Where’s my jetpack?

Seriously, where’s that damn jetpack? Or the hoverboards from Back to the Future? It’s 2011, people. Isn’t the future here yet?

The future is here

Yeah, that’s probably how time travellers from the past would feel. Warren Ellis made the same point in Doktor Sleepless, except I found his presentation slightly annoying in its bleeding edge post-cyberpunk atmosphere. You know what I mean, with the technologically-sophisticated rebels fighting against the authoritarian squares. “We may be virtual, but at least we’re authentic,” say the rebels. “Your Star Trek utopias were naive, but we have created the real future.” That kind of talk honestly gets on my nerves sometimes, especially since I couldn’t give less of a crap about something as ridiculous as authenticity.

But hey, remember the 90’s? That was kind of fun. Weird how disjointed that decade feels. It was kind of all over the place, wasn’t it? I guess the West was still groping for a new grand narrative after the end of the Cold War. Thank goodness the War on Terror made a nice punctuation point to the whole period.

La lucha sigue

Stalin strikes down Hitler with his superpowers while declaring, 1

Somewhat interesting news from New York about the growing popularity of communism in the Big Apple:

“As the economic crisis has gotten steeper in the country, it is not surprising that people are opening their minds to other ideas. Words like socialism and communism have been so stigmatized by the educational system that many people are afraid of those words. However, many studies have shown Americans support the redistribution of wealth but if you mention the socialism word they won’t agree with it anymore.”

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Superheroes and the American Dream

Peter Parker and the fateful spider bite

From Slog:

I do drug research for a biotech company. One day, when I was taking blood samples from some rats that had been dosed with a radiolabeled (Indium 111) MS drug, the little son of a bitch bit me (not that I really blame her, we fuck them up pretty good). So, I am proud to say that I have been bitten by a radioactive rat.

I have as of yet developed no superpowers. If I do, I will let you know.

The classic superhero origin is a story of blind luck: the protagonist – still mortal, still mundane – stumbles upon a mysterious MacGuffin that transforms him (and it’s mostly “him”) into a protector of conventional morality.1 Perhaps he finds a dying alien who grants him a weapon of unimaginable power. Perhaps he discovers he was always different and that he has powers beyond the abilities of mortal men. Perhaps he is bitten by a radioactive spider and has gained the consequent abilities of arachnids. Whatever the specifics, in most superhero origins, the hero merely has his powers handed to him.

If you think about it, it’s a paradoxical idea. Are not superhero comics one of the most quintessentially American of media? Is not the pursuit of the American Dream a vital part of the American cultural narrative? Does not the very idea of reward without sacrifice go against the dour Protestant work ethic that informs American society?

And yet there exists the superhero.

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Alias being adapted for TV?

Variety reports that the comic book Alias is being adapted for TV (by the screenwriter of the Twilight movie, it seems). The comic is about a washout retired superhero working as a private detective in New York. It was part of Marvel’s Max line of comic books, which were specifically geared for adult readers, so lots of sex and cursing were involved. Part of the fun was seeing stuff like the main character vomiting on Thor’s boots while muttering “Fuck, shit” over and over. In fact, Jessica Jones’ back story is that she was Peter Parker’s contemporary in high school. The idea of a foul-mouthed teenaged girl running around off panel in the 60’s Spider-Man comics is definitely amusing. It’s probably going to be a more-adult version of The Tick, showing what the comic book world is like when the supers aren’t fighting cosmic evil.

Still, it’s early days yet. Who’s to say that the writer will be able to make a good adaptation, or that it won’t be changed greatly by the studio during the development process? At the very least, they can’t keep the title, otherwise the show will be confused for the Jennifer Garner show of the same name, so for now it’s being named “AKA Jessica Jones”. Anyway, here’s hoping something good comes out of the whole thing.

Real-Life SuperHeroes

This essay was originally posted to the No Scans Daily LiveJournal community.
The face of the superhero in real life

Following the post about which superhero universe is better to live in and the ensuing discussion on the psychology of the superhero, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the self-styled “Real-Life Superheroes” or Reals.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Anyway, these are real people who dress up in costume and go out to fight crime. Perhaps you’ve heard about them before, but if not, perhaps you might care to peruse a few articles about them.

There’s apparently even a documentary about one real-life Justice League – they call themselves Superheroes Anonymous. Okay, it’s actually an annual conference for real life superheroes, not a team.

What’s fascinating is finding out about how these Reals act and what ostensibly motivates them, and also reading between the lines and speculating about them. This is not Watchmen, Nite Owl never had a poster of Captain America in his living room. I think this is the biggest difference between our world and any comic book universe, since none of them have 80 years’ worth of superhero comics establishing what superheroes are before anyone ever tried putting on costumes and fighting crime.

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Treasures of the past

The Eternals

I have a dorky hobby.  Actually, I have several, but the one relevant to today is my hobby involving anthropology.  You see, for the last few years I’ve been compiling a list of all works of fiction where anthropologists appear as characters.  I’ve got almost three hundred books, movies, and tv shows, as well as a handful of comic books and video games and one play.  I plan on eventually putting them all on a wiki so that anyone can contribute, but for now, I want to highlight a forty year old comic book from this list: The Eternals, volume 1, issue 6, from sometime in the sixties.  I tried not to make fun of the campiness of the comic since it’s pretty much shooting fish in a barrell, but I couldn’t contain myself in a few places.

Thena of the Eternals

Anyway, there are apparently three different species of humans — regular Homo sapiens sapiens, plus the Eternals and the Deviants, antediluvian superhuman peoples living in hiding for millenia.  Which is nice and all, but apparently the space gods are coming, and, well . . .

 

 

 

 

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