Friday, May 30, 2008

Final Crisis #1 (SPOILERS)

I got it yesterday... and I have a few questions.

Why is everyone talking about the New Gods like they're these mythical beings that no one's ever seen before? Most of the Justice League are personal friends with Orion, Scott, and Barda.

Why is "the First Boy" a pasty white kid? Shouldn't the first Homo sapiens be African? Continuity, I know, but Anthro is a product of a less enlightened time...

Is that black-haired caveman supposed to be Vandar Adg, aka Vandal Savage?

Why is John Stewart acting like he has a secret identity? His ID is public knowledge.

Why are the Guardians shutting off Earth to investigate the deicide only now? Lightray died on Earth over a year ago. Did they just not get the memo?

Why is Empress white?

Empress, Sparx, and Mas y Menos are only beat up, right? Not killed? There's nothing to indicate they're dead so I'll assume not.

Why did J'onn have to die like such a chump? I don't mind characters getting killed off, but it does upset me when they go out so easily. Of course, this could easily be a feint and he's not really dead.

And most importantly... why does Darkseid look like Al Roker?

All in all, it doesn't look like it's going to be a bad story, but the characterization and continuity is way off. I'm afraid the whole thing is just going to be one big cerebral wank on Morrison's part, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Unfortunately, it just hasn't grabbed me with the first issue like Infinite Crisis #1 did.

I will say that the art by J. G. Jones is beautiful, though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Caramelldansen

Okay, I know this fad has run its course, but I stumbled upon it late and haven't yet gotten tired of it, and dammit it's my blog my rules so whatever.


Three different versions of the "Caramelldansen" video, all pretty well-done and elaborate:

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya:

The animation is kinda clunky, but I like how it follows the plot of the series.

Lupin the Third:

I have to give this one the highest mark on craftsmanship, not least because it's better-drawn than the cartoon it's based on!

And my favorite... Mobile Police Patlabor:

Dammit, I wish I had a scanner and the right software 'cause I really wanna create a DC Universe Caramelldansen video now...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vicious Cycles

Superman is a dick. This is an established fact.

It's also a fact that Superman -- or Superboy, I should say -- was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, that group of superpowered teenagers from the 30th century who were inspired by his legacy.

They were even bigger dicks than he was.


But what we have here is a paradox. The Legion were such dicks because of Superman's influence... but Superman was a dick because he hung out with the Legion!

It's a temporal loop of dickery!

From the brilliant mind of Jack T. Chick...


Hm, lemme see. We've got a filthy Muslim, a vile Satanist punk, a dirty Chinese commie, a disgusting pagan witch, a depraved... atheist schoolteacher? And a murderous... is that a paleontologist?

'Cause we all know those dirty evil-lutionist bone-diggers exist for nothing but to hate Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Regarding "The Shadow over Innsmouth"

When you really get down to it, H. P. Lovecraft's entire body of work can be traced back to three things:

1) His fear of foreigners.

2) His fear of sex.

3) His fear of seafood.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You Know...

I just now realized, two weeks after it went out of business, the irony of shopping at a comic book store with an obese owner... in Springfield.


Worst. Joke. Ever.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Wow, my last post got linked to by a couple of blogs with larger readerships than mine (read: greater than 4) and attracted a heck of a lot of responses. I'm not used to that! I mean, I get that I have to expect that when I publish my own writing on a public blog, but man, it's overwhelming! I don't know how Ami or the DJ deal with it. Especially when the attention I attract is negative (correct, but negative), that's just not something I'm prepared for. Well, at least no one's called me names or threatened violence... yet.


Well, I just wanted to get that out there.

Watch this video.

"Maybe I'm just imagining things, but you look like you're enjoying yourself."


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Japanese Heroes with Grant Morrison

Right. I've just finished looking at some pages from the Final Crisis Sketchbook by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones that had been posted at scans_daily concerning a number of Japanese superheroes Morrison dreamed up for his upcoming crossover. I'm a sucker for intersections between Japanese and American pop culture due to my abiding interest in both, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject.

You'll want to look at the pages yourself right here before going on first for sake of reference. I've quoted the text of the pages below, interspersed with my own commentary.

Let's begin, shall we?

Japan has embraced every aspect of the superhero culture, chewed it up, spliced it together and incorporated the result into its own hyper-accelerated pop media landscape.

A hero is a role to play, a franchise, a pop star whose cult status might last for a week on the streets of Shibuya before a drastic change of fashion. Anyone can fill the role of hero as long as they're cute enough. Real heroes go unnoticed in favor of gorgeous wannabes. Teams come and go in the blink of an eye, like in Image comics stores. Western motifs are chopped up, collided and spliced with manga fetish wear, Sailor Moon meets Batman, Mecha-Wonder-Woman, Lolita Undertaker Zatanna girls.

I have to say this is setting off warning bells. While that kind of superficiality is pervasive in modern Japanese culture, I have qualms about using it as Japan's defining trait in this story. Of course, it may play out differently, but I'm still concerned.

Before we meet some of these characters who will play a part in our story, let's see the milieu out of which they grew and take a look at the original Japanese superhero team...

These guys were Japan's JLA back in the day, with a ring or halo-shaped base hovering above Mount Fuji -- and let's be vague about when that day was -- and these heroes reflect many different Japanese "super-hero" types with an appropriately "retro" design. The aim with design is to make us feel that we've known these characters all our lives, somehow.

Ultraman type Giant Monster killer/young Japanese man indoctrinated into the Ultimon -- a secret society of Ultimate Monster Killers -- the last survivors of the Monster Wars which devastated old Japan. The Ultimon are super-samurai with technology and weapons we can barely imagine.

Okay, so Japan's greatest superhero is a pastiche of Ultraman. I can go for that.

Together in the ruins of Tokyo, young Dai Yokohama and his master fought the three COLONIZERS (all the monsters we see him fight look like "real" versions of POKEMON creatures, as if nature had actually created Pokemon horrors to run around causing real devastation):

SCARRBA the PROTECTOR leads the charge -- a multi-headed Hydra thing spitting a different death ray from each head. Eyes of one head fire lasers. Mouth of another shoots fire. Horns on the third launch electrical bolts, etc.

Right out the gate we have a King Ghidorah homage. I've gotta give him points for that.

KRY-TORR the BURROWER digs up the streets, and the rubble of fallen buildings flies from his hellish, centipedal multi-legs.

I'm getting a Baragon-meets-Onix vibe here: Equal parts Pokemon and kaiju.

LORLOXX the LAYER squats and releases fuming glass eggs from rows of pipes in its sides, all filled with squirming monstrosities.

The most clearly Pokemon-themed monster from what I can tell, though it still has Morrison's name writ large all over.

Then his master died. The last of the Ultimon fell before teaching his young apprentice his final secrets. But at that moment all his master's power flowed into the boy. Yokohama killed Scarrba.

Then the others rose against him and, in an incredible baptism of fire, he defeated them too. Then, through the apocalyptic smoke and ruin, came an army of monsters -- seizing their moment, seeking revenge for their defeat in the Monster Wars.

As the new Ultimon prepared to die in performance of his duty, in defense of Tokyo, the sun rose... and out of the sun came Japan's defenders to his aid. Never before had they teamed together, but that day demanded a miracle.

Cosmo Racer, Hammersuit Zero-X, Goraiko, Sunfire and Rising Sun.

Together, they hurled the Monster Army back into the Outer Darkness, together they built a new Tokyo and set their incredible watch station in place, like a halo above the haze where Mount Fuji rises.

BIG SCIENCE ACTION was born, and the classic lineup soon emerged...

I have to say, of all the characters previewed here, Ultimon is my favorite, simply because he has the best-detailed backstory. He feels the most genuine. I think that he alone would be capable of sustaining his own solo series, and I would buy it.

The name "Big Science Action" is a little too weird for my tastes, though. It gets worse for the other team, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Cosmo Racer
This living robot kid from space is a cross between Silver Surfer and Pinocchio -- partly amnesiac, he is trying to get home to his beloved maker somewhere far in space but has wound up on Earth unable to find the crystals he needs to power up his roller boots for interstellar trave. He can still race along on his blades at speeds up to that of sound.

What only we know is that his "Maker" is a monstrous space tyrant who has sent his little herald out to identify and pacify target planets.

Cosmo Racer's a gritty little "grrrr" guy who never lets you down and ALWAYS finds a way...

Another interesting character, even though his backstory and appearance are explicitly Silver Surfer-meets-Astro Boy, with a touch of Megaman.

I wonder why he has the same insignia on his chest as Kimiyo Hoshi AKA Doctor Light from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Justice League International.

Boss Bosozuko
Boss Bosozuko is a young, hotheaded, nuclear Human Torch. He has a cool-as-hel nuclear-powered future motorcycle with radioactive galactic spiral wheels. He's passionate, angry, tender, emotional, always yelling and acting out, always emoting, like the boys in AKIRA.

Again, his origin is made explicit: Akira. He seems less "serious" than Tetsuo or Kaneda, though, and reminds me of Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and a host of other older shounen heroes.

Hammersuit Zero-X
Gundam meets Gigantor with huge steam-hammer hands -- spunky young girl scientist schoolgirl has created this giant robot suit to run around and right wrongs in.

The design looks closer to something from Neon Genesis Evangelion to me: Gundam machines look more like blocky military hardware. Again, I think it's a tad too Morrisonistic.

Junior Waveman
Junior Waveman is just that, the youngest member of the Wavemen -- a group of rough, tough men and women who live a self-sufficient life in international waters -- 4 guys, 4 women and the teenaged super-genuis daughter of the Wavemen's leader, Senior Waveman Otomo.

Spoiled young Riki Kimura was swept from the deck of his incredibly rich parents' yacht when a terrifying sea creature (one of the Monster Army repelled by Big Science Action on their maiden mission) descended upon them.

The Wavemen arrived to fight off the beast, but Riki's parents were dead. To make things worse, Senior Waveman Otomo also died in the battle against the monster but not before saving the boy's life. The Wavemen took the sickly, ungrateful boy into their care where he learned to grow strong an appreciate life.

Very strong sentai vibe here. I'm admittedly not that familiar with the genre beyond a couple episodes of Power Rangers, but Morrison seems to have hit most of its common tropes: Team of brave men and women, probably multinational (but with a Japanese leader, naturally), standardized costumes/powers, fighting monsters, etc.

He also reminds me superficially of Sosuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!, but only a little.

And now for the other guys.

This group of flamboyant new teenaged heroes derives from Japan's willingness to co-opt and mash together Western music and fashions to create bizarre pop hybrids. Here they've used the same cultural mix-and-match approach to generate a team of colorful youngsters in day-glo outfits.

Warning bells again.

For those of you without the frankly rather pathetic ability to remember such tiny details (*hangs head in shame*), the Super Young Team were first mentioned off-hand two years ago in 52 #6, where a couple members of the Great Ten (that Chinese superteam that Morrison also created) refer to them as "flamboyant fools" or some such, though no details were given.

Most Excellent Superbat
Self-styled leader of the team -- a vivid and garish combination of Superman and Batman motifs. He's the superhero as dandy, as fashion cult, as psychedelic Couture icon. Everything about superhero costuming refined into pure style as worn for the catwalk. Polished, sleek and shiny, super-colorful. Cheekbones like Johnny Depp.

He has his own TV show and legions of fans who swoon over his every inane utterance.

I hate this guy already.

From what I understand, according to an interview at Newsarama, Most Excellent Superbat was created when the writing team from 52 got drunk and started calling out random ideas or something. I don't remember if it was Morrison or Geoff Johns who blurted out the fateful name "Most Excellent Superbat" (probably Morrison), but the fact that he's the result of a drunken stupor shows.

I'm immediately reminded of that scene from the Bill Murray film Lost in Translation where Murray's character winds up on a show with a totally inane guy (who really exists) who pretty much summed up every stereotype about how disgustingly superficial Japanese television is, and the Superbat seems to be that man in a superhero costume.

The thing that bothers me most about him is that he's just a wacky Japanese Superman/Batman wannabe without the others' pedigree in an existing genre.

And if you think his name is bad, just you wait...

Big Atomic Lantern Boy
A big guy wearing a steel vest with a round porthole in the chest -- behind the porthole we see an eerie X-ray image of his ribs and lungs. He fires destructive blue beams from the plate window in his chest. The whole contraption is bright green.

He's a big, shrug and "so what?" kind of guy. Fatalistic. He's the guy who drops deadpan, acid one-liners at perfectly inappropriate moments. He's Superbat's faithful right-hand man.

Another character that screams "Grant Morrison made this!" just a little too loudly. At least he has a personality, though.

Bad names? The worst is yet to come...

Shy Crazy Lolita Canary
A tiny winged girl in a manga schoolgirl outfit. She's the size of a canary and has a shatteringly loud voice, which sounds like many, many voices all mashed together. It's the sound of the shopgirls in every Tokyo store screaming SUMMMIMMMMMASSENNNNN!!! as loud as they can, at the highest pitch possible and en masse. A totally air-headed teenaged girl with a good heart.

What. The. Fuck?

Okay, first of all, she seems to be the token magical girl, though she comes across as more of a shounen/seinen fetish character like Lum or Belldandy than a shoujo audience surrogate like Sailor Moon.

Secondly, the "sumimasen" ("sorry!" or "excuse me!") seems to be a dig at the dojikko/clumsy girl moe archetype that a lot of anime fans seem to dig, but which does not appeal to me whatsoever.

The loose socks are a nice touch, though.

Shiny Happy Aquazon
Giggly, shy, annnoyingly cute but fiercely brave denizen of the deep. She's the amphibious, defiant offspring of Junior Waveman Kimura and uses special underwater machines to fight alongside her teammates. She's not very good at what she does, but everyone likes her and nobody wants to say anything.

She seems to be the embodiment of the sexy and physically powerful but emotionally juvenile character type -- I'm reminded of a more infantile version of Youko Ritona from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or Shana from Shakugan no Shana. I think that this was another subtle dig on Morrison's part but she doesn't come off as an appealing character.

Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash
Basically, Sonic the Hedgehog meets Impulse. A precocious speedster kid with a huge round helmet and giant running shoes who can reach speeds up to 500 mph. He knows he'll wind up a salaryman in a few years, so he intends to have the time of his life while he still can.

Another character whose origins are clear: He's a video game character come to life, with a bit of the young shounen protagonist thrown in for measure. He's probably the Super Young Team member who least offends my sensibilities, though his name is the pits.


And that's it. I have to say that I seriously hate the Super Young team, mainly because they're blatant knockoffs of the Justice League. I get that that's the reaction Morrison is trying to evoke, but I think he could have done so with more original characters.

And what are up with their names? The Superbat and Lantern Boy are bad enough, but "Shy Crazy Lolita Canary?" "Shiny Happy Aquazon?" "Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash?" I'm reminded of that other Asian team Morrison created, with names like "Accomplished Perfect Physician" and "Socialist Red Guardsman." Grant Morrison seems to think that the best way to make a character seem "Asian" is to give them a stupid idiosyncratic name.

On the other hand, I rather like Big Science Action, name notwithstanding. These guys come off as actual heroes, not media diva poseurs. They appropriate Japanese culture in weird and stereotypical ways, yet they still manage to feel strangely genuine. I'd like to see more of them.

All told, I think the thing that bothers me most is the casual racism involved in, as I mentioned, defining the whole culture by one trait: Superficiality. I'm one of the people who's still offended by Mother of Champions, and while these guys aren't half as offensive as some of the Great Ten or Egg Fu, I still feel like Morrison hasn't learned his lesson. He's from an overwhelmingly Caucasian country, I realize, so he probably has a rather one-sided view of race and ethnicity (see also anything Mark Millar has written at Marvel), but you'd hope somewhere along the line an editor would look at it and say "Chotto matte, kudasai..." I appreciate that Morrison is willing to go to great lengths for "The Concept," but when he sacrifices taste to do so, I have to shake my head and groan...

Of course, this all comes with an important proviso: Wait and see. There's a big possibility that these characters will only appear in a handful of shots and/or get killed shortly after they appear (a sad reality of modern comics), so all this hand-wringing on my part may be unnecessary.

And that's all I have to say for now. Ja, mata ne!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Caramelldansen feat. Super Smash Bros.

I seriously can't get enough of this video, just 'cause I'm a huge Super Smash Bros. dork. It's so joyous!

For those curious, the song is "Caramelldansen," by the Swedish band Caramell. The original non-remixed version is here. It's just a fun, nonconsequential dance anthem in the style of "The Locomotion."

I love how Ganon's all, "Screw you guys, I got my own beat!"

And Mister Game & Watch is just kinda freakin' out there.

Oh, and nice hips, Luigi. ;P

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board

This is something that's been bothering me for some time.

It just bugs me when time-travel stories feature alternate timelines where things are present that just shouldn't be given the scope of changes that have been made. Specifically, people who were born after a history-altering event occurs should not be born. The larger the scale of the event, the less likely people born after it are to come into existence.

Say you go back in time and save Archduke Franz Ferdinand from assassination, trying to stop WWI from happening, and by extension Hitler and WWII. Now, events to which history was already rolling may still happen: Ferdinand's death was the spark that lit the European powder keg, but without the event, there'd still be a lot of very tense Europeans waiting for an excuse to go to war. It wouldn't go down exactly as it did in our timeline, and it may have different results, but it would probably happen in some form. (Plus our hypothetical time traveler should just know better that you can change anything in history except Hitler, but I digress :P)

However (and I'm quoting myself from a TV Tropes Wiki article), such an event (or lack of event) would disrupt the actions of pretty much everyone in the world as they reacted to it (or failed to react to it); after that point, practically no couple would have intercourse at the exact same moment they did in "our" timeline, so different eggs would be fertilized with different spermatozoa, leading to a completely different global population after the then-current generation is gone. There'd still be a Hitler, a Churchill, a Roosevelt, a Stalin, and so on, who would live very different lives... but there'd be no Bush, no Blair, no Kim Jong-Il (hmm, I'm liking this new timeline already...), and no hypothetical time traveler.

The most famous example I can think of is Back to the Future. The change to history is relatively small, but it still had a huge impact on George and Lorraine McFly's lives. There's no way they'd have sex at the exact same moment they did in the unchanged timeline, so neither Marty nor his siblings would be born. Instead, the McFlys would have a completely different set of offspring. They might name one Marty, but he'd have different genes from "our" Marty and a different upbringing.

So really, what should have happened for Marty is this: Marty goes back to the future, where there's a different Marty McFly (played by Eric Stoltz) and no one recognizes him, unless they happen to remember "Calvin Klein" from that one week 30 years ago. Doc Brown will have known of the alternate Marty and realized that he's not the same Marty he met in 1955, so he'll just keep waiting for "our" Marty to arrive in 1985. (He'd also probably also avoid stealing plutonium from those Libyan terrorists altogether, and the design for his time machine may be dramatically different.)

At this point, the only thing Marty can do while hoping for anything close to the original timeline he wants is to go back to 1955 again, catch himself before he interacts with anyone or anything (hopefully not causing the universe to implode in the process), and with his doppelganger go back ahead to 1985 to save Doc before he's gunned down. Unfortunately for him, stopping his past self from going back in time will erase both him and the Marty he intercepted from existence (oh, and his dad's still a loser and the happy and successful Stoltz-Marty from the new timeline is wiped, too), but at least Doc ain't dead.

All this hassle could be avoided if the DeLorean had some means of "jumping tracks" between different timelines so he gets back to "his" 1985 without a hitch (and the flux capacitor can't do that... yet), but that means Doc dies all the same.

There are probably a whole slew of paradoxes that I'm not even considering here, but that's why you shouldn't ponder time travel so early in the morning.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Biff Bam Bust

Well, my friendly local comics shop, Biff Bam Boom, went out of business.

That's very disheartening.

I was really happy today 'cause I was done with finals and I just finished my last day of school, but when I got to the store all the shelves were empty. The owner, Tony, was at the register, presumably to break the bad news to his customers. He told me what was up. We quietly exchanged words and expressed regret over the turn of events. I thanked him for providing such an awesome service for so long, and he thanked me for my patronage. I wished him a good life. We went our separate ways.

I'm feeling pretty emotional about this for some reason.

Tony also told me that the only other comics shop in town had gone out of business three months ago. The nearest place now is in another state.

So now I have three options if I want to keep up my comics habit. I can get someone to drive me to Enfield, Connecticut week after week, which I really don't want to bother with because of the distance and travel time, not to mention the high price o' petrol. I can buy individual issues online, which will be more expensive because of shipping and handling. Or I can wait until the series I follow come out in trade paperback collections, which is less expensive but entails a delay of up to six months after the last issue comes out.

So, yeah. I'm kinda screwed.


So long, Tony. So long, Biff Bam Boom. Thanks for all the comics. Thanks for all the memories.

Symphony in the Key of M

I have to warn you. This may potentially be the most awesome thing you see today. So if you have plans to do or see anything particularly awesome in the next 24 hours, I humbly recommend you put off watching this until after you're done with that just so it doesn't make your planned activities seem less awesome by comparison. I wouldn't want to ruin your day.

Incidentally, my favorite part is the bit with the theme from Air.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Comic Complaints

Gail Simone leaves All-New Atom and gets replaced by some guy no one's heard of. It gets canceled.

John Rogers leaves Blue Beetle and gets replaced by the guy responsible for the pile of excrement that is Amazons Attack. Fans fear it may get canceled.

Greg Rucka leaves Checkmate and gets replaced by Bruce Jones. I wish it had been canceled instead of suffering the indignity.

Well, at least Green Lantern and Justice Society of America are still in good hands...

A Shameful Confession

This is kind of hard for me to say, because it could wreak havoc on my reputation as a blogger... but then I realized that I don't have a reputation as a blogger (which is exactly how I want to keep it), so what the hell.

I was surprised to learn that TV Tropes Wiki had such an extensive page on My Little Pony, and even more surprised that I actually remembered pretty much everything on it.

Yes, that's right. I watched and liked My Little Pony when I was a kid.

I'm not proud of it.

I think it came from being a fantasy-obsessed young boy with two little sisters. My Little Pony was pretty much the only thing on the Disney Channel that could sate my addiction in between episodes of Gummi Bears (this was before Aladdin hit the airwaves), and since my sisters were into it, it sorta just rubbed off.

Christ, I even remember liking the all-different "Ponies 90210" series that came later.

I have to say, that giant singing purple ooze from the movie freaked me out. I also remember Danny DeVito had a role in it as some kind of troll thing.

I also remember the creepy Michael Jackson pony mentioned in the article. :P

Side note: I find it interesting that I feel a sense of embarrassment talking about this, because a woman who admits to enjoying Transformers as a child probably wouldn't to the same degree. I could insert a rant about gender-typing here, but I don't have the energy.

Anyway... yeah. Just a strange little look into one blogger's past. Try not to think any less of me for it, huh?

(And for the record I did not play with the dolls. Even I have standards. :P)