Tagged: NetFlix

Mike Gold: Make Mine Marvel Maybe?

If a comics publisher falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound effect?

Marvel Comics has been facing growing dissatisfaction over their sundry practices (both alleged and real) regarding their minority characters, their massive event stunts, some questionable actions by sundry staffers and freelancers… even the less-than-beloved reception to their new Inhumans teevee series, which premiered last month. Long-time Marvel fans – and I’m one of them myself – have never seen Marvel receive the stinky end of the stick before; certainly, not like this.

If you were on Marvel’s staff in some marketing or promotion capacity, you might have looked at last weekend’s New York Comic Con as a great opportunity to shine a light on all the groovy new stuff the House of Idea has in its pipeline. Buff up the shine on the corporate engine, so to speak. After all, New York City is Marvel’s home turf and the Comic Con claims (perhaps correctly) that they attract more visitors than the annual San Diego cluster-kerfuffle. This magic opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ahhh. Sadly, that didn’t work out so well.

First – and through no fault of their own – Marvel had to cancel the NYCC promotion for their new Netflix Punisher series. They even had star Jon Bernthal ready to entertain what was very, very likely to be a standing-room-only crowd. Unfortunately, Stephen Paddock decided to murder some five-dozen people in Las Vegas with a number of his 47 reimagined semi-automatics, and Marvel, like others in the entertainment business in a similar position, canceled the panel. For those who are unaware, The Punisher has been one of the most violent heroic fantasy characters since The Spider, back in the 1930s. It’s completely proper for Marvel to show its respect in this manner.

Still, it was a blow to their promotion campaign.

Almost immediately after that, Marvel found itself getting an overwhelming amount of criticism from just about every conceivable corner of our own personal Bizarro World for climbing into bed with Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest defense contractors. This bothered a lot of people, even though the campaign supposedly focused on Northrop Grumman’s aerospace activities.

Lots of folks – fans, retailers, comics professionals – pointed out that Marvel has spent a lot of time and energy bragging about how war profiteer Tony Stark abandoned his munitions business for moral reasons in their comic books and, now, their movies. If you conflate Northrop Grumman with Stark Industries (in all its names), you’re left with the reality that, unlike Stark, Northrop Grumman is all too real. In other words, they really make a lot of stuff that kills people. Sort of like Stephen Paddock, but without the profit incentive.

So Marvel killed that campaign, removed all presence from its online activities, and cancelled that NYCC panel as well. I feel their pain; nobody enjoys watching Daffy Duck get cheered on by the crickets.

Typically, one would think the only way Marvel can work its way out of their deep promotional hole is to produce better comic books. But, really, comic book sales are so low that the bad press exceeds the positive impact of better stories – even if anybodymreally knew what the general public considers “better comic books.” Besides, it takes a long time to produce comics stories – particularly when one has to consider the four-dimensional domino effect that comes along with being faithful to current continuity.

One would think that, 20 years from now, Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Hulk will still be around and all this would be on the level of a fart in a blizzard. I certainly hope that’s true, but being a Geek Culture historian, I am reminded that damn near everybody in America used to be quite familiar with The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Saint and Nick Carter… characters that have been revived frequently (and, often, bizarrely) but achieved little or no traction. It can happen to every commercial product. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to buy Burma Shave.

I hope this does not happen. I’ve been a comics fan since Eisenhower was president; I wouldn’t know what to do with my time.

Besides, I miss The Fantastic Four.

 

Mike Gold: Time Is On Our Side?

I had an interesting conversation last Sunday night with Glenn Hauman, ComicMix’s Empirical Wizard. He was giving me a lift from Martha Thomases’ place to Grand Central Terminal following a remarkably productive yet still highly entertaining staff meeting – a rare gathering indeed, as this time it did not involve fried chicken. Hey, every business has its own work ethic.

We were debating the machinations of the then-threatened Writers’ Guild strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Fortunately, the strike became unnecessary yesterday when the Guild and the AMPTP agreed on a new contract.

Overall, the business changed radically between this current action and the last one in 2007, which screwed up things pretty nicely. The media ain’t what it used to be back then, or last year, or even last week. There is so much production going on that in some cities arranging the services of a qualified production crew, equipment and sound stage space has become extraordinarily difficult. Usually, when operations such as Netflix or Amazon Prime acquire a series they shoot the whole season all at once. There’s no cancellation and subsequent halt in production, or even (necessarily) downtime between episodes. That’s very, very different from the way television shows were manufactured before February 1, 2013, the debut of House of Cards, the first high-profile direct-to-streaming dramatic series.

Which, in my typically circuitous way, brings me to “the point.” Just before I got out of Glenn’s car I said television and movies, but particularly television, has changed more in the past four years than it has in the previous 65. Most certainly, it took a lot of advances to get to this point. HBO gave broadcast teevee its first major competition in 1972 and started offering original programs – concerts and movies – a few years later. In 1975 home video recording ended our reliance on having to be in front of the tube at the time of broadcast, lest we miss our show. Cable expanded upon all that, and within a decade our choices expanded from three networks and a couple of independent stations to over 100 simultaneous choices.

Growth and expansion increased exponentially. The Internet (which I continue to capitalize because I live in fear of it metastasizing), mobile computers, digital video recorders, streaming, live streaming… change keeps coming faster and faster, and whereas we are not certain what will be next we do know it’ll come to us within months.

What we have today is something I never dreamed of just a few decades ago: far more programs on television that I want to see than I’ll ever be able to get around to seeing. I’ll bet you feel the same way.

This has a significant change in the way we relate to each other. It used to be people would discuss the previous night’s programming “around the water cooler.” It became a ritual. Today, we have spoiler alerts. We can no longer share the moment, but we can turn each other on to even more shows that we don’t have time to watch.

When it comes to home entertainment in the broadest sense, time is more important than money. We have public libraries, discounted movie showings, radio and audio programming… but no time to enjoy it all.

As an industry, television was dependent on advertising. To make the most money, owners needed to arrest the attention of the biggest audience. But now, broadcasting has given way to narrowcasting, and people have the option of avoiding commercials altogether (except on PBS stations – there is some sort of irony in that). By and large, advertising is being replaced by user fees.

This, in turn, changes our marketing world. Commerce must rely upon other means to promote its wares, and it appears these methods will become more important with each passing day. That’s all well and good, but advertising is the means through which we used to discover new stuff. Our habits are evolving every hour, and commercial interests must change with them. I suspect some agencies will begin to hire soothsayers.

I am not saying this is good or this is bad. It is what it is, and just as we get the politicians we deserve, we get the programming and the products we deserve as well. As long as we can afford them.

As long as we have time for them.

 

Box Office Democracy: Black Mirror: Season Three

I had very little idea what Black Mirror was before it was assigned to me this week. I was reasonably sure it was something a little spooky because of the way people talked about it on social media and from context clues I was pretty sure it was a TV show. That was all I knew and it was kind of refreshing.  I did know that people had a very high opinion of Black Mirror and maybe that damaged it in my mind. Black Mirror is a good anthology series with a few solid episodes but there’s a distracting sense of self-importance creeping in from the edges that is ruinous when the episodes aren’t rock solid.

The thematic through line for Black Mirror is the danger of modern technology, particularly technology popular with young people in the real world. We see the dangers of an exaggerated version of Klout, the perils of advanced virtual and augmented reality systems, even an episode about call-out culture. When these hit they feel like prescient warnings, but when they miss they feel like an old person yelling at kids for enjoying a thing they don’t understand. I enjoy meditations on how we can tell what’s real when computers start inputting signals directly to our brains, but I’m quite over being lectured about looking at my phone too much by any media— especially a streaming content provider like Netflix. The strongest two episodes, “San Junipero” and “ Hated in the Nation”, let the technological ruminations fade to the background and focus on just being strong stories instead and they’re much stronger for it. “Hated in the Nation” is a fun feature-length mystery thriller with a side of sci-fi and it stands head and shoulders above the rest because it isn’t there to lecture but to generate suspense.

Maybe I’ve seen one too many episodes of The Twilight Zone, but I also found the twists to be a tad facile. I could have written a summary of the first episode after the first ten minutes and would consistently only be surprised if they did a second twist (it’s very hard to nail a double twist). Storytelling isn’t about twists and predictable isn’t the end of the world but there were two out of these six episodes that seemed to have nothing going on except setting up a twist (“Playtest” and “Men Against Fire”) and when those don’t land the whole episode falls apart. It’s the unfortunate cliché of the sci-fi anthology that everything needs to have some kind of gotcha ending and the genre needs to grow out of it.

This might not be the place for this critique, but as I’m not a TV critic I’m not sure I’ll get another chance to talk about it. I might be getting very tired of the way people act in English dramas. Perhaps I’ve been taken in by an epidemic of overacting in American television, but in all but the most heightened moments everyone seems so dispassionate in Black Mirror and in most English shows I can call to mind right now I feel the same way. Either I’m supposed to believe England is a country full of people who have an almost sarcastic disconnection from their day-to-day lives except in moments of extreme stress, or this is some kind of artistic meme— and if it’s the latter, I just don’t care for it much anymore. If it’s the former, I guess it’s an okay representation and I hope the country of England gets better soon.

I want there to be more anthology programming on TV. I hate seeing a TV cast that is temporarily or permanently bored with their show, and that constant churn makes sure that even in a weak moment that everyone at least gives a shit. Unfortunately I haven’t particularly clicked with any of the attempts to revive the format, and Black Mirror is almost certainly going to continue this trend. If I was given a very specific recommendation, I could see myself returning for an episode or two— but I’m not going to be on the edge of my seat whenever season four launches. I like my science fiction a little less preachy and old fashioned. I’m happy Black Mirror exists for the people who want it, I’m a fervent supporter of anything that isn’t a family sitcom or a police drama, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

Molly Jackson: Never Ending Cycle

we-say-so

The New York Comic Con is this week and the geek community is totally in a frenzy. It’s been crazy how much is happening. Every day for the past couple of weeks, my inbox has been billowing with email after email of press releases and announcements. One of the more interesting announcements is from yesterday.

Comixology announced that they are expanding their digital library once again. Now they will have original digital titles (starting in 2017) from some of their many publishers, including Boom! and Valiant. Ever since Comixology announced they were adding their Comixology Unlimited subscription service, I was expecting this. They are following the tried and true path set out by Amazon (the owner of Comixology), Netflix and Hulu. Subscription service turned media giant in one big swoop.

No matter what anyone says, digital is supplanting print. And as much as I hate to admit it, comics will go digital too. When I look around the subway car, a.k.a. a micro section of New York City, you don’t usually see paper in their hands. You see smartphones, tablets, and other various more modern technologies. As print becomes more and more pricey, digital will become more and more prominent.

Another expectation of the Netflix-style journey is the appearance of original comics. Yes, I know this is an article about original comics. The ones they announced are from existing publishers. I’m curious if Amazon will take the plunge into comics publishing. They’ve gone the route of book publishing with mixed results. Amazon Studios has been fairly successful on the TV front, with shows like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle. To have a comics arm that could potentially feed straight to your TV studios could be a media game changer.

Amazon has also made the efforts to diversify, especially through TV. With that in mind, this could be an excellent way to develop more minorities comic creators. This is a company that looks to fill voids and diversity in comics is definitely a hot topic to work on. They could buy up an indie publisher and put an advertising machine behind it to rival Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.

As always, there is a downside. Amazon is quickly becoming the go-to company for everything. I can buy groceries from Amazon. Beauty care, t-shirts, dishes, furniture, a giant bucket of lube, socks, a lawn mower – the list goes on and on. Now the same company that I can buy 99% of everything I need is also actively affecting media. That reminds me of the sinister WeSaySo Corporation from the 90s show Dinosaurs. Too much influence can be a bad thing.

Print comics won’t be gone anytime soon, no matter how fast things seem to be moving. No matter what happens with Comixology or any other digital comics provider, this is definitely a step towards digital, and that’s a step forward.

Joe Corallo: Netflix Is Our Friend

Pee Wee Herman

Last week, fellow columnist Molly Jackson and I had a conversation about binge watching on Netflix. Specifically about Young Justice, which she wrote about here. The reason it came up was because people have been encouraged to binge watch Young Justice in order to convince Netflix to pick up the show to give it another season. Young Justice is far from the only example of this at the most popular streaming service around.

Netflix has been breaking new ground lately by not breaking any new ground at all. By that I mean they’ve been at the forefront of offering people a whole hell of a lot of what we already know we like, but, technically, it’s new now! Even when they give us something “new” it’s almost always a vehicle for an already well established, accomplished actor, comedian, or creator with a long resume. I understand that this is an arguable point, but it’s the point I’m making.

They’ve been giving us exactly what we want: copious amounts of the entertainment equivalent of junk food, forgivingly referred to as nostalgia. However, unlike high fructose corn syrup and trans fats we can act like entertainment junk food is perfectly healthy to binge on without the societal pushback. We even use the word binge to describe this behavior without any of the negative connotation. Probably because people can’t necessarily make broad generalizations about your physical appearance or your worth as a human being based on what you watch.

Nostalgia is the junkies’ quick fix. It feels good, don’t get me wrong, but it will never compare to that feeling of falling in love with a TV show, movie, book, or play the first time around. Maybe it’s partly an age thing. Maybe it’s partly an experience thing. Either way, nostalgia is merely a substitute for the original. It’s a hollow smile at the realization that you aren’t alone in the world. It’s a cup of coffee with an ex long after the fall out that doesn’t quite go anywhere, but gives you fuzzy feelings of the old times. Okay, this is getting dark now so let’s move on.

Everyone’s nostalgia is different too. We all had different experiences growing up. I got the chance to see New Order at Radio City Music Hall on March 10th and when they played Bizarre Love Triangle I thought of being a kid in the car with my aunt when she first played it for me. Other people have different songs from New Order that mean a hell of a lot more to them than Bizarre Love Triangle. Some people don’t care about New Order at all. Hopefully no one I know.

Netflix has been trying hard to hit a wide variety of different people’s nostalgias and it seems to be effective. I don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for Full House, but Fuller House was a hit for them despite the mixed reviews. They did get me with Pee-wee’s Big Holiday though.

Pee-wee was a big part of my childhood. I spent many hours watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse both when it came on TV and on different VHSs of the show off recorded off TV. Lucky for me, my parents endorsed my love of Pee-wee by getting me many of the toys in my younger years.

My journalistic integrity led me to calling my mom before writing this to confirm to me that she did in fact go crazy in her hunt for the Pee-wee’s Playhouse Playset over two decades ago. This included multiple trips to the Toys R Us not too far from where we lived, getting to the store when it opened on Tuesdays as that’s when they would get the new shipments, and hope that she’d be one of those privileged enough to walk out of the store with one. Her efforts required multiple visits before success. We lamented that perhaps Amazon.com would have been nice back then for that reason.

In recent years I’ve gone back to rewatch Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special. It’s served as a reminder to me of how queer Pee-wee’s Playhouse was. Yes, I get it, it’s really pretty damned obvious. Still though, there is a difference between queer innuendos and Grace Jones basically performing burlesque in your children’s Christmas special. It also reminded me how important Pee-wee was to me and countless other people.

Recently, when I heard that Netflix was going to make a new Pee-wee movie, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, and I was happy enough to hear it. I wouldn’t say excited so much as pleasantly curious. Like seeing an old friend who’s in town. You’ll always have those old memories, the stories, the good times, but you’re not the same person you were all those years ago and neither are they.

I watched Pee-wee’s Big Holiday right when I got home from work this past Friday. Similar to what some reviewers have said, while Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is by no means a bad time to be had, it isn’t the same. It feels more like empty entertainment calories than a healthy filling entertainment meal. The edginess at the time isn’t quite there. It’s not as ludicrous as Pee-wee’s Playhouse most of the time or the many shows it inspired since then. Or maybe it might be and it just all seemed more ludicrous to me as a kid. In a way, however, Pee-wee’s latest outing is more queer.

Pee-wee’s sexuality is never brought up or called into question other than the fact that he’s assumed straight by all those around him while he never really confirms or denies this. He does have arguably romantic feelings for Joe Manganiello, and Joe feels the same towards Pee-wee. As I talked about in a previous column of mine, it’s very possible for someone to be homoromantic without being homosexual. The character of Pee-wee could easily be asexual. He certainly seems to be portrayed that way for the most part. It never really dawned on me in the past that Pee-wee could be asexual and homoromantic (or that could even be a thing until only the past few years in my life), but it does make sense and seems to fit the character.

Pee-wee was an important show for me, to be able to see someone like his character being portrayed on TV. Even if I didn’t quite get it all at the time or understand why exactly it was important to me, it all eventually came together. For that I’ll always be grateful for Pee-wee. Even though Pee-wee’s Big Holiday didn’t exactly make me feel like a kid all over again, maybe it’ll help another kid feel comfortable in their own skin like it did for me. And if nothing else, this new Pee-wee outing was just the kind of entertainment junk food I was craving.

Nothing else big came out on Netflix last weekend that a comic book loving nerd like myself should be watching, did it?

Joe Corallo: Iron First – Lose / Lose

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Last week news broke that Marvel Entertainment has cast Finn Jones to play Iron Fist in their Netflix series slated for 2017. Jones is a blonde haired, blue eyed, straight cis white man and despite playing a character that in the comics would also match that description, this was also looked to as a chance for Marvel to cast differently as the character of Iron Fist appropriates heavily from Asian cultures. So, basically, this was a lose/lose casting situation for Marvel, and Marvel chose to lose.

To me the real question is not why they cast the way they did. My question is, why are they making an Iron Fist show at all? Sure, part of this is me being flip, but I’m also trying to make a valid point.

For those unfamiliar with Iron Fist, here’s a quick background. Iron Fist, a.k.a. Danny Rand, was created in 1974 by comic book legends Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. His primary ability is being a master of martial arts, but he also has some additional powers including an ability to concentrate his chi in his fist, which gives him his name. The character was heavily influenced by the early-mid 70s interest in martial arts in Western culture – even Jon Pertwee as The Doctor practiced a form of Aikido. Iron Fist started in the pages of Marvel Premiere, later getting his own title, then joining up with Luke Cage a.k.a. Power Man. After his “death” in Power Man and Iron Fist #125 in 1986, Iron Fist would fade in and out of the Marvel Universe, occasionally getting his own solo series again, most notably a run in the mid-2000s written by Matt Fraction. Oh, and like most other characters created at Marvel from 1974 and before, he’s a straight cis white man.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Iron Fist was problematic. Not only is this a character that appropriates Asian cultures, he’s been written and drawn almost exclusively by straight cis white men. Larry Hama has contributed to the character, but he’s one of the rare exceptions. Yes, I completely understand that Iron Fist is a white man, but maybe if you’re going to appropriate a culture you should have some input from people in that culture.

Iron Fist will be, if everything goes according to plan, the fourth solo Marvel Entertainment Netflix series. We’ll have had two seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage before Iron Fist has his own show. Maybe he’ll show up in Luke Cage. So why are people upset? Why does Iron Fist just seem like a bad idea now?

The primary reason for me, and maybe a lot of you out there who also aren’t thrilled by the prospect of an Iron Fist show, is the lack of diversity casting. Not because Iron Fist should have been cast different, but because he we don’t need an Iron Fist show. The TV shows have a much larger audience than the comics. And often a much different audience.

The people who have been enjoying the Marvel Netflix series, and even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been watching Marvel move towards more diversity. Daredevil featured a straight cis white man, but Jessica Jones was about a straight cis white woman and Luke Cage a straight cis black man. Having them go back to a straight cis white man lead after this comes off as a step backwards to many in the audience, and rightfully so.

Fans of the comics can yell from the rooftops until they’re blue in the face. They can point out how Iron Fist/Danny Rand has always been a straight cis white guy. They can call out people for being casual fans and criticizing them for having never read an Iron Fist comic. All of that misses the point. Marvel Entertainment on TV has been giving off the impression to its viewers that they care about diversity, and to many viewers out there this is a move against the expectations that Marvel has set up and a betrayal to an audience that expects more.

Some people may be thinking to themselves who else could Marvel have even picked. Didn’t Marvel Entertainment have to make an Iron Fist show if they wanted to do The Defenders? The answer is a resounding no. In all of Marvel’s TV and movie adaptations they don’t always follow the comics that closely. Sometimes they don’t follow them at all. If they did, the first Avengers movie wouldn’t have had Captain America, Hawkeye, or Black Widow in it, the first X-Men movie would not have had Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Mystique, and many others. Black Widow in particular was added to Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s instance to have more representation after all.

Marvel has many, many characters to consider instead of Iron Fist. In a conversation I had with fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson, she suggested why not Moon Knight? What about Dakota North? Monica Rambeau? Squirrel Girl? Or the incredibly obvious choice of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel? It doesn’t matter if these characters were in The Defenders or not, they could still just as easily be in the team. Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all show Marvel’s willingness to use lesser known properties in a different medium to give them new life and a larger audience. Why not also use that strategy to expand other characters profiles to expand representation rather than adding yet another straight cis white guy to the mix? Marvel could still even just add Iron Fist to Luke Cage, just as Luke Cage had a big role in Jessica Jones. Iron Fist doesn’t need his own series for that.

Some will write this off as overzealous social justice warriors that just don’t understand comic properties and are searching out the next trivial cause to latch themselves onto. That is not what’s happening. What we’re seeing, as far as I can tell, is backlash to a tone deaf company that’s expanding its audience reach and not following through with the unspoken promise of better representing the audience that people like Joss Whedon worked hard to cultivate for them.

Box Office Democracy TV Special: Daredevil

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unqualified success, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the Marvel Televisual Universe is much more of a mixed bag. While I hear Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten much better since a rocky start but I’ll never know because I decided I would never care about any of those characters over a year ago. Agent Carter had me completely captivated for two episodes until it started to feel like Mad Men meets an exceptionally long episode of Scooby-Doo. Daredevil has none of this blandness; it doesn’t feel like anything else in the Marvel stable or anything on TV at all, really. It’s a dark, violent, abrupt show that begs you to binge watch it and then gives you bad dreams as a punishment.

Daredevil feels more like an extended Christopher Nolan Batman film than it does anything else in the Marvel canon. This world of organized crime, corrupt police and brutal fight scenes feels much more like Nolan’s Gotham City than any of the slick worlds we’ve seen in the rest of the Marvel universe. There’s a signature scene at the end of episode two where a long take down of a criminal gang is done in one take and it’s a wonder to behold. It lays down what the aesthetic of the entire show will be in that sequence and it seems to serve to hook the audience or inform them that maybe this show won’t be for them. It’s different than anything I’ve ever seen on a super hero TV show or, honestly, maybe anywhere. It feels like HBO-level action but with considerably less swearing and no nudity. (more…)

Dennis O’Neil: Arrow and Bat

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice • Robert Frost

All you climate change doubters may now put on your dunce caps and leave. Don’t forget to shovel the walk on your way out.

…But where were we? Ah yes, where we often are, on opposite sides of a time gap. I’m writing here, you’re reading there. I suppose we can deal with it.

We’re looking ahead, you and I, to the forthcoming Daredevil television presentation, to be streamed on the increasingly diverse and interesting Netflix. Might be interesting. Might surpass the Ben Affleck movie Daredevil of a few years back, which may not have been everyone’s favorite entertainment. (I don’t have an opinion about it. Really, I don’t!) I see that Vincent D’Onofrio has gotten the job of being veteran DD baddie, The Kingpin, which seems to be good casting; let us not forget that Mr. D’Onofrio played a giant bug in the first Men in Black flick, so a corpulent gangster shouldn’t be a stretch for him.

What else am I looking forward to? (For you, it’s already past.)

Well, for one thin, the fate of poor Oliver Queen – other-named Arrow – last seen kneeling before the sinister Ras Al Ghul, a helpless captive. Ras stabbed him with a sword and kicked him off a mountain a while back, so is Ollie doomed to suffer a similar fate, perhaps again administered by a Ras who may have gotten a bit better at hero slaying? Nope. Ras is trying to recruit him into Ras’s criminal organization, The League of Assassins. (Good pay? Good benefits?)

This is not the first time Ras has gone hero-trolling. In the long ago when he was a mere comic book character, before being incarnated as a mega-movie star and a continuing presence in Arrow Ras made a similar move on Batman, sweetening the deal by suggesting that Bats and Ras’s daughter Talia might become an item and, yes indeedy, Talia would make a splendid trophy wife if she could just get past her daddy issues. Bats refused both job and lady and lived to fight another day but who knows what Ollie will do? (Well, actually, at this point, a lot of people. All those writers and actors and technicians…)

I like how our TV brethren are adapting some Batman tropes for Arrow. It’s a good match of characters: both the bat and the arrow are human-scaled, depending on skill and perseverance and motivation rather than some acquired superpower, and both are burdened with a tragic past. Since I prefer such characters I’ve always liked working on these two when I was a laboring scripter. Consider that an admission of bias.

Ras al Ghul, as some of you know, is a twisted idealist who wants to save the world – on his own terms, using his own methods, which are, to put it mildly, draconian. Pure fiction. But I look out at the snow and remember the savage winter which is not yet gone, and learn of the escalating barbarity in the middle east, and I wonder: Could there be a Ras?

But no, the reality is simpler and sadder, well expressed by Pogo the Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”