Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle has closed as a prison and re-opened as a tourist attraction with a cafe. We can now freely walk in and out of the gate. It is like visiting Hell after Christopher Rudd closed it near the end of Mike Carey's Lucifer.

However, prisons still exist elsewhere in England just as Hell continues to exist in other parts of the human imagination including John Constantine: Hellblazer, written a short while ago by Andy Diggle whose workshop is just below the Castle to the left of the attached image.

The Castle has several recent, well-attested, horrific ghost stories warranting both psychic investigation and graphic dramatization.

Superhero Parallels

Two minor comparisons between the DC Comics Universe and Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization -

(i) Members of the superhero team, the Green Lantern Corps, wear "power rings" that bestow super powers, including flight. One Corps member resembled a squirrel.

Members of the trader team sometimes fly using personal gravity harnesses. One team member resembles a squirrel.

(ii) Thanagar is inhabited both by winged, feathered, avian-headed humanoids and by fully humanoid beings whose policemen fly with artificial wings and belts of anti-gravity metal and wear hawk-like helmets. Two Thanagarian police officers came to Earth as the superheroes, Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

Avalon is colonized by winged, feathered Ythrians and by human beings some of whom fly with gravbelts.

Imperial Thanagar joined an Alien Alliance attack against Terrestrial superheroes whereas Avalon successfully resisted annexation by Imperial Terra.


Here the resemblances end. Graphic fiction can be as rich and dense as prose fiction can be but usually it is not because of its monthly publishing schedule.

Anderson's characters do not fight crime but earn a living and, when necessary, keep the peace.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Smallville: Obscura

Jonathan Kent accepts Lex's compensation money, then turns it down because Lex starts digging in the field where Clark's ship came down? I fail to follow his reasoning here. It can only make Lex suspicious. And, of course, as Clark says, continually rejecting Lex turns him into what you say he is.

Lex, Hamilton and that reporter move significantly nearer to the secret of Clark's origin. Now is the time for Clark to take Lex, not the others, into his confidence but he cannot stop practising the deception that has been put into him by Jonathan.

It is good to see Chloe looking happy both at a Planet internship and at a date with Clark. There is one reference to her cousin who I think turns out to be Lois Lane? (I am still way behind with Smallville but am happy to move forward at this pace.)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Kryptonian Anti-Gravity

Kryptonian body cells store and process yellow solar/stellar radiation to generate an anti-gravity field like the spindizzy screens in James Blish's Cities In Flight but enclosing only the body and controlled by the Kryptonian brain, thus enabling the organism to fly without causing sonic booms, to survive in vacuum, to repel missiles and to lift objects by extending the field so that super-strength is really psychokinesis.

Vision powers are explained by natural selection in Krypton's dense atmosphere and hostile environment but I also postulate interventions by the god Rao to maintain the human form despite evolutionary changes because his purpose was to generate a hero to be sent to Earth, and later into the cosmos, after the foredoomed destruction of Krypton.

Later: A spindizzy screen would explain faster than light interstellar flight but not time travel.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Smallville: Crush

This is the episode where the Smallville High Principal changes. There are appropriate remarks to Clark about his future and where he is from.

The premise is psychokinesis, not meteor-related. Again, a road accident is a major plot element. As usual, the interesting characters are Chloe and Lex. We realise, if we did not before, that Lana really does feel something for Clark. Do the non-verbals at Whitney's father's funeral mean that Chloe realises that Clark is still focused on Lana?

Clark uses his powers very little. There is the usual running at super-speed when a telephone call alerts him that Chloe is in danger. Invulnerability is useful when psychokinesis is used to make an electric saw fly towards Chloe but Clark arrives in time and stands in the way. Of course, Chloe is lying on the floor unconscious so doesn't notice. Clark and Chloe check out the Daily Planet. Where does Chloe wind up working later?

Sunday, 5 May 2013


Supreme    Headquarters     International    Espionage      Law-Enforcement  Division.
Strategic    Hazard               Intervention     Espionage       Logistics                Directorate.
Strategic    Homeland          Intervention     Enforcement   Logistics                Division. 

It changed in the comics and is different on screen.
The second version changes five of six words.
The third version is three words from the second, two (or one and a half) from the first and one new.
H has three possible meanings.
Each other letter has two.
Although "Espionage" appears twice, "Enforcement" had already appeared in "Law-Enforcement."
(The L and E in UNCLE were said to stand for "Law and Enforcement.")
None of the versions makes a lot of sense?
On Earth Real, there was a SHAPE, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe.
(James Bond defended SHAPE.)
SHAPE made some sense although a "shape" is less protective than a "shield."
Influenced by SPECTRE, UNCLE etc, I had tried to acronymize SHIELD before I read Marvel Comics.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Smallville: Drone

There are several good story elements here:

Lex tangles with a journalist;
Lana struggles to compete with the Beanery and save the Talon;
Pete and others persuade Clark to run for Class President but Chloe as Editor of the Torch endorses another candidate, who wins;
Clark uses the slogan "Man of Tomorrow", adapted from a remark made by Lex;
Lex says he would like to be President of the United States and Clark offers him the slogan back but Lex tells Clark to keep it (when Luthor became President in comics continuity, he ran as "the Tomorrow Party").

I do not include in this list the fact that another candidate controlled bees and made them attack her rivals. A satisfactory story line could have been composed from the other, listed, elements.

Ultimates And Movieverse

After seeing the Avengers and Iron Man 3 films, it is good to reread The Ultimates which still holds up for me as what I call a "perfect comic" by which I mean a perfect combination of good script and good art. This is the comics universe that the Movieverse is derived from.

Fury says that he should be played by Samuel L Jackson and also that his nose has been smashed more often than Robert Downey Junior. The President of the United States appears as do lookalikes of Kent, Lane and Olsen.

We learn far more about the Chitaurai on page than on screen. The two media are so different that they are not really comparable but, so far, I think that the graphic novels give us more and can be appreciated at greater leisure.

Free Strip Magazine

I arrived late to Free Comic Book Day at First Age Comics, Lancaster, because I had attended the May Day March on the theme of Save Our Hospital. Comics fans in costume, including a Wonder Woman, came out to wave the march as it went past. All that was left free by the time I got there was one copy of the Lancaster-published Strip Magazine Double Size Special, no 5/6, and I had missed editor/writer John Freeman signing them.

As with a lot of people, anthology mags are not my preferred reading matter even though I know that all the important characters started in anthologies. Strip Magazine has extremely good art although it is not always easy to follow stories that are episodes of serials. I was surprised at the length of a couple of the episodes: 24 pages for "The Devil's Heritage" and 20 for "Age of Heroes" written by James Hudnall whose name I recognise from The Unauthorized Biography Of Lex Luthor.

"The Devil's Heritage" mentions the painting with the inscription "Et in Arcadia ego." Adding the verb "sum" makes the sentence an anagram for "Tango arcam Dei, Iesu", "I touch the tomb of God, Jesus."

Comics are a medium that need not be published by the Big Two or their imitators and that can present works of fiction in any genre without having to conform to any comics universe continuities so it is good to have horizons broadened by publications like Strip Magazine.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


We had a good discussion in Lancaster Comics Group, the Uncanny League of Astonishing Amazers or the Uncanny League of Amazing Astonishers (whichever way round it is, the Golden Age version was the other way):

I was informed about the Arrow TV series;
we established that it is not in the same continuity as the Smallville TV series;
one difference is that Queen and Luthor are the same age in the former though not in the latter;
there are a few plausible trick arrows;
there are a Roy Harper and a Dinah Lance who could conceivably adopt costumed identities later;
as in Smallville, there are references to DC Universe place names like Bludhaven;
there are some characters named after comics writers, like Grell and Diggle;
Queen was a long time, five years, on the island and there was a lot going on there, revealed in flashbacks;
I was also informed about a detail that I had missed in Iron Man 3 and about upcoming Marvel Movieverse films;
I had not known that the Mandarin was a real villain in the comics;
we expect to meet at First Age Comics for Free Comic Books Day this Saturday;
what's not to like?