Friday, June 13, 2008

NOT a Top 10 Obscure SF Book

So, I was looking through the nominations for "Top 10 Oscure F/SF Book," and I couldn't help but think about a book that would make my own list, even though I really can't remember much about it.

I was a young teen, and saw a book that was based on a video game that I had once played at a friend's house (we only had an old Atari 2600 -- not something that could play more advanced games.) The book was called "Planetfall," and the cover said, "In the Bestselling Tradition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Well, I had enjoyed Hitchhiker, and I would certainly be interested in another book in that "Bestselling Tradition"! (Yes, I know that the phrase 'bestselling tradition' makes no sense, but it actually helped sell the book to young-teen me, so I guess it doesn't matter that it didn't make any sense.)

Anyway, the character in the video game (and in the book) is wearing a space suit for the entire time, so there is essentially no physical description of the hero. (Ignore the fact that he's not wearing gloves over his white hands on the cover.) Anyway, over 100 pages into the book, the character is in an atmosphere for the first time, and takes off his space suit, and there's a sentence about how the light fell on his "ebony skin" or something, and I thought, "Hey, the guy I've been reading about for over 100 pages is black!" I guess I hadn't thought of it much before, and I don't think it came up again the book. At the time, though, I remember thinking "No he isn't!" and looking back at the white hands on the cover -- because, of course, the cover artist would know the REAL physical description, not the author.

Anyway, it hadn't really occurred to me that I really only read science fiction books about white men (leaving aside Uhura and Sulu) before I "accidentally" read a book about a character who wasn't. Not a good book, but the first one that made me actually pay attention to who I was reading about.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stupid Question

So, now having read (out of intended order, I assume), Salvation Run #7, JLA #21, and Final Crisis #1, am I supposed to know how Martian Manhunter got off of the prison planet and back to Earth?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Against The Trinity

Scipio has made an eloquent argument in favor of the Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. And while I think he made his case eloquently, I couldn't help but cringe at the "sit at a four-legged table versus a three-legged one, and ask yourself which one wobbles more." Sure, but who wants to read a story about a table that DOESN'T wobble?

Sure, there are iconic trinities, but much more "iconic" symbolism falls into Fours: The Four Seasons, The Four Elements. It is also the configuration of two sets of two played off against each other: crescent, gibbous, waxing, waning. The two sides of the X and Y axes giving four quadrants.

Also, even for each element that Scipio correctly argues is a set of "Three", there is the missing "Un"-element. The unasking of the question. The Trinity give you the three possible parenting arrangements, but what about the character for whom parentage simply isn't an issue, or is fluid? The one who looks at the spectrum of values, and decides that it is not the proper spectrum to be considering?

When I started writing this post, I didn't really have an idea who the fourth member of the Tetrology should be. "Green Lantern" or "The Flash" seemed like likely choices, or maybe a legacy to distinguish "new" from "old." But the more I typed, the more obvious it became.

"Superman, always super; Wonder Woman, super in costume and normal without; Batman, always normal." Sure, but Guy Gardner doesn't care. If he's got a Power Ring, then great! If he doesn't, he's got internal Vuldarian powers! If he gets his ring back, he becomes human again, and Vuldarians go away. Guy Gardner defies your powered/unpowered tri-ality (that's duality + one). Whether he has "superpowers" or a "power ring" or is just fist fighting in an alley, the nature of the power is just not an important question.

The city, the country, the city-state -- and the universe!
Focus, restraint, and balance -- and chaos!
Admiration, fear, respect -- and who freakin' cares, I'm freakin' Guy Gardner!

So, in my view, the Trinity could be improved with the addition of Guy Gardner, specifically BECAUSE he'll make the three-legged table wobble.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Crazy runs in the family

I don't watch Lost. Actually, I don't watch much TV at all that doesn't star "Dora" or "Blue" or "Big Bird."

But I know that some people who read my blog like "Lost." In that vein, I would like to report that my cousin is potentially more insane than I am, in that she has made an entire Lost Quilt, available for viewing in all its amazingly intricate details (none of which make any sense to me) at

It's almost enough to make me want to go buy the DVDs to see what the quilt is all about!

The New "Justice League" Lineup

James Robinson talks about the new JLA spin-off "Justice League" in a Wizard interview.

Now, I understand that talking about team lineups can be silly before the first issue comes out (see, Batman and the Outsiders), and is even silly after the books start coming out (JLA had a different lineup for every arc, practically.) But, nonetheless, the line-up is.

1. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
2. Green Arrow
3. Atom (Ray Palmer)
4. Supergirl
5. Captain Marvel
6. Batwoman
7. Starman (Blue JLAlien Version)
8. Congorilla.

If they were going for a "patriotic" brand of diversity (one red (or ruddy) ape, six white heroes, and a blue guy), they've got the colors of the American flag down pretty well. If they were looking for a brand that included more types of Americans (or Earthlings), you've got to imagine that Black Lighning has another daughter hidden somewhere. Actual, I don't think Thunder is officially an Outsider, so she's free.

Also, Mr. Terrific, I believe, has the magical ability to appear in every single team book simultaneously, so he's an easy one. Also recommended would be Hawkgirl, Fire from Checkmate, or a member of the Great Ten from China (August General in Iron is already crossing over in Checkmate).

Friday, June 06, 2008

Trinities and anti-Trinities: Boys and Their Games

What was most surprising to me in this week's comics was that in such a solid week (JSA! Manhunter! Devi!), my favorite was Trinity #1.

Now, as a non-Christian, I am sure that I am missing tons of Trinity imagery. My history of never having read the Christian bible severely limited my ability to succeed as an English major in college (I always missed the Christ imagery!) and also made me look like a moron at other cultural events. ("'Jesus Christ Superstar' is just a huge rip-off of 'Tommy.'" "No, Ragtime, Tommy just has a lot of Christ imagery.")

One thing that bugged me though was "Boys and Their Games," which was the title, and referred to Diana's lumping Bruce and Clark together is their "Secret Identities." She says that she has a "Private Identity," but that she acts the same whether she's Diana Prince of Wonder Woman, while Bruce and Clark have different personalities as Batman and Superman.

I think Diana's being too simplistic here, and is eliding over the main reason that I have always far preferred Superman to Batman. Diana's summary is perfectly applicable to Batman. The entire "Bruce Wayne" persona is a show. He acts like the idiot billionaire playboy to throw off suspicions. Bruce isn't actually like that at all.

Clark is different. When he is in his secret identity as Clark Kent, he isn't putting on a show. Maybe that's how he was portrayed in the Golden Age, and to a lesser extent in the original Superman movie -- as playing Clark as a bumbling fool so no one would realize that he's "really" Superman under the glasses. But the current Superman -- and the one for at least the last 20 years -- is the one who is "really" Clark Kent.

Now, it's too simplistic to say that Clark is the "opposite" of Bruce. That he's Clark when he's not pretending and just "acting" like a superhero. I think it's more like having different sides of personality come through in the different spheres of your life. I don't act the same with my clients in my "law world" and I do with the Ragkids in my "home world." And it's not that I'm "acting like a lawyer" or "acting like a parent," even though looking at the two sides, you'd have to figure that they couldn't both be the "Real Me." In the same way, reporter Clark would naturally act differently than superhero Kal El. "Clark" isn't a game he plays, and its why Lois nicknames him "Smallville." He really IS the farm boy/ boy scout/ hick as well.

Anyway, I was disappointed that Diana blended together the two points that make me love Superman, but be largely indifferent toward Batman.

Anyway, things I liked:

1. Sitting around the table chatting. Maybe I'm the only one who really likes those scenes (like in the last JLA), but I really do.

2. Alternate realities. I'm also a big fan of alternate reality stories where Green Arrow and Speedy protect Gotham, and Lois Lane is apparently a chain-smoking elf. Just enough hints to get me excited.

3. The Enigma guy, and his interactions with Morgan le Fay. Am I supposed to know who he is?

4. The idea of the new anti-Trinity. Scipio asks to come up with our own Trinity. Personally, I've always thought that the recurring Superhero technique of "switching enemies" should be able to work just as well for bad guys. So, I'd assign Doomsday to take out Batman, the Joker to defeat Superman, and . . . maybe ("classic") Darkseid for Wonder Woman.

I started out choosing Ares for Superman and the Joker for Diana, but then i remembered that Diana actually did fight the Joker in Wonder Woman #97, during her "I'm not really Wonder Woman any more" eras) with one of the most Mishugenah resolutions I recall in a Wonder Woman comic.

4. Most importantly, lots of stuff actually happening. (Unlike, say, Countdown #51).

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