Friday, March 16, 2007

Short Attention Span Theatre with Wonder Woman, Part I

Wonder Woman in the 1950s may have had Super-Strength, Super-Agility, and Super-Gizmos, but she certainly did not have Super-Memory.

It certainly is amazing Wonder Woman! But not as amazing as when you did almost exactly the same thing in the very same issue!

I can see why Wonder Woman would be impressed with holding two halves of a airplane together in the air when she had only, um, held two halves of a submarine together, both underwater AND in the air, while standing on the wing of an airplane.

(Both Images from Wonder Woman, v.1 #94).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Clintonian Lassoes, Latin Roots, and the Uncut Ubermensch (Manhunter #29, Cover Date May, 2007)


Major Heroes:
Manhunter, Wonder Woman
Minor Heroes: Batman, Dylan Battles, Cameron Chase, Mark Shaw

Major Villains: Everyman, Dr. Trapp


Wonder Woman and Kate debate using the unaltered video footage as part of her defense, but Diana refuses to do anything to sully Superman's reputation. Kate Spencer contacts Lois to see if Superman himself can change Wonder Woman's mind. Superman talks to the judge and prosecutor, but the judge tells him that the unaltered footage can only be used as evidence at trial, because the grand jury is already deliberating.

Batman informs Kate about the results of his Blue Beetle DNA tests, which show that the DNA mimicked Ted Kord's, and that "Ted" is really "Everyman". Manhunter and Everyman fight through Los Angeles, with Manhunter eventually prevailing, just as the grand jury comes back in.

In other news, Cameron Chase and her sister are suspended above a vat of molten wax by Dr. Trapp, but appear to be rescued at the last minute as Super Dylan Battles breaks into the wax museum using some sort of borrowed Supersuit. Also, Mark Shaw -- apparently the new Champion of St. Dumas -- is surprised to find himself awake in Dylan's apartment, rather than Nepal.


Let's talk for a minute about our embattled Defendant, Wonder Woman. Faced with the surprising prospect of Ted Kord returning from the dead, Diana ties him in her Lasso of Truth back in Manhunter #28. This exchange follows:

Ted: Now for the kinky part?

Diana: Ted, please.

Ted: Sorry.

Diana: Are you truly Ted Kord?

Ted: The DNA sample will prove it.

But, when the DNA samples come back, they actually prove that the creature impersonating Ted is Everyman.

So, the question is -- did the Magic Lasso fail to work, or what? The answer, seemingly, has to do with the nature of "Truth". If an insane person who believes he is Napoleon is wrapped in the Lasso of Truth and asked "Are you Napoleon", what will he say? Under one definition of "Truth" -- things are they really are in the world -- he should say "No." Under a different definition of "Truth" -- things as they are really believed by the speaker -- he should say "Yes." He is Truly stating his false belief.

It strikes me that the Lasso has to use something closer to the second definition. Even if you are not crazy, if I lie to you and tell you we are boarding a plane to Seattle, when we are really going to Detroit, you should say you are going to Seattle when wrapped in the Lasso. Or, really, you should say, in total and absolute candor -- "It is my true belief that we are going to Seattle, but I am not the pilot so have no external validation of that fact." Does the Lasso make you just speak "Truth", or does it make you speak "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth." I would think it was something like the latter, but then the "Whole Truth" would require so many caveats ("assuming my memory was not a dream induced hallucination, and assuming I am not currently under the control of Brainiac. . .") that you'd never get a solid answer.

In the actual case, Ted/Beetle/Everyman's statement is "The DNA sample will prove it." This is a statement about the future. Can a statement about the future ever be "True" of "False" at the time. I can certainly believe that Everyman has a "True Belief" that the DNA sample will prove that he is Ted Kord, even though he also knows that the DNA proof will actually be wrong. In reality, Batman is smart enough to do a more thorough test than Everyman expects, but a statement must be True or False at the moment it is spoken -- it can't be given retroactive falsity. The fault here lies primarily on Diana, who I don't think has thought enough about what Truth "Is" to ask the right questions, or to realize the problems of determining the truth of future tense sentences.

Another possibility, though, is that Everyman in fact DID speak the whole truth. This has to do with a "Clintonian" definition of what the word "Prove" mean. "Prove" derives from the Latin root "Probare" meaning to try, test -- or taste! Everyman, we know, gains the ability to mimic any other life form by "tasting it." So, when he says that the DNA sample will prove it, he may have been saying not that the DNA sample will prove he was Ted Kord, but that the sample would EAT the Ted sample.


Second point: I guess, if you stopped to think about it long enough, of COURSE Superman isn't circumcised. I mean, only a Kryptonian Mohel would be strong enough to do the job, and even if you had one, it would probably just grow back anyway. Still, the point was that I HADN'T thought about whether or not Superman was circumcised until I saw this picture, which removed all doubt.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Trinity at the Big Top (Action Comics #7, Cover Date December 1938)


Major Hero:
Minor Heroes:
Lois Lane, Mr. Jordan

Major Villain:
Derek Niles
Minor Villains:
Trigger, Curly


After co-worker Curly relentlessly teases Clark by pulling his tie out of his jacket, Clark is assigned to interview the owner of the Jordan circus. He overhears Derek Niles fighting with Mr. Jordan, and threatening that he will take the circus away if he is not made a partner. Clark prepares a puff piece on the circus, complete with Mr. Jordan's exaggerations in hopes of a large crowd, but ticket sales remain terrible.

To save the circus, Superman joins the team as the new strong man. With Superman in the ads, tickets sell more briskly, drawing an angry Derek Niles and eager Lois. With the surprise turn of fortune, Niles and his assistant Trigger sabotage the circus by setting free the lion, cutting the trapeze bar, and weakening a support pole, kidnapping a snooping Lois along the way. Superman saves the crowd and all relevant carneys from disaster, and then rescues Lois from Derek Niles.

In a final joke, Clark rips all of the clothes off of Curly.


Shazam, Monster Society of Evil #2 reminded me of my intermittent Golden Age musings, and how there was a time when a character couldn't get his own title for a year before he was sent off to do as issue in the circus. You never saw Green Lantern at the flower show, or the Flash at the rodeo, but you couldn't put together enough floppies for a trade before your favorite superhero ended up in the Greatest Show on Earth. Witness:

1938: Clark Kent is sent by his editor to cover the breaking news that the circus is in town. (Action #7)

1940: Socialite Bruce Wayne is attending the circus when the Flying Graysons are tragically killed. (Detective #38)

1942: Diana Prince learns that the circus is in town to perform a fundraiser to support the war effort. (Wonder Woman #1)

In all three, there is an attempt to sabotage the circus. Superman and Batman must fight thugs who want to sabotage the circus for financial gain. By 1942, the Japanese are sabotaging the circus fundraiser in one of a number of increasingly far-fetched and non-cost-effective schemes to damage the Allied war effort. (The circus scheme is actually only second-most-ridiculous, ranking after Sensation #7's scheme wherein Germany would win the war by cornering the market on milk, raising prices, and thereby weakening America's youth through milk deprivation.)

But enough about that. Wonder Woman was at least tangentially supporting the war effort, and Batman did get a partner out of the deal, but what the heck was Superman doing in the circus? I mean, this is the guy who was stopping wars in Action #2, and fighting for the prolateriat in Action #3. And even just last month he was fighting the evil forces of commercialism in Action #6 by keeping his name from being associated with every fly-by-night business that blows through town like . . . well, like the circus.

Why is the guy who was disgusted by the thought of Superman gasoline and Superman radio shows suddenly willing to attach his good name to a random traveling circus? Um . . .

Clark Kent: This show is good -- but it lacks "Flash." -- And that's where Superman takes a hand!

That's it. The guy who didn't want him name attached to an automobile is now happy to trick people into spending money in the middle of the depression to watch clowns run around in bright clothes.

And furthermore, had Superman not acted, the Jordan Circus would have gone out of business as a boring circus, and the assets turned over to Derek Niles. Instead, Superman "saves" the circus, instigates Niles, saves the circus from Niles, and then assumedly ditches them when they leave town, where they will proceed -- unflashily -- to the next town.

I think there must have been a change of meme sometime between 1942 and now. When I think "Circus", I think P.T. Barnum and "There's a sucker born every minute." Back then, the immediate impression must have been something much more pure and innocent. Otherwise, we might expect Clark to next put his name to "Superman Subprime Mortgage Lending" or "Superman Payday Loans."

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

With Great Shirts, Come Great Responsibility

So, the question was posed to me today, what are the moral obligations of a normal man walking around the DMV is a "Superman" outfit. I mean, the shirt could mean "I really like Superman," or it could also mean, "I support and will try to withhold the moral world outlook that Superman represents."

If anyone has seen the movie "Trekkies," there is an interview with a woman who was on the jury of a high-press-coverage case (the Clinton Whitewater trial?) and wore her Starfleet Uniform to the jury every day. She explained that she subscribes to the world view of the Star Trek universe, and wearing her uniform is a constant reminder of the ideals she wants to uphold.

Anyway, the question was posed in the context of this news report of an event that happened in Florida where a woman plows into the DMV on the way to her driving test. Gory footage is included (if you're in to that), but more importantly from my perspective is this paragraph from the article:

The camera shows people rushing up to the woman, Therese Smith of Boca Raton, Fla., who was still buckled in with her seat belt. Inexplicably, a man in a Superman costume could be seen walking around the car, but he did not stop to help the driver or any of the victims.

And, sure enough, if you can tear your eyes away from the car crash for a second, there is clearly a man in a Superman t-shirt milling about. So, is it inexplicable that a man would be wearing a Superman shirt? That's unlikely. Or is it inexplicable that a man wearing a Superman shirt would not immediately leap into the fray to rescue the 80 year old driver or the injured bystanders in the five second after the crash?

What do you think? If you are wearing an outfit that references your favorite Superhero, will you feel a greater moral obligation to fight crime and rescue innocent bystanders?