Saturday, 29 March 2014

Miracleman 4 And The Sandman Overture 2

Marvel Comics Miracleman continues to be perfect. No 4:

has no Mick Anglo reprints;
completes the first story by the Original Writer;
includes the excellent "Saturday Morning Pictures" framing sequence from Marvelman Special no 1, 1984;
includes a Warpsmith story from A1, thus is not confined to reprints from Warrior;
has twelve more pages of art and no ads.

This is definitely worth buying, even by someone who has the collected editions of the Eclipse series.

I also picked up The Sandman Overture 2 - not a lot to say about this yet. Morpheus is about to meet his father, which I didn't know he had. Old Glory, whom we have met before, has been promoted to the First Circle, of which we have read before. By meeting other aspects of himself, Morpheus begins to realize that he is "...Self-satisfied. Irritating. Self-possessed, and unwilling to concede center stage to anyone but myself."

I do not yet see how the narrative about the current Dream connects with events in "1915 Across the Universe..."

I have still to pick up that latest volume on Captain Nemo in the Extraordinary Gentlemen universe.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Triple Goddess

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Speaking of Stone Age dolmens, Storm Darroway says:

"'They adored the Triune Goddess, they who brought those burial rites here, Her of whom the Norns were only a pallid memory, Maiden, Mother and Hellqueen. It was an evil bargain that traded Her for the Father of Thunders...She will come again...'" (p. 23)

Here is another parallel with Neil Gaiman. The Triple Goddess, in various forms, is a major theme in The Sandman:

Morpheus consults the Fates;
the Fates try to warn Rose Walker of coming events;
Rose researches the Triple Goddess in TV sitcoms;
by granting Orpheus' wish for death, Morpheus takes family blood;
therefore, the Furies attack him in the Dreaming;
after preparing his succession, Morpheus enters the realm of his older sister, Death.

If they can make the transition from prose to graphic fiction, then fans of Anderson's fantasies might appreciate The Sandman.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Smallville: Witness

In this episode, the villains do have super strength and also see Clark using some of his other powers but do not die or suffer amnesia at the end.

(i) The Daily Planet appeared very early in Action Comics as the workplace of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
(ii) Lex Luthor emerged as Superman's continuing villain.
(iii) Smallville was introduced as the hometown of Superman as a boy.
(iv) In the Smallville TV series, Chloe Sullivan was introduced as a schoolfriend of Clark and Editor of the Smallville High newspaper, the Torch.
(v) Also in Smallville, Lionel Luthor was introduced as Lex's father.
(vi) In Smallville Second Season, Episode 20, Lionel offers to arrange a Daily Planet column for Chloe long before Clark or Lois work there.

Thus, the Daily Planet, transcending its origins, has begun to exist in its own right in various versions of the DC Universe.

Smallville: Precipice

None of the villains in this episode is super-powered. The only problem with super strength is Clark misusing his. Lex trains Lana in combat. Clark can see with X-ray vision that the young man who is suing him for serious injuries is faking the injuries but it is not as easy to prove.

Lex proposes to Helen: marriage number one. So far, Lex remains a good guy who does not kill even when he wants to, but how many will he - or his evil clone - kill eventually?

Is this new Sheriff of Smallville the policewoman who was working for Lionel Luthor in Metropolis a few episodes ago or am I confusing two people?

Smallville: Visitor

Yet another character learns that Clark is an alien, then goes catatonic.

Plenty of cryptic remarks about knowing secrets and what if there were an alien among us? We understand that Helen Bryce now knows even more about the Kents than she did before - and also knows of Lex's fascination with them.

I thought that Cyrus might end his time on Earth by jumping from his tower. Everything about him is explained: his healing power is meteoric; he fakes heat vision; he saw Clark's spaceship; his parents died and he disappeared during the meteor shower; he knows the location of the Kryptonian system because data on the meteor shower have been published - although I do not understand how it is possible to identify an extrasolar source for a meteor shower.

As in the 1978 Superman feature film, we are on the receiving end of this joke: asked whether "Krypton" is spelled with a "C" or a "K," Clark is able to reply, "With a 'K'." It cannot possibly have any correct spelling in Roman letters until it is arbitrarily assigned one on Earth.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Smallville: Rosetta

Christopher Reeve and the Superman theme: what more can I say? We mentally connect at least three major stages of the myth: the 1938 Action Comics no 1, the 1978 Superman feature film and the 2001-2011 Smallville TV series.

How can Doctor Swann interpret an extraterrestrial language? The fact that it has a mathematical basis might just mean that some of it can be interpreted: ". + . = .." should be decipherable as "one plus one equals two." But how can anyone get from that to personal names and their pronunciation? And how can it be known on Earth that a planet of another star is no longer there?

It seems that the Kryptonian tech in the cave can download data into Kal-El's brain but that a human brain is not strong enough to take it. Thus, another inconveniently inquisitive investigator is neutralized. It also seems that, when we saw Clark hovering in the cave, that was a dream. The power of flight has not manifested yet, except when Clark rescued Lana from the tornado.





Thursday, 6 March 2014

Smallville: Fever

Martha Kent pregnant: this must be the first time that has happened - unless there was an "Imaginary Story" back in the 60's? But the Kents were always shown as older.

Martha hid the spaceship key because she was afraid that Clark would learn about his origins and leave her and Jonathan. I found the recovery of the key from an army base by Jonathan and the sick Clark unbelievable.

The second appearance of a pop group in the series.

A doctor has now seen Clark's blood sample. It really is hard to confine the secret to just three or four people. Lex has bribed someone in Smallville Medical Center to get him a copy of Martha's medical record. The truth will come out but it will take ten years.

The spaceship works miracles and at a distance: a literal deus ex machina.

Chloe declares her feelings for Clark and incautiously lets them be read by Lana.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Smallville: Prodigal

Lionel is no longer blind.
Lex's half-brother, Lucas, is still alive and very bad news.
Clark covertly used super-speed and invulnerability to save Lucas' life but nevertheless was seen to have moved unusually fast.
Clark, even more covertly, used heat vision when Lucas held a gun on Lionel.
Lionel saw evidence of heat afterwards but was in no way able to deduce any connection with Clark.
Temporarily disinherited and homeless, Lex worked on the Kent farm and proved that he could do it.
Edge City is a fictitious city seemingly invented for this series, not based on any DC Universe city.
Even when held at gunpoint and told to kill Lex, Lionel refused to do it.
(It is not very much to say for a man but it is something that we can say for him.)
Pete has to warn Clark to tone down his powers when playing basketball with Lucas.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Smallville: Rush

Once in the late 1950's, I was really excited to buy a Superman comic and a Marvelman comic. I would never have suspected that, in 2014, I would play a disc of a Smallville TV episode in color and read Miracleman.

In Smallville: Rush:

there is a DC universe reference - Cadmus Labs in Metropolis;
there are alien organisms in the cave;
the return of the red meteor effect on Clark;
Chloe learns the truth about Clark and predictably forgets;
Lex thinks that Clark knows more than he says about the caves;
if the carvings are in Kryptonese, then it should not be possible to decipher them;
Clark cannot tell Lana that he kissed Chloe because of the red meteor effect so there is a return to Clark's silence and Lana's distrust;
there is nothing in this episode about Lionel but Lex has to sort out ownership of LexCorp soon;
there have clearly got to be a lot more revelations about the caves;
if Kryptonians have indefinitely extended lifespans, then Jor-El could have been involved centuries ago when a Kryptonian came to Earth;
it is unusual in any kind of fiction for the audience already to possess information that is not yet known by the characters but we do not know how the details will pan out in this version.

Fictions Within Fictions Within Reality

Expanding on a point made a few posts ago:

in our reality, Superman, Captain Marvel, Marvelman and Miracleman are successive comic book superheroes;

in Alan Moore's Watchmen, Superman is a past fiction because pirates replaced superheroes in comics;

in Miracleman, Superman and Captain Marvel are comic book characters, Mick Anglo's Marvelman is a parareality program and Miracleman is a reality;

in Smallville, Superman is a future reality known to the TV audience but not to the characters!

Thus, Superman is the original superhero but the adaptations of the idea are extremely diverse.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Warpsmith

Some beings are ordinary in one context but extraordinary in another. Thus:

Kryptonians' strength, speed, agility and visual acuity enable them to function normally in their home environment but make them superior elsewhere;

Hawkman is a humanoid member of an extraterrestrial police force;

Green Lantern is a human member of an interstellar police force;

Warpsmith is a humanoid member of an interstellar defense force.

Miracleman no 3 (New York, 2014) reprints Warpsmith: Cold War, Cold Warrior. The panel order is confusing on p. 27. Also, in panel 6, a character seems miniaturized but, I now realize, is seen at a distance. This story discloses information about:

Warpsmiths;
Black Warpsmiths;
the Gulf Worlds;
the Qys and their body wardrobe.

We do not yet suspect that MM's two bodies result from Qys tech. We do see a Warpsmith execute a Qys spy by teleporting his body parts in different directions.

Smallville: Suspect

This episode and the preceding installment, "Insurgence," confirm that Smallville can be extremely dramatic without needing to feature any meteor-induced powers. Interactions between the established characters are more than sufficient.

It really looks as if Jonathan has shot Lionel but he has been elaborately framed. It also looks as if Lionel is dead but that cannot happen yet. However, surely the real attempted murderer, who was neither drunk nor drugged and used to handling guns, should have been able to shoot to kill?

Martha had not told Jonathan or Clark about the watch given to her by Lionel but Jonathan finds it anyway. It looks as though the idea of Martha continuing to work for Lionel in order to spy on him has gone by the board. Lionel is incapable of relating to other people except through control or manipulation. Having bought out LexCorp, he claims to have allowed Lex the illusion of independence only in order to teach him the futility of opposing Luthor Senior. We are confident that Lex will turn the tables.

This series has not just one powerful Luthor but two. In the post-Crisis comics, Lex's father was a drunken Metropolis slum-dweller, murdered by the very young Lex for insurance money. Similarly, Miracleman presents the young Emil Gargunza as a genius, clever enough to engage in criminal activity from an early age.

Martha has also, in the previous episode, hidden an octagon in the house and Lana continues to have up and down interactions with her biological father. Thus, the other plot themes continue to develop. Smallville is both a series and a very long term serial.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Different Takes On Superman

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, Superman was a fictitious character but comic books changed from superheroes to pirates when there were costumed adventurers in the real world.

In Miracleman, a young boy has seen the first Superman film and we learn that a Captain Marvel comic inspired Emil Gargunza to create the Miracle Family.

In Smallville, Clark Kent will become Superman but, because this TV series was so successful that it ran for ten seasons, many other characters and situations were introduced much earlier than in previous versions of the Superman story.

Watchmen is a single graphic novel whereas Miracleman is an as yet uncompleted comics serial and the Smallville title continues in a comic book sequel to the TV series, even though Clark is by now in Metropolis and has adopted his Superman role. Although Superman has meanwhile returned in a feature film series, I regard Miracleman and Smallville as the two most important conceptual sequels to the original Superman.

More On Miracleman II

Mike Moran reads the real Daily Mirror but works free-lance for the fictional Daily Record - a good blending of realism with alternative reality. (There is a real Scottish Daily Record but I imagine that Moran's London-based Daily Record is fictional.) As a journalist, he follows in the footsteps of Clark Kent.

Sir Dennis Archer had thought, in one of his captions:

"Evelyn Cream will sanction the monster. The dragon will be slain."
- Miracleman no 3 (New York, 2014), p. 8.

Cream, a professional killer, puts two shots into Mike at close range. How can he possibly survive that? It is good when there is a plausible way for our hero to escape from inevitable death. Bates made the mistake of saying "Miracleman" before killing MM. Later, when Mike is attacked by Miracledog, he remembers the word that Gargunza had said to transform a dog into a super-dog.

"Project Zarathustra" (ibid.) is a reference to Nietzsche.

Smallville: Insurgence

What an episode!

Lex gets in deep hiring surveillance people who turn out to be thieves and to include a murderer. A policewoman helps the thieves but neither she nor Lex is suspected.

Clark jumps from the Daily Planet building (see image) to the LuthorCorp building. I think that this is our first sight of the former? Lex must wonder not only how Clark got into the LuthorCorp building but also how he got to Metropolis so quickly since he did not travel with Jonathan in Lex's helicopter.

Lionel has slabs of green meteor material, an octagonal disc and files on Clark in his Metropolis vault. Blind, he does not see the meteor material affecting Clark. Clark destroys the files and Martha pockets the octagon.

Lionel hired Martha because she is competent but maybe also as a way to find out about Clark. Jonathan suggests that they turn the tables and get Martha to spy on Lionel for the Kents. Does this mean that he is happy for Martha to accept the promotion that will mean her working in Metropolis? Lionel tries to encourage Martha's personal ambition at the expense of any family commitment.

Because of a further deterioration in trust between the Luthors, Lionel will move out of Luthor Castle. Lex stands alone and watches the happily reconciled Kent family.

More On Miracleman

"After a while he turns away to look at the city spread behind him...London, huddled against the stinging rain...
"He wonders what to do next."
- Miracleman no 2 (New York, 2014), p. 12.

With the benefit of hindsight, this is ironic because we know in graphic detail exactly what Bates will do to London the next time he has the opportunity. Moran should have killed him when he had the chance but, again, this statement is made with the benefit of hindsight.

In no 3, we learn that MM's costume can be torn and his body battered. He never fought anyone with comparable, let alone greater, strength in Mick Anglo's comic.

Bates is schizophrenic. Back in child form, he denies responsibility for his crimes.

Evelyn Cream is a big black man with blue teeth in white clothes. What I mean by this is that he is eminently noticeable and recognizable. I know that he has the government on his side but I still think that it makes no sense for him to walk into a hospital in broad daylight, speak to two staff members in Reception, ask for a patient by name, then go and kill that patient.

Morally, since Cream works for a covert arm of government and since the man he kills is a nuclear terrorist, it might be argued that this killing is a summary execution, not a murder. We want to like Cream because he is capable, urbane, polite and allies himself with MM. (We do not know that last part yet. I am getting slightly ahead of the story.)

We follow his deductive process:

the superhuman burst out of the power station so he must have been in it;
only the terrorists and the pressmen were in the station and all the terrorists are accounted for;
the transformation to superhumanity must require energy;
only one of the captured terrorists, Steven Cambridge, is burned;
Cambridge confirms that he was with a journalist who whispered and exploded;
when Cambridge describes the journalist, Cream, who has a list, circles the name "Moran."

Thus easily is a secret identity penetrated. Mick Anglo's Marvelman Family were forever transforming directly in front of witnesses ( see p. 44) but we now know (or later find out) that that was in the para-reality program where it was not necessary that events make sense.

Liz continues her deductions. In fact, she deduces that Mike has two bodies, the one not currently in use stored elsewhere, only the one in use aging normally. Mike thinks that this is "...a bit science fictiony." (p. 13) Again, our world and the superhero world are starting to interact before the latter goes on to obliterate the former. Mike points that they share the same mind but then concedes that it is not exactly the same. They share memories but Miracleman is cleverer. So are they the same person? Legally, two bodies means two persons but laws change with circumstances.

Two months later, Liz is still at it: how come MM's costume was intact the next time he transformed? Why did they not even notice? Mike is oppressed by his inferiority to Miracleman:

Miracleman got Liz pregnant;
his thoughts are like poetry and his emotions are pure;
his love for Liz is gigantic, strong, direct and clean, unlike Mike's. (p. 19)

So the differences are not merely physical. MM is a "superman" in more than the comic book sense and not in the Nazi sense.

Mike mentions the Falklands, which was then a current war, and his editor mentions Profumo, a scandal of the sixties. We still have one foot firmly in our reality.

Smallville: Visage

We get a short war scene. Whitney is dead although we are led to believe otherwise for a while. The title is a clue, as is an opening conversation about people not being who we think they are.

Another character returns only to die this time.

The spaceship saves Clark by glowing and neutralizing the green necklace. This deus ex machina has to be explained some time. We see the Native American cave paintings again.

Lana realizes that, despite his mysteries, Clark is a constant friend whereas other people that she depended on have left.

We get a very neat story about Lex:

he spies on his father;
Lex's private investigator photographs Lionel with Helen, Lex's girlfriend, the doctor (who looks familiar because she reminds me of someone in Lancaster);
investigating further, Lex discovers a large sum of money transferred from LuthorCorp to Helen's bank account;
when Lex confronts Helen about this, including the fact that he checked her bank account, she walks out;
the truth is that Lionel met Helen to offer her money to leave Lex and paid her the money even when she refused;
learning this, Lex asks Helen to help him to become more trusting and she responds.

Thus, at the end of the episode, Lana affirms her trust in Clark and Lex is back with Helen.

The Era Of The Overman

Marvel/Miracleman is Britain's no 1 superhero! (see image)

There are three meanings of "Superman":

Nietzschean;
Nazi;
comic book.

After the comic book Superman, there are:

superheroes in general;
the Marvel Families in particular.

By "Marvel Families," I mean:

Captain Marvel and his younger companions;
Marvelman and his companions.

The reconstructed Marvelman/Miracleman is a superhero comic that addresses the Nazi superman idea. Thus, Kid Miracleman to Liz Moran:

"I'm going to do it, you see, where all of them failed. Like that pathetic German clown...a stunted syphilitic proclaiming the doctrine of the superman.
"Poor Adolph. He had no idea. The real era of the Overman starts here, Mrs. Moran. How sad that you won't live to see it..."

- Miracleman, no 3 (New York, 2014), p. 2.

(Liz, following Mike's earlier advice to "Get out of the area!" (p 1), has driven directly to where Bates and Mike have just fought.)

Next, there is comedy. As "...these creatures of near unimaginable power..." (p. 3) resume their fight, several captions solemnly proclaim that we will never understand these "...titans..." The captions conclude:

"...never know their pain, their love, their almost sexual hatred...
"...and perhaps we will be the less for that." (ibid.)

We are brought down to Earth by a British policeman:

"Bloody Nora! What the hell's going on here?" (ibid.)

Our familiar world and the world of the superheroes are starting to interact. When the policeman's colleague asks, "Are you going to ask them to come along quietly?" (p. 4), he replies, "Sod off!" and "They might be paying me to handle Brixton but I'm buggered if they're paying me to handle this..." (ibid.)

When this was written, there had recently been a riot in Brixton.

Miracleman 3

Marvel Comics Miracleman no 3 contains:

the next three episodes of Miracleman;
a two-part Warpsmith story;
Garry Leach art;
no Mick Anglo Marvelman.

This Marvel Comics series continues to be a surprise and worth its cover price. The Warpsmith story, like "The Yesterday Gambit," had not been reprinted by Eclipse Comics so we are getting something new. Even those who did read Warrior magazine in its entirety - not me - are seeing some of the Original Writer's works republished in color for the first time.

Initially, before she becomes alienated, Liz takes a keen interest in Mike's new powers. She reads American comics as "...research work." (p. 9)

Liz continues:

"I hadn't read any before. When I was a kid I had a girl's comic...'Sally' or something. Some of this stuff's better than you'd expect, but most of it's crap." (ibid.)

We feel that we could have written that - we have certainly said most of it - but, of course, we did not think either of writing such dialogue or of putting it into the mouth of a woman whose husband has become super-powered. It is so authentic that Liz does not quite remember the name of her girls' comic. I am not sure whether there was a "Sally"? (After a google check: There was. Like Sandie, June, Jinty and Misty, it merged with Tammy which later merged with Girl, the former companion title of Eagle.)

Liz has a check list:

flight - yes;
strength - yes;
invulnerability - yes (Mike feels stupid);
x-ray vision - no;
superbreath - (Mike looks puzzled).

Perfect.

Although the Marvel Families never had Superman's visual powers, Bates, his powers growing, has meanwhile acquired something like the dreaded "heat vision."

Further tests:

flight speed - at least mach two, too fast for stopwatch;
strength - "Very, very strong. Ridiculously strong. Christ." (p. 11)
invulnerable to a massive falling rock.

They seriously discuss the absurdities in a way that Mick Anglo's characters could never have done. Human skin cannot possibly be tough enough to be simply unaffected by that rock which should at least have driven his feet into the soft earth so maybe he has a force field which would explain his twinkling effect? A force field cannot explain the strength but neither can "...muscles like a ballet dancer..." so "Maybe it's all in your mind, Mike, the power." (ibid.)

In a thought balloon (rare these days), Liz thinks, "God knows I wonder if it's all in my mind often enough." (ibid.) Here is another possibility, not explored any further but nevertheless present: is one of the characters imagining all these strange events?

In an earlier post, I asked of atomic-powered superheroes: could it be that they mentally control the most basic subatomic forces, thus gaining telekinetic control of their environments which would make it an easy matter to fly, lift heavy objects etc? That sounds almost plausible.