What's distracting me from comics this time increment?

So: I wrote something on this blog for the first time in forever the other day (read: several weeks ago). I liked doing it - I enjoy writing in general and writing about comics in particular - so why don't I do that all the time? There really is no good reason, but in thinking about it I realized that there are a whole lot of terrible reasons. Thus, this post.

First, some backstory. I started writing on Paul and John Review, the blog that would eventually be folded into Living Between Wednesdays, in 2006. I had just moved back to Nova Scotia after impulsively moving to BC for a few years. I was broke, single and had a terrible call centre job. I also had an Internet connection and time on my hands. This combination led very naturally to me reading/writing about a lot of silly Silver Age comic books, those being my most frequent Muse.

Eight years have passed. I am chunkier, baldier and beardier. I got hitched, I got a dog (not necessarily in that order). Most critically, I am no longer broke all the time, and I still have that Internet connection, which means that I have an absurd array of interesting things to occupy my time with. No reading silly Silver Age comics precludes writing about silly Silver Age comics.

But! Most of these things are incredibly nerdy, and thus a perfect fit for LBW. Plus, I am woefully out of writing trim, and getting back in practice while simultaneously expanding my horizons is just plain a good idea.

Here's the first thing, and the one that I probably have the least to say about: new comics. There are so dang many good comics coming out right now. And! I'm (temporarily) living far away from Strange Adventures, which means I'm using Comixology - I am basically inundated with the dang things! Oh, the woes that I have to face.

In any case, tune in next time increment for more discussion of the incredible hardship that I face every day. 

On Superman

Oh, hello. I was just thinking about about Superman.

Now, despite my intermittent grumbling about the military conspiracy as over-used plot device and "turning the public against super-heroes with little to no effort" as over-used plot device that we need to go back in time and assassinate before it rises to power, and despite widespread tongue-clucking about there being no Superman in any of the three or four Superman comics being sold, this past year hasn't been a bad one for the Man of Steel. I enjoyed the Mon-El, Nightwing and Flamebird stories in Superman and Action, for example, and World of New Krypton was an entertaining diversion into politics and subterfuge. Though if returning to the status quo was the intent all along it would have been more satisfying (to me, at least) if New Krypton had been shrunken again, rather than being blown up.

However enjoyable it was, I was looking forward to seeing Superman come back to Earth and get into some adventures - maybe fight a giant robot or thwart an invasion by dinosaur men. Or, I don't know, smack Shrapnel around. Stop Kobra from blowing up an orphanage.

Instead, walking and philosophizing. Now, I'm not opposed to my super-heroes having some depth, but... I think that I have to take you on a tangental but relevant trip before I can finish what I'm saying. It's from way, way back in Superman No.17 and it's what got me thinking about this much-discussed subject in the first place.

Clark Kent is covering the execution of arch-fiend Luthor, when suddenly:


Energized by the electrical charge, Luthor escapes and resumes his life of crime. As he and his men are robbing a train, Superman intervenes, and a car fight ensues.


But Luthor is not quite powerful enough to defeat Superman, and so he flees. His only chance is to acquire the Powerstone, a huge gem that Superman ends up with after he stops Luthor from making off with it.

Luthor outwits Superman with a fake newspaper story that sets himself up as Allerton, an expert in mystical gemstones.

He then grow to enormous size, hits Superman with a bridge, steals his powers and goes on a crime spree. Later, Superman plays on his ego and tricks him into dropping the Powerstone. Justice is served!

I didn't really need to tell the whole thing, but I felt like providing some context for the important parts: the car fight and the bridge-smack. Oh, and I suppose that the part where Superman tricks Luthor is also relevant. 

See, Superman is, without a doubt, a smart guy. He's a Pulitzer-winning journalist, he's written a few novels - he's manifestly not some big dope. He's surely thought about just how many people that he can hope to save in the course of his life. But his powers are the super-equivalent of a hammer, and even a smart man with a hammer is more likely to view a large proportion of the problems he encounters as nails. Realizing that a woman blames him for not zapping her husband's brain tumour should not cause him to spiral into an existential crisis, especially given that there's no logic to the claim that he could have helped (see here). If anything, his reaction should be more along the lines of a frantic quest to save everyone, just flying around at lightspeed until he collapses from exhaustion. Because that is where Superman's depth lies: deep down, he wants to save everybody. Hell, if there's any reason to believe that he would be so affected by this woman and her slap, it's because of this drive.

In summation: I want to read comics about Superman being a strong man who tries to do good. Possibly by fighting someone with a car. I am prepared to argue at length about this.

Thank you.


One Step Away From a Strongly-Worded Email

Okay, it’s time for me to lay down some thoughts now that this thing has been going on for a while. Why isn’t Blackest Night kicking my ass like it should be? I am enjoying it enough to keep buying it, but it’s definitely not my most anticipated comic of the week. Some theories:

1. The Anticipation Factor: I call this “The Matrix 2 Effect” because that’s when I first noticed it. Remember how hard The Matrix rocked us? And how long we waited, our little faces scrunched up, for the next episode? And how it was then decried as THE WORST MOVIE OF ALL TIME? Bushwah. It was an okay movie. The problem was that it wasn’t as good as the original, while in our head it was going to be exponentially better. Similarly, we’ve been waiting for Blackest Night for, what, a year? Year and a half? Coupled with the fact that the Green Lantern stories leading into the whole thing were pretty solid fun, Blackest Night is almost guaranteed to have a hard time being  as awesome as I, personally, was hoping for.

FIRST CONCLUSION: One Year Of Hype Is Too Much Hype.

2. The Trouble With Black Lanterns, Part 1: I started thinking about Blackest Night earlier this week after reading Chris Bird's thoughts on the current state of comics (here they are), among which was the fact that the Black Lanterns are very poorly written (edit: oh dang, he's quoting someone else, isn't he. Well, I still read the quote there). Far from being cunning emotional manipulators who wring every last drop of succulent emotion from their prey, the Black Lanterns (and here I’m going to lift the Mighty God King’s Jim Smith's analogy, because it’s the very best one to use here) sound like fourteen year olds on a message board complaining about a character that they don’t like. It’s just cheap, easy shot after cheap, easy shot. Really, the most effective Black Lanterns so far have been the resurrected villains, because they have the option of a personality and some of them actually have legitimate beefs with the heroes that they are fighting. You know what would be cool? Basically any other villainous archetype, that's what. Like, what if the Black Lanterns retained their old personalities but were compelled to attack their friends - that would be a potentially compelling roller coaster of emotion. Or hell: monosyllabic or completely silent engines of undead destruction. Just shut up Zombie Elongated Man.

Thank you.

SECOND CONCLUSION: Fourteen Year Olds On Message Boards Aren’t Evil, Just Annoying.

3. Let’s Make it a Company-Wide Event!: Remember Sinestro Corps War? Green Lantern event, lasted maybe three months, took place in two regular series and a handful of specials? What a nice little event, yes? Wouldn’t it be nice if Blackest Night had gotten the same treatment instead of sprawling all over space and time? I mean, I'm grateful that DC has stopped the old policy of having events intrude on every single ongoing series, but we don't need to see how every single super-hero deals with the return of his or her dead in excruciating detail.

THIRD CONCLUSION: If You Beat The Horse Before It’s Dead, You Might Just Kill It.

4. The Trouble With Black Lanterns, Part 2: Zombies with power rings should be cooler than these guys are. I mean, I can understand undead super-humans using their old powers, but why the hell is Sue Dibny just slouching around in the background rather than flying around and slinging death beams? Basically the only Black Lantern to do anything remotely interesting is The Ventriloquist, who has been floating along surrounded by a cloud of heavily-armed Scarfaces. GAH!

FOURTH CONCLUSION: Power Rings Ain’t Just Jewelry, Dammit.

5. That Damned Black Lantern Costume: The costume design for the Black Lanterns looks pretty good on paper (uh, I mean writing paper, not comic book paper): the character’s regular costume done up in black, grey and silver with elements of Black Hand’s costume superimposed over top. And sometimes it works, as in Sue Dibny’s simple dress-with-a-logo. Most of the time, though, it’s a recipe for extraordinarily dull and confusing fight scenes. And did you know that Batman has about three hundred dead villains who are basically generic dudes with long hair and knives? I didn’t, until I spent half an hour trying to figure out who the hell they all were.

FIFTH CONCLUSION: Maybe The Black Lantern Corps Needs Nametags, I’m Just Sayin’.

6. What, no Avarice? In Blackest Night: Batman No. 2, up on the roof of the Gotham City Police Department, one of the Generic Long-Haired Undead Batman Villains (dramatically silhouetted for extra identification challenge!) says that they will eat Gotham’s inhabitants, “… savoring the distinct subtleties of the fear, rage, love, compassion and willpower coursing through their souls!” and I’m all like “What, no love for the orange light of avarice?” but then I realized that no, inciting avarice would require some subtlety on the zombies’ part, and they don’t have time for that. All the other emotions could probably be evoked through beating people up and trolling them, after all. But when Black Lantern Jade tried to sex Kyle Raynor up, that worked! That was much more interesting than if she’d moaned at him about how she died instead of him and told him that he was a sucky replacement for Hal! Nuanced behavior on the Black Lanterns’ part might actually make them interesting opponents for a company-wide event! And they have power rings! They have the capacity to create energy constructs! THEY COULD BE FANTASTICALLY EFFECTIVE TEMPTERS AND MANIPULATORS! I think that this might have just become a mashup of points 2 and 4. I don't care, though, because i just pictured a comic in which every beloved dead character in the DCU came back to life at once and everyone was really happy but peril lurked behind their eyes. Oh imagination, thanks for all your help.


SIXTH CONCLUSION: Oh hell, I don't know. Something about not living up to potential or the like. More Larfleeze needed.

Ah well. I'm still enjoying myself, though I can't be sure how much of that is just my enduring love for Where's Waldo attaching itself to my little games of Spot the Zombie. But my joy should be from more than just going "Heh heh, undead Ch'p."

Of course, Geoff Johns has showed a facility for turning a weak story around with a very satisfying ending - see Flash: Rebirth, which hasn't quite ended yet, I guess, but still counts because I want it to - but, well... that doesn't make the story as a whole good. Even if the 80-90% likely victory by Hal Jordan wearing all the different Corps rings is coupled with Sodam Yat returning from the Daxamite sun all supercharged and a possible appearance by benign "at peace" undead like Dove and it's a completely fun, nail-biting, fist-pumping, senses-shattering phantasmagoric thrill-ride, well, that's not going to make the issues that preceded it any better.

So what's the solution? I guess that the only thing that I can do is to stop anticipating anything ever, which might require me to pay even less attention to comics news  than I already do. And we could petition Geoff Johns to retire his "irritating fanboy" character now that Superboy Prime has been locked away. That would be nice.

Anyway, thanks for hanging out with me while I vented my spleen. Go read something that will bring you joy - that's what I'm going to do (if I can find my damn copy of Tales Designed to Thrizzle, that is)

Good afternoon!