Thursday, March 31, 2016

Supergirl / Flash Bandwagon Jumping

I know that I'm getting crotchety in my middle age (remember, I'm mentally 25 years older than I am physically), but very now and then I find something that just puts a smile on my face as big as my daughter's. One such even happened earlier this week as we watched, live for a change, an episode of Supergirl guest starring The Flash.

This is the kind of team-up I have always loved in the comics. Not the, now tired, "I don't know who you are so I must fight you" trope, but a straight up hero helping hero story. The Flash breaks the dimensional barrier and ends up on yet another Earth, where he "saves" Kara Danvers. Secret Identities are exchanged (which is one point that still irks me) and the two heroes team up to solve the weekly plot.

Since it's Supergirl's show, she manages to get a lesson from The Flash, as it wouldn't do to have character development of the guest star, and they end with Barry going back to his own Earth. However, there are several geek-out moments in the episode, both for the audience and the characters, and it's just such a fun episode that I couldn't help but cheer at certain points.

THIS is how superhero team-ups are supposed to be! THIS is how superhero properties are supposed to be handled! Not dark and brooding with everyone asking "But what if they turn against us?" No, this was fun and well grounded in the source material, right down to the heroes calling each other "Girl of Steel" and "Scarlet Speedster". Heck, the promo image is a huge homage to the comics!

The only thing that might (yes, might) have made it better is if a certain 5th Dimensional Imp had been responsible, but that's been done before.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Superboy or No Superboy, That is the Question

Most of you know, I'm a Superman guy. Ever since I saw the Super Friends cartoons and the Christopher Reeve movies, I've loved the character and what he stood for. However, I came into the comics "Post Crisis" and that Superman had never been Superboy. I liked how it was handled and thought then, and still do now, that it made more sense to have Clark Kent grow up like a typical mid-westerner, even if that meant he got a bit of an ego.

Of course, part of the problem with there being no Superboy is that it kind of screws up the Legion of Superheroes, who were patterned after Superboy's example. DC did a neat trick by having a Legion villain create a pocket dimension where a Superboy existed, but that's a little convoluted.

The Irredeemable Shag had a great idea about making Power Girl the inspiration for the Legion, and I really like that approach. Mainly because it kills two birds with one stone, as the Post Crisis Power Girl was all kinds of wonky.

Recently, though, I found a "chocolate & peanut butter" moment, and that was when Kira and I discovered the 2006 Legion of Super Heroes cartoon. I originally avoided this because it obviously had Superboy in it and, apparently, I had taken my pretentious douche-bag pills and thought that they'd "get it wrong." Luckily, I've mellowed with age.

The premise, of the first season, at least, is that teenage Clark Kent, who has never been Superboy, is taken to the future by the Legion to help out against the Fatal Five. He finds out about his destiny to become Superman and embraces it. He stays there for several adventures, and then the Legion returns him to the moment that he left. So you have Superboy with the Legion, but there isn't a Superboy in history. It works for everyone (I think).

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Mutant Menace

It's amazing the things that hit you when you wake up at 4 AM. I've long wondered why the minority figures in Marvel Comics, the Mutants, have not gone on to gain acceptance like many other minority groups have over the years. It never made sense to me that the Mutants were always on the outside and that the majority "hated and feared them". Heck, some of the Avengers have been Mutants (before EVERYONE was an Avenger) and that didn't help them at all.

Then, it hit me. Mutants may have started out as the representatives of oppressed minority groups, but they haven't moved forward like those groups. What came to me this morning was that Mutants are now the representatives of firearms in the United States.

Think about it. You have the X-Men, who represent the responsible gun owners. They train themselves so as to know when and when not to use their abilities, as well as how to use them most effectively with the least amount of collateral damage. Sometimes they go too far or do the wrong thing, but most of the time they're in the right.

Then you have the "Evil Mutants", led by Magneto or some other "freedom fighter", who are willing to do whatever it takes to overthrow the government that is taking away their rights. They're on the fringe, and represent a minority of the larger group, but they're the most vocal and can be the most violent.

A bigger portion of the group, but still not the majority of it, are criminals. Those that a "mutant registration act" won't help with since they're going to break the law anyway. They are willing to use their abilities to get what they want, no matter who gets hurt.

This brings us to probably the most dangerous part, and that would be the untrained children. No, they aren't, necessarily, out to hurt anyone, but they have access to a power that they don't understand and could end up killing someone if they are left to their own devices. Responsible parents of these children will get them training and see that they know how to handle and respect their abilities, but that isn't everyone. The worst case scenario here is a student who is picked on and then decides to take their revenge indiscriminately.

I could be completely off base here, but I think this explains why the Mutant cause never seems to gain any ground. There are more people out there who are unwilling to accept firearms than there are who are unwilling to accept minorities, at least in my opinion. What do you think? Am I on to something or completely missing the target?

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Retroactive Continuity - Good vs Bad

Today the word "Retcon", which is short for "Retroactive Continuity", is treated as something that is always bad. This isn't really the case, and wasn't when the term first came into use. The first use of the term, with regard to comics, was in All-Star Squadron #18 (February 1983), where Roy Thomas used it to describe how he was interweaving the stories in All-Star Squadron with the original, Golden-Age stories. This was not, necessarily, to alter the originals, but was used to say that the current stories were taking place in between the original adventures.

In my opinion, when done well, this is a great way to pay homage to the past while still telling new stories. Roy Thomas is a master of this type of story-telling, but there were others that were equally as able to tell stories like this.

More recently, though, the term "retcon" has come to mean that a creator didn't like something that was done in the past, so they write a story to either explain it away, or change the original intent. Personally, I would much rather that whatever it was just wasn't mentioned rather than going out of your way to change something. Oh, there are times that it can work, but more often than not you end up with someone that liked the original concept changing it back and muddying everything.

I'm much more favorable towards reboots that retconing (in the non-Thomas way) an existing series, especially when you have a concept that already works well. But it has to be a hard reboot, ala Man of Steel, and not a soft/non-existent reboot, like any Batman or Green Lantern one you could name.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Unified Theory of Santa Claus

(Editor's Note: This post appeared on "Hold Your Hammer High" on Tuesday, but I thought that it would work here, too.)

I figured that I'd write up something that I told my daughter this past holiday season. You never know, this might just be useful to some of you parents out there. It concerns Santa and how he operates. I freely admit that some of this is stolen borrowed for the great comic series Fables, mainly how Santa makes it to each house.

Here's how it goes:

Santa is magical and doesn't need to stop at each individual house one after the other. He actually creates duplicates of himself and they are what travels to each house. Each house has it's own Santa, and that one is customized for the household.

So, if you have a house in the United States, Santa is dressed in the familiar red with white trim (thank you Coca Cola). If the house in in the United Kingdom, then Santa looks like Father Christmas. Along these same lines, if the house has a white family, then the Santa is white. If it's a black family, then Santa is black, and so on.

No, the guys in the malls, town halls, museums, or where-ever you go to meet Santa aren't really him, but they are, in fact, his helpers. These men (and women, where Mrs. Claus is around) have a direct line to Santa and they tell him what each child said to them. So, while the child is not really talking to Santa, Santa will know what was said.

Even though he doesn't require a chimney to enter a house (remember, he's magic), Santa does need permission. This permission can come in several forms. The one our family uses is something called a "Santa Key" that we leave outside on the door knob. Santa uses this to enter the house and he then hangs it on the tree.

So, there you have it. My unified theory of Santa Claus that, I think, helps explain some of the "unexplainable" things about him. Feel free to adopt or adapt this for your own use, and please let me know how it works for you.

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