The Sign

[T]o Squirrel Girl, greatest superhero ever. And, yes, she did defeat Thanos single-handedly. It’s in continuity. Deal with it.

— A. Lee Martinez, in the dedication to the novel Divine Misfortune

Squirrel Girl, vanquisher of the real Thanos and not a robot, clone, or simulacrum (as confirmed by Uatu the Watcher)

Bring out the gimp

The esteemed sages of DC Comics ask that eternal question which has plagued countless philosophers for millennia:

Yes, why is Lois lashing a wooden puppet of Superman? Buddhist apocrypha holds that the Sakkyamuni Buddha pondered that very question under the bodhi tree. Husserl was said to have stared at this comic book cover when he got bored of staring at his copper ashtray.

So what was the reason for this shocking act of kryptonite bondage?

It was simply Lois attempting to drive an evil spirit out of Superman’s body and into a wooden simulacrum. That clears up that mystery.

After the end

Okay, I’ve had time to sleep on it and I have to admit that The Dark Knight Rises is better than I thought it was. It’s already the next day and I’m still thinking about it. I’m reading online reviews and discussions about the themes and characters, so evidently the movie is one of those slow-burning ones where it takes you a while to fully digest everything. I’m revising my opinion upward.

No Man’s Land

I just saw The Dark Knight Rises. It’s an interesting little blockbuster.

All in all, I would say I liked it. I think the second was superior but I also think this film is better than the first. However, in the years since The Dark Knight I’d forgotten how melodramatic the dialogue in Nolan’s Batman films could be. It also had a somewhat clumsy thematic link to the Occupy Movement, the story being based mostly on the No Man’s Land arc from the comics, where Gotham City is cut off from the rest of the United States and anarchy rules the land.

I do think a stronger thematic connection could have been made between the villain, Bane, and Batman, particularly since they are both figures who deliberately disregard established social structures, but perhaps it’s better that link shouldn’t be returned to when it was used so well in The Dark Knight (the link being violence and insanity in that case).

The movie was good, not great, which makes it sound somewhat disappointing for what’s supposed to be a summer blockbuster, but then again, I can’t remember the last time I exited a movie theatre thinking, “That was awesome!” Perhaps I’m just picky.

An Interview With Cyclops

Cyclops: the Worst Leader (an interview)

Good god, this thing is hilarious. An excerpt:

So, you’re a teacher at a school where mutant kids can learn to control their powers. What tricks do you use to keep your powers under control?

I don’t. I have a special pair of glasses that does it for me.

[awkward pause]

Without them, I am helpless and blind.

Well, designing them must have taken considerable ingenui—

I didn’t design them. The Professor did.

Oh. Well, that was kind of him. He also asked you to lead his team of mutant superheroes, the X-men, from their inception. What qualities led him to trust you to lead at such a young age?

I am a natural leader.

Er, yes. How so?

I am very good at leadership.

But what aspects of leadership?

The part where I am the leader of the team.

Let’s try this another way. How did a teenager handle the responsibility of making decisions under pressure without Xavier’s help?

By asking him psychically what to do.

…I’m sorry?

For the first few years, he stayed in constant contact with the entire team using his psychic powers every time we went on a mission. He would come up with plans, coordinate our actions, and make critical decisions in the heat of battle.

Oh. Um. Well, what did you do?

I led the team.

What were your responsibilities as team leader, I mean?

I would tell them to carry out the Professor’s orders, mostly.

So, the Professor would come up with a plan, and you would say, “do that?”

Yes. With my natural leadership skills, it was easy.

Law and the Multiverse

I’ve just discovered Law and the Multiverse, a blog devoted to exploring the legal ramifications of life in a superhero universe. For example, one post discusses human rights in the context of non-human intelligences (i.e., aliens), while another covers Superman’s immigration status and whether he counts as an American. Like its subject matter, the blog deals mostly with the American context, but sometimes it deals with issues with a greater scope, such as whether supervillain lairs in outer space are protected by the Outer Space Treaty forbidding the militarization of space. It’s fascinating, though the American focus means I end up reading only half of the posts (what do I care about US traffic laws?).

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.

Continue reading “Superheroes and the American Dream”

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.