Thursday, August 30, 2007

Power Girl is Purdy

Ain't she, tho'?

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My appreciation for Darwyn Cooke just keeps growing by leaps and bounds.

I've been brainstorming a post about Peej for maybe a week now, actually, but what with school starting in less than a week I haven't found the energy to just sit down and write it. Consider this a prelude, I suppose.

If. I write it. Which I'm not sure I will 'cause I'm a lazy bastich.

But hey? Pretty picture, yah? Could've sworn her eyes were blue like her cousin Kal-L, tho'.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

52 Pickup

I'm pretty interested in the current direction DC is taking.

I mean, I pretty much concur with the prevailing opinion that Countdown is a subpar product. I only bought the first issue before deciding to bail out, but I've been flipping through it at the store and reading the occasional pages at Scans Daily, and I haven't been impressed with anything I've seen so far. The Multiverse aspect does interest me, however -- alternate universe stories are easily my favorite element of super-hero stories -- and I'm pretty stoked for some of the upcoming Countdown spinoffs.

The Search for Ray Palmer is the big one. A travelogue of the new Multiverse? I am so there. I don't have any real attachment to Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, or Jason Todd, but the prospect of exploring the realms of possibility is too much for me to resist.

Arena, though, looks like kind of a let-down in the making. The fact that Didio openly compares it to fanfiction does not help. The fact that it's by the author of half that excreble World War III mess helps even less. Unlike World War III, though, I won't have to buy them all at once, so I'll have the option of checking out the first issue and seeing if it's worth my time and money.

I'm also looking forward to most if not all of the 52 spin-offs, as 52 now ranks among my favorite comic book titles of all time. I've already gotten Booster Gold #1 and that was a ride and a half. The Crime Bible, starring Renee "The Question" Montoya, is being penned by Greg Rucka himself, so I've high hopes for that one as well. Black Adam: The Dark Age #1 has passed me by, but I may consider checking it out this Wednesday if it's still in stock to see if I want to stick with it. I'm on the fence about Infinity, Inc., The Four Horsemen, and Countdown to Adventure, but my curiosity will probably get the better of me, especially on the last one.

I'm just wondering when we'll get a miniseries following the spectral hijinks of Ralph 'n' Sue: The Dead Dibny Detectives...

And then... Final Crisis. By Grant Morrison. I liked Identity Crisis, loved Infinite Crisis... I'm having a hard time seeing how this can go wrong.

Anyway, anything else you all are looking forward to? Please share!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Well this is pretty interesting.

"Plainswalkers, huh? Well I guess Graceful Antelope was kinda cool, but a Great Wall can stop 'em in their tracks..."

Urza, Plainswalker
Casting Cost: W
Legendary Creature -- Human Townsfolk
Plainswalk (this creature cannot be blocked if defending player controls a Plains).
"No relation to the other Urza, honest."
1/1


Seems that for the first time since the game's inception in 1993, they're adding a new card type to Magic:The Gathering -- planeswalkers. This fascinates me; up until this point, the premise of the game was that planeswalkers, near-omnipotent wizards with the power to move between worlds and summon creatures with a thought, were represented by the players, never any cards. This represents a huge change to game play; I can't wait to find out more.

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Information I have gleaned:
  • Apparently, rather than the usual summoned creatures you play with in MTG, planeswalkers represent allies or subordinates you call call upon.
  • Your opponents' creatures can attack a planeswalker you have in play, and creatures attacking your planeswalker can be blocked by your creatures.
  • For each point of combat damage dealt to a planeswalker, it loses one loyalty -- presumably the "5" in the corner. I have no idea yet how the loyalty score goes up and down aside from damage, or how the other numbers ("+1", "-2", "-8") are used or activated. If I had to guess, I'd say that you can only use one ability each turn, and when used it increases or decreases the loyalty score by the noted amount; when the loyalty score is at 0, the planeswalker leaves play?


All in all, I'm pretty excited about this new turn of events and hope I can get my hands on a planeswalker card of my own. :)

I think it's kinda corny that her name is an anagram for "villainess," though.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Possessions Meme

Ganked from a friend on LiveJournal. I'm brainstorming an actual post, of which I've had too few of late, but in the meanwhile...

1. What is the silliest thing you own?
Between all my ridiculous nerdy pursuits, I'd be hard-pressed to name anything in my possession that isn't silly. Maybe some of the broken Jurassic Park action figures I owned as a kid that are still gathering dust in the corner of my bedroom take the cake.

2. What is the most important thing you own?
My clothes? My bed? If we're talking sentimental value, I'd say my sketchbooks.

3. What is the one thing you'd like to possess if money were no object?
Bag End -- Bilbo Baggins's home from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings -- built to my scale. With modern wiring/heating/ventilation/plumbing/flat-screen TV.

4. What is the one thing in your possession that you want to get rid of?
The rotten old busted computer that's been sitting on my desk for a year or more.

5. What item do you have the most of in your possession?
Either paperback novels, comic books, or trading cards. I haven't counted lately.

I tag anyone reading this.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Oh, hey.

When Fangirls Attack linked to me again. Twice!

That's pretty neat.

Thanks!!

Also: Blogger has flagged Pott Manor as a possible spam blog and now I have to type in a word verification just to post on my own journal. Thanks a lot, tech support. I AM NOT A SPAMBOT!!! Now if you'll just listen to this great offer for generic Viagra I have for you...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"When everyone is super, no one will be."

I've just read a convincing argument that The Incredibles is conservative claptrap.

I mean... I love the movie, it was funny, it had great characters, great action, but the basic message here is that some people are just born better and that anyone else trying to be as good as them is wrong; and that in trying to level the playing field and give everyone a sporting chance (affirmative action, feminism, prepackaged super-powers), we're preventing special people from living up to their potential and enforcing mediocrity on everyone. "They keep on finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity." "When everyone is super, no one will be."

Now, the film was set in the early 1960s, when people were deathly afraid of communism turning everyone into identical drones and that the liberals were in cahoots. And of course the creators of the film have every right to express their beliefs however they see fit. But it's just... jarring to come to that realization.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Meme Time!

I've been tagged for a meme once again by the good Ami Angelwings, so here it is: 8 facts about yours truly.

Here are the rules:
- Each player starts with eight random facts about themselves.
- Those who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight facts and post these rules.
- At the end of the post, choose some people to get tagged and list their names.


1) My favorite super-hero is Mister Terrific (Michael Holt). The rest of my top five, in no particular order, is Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Power Girl, the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), and Booster Gold. I am prone to changing my mind frequently, however.

2) The only U.S. states I've spent a significant length of time in are Massachusetts (my home), Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and Florida, plus the Canadian province of Quebec.

3) On the same tack, the farthest north I have traveled is Montreal and the farthest south is Lake Buena Vista, but I've never gone father east than Boston (I've lived in the Bay State all my life but I've never been to Cape Cod or Nantucket) or father west than Albany.

4) I have a dog (rottweiler/akita mix... he's an Axis dog!) and I love him, but I'm really more of a cat person.

5) In 7th grade I came in 4th place in a city-wide Scrabble tournament.

6) I used to be in the Boy Scouts of America. It was a mostly traumatic experience, since most of the guys I shared a troop with were obnoxious pricks and the two troop leaders I had were both scary burned-out Vietnam veterans, and I still hold a grudge against them because of their policy against gays and atheists. I am, however, very proud that my entry into the pine box derby won best of show.

7) I enjoy writing fiction, but I'm not particularly good at it. Most of what I've written is just mediocre D&D fanfiction (set in my own setting and using my own characters, but still using the game's familiar races, creatures, and character types), and to date I've completed only one single short story, seven years ago.

8) I'm fiercely proud to be from Massachusetts, despite the ridiculously high taxes, the messed-up health care/insurance system, the absurdly high level of crime in my city (Springfield), the fact that we'd have a horrible Republican governor for as long as I can remember (until we elected Deval last year, anyway, who is a Democrat and a good guy, but geezus, Mitt Romney can kiss my -- ahem), the corrupt politics, the whole Big Dig fiasco, the walking embarrassment that is John Kerry... well okay, Massachusetts sucks, but I love it anyway dammit.

And I tag... well dernitall, DJ Black Adam has already been tagged, so I don't have anyone to choose. Meh. Anyone reading this who hasn't already done it: Consider yourself tagged.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Moral Panic and Popular Culture

This is actually a research paper I wrote earlier this year; now that it's behind me, I felt like sharing it. It could use a lot of work, I'm sure, but as the closest thing I'll probably ever get to a scholarly dissertation, I don't think it came out too badly. I've removed the citations for ease of reading.

Moral Panic and Popular Culture

On April 20, 1999, two teenage boys named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold came to Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado and gunned down their classmates, murdering twelve students and one teacher and leaving twenty-four wounded. When it was learned that they had planned their attack ahead of time using a popular violent video game as a simulator, the American mass media launched into a feeding frenzy, blaming this game and others like it for the boys' murderous rampage.

Between 1988 and 1989, an introverted print-shop employee, Tsutomu Miyazaki, kidnapped, killed, and performed acts of necrophilia on four girls of preschool age before being apprehended by Tokyo police. When the authorities searched his apartment, they found it filled with nearly six thousand videos, including gory "slasher" films and animated child pornography, as well as many comics of a similar nature. The Japanese media leapt upon the incident, and many soon believed that all otaku – fans of comics and animation – were just as deranged as Miyazaki.

In 1950, a fourteen-year-old boy named Willie was tried and sentenced for the murder of a man whom he supposedly shot from the roof of his building. An avid fan of violent comics about gangsters, Willie had seen many ads in his comics for hunting rifles, and eventually obtained one for himself. Though the case received little nationwide attention, to a child psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham, who had known Willie since infancy, it was symptomatic of a mass breakdown of societal morality caused by trashy comic books.

These are but a few examples of moral panic, that tendency of people to believe en masse that something poses a greater threat to society at large than it actually does. The term was popularized in 1971 by sociologist Jock Young in his studies on drug culture. For the purposes of this paper, we shall focus on the phenomenon in relation to popular commercial culture. We shall see in the end that moral panic directed against popular culture is not justified at all.

At least as far back as the 1790s in Great Britain, growing industrialization and urbanization, mass publication, and the creation of mass transit led to the birth of a nationwide commercial culture, in contrast to the communal pastimes that had previously provided entertainment. Even then there were those who railed against "the poison continually flowing thro' [sic] the channel of vulgar and licentious publications.” By the 1830s, British legislators were speaking out against penny gaffs, inexpensive plays with bawdy or sensationalist content, which were supposedly corrupting "the children of the lower classes" and leading them to crime. Thus, we see that moral panic is nothing new.

A classic example of moral panic was the crusade of Doctor Frederic R. Wertham against American comic books in the 1950s. Comic books were wildly popular in the 1940s and 1950s, having enjoyed widespread popularity among United States soldiers during the Second World War thanks to their colorful heroes fighting against the Axis powers. After the war, comics about masked mystery men fell out of popularity, to be replaced by comics about gangsters and supernatural horror – Tales from the Crypt, still popular today, got its start in this era, then published by EC Comics. A 1950 survey showed that 41 percent of American adult males and 28 percent of adult women regularly read comics; another survey in the same year revealed that 54 percent of comics readers were twenty years of age or older. Comics were even more popular among young people, however: 95 percent of boys and 91 percent of girls between the ages of six and eleven read comics, as did 80 percent of all teenagers.

During the war, the likes of Superman and Captain America had drawn criticism from parents for their might-makes-right message. Intellectuals viewed comics as a drug for children and the mentally deficient, keeping them occupied with colorful characters and black-and-white conflicts settled through brute force. This concern turned to outright panic with the ascendancy of horror and crime comics, which regularly portrayed cold-blooded murder, wanton sex, and supernatural elements such as occultism, vampirism, and walking corpses. Despite being sold to children, however, these stories were written with adults in mind. "We were writing for ourselves at our age level," recalled EC Comics editor and artist Al Feldstein in 1972.

Doctor Fredric Wertham abhorred all this. A German-born New York psychiatrist, Doctor Wertham believed that there was a direct link between comics and juvenile crime. A resident psychiatrist at the free Lafargue Clinic in Harlem, Wertham cared greatly for the mental health of children and was an ardent supporter of civil rights for people of color. Wertham drew many disturbing conclusions from his studies on comics and published them in his 1953 book, Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham was convinced that violent imagery led children to perform violent acts. For instance, one ten-year-old child he interviewed said:

"Once I saw in a science comic where this beast comes from Mars. It showed a man’s hand over his eyes and streams of blood coming down. I play a little rough with the kids sometimes. I don’t mean to hurt them. In a game I said I would gouge a child’s eyes out. I was playing that I was walking around and I jumped out at him. I scratched his face. Then I caught him and sucked the blood out of his throat. In another game I said, 'I’ll scratch your eyes out!'"

The boy later said, “I played such games because I got them from comic books.”

Wertham picked and chose his examples, however, often citing fringe comics with low readership and exceptionally gory content as the norm; none of them were from major, mainstream publishers like DC or Fawcett. He spoke at length about comics leading children to homosexuality, displaying the prejudices of his day. He condemned Batman and Robin for promoting a gay lifestyle and Wonder Woman for partaking in un-feminine activities. He went out of his way to attack the use of onomatopoeic words as "thunk" and "blam," apparently believing that they degraded children's reading skills.

Wertham also never addressed whether his case studies were true of delinquents across the board and tended to jump to conclusions without considering all evidence. His case studies were just a random assortment of juvenile delinquents who all just happened to read comic books.

Doctor Wertham’s accusations toward the comics industry weren’t all hyperbole. For instance, he was immensely troubled by the comics’ depiction of blacks, Asians, Native Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities as sub-humans and savages. He was concerned with the hypersexualization of women in comic book stories and ads and the effect they had on girls’ self-image. Despite this, however, most of his declarations amounted to alarmist hype.

Regardless, people listened. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, already at odds with EC publisher Lev Gleason due to his leftist political leanings, turned an ear to Wertham. Despite one 1950 congressional hearing that found that crime was actually decreasing when crime comics were at their most popular, Wertham pushed on. A 1953 Senate hearing in which Wertham testified – described by a British comics authority as a show trial much like the anti-communist witch hunts of the era – ultimately fell in Wertham’s favor. In 1954, in response to veiled congressional threats of censorship, a group of major comics publishers formed the Comics Code Authority, a draconian self-censoring committee. Over 100 comics series were put out of publication due to failure to comply with CCA standards. The CCA essentially neutered the industry, reducing comics to harmless fluff for children. Comics sales would not begin to pick up until the introduction of Stan Lee’s popular characters at Marvel Comics in the early 1960s (the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, etc.), and comics written for adults would not appear again until the “underground” comics late in the same decade, and in either case the damage was done: Comics sales never rose above a fraction of what they were after the war, even to this day.

Japan in the 1980s and 1990s provides an interesting parallel to Wertham's America. Unlike America, comics in Japan (manga) never experienced significant censorship, and by the 1980s they were regarded as a mainstream medium for readers of all ages, much like television or video is in America. Toward the end of the 1980s, pornographic manga was as easily available as adult videos are in America, some of it containing elements of rorikon (from "Lolita complex") – child pornography. It was in this time and place that Tsutomu Miyazaki went on his killing spree.

The Miyazaki slayings would not be the only time the Japanese media turned the spotlight on manga. Media outcry against manga and anime (Japanese animation) repeated in 1995, due to their use as promotional tools by the doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyō. Aum's leader, Shōkō Asahara, directly lifted some of his ideology from popular science-fiction anime of the 1970s, such as Space Battleship Yamato and Future Boy Conan, and many of his converts were culled from the otaku subculture. Aum was responsible for the deaths of twelve people when they unleashed nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. The idea that a fevered mind could draw such grisly plans from cartoons shocked parents.

Some claim that violent and sexual imagery in the media is leading to societal breakdown. For instance, one commentator claimed that adults and youth alike receive "inspiration" from television featuring "casual sex and filthy language," leading them to commit acts of molestation and adultery. The same source notes that in 1996, cases of STD infection, divorce rates, and television viewing were at an all-time high in America. Yet in Wertham's America, the rate of murders per year was at an all-time low when comics, then filling the niche that television fills today, were experiencing the highest sales they would ever attain. In Japan, comic books regularly portray acts of sex and violence that make anything American television has to offer seem tame in comparison; yet two 1994-5 studies on crime revealed that Japan experiences about one-tenth as many murders and one-fortieth as many rapes as the United States. Despite the constant barrage of sexuality in popular culture, dating back as far as the erotic ukiyo-e art of the 1600s, people in Japan continue to present an air of staidness and repression. As the commentator above himself admits, "No cause-and-effect relationship can be absolutely proven."

All too often, self-appointed moral guardians use popular culture as a scapegoat, an excuse not to deal with legitimate social problems such as poor education or poverty. Sensationalism is easy: A headline that reads “Gory video game turns boy into killer” sells more papers than “Lonely boy turns against classmates.” Hip-hop music, wildly popular among French youth (the country being the second largest market for the music after the United States) was blamed by some in the media for the devastating Paris riots of 2005, ignoring France’s long history of neglect towards its ethnic minorities. The rioters’ outrage may have been reflected in hip-hop, but it was fuelled by poverty and racism.

Throughout the ages and especially in the past few centuries, popular culture has been blamed for everything from individual acts of violence to the breakdown of society at large. Looking beyond this alarmist hype, however, we see that other forces are at play: Individuals’ personal experiences, cultural influences, and society’s own failure to look after its members. Moral panic, we see, is simply not warranted at all.

References:

Chagall, David. “Television – The Phantom Reality.” The Media & Morality. Ed. Robert M. Baird, William E. Loges, Stuart E. Rosenbaum. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1999. 259-76.

Dudley, William, ed. Opposing Viewpoints: Mass Media. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2005.

McBride, James. “Hip-Hop Planet.” National Geographic. Apr. 2007: 100-19.

Perry, George, and Alan Aldridge. The Penguin Book of Comics. Norwich: Jarrold & Sons, Ltd. 1967.

Schodt, Frederik L. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkley: Stone Bridge Press. 1996.

Springhall, John. Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830-1996. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1998.

Thompson, Jack. “Violent Video Games Promote Violence.” Opposing Viewpoints: Popular Culture. Ed. John Woodward. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2005.

Wertham, Frederic. Seduction of the Innocent. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company. 1953.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hey! It's my Anniversary!

I just realized that I've had this blog for exactly one year today!

I've only attracted two readers that I'm aware of, but still... that's pretty flippin' impressive. When I got started, I was sure I was gonna fold after a month or two.

You go, Filby! Keep it up another year! Woo-hoo!

Creepiest Thing I've Seen in Years? I Think So.

From The Adventures of Mark Twain:





Actually, if this were live-action or a comic book or something, I wouldn't be half as freaked out, but since it's in a typically "kiddie" medium like claymation, it's just... *shudder*.

It actually seems like something Neil Gaiman would write. Knowing that Gaiman thinks highly of Mark Twain, that's not all that surprising.

Damn, I'm gonna have nightmares for a week.

Monday, August 13, 2007

R.I.P. Mike Wieringo

I just now learned that comics artist Mike Wieringo died yesterday from a heart attack, aged 44.

I didn't know much about him -- most of his work for DC was before I got into comics. In fact, my only connection to the man was that I was subscribed to his DeviantART gallery. But I know he was a damn fine artist and, more importantly, a really decent person in an industry filled with schmucks. Comics need more guys like him.

Damn. I'll miss him.

So long, Ringo.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Willis Gets it Right

It's good to know you can always count on David Willis to cut right to the heart of the matter.

"You can't empower females! That's political correctness! And we all know that's the worst thing that could ever happen. Ever."

Monday, August 06, 2007

DC: The New Frontier Preview



I was going to post a full critique of this, but I'm really tired after going all the way from Springfield to Boston for nothing today (and getting lost on the way home) and in the throes of a post-sugar-rush meltdown, so I'll just post some brief thoughts.

First of all, DC: The New Frontier was one of my favorite graphic novels from DC. I love reading about super-heroes in historic settings (which is one reason I love the Justice Society so much), and I think it's absolutely awesome to see it brought to life in my favorite artistic medium.

For all his faults, in my humble opinion John F. Kennedy was the greatest president of the later 20th century. I really look up to him, and to hear his voice on the video is kind of an experience for me. That's got nothing to do with the movie; I'm just saying.

Every time I see Dan Didio I want to rip his smug face off. That's also got nothing to do with the movie; I'm just saying.

It seems like they've cut the Martian Manhunter from the story, which fills me with dismay. I wouldn't be surprised if they've cut the Suicide Squad, the Challengers of the Unknown, and/or John Henry as well.

But Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman is nothing short of inspired.

I love John Stewart and think he was the right Green Lantern for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, but it's really good to see Hal Jordan in the animated spotlight for once.

I love the character designs, but the animation itself looks kind of clunky. Maybe I'm just too used to hyperkinetic anime.

All in all, I am really looking forward to this.

Friday, August 03, 2007

All I will say on the subject of Marvel Zombies...

...is that it's a damn shame that no one in the Marvel Universe had a +3 disrupting undead-bane longsword on hand.

Think of all the trouble that would've saved.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fox News LOL

Christ, Fox News is such a fucking joke.



...since when is 4chan a "secret website," anyway?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Batman Anime?

I read on Newsarama that there's a "Batman anime" movie in the works.

I hate it when American cartoons are called "anime."

I'm not an anime snob. I don't think that Japanese cartoons are superior to or any more "special" than cartoons from anywhere else. In fact, I love anime and American animation equally, and I recognize the flaws of both. It's just a matter of terminology, is all. "Anime" means "an animated cartoon made in Japan," end of story. It's why we called it "Japanimation" back in the '80s and '90s. It does not refer to the art style -- which is a great deal more varied than its detractors seem to think, and which to my knowledge has no specific name (I just call it "the Japanese pop art style").

I feel the same way about so-called "original English-language manga." Much of it is very good indeed, but if it's not from Japan, it's not manga.

So, no, this movie will not be a "Batman anime." It will be "an American Batman cartoon drawn in the Japanese pop art style." (Or a close approximation, anyway. How many "Amerime" shows look like actual anime? I love me some Teen Titans, but the resemblance to actual anime is purely superficial.)

If they wanted a "Batman anime" so much, they should have gotten a Japanese animation studio to write, produce, and draw it themselves. Heck, they could've licensed Kia Asamiya's Batman: Child of Dreams (a very good read) to a Tokyo animation studio and let them do with it as they would. I'd have liked that a whole lot better, since I love seeing pop culture icons from anywhere given a distinct "spin" by a different culture; I'd like to track down some back issues of Adam Warren's Dirty Pair for that very reason, but that's off-topic.

Meh... well, there's nothing I can do about it.