Tuesday, 27 November 2012


Pantheons include sea gods like Neptune and Lir. Superhero teams include aquatic superheroes like Aquaman or the Submariner. After the continuity-changing Crisis On Infinite Earths, Editor and Writer Roy Thomas retconned Neptune Perkins and Tsunami to replace the Golden Age Aquaman. Such marine superheroes are fascinating but would be even more so if we were told more about their physiology and psychology and about how they function at different depths.

Once, trying to touch the bottom of an artificial lake, I swam down to a level that was suddenly dark and cold with a pain in the ears so I re-ascended as fast as possible. Our heroes would be comfortable at that depth and would be able to descend further.

Poul Anderson describes this process in The Merman's Children (London, 1981), pp. 53-54. In mid-Atlantic:

the halflings wave to wind and sun, then submerge;
for their first breath of sea, they blow out, then widen lips and chest;
water enters and permeates their bodies, activating the merfolk metabolism;
subtle humours decompose water to extract oxygen;
salt is sieved from tissues;
interior furnaces counteract the cold although it is still felt (merfolk are few because they need more food at sea than men do on land);
as they descend, light decreases, then departs;
there is complete silence;
the underwater dialect of the mer-tongue comprises hums, clicks and smacks;
each halfling has an undersea "lanthorn"/lantern strapped to his left forearm (not quite Green Lanterns);
they regularly work chest and stomach muscles to equalise pressure inside and out but still feel the weight of the water;
their leader feels that he nears bottom before uncovering his lantern;
he smells rank flesh and hears or senses the movement of the kraken's gills;
with the lantern, he sees the kraken.

We need this kind of description and more in superhero comics.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Boys 72

Well, Garth gave us the happy ending we wanted for which I am grateful after everything else that had happened. The conclusions of the story seem to be that:

despite the distasteful cover, life and business continue as before;

Hughie has come through it in control - he is even able to speak facetiously of Butcher despite the nasty trick that that nutcase had played on him right at the end.

I am now buying the complete series in the collected volumes because it will be easier to keep and reread in that format.

Addendum, 26/11/12: I do not find Monkey's breaking of Raynor's confidentiality amusing.

27/11/12: Or is she called Rayner? I am abroad without access to the comics.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I am rereading the first Kick-Ass collection. It is good and the film was an authentic adaptation. However, I think that the comic cheats on its premise. Kick-Ass would have been killed or at least seriously injured again on his third outing if Hit-Girl had not intervened (and she is implausible as well).

The initial premise was that, if an ordinary guy put on a costume and confronted thugs, he would come to grief. But the premise changes to what if, at the same time, a father-daughter team were doing it properly, training and using effective weaponry? Then the answer is that the team can save the ordinary guy.

The main problem with patrolling the city in costume is simply that you are extremely unlikely to interrupt muggings or robberies in any case. Kick-Ass recognises this when he advertises his services on the internet. And the use of the internet to publicise superheroics is very plausible. So some of Kick-Ass makes sense.

Googling reveals that there are some real life superheroes but they mostly just do good in their communities. They certainly do not challenge organised crime. How would anyone even start to do that?

Give Me Liberty

Written by Frank Miller and drawn by Dave Gibbons, Give Me Liberty is like a cross between Dark Knight and Watchmen. High tech action-adventure in a bizarre near future political scenario where a hamburger company literally wages war to defend its destruction of the rain forest and parts of the US secede, waging civil war. It begins with the heading "1995" but the collected edition was published in 1990 so 1995 is in the future.

The story seems to be complete because the continuing villain is dead in the concluding panel but there is a sequel, Martha Washington Goes To War, which maybe I should get after completing the Boys collection. Not visually but conceptually, Martha, the central character of Give Me Liberty, is like Alan Moore's Halo Jones - a young woman who goes to war and gets to be good at it although the reader knows that the war itself is bad.

Halo spans the galaxy whereas Martha does not go beyond Earth orbit but the sf cliche of easy faster than light interstellar travel is not needed to make points about overcrowded cities, unemployment, political bankruptcy and the reasons for wars.

The action of Give Me Liberty becomes implausible and ends in 2012.


DC Comics had an annual Justice League of America - Justice Society of America crossover for twenty years. The context of the crossovers was the multiverse which was fused into a single universe by the 50th year anniversary Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Crisis should have initiated fifty years of new stories. Instead it started another twenty or so years of Company-wide crossovers. If something works, repeat it till it stops working.

Company-wide crossovers are parodied in the opening pages of Garth Ennis' Herogasm. The heroes of the Boys universe claim to be fighting aliens in space in a sequel to the Chaocrisis while really they are having an organised orgy on an island in the Pacific.

Herogasm is the best of the three Boys miniseries. We see the characters interacting and learn important background details. Herogasm is easy to obtain as it is Vol 5 in the Boys collected series.