It's more than a blog; it's my blog.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Plain, Simple Foom

Tonight on Friday Night Fights:

Just a nice, simple, Speedball-delivered FOOM. (from Speedball: The Masked Marvel #7)

More fooms, fangs, and even fings are delivered to you hot and fresh every Friday night, care of Bahlactus.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Real Reason Behind Batman's Falling Out With Superman

Supes told Green Arrow about this immediately after he left. What a jerk.

(More fun from DC Realworlds: The Return of the Justice League!)

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Realworld: DCU

In 2000, DC released four one-shot graphic novels called "Realworlds,"stories that looked at ways that the DC characters affected the lives of people in the “real world” – our world. Sort of. See, it still isn’t our world because all of the stories are fictional, but they’re set in our world – there’s no real superheroes, no magic, no time travel, and no supernatural powers.

Four books were released: a Batman, a Superman, a Wonder Woman and a Justice League.

The Batman story sees a mentally-challenged man, Charlie, have trouble separating fiction from reality when he pretends to be Batman in a story set around the premiere of the Tim Burton Batman movie in 1989. Up until this point, the only version of Batman that he’s familiar with is the Adam West TV show, so Batman’s a real hoot for him. Of course, an interesting parallel is drawn when Charlie encounters his old “Robin,” and she’s fallen into drugs and crime. His once-happy childhood must come fact-to-face with the reality of modern life, and so too must his happy, campy Batman "mature:" once Charlie sees the new Batman movie, he starts to adopt aspects of that persona – the dark, “grim ‘n’ gritty," “mean” Batman that has guns on the Batplane. Thus. he goes from care-free crime-fighter into dour avenger. But things are once again set right in the world when Charlie gets beaten up by a bunch of hoods, and it’s the people who befriended the “old,” fun, and friendly Bat-Charlie who come to his aid.

The Superman book is somewhat less inspirational. Eddie is a mild-mannered grocery clerk who crosses a couple of toughs in the fifties, who then proceed to get him drunk and tattoo a giant “Superman” symbol on his chest. Eager to get revenge, Eddie is arrested while breaking into the leader's apartment, and spends the next two years in jail. During his stay, though, he starts to believe that his “S” tat is symbolic of more than his inability to defend himself, and ends up running the local crime syndicate once he’s paroled. His new, stony exterior is broken when he a few kids he tries to scare into obedience see the tattoo as the symbol that they’re familiar with – truth, justice, and acts of kindness. What Eddie fails to see is that you don’t have to be an unemotional dickwad to be tough, and thus his new Superman mindset must come into conflict with his criminal life. When he fails to silence a man who’s to testify in front of a grand jury because he doesn’t want the man’s son to see Superman beat up his pop, the rest of the gang decides to take him out, beating him senseless. The aforementioned son of the man who’s to testify finds him and brings him into his basement, where his father keeps him safe – at least, until he testifies, where it’ll be easy for the police to find him. Not content to sit around and wait for arrest, Eddie goes out looking for revenge once more, but manages to stop a drive-by shooting that would’ve killed the informer by throwing himself at their car. Earning redemption, Eddie “dies,” to be reborn in witness protection as Ted Carson, until he dies of a heart attack while helping children in LA.

The Wonder Woman story – I was never able to track down. The Comic Book Database, however, tells me that it was about a woman who plays Wonder Woman in the movies, and that one’s a little too obvious for my tastes; I like the indirect, tangential qualities of the stories featuring Batman, Superman, and the best book to come out of this series, the Justice League.

“The Justice League Returns,” by J.M. DeMatteis and G.L. Barr, sees four friends being invited out by their billionaire buddy during Halloween, 1999, to relive their youth spent playing “Justice League.” He sends them out in New York City, all expenses paid, with costumes of their respective superheroes: soon-to-be-divorced, disenchanted Michael Riley becomes Superman; plastic-surgery-playgirl and lawyer Karen Steuben relives her Wonder Woman days; down-on-his-luck, also divorced, comedian Nick “The Stick” Dimarco is Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man; and TV producer and asshole Richard Barrison dons the cowl and becomes the Caped Crusader, Batman. Their billionaire host, Bernard “Barnyard” Epstein, disillusioned with his role as a powerful corporate titan, can’t see himself as a hero anymore, and throws out his childhood alter-ego, The Atom, in favor of the villainous Despero.

Every one of the friends has become entirely disenchanted with life, believing that they’re wasting their time, just trying to keep death at bay for another day. In short, they’ve become pessimistic old farts. Richard gets through the pointless days watching I Love Lucy reruns. Nick seems to have lost his only shot at a comfortable life when he was fired from a sitcom, and now suffers from a “terrible disease” that he believes will kill him in a few years. Karen had plastic surgery to make up for what she believed to be ugliness, but still spends her days playing a character, engaging in wanton sex and frivolity, but tearing up when she confesses to Michael that love is the “only thing that gives life any substance” – quite a confession when you can see that she’s eschewed all of that, preferring to follow the mantra of "style over substance."

Bernard has sent them out on a journey through the streets of New York in their costumes, getting them to “play” again until they reach Yankee Stadium, where, in a “Wonderful Life” moment, Despero/Bernard shows them the good that they’ve done with their lives, and all that their days playing “Justice League” has taught them. Although Richard’s a grade-A asshole, he’s created a show that’s optimistic and gives people hope for the future; Michael’s students say he’s turned their lives around; Nick makes people laugh when their own lives seem like crap; Karen works with battered women and helps kids on the weekends – the only person that’s excluded is Bernard himself, so I’ll fix that by mentioning the lives he’s improved with – well, whatever it is that his company makes.

Bernard helps them to remember what they once believed they would do, and that, although things may not have worked out to the point where Karen’s swingin’ around a magical lasso and Michael’s saving Lois Lane from Brainiac’s machinations, they’ve made the world all the better for what they did do.

There is perhaps a bit of creepiness in the book, as Nick, playing Ralph Dibny, is frequently referred to not “living much longer:” once in childhood, and then when he’s an adult when Bernard tells the group that Nick has a double-hernia – which, Nick points out, could kill him if he doesn’t get treatment, which he can’t afford. Although these were printed in 2000, which raises doubts that the DC staff were in the know that far in advance of Ralph's death in 52, it is a little unsettling.

"The Return of the Justice League" is nicely done – it’s a bit of self-congratulation for DC, and helpful for those who despair that they haven’t “done” anything with their lives. What those people forget is that they’ve done plenty simply by living their lives, that pursuing their goals and values have rippled outward to attain the maximum benefit to the maximum number of people. The businessman, like Bernard, makes products available easily and cheaply when he seeks to make money. The comedian, Nick, provides entertainment, allowing people to forget about their problems for a few hours a night. The lawyer, Karen, makes enough money that her weekends can be spent helping those who do not deserve their fate; the kids whose parents died or the wives who were abused. The producer, Richard, inspires people, like DC has through the Justice League, to create a future like that portrayed in his TV show, where ability is rewarded and justice is served without deference to skin color or sex. And the teacher, Michael, trains others to achieve their goals, to ripple out in turn to touch all other lives.

Inspiring stuff.

And The dialog is pure DeMatteis – it felt like I was reading “Justice League International” all over again. In fact, there were places where I almost considered Michael, the Superman, to be closer to a Ted Kord. There's even a few "Bwa-ha-ha"s to be had.

Anyway, "The Return of the Justice League" is great stuff, so if you can find it, give this curiosity a spin. There's a few used copies at Amazon, so get 'em while you can.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Speedball vs. A Beloved Children's Television Character

And now, Speedball, the Masked Marvel, will have his face kicked in by Big Bird

...or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Your Friday Night Fight is brought to you by the letter BAHLACTUS.

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Migraines cause posts that no one can enjoy.

(original image from Newsarama)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Scientists Developing Cloaking Material, Light Still Can't Get Around Kirk's Gut

From the Washington Post:

The nascent invisibility cloak now being tested ... is made of a material that bends light rays "backward," a weird phenomenon thought to be impossible just a few years ago.

Known as transformation optics, the phenomenon compels some wavelengths of light to flow around an object like water around a stone. As a result, things behind the object become visible while the object itself disappears from view.

"Cloaking is just the tip of the iceberg," said Vladimir Shalaev, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University and an expert in the fledgling field. "With transformation optics you can do many other tricks," perhaps including making things appear to be located where they are not and focusing massive amounts of energy on microscopic spots.

Did you notice how they described the stuff as a "Harry Potter" cloak of invisibility? Man, wasn't so long ago that the media would have thrown around "cloaking device," and made some kind of Star Trek reference. How far we Trekkies have fallen in the pop-culture landscape. They hardly ever even say "beam me up" anymore.


If you've ever wondered exactly what happened between the end of the original series of Star Trek and the movies that so drastically altered the - er, physiques of the cast...

...they introduced inter-stellar delivery.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The Transformed Man

A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh, A-weema-weh -

In the Jungle,
the mighty jungle,
the lion sleeps tonight.
In the jungle,
the quiet jungle,
the lion sleeps tonight...

Near the village,
the peaceful village,
the lion sleeps tonight...
Near the village,
the quiet village,
the lion sleeps tonight...

Hush my darling,
don't fear my darling,
the lion sleeps tonight.
Hush my darling,
don't fear my darling,
the lion sleeps tonight...

(You can hear more from Jim Kirk's magnificent pipes in IDW's Star Trek: Year Four #6, written by David Tischman, with art by Gordon Purcell)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Judge Dredd vs. The Future: Up in Smoke

1) I would like you to regard this image...

(image from here)

...and to note that the "Statue of Judgment" is much larger than the "Statue of Liberty." Ponder that while I ramble on.

2) Behold the Smokatorium:

...and the UK's sincere efforts to bring it about:

'£10 licence to smoke' proposed (from the BBC, HT: The London Fog)

And compare this panel...

...with the lofty thoughts emanating from our Canadian bureaucrats:

Ottawa to mark tobacco (The National Post)


Anti-Smoking Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty (Capitalism Magazine)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Speedball vs. The Malaprop

It may not be Speedball Week any longer, but I still have those copies of Speedball: The Masked Marvel, and I still have a stake in Bahalctus's mighty test of skill and wit, Friday Night Fights. Thus, the only logical course of action is to keep documenting the all-out hoo-hah action that only Steve Ditko can provide:

Unfortunately, Steve's hoo-hah is completed negated by Roger Stern's jarring script error (or Jack Morelli's lettering goof):

Yar! Cap'n, thar be whales here!

Hey, hey - I know it sounds silly, but hey, everyone makes a mistake every once in a while. You don't have to be so harsh about it.

Especially when you're such a bonehead.

(Speedball faces his grammar demons in Speedball: The Masked Marvel #8)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Hello Kitty" MMORPG, WTF?

Brace yourselves, sports fans: The Hello Kitty MMO has gone into Beta.

Good crap. Hello Kitty gets an online world of her very own, while we SCI-FI/Comic geeks have to be forever deprived of our own worlds, like the Star Trek Online MMO (scuttled when the company went belly-up) and Marvel Universe MMO (killed because Marvel's afraid of competition)? The world makes no sense; the universe has gone all flip-flop-fiddle-faddle-foo.

Even though I'm mystified by the laws of our existence that could give rise to such a creation, I do wish the creators the best of luck with this venture. I just hope that the person who's been assigned to work on the game's dialog is not the same person who was charged with drafting the press release:

In addition to the standard MMORPG features such as customizable avatars, guilds, skill systems, and player economy, some of the outstanding Hello Kitty Online features include:

  • Unique game world: a persistent, beautifully designed environment where thousands of players and NPCs live, explore and quest in a magical world with real and imaginary zones such as the Flower Kingdom, Tokyo, Paris, Moscow...
The way it's worded makes it sound like players will encounter the mundane Flower Kingdom, while simultaneously being able to delight in the mind-bending weirdness that the fictional cities of Tokyo, Paris, and Moscow have to offer. Differentiate, guys!

But, I mean, hey - if anyone's actually, ahem, gotten into the beta - and I promise I won't tell the other guys - maybe you could let me know how it is? I'm wondering what you'd actually be able to do in such a game. Surely there can't be too much sword-swinging and adventuring going on, right? It's to satisfy my curiosity, obviously. I don't, you know, er...

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

It's Probably a Defense Mechanism: A Review of the Stargate Atlantis Episode, "Trio"

The most recent episode of Stargate Atlantis continues to avoid building on any kind of an arc with episode 16 of the fourth season, “Trio,” in which Dr. Keller, Samantha Carter, and Rodney McKay all find themselves stuck in a hole. This is just about the third such episode this season, each involving Dr. Keller, so I’m guessing that she’s on some kind of fast-track to character development with the writers. The only thing I’ve learned about her so far, though, is that she’s terrible when put into a life-or-death situation, unless, as revealed in “Trio,” said situation involves bar games. So, if you’re ever captured by a Wraith with an affinity for beer pong, you’re going to want her right there with you. If, however, you are not in such an alcohol-fueled predicament, but instead find yourself a member of the opposite sex, you’re pretty much screwed: in her two out of three “locked room” episodes, Keller has ended up forming a tenuous and quickly forgotten quasi-sexual relationship with a crewmate. The earlier episode, “Quarantine,” showed us that when faced with danger and having her only plan fail terribly, she’s willing to let it all hang out and sex-up Ronon. In “Trio,” her failed “bar knife bridge” leads her to ask McKay out for a drink – an event that occurred after she was all too willing to strip for his failed plan of making a rope for his “grappling hook” out of shirts and pants. Given the evidence, I’m surprised that her earliest outing of this type, “Missing,” didn’t find her macking up Teyla, with whom she shared the spotlight of that episode. This may have just been common courtesy; after all, Teyla was involved with an Athosian man, and Keller did have the good sense to convince Rodney that he had inadvertently broken up with Dr. Brown in “Quarantine” before she began to shove her sweet thing all up in his grill.

Speaking of Keller’s past romantic interludes, there’s a part of me that wonders if this might be what sets Ronon down the “dark path” that Jason Mamoa talks about wanting to do in an interview with I know I’d be pissed if my lady was fooling around with David Hewlett behind my back. If I had a lady. And if I knew David Hewlett. And if me doing something counted as any kind of evidence for what Ronon would do.

Sexual relations aside, I was just bored with “Trio.” It was a character-building episode for a character that I don’t particularly care for, it didn’t advance any of the dangling stories from this season (was it just my imagination, or were we not promised that Season 4 would be “darker” than previous seasons? I hope they weren’t just talking about giving them leather jackets.), and there was no real sense of peril. Rodney’s clever bit of “Arena” engineering was fun, though, and I liked their little discussion about Zelenka. Poor guy just can’t catch a break.

The good? McKay fails, but isn’t made to be the complete cause of the team’s problems, so we don’t have to hate him.

The bad? Keller turns into a frightened field mouse when in danger.

The ugly? We’ve seen it all before.

Correction: We also know that Keller would rather do Brian Green than that thief, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Stargate Atlantis Airs Fridays at 10PM on Sci-Fi.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Public Service Announcement From Judge Death

Remember kidsss... it isss importanttt to maintain properrr hygiene if you want ttto impresss the ladiesss.

I'm here to helllp.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Judge Dredd vs. The Future : The Crime Swoop

A few weeks ago, an article in the Sunday Herald, which reported on Judge Dredd writer Alan Grant's dismay at realizing that the terrible future that he helped to design was coming true, prompted me to take a look through some of my stash of the Judge and comment on other bizarre aspects of Judge Dredd's world that seemed to be coming true.

Tonight, I'm going to start off simply with the method of "law" for which the Street Judges are known - indiscriminant, unwavering, devoid-of-context policing that never questions the wisdom of its application. Let's start with Crime Swoops:

As described by our helpful caption boxes, Crime Swoops are completely unwarranted, random searches carried out with extreme prejudice by the street judges. For the children.

This panel from 2000AD #341 is absolutely absurd when taken in context with the rest of the issue. On the streets of Meg-City 1 during the "Graveyard Shift" story (spanning the issues of 2000AD #338 - 344), entire apartment blocks shoot at each other across the street, sending out armies to wage literal war between neighbours. A judge is killed earlier in the arc, and it's treated as business as usual. There are countless stabbings and other murders. In fact, a caption box near the end of the story says
"On average... there are now 24 A.R.V.'s [Armed Robbery with Violence], 139 serious assaults, 5 murders, 0-09 classifiable riots, and 230 traffic offenses every minute.... 7 Judges have so far died in the line of duty [the night in which "Graveyard Shift" takes place]."
But Dredd has the cajones to say: "Reckon the rest of the block'll get the message," while the caption box elaborates: "Crime swoops are harsh, but effective. They serve to uncover much illegal activity and act as a positive deterrent to other potential lawbreakers." (emphasis mine) Yup, that's a real good application of "Broken Window" justice - those murdering gangs of youths will surely think twice after seeing the middle-aged neighbors taken in for three years on the illegal possession of Nutra-Sweet.

So, has society degenerated to such an extent that the police are using "Crime Sweeps" today? Just check out the following links:

- Assault victim arrested and stripped by police. (ClassicallyLiberal)
- Hard Knocks With No-Knock. (Reason Magazine)
- The Worst Mayor in America. (Reason Magazine)
- Man Tasered For Filming Warrantless Police Search. (LiveLeak)

They're even starting to dress the part:

- Peruvian Anti-Riot Police Uniforms Look Like Judge Dredd Meets Batman. (Gizmodo)

Although I'm sure that these modern problems pale in comparison to the kinds of things that were happening in, say, Nazi Germany, Medieval Europe, or the Soviet Union, we consider those societies as vastly different from our own: we still like to kid ourselves and believe that our governments still value freedom and individuality. Disagree with my assessment? Check out the current crop of political candidates that my neighbors to the south have to select from.

When you read one of my previous paragraphs, you may have scratched your head when I mentioned "three years for the possession of Nutra-Sweet." Anyone who has been keeping their eyes on the government's encroachment upon what we choose to indulge in may have been able to make the connection, though:

Forget the "unlicensed firearm" bit - that's been done to death, quite frankly. I want you to focus on the "Illegal possession of sugar." What? Now why would they go and make sugar illegal? I'm glad you asked, hypothetical reader. Why, indeed?

- teachers ordered to "police" children's lunch boxes. (Daily Mail)
- Stossel: Trans Fat Ban Is 'Nanny State' Intrusion. (ABC News)
- Greenpeace poisons hungry crowd. Or not? (Classically Liberal)
- Too fat to love a child? (Junkfood Science)

States the world over have been stricken with "obesity epidemic fever," and feel the need to carefully nurse their citizens to ensure that they put only approved, government-subsidized industry products in their mouths. To paraphrase the good Judge, "Freedom is not for the people."

And that's not all I've got. This Crime Sweep has been very lucrative, indeed!

Yes folks, failing to empty your trash bins can result in some sever fines. Just ask the British, the ironic creators of "Judge Dredd:"

- Britons angry over trash bin bugging. (The Arizona Republic)
- Cameras in Cans to Spill the Beans on Fly-tippers. (Times Online)

As the years separating us from the time of Judge Dredd dwindle away, our present becomes even more disturbingly like Dredd's. What other policies reflective of Mega City One have we stupidly allowed to be established? Come back next time, ladies and gents.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Better Way

Any of my fellow Torontonians know what kind of hell they're in for when they attempt to board a TTC vehicle: they're frequently late, always crowded, and stupidly designed. And, sometimes, they smell funny.

But no matter which city you're from, you should take some bit of comfort in knowing that there'll always be somewhere even worse:

...and you know what that means, gentlemen and the ladies! It means that Blackmarket Pies has, unlike our unlucky commuters, rejoined the land of the living! Judge Dredd vs. The Future week finally kicks off in grand style tomorrow, and I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that missing such an occasion could, quite possibly, spell your doom.

(the Dark Judges and other problems with publicly-funded mass transportation systems can be further explored in the source of today's images, 2000AD #420.)

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