Monday, March 19, 2018

#AtoZChallenge Topic Revealed!

Actually I revealed the topic last year when I did an A to Z Challenge on Transformers figures.  In the reflections post I outlined doing a similar one for GI JOE figures.  And so next month it begins!

I'm doing it in the same format as the Transformers one with one GI JOE and one COBRA per day--when applicable.  Some letters there wasn't a COBRA and Y I had to get a little creative.

Since I doubt most people will care that much I didn't exactly kill myself on this.  I spent a couple of hours copying and pasting pictures and a couple more writing some brief notes.  Except for one case I focus on the Real American Hero line from 1982-1994, not the 60s version because that wouldn't have been too helpful; I think there was just one guy.

As an extension of that I talk about the cartoon series, of which in the 80s to early 90s you had two.  The first was made by Marvel/Sunbow from 1983-1986 with an animated movie afterwards.  Then there was a lower-rent one made by DIC from 88-91 or so.

And in a few cases I mention the live action movies from 2009 and 2013.  A lot of the information and pictures come from, a very helpful resource on this topic.

I haven't read the Marvel comics in many, many years so except for a couple of instances I don't talk about that a lot.  Or the later ones by IDW or other publishers, most of which I've never read.

Have I lowered already low expectations enough?  It starts on April 1st, which is a Sunday and then continues Monday-Saturday until April 30th.

Friday, March 16, 2018

How Many Chances Do You Give An Author?

A question similar to the old commercial:  how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?  So if you don't like an author's book, how many more chances will you give them?

On three different occasions I've had someone give an Eric Filler book a good review.  Then there's a bad review on a different book.  Then another bad review.  Then another.  And then I start wondering:  why the hell are you still reading these?

The first was a couple of years ago with this guy called "John Daniels."  He wrote a positive review of Transformed for Halloween but then wrote like three negative reviews before writing one that was 4-stars though mostly he was still just complaining.  After another negative review or two I'm like, "Dude, why do you keep reading these?  You obviously don't like them.  At this point you're just a troll."

He finally got the message...and immediately started to do the same on Ivana Johnson books.  Which ironically is still me!  It was the same shit where first there was a positive review and then a few negatives.  When he complained because an Ivana Johnson book accidentally still had Eric Filler's name on it and he complained "who's the real author?" I finally said, "Have you considered they're both me?"  And I haven't heard from him since.  I hope he found one of my rival authors to annoy and drag down their ratings.

What was especially annoying with that guy was he acted like he was some expert on the author.  Always saying stuff like, "Well this wasn't as good as other ones..."  You mean that one you gave a good review to?  It just go annoying after a while.  And again, after 3 or 4 books why don't you just stop reading and find someone else to bother?

It happened again months later with someone calling himself "Bear Hunter."  That douche never even gave much of a positive review.  After like the 4th negative review it's again, Why are you still reading these?  It's not like I want you to--just the opposite.

There was someone else recently too.  He/she first wrote a nice review of The Comeback and then the very next day writes a negative review of another book complaining because it was too mean.  And then there was another.  And as I mentioned, they were books that in no way gave the impression they were nice and cozy.  Ugh.

So really, how many chances would you give an author?  In part I think it depends if I liked the author's first book.  Like when I read all of John Irving's books I liked the first one I read, then a couple weren't as good, and then some were really good, and some really awful.  But if I'd liked the first one and the next three were terrible, I don't think I'd keep going.  Maybe not even if the next two were awful.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War series I really liked the first book, didn't like the second, liked the third and fourth, and didn't really like the fifth and sixth.  Mostly I read the whole series because I'd already bought them.

With Lawrence Block's books there have been a few duds but far more hits.  Still, it's not like I liked the first one and then hated all the rest.

But really where do you draw the line?  One book?  Two books?  Three books?  More?  Or will the world never know?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Earth: Final Conflict Had Less Concern for its Main Characters Than Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead

Back in 2000 I moved into my first apartment.  I didn't have money for cable and there weren't all the apps and Rokus and stuff like there are nowadays for "cord cutters" so I pretty much had to rely on local TV for entertainment.  (Or the VCR or stereo, I guess.)

Saturday nights (or Sunday morning really) the local CBS affiliate would show Earth: Final Conflict and Sci-Fi Channel's The Invisible Man.  I actually liked the latter better so I would usually watch the former while waiting for it.  I guess I was watching the fourth season back then.  It was pretty good, but then it got to the fifth season and they did one of those annoying things where they completely changed the format and between that and moving to a place with cable I stopped watching it.

I had pretty much forgotten about that show until I saw it on the Roku Channel.  So I started watching it from the beginning.  I binged through it fairly quickly because while Netflix and Hulu usually keep things for a few months, you never know how long some of these lesser channels might keep something.  Anyway, I guess I could say it's an OK show but not as good as some of those from the same time like DS9, Voyager, Babylon 5, or X-Files.

But the show does have a modern touch.  We think of shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead for being so willing to kill off characters, but not even they've killed or written off such a great proportion of main characters as this series.  Let me walk you through it.

The first season focuses mostly on William Boone.  Three years ago an alien race called the Taelons came to Earth.  Like the 80s miniseries/series V, they seem to be good aliens who are giving us a helping hand in eliminating disease, hunger, and so forth, but of course they have their own agenda.  Boone prevents the assassination of the Taelon ambassador Da'an.  He's offered to become Da'an's "Protector" but refuses because he's got a wife.  So the Taelons do the only natural thing:  they kill Boone's wife.  Though he outwardly doesn't let on that he knows this, Boone secretly knows the Taelons were behind it, so he joins up with the "Liberation" (later called the Resistance) and works as a double agent.  Through the first season he uncovers many instances where the Taelons have a project that seems benevolent but is secretly doing harm.  Or in one instance the Taelons give a girl two new hands but when the transplant starts to be rejected, they try to cover it up.

The last episode of the season has an alien named H'Gel show up on Earth.  He and Boone get into a firefight and Boone kills H'Gel but is badly injured.  While he's in something like a bacta tank in The Empire Strikes Back, the Taelons vaporize him.  Which is the end of our hero...until the fifth season when the evil Atavus somehow bring him back to life to try to trap the good guys.  Boone's sister is killed but he survives and decides to wander off into the sunset...until he's killed off screen.  They just couldn't give him a good death, could they?

Boone's partner in season 1 was Captain Lili Marquette.  She was a Marine and became a pilot of Taelon shuttles.  She survives to the end of Season 2.  Then she's supposedly captured by the Taelons.  While the other prisoners with her are freed, she's sent on a one-way journey into space.  She returns in the third season when her ship is picked up by the enemy of the Taelons, the Jaridians.  In a Star Trek-type episode she's trapped in a holographic simulation of an Earth hospital, which the Jaridians use so she can help them repair their ship.  Then she shows up at the end of the season with a Jaridian "husband" and has a human/Jaridian baby.  Then her, husband, and child leave Earth at the start of the fourth season.

Speaking of hybrid children, at the start of the second season the show goes full V in that a woman gives birth to an alien-human hybrid.  The pregnancy lasts about 5 minutes and in another 5 minutes the baby grows into an adult.  He's given the identity of Major Liam Kincaid.  At first he has these glowing spots on his hands that have an alien name but I just called them stigmata.  These stigmata disappear about halfway through the second season and from then on he's mostly just a regular guy.  The problem was the writers didn't give him any other awesome alien abilities like telekinesis or super strength or anything and he couldn't use those glowing spots or else people would wonder what the hell he was.  So they just backed off it and said that the longer he's on Earth the more human he is.  At least until the end of the fourth season where all the sudden he's the Chosen One of his parent race, the Kimera.

Liam takes Boone's place as a Protector and becomes the leader of the Resistance, though he's only a couple of months old.  He does basically the same stuff as Boone for the most part, only in a younger, sexier package that is kind of like a poor man's Val Kilmer.  But at the end of the fourth season he attempts to merge the Jaridians and Taelons and disappears until the last episode, when he gets to ride off into space.

First Boone and then Liam relied on an eccentric computer hacker called Augur.  He helped the Resistance but usually demanded payment in the form of valuable artwork.  He was a regular for the first three seasons but then at the fourth season he suddenly had to go on the run from the law and asked his friend Street to take over as the eccentric hacker for the Resistance.  He reappeared a few times in the fourth season, so at least he didn't die unceremoniously.

The founder of the Resistance was billionaire industrialist Jonathan Doors.  He fakes his own death in the first episode, but in the second season he comes out of hiding to run for president with his son managing the campaign.  But just before the election the Taelons arrange for the president to be shot non-fatally so he can win reelection.  Doors goes back to his company until he's killed in an accident at a lab owned by his son.  But he comes back in a later episode as an AI creation who tries to destroy the Taelons before being shut down.  Another one bites the dust.

At the start of the series Gene Roddenberry's wife Majel Barrett (also an Executive Producer of the show) appeared as a doctor who worked with Resistance.  She helped Boone with getting a Taelon implant but rigging it so it wouldn't make him a slave to the aliens.  Then she kind of just disappears during the first season.  When the Resistance needed a doctor they started seeing other people.  She appears briefly in the second season before disappearing for good.

If you're keeping score then by the start of the fourth season the entire first season roster of good guys have been killed or otherwise written off.  Even GOT and Walking Dead haven't gotten rid of everyone from the first season yet.

And you can add to that the two main Taelons.  The first Taelon they show is Da'an (pronounced Don) who is the ambassador to North America and largely benign.  He wants to try to elevate humanity to the level of Taelons to help both races, but that doesn't mean he's not above some underhanded deeds to this aim.  The other alien is Zo'or who is at first the Taelon envoy to the UN but at the start of the second season takes over as leader of the Taelons.  He's more overtly evil and cunning.  And it turns out later that he's Da'an's son.  Both aliens are killed in the final episode of the fourth season.  Zo'or goes out like a bad guy in an Indiana Jones movie by mishandling a relic only for it to melt him.  Da'an attempts merging with a Jaridian and so disappears.  In the fifth season the evil Atavus scrape Zo'or off the floor or something and bring him back to merge him into a female Atavus body, which is ironic because while the Taelons are referred to with male pronouns they were supposed to be asexual and were actually played by female actors.  Anyway, the new Zo'or is wounded in one episode, put into stasis, revived in another episode, and then blown up in an alien shuttle dogfight.

So not only did we eliminate all the good guys from the first season, we got rid of the bad guys too!  All except one.

The only one to last the whole series is the evil Ronald Sandoval.  He was an FBI agent who became a Protector.  Unlike Boone, his neural implant made him a slave to the Taelons.  He had such blind faith in them that when his wife complained, he had her committed and drugged into a stupor before Boone freed her.  While Sandoval first serves Da'an, he later becomes Zo'or's hatchetman.  While he's doing the bidding of the Taelons, he also has his own agendas.  He sent Lili Marquette to the Jaridians hoping to play both alien sides and thus come out ahead no matter who won.  When the Taelons and Jaridians join into the vampiric Atavus, Sandoval transfers his loyalty to them.  So he manages to live into the fifth season.  Hooray!  But then he dies in the final episode, because you can't talk your way out of three metal bars through the chest.

At the start of season 3, Lili Marquette is replaced by Renee Palmer, who's the CEO of Jonathan Doors's company and also a Resistance agent.  She and Liam Kincaid pretty much do what Boone and Marquette did as kind of a Mulder and Scully thing.  And like Mulder and Scully in the original run of that show they never hook up romantically, though they had ample opportunity to do so.  I mean at one point they escape the Taelon mothership in an escape pod that was pretty much designed for one.  So they're in really tight quarters and still not even a kiss?  I suppose that drove the "shippers" nuts.  There was probably plenty of fan fiction hooking them up.  But I think they did have decent chemistry even if they didn't hook up.

In the fifth season they change the whole premise of the show.  As I mentioned, the Taelons and Jaridians have turned into the Atavus, who use these Wolverine-type claws to suck energy from people.  And all the sudden Renee turns into this badass Ellen Ripley/Sarah Connor type bent on wiping out the Atavus.  It was maybe not a 180, but at least a 90 degree turn for the character.  The whole thing put me off the show.  Watching it now, I don't think I missed a lot.  In the end she and Liam go riding off into space together.  So I guess she at least got to survive her entire run on the show.  Hooray?

Since it was filmed in Canada, it's not surprising that a few of the actors from 90s Canadian-made show Due South guest star, including Tori Spelling's husband as one of Renee Palmer's boyfriends.  In the fifth season a young Rachel McAdams guest stars as a girl whose boyfriend starts a fan site for the evil Atavus.  That was pretty much it for recognizable guest stars.

Since the series began in 1997 the effects in many cases are kind of lame.  It's kind of funny that it's supposed to take place probably around 2010 or so and yet at the start they're still using those big, bulky monitors.  Their communicators are sponsored by MCI, which went under in the 2000s.  So if you watch it now a lot of stuff looks pretty unimpressive, but you have to remember this was the late 90s and it didn't have the biggest budget.

But some of the tech they use is kind of neat.  Augur has video display glasses that are almost like the Google Glass.  The humans use these communications devices called "Globals" that look more like a handheld video game system than a phone.  The neat thing though is the sides of the Global compress together so it can be easily dropped into a pocket or purse.  There has been some experimenting with flexible screens for phones, so maybe that will happen eventually.  It would save money on phone cases and screen protectors.

Something they could have controlled was continuity.  Like at the end of season 2 Liam's hair is brown but at the start of season 3 (which is only like minutes later) it's blond.  And then it's brown again in the last episode.  The same thing happens with Lili from season 1 to season 2.  I know they take a few months off from shooting but the differences really become apparent when you binge it.

As you'd expect not every episode is all that good.  The worst though are one episode in the second season, one in the third season, and two in the fifth season that are largely clip shows.  In the first one Liam's mother is dying in a cave and for some reason flashes back to things she couldn't even have seen.  It was pretty lame.  The other one features a TV network interviewing Zo'or and so they show a lot of footage from previous episodes.  In the fifth season Sandoval undergoes a mind probe where his memories look surprisingly like footage from old episodes!  In the penultimate episode a Taelon spirit visits Renee to basically review the whole series.  I know clip shows are cheaper to produce, but who actually likes them?

Like I said, it's not a terrible show, but it's not all that great either.  I'd say 2.5/5

Monday, March 12, 2018

What Movie Moments Freak You Out?

A couple of months ago The Geek Twins wrote an article on a scene in Superman III that scarred them for life.  Which of course got me thinking of which movie moments freaked me the hell out.  So here they are, scenes that for the most part I still can't bear to watch.

First, since The Geek Twins mentioned it, that weird scene in Superman III where a woman is transformed into a robot for...reasons.  It was creepy as hell and completely against the tone of the rest of the movie.

Next up, the scene in Willow where the evil witch turns the entire good guy army led by Val Kilmer into pigs.  It's not like a puff of smoke and POOF they're pigs; it's a long, slow transformation process that was pretty nasty.  At least that's how it felt to me.  The good thing for me is no one shows Willow anymore so I'm never faced with having to watch it again.  And I'm not watching that YouTube clip either!  Nooooope.

The scene in the original Robocop where the evil henchman runs into a bunch of toxic waste and morphs into some grotesque Toxic Avenger.  I mean, not even the Toxic Avenger was as gross with the toxic waste as this!

[Scene Missing]
The scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy and the Nazi girl go into some Venice catacombs and are accosted by thousands and thousands of rats as the place floods.  Rats in general are nasty but in this scene they're everywhere:  the ground, the water, in the sarcophagus, in the lady's hair...eeek!  (28 Days Later largely recreated this about 15 years later.)

Speaking of Indy, remember the face melting at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Ick.  Come on Spielberg and Lucas!

Speaking of Lucas, the Star Wars parody Spaceballs featured a villain called Pizza the Hut.  Who was a monster just oozing with pizza cheese and sauce.  Yuck.  That's almost enough to make me not want to eat pizza...almost.

Speaking of icky-looking characters, the original Freddy Krueger!  Even now it takes a lot of willpower to watch one of those movies.  That burnt-up face is just so nasty.  Though the reboot was pretty fucking lame.

Not quite as gross, but that scene in Star Trek II where they Khan puts those worm things in Chekov and the captain guy's ears was so nasty.  And when the worm crawls out of Chekov's ear it was almost as gross.

Though still I think the most emotionally scarring cinematic moment was the death of Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie.  Most of those moments above were gross but this was just a punch to my 8-year-old gut.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Getting Out of Quicksand By Starting a Timer

A frequent problem with Eric Filler books is sometimes the stories can end up a lot longer than I intend.  I might think a story is going to last just 30 pages or so and then after a couple of weeks I realize that I'm probably not even halfway through the story yet!

This often happens because there's a certain timeline to a gender swap story.
  1. The Setup:  introducing the character and means of the gender swap
  2. The Swap:  The actual transformation
  3. The Adjustment:  The character's transition into a woman
  4. The End:  How does it end?  Do they remain a woman? (Usually.)  Do they find true love?  Are they going to be tormented forever?  (More often than some people would like.)

The thing about that is it can stretch for pretty much however long you want it to.  Each part can be stretched out or compacted.  I mean you can have pages of setup introducing the character or you can have virtually none at all.  For instance a longer story like The Comeback had a few scenes before the transformations.  A lot of people do it pretty much right away.  Just like some people can stretch the actual transformation out for pages or others do it in just a paragraph or two.

The longest bit though tends to be the adjustment part.  Because if your character is a guy and he turns into a woman there's a lot of stuff that he'll have to learn differently from the way he walks to how he uses the toilet to how he dresses and of course things like makeup and periods.  So you can go on and on if you want.

Sometimes, though, if I really want to keep a story under control and not go over my time budget (say more than a week or possibly two) then what I have to do is set a ticking clock.  For One Day as a Bimbo the clock was obviously one day.  Then One Week as a Whore was longer at a week.  The final One Year as a Virgin was the longest yet because it had to last a whole year.

The Gender Swapped for Her Pleasure Trilogy I set the timer for just one night.  The nasty witch would trap someone in her secluded mansion and turn him into a girl to play with for one night and the next morning send him home.  Except in the third one where the guy in question helped her to change her ways.  Who says I don't have happy endings?

A couple of months ago I was getting bogged down in a few longer ones that had kind of spun out of control and run way overbudget in terms of time.  After I finished those I decided I needed to do a few where I set the timer. I whipped up One Night in Bangkok that is, gee who'd think it?, about a guy's one night in Bangkok as a "ladyboy" whore.  And then I wrote 24 Hour Woman, which again is pretty obviously about a guy who becomes a woman for 24 hours.  And just for fun I wrote 5 sequels that each only took a few days to write.

The idea is that the shorter your timeframe, the less chance you have to go off track.  This really helps with short stories.  The biggest problem some people have with short stories is trying to cover too much ground.  Where You Belong covered about 35 years; I couldn't have made that into a short story, though God knows some people have tried.  Conversely, unless you're James Joyce it can be really difficult to stretch one day into a novel.  The point being sometimes you want to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.  When you find yourself getting mired in a story that seems to go on and on, maybe you just need to set a timer.  The ticking clock helps you probably more than your characters.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Internet is the Land of First & Last Impressions

Maybe I'm the last person who should be talking about incivility on the Internet or maybe I'm the best person.  Like Nixon going to China.  Anyway, when I go on Facebook and such a lot of times I leave comments on articles and very often there will be annoying comments back and sometimes we can exchange comments back-and-forth for hours.  This Onion article sums up Internet people pretty well.

It occurred to me that the whole problem is the Internet is a land of first impressions.  Since there are so many random users on at any given time, few people know each other unless you're in a smaller group or on a relative's page or something.  But if you comment on a news article or something like Comic Book Resources then you're likely to run into a lot of people who've never met you and you've never met them.  And the fact that you can't see them and they may exist thousands of miles away and you're not likely to see them again means that people (especially those like me) feel more uninhibited.

So the end result is we tend to make these snap judgments about people.  And after a while it becomes pretty comical.  I've been called a libtard, Trump supporter, Bernie Bro, snowflake, and bully all in the same day.  Because everyone just goes by snap judgments.  So if I say something negative about Trump (not hard) then I'm a "libtard."  If I (rarely) say something not negative about Trump then I'm an idiot redneck Trump supporter.  If I don't agree with something Hillary says then I must be a Bernie Bro and it's all my fault she didn't win!  If I say something in support of immigrants, transgender, gay, lesbian, Muslim, etc people then I'm a "snowflake."  But if I say I don't want to see videos of fat girls in skimpy bikinis supporting "body positivity" then I'm a body shaming bully!

And of course if you make one little typo then you're an idiot.  Because no one else ever makes typos, right?  Or if you don't know everything about every subject, then you must be an idiot!  How stupid you are to not know everything about everything!

It can really make your head spin after a while.  And just really tire a body out.  I mean I dish as much (or more) than I take but sometimes even I think, "Geez, can't we just give the hostility a rest?"  Or as Rodney King famously said, "Can't we all just get along?"

After the Parkland shooting was especially disgusting to see all these trolls telling the "spoiled kids" or "brats" to shut up.  Spoiled?  17 of their classmates were murdered!  I mean this wasn't like a bunch of hipsters trying to make the lunch menu vegan or something; they're trying to use this tragedy to make a difference so other kids like them won't go through the same.  It just sickens me when people are that cruel for no good reason.

I guess the solution is pretty simple:  just don't comment on stuff!  Don't post on Facebook pages!  Don't Tweet!  Don't comment on blogs like this!  (Well, most people don't comment on this blog anyway.  Zing!)  Or I guess if you do you can just post boring stuff like "Thanks for sharing."

Sometimes though I'm just bored and/or tired and a little rough housing helps to pick things up.  But then sometimes it can go on too long and just become tedious.  Like when the sixth person calls you an idiot because you said babies aren't born with teeth.  (Yes they are!  Yes they are!  They're under the gums!  Why didn't you know that you stupid idiot!)  Christ, sorry I don't know everything about fucking juvenile dentistry.  My bad.

The worst though are the "Well actually..." crowd.  All those people need rounded up and set adrift to a very dark place without electricity.  Forget about Russian trolls swinging elections, those are the real Internet villains.

And the next most annoying are people if you say, "Who cares?" will say, "Well you must have because you commented."  Like that's so fucking clever.  No, idiot, there's a difference between actual caring and just saying "Who cares?" because I'm bored and/or just want to register my irritation.  One time I was at a Biggby Coffee in Fenton and every two minutes I kept getting a Facebook ping from this asshole trying to make me admit I cared about...some damned thing.  I cared so much I don't even remember!  Something about one of the crappy DC TV shows or something.  And I kept trying to explain that I'm answering you because you're replying to my comment thread and every time you do Facebook pings my phone.  Oh well you must be obsessed about this because why else would you be replying?  Because I'm supposed to be writing but it's like 10:30am and I don't really feel like writing because my frappe hasn't kicked in yet?  That.

But that's the thing, first impressions are so often wrong, making it easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.  You think I'm obsessed with you when really I'm just trying to avoid work.  You think I'm dumb when I'm, like, really smart.  You think I'm a liberal or conservative or whatever.  The Breakfast Club had this right 33 years ago:  we try to pigeon hole everyone into a neat little box when really we're all a combination of those things.  Sometimes I'm a "libtard" and sometimes I'm a Trumptard.  Sometimes I'm a snowflake and sometimes I'm a bully.  Hey, wouldn't that be great for a Breakfast Club reboot?  Quick, someone find the overpasses Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estavez, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy are living under!  (Now someone on Facebook would say that I'm such a bully for that.)

I guess we should try to remember that just because someone says something we don't agree with doesn't mean they're our mortal enemy.  Hell, they might not even really exist.  I might not exist.  This might all be the Matrix.  AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!

I haven't officially made a resolution to stop commenting or anything, but I've been trying to get sucked into arguments less.  I mean nowadays you're probably just arguing with some fucking Russian assholes paid by Putin's goons so there's no real point to it.  Not that there ever was a point, but it takes most of the fun out of it.  A lot of the time now on Facebook I'll just hide the comment and move on.  Sometimes I'll block a person.  In the long run it's better than getting worked up about the stupidity of other people.

Ironically Facebook suspended my account for 24 hours on Monday because of some violation of "community standards."  I think it was on Yahoo News weeks ago where someone was lamenting the "good old days" and I said, "oh yeah back in the 'good old days' when you could call gay people fags and black people niggers."  Which wasn't calling anyone in particular those slurs; it was stating a historical fact.  Anyway, I decided I should just unfollow Yahoo News, Comic Book Resources, and Mashable since those are usually the ones where my keyboard gets me in trouble.  Leave violating the community for the Russians.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bad Scriptwriting Advice From Rian Johnson

Thanks to this post on The Geek Twins, here's some bad scriptwriting advice from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson about not giving Snoke any background during the throne room scenes with Rey:
At a Q&A for the BAFTA awards, writer/director Rian Johnson explained why he didn't explore the character's backstory.
"In this particular story, it’s much more like the original trilogy, where with Snoke if you think about the actual scenes, if suddenly I had paused one of the scenes to give a 30-second monologue about who he was, it would have kind of stopped the scene in its tracks, I realized," Johnson told the crowd.
This was pretty disingenuous.  No one was asking him to pause the scene to give a 30-second monologue.  If Johnson really thinks that then he definitely shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near a Star Wars script.  Or any script for that matter.

All you have to do is leave a clue as to where Snoke came from.  Though my comment didn't post on that site (probably my phone being shite) in about two minutes I came up with two easy ways to insert something in the dialog.

  1. Have Snoke say to Rey:  You think you can resist me?  My power came from...wherever
  2. Have Snoke say to Rey:  You thought Skywalker could teach you to beat me?  I learned from...whoever

See, it's that fucking easy.  Maybe you want to be a little more subtle, not that Star Wars movies really need to be.  But neither is stopping the scene for a 30-second monologue.  Any scriptwriter worth a damn should know how to do that.

Some people say, Why do we even need to know where Snoke came from?  No one said where the Emperor came from until the prequels.  (Or the Expanded Universe novels/comics really.)  But it doesn't make sense that someone who looks as old as Snoke does could exist with the power he has.  Palpatine was no fool; anyone with dark side power like his would either have to serve him (Darths Maul, Tyrannus, Vader) or they'd be dead.  Yoda and Obi-Wan managed to hide for a while, though it was speculated in one of the earlier Expanded Universe novels that Yoda could hide because he was so close to the dark side cave on Dagobah.  I'm not sure what Obi-Wan's excuse was.

Maybe for Rey at that moment it wasn't a big deal but for the Star Wars universe in general it's kind of an important question.  And not one you should just hope someone else will answer in the next movie or in a novel or comic later.  If you don't know where Snoke came from, I guess it explains why you thought he was expendable enough to be killed so easily.

For writers then I guess the moral is to know your characters and their motivations, even if it's a character someone else created.  And you can subtly insert bits of background here and there.  You don't need to stop everything to dump it on people all at once.

You'll be relieved to know that this is the last post in my one-sided war against Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi.  For now...

Friday, March 2, 2018

What Makes for Good Elseworld Tales?

File this under "Posts No One But Me Cares About."  (Which is a pretty long list.)

Anyway, two things really bring this question to mind.  First, there was recently the release of Gotham By Gaslight, which was one of the first DC Elseworld graphic novels.  That features kind of a steampunk Batman in London during the 1890s as he tries to track down Jack the Ripper.

And though you probably didn't read Monday's post, I recently read a couple of volumes of DC Elseworld tales, one focusing on the Justice League and one just on Batman.  I didn't like a whole lot of those stories and so I got thinking about why.

It occurred to me that the ones I've liked best so far are the Superman: Red Son and Batman: Vampire stories.  (Neither featured in those collections above.)  And then I got thinking the reason for that is because they actually do something interesting with the character.  And that to me is what makes some Elseworld tales better than others.

If you're still wondering, an Elseworld tale is when the writer takes a familiar hero and puts him/her into a different situation or era, like those mentioned above.  A lot of them is just taking the character and putting him/her in another time period.  Which isn't really all that interesting.  I mean it's a gimmick that wears out pretty quick.  Ooh, Batman in the Old West, Batman in Victorian London, Batman in the 1910s, Batman in the 30s, Robin in the gets to be kind of monotonous after a while.  Because for the most part the differences are just in the clothes and gadgets.  It's pretty superficial.

There are some others though that just go too far out, to the point there's really no similarity to the character at all.  Like one in the Justice League volume that was some kind of weird fantasy story with kids brought there like Narnia or whatever.  It didn't really make a lot of sense.  Another was again more of a fantasy one with a literal Bat-Man and evil wizard Joker.  It was just kinda weird.

By contrast what I like about Superman: Red Son and Batman: Vampire (which is actually 3 books) is that they put a different twist on the character.  What if Superman had landed in the Soviet Union in 1938 instead of America?  It presents a whole different take on the character and the world.  By the same token, the Batman: Vampire series imagines what if Dracula comes to Gotham and Batman turns into a vampire?  The first book is just him defeating Dracula, but then in the second part he has to deal with the thirst for blood while trying not to kill innocent people.  The third part has a completely ghoulish vampire Batman slaughtering his enemies while his former friends have to decide what to do about him.

The difference with those versus other ones is the change isn't just superficial.  That makes it more meaningful.  I guess overall that's really what I want from one of these stories.  I mean it can be fun to see Batman in a Victorian getup or Green Lantern costume, but it's not something I really want for more than a single issue.  I guess that's why most Marvel "What If" comics are just a single issue and not a graphic novel.

There you go, food for thought.  Or probably not.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Comics I Read Recently

Thanks to holiday sales I actually had a glut of comics to read. So here we go.
Batman: Contagion:  This was really the first of three disaster stories that were pretty much back-to-back-to-back in the late 90s.  The idea was taking Batman out of his comfort zone of fighting criminals and supervillains and deal with disasters.  In this case the insane Order of St. Dumas featured in Azrael comics has loosed an ancient plague on Gotham.  Batman's allies Catwoman, Robin, and Azrael try to hunt down survivors of an outbreak in Greenland while Batman and Nightwing try to quell riots and such.  Robin comes back just in time to come down with the plague.  But it turns out the cure was pretty easy to find; Azrael had it all along and didn't know it!  So it was pretty underwhelming.  More so was the last 8 issues aren't even part of this story!  They're just filler added to pad the length of the book.  It's always annoying when companies do that, though I guess I got this cheap enough that it didn't matter too much. (2/5)

Batman: Cataclysm: This is the second disaster story that also began the year-long No Man’s Land arc partially used in The Dark Knight Rises. The eponymous cataclysm is an earthquake that destroys much of Gotham, including Wayne Manor—and the Batcave. The collected volume is a hodge-podge of stories from all of the Batman-related titles at the time. As you might expect it doesn’t really have much narrative focus. The whole “Quake Master” arc was kind of silly and I guess the answer to who that “person’s” identity was should have been somewhat obvious for long-time readers. (It was the Ventriloquist.) But mostly it was a different kind of Batman story. (3/5)

Justice League Elseworlds, Vol 1: Elseworlds are basically imaginary stories that are not in canon so they can do whatever they want. This volume has some related to the Justice League, though none were that good. The first one was I guess supposed to be some kind of adventure comic strip. It takes place in 1928 with Lana Lang and Clark Kent looking for Lana’s father, enlisting Bruce Wayne’s help. I didn’t really get what the core concept was supposed to be so it wasn’t that interesting. Another was an Old West version of the Justice League but it was one of those lame League incarnations without Superman, Batman, or Green Lantern. It was mostly Wonder Woman, the Flash, Martian Manhunter, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle. One thing that was really dumb was Wonder Woman’s outfit. It was basically her traditional outfit only with pants, sort of like the lame David E Kelly pilot costume everyone hated. Why would she be going around the Old West in a bikini top? Made no sense. The story of them banding together to stop Max Lord was OK; it was sort of like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—the movie version more than the comic version. Anyway, another story took place in some fantasy kingdom with these kids being transported there and meeting weird fantasy versions of heroes like Batman, Green Arrow, the Flash, and so on. Superman was actually the bad guy having been raised by Lex Luthor, the king or whatever of the realm. It was kind of lame, like if you remember that old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show in the 80s. There was a Victorian Wonder Woman story included but I’d already read that one in its individually published incarnation. The last one had an interesting concept: what if instead of Superman and Batman you had Supergirl and Batgirl? Not through any gender swapping but just like Kara Zor-El or whatever her name is crashes on Earth and Commissioner Gordon dies in Crime Alley instead of the Waynes, so Barbara Gordon becomes the obsessive crime fighting vigilante. Sadly, though, the author does little with the concept of a world with female heroes instead of male ones. One misstep is having the “Justice Society” that’s Wonder Woman, the Flash, and some other heroes. They do nothing in the story and only dilute the concept. Basically all that happens is Batgirl and Supergirl are at first at odds when Lex Luthor is kidnapped and then they work together and find out that Luthor got hold of a dead infant Kal-El (you know, Superman) and used his alien physiology to create a bunch of advanced technology. There’s really nothing about the prejudice and sexism these female heroes might face or anything like that, which made it a hollow exercise. Overall none of these stories really did much for me. (2/5)

Batman Elseworlds, Vol 1:  Like the Justice League one, this contains a variety of Batman "Elseworlds" tales that feature a different kind of Batman.  And like the Justice League one some were meh and some were better.  The first "Holy Terror" envisions an America still part of the UK.  Bruce Wayne becomes a priest but when he finds out the government killed his parents, he adopts the Batman guise to find the killers.  And that leads him to discovering a whole mess of secret experiments on people like Barry Allen.  And he also finds the corpse of Superman.  It was OK but not great.  Another takes place in 1863 Nevada.  Colonel Bruce Wayne, Mark Twain, and Wild Bill Hickock try to track down a load of missing silver that might be used by the Confederacy.  It was lame and the half-Native American was borderline racist.  Batman/Dark Joker: the Wild takes place in a fantasy realm called "the Wild" where the "Dark Joker" is a sorcerer taking over the land and the Bat-Man is literally a human-bat hybrid sort of like Man-Bat.  It was kind of lame, like one of the dumb sword-and-sorcery movies they show on Rifftrax.  One with Batman and Houdini at the turn of the century was kind of fun.  Another casts Bruce Wayne as Victor von Frankenstein who reanimates his father's brain in a cobbled-together body, but his undead father goes around beating up highwaymen.  It was an OK concept.  There's another featured on the cover that reimagines a scene from Frank Miller's Year One where Bruce Wayne is badly injured after a night of trying to be a vigilante.  In Year One he's inspired by a bat to become Batman, but in this he's given a Green Lantern ring instead of Hal Jordan and so becomes Green Lantern.  Then he ends up combating Sinestro.  This probably would have been better if it used the more modern Lantern mythology than the dorky Silver Age/Bronze Age stuff where Green Lanterns can't affect anything yellow for instance.  The last one takes place in the late 30s but is actually relevant to now.  It's about industrialist Bruce Wayne becoming Batman to combat fascism in America, including a Ku Klux Klan simulacrum called the "White Legion."  This was kind of interesting though it would have been neat if there had been a sequel included to cover Batman, Catwoman, and Alfred in Germany in WWII. (2.5/5)

Dark Knight Returns: The Master Race: A little over 15 years after Frank Miller’s embarrassingly juvenile sequel to The Dark Knight Returns comes this third chapter. DC did the smart thing and let veteran writer Brian Azzarello “co-write” this project so that instead of embarrassing and awful it’s just boring and cliché. The eponymous “master race” is a group of Kryptonians Superman/Wonder Woman’s daughter convinces Ray Palmer (the Atom) to embiggen, except of course they turn out to be evil and want to take over the planet. Oh, wow, evil Kryptonians. That’s only been done 4698465 times before. This is largely a Superman story since Batman is too old and feeble to do a lot—until he’s mortally wounded and Superman dunks him in a Lazarus Pit, which is just a lazy deus ex machina. I mean couldn’t Superman have done that when Batman “died” in the original Dark Knight Returns? Anyway, Batman helps seed the clouds with Kryptonite at one point so it rains Kryptonite that weakens the bad guys. That’s not an original concept as I remember seeing a Superman (or Superboy?) comic doing that 25-30 years ago. Later, Batman unleashes some bats and many of the bad guys immolate each other with their heat vision. Derp. And then Superman reveals he’s just been “holding back” the last 30 years or so and beats the shit out of the Kryptonians that are left. Yawn. This was just a cash grab for DC and Miller. (2/5)

Batman/Judge Dredd: By now I think Batman has pretty much crossed over at one point with just about every other property: Aliens, Predator, Spawn, Ninja Turtles, and in the 90s or so there were a few crossover comics with Judge Dredd. The first involves “Judge Death” coming to Gotham and Dredd on his tail. Later Dredd helps save Batman from a bomb plot. The Riddler traps Batman and Dredd in a virtual reality arena in another issue. And the Joker goes to Dredd’s dimension to wreak havoc with four evil judges. It was OK but having not read a Judge Dredd comic maybe I didn’t get as much from it as I could have. There’s also an issue where Lobo chases a bounty into Dredd’s dimension. I haven’t read either of their comics so it was kind of meh to me. (2.5/5)

Superman Unchained: This miniseries was written by former Batman writer Scott Snyder. The gist is that for years the US Military has been hiding an alien called “Wraith” that has most of the same powers as Superman. Oh, hey, there’s another new concept! Together they end up foiling an alien plot to invade the Earth with help from Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Batman. It’s OK but another that doesn’t bring much new to the table. (2.5/5)

Batman Europa: In this miniseries, Batman and Joker are infected with a virus and have only a week to find the cure. They have to work together as they go from Gotham to Berlin to Prague to Paris to Rome looking for clues. The writer doesn’t really do much with the concept of Batman and the Joker dying and having to rely on each other. In the end they find it was Bane behind it for…reasons. And the cure is…each other’s blood. I’m pretty sure that’s not how science works. For someone dying, Batman manages to beat Bane pretty easily. Another meh miniseries no one really needed. (2.5/5)

Superman: American Alien:  This is essentially a Superman prequel.  The idea is to present seven stories from Superman's formative years, starting when he's a little kid learning his powers and moving on from there as he learns what it takes to be a hero.  It's not breaking a lot of new ground but it walks a good line between the misery and despair of Man of Steel and the Big Blue Boy Scout of Superman The Movie.  It also covers a little more ground than TV's Smallville.  There are cameos from familiar characters like Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Batman, the Green Lantern Corps (not any human ones), Doomsday, and Lobo.  But Superman seems to have the same problem as Captain America:  besides origin stories and stories killing him it seems hard for writers to find decent stories for the character. (3/5)

Lost Light, Vol 2: A sort of hodge-podge of issues, mostly focusing on the mutinous Getaway, who is willing to do anything (seriously, anything) to get to Cyberuptopia and thereby become a de facto Prime. First Aid and the Protectobots try to stop him, but don’t. Meanwhile the female Autobots consider bringing the dead Skids back to life—but don’t. What sucks is you really don’t have a lot of the main characters in this, though I think they’re set to return in the next issue. (2.5/5)

Justice League 3000:  I actually read the sequel to this (Justice League 3001) over the last two years and then I finally got the initial 12-issue series on sale.  I thought reading this might help clear up some of the confusion from the other book, but...not really.   I guess since it's a comic book it just throws  you right into action and only later backtracks to explain who these new versions of Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and the Flash are.  Basically they're sorta clones, only the DNA from the Justice League members has been implanted in living people and consumes them, transforming them into the superheroes of yore.  Except there are holes in their memories and they aren't really the same as before:  Wonder Woman is bloodthirsty, Batman has a sense of humor, and Superman is a douche who can't fly or use heat vision.  They've been revived to fight "the Five," who are five overpowered supervillains who have taken over the 31st Century universe.   The new Justice League does a pretty shitty job through most of the first 7 issues but eventually their creator rallies them to defeat the Five, at least temporarily.  With how overpowered some of these villains were, it made it hard to believe they could actually be defeated, even by Earth's Mightiest Heroes--or these guys.  But I guess it helped to clear up one or two things. (2.5/5)

Batman, Vol 3: I Am Bane:  Tom King's tremendous run on Batman continues.  After rescuing the "Psycho Pirate" from Bane's island in the previous volume, Bane is hot on Batman's heels.  Only now Bane is pissed off and full of Venom.  Batman needs 5 days for the Psycho Pirate to cure the former "Gotham Girl" so he needs to buy some time.  Meanwhile Bane captures the current and former Robins, Commissioner Gordon, and Catwoman.  The former three are hung in the Batcave, though not dead.  Batman holes up in Arkham Asylum with the Psycho Pirate and Gotham Girl.  To make it to them, Bane needs to run a gauntlet of Arkham inmates from Two-Face to Killer Croc to Scarecrow.  And in the end does so because he is Bane!  The only real fault I have with this volume is Batman doesn't really have much of a plan.  At one point Batman takes the Robins to Superman's Fortress of Solitude to recover.  Why doesn't he just take the Psycho Pirate and Gotham Girl there?  Or the Justice League's Watchtower in space?  Or ask one of the Green Lanterns to fly them to Oa or another planet?  Or why doesn't he just let Superman kick Bane's ass?  All Superman would have to do is fly Bane up into space and he'd die, Venom or no.  But I guess you can pretty much always say that.  At the end of the volume Batman pops the question to Catwoman, ending it on a cliffhanger. (3.5/5)

Batman, Vol 4:  The War of Jokes & Riddles:  This is actually a flashback to something that supposedly happened years ago, though it's only been mentioned during King's run.  The framing device is that Batman is telling Catwoman the story so she can better understand him.  Basically the Riddler and Joker go to war, each recruiting villains to their side while Batman tries to put out the fires--sometimes literally.  The crux of this story turns out to be the secret origin of little-known villain "Kite Man."  He's as lame as that sounds, which turns out to be the whole point; the Riddler created a villain so sad that he thought the Joker would find it hilarious, but it turns out he doesn't.  The only problem is that it's unclear why some villains join up with the Joker and some with the Riddler.  I suppose that could have been explained if this were one of those stories to span the entire Batman line, but in just 5 issues or so it can't really go that in-depth. (3/5)

Totally Awesome Hulk, Vol 1:  Boy genius Amadeus Cho was introduced about 12 years ago in Marvel comics.  He's a big fan of the Hulk and now he gets to become the Hulk!  But he's not a dumb brute like the Banner Hulk.  Instead he maintains his brains (most of the time) and gets to make lame quips that don't involve "Hulk smash!"  There's not a very interesting story in this first volume.  A lady comes from another planet to find Earth's strongest creature and take it back to her zoo.  Eventually she of course finds the new Hulk.  And then in a couple of issues he joins the new Thor to fight the Enchantress.  Meh.  Pretty much if you've read any other of Marvel's new batch of heroes then you've read this.  (2/5)

Hulk: Gray:  This miniseries by Jeph Loeb with overly cartoonish art by Tim Sale retells Hulk's origin.  And that's about it.  Doesn't really provide any new insights into the character.  Pretty much a waste of time if you've read previous Hulk comics or watched the TV show or 2003/2008 movies. (1/5) 

The Mighty Thor, Vol 1: Thunder in Her Veins:  It would be a lot easier to follow the adventures of the female Thor if Marvel didn't insist on renumbering every year.  I mean this is at least the third #1 issue since she picked up the hammer.  And it's all a continuing story so it's kinda confusing.  Anyway, I think maybe this was the most recent #1.  Malekith the Dark Elf, the Enchantress, Frost Giants, and of course Loki are joining forces to take over the 10 realms.  (Wait, weren't there 9 before?)  Only Thor can stop them!  Maybe.  Meanwhile whenever she puts down the hammer, she turns back into Jane Foster, who's dying of cancer.  So, um, just don't put the hammer down?  But I guess that's hard when you're Public Enemy #1 of Odin and all those evildoers above.  Anyway, it was OK and not too hard to follow even though I haven't read the series since the first volume 1 with the female Thor. (2.5/5)

Detective Comics Vol 2: The Victim Syndicate:  In volume 1 of the Rebirth renumbering focused on Batman creating a team of his allies featuring Batwoman, Orphan, Red Robin, Spoiler, and reformed villain Clayface.  In a fight against a rogue US military outfit called "The Colony" Red Robin was "killed."  Most of volume 2 picks up after that with Batman closing out his team because of the loss.  Then the eponymous group calling themselves "the Victim Syndicate" show up.  They're people who were victims of Batman's war on crime, like someone who was tortured by the Joker and one tortured by Scarecrow, and one who was mutated by Clayface to be like him.  Then there's "the first victim" who dresses like a Cenobite from Hellraiser (something they also did recently in the miniseries Dark Nights Metal with the "Batman who laughs").  They poison Spoiler and turn her against Batman and the team--but also them too.  As for who the first victim is, we still don't know.  Someone with a face so gross they leave his/her mask on.  It was a pretty weak arc.  A couple of issues then involve "the Colony" coming back to try to rescue its prisoners and stealing some of the "monster Venom" used in "Night of the Monster Men" which like the Batman volumes is not contained in these because I guess it has its own separate trade collection.  Anyway, it was OK but not great. (2.5/5)

Detective Comics Vol 3:  League of Shadows:  In the Nolan movies "League of Assassins" was changed to "League of Shadows" but in this they are actually two parts of the same organization.  The League of Assassins is the more public group that kills people for profit led by the eternal Ra's al Guhl.  The League of Shadows is a shadowy group (pun intended) that's intended for a more nefarious purpose.  It's led by the evil ninja Shiva who at least in the past was one of Bruce Wayne's teachers in his early days.  It turns out she's also the mother to Orphan, aka Cassandra Cain, whose father took her from her mother and raised her to fight instead of speak.  Cassandra was Batgirl during and after the No Man's Land arc around the turn of the century but disappeared in the New 52 reboot until returning a year or two ago.  Anyway, writer James Tynion IV does somewhat of what Tom King has been doing on the regular Batman title and humanizing the characters to make them more than 2-dimensional.  That makes this story better than it would be otherwise because it focuses largely on the conflict between Cassandra and her long-lost mother who's an evil psychopath and doesn't really want her. (3/5) 

Sins of Youth:  This was a fairly goofy "event" from 2000.  Imagine if you will Freaky Friday, only with superheroes.  The team of teen heroes known as Young Justice has been hounded by reporters and such and so they hold a rally that's also attended by the Justice League and Justice Society.  But a mischievous witch boy uses his powers and turns the teen heroes into adults, the Justice League into teens, and the Justice Society into children, pretty much flip-flopping the natural order of things.  Spin-off issues then pair off teen and adult heroes.  It's an interesting concept, but a single issue can't really cover much in-depth for the heroes.  Not like a book can, like my Gender Swap Heroes series for instance.  I'm just saying. (3/5) 

Seven Soldiers of Victory, Vol 2:  When I bought this, I thought it was the whole series, not just volume 2.  But it doesn't matter all that much since it's mostly unrelated stories.  There are seven main characters who each get 4 issues and then 2 bookend issues.  These 7 characters in some vague way all fight an invasion of evil "fairies" who come from a billion years in the future.  But the thing is that none of them really meet any of the other characters, though many are in the same city during a "Battle of New York" not all that dissimilar from the Avengers movie.  Anyway, this was written by Tony Laplume's hero Grant Morrison who I've said in the past can be either fairly mainstream and insightful or weird and off-the-wall.  Mostly this is the latter.  The Mister Miracle parts are sort of a prelude to Morrison's later Final Crisis, the unnecessary "Crisis" event only die-hard fans give a crap about anymore. The Bulleteer parts get a little icky as one woman's husband surfs a porn site for teenaged superheroes (underage?) and is trading emails with a woman who's really 26 but looks forever like she's 16.  The Frankenstein parts were almost the most normal. That's not unexpected with Morrison. (2.5/5)

Batman Vol 7: Endgame:  This arc near the end of Scott Snyder's run on the Batman title features a face-off with the Joker.  Having previously gone after Batman's "family," this time Joker turns the Justice League against Batman, though of course Batman is ready for this.  Then Joker unleashes a virus on the city that drives people mad, but the only cure lies in the Joker.  It's OK but there's not really much point when you know Batman and the Joker aren't really going to die.  After a brief run with Commissioner Gordon in a robot Batsuit, of course Bruce Wayne came back.  I don't think Joker has come back in the present, but it's only a matter of time.  Personally I don't see the attraction with the Joker.  He's more annoying than scary.  Those who say Batman needs the Joker should read Tom King's mostly Joker-free run. (2.5/5) 

Black Panther by Christopher Priest, Vol 1:  With the movie coming out Amazon had this free to read with Amazon Prime.  This run was from the 90s and takes place in New York, not Wakanda.  King T'Challa has been lured to New York and while he's gone a whacko named Achebe takes power.  To avoid a civil war T'Challa stays in New York.  He makes a deal with Mephisto (the devil), takes on some other bad guys, and reveals to the Avengers that he only joined them to spy on them.  Most of the story is told by bumbling State Department employee Everett Ross, who at one point is chased through the White House with a hockey stick by Bill Clinton.  I can't see that happening in real life unless Ross were a chubby woman. Parts of it are fairly silly but overall it's not terrible. (2.5/5)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Why Do Male Filmmakers Struggle to Make Female Superhero Movies?

Late last week it was announced that Joss Whedon would be exiting DC's Batgirl movie project.  The excuse given was he just couldn't come up with a story.  Whedon also couldn't come up with a Wonder Woman story either back in the day.  He's hardly the only one to fail in that regard.  Until Wonder Woman last year the idea of a female superhero movie was as implausible as a Democrat presidential candidate winning Texas. 

It's never made much sense to me.  I mean I winged off 8 Scarlet Knight books, 3 Girl Power novels, 7 Girl Power short stories, a Girl Power spinoff novella, and 2 (soon 3) Gender Swap Heroes novels.  Though with the exception of the Scarlet Knight books I guess you could say they aren't entirely female heroes.  But still.  It doesn't make sense that it's such a struggle for people to even come up with a coherent idea.

And like with Wonder Woman, I'm going to throw down a Batgirl movie idea right now.  So there.
Definitely need to work in this scene.

Someone on Comic Book Resources was trying to do the same but like Joss Whedon doing it all wrong.  We need Batman to show her the ropes!  We should use the Riddler or the Penguin as the villain!  Yeah, no.  I guess if you're doing this with no eye to plausibility you could go that route.  But DC/WB don't even know who their Batman is anymore with Affleck soon to follow Whedon and Zack Snyder out the door.  And since you have an older Batman and a Nightwing movie in development, why would you start with her as a green recruit?  Unless you're setting the story in the 80s or 90s.  And using main Batman villains?  Come on.  Like they'd go for that in a project they don't think will succeed.

Anyway, I'm going to take a vaguely realistic approach that's borrowed from the New 52 reboot in 2011.  So we start with Barbara Gordon moving into a new apartment in a seedy neighborhood.  Five years ago she was crippled by the Joker but now through science she's able to walk again.

Soon after moving in, Barbara gets on her old Batgirl costume to start flexing her muscles.  She runs into some street crime and stops it, but is almost killed in the process because she's not up to speed.  So she goes to see the lady who helped with her rehab when she was learning to walk again to build up some strength and maybe work on some moves.

Meanwhile there's a crew of bad guys robbing places.  Someone we don't see is actually planning the crimes and maybe overseeing them by video feed.  Barbara is out one night when she gets wind of such a robbery and tries to intervene.  She foils the robbery but the crew's unseen boss helps them elude Batgirl and escape.

Back at the apartment, Barbara starts doing some hacking to find out who these people are and where they might strike.  But as she's hacking, her computer suddenly melts down with an ominous message like, "I can see you" or something on the screen before it shuts down.

The next day she goes to the library where she works to try again.  But as she's working on it, some dangerous-looking characters show up in the library.  They try to catch Barbara, but knowing the terrain a lot better, she's able to escape.  She goes back to her apartment to get her gear, but the place blows up!  As she's lying there, dazed, a guy appears before her.  A familiar guy:  her brother James Jr--last seen in a mental institution.  He tells her that she should have stayed crippled.  Hearing sirens, he takes off into the night.

With nowhere else to go, Barbara goes to her former physical therapist's place in the Burnside neighborhood.  She confesses how shortly after the Batman appeared in Gotham she became Batgirl.  Until one night she answered the door and the Joker shot her in the spine.  (To save on money you don't even need to show the whole Joker; you could just show the bottom half of his face and the gun before it fires.  Then you don't have to pay Jared Leto.  Hooray!)  As for her brother, he was brilliant but always a bad seed, until he killed their mother and was committed.  (If you wanted to go another way and piss off the fans, you could have James Jr shoot her five years ago.)

The therapist agrees to help Barbara.  She's got a brother or friend or something who can help her get some new stuff.  And she gets a costume like the most recent "Batgirl of Burnside" comics.  In the process maybe her and the brother or friend or whatever start to hit it off.

The next time the bad guys go to hit a place she goes to intercept them.  This time she kicks their asses and finds out where James Jr is holed up.  And so she goes there but of course he has some traps.  And maybe he has their father hostage.  But of course Barbara saves the day.  James Jr survives to go back to Arkham or wherever.

Later, Barbara moves into the therapist's place in Burnside.  And then she goes out in costume.  Hooray!

Now if you want, you could maybe replace the therapist with Black Canary or the Huntress and have the other one show up at the end or a credits scene to set up a Birds of Prey movie.  A standalone movie would be cheaper, but the Birds of Prey thing would maybe sell more toys, right?

There you go.  Just that easy.  Credit where credit is due:  someone on CBR actually gave me the James Jr angle because I couldn't think of a decent villain from the Batgirl comics.

Anyway, suck it Joss Whedon.  When is some studio going to hire me to do this for real?  If only they read my blog. lol


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