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Saturday, August 25, 2007

"The Prisoner" Still At Large

Looks like that re-make of The Prisoner just ain't happenin'. Says it was the Americans' fault (isn't it always?), trying to turn it into something that isn't "British," whatever the fuck that means anymore. I think that's British for "it was too hard, and we were too scared that we were going to fuck it up." It could also mean "the Prisoner was borne of creativity, and we bean-counters have no idea what would be involved in resurrecting it. Couldn't we just make another cop show?"

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Strange Case of the Canadian Superman

In 1967, Canada was... well, kind of full of itself. The country was celebrating 100 years of Confederation (it's a little bit like independence, except, you know, without the independence), they got a spiffy new flag, and we even tried to create our own marketing lingo in "Chimo" and the "Ookpik." The most important event of all, though - or, at least the event most likely to induce orgasms in members of the Canadian press at the time - was Expo '67, a World's Fair held in Montreal, Quebec. One reporter even called it "the most staggering Canadian achievement since this vast land was finally linked by transcontinental railway." Maybe you had to be there.

Regardless of whether or not Expo '67 was the second coming of Canadian Jesus, or just a ruse to lure in stupid Anglo-tourists, it would leave behind a legacy worth far more than a million rusting-geodesic-domes combined: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Superman's brother:

the Canadian Kryptonian, and , judging by the cover, a bit of a dick.

Now, a lot of us up here in The Great White North already like to think that Superman is Canadian. After all, Joe Shuster was Canadian, right? And The Daily Planet started it's publishing career as The Daily Star, an alleged homage to the Toronto Star, Canada's most unseemly tabloid. And the most damning evidence of all about Kal-El's Canadian-ness is that the government told me it was so, featuring Superman in a set of patriotic stamps in 1995.

But the truth of the matter is that Superman has no business with Canada: he's an American hero through-and-through, donning the red and blue, and standing on guard, not for thee, but for "truth, justice, and the American Way." And while Joe Shuster may have been born in Canada, he left when he was just 9 years old, long before he met up with a kid named Jerry Siegel and wrote about a super-strong man from a doomed planet.

To mesh this with my opening schpiel about the good old days of 1967 (bet you wish you were paying attention now, don't you?), this issue was supposedly written in order to commemorate the United States' and Canada's new-found bedfellow-ship with each other. Not only did we agree to host a few of Uncle Sam's nuclear missiles earlier in the decade, but JFK himself liked our Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, so much that he gave him the Presidential flag from his vacation house when ol' Lester (whose nick-name was "Mike" - not kidding, folks) came up for a barbecue.

So this new Canadian Superman is a pretty big deal, then.

Or story begins as any Superman legend would, whether it contains one Superman or two, with the destruction of Krypton - but wait, there's more! Kryptonopolis, candidate for most lazily-named city in the Universe and home to Jor-El, wife Lara, and son Kal-El, is saved from destruction by none other than Brainiac. Brainiac arrives in his "ominous spaceship" (re: red plate with an arrow stuck in it) and abducts the city, placing it in a bottle, a la Kandor. He then reveals just one of the many shockers you will find in this "imaginary story:" Brainiac is, in fact, on the side of the forces of good, saving Kyptonopolis not just because he wants another coffee-table conversation piece, but because he wanted to save them from their homeworld's destruction.

I wonder how the citizens of Kandor would feel if they knew that, even in an alternate universe, they still get the shaft. It's either living in a bottle where you face the constant threat of Brainaic's temper tantrums smashing your world, or you can just die with the rest of them. Oh, I'm sure they were all probably jerks anyway.

And hey, can someone tell me why every child under the age of ten in a Silver Age DC comic spoke with all the fluency of a slightly-advanced chimpanzee?

Just wonderin'.

Brainiac explains to Jor-El and Lara that he requires the element ZN-4 to return the city to normal size, but there must have been a sudden explosion of people enlarging themselves, because the supply of ZN-4, all across the galaxy, has been exhausted. So Brainiac and the -Els are left, Star Trek: Voyager-style, travelling through space trying to find a planet with ZN-4 on it.

In the meantime, the Kryptonians do what anyone would do in the circumstances, and mate: a brother to Kal-El, named by Brainiac (as the godfather, whatever the phrase might mean on Krypton) as Knor-El, is born. Look at the forehead on that kid!

His brother isn't Knor-El, it's freaking Sinestro.

But anatomical anomalies aside, the two Krypto-brothers grow up better than most brothers do, not once even coming close to killing each other. Knor-El decides that he craves power and kick-backs, so he trains to become a police officer, and Kal-El is drawn to the Erlenmeyer flasks of his father, and becomes a scientist.

When Brainiac (who consistently fails to live up to the name) finally finds a supply of ZN-4, he discovers that he parked in a meteor-impact zone, and tries vainly to shoot the thing before it hits the arrow+plate spaceship - you know, instead of just moving out of the way.

This does not end well for Brainiac.

The Kryptonians, on the contrary, are fine - they don't even try to find a reason as to why. Hey, shit happens, and they're just happy to be alive. But Jor-El makes a startling discovery: Brainaic has manged to transfer enough ZN-4 gas into Kryptonopolis to enlarge but one person. So they do the only thing one can do in this situation: forgo sending the smartest, the best, or the brightest, and decide who gets to live out their life un-bite-sized by putting on their own version of Kryptonian Gladiators.

No women allowed.

After a multitude of events, including moving hurdles, space chess, giant robot wrestling, and dodgeball, the winner is decided:

Knor-El wins! KNOR-EL WINS! Knor-El wins? Well I'll be damned; Knor-El does win.

So, Knor-El becomes Superman, and, in an amazing twist of fate, also becomes Ken Clarkson, ace reporter for the Daily Planet. After putting an end to a prison riot, Superman's next job is to investigate the landing of a giant phallus. Out of the space-phallus comes an alien bearing gifts of Kryptonite, and Knor-El, after being on the planet for less than a week, has already been defeated by the green-colored rocks. But all is not lost! Kal-El, that sneaky, two-faced bastard, was able to produce a small quantity of synthetic ZN-4 gas. Rather than sharing his discover so that they could all escape, or even better, selling his discovery to the other Kryptonians for top-dollar, good ol' proto-Clark Kent kept it to himself, just in case his brother was ever incapacitated by aliens in a giant - well, you know.

Kal-El thumps the aliens soundly, and saves his brother. But now the Kal-El is out of the bottle! What are they to do? You can't have two Supermen, that'd be crazy!

Those of you have read the title, and the introductory paragraphs, are probably wondering: but what, exactly, does any of this have to do with Canada? Well, I said that two Supermen would simply be nuts, so what does Kal-El do? He becomes HYPERMAN, Montreal's superhero!

Taking the secret identity of Charles LeBlanc, he also gets a job as a reporter, but for the Montreal Star - which would probably be a separatist paper if the stories of Hyperman had continued to today.

Alright - so it ain't much. Montreal is mentioned in all of two panels, and Hyperman doesn't really have any sort of characteristic that would make him more Canadian then American. But can you imagine if somebody had picked up that "imaginary story" ball and ran with it? What if there were an Elseworlds tale of Hyperman, clearing organized crime and drug-dealing bikers off of Montreal's streets? Would he be supportive of Quebec separation? Would he have fought the FLQ in the 1970's, or would they have eventually won, backed by a super-powered terrorist? There are unique Canadian stories here, man. It's really a shame that with all the Canadians working in American comics, no one picked up on Hyperman.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Night Visions of Tomorrow

A look back at the future of the past:

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Poker Puns

While I'm still on the Booster Gold high:

Booster "The Mouth" Gold appears in the new Booster Gold Vol.2 (Volume 2? I think it's volume 2) #1, 52 Pick-Up, Chapter 1: Secret Origins.

Bahlactus rings the bell!

ADDENDUM: Psst...Skeets... the word is "psoterity," man. "Posterity."

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Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up

Hiya, sportsfans! Man, it has been a while. But who gives a shit about irresponsibility when you've got comics? COMICS!

I've just read the first issue of the new "Booster Gold" series. In a moment of wit that must have had the DC bullpen howling on the floor in riotous laughter, they've called it "52 Pick-up," and since it's going to be time-travel-heavy, spinning off from Booster Gold's romp through 52 with Rip and psycho-Skeets, there are plenty of little goodies for the obsessive to sniff out amongst the pages that point toward DC's next big "event." Since I don't think I'm really all that good when it comes to providing synopses (synopsises... synopsi?), I'll sum up for the folks in the back who ain't afraid a no spoilers: Booster Gold re-teams with burly time-traveller Rip Hunter in order to stop someone (mystery!) from going into the past of the world's greatest superheroes and rewriting history. Now, Booster is trying to build a reputation as someone who's not a complete joke and/or screw-up, so, at first, he declines Rip's enticing offer of giving up his dream of joining the Justice League (the real one, with Superman even!) and having to be remembered by history as being a total dick. Will he change his mind and help save the world's greatest heroes? (suspense!)

You bet your ass he does. (relief?)

Hey! Look at that cover! Is that The Question? Will we be seeing a remarkable return from the hereafter for investigative reporter, Vic Sage? I really fucking hope so.

Here's a few highlights:

You see that panel, and it's nice little red circle I highlighted for you with my 1337 photoshop-skillz?
Twenty bucks says Batman totally just put a little bat-shaped tracker on Booster Gold. Wouldn't you?

Rip Hunter, master of making bullshit look like science:
I can say with confidence that if my Physics class had dealt with this stuff, I probably wouldn't still harbor the fantasy of strangling Niels Bohr.

And while I'm sure Rip Hunter's blackboards are just chalk-full of viral-marketing-like-J.J. Abrams-internet-bullshit - err, clues, there's really only one piece of childish writing that most of the comics blogging community need point their peepers toward:

Don't worry, Rip - I think they're already on top of that one.

And, lastly, here it is: my moment of pure, distilled joy for this week:

Blue Beetles! All of them! Hooray!

Booster Gold: 52 Pick-Up #1? Recommended! You go buy now!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pre-Air Extravaganza: Reaper

Pre-Air Extravaganza comes to a close with the long-delayed review of the supernatural-comedy-drama thing, Reaper. I know that it's been a while coming, but I've been hard at work, writing a book (only the bestest most awesomest book e-var!), and there are some things that take priority. Like eating.

Without forever ado, awaaaay we go!

Reaper stars:

Reaper tells the story of Sam, a slacker who's amounted to nothing because his parents never pushed him to succeed or see anything through to the end throughout his life. The reason for this, apparently, is because before Sam was born, his parents made a deal with The Devil (yes, that universal plot device and scape-goat, Satan, Beezlebub, Lucifer, etc), whereby they would trade their first-born son's soul so that his father could be spared from death. Why they took this as a sign that they didn't really have to try to raise Sam is beyond me: were they so cynical that they considered his ass doomed from the start? Just because he's going to hell in the end doesn't mean he can't be responsible, or achieve something before then. Typical baby-boomer parents, if you ask me.

Sam finds this out on his 21st birthday, when Satan plays by the rules - mostly - and will not be taking Sam's soul until he dies. In the meantime, however, Sam must serve the Dark Lord by "collecting" people who have escaped from hell. I wonder if this means that people can escape from heaven? I'm disappointed that the topic never really came up.

It's an oft-used premise, but don't let the unoriginality of the concepts keep you away from the show: the difference is in the execution.

After we get introduced to Sam and his best friend, a slacker who goes by the name "Sock" and has no concept of appropriate conversation (or grooming habits), the show follows Sam as he heads to his dead-end sales job at a big-box retailer (played proudly by one of Vancouver's finest Canadian Tire store locations). Here, a series of bizarre occurrences (including apparent exhibitions of psychokinetic powers on Sam's part, as well as his unique ability to attract snarling dogs - and Sock's ability to hit a small one with a car door, with no apparent moral qualms) builds up the "suspense" until Sam is visited by the devil himself on his ride home.

When next they meet, Satan gives Sam his tool for bustin' up hellspawn: a Dirt Devil vacuum. Of course, his friends think this is hilarious until they test the device out and it manages to pull a tractor-trailer toward them.

Apparently confident that he is, in fact, dealing with the devil, Sam accepts his role as vacuumer of the damned, and tracks down the first one: an arsonist who has returned from the grave as a firefighter with the ability to create flame on demand, and a mission to burn down all of the places that were rebuilt since he last had a chance to turn them into smoldering ruins.

Following a lot of filler about a girl that Sam is attracted to (whom I am convinced will turn out to be some sort of heavenly-creature sent to Earth to steal his soul back from the devil) and several attempts by Sam to vacuum-up his quarry, we're treated to the stand-out scene in the pilot episode (what this says about the quality of the episode is up to you to decide): Sam and Sock suiting up like the Ghostbusters to battle their flamey-nemesis at his next target, only to discover that Satan's evil dust-buster is out of juice and needs to be recharged. Hey, Satan may have command of hell's legions and be an entirely physical-law-bending, supernatural entity, but he's still bound by the law of the Conservation of Energy. The two morons must sit around for hours (inside the store, without getting arrested or fired - so I'm really not sure when this is happening) while the Dirt Devil recharges, providing a nice comedic break for the heaviness that a show about hell might have.

To avoid too much spoilage, I'll just say that Sam wins and everybody's happy. The end.
Well, at least until Satan finds that another damned spirit is roaming free. You'd think that hell, of all places, would have perfected the tracking-chip by now. Or an "Amber Alert" system.

Reaper turned out to be not half bad, but it doesn't stand out in any way, either. It reminds me of too many supernatural comedies that tried and died on UPN so many years ago, and so I don't hold out much hope for it. It wasn't terrible by any means, though, so go ahead and check this one out. You could do far worse.

Premieres September 25 on The CW.

Favorite Lines:
[Oooh! Two favorite lines in this one!]

Mr. Oliver: Did you wish your brother a happy birthday?
Kyle (Sam's brother): The guy's 21, lives with his parents, and wears an apron for a living. There's no "happy" in that birthday, Dad.

Kyle: Sam didn't even go to college!
Mrs. Oliver: Yes he did, Kyle.
Kyle: For a month!
Mrs. Oliver: And we're very proud of him for trying, it's just that college made him sleepy...

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