Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Two Happy Returns

Today at First Age Comics in Lancaster, I learned of two "sudden and most strange returns" (to quote Hamlet):

after a Cosmic Convergence, the Superman of the (post-Crisis) DCU has been left stranded on the Earth of the (current) New 52;

Lucifer Morningstar has returned to Earth from the inter-cosmic Void.

Although DC superhero continuities make no sense, Lucifer's return could mean either Nothing or Something Big. Comic narratives of lasting value include the fantasy tetralogy:

Swamp Thing
John Constantine: Hellblazer
The Sandman
Lucifer

Will this new Lucifer monthly comic continue that legacy or not? How many fans will buy the monthly comic and how many will instead wait for it to be collected? - a practice that started with Watchmen but has since become standard.

The legacy of the Awesome Mage continues. He wrote Watchmen, the last Superman of Earth 1 story and The Killing Joke and his reconstruction of the Swamp Thing kick-started that fantasy tetralogy.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Miracleman And The Prisoner

I compared V For Vendetta and The Prisoner here and here.

In The Prisoner episode, "A, B and C," No 2 observes No 6's dreams on a screen and manipulates the dreams. This is like the para-reality programming. In the episode, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling," the Village puts No 6's mind into another body.

In Neil Gaiman's Miracleman, the Qys (alien) called "Mors" (Latin for "death") asks Warhol no 6 to befriend Gargunza no 6 who is a prisoner but tries to escape after six months - also after Mors has given him a pomegranate, a mythological reference.

Also, former spies are subjected to para-reality programming and confined in "the City," of which Evelyn Cream says that he is its Number One. When No 1860 is allowed out into the real world, she wonders whether there is a realer world beyond it and feels that she is still being watched, just as No 6 realizes that he is not free from his enemies even when he is back in London.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Correcting The Previous Post

See here and the comment.

The first cinematic Wonder Woman meets the second cinematic Superman and the third cinematic Batman. That's what I thought before I was misled by thinking of a Wonder Woman TV film as a cinematic film.

I said that 10 films formed a continuity:

5 Superman;
1 Supergirl;
4 Batman.

However, the 5th Superman film follows the 2nd Superman film disregarding the 3rd and 4th Superman films so there is a split in continuity here. I think.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

DC Cinematic Continuities

When I say "cinematic," I mean original feature films, not either cinema serials or a feature film based on a TV series.

This is a "correct me if I am wrong" situation, especially since I have not checked every detail.

In Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, the second cinematic Superman meets the second cinematic Wonder Woman and the third cinematic Batman:

the first cinematic Superman had a tetralogy;
the second cinematic Superman is appearing for the second time;

the first cinematic Wonder Woman had a single feature film;
the second cinematic Wonder Woman is appearing for the first time;

the first cinematic Batman had a tetralogy;
the second cinematic Batman had a trilogy;
the third cinematic Batman is appearing for the first time.

The Robin of the Batman tetralogy referred to a Metropolis. That must have been the Metropolis of the Superman tetralogy.

The first Batman referred to a Superman. That must have been the first Superman.

The Supergirl feature film referred to the first Superman.

Thus, nine films formed a cinematic continuity.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Batman v Superman

The trailer looks really good:

the Superman from the recent film;
Kent interviewing Wayne;
Olsen (?) introducing them;
the Bat costume recognizable from previous films;
likewise the Batmobile;
conflict between the costumed identities;
a line from Frank Miller;
Diana showing up;
the Big Three - the start of the Justice League.

They know how to do it nowadays. What's not to like?

Friday, 27 November 2015

What THE KILLING JOKE Is Really About

"...Watchmen was something to do with power, V for Vendetta was about fascism and anarchy, The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker - and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they're just two comic book characters."
-Alan Moore, quoted in Gary Spencer Millidge, Alan Moore Storyteller (Lewes, East Sussex, 2011), p. 139.

I rarely disagree with the Awesome Mage but this is one occasion. The Killing Joke is about whether one bad day is enough to drive anyone mad. It happened to the Batman. It happened to the Joker. The Joker tries to make it happen to Jim Gordon - and fails.

Would one very bad day be enough to drive you or me mad? A very important question.

Addendum, 29 Nov 2015: I have addressed this issue before. See here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Another Kind Of Alternative History

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

I confess to not understanding everything that happens in the concluding chapter of SM Stirling's Under The Yoke - the text becomes cryptic. Some nuances have become clearer with rereading but what is Andrew's motivation?

Draka Volume III should be in the post. Meanwhile, Bryan Talbot presents a kind of alternative history that is not to be found in any work by Poul Anderson or SM Stirling: Britain lost the Napoleonic War (OK, so far) and the world is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals! (See image.)

Maybe funny animals histories make more sense in visual media? Alan Moore attributes familiar animal characters to Doctor Moreau. Talbot has Rupert Bear's father gardening in the background of a few panels.

Thus, I was mistaken to postulate that Anderson and Stirling had covered every aspect of the alternative timelines idea - but maybe writers and readers of prose sf do not want talking animals in their texts? Anderson and Gordon R Dickson came close to it with their Hoka.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Black Orchid And The Rubaiyat

By rereading Neil Gaiman's and Dave McKean's Black Orchid, Book One, I have learned Quatrain 26 of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

"Oh, come with old Khayyam and leave the Wise
"To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
"One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
"The flower that once has blown forever dies."

Why does he say "blown"?

Wiki tells me that "Rubaiyat" means "quatrains."

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ant-Man And Film Continuities

Completely different versions of the characters. Avoiding spoilers. This Hank Pym is completely different from the one I know in The Ultimates and presumably both are different from the version in mainstream Marvel continuity?

The Movieverse progresses. However, I am informed that there are four cinema continuities:

the Movieverse;
the Fantastic Four and the X-Men;
Spider-Man;
Namor.

I have not seen previous FF films and am less inclined to go to the new one now that I have been told that it is set in a different continuity.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Superman In Public Consciousness And Popular Culture

Regular readers might remember that recently I have:

reread Rick Veitch's (sequel to Alan Moore's) Swamp Thing;

been reading for the first time SM Stirling's Conquistador;

been enjoying these texts while also spotting any connections with the works of Poul Anderson.

Our theme for today is references to Superman. In a work of fiction, any reference to Supes implies either that he is a real guy out there somewhere or that the fictional characters share with their readers a popular culture in which this now mythical figure has become a permanent fixture. Veitch gives us the first; the others the second.

Veitch
Swampy goes to Metropolis to kill Lex Luthor who is protected both by his own security system and by Superman. Veitch, like Moore and Gaiman, applies a new insight to an over-familiar character.

Lois Lane: Clark?...Why is it when I'm talking to you, you always seem to be listening to something else?

Lois Lane: There you go again! I start talking and you stare off into space!

Clark Kent: Huh? Oh, uh...Just enjoying the view, Lois. You can see the whole city from up here.

Lois Lane: Yoo hoo! Earth to Clark. Come in, Clark!

-Rick Veitch, Swamp Thing: Infernal Triangles (New York, 2006), pp. 56, 58, 61.

Anderson
See here.

Stirling
"'Brother, with the amount of money RM and M had to throw around, you could bribe Superman'...'Ten million dollars,' the Man says. 'No, no, I am Superman!' Then it's thirty million. 'No, no, I stand for Truth, Justice and the American Way!' So then it's fifty million, and Superman comes back: 'I'll kill anyone you want!...'"
-SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004), p. 298.

Of course, the real (?) Superman is incorruptible. (In one version, Luthor, formerly the most powerful man in Metropolis, tries but fails to buy Supes as soon as the latter comes on the scene.) But Stirling's character is making a point. Rolfe Mining and Minerals is one of many front organizations for the Commonwealth of New Virginia which has been secretly exploiting another Earth for decades. By any ordinary standards, their funds are unlimited and "Rich enough to bribe even Superman" is a powerful way to say this.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Swamp Thing And The Universe

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing explores the Terrestrial hereafters:

The Region of the Just Dead;
Heaven;
Hell;
the infinite Chaos beyond Hell;
the Original Darkness that was before the Creation rising from Chaos and advancing through Hell towards Heaven.

Next, he visits Gotham City.

Then, he travels through the universe:

exiled from Earth, he spends time on an uninhabited blue planet;

launching himself into space, he collides with the Zeta Beam routinely teleporting Adam Strange from Earth to the Centaurian planet, Rann, and lands on Rann, which is dying because of an earlier nuclear war;

Thanagarians plan to trade environmental technology stolen from the vegetable civilization on the planet J586 for the Rannian Zeta beam so that they can use the beam to conquer Earth;

a liquid animal from Minraud near J586 drowns one of the Thanagarians;

en route to J586, Swampy is trapped and raped by a planet-sized AI of a kind that wander through interstellar space, either meeting to procreate or eating spaceships that land on them;

J586 has a member of the Green Lantern Corps but has heard rumors of the decline of the Guardians of the Universe who appoint the Green Lanterns to defend specific space sectors;

after traveling from J586 to the Promethian Galaxy, Swampy meets Metron of the New Gods who tries, using Swampy as his vehicle, to enter the Source but succeeds only in discovering an Aleph, a point from which it is possible to observe all other points in space-time;

Swampy returns to Earth.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Gotham City In Alan Moore's Swamp Thing

Captain Jon Logerquist founded Gotham City in 1635.

The suburbs include Evanston with lawns and shrubs and Gotham Village with vacant lots.

The techno-belt includes Allied Metalurgical in Little Stockton.

Uptown is Gotham Park.

The business district with Gotham Stock Exchange is to the south.

West is Glendale, originally a separate town.

East are the slums of Bryanttown.

North are Charon, comprising a hospital and two cemeteries, and Sommerset with woodlands and Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

SNAPSHOT By Andy Diggle and Jock

Brilliant premise. Likewise development. Plot twists. Surprise ending. Avoiding spoilers, the ending is a political statement that I agree with. IMO, the problem is solvable but by collective, not individual, action. But that is another political statement - and a more questionable one.

Comics should avoid too much self-reference, of course, but this one is great. Jake, comic book guy, shows his friend:

"WARRIOR MAGAZINE, 1982. RARE BRITISH IMPORT...
"FEATURING THE ORIGINAL PRE-MIRACLEMAN MARVELMAN!"

Friend (likeable, amusing guy) responds:

"NEVER-TO-BE-REPRINTED, TRAPPED-IN-ETERNAL-LEGAL-LIMBO ALAN MOORE GOODNESS?!"

Yes, that is a worthy comic book reference. For some posts about Miracleman, see here.

The Losers (and see here), Green Arrow: Year One and Snapshot make a superb trilogy by Diggle and Jock.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Hard Goodbye Film

I have now watched "The Hard Goodbye" in Frank Miller's Sin City film. The film is a genuine anthology with its own internal continuity. We see an 11 year old Nancy and then an exotic dancer called Nancy before we learn that they are the same person eight years apart. It is good to see her again in the intermediate episode.

We have to laugh at some of the absurd and implausible violence. Marv survives being knocked over by a speeding car twice in quick succession, can take any number of bullets or blows to the head and even survives the first jolt on the electric chair. Nevertheless, like Hartigan in "That Yellow Bastard," he winds up dead.

Marv was arrested, or rather filled with bullets, at the scene of a murder immediately after committing it so why was it necessary to force a confession from him? These police sure are corrupt, threatening to kill Marv's mother.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sin City Film

A fully authentic dramatization from page to screen. Nancy age 11 and age 19 are superb.

Hero, heroine and villain seem to endure more than is humanly possible.

Hartigan was wrong to mutilate the perp. I thought that his partner shot him because he was doing this, not because the partner was corrupt. He also kills cops on his way to rescue Nancy which means that he crosses another line that would have made him a fugitive if he had not committed suicide.

The Senator practices injustice on an incredible scale. How could he prevent the examination of Nancy to confirm whether she was raped and, if so, by whom?

I have the second film on dvd and will watch it shortly.

10 June 2015: A very confusing film! I now realize that I have watched and commented only on "That Yellow Bastard," which is only one of four stories in one film. More comments might follow.

Transformations

When Alan Moore started to write Marvelman, later Miracleman, MM learned that all of his previous adventures had occurred inside a virtual reality.

When Moore started to write The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Swampy learned that he was not a man who had become a plant but a plant that thought that it had been a man.

In both cases, the entire basis of the series was completely transformed. And the transformations continued. MM's powers made him a benevolent global dictator, regarded as God. Swampy learned, thanks to John Constantine's intervention, that the passage of a man through fire and his transformation into a swamp plant is the first stage in the genesis of the next plant elemental, the guardian of the Terrestrial ecology. The elemental has powers that make him a nature god although Swampy had not suspected that he had such powers before he was written by Alan Moore.

MM changes the world. Swampy can change the world by transforming deserts into plains and forests but decides that it would be wrong to interfere in evolution in this way. The difference is that MM has his own continuity whereas Swampy must conform to DC Comics continuity where the pretense is that the world remains essentially unchanged despite the presence in it of powerful beings like Superman, other superheroes and the Swamp Thing.

In Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan and Ozymandias change the world because, although this group of characters began as the Charlton Comics superheroes who were incorporated into DC continuity, Moore was able to transform them into the Watchmen with their own continuity.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Name Games

In Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen (London, 1987), the news vendor misremembers two superhero names as "SUPER-MAN, FLASH-MAN..." (Chapter III, p. 25, panel 3). Of course, the names were really Superman and The Flash. However, "Spider-man" is always written with a hyphen to prevent confusion with Superman. Further, there is a literary character called "Flashman."

The journalist, Doug Roth, refers to Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias as "Ozyman...whoops. Uh-huh. We don't call him that anymore, do we? The mask is gone..." ("AFTER THE MASQUERADE: Superstyle and the art of humanoid watching." (p. 8) IN Watchmen.)

By interrupting "Ozymandias," Moore generates another "...man" name, implying an origin in Oz or Australia.

Thus, Alan Moore manages to play several games with superhero names.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Watchmen

(Far out. One image gives us the cover of my edition of Watchmen and the Awesome Mage himself.)

I am rereading Alan Moore's Watchmen so I need an angle to discuss it on the Poul Anderson Appreciation blog. Easy. It is all in the alternative histories.

Poul Anderson gives us alternative histories in which:

the Carolingian myths were true;
William Shakespeare was not the Great Dramatist but the Great Historian;
technology was based not on science but on magic.

And Alan Moore gives us alternative histories in which:

when superhero comics inspired real life superheroes, comic books turned instead to pirates and, after the New York incident, to horror;
Superman and Captain Marvel were comic book characters but Mick Anglo's Marvelman was a parareality program and Moore's revived Marvelman was the real thing.

Absolutely Mind-blowing.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Changing Gods

Last night, for a change from Latin verse or American English prose, I reread parts of the graphic work, The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, a superior version of the Marvel Comics superhero team, the Avengers. Of course, I found a parallel with Poul Anderson: the Ultimates include Thor.

However, this is a New Age Thor who defends anti-war demonstrators against the police and calls the US a new Roman Empire! The reference to the Roman Empire is a second parallel. But is the Ultimates Thor inauthentic? He is certainly un-Eddaic but, as I pointed out here, our gods have grown up with us. Poul Anderson, of course, shows us this process in "Star of the Sea."

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pytheas

(This is an indulgent image. It came up on a google search for "The Boat of a Million Years." It shows the Barge and the Solar System and I recognize it as a page from a comic book written by Alan Moore.)

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

Pytheas will take fifteen years to reach its destination, a planet in Pegasus. About fifteen hundred light years in the same direction is the nearest of the radiation sources that might be a high-energy civilization.

The Sun is little more than the brightest star when Pytheas is near Jupiter. Anderson must describe stars seen from space yet again. This time, the Milky Way is "...like a river of frost and light." (p. 499)

The Survivors have paired off:

Hanno and Svoboda;
Wanderer and Flora;
Patulcius and Aliyat;
Tu Shan and Yukiko.

Patulcius and Aliyat are a surprise but we remember that Patulcius did marry occasionally down the millennia.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Talking To An Immortal

Copied here because of its comics references:

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

How would you talk with someone who you knew was three millennia old? His experience would have an entire dimension that was unknown to you, like speaking with someone who had returned from another planet. The fictional CS Lewis wonders where he stands with his friend Ransom when the latter has returned from Malacandra/Mars.

Giannotti, who knows Hanno's age, asks him whether he picked up the habit of smoking from Tutankhamen but Hanno replies, "'Before my time...'" (p. 378). Natalia, who does not know his age, accuses him of having "'...Neanderthal politics...'" (p. 410)! He could have quipped, "Before my time...," but she would have neither understood nor appreciated that. She also accuses him of "'Plagiarizing Heinlein...'" (p. 385). Thus, Anderson acknowledges his debt to Heinlein.

Natalia knows that Hanno is concealing everything about himself, his real life and work, from her. This is destroying their relationship even before he meets an immortal woman, Svoboda. This reminded me of something. In the Smallville TV series, Lana Lang and Lex Luthor know and sense that Clark Kent is concealing something important about himself from them. They know that there is a mystery but do not know what it is. The deception implicit from the beginning in Superman's secret identity generates a tragedy of Greek proportions. Clark should have confided in four close friends from the beginning. They would have kept the secret and helped him. Instead, Luthor becomes a mortal enemy. Hanno, however, has impeccable reasons to remain silent.

Goetz

Copied here because of its comics references:

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

"'Since the Goetz case, the liberals have been out for blood.'" (p. 435)

This morning, I read this reference to Goetz in Boat. Last night, I reread Tom Veitch's and Bryan Talbot's graphic series, The Nazz, which is about super powers, super-heroism and vigilantism and refers to Goetz, although I now cannot find the reference flicking back through it.

I also heard Goetz mentioned in a discussion of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns which presents the Batman as a violent vigilante wanted by the police for crimes including child endangerment - he is said to be sheltering behind a masked child in a red and yellow costume - and, when the Joker's dead body is found, murder.

I feel that Hanno's "'...the liberals have been out for blood...'" is a rather inflammatory way of discussing urban violence! - but I know that opinions are divided and polarized on such issues. Hanno and his fellow immortals are just passing through the twentieth century and very soon will have left such conflicts far behind them.

(Four posts before 10.30 this morning: a good start to May. A Bank Holiday weekend with good weather stretches invitingly ahead of us.)

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Nazz

I am rereading Tom Veitch's and Bryan Talbot's The Nazz, twenty five years after it was published. Bryan Talbot described The Nazz in conversation as "The best of the post-Watchmen comics." I agree with him. The Nazz has two premises:

a group of American law enforcers base themselves on comic book superheroes;

alleged yogic powers are akin to those of superheroes.

Thus, Indian religious art is one source. As with Watchmen, there is a "comic within the comic," as Nazz's artist friend bases a comic strip on Nazz.

Nazz makes the mistake of seeking not wisdom but power. We see him corrupted, emphasizing instead of transcending self. The concluding narration by his former girl friend states that he "...chose the Left Hand Path..." and that "Maybe next time he'll get it right." (The Nazz, Book 4, New York, 1991).

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

A good sense of an on-going movieverse continuity:

Fury returning from retirement;
Banner missing at the end;
some team members leaving;
other superheroes joining.

Not being a Marvel fan, I had to google the Vision. I am not sure why Ultron had to become destructive except that that is what Frankenstein monsters do. A fight scene near the end reproduced the look of the Ultimates fold-out. Good to see the Avengers partying and also to see thanks to comics creators in the end credits.

Friday, 24 April 2015

"Tarry Till I Come Again"

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

Jacques Lacy (really Hanno) tells Cardinal Richelieu about one Seumas Lacy. Because he speaks in the third person about someone with a different first name, I took him to be referring to someone else, maybe an ancestor. However, Jacques then states that Seumas:

"'...took the French form of his Christian name...'" (p. 226)

Of course. "Jacques" and "Seamus" are both "James."

When Hanno/Jacques discloses that he has lived for millennia, Richelieu asks:

"'...Are you the Wandering Jew?'" (p. 227)

He is not.

I know of three other fictional references to the Wandering Jew, one in sf, two in comics.

In Walter M Miller's A Canticle For Leibowitz, the Wandering Jew is Lazarus because "What the Lord raise up, it stay up."

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Morpheus and an immortal Englishmen, meeting once every century, are mistaken for the Devil and the Wandering Jew.

DC Comics Secret Origins No 10 presented four speculative origins of their fantasy character, the Phantom Stranger (a sort of supernatural Lone Ranger). He was variously the Wandering Jew, a man from a remote past, a man from the end of time or a neutral angel. For a detailed, well illustrated review, see here.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Smallville: Phantom

Season Six has ended. Did Lex fake Lana's pregnancy? He seemed surprised at the accusation. If not him, then who? Was he responsible for the bomb in Lana's car? If not him, then who? Is Lana really dead? We know that Clark has to wind up with Lois eventually.

Lionel is definitely a good guy, an emissary of Jor-El, vouched for by the Martian Manhunter, but he needs to learn to use good means towards good ends. The Manhunter worked for Jor-El. Lex is arrested for Lana's murder. Bizarro appears at the end and is loose. What is going on with Lois and Chloe? Chloe's power...

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Smallville: Prototype

Lex is committing murder. He and Lana are lying to each other. He says that he has no secrets. She says, truthfully, that she would never hurt the man she loves. It is a lucky coincidence that Lois knew the man whom Lex has transformed into a super soldier. The coincidence is partly explained by Lois' father being General Sam Lane (who has only appeared once so far in Smallville).

Martha becomes a US Senator, as arranged between Lionel and the Governor. Because of his powers, Clark can address Lionel as an equal. Only one more episode in Season Six. I do not think that this season will end with a major catastrophe but the ending will be yet another turning point.

Smallville: Noir

We get the impression that the actors enjoy playing the noir versions of their characters. Clark really looks like the original version.

Lana's alliance with Lionel is not after all a happy one and who tried to kill her? It is very difficult to keep track of all the levels of coercion and deceit.

It looks like Jimmy is leaving for a while. Does Pete ever come back?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Smallville: Nemesis

Lana has become a Luthor and is working with Lionel against Lex to protect Clark but we did not hear all of the crucial conversation between her and Lionel. Even if Lionel had good motivations when blackmailing Lana, he surely used wrong means. I thought at the time that he was merely protecting Luthor family interests but he seems to have very long term plans to counteract Lex, as does Oliver Queen. Despite Queen's sabotage, Lex seems to be perfecting his super soldier. As yet, Clark seems to play a minor role, except that his dishonesty has motivated Lex.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Smallville: Progeny

Lana's pregnancy was faked and she was shown false pictures of a fetus. That is the single most important development in this episode. But why was Lex unable to continue the deception and what will now happen between him and Lana? Clark is asking what changed Lana's mind about the wedding. Lionel was capable of threatening to kill Clark but is probably not able to do it. He reverts to his old self when it is a question of Luthor interests but becomes a genuinely better person around Martha Kent.

We still do not know what Chloe's meteor power is. Something to do with accessing or controlling computers?

I forgot to mention when posting about "Combat" - Lex knows that Titan was not human and was defeated by someone more powerful than himself. Clark destroyed the cameras in the fight arena but are there not videos of him arriving in the arena before he did that?

Smallville: Combat

Another beautifully filmed episode. The prologue shows a fight between Kal-El and a Zoner, then, after the credits, the action starts a couple of days earlier. The Internet fights to the death scenario is presented really well. Superman does not kill but maybe this is because he did do it earlier and had learned not to? This is one version of that. Titan is a good loser. With something sharp sticking out of his chest, he smiles, says, "Good fight," and dies.

Lana loses her baby. She asks Lex, "Why is all this happening?" Because she married a Luthor. Lex is hiding something about her pregnancy. He has killed her doctor and burned the records. His duplicity is on display (to us) when he pretends to be horrified to hear that the doctor died in a car accident on his and Lana's wedding day. Lionel has covered up well. (Lex accepted Chloe's help at the wedding although he had had her kidnapped, examined and memory-wiped as a meteor freak and then told his staff to keep her under observation.)

The covert battle between Lex Luthor and the as yet unnamed Justice League has begun. Lex watches a video of the green archer shooting out the camera in a Luthorcorp facility.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Smallville: Promise

Very powerful. The episode seems to be contradicting itself, then turns out to be presenting some of its scenes from different points of view. This is a technique more easily deployed in prose fiction. We see Clark receive a phone call from Chloe, then later see Chloe make that phone call. The dialogue is the same so we realize what is happening.

Lex commits murder on his wedding day. He is concealing some terrible secret about Lana's pregnancy. Lionel knows how to blackmail Lana to go through with the wedding, how to detect then cover up the murder and how to collect from Lex later. Lionel welcomes Lana into the family. When it comes to promoting the Luthors' fortunes at any cost, he remains as manipulative as ever. Lionel and Lex can live with a total contradiction between social appearances and reality.

The consistent theme of Smallville is dishonesty and deception, all stemming from the original idea of Superman's secret identity.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Smallville: Freak

Lana has deduced that Clark is super-powered and thinks that it is because he is a meteor freak - but that is a more plausible explanation than extraterrestrial origin. See here. Tobias honestly tells Lana that Clark is normal because he detects meteor freaks, which Clark is not, but Chloe is although we do not know her power yet.

Lana conceals information about Clark from Lex while Lex seriously lies to Lana. Lex has stopped being a good guy while Lionel has become one.

Smallville: Trespass

There is not a great deal to say about this one. It cannot be sufficient for Clark to say, "I wasn't myself. Sorry," about his behavior at Lex's and Lana's engagement party. Why was he not himself? This is part of the mystery about him. Both Lex and Lana know that there is a mystery about Clark but do not know what it is. Does that make any sense?

Chloe and Jimmy are back together. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Smallville: Crimson

How will Clark rectify the fact that he behaved abominably at Lex's and Lana's engagement party?

Chloe seeks the Martian Manhunter and buys a bow tie for Jimmy. Jimmy senses that Chloe has a thing for Clark so he says that they should take a break.

Lois learns that Clark can leap a tall building with a single bound but of course forgets. However, Lana has evidence of Clark's invulnerability.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Moore, Gaiman And Anderson

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

The previous post paralleled four writers of prose sf. The present post adds a parallel to a writer of graphic fiction. In Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow (New York, 1997) by Alan Moore, the AI Brainiac speaks thought the controlled body of Lex Luthor but Luthor momentarily breaks through:

"LUHH...LAA-NAA...BRUH...BRAINIAC...HUH HEEE'S...GOT...ME.
"KUH KILL MEE...LANA...PLEASE...KILL ME...
"KILL ME." (p. 33)

Lana Lang breaks Luthor's neck but Brainiac keeps moving the dead body...

This scene is remarkably similar to the passages quoted from Lewis and Stirling. These comparisons have carried us some distance away from our main subject, Poul Anderson. However, all such fictions are connected and we have now come full circle because it was Alan Moore that taught Neil Gaiman how to write a comic script and this blog has previously found several parallels between Anderson and Gaiman.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Continuities, Crossovers And Crises

After posting about J'onn J'onzz, I googled him. Amazing. It read like a more complicated version of a superheroes summary that I read shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths:

the original versions of the All-American and National Publications superheroes;
their Silver Age revivals;
the coexistence of earlier and later versions on parallel Earths;
the coexistence of other companies' superheroes on other Earths;
the existence of other kinds of characters, like anthropomorphic animals, on yet other Earths;
an Earth where no one has gained any superpowers;
an Earth where versions of DC and Marvel heroes exist;
the Crisis that destroyed most Earths and merged five, revising their histories;
a single DC Universe with new versions of all the characters.

Although each hero is a series character, his or her life and career become a single episode in an all-embracing narrative.

J'onn J'onzz

J'onn J'onzz, John Jones, the Martian Manhunter, seems to have all the Kryptonian powers except the ability to traverse space plus several more:

telepathy;
invisibilty;
impalpability;
metamorphosis.

In a British black and white reprint annual in the 1960's, I saw him exercise the power to extinguish a fire inside a building by liquefying the skylight above the fire with beams from his eyes. In those days, he remained invisible and operated in secret.

Next, I saw him visible, tangible and green in the Justice League of America and in a Detective Comics back up feature. Later, he rejoined his fellow Martians in their extrasolar colony on New Mars, a clear recognition that Mars is in fact not inhabited. Later still, we learned that:

his original Martian form was not as we see him;
he had not only teleported but also time traveled from an inhabited Mars in the distant past, just as Michael Moorcock's Michael Kane had had to time travel pastward to reach an inhabited Mars.

When J'onzz got his own series, his metamorphic power was developed fully for the first time, giving him multiple identities on Earth. In a black identity, he worked on the Kent farm to keep an eye on Kal-El, as he does in Smallville. In The Sandman, he sees Morpheus as a Martian deity.

Apparently it will emerge that he had been an inter-galactic manhunter working with Jor-El. Smallville: Labyrinth alludes to his Martian vulnerability to fire.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Smallville: Labyrinth

In "Mask" by Bryan Talbot, Bruce Wayne wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is told that his costumed crime-fighting career is a delusion. In Smallville: Labyrinth, Clark Kent wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is told that his Kal-El identity is a delusion.

A fellow patient whispers that he knows that Clark is extraterrestrial because he himself is from Mars. We think that the fellow patient is mad until we remember the Martian Manhunter. A Zoner mental parasite is responsible for Clark's illusion. Clark is relieved to see that his adversary Lex is not in a wheelchair with amputated legs at the end of the episode.

Alan Moore's Tom Strong has a similar experience. It seems that he is a drunk with delusions of super-heroism until the Tom we know sees through the illusion near the end of the story.

Is it possible for such stories to end instead with a hint of ambiguity? Or to be set in an alternative reality - Earth-Prime? - where it is the super-heroism that is the fiction?

The Manhunter shows more of himself but still does not stick around to explain himself. He will clearly be a major influence on Clark. Will he join the JLA or remain in the background?

This is the sort of episode where most of the action didn't really happen so the story-line has not advanced very much except that another Zoner has been eliminated and the Martian has come more into the open.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Smallville: Justice

The Justice League begins as industrial saboteurs. Impulse, Green Arrow, Superman (not code-named yet), Aquaman and Cyborg are walking away from a burning Luthorcorp facility. Chloe assists and is code-named "Watchtower." Lex aims to raise a super-powered army to fight these "terrorists." Lionel covers for Clark with Lex.

GA will lead the team against Lex in Corto Maltese while Clark continues to hunt Zoners. Ollie and Lois are finished. We knew that that had to happen. We did not expect the JLA to start before CK had donned the costume but this is a different version of the story.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Smallville: Hydro

Linda Lake learns of Clark's extraterrestriality, then dies. I am sure we have had her before. She is another LL. The meteor powers get weirder.

Clark and Ollie play a classic trick to convince Lois that Ollie is not Green Arrow. Jimmy thought he had photographed GA uncovering his face but Clark moved too fast to stay in the shot. We see that Clark enjoys performing in a costumed identity.

Now Lana knows that Chloe is protecting a secret for Clark. Clark thinks that Lana's pregnancy by Lex makes it too late for him to tell her but he has always been too late. Lana accepts Lex's proposal. She thinks that there is trust between her and Lex.

One story that made no sense was "Reckoning." Clark told Lana but Lana died and a Kryptonian crystal rewound time for a day. I said before that Jor-El acted like a god but even gods can't do that. It says in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol that, against time, even the gods are powerless.

31/3/15: Linda Lake's initials and her in your face muck-raking role generate the impression that she is a survivor from an earlier continuity. However, she was created for Smallville.

Clark wants Chloe to keep his secret but is annoyed that she did not tell him of Lana's pregnancy. However, he recognizes the injustice of this when Chloe points it out.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Smallville: Subterranean

Lex does not commit murder yet but does detain and experiment on meteor freaks in cahoots with Lionel.

How can Chloe go for Jimmy?

One sentence makes this episode: Clark Kent says, "I am an illegal immigrant." Here the future Superman is in conflict with the law.

No Lionel, Lois or Oliver in this episode. Ollie has quickly become a regular character. Chloe commutes from Smallville to College and part time job in Metropolis. We are not seeing anything of Clark's time at College in Kansas.

Addendum: My first sight of the phrase "The Illegal Immigrant" was as the title of a Marvelman story in the 1950's when I had to ask someone what it meant. Imagine Superman applying the term to himself sixty years later!