Tuesday, January 29, 2008

True Facts by Larry Young

Since being reassigned to a numbingly repetative, brain-optional section of my workplace, I've taken to reading on the job. While I'm a library regular, I have largely abandoned prose fiction for-- oh, let's see... junior high? Anyway, I'm taking advantage of my otherwise miserable situation by catching up on novels and such I've bought in the decades since I had to gird myself for combat every time I entered a restroom, but never actually read. The first was "The Naked Artist" by Bryan Talbot, which made me laugh out loud repeatedly-- a rarity in general, as my sense of humor is positively Vulcan in its elusiveness. Anyone who enjoys a good, bawdy anecdote needs to pick that title up from Moonstone Publishing. Hmm. I'd planned a hotlink there, but Moonstone's site seems to suck. Let us move on to Amazon, then.

Next up was Larry Young's "True Facts," purported to be "comics' righteous anger" and "a pocket guide to self-publishing your own comic books." You will find no link to AiT/PLANETLAR either, because this book is a piece of shit. I see no sign of this supposed "righteous anger." I instead see the publisher of a line of books that have never interested me publishing a collection of dull, most uninformative and self-whoring web articles that I frankly wouldn't have continued reading in their original free format. The "publishing guide" takes up only five slim "chapters" of information that, if you were unable to gather on your own, would have saved you the trouble of failing at publishing anyway. The rest is padded with only the least insightful editorial material and most unimpressive anecdotal notations-- hmm, pretty much ever. This is what, the tenth or so "NURGH!" post I've put up? I could collect them into a similar format and still improve on "True Facts," the least inspiring title in history, if only by virtue of brevity. I will gladly ship this 120page turd to the first person who bothers to send me an address, at my own expense.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shadowline Contest Entry: The Otherwoman

Ever since Kristen Simon (editor for Image Comics' Shadowline) announced a contest at her company looking for a newly created superheroine, I've be toying with the thought of offering a submission. Being a comic geek, I have plenty of pre-existing fantasy creations I could have tossed out, but we're all a bit covetous, aren't we? Those are my babies, and part of the fine print is that I'd have to share copyright on whatever I submitted with the artist, assuming I might actually win the thing by some longshot happenstance (like no other soul remembering to enter.) Knowing said artist would be Franchesco!, I also wanted to play to his strengths, as well as my own. I think I had the name down that first day, and it started to grow from there. I did some research online, interviewed an acquaintence from Nigeria at work, and then sat on my work for a couple weeks like a proper freelancer. The deadline was coming due, and I didn't want to push it quite to the very end. I sat down and reread the guidelines again tonight, and that helped to narrow my ambitions (which included a mock Previews solicitation page and/or a Who's Who-style page. I'm thankful I was prohibited from supplying graphics entirely, allowing me to hunker down on "a BRIEF one paragraph story synopsis." I failed the criteria on several points (like brief was ever my specialty,) so hopefully I won't be disqualified outright. Anyway, the following is my submission, and you can read more on the contest at Newsarama

"Who is ~ THE OTHERWOMAN? She’s the lovechild of RKO Pictures adventure movie serials and Blaxploitation movies. She’s what would have happened if the white jumpsuit, super-spy version of Wonder Woman had gotten her start during World War II... and had a libido... and a sense of humor... and been African... and, you know, been generally written and drawn well. The story of the original Otherwoman would begin after her retirement in the early 1970’s, when she’s confronted by an obnoxious American capital-F “feminist.” The Otherwoman schools the initially incredulous interloper in what it really meant to be a take charge, kick-ass superheroine through a series of vignettes. We see, in no particular order: her supernatural origins in 1920’s Nigeria; her role in the East African Campaign against the Fascists; her battles with alien invaders in the 1950’s; political intrigues during the Cold War, and so on from a decidedly different perspective than your typical nostalgic/cynical analogue character. We’re talking 6-12 page snapshots, heavy on first-person narrative captions, so that readers would get a couple or three stories per issue. If Franchesco! prefers dinosaurs to tanks or splash pages to continuity—whatever—the Otherwoman’s seen it all, and I’m game as well. The mini-series would end with the American coming away with a different point of view, and allude to the need for an Otherwoman for our time, just in case sales were strong enough to continue on with her legacy. Kings are humbled and empires have crumbled at the whim of ~ The Otherwoman!"

Friday, January 18, 2008


Johns Jones managed to reach the deeply missed defender of the Earth, Captain Comet. Briefly returning to his home world, the Man of Destiny used his unfathomably powerful telepathy to locate every Lizard-Man on Earth, and even a few on nearby satellites. Finally, the threat of the Lizard-Men was at an end, and Jones could focus on more mundane, terrestrial concerns.

One morning at his police precinct, Jones was called into the office of his superior, Captain Harding. There, he was met by visiting guest Henry Heywood, who insisted the hero call him "Hank." Despite the warmth of Heywood's words, there was a severe undercurrent of anger and disgust when the Lizard-Men came up. Captain Harding was startled by the mention of such a bizarre notion, and Jones was surprised "Hank" hadn't just erupted into a geyser of blood. Heywood continued, "Jones, we need men like you to keep us safe from this type of filth. I swear to you, I won't rest until every alien freak is deported off our planet for good! What kind of state would we be in if we didn't remain vigilant, son?"

"What indeed," answered Jones, with no small disdain of his own.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Conquest '07: Huntress vs. Black Canary & Co.

I discovered Patti Page's 1952 hit "Conquest" in a collection last year, and wanted to share it, but I couldn't find an actual video. The line about "the huntress" also ate at the comic geek in me, so I finally caved and decided to make my first fan video(s.) I've liked the Huntress since the first time I read her as a back-up in an issue of Wonder Woman, and in focusing on her I ended up with a ton of great spotlight material of her kicking tail. It didn't work with the Page music, so I set this to the White Stripes cover off their new album, Icky Thump. Also featured are most of the female JLAers and some fellows: Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, the Question, Vixen, Wonder Woman and Superman, plus the villains Roulette and Dr. Moon. Hope ya'll enjoy it. This is a non-profit fan production that is in no way intended to infringe on the various copyright holders for video, characters, and music. Please don't hurt me Warner Brothers/DC Comics!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Abre Los Ojos vs. Vanilla Sky

I first saw "High Fidelity" and "Vanilla Sky" around the same time and each a few years out from initial release, and my initial response to both was unfavorable. I readily admit I was unfairly prejudiced against "Fidelity," because I'd gone in expecting "Grosse Pointe Blank 2: Greatest Hits" and got a 30-something dramedy. The film stewed in the back of my brain for a week or two, but it wasn't until a friend pointed out how much I had in common with lead character Rob Gordon that I decided I didn't give the film a fair shake. My second viewing was revelatory, and it's now a much loved DCD in the collection (the deleted scenes are outstanding.) "Vanilla Sky," on the other hand, took me years to reevaluate. It seemed to me Crowe had overreached, attempting to apply his rose-tinted worldview to a jarring, unpleasant narrative so removed from his own sensibilities as to create cognitive dissonance throughout the picture. I still think of the movie as an ambitious failure, but aspects of the work softened my heart over time (not the least of which the Jerry Maguire team chemistry and Penelope Cruz's lovely warmth.) I also love comparing films, especially remakes, and had always regretted not picking up the original Abre Los Ojos for $10 at Best Buy, especially when I recalled the unusually buxom Ms. Cruz on the box cover. Infrequent discussions with a co-worker for whom "Sky" was a favorite movie and a proposed DVD trade with a friend who hated the film but never delivered kept it in mind for years before I finally plunked down $5.50 for the thing this year. I really enjoyed the reacquaintence, and the wonder of Netflix put "Ojos" in my hands shortly thereafter. I do so love comparing movies...

Amenábar: You hear a disembodied Spanish voice repeat "abre los ojos" over a black screen. Switch to a Point Of View shot of an arm shutting off the pre-recorded verbal alarm clock. Return to black. A young man wakes in his bed. He checks his face in the mirror, showers, mirror again, dresses. He climbs down the stairs of his impressive two story home, then exits his garage in a vintage VW Bug. As he drives, he begins to notice a complete absence of other people in a major city at 10:00 a.m. Concerned, he stops his car in the road, steps out of his vehicle, and begins looking around. The camera pans up above high above the street, as the man's tiny figure jogs down the lifeless lane, an ominous score swelling to silence and a black screen. You hear a disembodied Spanish voice repeat "abre los ojos." Switch to a POV shot of an arm shutting off the pre-recorded verbal alarm clock. A young man lies in his bed, as the disembodied voice of an older fellow asks "Why tell me that dream?". The voices of older and younger man argue with each other, as we watch the young man of nearly 25 with common interests repeat the events of the related dream. That is, up to exiting the bathroom, when it is revealed a woman is lying his his bed. He coldly chastizes her for leaving the annoying spoken word alarm, then climbs into his car, this time driving through a living city (Madrid?) Amongst the city, in an understated bit of foreshadowing, is a mime. Generic score plays over title and credits.

Crowe: A series of metropolitan arial shots seperated by black screens. The camera finally settles on a mini-mansion, and you hear a Spanish voice say "abre los ojos." The voice then begins repeating "open your eyes" as Radiohead's "Everything In It's Place" is cued. Pan through Tom Cruise's apartment to him sleeping in his bed. He shuts off the cd/alarm, which kills the voice but not the tune. Cruise shuts off his flatscreen television, which then receeds into the floor. He checks himself in the mirror, unrooting a single, disconcerting white hair from his head with tweezers. Dresses, leaves opulent mansion, exits garage in vintage jaguar. Music receeds, as Cruise begins to notice a complete absence of other people in all of New York at 9:05 a.m. on a weekday. Stops in the middle of Times Square, steps out of his car, and begins running down the street in a frantic search for a single living thing as Mint Royale's "From Rusholme With Love" jarringly plays. Quick cuts to the panicked Cruise and various automated signs and lights highten the tension. Unerving audio effects come in as the cuts become more irratic, ending with Cruise arms spread wide as he turns in circles, screaming. Suddenly, cruise awakens in a similar pose, crying in shock, but still in bed. His alarm clock sounds, this time with the voice of Camron Diaz. Cruise repeats his previous routine, this time with Kurt Russell's voice trying to psychoanalyze the dream. "Loneliness?" Cruise, as David, discusses how he was turning 33 and still an irresponsible magazine tycoon who believed he would live forever. David firmly chastizes the woman in his bed, Diaz, about her message. The two begin to banter about their hearty fuck session the night before, then Diaz, as Juliana, answers her cell and engages in a bit of girltalk regarding her afterglow. The banter continues, with Juliana showing her need for affirmation and David clearly keeping things light and uncommitted before heading to his car. No title or credits.

Victor: Crowe takes an early lead over his source material by force of scale alone. An emptied Times Square is more impactful that virtually any other location on Earth, and the production already reeks of money. Crowe's editing is much more dynamic, the source music is highly effective, and characters have already been established where Amenábar is still working with cyphers.

Amenábar: César's VW rolls in front of his friend Pelayo's house, whom he picks up for a game of racketball. Pelayo is the whiney bitch submissive male of the two, as he complains about his own average looks and César's fortune and womanizing. It is established that César has slept with the woman in his bed, Nuria, a record two times. Cut to the future, where César is in meeting room in a prison/asylum, his face covered in a fleshy mask. His psychiatrist is trying to determine César's fitness to stand trial for murder. We learn César's dead parents left him a restaurant franchise, a tidy fortune, and that he has three other cars way better than his "shitty" VW. Also he's an atheist, and an asshole in general, with few redeeming qualities. The doctor is fatherly, despite working with a aggressive dick. Cut back to the past, where César hosts a birthday gathering in what now looks like a mid-sized apartment. His rather unappealing friend Pelayo brings a date astronomically out of his league, a 22-year-old Penélope Cruz as Sofia. She easily outshines everyone in the room, including the immediately smitten César, without actually showing much charisma. César is confronted by Nuria in his bedroom, where the tension is thick as he rejects her advances and asks her to leave. There is no ambiguity here. César uses Nuria as an excuse to get Sofia alone to talk. A drunken Pelayo finds the two, and takes exception to his friend's betrayal, but leaves without incident. César and Sofia abandon his home for her apartment, where we learn she is an actress and a mime. To show his softer side, César has Sofia draw an amateurish doodle of him, while he does a lovely and fully realized pencil rendition of her. The two continue to bond until morning, when César leaves after enjoying only a single kiss.
Crowe: David picks up his buddy Brian (Jason Lee) for racketball, and he's a real sport about unspooling a heap of clunky exposition regarding David's backstory (mogul father dies, leaves him Maxim magazine and publishing empire, but he must contend with an evil board of directors.) Brian is also a whiney bitch, but more entertaingly so. We learn Julie Giani is David's regular fuck buddy, and nothing more, cheapening Brian's dream girl. The pair almost get in a car wreck, then hit the gym off-screen. David reports to work after 11 a.m. You're given reasons to hate David, or at least envy him wildly, despite his overwhelming charm. Cut to the future, where David is in meeting room in a prison/asylum, his face covered in a fleshy mask. Is psychiatrist, Russell's Dr. Curtis McCabe, is trying to determine David's fitness to stand trial for murder. A quick montage of images establishes David's father as New York's preeminent publisher, socialite, and adventurer, before his passing ten years prior. David reveals he's afraid of heights and taking his current situation poorly, while Dr. McCabe is only interested so far as he's doing his job. Cut back to the past, where David hosts his birthday celebration in his gigantic, lavishly decorated mini-mansion. Brian arrives with a 26-year-old Penélope Cruz as Sofia, emmersed in a comically oversized hooded jacket. She easily outshines everyone in a room full of gorgeous but plastic women with her grounded presence and shining charisma. David takes to her immediately for her guillessness, exotic accent, and stunning smile. This is to the obvious chagrin of Brian, but Sofia clearly returns David's interest, while also showing appropriate disdain for his materialism and immaturity. David is also confronted by nearly nude fuck buddy Juliana, who gets her passive-aggression on about not being invited while still offering her body as present to the disinterested and increasingly concerned David. Knowing something about passive-aggression himself, David continues to toy with Julie, while also flirting with Sofia to both gain ground and hopefully lose his newfound stalker. The pair are eventually busted by Brian, who whines some more but eventually gives his blessing as the couple run off to her apartment. David looks at pictures on Sofia's wall, including those showing her as a ballerina with a dance company. Sofia suggests they draw one another's flaws, wherein she produces a professional quality caricature, while his is a soulful sketch.The two continue to bond until morning, when David leaves after enjoying only a single kiss.
Victor: Crowe
This round, Amenábar gains points for understatement and clarity, as the turmoil Pelayo and Nuria are experiencing due to the selfish and careless César is crystaline. Crowe also loses points for his excessive and sugery musical choices, especially more Peter Gabriel after his famed and oft-imitated appropriation of the artist's work for "Say Anything." Crowe's dialogue feels overly scripted, and David's sudden turn toward depth comes off as very Jerry Maguire. However, the chemistry between Cruise and Cruz is undeniable, with the latter showing a vibrancy and wit that demolishes her original take on the role. Despite being in the prime of her hotness after "There's Something About Mary..." Diaz absolutely sells her thoroughly offputting obsession. In fact, the excellence of performances more than make up for Crowe's overselling of the romance, though he deserves credit even for that. Amenábar's movie is all plot, so the viewers' interest is mostly academic. If Nuria's suicide wasn't such a left hand turn, you'd have had the time to see it coming from miles away. Crowe can tip his hand because he's worked so hard to invest you in his somewhat dubious characters, that knowing the bottom is about to drop out hightens the experience. Crowe has engaged the viewer enough that telegraphed plot points get forgotten, where Amenábar allows too much time to begin figuring out pretty accurately where he's going.

The spoilers start to kick in now, so if you haven't seen either movie, you may want to think about steering clear now.

Amenábar: Nuria is waiting in her car outside Sofia's apartment, and offers to make up for the sex César missed out on the night before until he can't get into Sofia's pants. At first César refuses, but Nuria eventually goads him into getting into the car with her. Nuria offers César some pills, which he refuses. Nuria scarfes them all down, complaining about his innocent act and unwillingness to get to know her as more than a lay. She tells him happiness for her is being with César, and asks if he believes in God before suddenly plowing her car down a hillside and into a barricade wall. César dreams the preceeding never happened, only to be wrenched back to a reality where he spent weeks in a coma to find his face a shade more disfigured than Quasimodo's. The doctors insist they've done all modern medicine will allow, prompting César to theatrics on several fronts. He begins stalking Sofia, until he gets the nerve to trap her while she's performing a mime routine in public and stare her down. She agrees to see him that night at a club. Recognizing her discomfort, César digs out a face masks the doctors presented to him as a "facial prosthesis." He also finds the doodle Sofia once drew of him, and tellingly wads it up. César is still a self-centered jerk, allowing himself to fixate and project on Sofia in the manner Nuria had done with him. César finds Pelayo waiting with Sofia at the club and at her request. Aware of how uncomfortable he makes Sofia, César opts to get drunk with the bartender away from his friends. César desperately attempts to reconnect with Sofia, and fails, leaving her to run home with Pelayo in pursuit. César passes out alone in the gutter, waking up the next morning to a voice demanding "abre los ojos." At first, he thinks it's Nuria, but it turns out to be Sofia, who kisses César and asks forgiveness. I have to mention that Cruz really plays down her looks here, but César and I are still panting. Moving on, the pair stroll through the park, César noting an inescapable feeling of deja vu.

Crowe: Julie is waiting in her car outside Sofia's apartment, playing up both her whiles and David's guilt to get him in her car for a nightcap. Julie continues to feel David out for affection, only to have her heart bludgeoned by David's callousness. Julie begins to meltdown as she tells David happiness for her is being with him, and gives a speech about the impact sex has on a life. The tension is pulled tighter as David becomes fully aware that Julie is coming unhinged before his eyes. She asks if he believes in God, and guides her ride toward a bridge. The pair wrestle for control of the wheel as the car tears through a rail and off the overpass. The car strikes earth and a brick wall with two devastating thumps. David dreams the preceeding never happened, only to be wrenched back to a reality where he spent weeks in a coma to find his face and arm have been terribly disfigured by the accident. Through migranes, David begins studying from home every aspect of his father's empire, and starts making power plays via teleconferencing. He also makes a uncomfortable play for Sofia at her dance studio. The rests progresses pretty much as above, but flashier. Specifically, Cruz continues to look irresistable and urbane.

Victor: Amenábar
Diaz's "your body makes a promise" speech was career defining for me, as it was embedded in my mind with the impact of that car jumping the bridge. This alone almost puts Crowe up, until his take is all downhill from there in this portion. Probably fearing audience backlash, Cruise only went half deformed, so he's still reasonably attractive. Tom tries to sell us on his mental instability, which works, but he's still kind of charming. The asshole groundwork laid out in Amenábar's take pays off here, as you kind of enjoy César's comeuppance, but are ashamed by your sadism. Since your sympathies have always been with Cruise, here you just wince at his awkwardness and creepy aggression. Jason Lee is more enjoyable in this portion, to the point where you root for him getting together with Sofia. Pelayo meanwhile remains a loser, so its clear his association with Sofia goes no further than César's jealous, paranoic fantasies, and illustrates the Latin machismo that has been part of the character's hubris from the beginning. Cruz has been so vivacious as Sofia up to this point in Crowe's vision, her shutting down on Cruise makes him look like a complete idiot for not realizing how wrong the situation is. With Amenábar, Cruz has been more the girl next door, so her emotional check-out is more subtle, and yet also illustrates again that César is less interested in the person as what she represented in his former life. Finally, Crowe hues so closely to Amenábar's framework in this portion, even shot composition, that you're hyperaware that when he's not going Gus Van Sant he's remaking Cruise in "Cocktail," including the mass-market retail soundtrack. Let's just hope he leaves the Beach Boys out of this.

Amenábar: While the production values continue to underwhelming, a nice, inexpensive technique to show César's dream state is employed. Unfortunately, this serves to draw attention to plot mechanics, one of several tells at this point that tip the director's hand in a big way. Following another surgery, César teases the earnest and deeply concerned Sofia. The two make love to score, though it mostly feels like an opportunity to ogle Cruz's naked breasts. César kisses his way up Sofia's back and neck, until he slowly realizes her hair appears shorter, just like... Nuria! César immediately turns violent, demanding to know where Sofia is, while Nuria insists she is Sofia. Exposition comes fast and furious, but is handled about as well as one would expect from a twisty thriller where you're unsure who's perspective to trust. Amenábar returns to effective use of score to close out this portion.

Crowe: While the production values continue to be overwhelmingly slick in a distinctly Hollywood way, even some hamming from Kurt Russell doesn't spoil the twists to come. Following another surgery, Sofia inapproriately teases the deeply anxious David. The two make love to Bob Dylan, setting up a dramatic turn in a later scene that partly hinges on Cruz's naked breasts. Crowe continues to use repetition to highlight a surreality to the proceedings. Hidden under the covers, "Sofia" moans softly without an accent as she kisses her way up David's back, and Crowe finally succumbs to "the tell" thanks to his casting choices. David jumps out of bed with the very Anglo Cameron Diaz, proclaiming that she's Sofia. However, she fades in and out of character, taunting David. Exposition comes fast and furious, bungled by overwrought delivery that tries too hard to sell David's mental instability. Jason Lee's great, though.

Victor: Amenábar
I love the bit Crowe does where Sofia appears before David as a muse in the psyche ward, and he's generally better at showing the deterioration of his protagonist. However, his problematic use of source music continues, everything is played big, and a lot of Vanilla Sky's goodwill coasts on its name actors. Amenábar proves much more adept at suspence, and the consistent of his work pays off here where Crowe comes off as scattershot. Also, comparing Chete Lera's psychiatrist with Kurt Russell's makes for an excellent demonstration of the difference between an actor and a movie star.

Amenábar: After some confrontations and a bit of violence, all of the loose ends are tied up. You've certainly earned it, because there's just entirely too much going on in the second hour, and you're ready to wrap it up already.

Crowe: The director sets his iPod on the audience like Burns would unleash the hounds, and makes sure you never forget you're watching a movie by casting even more well-known actors in even the smallest parts. The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" marks to my mind what may be the single worst, most distracting "ironic" use of source music in movie history. Less happens in Crowe's finale, but it seems to take three times as long to tell. Crowe feels the need to explain every single detail of the previous two hours for another twenty minutes, including music/movie geek touches specific to his telling of the tale. He even tells you what happened to all the supporting characters. He explains everyone's internal motivations at length. Peter Jackson didn't have so many endings for "Lord of the Rings," even throwing in "The Wizard of Oz" for good measure.

Victor: Amenábar
I expect I'll watch "Vanilla Sky" more often than "Abre Los Ojos." There's money all over the screen, I'm previously endeared to nearly all the actors, they speak my language, and Penelope Cruz is hotter the second time around. However, I'll do so while wincing at Crowe's many missteps, which I observed at first viewing as the first "mind fuck movie with a heart of gold." If "A.I." was an awkward melding of Steven Spielberg's aesthetic with Stanley Kubrick's, this would be an even more unweildy mass of Kubrickian plot processed through Crowe pop culture sentimentality.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

NURGH! Greatest Songs Of Our Time!!!! #1:"Add It Up" by Violent Femmes (1983)

Ranked by order of appearance on the list, with no bearing on relative quality.
The Violent Femmes are one of your go-to bands for the sexually frustrated maladroit, and this would be the banner under which they falter in life. This song is so inherently nerd-cool, even Ethan Hawke performing it in one of his single douchiest roles in fucking "Reality Bites" can't tarnish its mystique. Twenty-four years later, I still can't help but drum spasticly at my steering wheel, veering into other lanes while shaking my head. Also, I'm just not a very good driver, but that seems appropriate here...

Why can't I get just one kiss?
Why can't I get just one kiss?
Believe me,
Somethings I wouldn't miss
But I look at you pants and I need a kiss.

Why can't I get just one screw?
Why can't I get just one screw?
Believe me,
I'd know what to do.
But something won't let me make love to you.

Why can't I get just one fuck?
Why can't I get just one fuck?
I guess it's got something to do with luck
But I've waited my whole life for just one

Day after day
I get angry
And I will say
That the day is in my sight
When I take a bow and say goodnight

Oh my my my my my oh my mum
Have you kept your eye
Your eye on your son?
I know you've had problems
You're not the only one
When your sugar left, he left you on the run

Mo my my my my my mo my mum
Take a look now
Look what your boy has done
He's walking around like he's number one
You went downtown and got him a gun.

Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
You know you got my sympathy
But don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
You know you got my sympathy
But don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me

Broken down kitchen at the top of the stairs
Can I mix in with your affairs?
Share a smoke, Make a joke
Grasp and reach for a leg of hope
Words to memorize, words hypnotize
Words make my mouth exercise.
Words all fail the magic prize
Nothing I can say when I'm in your thighs

Oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
City's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce
Sayin' oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
The city's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce

I've given you a decision to make
Things to lose, things to take
Just as she's about ready to cut it up
She says
Wait a minute honey I'm gonna add it up
Add it up (x8)
Day after day
I get angry and I will say
That the day is in my sig

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bullet Points

Cutting to the chase, I pretty much never like DC Elseworlds, at least when they're released under that banner, but I cut my teeth on Marvel's "What If...?" in the early 80's. I always loved the basic premise of a done-in-one tale that takes a specific moment in continuity, alters it, and then relishes the death and destruction that follows in the wake. In an artistic medium governed by commercial concerns, it makes sense that creators would enjoy shaking loose the confines of the monthly status quo in favor of as final a resolution as possible for any of these Elseworlds, which can be satisfying for longtime readers as well. I recall the story of Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth defending his pornographic Eros line. He basically decided that super-hero comics are all build-up with no release, but by gob, Eros readers were at least assured to avoid that cheat.

This leads me to "Bullet Points" by J. Michael Straczynski and Tommy Lee Edwards, which does not fly under the "What If...?" and seems to work inverse to my "Elseworlds" principle. You see, it's not enough to alter one moment in the cannon here, so they lay down one asinine contrivance after another until you realize the consequences aren't the store, but the sheer multiplicity of imagination-deprived minor alterations to the original status quo. You see, not only does Dr. Erskine die before young Steve Rogers can become his only Super Soldier Serum recipient, but the MP guarding him must also be Ben Parker, uncle to then eye-twinkle Peter Parker. Now, with technology a quarter-century behind what Tony Stark had to work with, Steve Rogers becomes a near replica of Iron Man. Result: Captain America in a tin can. Yawning yet? Let's try the second result: a juvenile delinquent Peter Parker, who now assumes the Rick Jones role at the fateful detonation of a gamma bomb. But see, now that Peter is an angry young man, the radiation effects him in exactly the same manner as it had Bruce Banner, down to his becoming a mindlessly rampaging green-skinned Hulk pursued by the military.

But wait-- there's more, and they only get worse. One hoaky, unbelievable co-ink-e-dink after another leads us to pretty nearly the exact same Marvel Universe we already know, just mismatching the hero with the alter ego, though you couldn't really tell from the characterization. Being a pseudo-What If, the body count starts to mount, but I expect only readers with the lowest threshold for entertainment will have lasted to that point, much less derive any pleasure from it. The art is just as uninspired as the writing, seeing as Edwards mostly draws from model (except when he "borrows" Alex Ross' costume design for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, only with drab coloring.) Does the blame fall on editor Mark Paniccia for approving such a lifeless waste, or was it Joe Quesada's starfucking that got this most banal of vanity projects into print? Who exactly do I blame for making me wistful for Elseworlds inanity-- as I imagine endless variations of Mr. Fantastic as a pirate-- no wait-- a cowboy-- ooo Sherlock Holmes! With Ben Grimm as Watson! Genius!


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