Here we are, like orphans with our noses flattened against the candy store window, gazing at the tasty wonders just inches from our faces, but destined never, never to taste them.
Astronomers have identified 3,422 exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than our own. Of these, they estimate that about a thousand might support something that we’d identify as life. That’s what they think. But barring some unforeseeable, game-changing Something, they’ll never know for sure. Because they haven’t really seen these worlds apart, these star-gazers, even through their most impressive telescopes. The doggone things are just too far away!
So they see stuff like spots crossing the far-away star and do spectroscopic analyses of light and apply esoteric disciplines that I’ve probably never heard of and then… I don’t know – make a best guess or two?
Frustrating, isn’t it? We have a wired-in appetite for Other and a good thing, too, because that appetite enables us to propagate the species, especially on warm spring nights scented with blossoms and that person over there, basking in the soft moonlight, is breathtakingly lovely… Whoa! We’re not in the smut-peddling game here and anyway, you get the idea. We Want Other.
And generally, we can’t have it. But we have another wired-in trait that can serve as a substitute. Beginning in infancy, we create cause and effect narratives. I cry, I get picked up kinds of things. That narrative-building trait evolves, along with the rest of us, and eventually we’re using it to create poems and jokes and plays and religions and comic books and who-knows-what-all, including extraterrestrials. Imaginary extraterrestrials, to be sure, but we take what we can get.
It’s an old, old trick. As early as 5000 years ago the Sumerians were making figurine of creatures from Planet X, and there may have been earlier mythic aliens that didn’t manage to get written down. The early gods were first cousins to these aliens and they go way back.
Well. We have Superman and Supergirl and Hawkman and Hawkwoman and ET and J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter (that J’onn J’onzz) and Yoda and pulpy Bug Eyed Monsters and whole lot of fictional Others and…
Maybe we’re not satisfied. Maybe we look into the night sky and wonder if we’re alone in the universe and if we are, what that might mean.
I’d sure like a taste of that candy. But maybe it should remain behind the glass. Might not be good for me.
I’ve been watching DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow over on the CW. Among the characters that have been appearing on the show are Firestorm and Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Well, not so much Hawkman any more, maybe. I didn’t create those three characters but I certainly played with them a lot and, for a while, left my sticky fingerprints all over them. So it’s interesting watching manifestations of them in other media.
I’ll be experiencing that big time come August when the Suicide Squad movie hits the multiplexes. I created Amanda Waller and I defined characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang and it will be exciting to see how they translate for the screen. I hope.
None of the character portrayals will translate directly from the comics to movies or TV. I’m okay with that; none of them have so far. Different media have different needs. That’s why they’re called adaptations. The material is adapted from whatever the source was. My only question about any given adaptation is – how true is it to its roots? Did they get the essence of the character or the concept right? If you’re going to do Captain XYZ Man, there should be a resemblance to what makes up Captain XYZ Man. Right?
OTOH, I haven’t always done that and Suicide Squad itself is a good example. The comic was originally created for DC by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru; my version shared the title, a character or two, and some history with the original and not much else. Of course, as buddy Mike Gold pointed out in his excellent column this week, Kanigher may have gotten the title (and not much else) from a feature in a pulp magazine called Ace G-Man. What goes around comes around?
Amanda has appeared several times, including the TV show Arrow, lots of animated series, the Green Lantern movie, video games, the TV series Smallville, and probably more. I may need to double check my royalty statements. Any number of actresses have portrayed her and voiced her. She doesn’t always look the same. In Arrow and some of the comics, she’s built like a model. However, in all the variations I’ve seen there have been certain aspects that are kept – she’s female, black, and she’s ruthless as hell.
Even with other characters, I don’t always keep to how they were conceived. My version of Firestorm changed (evolved?) throughout my run. At one point when we decided he was a Fire Elemental (the Elemental idea was popular for a while starting with Alan Moore making Swamp Thing the Earth Elemental) and Ol’ Flamehead’s look was drastically altered, not always to universal approval.
Still, I think I kept to the essentials of the characters and, when I changed things, I kept within continuity as established although sometimes I picked and chose within the continuity.
All that said, I (mostly) enjoy seeing the variations and permutations of these characters. It’s like watching your kids grow up and moving away and seeing what they become. It’s not always what you expected but, hopefully, you can still see your DNA in them.
Gentlefolk, the question I would put before the august company today is: If I had known about the Absorbascon would the Omcromicon have ever come to be and I would chose to elaborate on this inquiry by seeking your opinion as to whether the Omcromicon did, in fact, ever exist.
We may be tip-toeing into metaphyscs here, but I give you my word that we will not venture far.
Let’s begin my backing up a week. In our previous meeting I dissertated on a device used by Hawkman, a well-respected comic book character who also is currently appearing on television. I was not exactly heedless because I did preface my remarks by admitting that “I’m on shaky ground here because I’m not sure that I’m spelling “Omcromicon correctly” and that I knew of “…the Hawks’ favored weapons, antique harmbringers like maces and such,” but a hasty search of the web yielded no mention of this Omcromicon.
That’s because there was none. The Omcromicon was unintentionally created by me as I attended to writing last week’s column. Our esteemed friend Mr. Howard Margolin posts: “Denny, the device you’re referring to was called the Absorbascon.”
Much obliged, Howard.
Absorbascon/omcromicon…Absorbascon/omcromicon…The words aren’t exactly doppelgangers, are they? We’re not dealing with a misplaced letter or two. So out of what orifice did I pull “Omcromicon?” I don’t know.
I am prepared to state the obvious: If I hadn’t been trying to write about the “Absorbascon,” I would not have coined “Omcromicon” So is one of these things real and the other unreal? Are both real? Neither?
Well, consider: neither is a tangible object that can be handled or dropped on the floor just after the warranty expires. But we’re giving them names and how can you name something that isn’t?
Perhaps we can solve this conundrum by borrowing a rhetorical tactic from St. Anselm. Let us refer the gadgets in question as The Most Perfect Omcromicon and The Most Perfect Absorbascon. So something that exists is more perfect than something that doesn’t and thus simple logic reveals that the most perfect iterations of both devices most exist or they wouldn’t be the most perfect. Of course, anything less than the most perfect has a problem, assuming that nonexistent things can have problems. (Could they have nonexistent problems and if so, how would we know about them? How would they know about them?)
I doubt that the writers who work on the television versions of Hawkman and Hawkwoman will incorporate any of this into their scripts. But that’s their problem.
We’re now into the run of television’s latest superhero saga, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and while we’ve been treated to both Hawkman and his mate, who are among the stars of the show, we haven’t yet seen Hawkman’s omcromicon. Do we breathe a sigh of relief or add another bitter complaint to the list?
Or do we scratch our heads and ask what the dickens an… wha’d I call it? – an omcromicon is?
Let’s do that. But first, a confession: I’m on shaky ground here because I’m not sure that I’m spelling “omcromicon” correctly and a very hasty pass through the web got me zilch. Plenty of stuff on Hawkman and Hawkgirl (a.k.a. Hawkwoman) – more than I expected – and a goodly number of mentions of what was once the Hawks’ favored weapons, antique harmbringers like maces and such. But omcromicon? Nada.
So I’m forced to depend on my memory and woe is us.
But here we go anyway. First, the obvious question: What’s an omcromicon? If memory serves – and that will be the day – the device under discussion here is a bit of technology that originated on the Hawks” home planet Thanagar. (Was there a Thanagarian Steve Jobs?) The omcromicon knows everything that everybody on our planet – Earth – knows, which makes it way handier than a Smartphone. (I’m presuming the gadget’s mindreading is limited to sentient beings and I don’t know where that would leave, say, dolphins.).
Nifty tool for a bewinged, offworld vigilante, no?
When I had a polite, but unintimate, acquaintance with the Hawks, I think I pretty much ignored it. The reasons? Okay, here we go into Comics Writing 101, but I will keep it short. The essence of this kind of fiction is struggle: two or more antagonists are after the same thing and the story is a narrative of how one of them defeats the other. If that struggle is too easily resolved, the story is pretty short and maybe not too interesting.
So now our question becomes: Does the omcromicon make the Hawks’ job too easy? Yes and no. It allows the storyteller to skip potentially boring blather about how the good guys got to the place where they could wallop the bad guys and let’s admit it, that’s what we want to see. But maybe the good guys would gain stature and interest if they had to do the legwork on stage. Let them solve the problems too easily and… why do we admire this hero again?
Give a winged avenger an omcromicon and you’ve given him or her something usually reserved for deities: omniscience. Or something darn close to it. You sure you want to do that?
I didn’t, on those rare occasions when the Hawks were a professional concern. But if I’m so smart, why am I not omniscent?
(SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! Spoiler spoiler spoil spoil spoilery spoilers.I’m chatting this week about the events on some of the superhero TV shows last week. If you recorded them and intend to watch them later, give this a pass. Here endeth the warning.)
It was an interesting week in superhero TVland – specifically, DC superhero TVland. At least for me. I had a personal connection to some of them.
Arrow had a few events, some minor, one major. The character Felicity who is their computer geek expert recently got shot and it appears she has nerve damage to the spine and now has resumed her place with the team in a wheelchair. Sound like anyone we know? Yup – Oracle, whom my late wife and writing partner Kim Yale and I created from the remains of Barbara Gordon. Oh, they’re not calling her that but that’s who she is, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.
They also had Felicity dealing with a hallucination of her younger self, perhaps brought on by pain medication or even an aftereffect of anesthesia. What’s interesting is that younger Felciity is the spitting image of Death from the Sandman series – pale skin, raven dark hair, dressed in black, with an ankh necklace. However, they don‘t reference Death at all. They just grab her look. Guess Felicity was really into the Goth scene back then.
The major event was – they killed off their version of Amanda Waller. Bad guy just suddenly shot her in the head without warning. That was startling, I will admit, as it was no doubt intended to be. Since I get a little bit of money every time Amanda shows up on Arrow (or anywhere), her death was not a terribly pleasant surprise.
OTOH, this was a young, pretty, skinny Waller which is not how I saw the character. When I created the Wall, I saw her as a certain age and a certain heft for a variety of reasons. The bulk made her more physically intimidating. Also, I wanted a character who was unlike other comic book characters. Being black, middle aged, and plus-sized did that. I understood that this was the CW and that’s what the CW does – young and gorgeous is the rule of the day, every day. I did nott and do not object to their interpretation. And we have Viola Davis playing Amanda in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and I’m looking forward to that. (The second trailer came out for the Squad movie as well recently and it’s looking real hot, IMO.)
There was another unexpected death in DC superhero TV-land this week and it was in the second episode of the new DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow. On the team is the CW version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (you couldn’t call her Hawkwoman, CW?) and, lo and behold, they offed Hawkman this week. Well, boy howdee, that was a stunner.
I didn’t create Hawkman but I’d written him for a while (although it was alien Katar Hol rather than Carter Hall) so I did have a personal attachment to him. I’ll continue watching for now just to see where they go with all this but I’m not sure of its longevity.
The last event happened for me on Supergirl over on CBS rather than the CW. The main character is alright but, for me, the real draw is the Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz. Tom Mandrake and I did a series on JJ in which we explored more of his society and culture. For example, it had been long established that, on Mars, J’onn had a wife and daughter who died. No one, however, had ever given them names, so I did. The daughter I named K’ym as a tribute to my late wife. On last week’s Supergirl episode, J’onn went into some of his past. He mentioned two daughters, one of whom was named K’ym.
That pleased me a lot. It was just a small thing but I know Kim would have been very pleased. I can almost hear her giggling and see her bouncing up and down with glee. Most pleasant.
So that was my week in Superhero TVland. How was yours?
TV has been so very good to us lately, has it not? Last week, I talked about Gotham. Making the rounds this week with the newly-coined label mid-season finale came both Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and DC’s The Flash. And boy howdy, could two shows be any more different.
The dichotomous execution of these shows has offered the comic book geek in me a chance to have my cake with a slice of pie on the side. The Flash is proving how DC can unravel the entirety of its wonderful bench of compulsory concepts and characters to build a universe that celebrates the source material; and now makes it flesh. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is happy to borrow only the table scraps of the 616 and spin a story that we couldn’t otherwise enjoy from Marvel Comics. Coulson and his cohorts are wholly a product of TV – built with respect to the medium in which they were born, but taking advantage of slow serialized arcs, and universe building by way of deep character work. In the macro, both shows are proving to the muggles that the best kept secret to first-class content has been comics all along.
Thus far this season The Flash has been an exercise in glorious gluttony. Where the House of Mouse is carefully crafting a cohesive communal cinematic universe, DC is running hard and fast in the other direction. In the front half of Flash’s second season we’ve seen a Man-Shark, a telepathic gorilla, the introduction of Earth-2, Jay Garrick, Zoom, Dr. Light, Vandal Savage, Hawkman and Hawkgirl – complete with comic-appropriate backstory, the introduction of Vibe, the return of the Weather Wizard (now with his magic wand!), the Trickster, a new Firestorm collaboration, and, of course, Wally West.
In the same amount of time, Agent Coulson got a black rubber hand and a D-Class Joe Maduereira Inhuman who doubles as Blair Underwood. I’m simplifying of course. And to be clear, I’m enjoying both shows, sometimes in spite of themselves. That being said, I have a few bones to pick with both programs.
Agents hasn’t fulfilled the destiny I’d hoped for it with the introduction of the Inhumans at the tail-end of last season. Where I was hoping to see an expansion to the use and usage of superpowers on an otherwise powerless show, we’re treated to only a few banal lightning bolts, melting metal, or CGI’d force waves. Oh, and the chairman from Iron Chef America can make guns float. At times, you can almost see the straining budget buckle – which is funny, given how profitable the entirety of the MCU has been for ABC, owned by Disney, who owns Marvel. But I digress. The Inhuman situation has been treated with kid gloves thus far in the second season. Whole swaths of them have been slaughtered off-screen to boot – which kills any chance for we the audience to feel anything about the quasi-genocide. And then there’s Hydra.
We all know the slogan – “Cut one head off, blah blah blah”. As we dove-tailed into this past week’s episode, all plots converged on a distant planet (see also: California dessert set #245 with a blue gel cap over the lens) where [SPOILER ALERT] an ancient Inhuman brain slug took over the newly deceased carcass of Ex-Agent Ward. We were supposed to feel things at that moment. Vindication for Phil Coulson who had lost so much. Regret over no longer having Ward to eat scenery up (and, according to my wife, be nice looking). And I guess fear over the Ward-zombie that will likely pick things up where we left off when we return from a 10 week jaunt with Agent Carter.
But, alas, I felt none of those things. Coulson’s budding romance with the head of the ATCU was far too short-lived to feel pangs when it ended. Andm come on, no one is really dead in comic book shows now, are they? I can already see Fitz and Simmons restoring an otherwise brainslug-less Ward back to semi-conscience by season’s end. Unless the slug is in fact Mr. Mind, and Marvel and DC are pulling a fast one over on us.
Over in Central City (or is it Keystone? Crap on a cracker I can’t recall), The Flash can’t stand still long enough to take a breath. As I’d detailed above, in half of a season it feels like 80% of the Flash portion of the DC Encyclopedia has been covered – but only in the faintest of ways. The biggest drawback with so many new concepts being tossed out is the inability to savor any of them longer than they appear on screen. And to be clear: They’ve all been on screen exactly long enough to say their names, show off their CGI, be defeated or recruited, and then walk off screen until they’re needed again.
Take the Hawkpeople. In the two episodes they appeared, they were introduced, given their lengthy back-story, and involved in a side-story revolving around Hawkgirl accepting her newfound disappearing wings and centuries-old memory lapse. The episode prior to wings, she was slinging coffee – for about twenty seconds. Suffice to s Say the leap we have to take from “Oh, she’s cute” to “Oh, she’s decided to throw whatever life she had away to now become a super hero with a man she’s ostensibly just met, but now will be in love with…” is short enough to make me scoff by the time she’s walking off the set of The Flash right onto Legends of Tomorrow. Put a pin in that one, kiddos.
At the end of the evening we’re still living in a golden age of comic book teevee. In between the angsty dialogue and drab sets of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lies a show that’s made names like Melinda May, Phil Coulson, and FitzSimmons worthy of the transition to pulp. And in spite of the breakneck pace of The Flash, we know the surface has only been scratched; the back half of the season can take a deep breath to start exploring the universe they broke the sound barrier to introduce in only nine episodes.
Gotta get this sucker written tonight because tomorrow or the next day I may have to resume watching the snow fall and fall and fall and fall…
So: what some benevolent publisher should do (and surely benevolent publishers do exist) is to put put a book that examines the way mythology/religion have evolved quite similarly. Both began with stories that were. by our standards, crude, with little characterization and virtually all the meaning carried by the plot. Then, very gradually, the storytelling forms began to vary, the story content change, the narrative structure mutate…But hey! Enough. I’m not going to write the frigging book, at least not here and now.
If such a book were to exist, though, it might include. perhaps as an appendix, a discussion of how a certain kind of movie is evolving much as its source material evolved a half century or so earlier. I refer, as you astute hooligans have already guessed, to superheroes.
The first superhero stories tended to be short – there were several of them in your 10-cent comic book – and the heroes were…well, they were the good guys. The ones that beat the bad guys. Characterization, insofar as it existed, tended toward the sketchy. All the heroes were white and waspy, and the minorities were small in number and often the kind of stereotypes that might make those of us with delicate sensibilities cringe – not because the writers and artists were bigots, but because they didn’t know better. You could tell which heroes were which mainly by their powers: the Flash could run fast, Green Lantern had a magic ring, Hawkman had wings that enabled him to fly, et cetera, et cetera…Most of them also had double identities, also white and waspy: rich guys with no jobs, or scientists,or journalists – nary a trash collector or milkman in the lot.
The form – comic books – soldiered on through good times and bad, growing more sophisticated year by year, and gradually those complete-in-one-issue stories were supplanted by elaborate serializations. Genuine characterization entered those colored pages, and “adult” themes, and one morning I woke up and my benighted profession was being covered by the New York Times and taught in major universities and – ye gods! – I was respectable.
That was comics.
And movies? I did mention movies, didn’t I? Somewhere back there?
Well, yes I did. But that topic might be a bit ungainly to be contained in the small bundle of verbiage remaining in the 500 words (more or less) I promised to deliver each week to Mike Gold back when ComicMix was in its birth throes. Let’s table movies until next week. For now, some of you better get to the ATM because you’ll probably need to buy salt or to pay hardy young men with shovels because the weather people are predicting more of the same. Then you can lie back, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate, gaze through the window at all that glistening splendor, and hope there are no power failures.
Our pal Timothy Truman, perhaps best known for his work on such comics features as GrimJack, Conan, Hawkworld, Jonah Hex, Hawken, and Scout, has teamed up with writer Ian Rankin to present a 44 page comics story inspired by the work of rock-and-blues musician Rory Gallagher. From the press release:
“On October 29, 2013, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Kickback City, a unique immersive album inspired by the crime noir passion and music of Rory Gallagher (MSRP $29.98). Featuring a specially compiled album of Rory Gallagher’s best crime novel-influenced music; the stunning package also includes an exclusive new novella by Ian Rankin, fully illustrated by graphic artist Timothy Truman. This unique immersive album also includes a special narration of the story by actor Aidan Quinn.
“Inspired by Rory Gallagher’s passion for crime novels, Kickback City is a creative collaboration combining the words of Ian Rankin, the illustrations of Timothy Truman and of course the music of Rory Gallagher. The result is a brand new kind of concept album – a must have for fans of Rory Gallagher, Ian Rankin, graphic novels and newcomers alike.”
In addition to being an accomplished writer and artist, Truman is also a journeyman guitar player and has jammed with musicians Carlos Santana, Bill Kirschen and members of the Grateful Dead. Timothy also provides the illustrations for a great many Grateful Dead album covers and posters.
“I was turned on to Rory’s work in 1973 when I was a junior in high school in West Virginia,” Truman noted. “One Friday night, I turned on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and that’s when I first saw Rory. He immediately blew me away. I thought he was the greatest guitarist and performer I’d ever seen and I’ve been a devoted follower of his music ever since.”
Music recorded by both Gallagher and Truman are frequently featured on Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind (I wonder who hosts that show), on ComicMix affiliate The Point Radio . For more information on Rory Gallagher, please visitwww.rorygallagher.com.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan turns 100 this year, but don’t think celebrating his centennial has slowed down the Lord of the Jungle. Quite the opposite. Here are a few odds and ends from Tarzan’s world happening in 2012 and beyond.
Art: Tom Grindberg
Art: Tom Grindberg
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS COMIC SERVICE- By signing up for the new Edgar Rice Burroughs Comic Service, you will be able to view New and Coming Tarzan comics as soon as they leave our artist’s desk!
TARZAN ART TO APPEAR ON NEW USPS POSTAGE STAMP- CHESTERFIELD, VA – Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author who created Tarzan and a host of other sci-fi heroes a century ago, didn’t get much respect for what was considered pulp fiction at the time. Now, the work of a Chesterfield artist commemorating the prolific author is taking a licking literally.
A brand-new postage stamp showing Burroughs and Tarzan is set to take off around the world. It’s the second U.S. Postal Service stamp drawn by Sterling Hundley, an artist, illustrator and Virginia Commonwealth University art professor. (His first was Oveta Culp Hobby, the first woman to hold a presidential cabinet position.)
Learn more about Sterling Hundley and the new Tarzan stamp here.
OFFICIAL TARZAN STATUES NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER- Details here.
Art: Joe Kubert
JOE KUBERT’S TARZAN OF THE APES: ARTIST’S EDITION COMING IN SEPTEMBER-
Art: Joe Kubert
Joe Kubert is one of the most lauded artists in the history of comics, a true living legend. He has been a vital creative force since the 1940s and remains so to this day. He has had defining runs on Hawkman, Enemy Ace, Tor, Sgt. Rock, and many others. Among his career highlights is Tarzan of the Apes, and Kubert’s rendition could arguably be called the definitive comic adaptation of the Ape-man.
“To have the Tarzan stories I drew commemorate the 100th anniversary of a strip I fell in love with as a kid is the thrill of a lifetime,” said Joe Kubert, writer and artist of all the stories in this Artist’s Edition.
This Artist’s Edition collects six complete Kubert Tarzan adventures, including the classic four-part origin story. Each page is vividly reproduced from the original art and presented as no comics readers have seen before. For fans of Kubert and Tarzan, this new entry in the Eisner-winning Artist’s Edition line must be seen to be believed!
2012 is the centennial year for Tarzan. Created by master storyteller Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan is instantly recognizable to countless fans around the globe. Other notable creations of Burroughs’ include John Carter of Mars, Korak, Carson of Venus, and At the Earth’s Core.
“I first read these comics when I was 10 years old, and they remain some of my favorite stories ever,” said Editor Scott Dunbier, “this is Joe Kubert at his absolute best.”
What is an Artist’s Edition? Artist’s Editions are printed the same size as the original art. While appearing to be in black & white, each page has been scanned in COLOR to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for example, you are able to clearly see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, and art corrections. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.
Tony Isabella, we have your follow up for The Shadow War of Hawkman:
Hawkman’s long lost brother has shown up….by night he is mild mannered Paul Ryan, but whenever he gets close to a microphone, a campaign stop or the Capitol Building he metamorphoses into Deficit Hawkman! Yes! Deficit Hawkman wants to cut services to the poor while raising taxes on the Middle Class! He wants to give the Rich and Corporations tons of government money while bilking his own family! He wants to be Vice President!