’t stand her bitchy character giving bitch-vice to Kara Danvers* in the form of not-mentorship. “Listen to me — I’m world-wise but everything is beneath me and everyone hates me. I’m female Donald Trump. You too could be like me if you follow my five simple steps.” In other words, none of these are people I would want to hang out with. I don’t want to let them into my home for an hour each week.

The other reason was because the life of a young woman moving from the country to the city to “make it” was just not interesting to me. For one thing, that’s Superman’s story. Like it’s the exact same thing, how to balance work (superheroing) and life. I’ve seen it. Add in uninteresting villains (Maxwell Lord is just Lex Luthor AGAIN. And Aunt Alura is just General Zod AGAIN — dress them up all you want, but at the end of the day, Lord is a rich genius CEO who thinks the hero is a threat and the other is a military commander escaped from the Phantom Zone).

Here’s my solution. Be more like Buffy.

The magic of Supergirl is not that she’s Superman in a skirt. It’s that she’s fresh off the boat. She’s a true alien. She doesn’t know what’s going on, what Earth culture is like. She’s been in a bubble for the last thirteen years, so it becomes like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, only more serious (and actually unbreakable). So you get moments like this…

It’d be a fine line to tread on the “Born Sexy Yesterday” tropes, but as long as Kara is living for herself, not some man, you can do it.

In the beginning of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy was trying to make her life normal while the abnormal kept treading in (thanks to the Hellmouth plot generator). There’s a call to heroism that she’s trying to ignore, but can’t (because as Spider-Man said, if you let bad things happen when you can do something about it, you’re no better).

Do the same thing here. Give Supergirl some equally downtrodden friends. Not a guy who’s got Superman in his cell phone. Not the army-man who can’t crack a smile and really a Martian warrior. She needs a Xander and a Willow. Her antagonists shouldn’t be her bosses, it should be a contemporary. An equal. The person she wants to be. Like Cordelia. And sure, throw in an Angel in there too. Why not? Who doesn’t like forbidden love? Sure, make him full of kryptonite. I don’t care.

Most of all, we need a mentor. Now Captain Obvious says that should be Superman. He’s the one who’s been here the longest, he knows how to handle his superpowers, and he was raised here, so he knows Earth customs. But that would be a hard sell. If Superman’s in the show… why not make the show ABOUT Superman? Plus the fact that Superman can do anything Supergirl can do, but better. And the fact that it’s actually HIM who needs something from Supergirl. She’s only one with knowledge of his planet, the only tie to his heritage. He needs her to teach him about where he came from.

Besides, does this not look like a set from Buffy? And they both were on the same network.

No, Supergirl needs a Giles. Someone who can educate her, but cannot do what she can do. I don’t know who that might be, since part of Supergirl’s character is that there’s no one else like her (save her cousin). J’onn J’onzz would be a good candidate, if you can loosen him up a bit. The problem is he’s so stiff, I want Supergirl to skip class and go to the mall. He becomes the antagonist, not the guru. Supergirl needs someone to serve a father-daughter relationship. That’s a conflict full of story and strength. And more fascinating than the mother-daughter relationship with Kat.

And it definitely SHOULD NOT be a mother-son thing, which is what I was seeing from the Mon-El thing when I left. They did it the total opposite what I wanted. No one wants to see SuperDouchebag hitting on girls or using his superpowers for selfish reasons while Young Kara Danvers tries to prevent his shenanigans. She shouldn’t be caretaking a twenty-year-old when she’s cultivating her own life.

So yeah, Supergirl. A great concept, but executed in a tired, uninspired way. Just like all the other DC superheroes became, like The Flash (which is just Spider-Man but got too hung up on the relationship, just like the movies) and Arrow (which is just Batman, but got too grimdark and too unrealistic).

Also, Streaky. Gotta put the cat in there. Who wouldn’t watch a show with a super-cat?

*I literally forgot what her secret identity name was for a moment, just like Calista Flockhart’s running gag in the show. Was it Kat? No, that was Flockhart’s character. Was it Laura? Lara? K-something. Kal-El? No, that’s Superman. Her last name was Danvers. Carol Danvers? No, that’s Ms. Marvel. I had to look it up on IMDB. Kara! I was close.

Eating My Words on Wonder Woman

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Oh, look at all these words. Oh… yum… gulp… so delicious… so meaty. So good… so good to eat… so scrumptious… I’ve never eaten words as good as this before. This is delicious. Scrumpf… glomp… chew… oh so good… so satisfying… filling…can’t get enough…

So in 2012, I wrote a blog about how we’d never see a Wonder Woman movie, or at least a good one. Let’s take a look at some of the points I made and why I was wrong.

“…to make Wonder Woman translate to today’s audiences, you would have to alter her so radically that she wouldn’t resemble Wonder Woman anymore. … Someone’s going to leave unhappy — either the fanboys or the casuals.” 

Well, what I didn’t count on was that the movie was going to make someone else happy — women. Not just geek women or romcom women or intellectual women. Just… women. They kept the character… mm, I hate to say it but “generic” enough so that everyone could project on to her. One tweet said “Is this why men watch superhero movies? Because I feel like taking on an army after seeing Wonder Woman.”

And why wouldn’t you be excited? How nice would it be to not be afraid of men? Someone who didn’t have to hold her keys in her fist walking through the parking lot, who doesn’t have some bald man staring at her on the subway, who can sit in a bar without some drunk stranger telling her to “smile more”. Wonder Woman doesn’t let anyone shut her down or interrupt her.

This is the flaw in DC movies — they try too hard to please everyone and rely too much on focus groups. Hence the movies are bland and messy and deviate too much from source characters (e.g. Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Superman v. Batman). As a result, the movies have no flavor. They’re bland. As colorless as… as… well, as a DC movie (come on guys, you gotta do color correction!) Wonder Woman is not an exception. It’s as gray as a warfare first-person shooter. But it did the best it could. And one hopes that the Justice League, which has some characters who aren’t so grimdark (Aquaman, Flash), will pick up that slack too.

But my point is, they didn’t radically change Wonder Woman. In fact, they didn’t make much of her at all. Didn’t take any risks. Didn’t add any flavor. They didn’t change a McDonald’s hamburger recipe. She was built for a
task, she goes out to fulfill that task. No dead cancer mother or
alcoholism or past life as a criminal. She doesn’t have any flaws (being naive doesn’t count) that make her broken. In fact, her role is to nurture the broken — the Irish guy with PTSD and the Blackfoot exiled from his tribe. If Captain America is the father-figure of the Avengers, Wonder Woman is the mama lion of the Justice League.

“Wonder Woman is intrinsically bonded to its creators predilections towards bondage and female dominance. Wonder Woman is frequently shown either tying up criminals or being tied up.”

I had trouble separating the comic book from the character. For one thing, I think I wrote this around peak “but the comics were better” fanboyism. This was when The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man came out. Everyone else (I’m looking at you DC and Sony) screwed it up because they deviated too much from the source material. Batman couldn’t live up to The Dark Knight, and Spider-Man was receiving a too-soon reboot. Marvel planted its flag with The Avengers, but it still failed the Bechdel Test.

See up to this point, comic book movies always keeping women as sidekicks — Captain America: The Winter Soldier had Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy has Gamora, Thor has Jane, Iron Man has Pepper Potts. And being sidekicks, these women had little definition. Black Widow is “the spy”. Gamora is the “warrior-princess”. Pepper Potts is the sassy secretary. These are not characters, they’re archetypes. When you make a main character that character has to be “broken” in some way. And if you make a woman broken, you get flak saying “how dare you represent all women as [this condition]”.

Wonder Woman fights no criminals, pursues no bad guys. The movie is about World War I and takes a few pages from Apocalypse Now, traveling from the bureaucratic offices to the front lines. But where that storyline became darker and darker, Wonder Woman gives hope. Hope that, with courage and friends, you can take on anyone.

The concept of binding or being bound within the film is removed completely. There are no games and no rope play. Wonder Woman herself is never bound (in the comics, that’s her one weakness, so it’s surprising that doesn’t make it in). Moulston might not approve of the film, but he’s not here. And the world’s moved past that kind of Wonder Woman. Yes, it does stray from her original spirit, but it changes her character for the better.

“How would you even start the story?”

They did it the best way — simply. They left only the basics. Not too many characters get shoved into foreground because once Diana leaves the island, we never see them again. We stay on Wonder Woman the whole time. Even when we have to deviate with some backstory narration, it takes the form of her bedtime story.

“The problem is there’s a stigma around Amazons.”

wonder woman movie supporting cast
The right way
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The wrong way

I worried that characters would become “entitled, bitchy woman with more masculinity than femininity who can’t form social relationships”. The concept is that this secret island holds Zeus’s ripping cool army just in case he ever needs it again. This avoids turning into a land of man-haters (because they’ve worked with men in the past). It also helps that the set and costume design comes from women. They knew how to make feminine warriors without being booblicious.

As far as Diana’s concerned, there’s a little of the “born sexy yesterday” trope. But her character’s development is more about the transition from classic-style honor-fighting to modern warfare. But she still likes babies and ice cream. She doesn’t have the mind of a child so she can hold a conversation without sounding like Sally from Third Rock From the Sun (not that I don’t hold respect for that character, but she was played for laughs). I saw a bit of Bones in her, but not in a disdainful way.

“The first thing you’d have to do is totally revamp the costume.” 

They did, but not very much. For one thing, you don’t see the costume until her iconic charge out of the trench. Until then, it’s cloaks and robes. After the big reveal, you can see they kept the color scheme, but made it grayed out metal.

There’s no explanation for WHY she’s wearing it, and that bothers me. In the plot, she stole some armor from the Themyscira vaults, but it has no context, nor explanation why it looks different from everyone else’s. But this movie’s made me pay more attention to the beauty of the outfits than all movies I’ve seen in the past thirty-six years (I’m 36) combined. They even manage to have a costume montage in the middle. But its more about where she can store her sword, not what’s tantalizing.

Still the best dressing montage there is.

“The biggest problem with Wonder Woman is that her weapons and tools just don’t make sense. … First, [the lasso of truth is] not a very exciting power. Second, it becomes a deus ex machina.”

There is actually surprisingly little of Wonder Woman wielding her signature weapon. She uses the sword, shield, and bracelets more. The few times she does use it is either for interrogation (and he is barely tied up) or as a whip. The plot doesn’t demand that she use it either. At the time, I was thinking of plots like The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3 that are full of deception and intrigue. But more to the point, she IS the weapon. She’s personified defense and offense, not strategy or intelligence (in the spy sense) or moral relativism or power through any means other than selflessness. Also, no silly invisible plane.

“[G]olden bracelets that can stop bullets. … The only things they could block are tiny cocktail swords. … [Y]our wrist bones would shatter as soon as a bullet hit.”

The bracelets are glossed over in the plot. I believe in the comics they’re formed of the shield of Aegis, which is like DC-adamantium. But she does use them and somehow has the reflexes to stop an incoming bullet. Is that explained? No. Her powers are kept ambiguous, which is a disadvantage because it makes her overpowered. They don’t even explain why she doesn’t age. I wouldn’t be surprised if some audience members thought her “god killer” power was the bracelets instead of within herself.

“[F]our words: aim for the legs. The well-exposed legs.”

This still stands, but it’s a problem among many movies. It happens several times to Captain America and no one bats an eye, so I guess we’re all agreeing to ignore it? Rule of cool?

“Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman had the screwed-up relationship of “I Dream of Jeannie”. Wonder Woman’s got all this power and ability, yet she feels incomplete without him.”

In this movie, Wonder Woman absolutely does not NEED Steve Trevor. Well, she does NEED him, in the sense that he’s her liaison into the world of men. But if she got a map to the front or some notes on how British government works, she’d be fine on her own. This is probably the biggest deviation from the comics, but also the most welcome. And it would have been the easiest pit to fall into.

Diana does not have a romance with Steve and Steve doesn’t treat Diana as anything but a peer. A fellow soldier and a means to an end. They both want to end the war. Steve doesn’t necessarily believe in this Ares nonsense, but he’s seen her take on a boat full of Nazis, so he’s got the proof and the pudding.

“Etta Candy? Who is she supposed to be? Comic relief? Is she like the Theodore of this triumvirate?”

Etta Candy is a pleasant cameo, but little more. She’s really the only other woman in the cast who’s not a Themysciran action figure. And they give her dignity. She’s not food-obsessed or man-obsessed. They did her right by not giving her a stereotype or archetype. She doesn’t have a “thing”, unless you count being delightfully British.

“[T]he biggest problem with the supporting characters is that Wonder Woman has no memorable villains.”

I think this still stands. I could see the Ares thing a mile a way and General Thunderbolt is just another Red Skull/Bane/Popeye pastiche taking Super Serum (don’t you know you never get high off your own stash?) The same thing happens in the first Thor, the first Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and the first Spider-Man. But it does avoid the “designated girl fight” and doesn’t go on too long. Dr. Poison was the most interesting (I imagined her like Dr. Tenenbaum from Bioshock) and it’s a shame she got such an uninteresting ending. But we got thrown cars and explosions, so how much can you complain about it?

Final thoughts: Yes, thumbs-up. I am bullish on Wonder Woman stock. I really hope this gets directors and producers to realize that yes, women-led movies, both in front and behind the camera, can make money. And even better, they make good art.

Let’s Laugh at the Guy Who Doesn’t Know Marvel Comics (Part 8)

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Phoenix

When Jean Grey died (one of the times), she was brought back somehow and became Phoenix. I guess Professor X split her mind into a light part and a dark part when they first met. Either she was schizophrenic or had a Jekyll & Hyde thing going. Anyway, now that she’s Phoenix, she can do all the psychic stuff she could before and shoot fireballs. Plus she gets these sweet fire wings.

Polaris

She’s the only other person with magnetic powers, so I think she’s Magneto’s daughter or wife. But I’ve never heard of her, and I wonder what “Polaris” (the north star) has to do with magnetism. Or the color green. The only thing she’s good for in this game is for when you’re sick of seeing Magneto’s chrome dome.

Power Man

It’s not Luke Cage, it’s “Power Man”, you jive turkey. Okay, maybe that’s racist, but that looks how this guy would talk. And you can’t get more generic than “Power Man”. I’ve seen Jessica Jones, I know how cool this guy is. Luke Cage is a perfectly fine name. And since strength is a non-factor in a Lego game (I’m pretty sure I could lift the entire city of Lego Marvel Manhattan if it were made of real Legos), this makes Power Man less useful than Absorbing Man. Who doesn’t absorb anything. Go hang with Lando Calrissian in Lego Star Wars.

Professor Xavier

This is the bald guy in a wheelchair who’s the X-Men’s leader (this wheelchair version floats via telekinesis, which I imagine would get tiring). I don’t know how good of a leader he is. Seems he’s always dying or absent. And then someone like bland Cyclops or evil Emma Frost has to take over. But his psychic powers are off the charts. Especially when he gets into Cerebro, this big machine that can track all mutants all over the world. Good ideals, but poor execution. Personally, I prefer Patrick Stewart. But I wish we could get James McAvoy’s personality into his body, and that would be the ultimate combination.

Psylocke

I think she has psychic powers too, though I’m not sure what. She has some kind of psychic knife/sword that grows out of her hand, like Soul Reaver. But I’m not even sure if she’s a good guy or bad guy. Seems like she comes from the future, though I doubt it. If I were writing X-Men, I’d give her a stronger presence, because she seems very cool but underutiltized.

Punisher

Ah, The Punisher. One of my personal favorites. Forget arc reactors and vibranium shields. Forget “with great power comes great responsibility” or “red on my ledger”. The Punisher’s not interested in justice or mercy. He doesn’t even have superpowers. Just a lot of guns. And whiskey. And he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that heroes don’t kill. He knows there’s bad out there, and he’s not going to bother with rehabilitation or “second chances”. When you’ve seen your family killed in front of you, those kinds of things seem less important.

Pyro

Opposite of Iceman, can throw fireballs. But can’t fly or set himself on fire, which makes him the Chinese pirated version of the Human Torch. But instead of the Fantastic Four, he’s part of the X-Men franchise, under Magneto’s tutelage, I believe (according to the movies at least). His hair is fancy.

Red Hulk

So I guess he’s the opposite of Red Hulk, but I’m not sure who he is really. Wears black pants and has a slightly more faux-hawk hairstyle. When I morphed him back, he became some kind of military man. I think there was a military guy chasing him in the Ang Lee movie. Maybe he becomes the Red Hulk? But how that happened, I have no idea. Since gamma radiation is green, what was he exposed to? Radon? Carbon monoxide? Is that why I have those alarms all over my house. If so, I should turn them off — I wanna turn into a Hulk!

Red Skull

Captain America’s number one bad guy. Also the easiest guy to fight in Marvel: Legendary. I can’t tell if that mask is glued to his face or not. In the movie, it seems to be, but reading his entry in Wikipedia, I couldn’t find the inciting incident where it happened. Guy likes Hitler waaaaay too much, proving even Lego games can’t escape Godwin’s Law. Seems to be one of the bigger bad guys in the Marvel Universe, which makes sense. He’s basically an analog for the squarely-mustached one. As far as I know, there’s no Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein villain, unless that’s The Mandarin.

Rescue

Why haven’t I heard of this character? Pepper Potts in an Iron Man suit? Heart-shaped mask? Shoots pink laser beams? Yes, please. Get this girl a spin-off. If Gwyneth Paltrow won’t star alongside Robert Downey, Jr. how about we offer her own movie. Eh? Eh, Gwyneth? Gwynnie? Gwynerino?

Let’s Laugh at the Guy Who Doesn’t Know Marvel Comics (Part 7)

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Mary Jane Watson

Is it possible to call a minifig hot? I don’t know something about the black t-shirt and red hair and blue jeans really works for me. Unfortunately, she’s all distress and no damsel. You’d think that after being kidnapped so many times she’d get a gun. I mean seriously, does EVERY Spider-Man movie have to end with Mary Jane in trouble?

Mister Fantastic

He’s a scientist, he can stretch his body like Elasti-girl or Plastic Man, and he’s got weird gray hair. According to this game, he can turn into weird stuff like a teapot and an air traffic control tower. I believe he, along with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, is one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe. Meaning only white guys go to school.

Moon Knight

What’s a moon knight? Is he affected by the moon or something? Is the moon his boss? Does he turn into a knight when the moon is full like a were-hero? Does he only have powers at night? If so, it’s not a stealthy costume. He must use a lot of bleach. I’ve never heard of this guy but he reminds me of Space Ghost or that one guy all in white in that seventies cartoon, the one with the Super-Monkey.

Ms. Marvel

This hero’s got an old-sounding name, but as far as I can tell, her big power is throwing fireballs. Wasn’t there anything to make her more distinctive? Usually women heroes had more of a “thing”. Wonder Woman was into bondage. Black Widow’s a femme fatale. Jean Grey comes back to life a lot. She-Hulk, Batgirl, and Supergirl are all “Smurfette”s of more-popular counterparts. I was expecting more of a Sue Storm – someone who’s married to a bigger hero. Is Ms. Marvel’s thing being a single woman?

Mysterio

I personally love Mysterio. Because when I was a kid I thought he was this intimidating villain based on my sole Spider-Man experience – the text adventure video game. Was he an alien? A deformed human? Why couldn’t you see his face? My four-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend this. It was actually disappointing when I found out he was just a stunt/SFX man in a costume. And I didn’t learn this until the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game, where he’s a tertiary villain. In fact, the big joke is that he can be knocked down with one punch. I think this guy would be great for a movie. Much better than Giamatti Rhino or “blueberry” Shocker.

Mystique

So Mystique is like the X-Men version of Black Widow, with a bonus ability to shapeshift into any other human (though that’s not in this game). I’m assuming it’s only humanoids and she can’t change into a rock. Her natural form is blue-skinned with reptilian eyes and even though she could disguise herself as a human, she thinks she shouldn’t need to. Thus she’s on the side of Magneto and wants to destroy all humans. Also, she may or may not be Nightcrawler’s mom. I see the family resemblance.

Nick Fury

Not a pirate. Nick Fury is the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., the company that recruits superheroes to help save the world. I don’t know much about his past but it seems to be military-based. For some reason, he has Black Widow’s cloaking device, even though I don’t think he’s a spy. But he does seem to have a knack for suddenly appearing a la Jason Voorhees. Also, I think he used to be white.

Nightmare

You got me. He seems to be human. Is like some combination of Green Goblin and Scarecrow? Something demonier? He shoots energy balls and beams, but his level takes place in a circus, fighting Ghost Rider (and Hawkeye and Iceman).

Nova

Also one I don’t know. He’s got a weird “star” helmet and a bright blue uniform. Maybe he’s some holdback from a 50’s comic. Especially given that he can fly and shoots “energy beams” which half of all heroes did back then. I don’t even know if he’s from Earth or in some kind of Guardians of the Galaxy region of space.

Pepper Potts

Tony Stark’s secretary-cum-lover-cum-fiancee-cum-didn’t-sign-beyond-three-movies. Funnily enough, the game gives her the ability to operate advanced computers. I think she’s like Tony’s co-dependent. She enables his destructive behavior, before and after his Iron Man epiphany. She’d be a great Nick Fury pastiche in an all-female superhero team-up movie.

Let’s Laugh at the Guy Who Doesn’t Know Marvel Comics (Part 7)

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Kingpin Henchman

What the hell kind of look is this guy going for? He’s got a yellow-orange pin-striped suit top and cowboy jeans. Did someone mix and match his top and bottom like a real Lego? I think they were trying to go for some kind of mafioso-Italian chic, but it looks more like “Dad cobbles together a costume with what’s left in his closet.” It’s almost like they were designed to be disposable.

Kraven the Hunter

I think this is one of Spider-Man’s enemies, but I seem to recall someone in the B:TAS stalking Batman because he was “the ultimate prey”. I find it delightfully ironic that they called this brave hunter-warrior “Kraven”. I think it’s the traps that get Spider-Man the most, because he could just *thwip* that little spear out of his hand in one second.

Kurse

I think this is supposed to be from Thor: The Dark World, but I don’t see a resemblance. He’s wearing thick armor like a biker or medieval warrior, but it’s painted like a hot dog cart.

Lady Liberty

I’m *assuming* that this is just a play on the game, since you do some fighting in the Statue of Liberty, and there is no Marvel superhero called “Lady Liberty” as in a counterpart to Wonder Woman. Move along.

Laufey

Who the hell is Laufey? Low-Fey? La-u-fee? It looks like he’s some kind of Frost Troll, but I’ve been wrong before. Maybe he was left out of “Lego Lord of the Rings.”

Loki

Everyone’s favorite woobie. Loki is the half-brother of Thor – born of Odin and a female frost giant (I assume). For all his tricks and traps, at least his motivation’s clear – he wants to rule Asgard. He doesn’t care who gets hurt in his way, who he has to lie to or manipulate or kill, even if it’s his own mother (spoilers).

M.O.D.O.K.

M.O.D.O.K. stands for something, but I forget what. Murder Or Death Or Killing, maybe. I guess he got so smart, his head got too big to support himself and he had to build a futuristic Stephen Hawking chair (ooh, maybe he’s Stephen Hawking from the future). Possibly one of the more underused villains, but that’s probably because he’s A) hard to take seriously B) expensive to make into a special effect.

Magneto

One of the baddest and best villains in the world. You’ll find him hanging out with Loki, Red Skull, and Dr. Doom more often than not. But unlike them, Magneto actually has some motivation, since he was raised in a concentration camp and saw firsthand the cruelty of man. And with the way they treat mutants, who wouldn’t want to see them crushed beneath you and hearing the lamentations of their women. His control over anything metal makes him easy to underestimate. Consider that nearly anything man-made is metal. He can stop bullets, tear away bridges, turn a stadium into a flying fortress, and manipulate the iron in your blood. Professor X can’t read his mind thanks to his Spartan helmet and the best X-Man, Wolverine, is powerless against him.

Magneto Acolyte

As I recall, Magneto runs the “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants”, which is a terrible name. Guys, don’t put “evil” in your group title. That’s a dead giveaway. Despite that, their outfits are keen. Bright, but practical. In the game, each has a minor elemental power — fire, lightning, or ice — but I don’t think Magneto really has a corps of disposable, identity-less people at his command. There are only so many mutants in the world, after all.

Maria Hill

She’s S.H.I.E.L.D.’s girl Friday. The movies make her badass, but all she really does is repeat what the computer says, like Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest. At least she’s played by a great actress, but going opposite Samuel L. Jackson would bring anyone to their knees. She needs to get some kind of *thing*, like Amanda Waller or Felicity Smoak.

Let’s Laugh at the Guy Who Doesn’t Know Marvel Comics (Part 4)

marvel logo

Doombot

So I guess Dr. Doom has a set of “doombots”, which must be like robot servants. Which means he knows about robotics and technology. So does that mean he’s supposed to be a mad scientist or a mad dictator? This might be the reason I’m not that thrilled with him — he’s too much like Lex Luthor. Cause inventors thrive on the accolades and praise they get from inventions. But dictators want to dominate. Anyway, cute little robots.

Doombot (V-Series)

Less cute.  I guess Doom needed something to take on heavy hitters like Hulk and Thing.  I particularly like the little fan thing around his neck.  Looks like a dilophosaurus on steroids.

Drax the Destroyer

Comes from what I presume is a planet of autistic Klingons. I don’t know if the red marks are scarring or decoration, but I hope it’s scarring. That would be cooler. His family was killed by the guy who had the “black paint eyes-to-forehead” look before Furiosa did it.

Electro

As opposed to angry African-American blue guy, this Electro wears a silly lightning mask that looks like a star. He belongs in a Super Mario game. Besides that, I really don’t know anything about his origin. He seems to be a little high strung, like Megavolt, but less nerdy.

Elektra

The Catwoman to Daredevil’s Batman.  Elektra is a Greek assassin trained by Daredevil’s old trainers, and uses twin sais and a headband.  I always thought if she had a few transformations like Catwoman’s had, she could be at her level.  As it is, she’s become an unfortunate blip on the MCU radar. Does not have electric powers, which makes her a superhero name squatter, like the people who buy up domain names.

Emma Frost

Girl with psychic powers AND can turn her body hard as diamonds. Basically Professor X and Colossus combined, but super super hot. Way overpowered IMHO. She was formerly a bad guy, but I guess in recent comics, she’s been acting as the de facto leader of the X-Men, with Cyclops as her whiny boy-bitch. Not a poster-child for woman-empowerment in comics.

Frost Giant

One of Thor’s bad guys.  And from actual Viking lore, I believe. Makes for nice disposal foot soldiers to make short hammer work of.

Galactus

Giant demigod and ubervillain who consumes planets for nourishment.  I guess he’s one of those guys who’s always been, always is, and always will be.  Assisted by Silver Surfer, who guides him to these planets in order to avoid as much collateral damage as possible.

Gambit

One of the X-Men’s most eligible bachelors. Comes from Louisiana and speaks with a VERY thick Cajun accent. Like super-thick. Thicker than that guy from The Green Mile. His power is telekinesis which he uses to chuck playing cards around, even though a “gambit” has to do with chess. Also whacks people with a stick.  

Gamora

Not an Orion Slave Girl or She-Hulk.  Well, maybe an alien She-Hulk. She’s another of the Guardians of the Galaxy. A former bounty hunter and former ally of one of the bad guys. I guess she’s part of the GOTG team now. Probably the love interest of Chris Pratt.

Death and Further Death of Superman

death and return of superman logo

I recently read The Death and Return of Superman story arc.  Yeah, little late to the game on that one, but I’m trying to catch up.  And as I expected, it did nothing to change my opinion of Underpants Man.  All it did was remind me why I like Batman better.  Just reinforced my image of him as a proto-Captain America (who I’m not fond of either)–the ever moral boy scout.  And it’s about the only one that focuses on Superman–and not even THAT because half the story is about the other Supermen.

Isn’t that sad?  “Death and Return” is the one story arc that ranks as most memorable solo Superman story.  And it’s awful.  Not only that, but it’s the only one any man on the street can remember.  X-Men’s got “Days of Future Past” and “Age of Apocalypse” and “Dark Phoenix” and “House of M”.  Spider-Man has the “Clone Saga” and “Blue”.  Batman’s got “Under the Red Hood”, “Long Halloween”, “Hush”.  The only time Superman’s in anything memorable is a crossover like “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.

Anyway, let’s get talking.  The first issue is our bad guy.  The prologue consists of three or four issues about non-important things, and each ends with a fist punching its way through a cage, with the caption “DOOMSDAY IS COMING”.  This is called hype you haven’t earned.  Superman has fought all kinds of nasties.  What’s there to be intimidated by a fist?

All right, so Doomsday breaks out of his box prison, buried somewhere on Earth, and starts destroying anything he sees.  He takes out the JLA (conveniently pushing them out the way so we can get the one-on-one), then heads to Metropolis because he saw it on a commercial.  Fight, fight, fight, and then they both die.

And if that doesn’t reek of publicity stunt then take a whiff of the FOUR OTHER SUPERMAN who come forward to take his place.  One is just a rip-off of Iron Man, just with steel.  They tried their best to make him different, giving him a “growing up in the ghetto” storyline, but it’s too transparent.  Superboy is pretty good — I’d read his comic book.  At least he’s got a personality: young and brash, powers that don’t always work, getting swept up in the fame.  Not like the real Superboy comic where aliens keep landing in Smallville and Lana Lang has the power to shapeshift into a bug.

The “Last Son of Krypton” has merits too.  He acts robotically, has to wear a visor (which means he has a weakness other than kryptonite), but struggles with acting like a fascist versus doing the good Superman does.  He learns that he’s making mistakes.  He has an arc.

This is the first real solo Superman that I’ve read for the modern age, and it’s bizarre.  It’s like it never emerged from the timeline of its origins.  People still talk like 1920’s newsboys.  In fact, there’s a group of kids that live in a genetic research lab that call themselves “the newsboys” and act like extras from Newsies.  No idea what was up with that.  And then there’s somebody named Bibbo Bibboski, some guy who owns a bar and claims to be Superman’s best friend/biggest fan and speaks like Joe Palooka.

That’s the other thing, Superman never fights humans.  He always fights aliens or mutants or something like that.  And that distances him from relatability (moreso), because humans pose no threat to him, like they do to us.  It makes the comic science fiction instead of superheroes.  Superheroes fight all kinds of baddies, but mostly they fight other humans.  Humans who maybe have some innate thing that makes them a match for the hero (like Joker or Green Goblin), but we’re talking peers.  Nothing peer about Invaders from Mars.  It’s more like Star Wars.

The marketing gimmick is more transparent than the Phantom Zone flippy-square thing.  And I agree with Max Landis when he said it ruined death in comic books.  It showed you can get away with killing major characters to sell books, and bring them back with no consequences.  Superman defeated death.  When death is no longer an issue, it ruins any suspense.  It’s like Landis said: “Superman is boring.  He was just the first.”

The Top Three and Bottom Three of 2014

2014 with books

When I rate books, I use the “desert island” test: three stars or above means “if I was stuck on a desert island and could bring infinite books with me, I’d put it on the list”. If I decide I wouldn’t bring it with me, it gets two or less.

Well, this year didn’t have any one stars for finished books and very few unfinished. But also, not many five star books. I guess it was a middling year for me. That or I’m getting more critical.

However, I need to recognize a certain work: “Y: The Last Man“. This, and another, were the only two things that got five stars this year. But I didn’t count “Y: The Last Man” in my tally because it’s a comic book/graphic novel/what-have-you. Is that fair? I don’t know. But I do believe it’s one of the best stories I’ve read. Five stars just for taking a high concept and executing it well. Now to the books.

The Best Things I Read In 2015

Steelheart

It’s got clever plot, humorous characters, and a driving action plot. Even with it’s biggest flaw — trying to translate very visual action into literature (as if baiting Hollywood) — the epic story stays down-to-earth with its main character, a guy with strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. The author manages to make a giant plot easier to swallow by coating it in YA. And the resulting dish is delicious.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz


There’s something about this story that keeps me thinking about it. The story gets doled out in pieces, switching between different flashbacks, timelines, and perspectives. But the emotional ennui of being a teenager, the real-life details and grit, reminds me that it’s one of the best YA books I’ve read. Sometimes being a teenager is just a matter of day-to-day survival. It’s difficult to create a YA story that fulfills an angsty character without making him or her too whiny (Speak, Dante and Aristotle Discover the Universe). It’s a fine balance that’s easy to topple. But when it works, it stays with you forever.

Candy Girl

Naked chicks and sex. In my home state, no less. Nuff said.

All right, I’ll say more. I think what struck me the most was the use of elaborate similes. At times, it was tiresome. At others, infinitely clever. It’s not heavy, it’s about a subject I’m interested in. It contains good information while staying colorful and light. It can be easy to devolve into cynicism and pettiness as I’ve seen firsthand (A Stripper’s Tale/Tail by “Diamond”). I got a much better idea of the sex industry from this than other books on the subject.

The Worst Things I Read In 2015

The Sky Is Everywhere


Everyone seems to love this book. It made me gag. Fucking hippies with their fucking hippie problems and inability to recognize what are problems and what aren’t. Combine that with a cliche conflict of “which boy should I choose?” and you’ve got a book that decided it was precious before anyone else had a say.

The 13th Floor



I hate to do this. This person is trying her best, I’m sure. It’s just that I gotta be honest. The book is just not that good. Maybe I’m not the right audience. Maybe I have impossibly high expectations.

Vegan Vampire Vaginas

 

With a title like that, you know it’s got to be good. Someone on Goodreads sent me a message, asking me to review it since I’ve read some bizarro fiction. But unlike The 13th Floor, I have no compunctions about writing this one off. If you solicit someone for a review, like reading someone’s diary, you deserve what you get. Even wacky stuff has to keep a reasonable amount of characters, have a coherent plot, and motivations that make sense. It’s not just some weird comic book dream logic with as much offensive stuff as you can stick in.

Does Superman Poop? (NSFW)

superman wonder woman sex in space

So the other day I was driving home from work and thinking about stuff. For some reason that age old problem came to mind – could Superman have sex?

The going theory is that Superman, on Earth, could only have sex with another Kryptonian. If he had sex with an Earth woman, say Lois Lane, he would ejaculate so hard that it would blow her brains out (see image). This is known as the “man of steel, woman of kleenex” problem. (And this is besides the issue of being pregnant with a super-baby that could kick its way out of your uterus).

Some people think that it’s not an issue, because Superman can control his powers. That’s why he doesn’t crush a doorknob every time he walks through a door. He can stop his heart on command (this was in an early comic book, but it’s still canon). On the other hand, the human body is full of involuntary responses. Especially in the heat of passion, can Superman control it that much? Human men can’t.

That got me thinking about his other involuntary responses, like peeing. Surely Superman doesn’t destroy every toilet he goes in. Otherwise it would be like a high-powered pressure washer. Pooping isn’t really a pressure thing, so I don’t think that would be an issue. But does Superman even need to poop?

He does eat, so it’s got to go somewhere. He can stop his heart, so maybe he can stop his metabolism? Or maybe he has super-metabolism, where he uses all parts of the food. His super-power comes from the yellow sun, so he doesn’t need it to live, I don’t think. I don’t think you can starve Superman to death. (I wonder if Lex Luthor’s tried that yet, instead of stupid green kryptonite plan #4,053).

What if it was, like, super-poop? Does poop retain properties of its digester? Maybe it becomes super-dense dark matter like Nibbler’s poop. So if he dropped a deuce, it could fall through all the floors of the Daily Planet. Could you throw the poop at someone and kill them? If you got near the poop, would you gain super powers? Like Superman gets weaker because of green kryptonite. I’m going to leave it at “being near poop” because I don’t like where this line of questioning is heading.

If it’s like normal poop, could you use it to fertilize your garden and grow super corn (a la Spaced Invaders?) Superman could be wasting a valuable natural resource. Forget saving us from tornadoes and aliens. How about a little contribution to our agricultural output? It works for guano. On the other hand, maybe that’s how Ma and Pa Kent were able to keep their tiny little farm alive. I guess it wasn’t because they had a super-son for child labor to tow the plow.

And if it’s the case for Superman, think about all the other superheroes — the Martian Manhunter’s green poop, Wonder Woman’s god-given poop, Venom’s symbiotic poop, Spider-man’s sticky poop, and the Incredible Hulk’s…

I’ve taken this too far, haven’t I?