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?
This is the time of year when the broadcast networks start to reveal their pilots for the upcoming fall season. The fact that the broadcast networks still think in terms of a “fall season” is simply adorable.
The greatest contribution given to us by the American broadcasting industry is their reimagination of the rubber stamp. So we’ve got a few spin-offs of presently successful comics shows – ABC is toying with a show featuring Mockingbird as an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. castoff, and NBC is considering a show called Powerless about superpowerless wannabes who work at an insurance company. Yes, you’re right: we used to call superpowerless people “people.” Now they’re “powerless.” If this one hits air, it might be renamed “Super-Ability Challenged Beings.”
By the way, I hate the word “reimagine” so much that I’m going to start calling it the “I-word.”
So. How many comics-spawn teevee shows can we squeeze into our lives? Surprisingly – well, at least I’m surprised – at least one more.
The CW is shooting a pilot called Riverdale, staring the brand-new, modernized, more realistic, more plot-driven Archie Comics stalwarts. If, like me, you have no life outside of pop culture you might remember this show being under development with Fox. Well, they punted and, quite frankly, the CW is clearly a better fit.
According to the hype, Riverdale is “a surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends” – I guess this means somebody is going to miss her period – “exploring the surrealism of small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” OK, so this show is likely to be less realistic than, say, The Gilmore Girls.
One of the folks responsible for the recent editorial growth over at Archie Comics is their chief creative officer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. He’s also worked on Supergirl, Big Love and Glee. Roberto’s an executive producer of this teevee show. Having a comics person with media chops in a supervisory position on such a program is de rigueur, and it’s a very good sign. So is having Jon Goldwater on board – he’s Archie Comics’ CEO and his family has been steering the Good Ship Archie since the original carrot-top’s creation 75 years ago. Jon can protect the family jewels, and that puts Archie one up on DC and Marvel.
The fact that Greg Berlanti is another executive producer and Riverdale comes from Berlanti Productions is… well… the obvious choice. Berlanti has more comics-related teevee shows on the air than Carter had little liver pills. He produces Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. He also wrote the Green Lantern movie, but we won’t hold that against him. He is, or at least was, attached to the The Flash movie that is unrelated to his The Flash teevee series.
Yeah, I’m intrigued. I’d like to see a teen comedy that speaks to our times. Oddly, the first show that did this was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which Archie Comics felt was a direct rip-off of their property. I can debate that point, but this isn’t the time for that. However, I will say that show contained Warren Beatty’s finest performances.
We’ll see if the CW picks Riverdale up. I just hope that sooner or later they get around to adding Cosmo the Merry Martian to the cast.
Last week, after I submitted my column to Old Man Editor Mike Gold, I made myself a cup of English Breakfast tea, sliced up some mozzarella and cheddar cheese, grabbed some crackers and got into bed – this woman has to get up way before the first rays of the sun crack the horizon during her work week – and so I didn’t read Old Man Editor Mike Gold’s e-mail in response to my submission until the next afternoon. It said something like: Jessica Jones is old news. It debuted on Netflix in November.
Well, gee, that was only two months ago, Old Man Editor Mike. Two months and 16 days, to be precise.
But I get it. In today’s hyper-streamed world, 10 weeks might as well be 1010 (or 10,000,000,000). There’s so much to watch, so much to read, so much to talk about on the information superhighway that was brought to us courtesy of the U.S. military industrial complex and Al Gore – the World Wide Web, baby – that it’s just about impossible for anyone to stay absolutely current and up-to-date unless you happen to be a green-skinned alien and Legionnaire from the 21st century named Brainiac 5. Even Chris Matthews, of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, now has a segment he calls “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” in which various reporters and pundits tell him, well, something he doesn’t know. And he has a research staff.
Sometimes I feel like the Gallifreyan, trapped in a confession dial for 7000 years while the universe just merrily keeps on expanding, minding its own business, and intelligent life and civilizations and planets and suns within it are born, thrive, wither, and die.
I can’t even keep up with my e-mail. Every day, for instance, I get at least three notifications from Comic Book Resources (CBR). I delete the ones that don’t sound interesting to me, but even the ones I want to read pile up faster than those cars and buses and trucks that were stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last weekend. Then, by the time I actually have the time to check them, they are all old news which I’ve either already heard about, or read about, or watch somewhere else on the net. And that’s just CBR. There’s also Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, Den of Geek, Bleeding Cool News, Michael Davis World, et. al. Oh, and that also includes ComicMix.
Plus my other e-mails and notifications. On Saturday it took me two hours just to clear out my mailbox. Some of the stuff dated back to November, and I never even read them. I’m telling you, it’s like reading a newspaper with the headline U.S. and Japs At War.
I am up-to-date on my X-Files. (I’m thinking that it rocks!) I saw that movie its first weekend in theatres. And I’m actually ahead of the ball on Downton Abbey, having just watched Episode 8 of “The Final Season” on Amazon Prime.
I missed the premiere of Legends of Tomorrow, Parts 1 and 2, and I missed last week’s Supergirl because I watched X-Files. So now I have to catch up those two shows. And I’m embarrassed to admit that Daredevil is still in my queue.
Not to mention that I have three more episodes of Jessica Jones to go.
(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?
Just as my ComicMix cohort, the Legend of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Denny O’Neil, I have jumped gently back into the TV fracas again with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Denny was quick to note in the macro that the show harkens to a very base pulp root – that of myth of the voyage. But my gaze is far more acutely focused on but a single moment from the first episode of the CW’s titular team up.
Shortly after The Doctor – um, I mean Rip Hunter – has pitched woo to each of his would-be Legends, we’re treated to the monotony of joining each member as they pack up their lives to go adventuring. With seemingly everyone on board, we assume smooth sailing… until we reach the immaculate home of Professor Martin Stein. There, amidst his country bumpkin bric-a-brac, Stein and his young ward (Jax Jackson, because all other actual comic-approved merger-buddies are not living…) minced mean words. You see Mr. Jackson, with his youth and a future in tact, wasn’t as elated to traipse across time and space with a band of would-be time cops. Stein frankly couldn’t care less.
And that my friends, is where the show jumped the King Shark.
The known pacifist who was shown previously to prioritize his love of his wife above all else felt it OK to drug his would-be co-hero and drag his sleepy ass onto the ersatz-Tardis because he wanted to. This of course led to Jax waking up, getting angry, eventually getting into plot-driven danger, and ultimately seeing Stein’s way of thinking. It helps that he’s only as smart as the story requires him to be. So a little metaphorical football teamwork was all it took for Jax to forgive and forget. The show of course is in its infancy and perhaps I’m being needlessly picky. But I digress, you see. Being needlessly picky is sort of my super power.
Up until this point, I’ve kept a keen eye on Firestorm in the the DC-CW-TV-U. Amidst all the typical TV dramady tropes revolving around love, revenge, justice, love, romance, kissing, punching, and love, Firestorm has been a calming presence once his origin was ironed out. Stein is as he was in the comics – level-headed, intelligent, and wiser then his would-be counterparts. It’s really the whole hook of the character when you think on it. By pairing the super scientist with jocks and jackanapes the character becomes an inner-monologue of arguments while all the action happens on panel. And as we catch up with Firestorm on Legends of Tomorrow, it’s as close to a comic book scene that reintroduces us to the pair: Jax pilots the body, hurling fireballs at the assailants, while Stein barks orders to refrain from igniting any of the precariously placed chemical receptors around the crime scene. When the criminals are captured, and Firestorm de-Firestorms, Stein and Jackson bicker boisterously as they should.
This brings me back to that pivotal moment when Stein chooses to drug his partner instead of discuss his position. As written, acted, and presented in the episode we’re meant to giggle at the folly of it all. Stein is playing against type to become the impulsive member of the Firestorm Matrix. And to a point, I get it. As a professor and an intellect, the opportunity to travel through time is impossibly tempting. Clearly. But in the year or two that Martin Stein has been one half of a living nuclear reactor it’s hard to believe that he’s not already knee-deep in other research and development revolving around his powers. I mean, as depicted on the show, Firestorm is capable only of flying and fireballing things. To not get us to the transmutation of matter would be a true disservice to the character. Powers aside though, it’s the missing of a man’s soul that troubles me more.
After Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein officially were able to inhabit their own bodies after their season-long amnesia-riddled origin, Stein offered up what I’d considered to be one of the most realistic lines ever uttered on The Flash:
“If living the last fourteen months as a conjoined meta-human has taught me anything, is that my life’s work should have been being the best husband I could to my wife.”
After all the CGI explosions, quick-cut exposition, and angst-riddled yelling that came with the end of the arc, the older, wiser Martin Stein yearned to be a better husband to the wife who had thought him gone. And here, without a millisecond of thought (seemingly), Stein chooses to abandon his wife, drug a twenty-year old, and go on a Rip-roaring adventure. Professor Martin Stein, suma cum boner.
I can’t wait for Victor Garber to utter the phrase “Now let’s haul ass to Hullabalooza, nerds!”
In this metaphor, time is a liquid and so we find ourselves doing the breaststroke, swimming back, back until we surface until we surface and…
Where might we be? The air is crisp and clean, the ocean before us is deep blue, the whole world seems freshly minted… Oh, of course! We’re somewhere in the region that will come to be called Before the Common Era and we’re watching a group of alpha male-type gentlemen board a sailing ship. Ah, we have it now. The gents are Jason and his pals who will eventually be dubbed The Argonauts, which means that the ship is the Argo, built by a handy chap named Argus and protected by the goddess Hera. They’re preparing to voyage in quest of some golden fleece for reasons with which we need not bother. There we are – everything tied up in a neat package. Don’t you love it when that happens?
But while we were ogling the BCE version of celebrities, the metaphor morphed. What was liquid is now pages, some yellowed and curling, some clean and white and on those rapidly flipping pages… glimpses. There’s King Arthur and the roundtable bunch. (How do we know that this particular king is Arthur? Because we do, that’s how! Now hush.) And there’s Odysseus and his shipmates. And the four musketeers, who, for some reason, are hailed as the three musketeers. (Maybe the seventeenth century French dudes weren’t so good at counting?) And The Shadow with his helpers, and Doc Savage with his and – the pages are crisper and whiter – the Magnificent Seven and the Dirty Dozen and the Justice Society and the Justice League and the X-Men and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow…
Whoa. That last one – it isn’t on a page (yet), it’s on a video screen and I saw it a few nights ago: the latest entry into what’s beginning to seem like television’s Superhero Sweepstakes. What we have here are a number of B-team heroes who, with one exception that I’m aware of, first appeared in DC Comics. (There’s those darn pages again.) They’re united under the leadership of Rip Hunter to combat a giant economy sized threat to the planet and, probably, to ass kick sundry lesser malcontents. They’re not all happy to be part of the team, but that’s okay – we know they’ll be on the front lines when they’re needed. And maybe a bit of bickering will brighten the dialogue – exposition, don’t you know, can be such a bore.
The structure of stories such characters populate is simple and reliable: something threatens the common good, something so formidable that it takes a team to quell it, preferably a team with diverse capabilities to allow for varied action.
Did I mention their… I don’t know what to call it, but let’s settle for “vehicle.” It seems to be a combination airliner, houseboat, taxi cab and time machine, and it is nifty. (Are the toy companies lining up?)
The show itself? Can’t wait for next episode…Well, actually I can, but I will be watching it.
Recently Paramount and Hasbro announced that they’d be creating a “shared cinematic universe” for several of their toy properties, including G.I. Joe, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., ROM and Visionaries. On one hand this is a reaction to the disappointing G.I. Joe movie franchise, but on the other hand it’s another example of the business world learning lessons from Geek Culture. Call it a shared universe, team-up or a crossover – passionate superfans know and understand the power of this narrative tool.
In the early days of comics, two separate (but related) comic companies, All-American Comics and National Comics joined forces in a sort of Nerd-Glasnost to combine several of their second tier characters into one big adventure. The publication All-Star Comics showcased a club of super-heroes called the Justice Society of America. The concept took hold and captured the imaginations of fans with a tenacity that resonates to this day.
And a few years later National Comics, when faced with wartime paper allocations, decided that the anthology series World’s Finest Comics would combine the two of the strips in each issue. So for a while Batman and the Superman each had their own individual stories in this comic, but then they were combined into a single team-up story. This way, both heroes could adventure together in fewer pages.
The implication was clear: all these wonderful characters exist together in the same world. At first, they would seldom cross paths with one another. But then the Marvel Universe ushered in a new wave of team-ups and face-offs. In that mythology, heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Thor were practically tripping over one another as they worked (primarily) in New York City to fight the latest threats to civilization as we know it.
Of course, there is historical precedent. The mythology we now routinely consider as the definitive King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table story is actually a patchwork quilt of various stories, legends and heroes. Like the Justice Society of America, they were incorporated into one grand narrative.
Likewise, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe is notable for co-opting the Robin Hood legends. Robin of Locksley is a supporting character in this medieval “Knights in Shining Armor” saga. But like Fonzie in Happy Days, he would outshine and outlast the primary cast to become one of the most enduring characters of all time.
On the silver screen, Universal understood this concept, and routinely teamed up their big monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, in a series of movies. And they even crossed over with the long running Abbott and Costello series in the classics, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Abbott And Costello Meet the Mummy.
The crossover mania continues. As recently as this fall, Fox crossed over characters from two dramas on the same night – Sleepy Hollow and Bones. The DC Universe is quite facile with their interlocking TV mythology, as the Flash, Green Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and even Constantine seem to be comfortable dropping in for occasional visits.
And in February, the Superbowl continues this tradition spotlighting a meeting of what used to be the best teams from the American Football League and the National Football League. Then they essentially merged into their own shared universe.
Finally, Hollywood is getting it. The overwhelming success of the interlocking adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Avengers, Iron Man, etc.) led the way. It is augmented by ABC and Netflix TV properties like Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and Jessica Jones. We’ll see a DC (movie) Universe that fits together with Batman V. Superman, a giant monster unified mythology with Godzilla vs. King Kong, all sorts of Star Wars movies telling tales from long long ago and far, far away and even a new Universal monster-verse.
Do viewers find it complicated or burdensome? Maybe some do. But so many hard-core and casual fans seem to prefer thoughtful world building. And when the Hollywood folks driving the narratives can remember two important core mandates – tell good stories and treat the audience with respect – it all works beautifully.
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.
My editor suggested, if I was having trouble coming up with ideas about what to write, that I note that the new CBS prime-time show, Supergirl, will air at eight o’clock Eastern time on Mondays when it starts this fall… up against Gotham on Fox.
The assumption, when he mentioned this to me last week, was that Supergirl would have trouble against the adventures of Bruce Wayne as a boy, since the Batman character has a known success across several media for more than fifty years. Kara Zor-El, on the other hand, starred in one lousy movie and guested on a season of Smallville.
And then, this happened. Pitch Perfect 2 beat Mad Max: Fury Road for highest grossing opening box office this weekend. By a lot.
“Well,” you say (you being my rhetorical projection), “that’s really irrelevant, because movies are different from television.” This is true.
“And anyway,” you continue, “women don’t like superheroes, so who will watch the show?”
You, my rhetorical projection, are wrong. Women watch the current crop of superhero shows in large numbers. They also watch shows in related genres, including fantasy (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, for example) and horror (like Supernatural and iZombie).
I’m really psyched because, as you know, I’m a long-time Supergirl fan. I have enjoyed almost every incarnation of the character, including the one who had a flying horse that would turn into a cute guy when the occasion required. This new television version seems to owe a bit too much to The Devil Wears Prada, at least in the trailer, but it is my hope that, as the writers get comfortable with the material they’ll find a more unique take on the characters. It’s what happened in other 0808-produced shows, including Arrow and The Flash.
They should also stop being self-conscious about the character being named “Supergirl.” Yes, it’s kind of anachronistic, so I guess they have to address it. However, the explanation in the trailer has Kara’s horrible boss explaining that “What do you think is so bad about ‘girl?’ I’m a girl and your boss and powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?’”
I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the black James (Jimmy) Olson how excellent it feels to be called a “boy?”
Let’s face it. “Supergirl” has the same number of syllables as “Superman.” It scans a little bit better. We’re used to it. There are other characters already named “Superwoman,” and they are not Kara Zor-El.
In any case, we’re finally getting a prime-time show dedicated to a female adventure hero. From the trailer, it doesn’t seem as if her love life is going to be her defining reason for being. I expect there will be romances (as there are on Flash, Arrow, Gotham and, let’s face it, every nighttime drama), but there will be existential crises, and action and explosions.
Hollywood has a real problem with diversity issues, especially as they relate to women (and especially especially women of color). There are non-feminist women who think this isn’t a problem, but I can only presume they have rich husbands or fathers, or they’re being paid by rich men to defend the status quo.
Two of the five Supergirl producers mentioned on IMDB.com for this series are women. Here’s hoping that’s a good sign.
Will Supergirl be able to hold its own in the ratings against Gotham? I have no idea. I’m never home on Mondays. i know which one I’ll watch on my DVR first.