Thursday, 20 November 2014

Modesty Blaise: Further Remarks

(i) Gabriel is the villain of the first Modesty Blaise novel and the title character of the third comic strip. Consequently, I expected that novel to be the novelization of that comic strip. Instead, they are entirely different stories. Gabriel escapes at the end of both. In his introduction to the collected comic strip, Peter O'Donnell writes that Gabriel was a continuing villain, later killed.

(ii) O'Donnell writes that "...strip cartoon is not a medium for subtle shades of grey..." so the villains must have "...no redeeming features." I disagree.

(iii) Even small-panel black-and-white comic art can be good art with details, characterization, action and scenery. When, in a three panel sequence, Sir Gerald and Willie have lunch at Rand's Club:

panel 1 shows, I now realize, more detail than I can describe of the restaurant and bar - there is depth and distance, a door leads to another room with standing and seated figures and, beyond them, a window;

panel 2 is an exterior shot of the building and the street with a pedestrian, chauffeurs beside parked cars, trees and speech balloon emerging from the building;

panel 3 is the two men now seated at their table.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up

I have finally read the first Modesty Blaise comic strip. As expected, the continuity is different from the novels but the characters and the general scenario are identical. It is fascinating to see how Peter O'Donnell writes the same characters, the Intelligence duo, Modesty and her sidekick, in the two different media.

I do not agree with Mike Paterson in his introduction that there is a "sexual tension" between Modesty and Willie. Completely unexpected and welcome was the second introduction by Peter O'Donnell, describing his World War II encounter with the original of Modesty. It would be good if the unnamed girl had survived and read the comic strip.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Miraclewoman

DC Comics have Wonderwoman.
The Superman titles have Supergirl.
The original Captain Marvel has Mary Marvel.
Mick Anglo's Marvelman had Kid Marvelman instead of a female character.
Alan Moore restored a female character to the Marvel/Miracle Family:

"To have seen her then, as Liz described her later: cold and glittering, a statue of cut glass, immaculate save for gauntlets darkened by unEarthly blood...
"Aphrodite risen from the churning foam where fell the manhood of Cronos."
-Miracleman #11.

At last, the words match the ideas and strongly connect with Greek myths.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Modesty Blaise: Sabre-Tooth II

Modesty Blaise has a much better attitude to men she has had sex with than James Bond has to women he has had sex with.

Sabre-Tooth shows us how much work would be involved in assembling a secret army. The conspirators can recruit mercenaries and can train and prepare them at a secret hideout in the hills but they cannot conceal from Intelligence organizations that large numbers of cutthroat boys have gone out of circulation.

Lucille, the girl adopted by Modesty's partner, Willie, is introduced in this novel. Modesty, Willie and the reader should have foreseen that Modesty and Willie would be blackmailed through her. Was Lucille introduced as a character just for this purpose?

Peter O'Donnell equals or excels Fleming and Forsythe for apparently authentic technical and background details.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Modesty Blaise: Sabre-Tooth

The first collected volume of Modesty Blaise comic strips waits faithfully for me to pay for it at First Age Comics, Lancaster. Meanwhile, I have collected the second Modesty Blaise novel, Sabre-Tooth, from Waterstones Bookshop. I have a common problem with both books: big and awkward sizes. The collection has large format pages to accommodate quantities of newspaper comic strips. This print-on-order edition of the novel is large print.

In the novel, Modesty must prevent an invasion of Kuwait: highly topical. This book does not seem to retain the villain of the first novel, Gabriel. I discuss the novels on this blog because they are based on the comic strips and written by the same author, Peter O'Donnell.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Plebeian, Pilgrim And Performer, Part II

See here.

Interactions between the author's three roles become more complex. On p. 181, the Pilgrim (abbreviated as "THE PILG" in the script (see p. 55)), rowing a boat, sings, "Life is but a dream," and again, "...life is but a..." Turning the page, we find a more realistically drawn Bryan Talbot waking from a dream. Going downstairs, he draws page 1, the Plebeian approaching the Sunderland Empire Theatre. Pages 2 and 3 are the same picture filled in, then completed, with the texts, "Well, there's this guy, right..." (p. 2) and "...and he goes to this theatre..." (p. 3). When the more realistically drawn Bryan Talbot has drawn p. 3, the Performer appears in front of the panel and recites these words. Then, the Plebeian, seeing all this on a screen inside the theatre, objects to his image being used.

Plebeian and Performer argue, the latter repeating Wonderland words to claim that they are both mad. This makes the more realistically drawn Bryan Talbot exclaim that he is mad. Then he asks the reader whether the reader is dreaming him. When Scott McCloud has appeared and shed some light, the more realistically drawn Bryan Talbot, addressing the Plebeian, removes a mask and costume, showing us that, underneath, he is the Performer. Going backstage, he steps through a door on a right hand page and emerges from the same door on the following left hand page, thus passing through the page. He shows us that Carroll made Alice do this with the Looking Glass. Then he draws us panels of himself in Tintin style walking through Morocco before reminding us of the Bayeux Tapestry, seen earlier, and analyzing the works of William Hogarth over seven pages. The Tapestry is "...the beginning of British comics history..." (p. 195) and Hogarth is "...the next great milestone..." (ibid.)

On p. 216, the Pilgrim, who has been walking through history, is suddenly on a screen in the theatre with the two resident ghosts, introduced earlier, commenting. The unidentified White Lady tells Sid James, a comedy actor who had died on stage, a local ghost story in horror comic style before they again watch the Pilgrim on screen and the reader soon forgets that there has been a screen.

On p. 317, an even more realistically drawn Bryan Talbot wakes up at the end of Swan Lake at the Empire and his wife thinks that he has missed the show but he thinks that he hasn't. P. 318 is them walking home.

(...hopefully not to be mugged by Joe Chill.)

Visual And Verbal

Some graphic documentaries fail to integrate the verbal with the visual. For example, an uncompromising slab of prose quoted from a source text is accompanied somewhere on the same page by a cartoon. By contrast, in Bryan Talbot's 318-page Alice In Sunderland (London, 2007), although there are indeed many words, they are presented in small captions or balloons spread across profusely illustrated large format pages in a wealth of color and detail covering the entire available surface, sometimes receding to an impossible distance of time as well as of space in perspective. See image.

We cannot possibly assimilate all the verbally imparted information but realize that, by careful rereading, we would learn at least as much as we could from a dense prose text. A Thomas Dixon is mentioned on page 77 and, on p. 173, we learn that "John Ruskin's Mackem cork-cutter, the highly cultured Thomas Dixon, is buried in the churchyard."

8 Oct 2014: Rereading, I find Thomas Dixon on p. 48: "...a self-educated Mackem cork-cutter of uncommon intelligence and friend of many Victorian intellectuals, writers and artists.
"Ruskin addresses his books Letters to a Working Man and Time and Tide by Weare and Tyne to Tommy Dixon."

Monday, 6 October 2014

Plebeian, Performer And Pilgrim

I had already noticed that Bryan Talbot plays three roles in his Alice In Sunderland, then I realized that he had told us this on the title page:

DEVISED AND PERFORMED BY
BRYAN TALBOT 
               THE WIGAN TITWILLOW
As the Plebeian, the Performer and the Pilgrim

(I have not reproduced the colors of the smaller letters accurately.)

The Plebeian enters the theatre, where the Performer, as the White Rabbit, speaks from the stage, saying that the comic medium will conjure a vision in the imagination. The Pilgrim first appears on p. 26, drawing the Performer. The Pilgrim then addresses the reader and walks through Sunderland but is interrupted by the Plebeian who is answered by the Performer with the Pilgrim, in his most recent panel, in the background. Then the Pilgrim also addresses the Plebeian and resumes his narrative walk. Later, the Plebeian sleeps, dreams and meets the Tweedles who put the White Rabbit mask on him and send him onto the stage where he is now the Performer addressing the Plebeian. 

Needless to say, on my first reading of the book, I concentrated on the verbal content and completely missed all these interactions between the author's three roles.

Alice: The Acrostic

Since the republic of letters, and of pictures, is one, let us discuss poetry on Comics Appreciation: "...the acrostic poem that concludes Through The Looking Glass" is beautifully reproduced on the graphically illustrated page 64 of Bryan Talbot's Alice In Sunderland: An Entertainment (London, 2007).

The poem is about nostalgia:

"A boat beneath a sunny sky,
"Lingering onward dreamily
"In an evening of July -"

and the passage of time:

"Long has paled that sunny sky:
"Echoes fade and memories die:
"Autumn frosts have slain July."

But something endures, in memory:

"Still she haunts me..."

- and in imagination:

                              "...phantomwise,
"Alice moving under skies
"Never seen by waking eyes."

- and in future generations:

"Children yet, the tale to hear..."

Each generation experiences the summer:

"Dreaming as the days go by..."

 - and successive summers:

"Dreaming as the summers die..."

- and always remembers:

"Ever drifting down the stream -
"Lingering in the golden gleam -"

In the third last line and despite the theme of transience, the word "Ever..." is used. Finally, life ends:

"Life, what is it but a dream?"

To Lewis Carroll, a clergyman, life was a dream from which we wake whereas many of us think that it is followed by a dreamless sleep. (Plato in the Phaedo: "Eternity is a single night.") Carroll reversed the metaphor in another Alice poem:

"We are but older children, dear,
"Who fret to find our bedtime near."

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Alice In Sunderland And Voice Of The Fire: A Fourth Parallel

In Bryan Talbot's Alice In Sunderland, the author, dreaming, sits in the otherwise empty Sunderland Empire Theatre while the author not only speaks from the stage but also interacts with the author writing the script, drawing the strip and walking through the city's history, speaking the words in speech balloons and captions.

In the concluding chapter of Alan Moore's Voice Of The Fire, when the author comes on stage:

"...the Help menu [is] lettered up on the proscenium arch. The cursor winks, a visible slow handclap in the black, deserted auditorium."
-Alan Moore, Voice Of The Fire (London, 1996), p. 292.

Depiction, narration and action/acting are the three story-telling media. Talbot compares his sequential art with drama and Moore likewise compares his prose with it.

Alice In Sunderland And Voice Of The Fire

Three Parallels

(i) Alice In Sunderland, a graphic documentary by Bryan Talbot, surveys the history of the North East of England. Voice Of The Fire, a prose novel by Alan Moore, spans the history of the site of Northampton with chapters set in successive periods from 4000 BC to 1995 AD.

(ii) Both works incorporate the author writing the work.

In Alice... (London, 2007), p. 55, panel 5:

caption: ...right now I'm writing the script, typing these words.
picture: Talbot typing; the words on the screen.

In Voice... (London, 1996), p. 293:

"The author types the words 'the author types the words.'"

(iii) Both authors are best known for their works of graphic fiction.

One Autograph

My copy of Voice... is signed:

"To Paul,
"From the septic navel of the nation,
"With very best wishes -
"Alan Moore."

I will miss the Kendal Comics Art Festival (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) this year but should try to get Mr Talbot's autograph on Alice... next year.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Some English History

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation today.

Rereading Poul Anderson's works has slowed down because I have:

worked my way through most of the Technic History;
been reading Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise for the first time;
begun rereading Bryan Talbot's Alice In Sunderland.

Since I have met Bryan Talbot a few times and saw Poul Anderson at a couple of World SF Cons, that leaves Peter O'Donnell as the only one of these three writers with whom I have had no personal or visual contact.

Talbot's Alice... summarizes a lot of English history and thus covers some familiar Andersonian territory. Talbot mentions Romans, Vikings and Normans but, so far, has skipped over Harald Hardrada. He reminds us that it was the Venerable Bede, the father of English history, who invented the BC/AD calender.

Does anyone out there know which Poul Anderson book this cover illustration is for?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Modesty Blaise: The First Novel

I used to say that the best team in comics was Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth but Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin seem to be as good in a different way, although I have so far read about them only in the first novel.

In this novel, the man whom Gabriel needs for a crucial job breaks his leg so Gabriel gets Willie to do the job. I expected to be told that Modesty and Willie had caused the broken leg. Or were they counting on Gabriel to co-opt them for the disposal of the stolen jewels in any case?

The underwater activity was reminiscent of Fleming's Thunderball and Modesty watching the theft as Gabriel's prisoner was reminiscent of the film, You Only Live Twice. When Hagan asks why Modesty has returned to such dangerous work, Willie replies:

"'It's one way of knowing you are alive...'"
-Peter O'Donnell, Modesty Blaise (London, 2014), p. 122.

That is reminiscent of James Bond's imperfect haiku:

"You only live twice,
"Once when you are born
"And once when you look death in the face."

Willie's wisdom is also displayed in this passage:

"Willie Garvin's long-held view was that in these soft and secure days life was held a lot too sacred, and that the high importance attached to it was no part of natural law. In the natural order of things, life had always been cheap. You came and you went and it didn't much matter. Only cruelty disturbed him." (p. 213)

That last sentence matters. Our morality is not part of the natural order but it remains our morality.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Blaise And Bond

Is Modesty Blaise a female James Bond? No, she is an independent character - although they would make an interesting team. Modesty ran an international criminal organization called "The Network," retired young and rich and then agreed to help the Secret Service mainly because she preferred an active retirement.

I have only just started to read Modesty Blaise but my previous discussions of Bond are here, here, here and here.

Modesty Blaise

Peter O'Donnell based his first Modesty Blaise novel on his screenplay which he had based on his comic strip. See here. I am reading the first novel and consider it appropriate to discuss it on Comics Appreciation. It is excellent as a work of prose fiction and I look forward to following it with the first comic strip, The Gabriel Set-Up.

O'Donnel's equivalent of M, Sir Gerald Tarrant, unintentionally comments on another comics character when, discussing archery, he says:

"'It's a great sport, I understand. But rather impractical, surely? You can't carry a bow and arrows around with you.'"
-Peter O'Donnell, Modesty Blaise (London, 2014), p. 69.

Modesty's side-kick, Willie Garvin, is her Q, with an explosive tie pin, a lipstick case that fires tear-gas etc. Gabriel and his henchmen, and woman, are an impressive casts of villains.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Women In Lucifer

How many strong female characters in Mike Carey's Lucifer?

Rachel
Jill
the Child of the Basanos
Elaine
Mona
Mazikeen
Cestis
Erishad
Lys
Lucifer's Eve
Esa-Kira, the centaur
Zime'etnu
Beatrice
Lilith
Spera

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Smallville: Commencement

Jason is not dead after all. Big surprise. What is it about the Kryptonian stones that drives the Teagues and the Luthors mad to possess them? How can Kryptonian tech cause an asteroid to break up into meteorites that hit Smallville? Why should it?

The Kryptonian tech gives us spectacular special effects but no explanations. It is clearly about to create the Fortress of Solitude when we reach "To Be Continued."

Lionel is prepared to trade Lana's freedom for one of the stones so maybe he has reverted to the old bad Lionel after all? He has concealed the body, which is what I thought that Lex was going to do instead of just offering Lana a good defense lawyer. Why does the activation of the stones knock Lionel out? Will any of this be explained?

Why did one of Lex's men interrupt his conversation with Lana to say, "Mr Luthor, we have a situation!" Was he referring to the meteor shower or did Lex arrange for him to interrupt as a pretext for breaking off his conversation with Lana?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Smallville: Forever

Leaving school and a guy who wants to freeze time because he doesn't want to work in a video store. (That doesn't sound so bad.) Chloe leaves an empty Torch office. She turns to look at the blank walls and empty desks. Chloe will go to Met U and Clark to a College in Kansas but Lana will stay in Smallville.

Jonathan and Martha have had farm help from one unpaid super-powered teenager whereas other nearby farms employ five or six men. Has no one noticed any discrepancy between Kent input and output?

Good riddance to Jason, assuming that he really is dead. In this kind of fiction, being shot in the shoulder and falling off a cliff into a river is no guarantee of death. Jason is more likely to return super-powered and vengeful. Were there meteor rocks in the river?

Lionel has returned from cheerful philanthropy to the profit motive but has not yet returned to bullying, blackmailing or manipulating. He seems to be genuine in his feelings and concerns for Lex. I think and hope that Lionel has permanently improved.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Smallville: Ageless

They call the boy "Evan." I thought that this name had Superman significance. The first version of Clark's foster father's name was Eben. Was there an "Evan" somewhere?

The climax with Evan dying on the windmill was like an earlier episode where a young guy thought that, if he got up somewhere high, he would be taken back to Krypton? There is symbolism in the fact that Metropolis can be seen from the windmill. Clark and Lana are surrogate parents.

Lionel is prepared to kill to protect Lex and it seems to be because he regards Lex as a Luthor and as his son, not just as his heir, i.e., as an extension of himself.

Chloe now knows why Clark disappears all the time. To Lois, it is still just puzzling.

God Is Dead Alpha

Mark, our comic book guy, kept this for me because the Awesome Mage is in it. As a matter of fact, Glycon and Alan make their point quite well.

I do not understand the series' premise. Instead of, or as well as, the One God being dead, all the gods are hanging around? Simon Spurrier points out that Biblical cherubim are multi-membered and cosmic whereas Italian artists changed them into little cupids. Naturally, one of them is furious and swearing about the image-change.

Mike Costa gives us good old Ganesh doing something that I don't quite understand but it's Continued!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Smallville: Blank

Clark loses all his memories.
Chloe discusses his powers with him.
She learns about two more.
Then Clark regains his memories except for the last twenty four hours.

Chloe thinks that his powers are meteoric, which makes more sense.

Lex is finding out more about the caves and Lionel is still off stage. Smallville High students are deciding where to go to University. Are Clark and Lana relaunching their off-off relationship right at the end? Lana and Jason are totally history.

Another guy out there knows about Clark's strength.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Smallville: Spirit

As when Lex crashed in the opening episode, we see that a driver is not looking at the road so this should lead to a crash - and does.

I thought that Chloe had been repossessed by one of those dead witches but instead she had been possessed by a new character. It has become the norm for characters either to act out of character or to appear to do so.

Something important changes or new information is given in each episode. There is nothing about Lionel this time but Jason and his mother seem to have committed murder. At least, they need to have a body disposed of.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Smallville: Onyx

The original Luthor was a scientist. The businessman Luthor must consult scientists.

There was a Star Trek like this. A transporter malfunction divided Kirk into a good but weak one and a strong but bad one but they went through the transporter together and came out in one piece.

One again, Lex sees Clark's strength but forgets it. Chloe's dialogue continues to show that she knows Clark's secret. She goes to stay with Lois on the Army base? I thought that Lois was still with the Kents.

Nothing about Jason and all that but the bad Lex has revived the old Lionel.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Blofeld's Successors

There are at least two worthy successors of Ian Fleming's Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the founder and director of SPECTRE:

Max in Andy Diggle's The Losers;
Zala in Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels.

Dig these guys. Code Name Max, "Blofeld meets Rumsfeld," exists for impossibly many decades and apparently in different places simultaneously. Zala is a GRU agent, then a defector, then a crime boss and also an abusive father.

Both Fleming and Larsson have been graphically adapted so this is all comics-related. I discuss the Larsson graphic adaptation here and here and Fleming here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Smallville: Lucy

Lois Lane not a good cook is authentic but Lucy Lane a criminal on the run is a real wild departure. Lex's security men slip up in letting her drive away with his money. We see Lex with a gun, which is unusual ever since he became a businessman.

Clark disappears from the Mansion and the kidnap truck is found stopped with its driver unconscious but Lex does not make a connection?

Lana hid the stone and didn't tell anyone else? Neither Luthor had her place ransacked for it? Swann's assistant, who has disappeared.

LL's, so far
Lana Lang
Laura Lang
Lex Luthor
Lionel Luthor
Lucas Luthor
Lois Lane
Lucy Lane

Are the mermaid and the Kryptonian still to come?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Smallville: Sacred

Now, this really is a daft episode. But it does establish a connection between the Kryptonian stones and Lana's ancestress. Lionel seems genuinely to have reformed and now to be seeking wisdom instead of his own aggrandizement. But we still do not know how he was released.

Dr Swann dies. How did he get Kryptonian tech? Well, it seems to have been lying around on Earth for a long time. His assistant has absconded with a stone, Lana has one and the other is back in the cave. I think.

Lana and Clark fly to China in a plane where they have their own lounge. OK.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

I did not really get very much out of this, to be honest. Our villain has a precosmic power source but he can use it to destroy a planet only if he first uses conventional weapons to fight his way past local defenses and down onto the planetary surface? And I am not clear how our guys stopped it happening, either.

So this happens elsewhere in the galaxy while Thor comes from Asgard and the Avengers assemble on Earth? I didn't see as much connection with the Marvel Movieverse as I expected but maybe I missed it? There is Thanos, of course. Maybe that's it? I didn't understand the post-credits scene or the reference to Howard the Duck.

I think that the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel was a man of the Kree? But he doesn't have to be mentioned here, of course.

I am underwhelmed about the prospect of a sequel.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Smallville: Krypto

Did this have to happen? A super-strong dog, not Kryptonian but resulting from Luthorcorp experiments with animals and meteor rocks. Thus, a kind of explanation more appropriate to this series.

He winds up with a red towel across his back. And there are enough jokes about the name. "Krypto" and "Shelby" both originate in the comics. In Smallville, Clark thinks of the name "Krypto," presumably referring to Krypton, but then explains it as "cryptic" when questioned by Lex. There is an implication that Clark will acquire another dog and name it "Krypto," after this one is named "Shelby."

Lionel is back but not with much else happening yet. He looked better with that longer hair. I still hope that his good guy routine is genuine. Chloe is still hinting about Clark's powers. I think that Lana used to get involved with the supernatural back in Superboy comics?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Smallville: Recruit

Clark decides not to be a professional footballer. Well, we already know that he will be a reporter.

Chloe knows Clark's secret since the previous episode and cannot stop hinting at it.

Lex gives Lana reasons to distrust Jason. Nothing about Lionel this time.

Lois is no longer at Met U and is back living with the Kents.

Something changes in every episode.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Smallville: Pariah

Lois revisits Smallville.
Alicia is murdered.
Chloe learns Clark's secret and has not been made to forget by the end of the episode.
Lex might be starting to learn how Lionel got released from prison.
Every episode feels like a turning point.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

"...Inside You There Is A God"

Mr Cream tells Michael Moran:

"Mr. Moran...Listen very carefully...You are a fool. You are a weakling and a coward...But inside you there is a GOD. Inside you there is SOMEONE BETTER THAN US... ...And whatever the cost, you must PROTECT him."
-Miracleman No 7 (New York, 2014), p. 16.

Comic book dialogue has its own ways of emphasizing words and phrases.

I quote this dialogue because it is true of Moran while he is not Miracleman but also because it is true of every human being.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Smallville: Unsafe

Alicia is back. Clark tells Martha that his and Alicia's marriage was illegal, which it was, but can he prove this in court? Until he does, surely it remains legal? And surely Jonathan and Martha understand the effects of Red K? McBride is deranged to try killing Clark. Alicia acts instantly to preserve Clark's secret by teleporting in front of the bullet. But surely she survives too easily?

Lionel does not tell Lex who got him released. He just calls it a miracle. The real miracles are his cure and his apparent moral transformation. Chloe has had sex with "Jimmy" (Olsen) during her internship at the Planet.

Why did Lex invite Lionel to the Mansion? Maybe I missed it. But he does wind up letting Lionel stay in the guest house so maybe that was what he had in mind?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Smallville: Scare

I am confused about Lionel Luthor. Now that he is honest, he acknowledges that he is guilty of many crimes that should have put him in prison although not the one for which he was convicted? But we thought that he had murdered his parents. In fact, he confessed it to Chloe. And who got him released?

He wants to stay in prison to continue doing good with other prisoners but it is not for him to say whether he stays or goes.

The situation keeps changing. Jason has left Lana without explanation. Martha, who once worked for Lionel, now works for Lana.

A drug that gives everyone their worst nightmares, used by the military, features in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight. Here, we see Lex as President again.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Smallville: Bound

The whole series, including this episode, is dark and doom-laden. It does not feel like a prequel to Superman. But this will be a different Superman.

Lex has a dark side. Jason has a bad relationship with his mother. His mother is connected with Lana's dreams of witchcraft.

What is interesting and unexpected is the miraculous physical and moral change in Lionel. He says that he deserves to be in this terrible place and that he has no one to blame but himself whereas he used to blame everyone but himself. It would be impossible to trust him but also wrong to deny the possibility of change.

I would like to put the unchanged Lionel Luthor in a society where everyone's basic needs were met and where there were many opportunities for productive and creative activity but where it was economically impossible to employ, exploit, manipulate, blackmail or bully. But the changed Lionel is a more interesting character and I hope that his change for the good continues.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Smallville: Spell

An important stage in the development of Superman: Clark learns that magic exists and that he is vulnerable to it. There are at least two mysterious forces: magic and Kryptonian tech. The witches try to control the tech but, at the end of the episode, it works against them and for Clark.

Smallville characters regularly behave out of character when they are possessed or when they are influenced, e.g., by Kryptonite or magic. Clark was possessed by Lionel. Lana, Lois and Chloe were possessed by seventeenth century witches. The difference is that someone who was possessed cannot remember their bizarre behavior.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Smallville: Jinx

This is a weird new version of a character, not Mr Mxyzptlk from the Fifth Dimension but Mikhail Mxyzptlk from the Balkans - and his family had changed their name for Kltpzyxm?

Will Mikhail later become more like the original Mxyz? Where does Lex take Mikhail and who else is there?

An injury at football takes us right back to the original source novel for Superman. Lex does something to break up Lana and the coach because he has plans for Lana. We are kept in suspense about changes to Lionel.

Chloe refers to Uncle Sam, her Uncle Sam, Sam Lane, father of Lois.

Smallville: Transference

Smallville: Transference is an excellent mind-body transference story, a theme previously addressed by:

HG Wells;
Arthur Conan Doyle;
Tim Powers;
a Star Trek episode;
a Superman comic.

Even when Lionel expresses regret and wants to hold Lex's hand, this is only a way to put Lex in prison and get himself out. When Lionel in Clark's body tries to move funds by phone, he fails voice ID. When he blackmails Clark in his body to make the call, he finds that Lex has already moved the funds.

When everything is returned to normal, Lex asks Clark why Lionel as Clark was so strong, and Clark lies. Lex asks Clark if he knows how the transference was effected and Clark lies. The recovery of Lionel's liver is unexpected but I suspect that an even bigger change has happened inside Lionel right at the end of the episode?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Smallville: Run

So the first Flash that we meet in Smallville is Bart Allen and the others are just fake ID's that he has used? Bart is faster than Clark and, unlike Clark, can run on water.

Bart tells Chloe that he ran back from the future. A joke maybe but also a reference to the comics. Clark keeps lying to Lex. I am not clear why Bart's fence contacted Lex or why Lex put Metropolis PDU onto him.

Kryptonese symbols are all over Earth, not just in that cave near Smallville. A big story of interstellar contact is waiting to be told. Lionel remains off-stage and unmentioned but I see from the plot summaries inside the CD cover that he will be back big time in the next episode.

Each version of the story is different but I am finding that the differences have their own logic.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Smallville: Devoted

This episode is "In Loving Memory of Christopher Reeve. 'He made us believe a man can fly.'" Wow. All those memories. That really means something. So this means Dr Swann does not appear in the series again - but he has a representative.

I feel sorry for Chloe in this episode.

Clark asks Lex why he lied to him for so long. Clark's inconsistency is breathtaking. This feels like a Greek tragedy: a hero with a fatal flaw and an inevitable doom. Lex gets Lois into Metropolis U with a single phone call merely because he is a wealthy benefactor? This is not right. So Lois leaves Smallville but will visit. Nothing remains the same for long.

Clark playing football and staying with it is unexpected and I do not see how he can limit the use of his powers. In fact, he is using speed and heat more and more openly in front of others.

Lionel Luthor is in prison so it is appropriate that we do not hear from him for a while although no doubt he will return.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Miracleman 8

Excellent contrast between Mick Anglo's and the Original Writer's treatments of Naziism in a superhero comic.

The Original Writer -

Former Nazi: Forty years we have waited for you, for the first of the Blond Gods that would replace us. Overman. You have come at last.

MM (putting his finger, then arm, through the guy's chest): Yes. You can go now.

Mick Anglo -

Daily Bugle: MARVELMAN WIPES OUT NAZI EVIL! 

Marvel Comics are reprinting everything, even Cat Yronwode refusing to pretend that reprints are flashbacks.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Smallville: Facade

I did not really follow what was going on with the plastic surgery - it seems that we can accept that something weird is going on in any particular episode without understanding what it is - but the main changes are:

Clark, Lana and Chloe are in their Senior Year at Smallville High (Lana is back from Paris but Pete is still gone);
Lois is having to repeat her Senior Year, in Smallville High;
she is working with Chloe on the Torch;
Clark has joined the football team;
Martha will be working for Lex at the Talon;
Lana is researching ancient languages connected with her tattoo and with Kryptonese;
she is in a relationship with the Assistant Football Coach;
no mention in this episode of Lionel but one of the opening images for this season is of him in front of the Daily Planet building so is he going to take over that newspaper, assuming that he can get out of prison?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Smallville: Crusade and Smallville: Gone

Not only does Lois Lane show up and meet Lana Lang but the old Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, shows up and meets the former Lana Lang who is now playing Martha Kent. Margot Kidder's new character says that Dr Swann and she had something in a previous life. Sure, they were Superman and Lois Lane.

How did Dr Swann get any kind of Kryptonite, let alone Black? It is unexplained here. I googled it but presumably it will show up again with some explanation. How Lex saved Chloe's life while faking her death is classic.

Lionel drops all pretense when he threatens Lex. Lionel going down for murder was unexpected. But he has to be got out of the way somehow so that Lex can control LuthorCorp - and maybe rename it?

The black helicopters are a modern myth, as Neil Gaiman said in American Gods. This time, they were not really threatening Clark and Lois. Sam Lane looks and sounds just right.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Smallville: Covenant

Amazing that the recorded personality of Jor-El can use a human being to fake a Kryptonian, complete with powers greater than Clark's as yet. The casual killing of human beings means that Jor-El's plans are not something that Clark can buy into. In this version of the story, Kal-El has not been sent as "...my only son..." because Terrestrials need "...the light to show them the way."

We learn what deal Jonathan made with Jor-El. Lionel remains a master of manipulation but Lex has become immune. Lionel reveals that he is dying only when he wants to influence Lex to get him out of prison. Lex is definitely moving into Clark's territory with Lana.

Lionel, in prison, knows that Lex has been poisoned and that the Sullivan's safe house has blown up with them in it. However, Lex has to survive and I understand that Chloe does also. Lionel should not have been able to influence a witness. Clark should not allow himself to be influenced against Lex with whom he has been consistently and systematically dishonest.

Lionel does not know what has happened to the FBI guy or Clark. How long will Clark be away and what will he be like when he comes back?

This was an appropriate episode to watch on Fathers' Day.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Smallville: Talisman; Smallville: Forsaken

What exactly is the relationship between one Native American tribe and Krypton? Interpreting the prophecy, Lex suggests that the super-strong savior from the stars could become a tyrant and therefore that the person brave enough to oppose him is the real hero of the story. This fits with Lex Luthor later seeing himself as the champion of terrestrial humanity against extraterrestrial super-humanity.

Both Lana and Pete are leaving Smallville. Does Lois arrive in Season Four? Two more super-powered villains go to Belle Reve. One is in a convenient coma but the other is able to walk through walls and escape.

Clark decides to tell Lana, then doesn't. This makes less and less sense and is unfortunately predictable.

Lionel suggests yet again that letting the Metropolis Police suspect Lex of murder was a way of strengthening Lex. It makes sense that when Lex works with the FBI to bring down his father, Lionel is able to pay one of the FBI men to sabotage the investigation.

Despite this, Chloe is able to help Lex get Lionel arrested for the murder of his parents. That was unexpected by me. Lionel has to die or otherwise exit sometime to leave the way clear for Lex to rebuild LexCorp and become Superman's enemy.

Lionel compares Lex to Judas so who is he comparing himself, a self-confessed murderer, to?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Smallville: Truth; Smallville: Memoria

I watched these two consecutive episodes end to end. We learn how Pete feels about Chloe and receive confirmation that Lionel had his parents murdered for insurance money to start his business. Lex did this post-Crisis but that crime has now been moved back a generation.

We learn the real basis of the relationship between Lionel and Lex. We already knew that Lionel treats Lex badly, rationalizing this by saying that it is good for Lex.
We now know that Lionel thought that Lex had murdered his younger brother, Julian. We also know that Lex saw his mother kill Julian but suppressed this knowledge to protect his mother from Lionel. Lex as the only heir was safe. His mother would not have been.

But Lionel was already treating Lex badly. Lex's mother killed her second son to protect him from a Luthor upbringing. Lex had wanted Lionel to love him. I cannot understand why.

We have our first sight, in this continuity, of Krypton. Clark already knew his father's name but now learns his mother's. The memory retrieval process utilizes Kryptonite, which weakens Clark.

Lana is leaving? When does Lois arrive?