Tagged: Supergirl

John Ostrander: Forces for Change

By now, everyone has heard (or should have heard) about the sexual depredations of film producer Harvey Weinstein (and James Toback, Kevin Spacey and others of their ilk). This follows revelations of the sexual depredations of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly (seriously, what can you do that commands a $32 million settlement?). And everyone in all the other walks of life who have been playing predator.

The constant refrain that has been heard is that this kind of stuff has been going on out in Hollywood since there has been a Hollywood. Among the reasons that there have been so few direct accusations is that all the predators have been powerful men who could really exact retribution. And the fact that the women speaking out would be shamed, discounted, and not believed. And they would literally never work in that town again.

That’s changed. Women are coming out in droves, speaking up, making themselves heard. Makes no mistake – Weinstein, Ailes, and O’Reilly were extremely powerful individuals. The women have spoken up anyway and it’s the men who have, justifiably, suffered.

Why now? What makes this era different than eras in the past?

There are a lot of different reasons and possibilities but I would like to offer one that, at least in part, contributes. That is our own “pop culture.”

We have seen recently the rise of the strong woman hero or lead. Witness two Star Wars movies, both Episode 7 and the stand alone, Rogue One. Episode 7 not only centered around Rey but Princess Leia is now General Leia, a full and equal commander of the Resistance. And, behind the scenes, you have Kathleen Kennedy, who is head honcho of the whole Lucasfilm legacy.

Rogue One centers on Jyn Erso, the daughter of one of the principal designers of the Death Star and the main person responsible for obtaining the plans to the battle station that will enable the good guys to destroy it and save the galaxy.

And we have also had this year an amazing Wonder Woman, not only played to perfection by Gal Gadot but directed by Patty Jenkins. lt’s unheard that a woman would get the opportunity to helm such a big ticket film and Ms. Jenkins really delivered. Thank Hera both are returning for the sequel!

It extends these days to TV as well with Supergirl who not only gives us a Maid of Steel who may be stronger than her cousin, the Man of Steel, but shows women in so many different roles, including a very strong and positive lesbian couple.

I’m not forgetting Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movies or Ripley in the Alien movies, or Hermione in the Harry Potter films or Buffy, the redoubtable Vampire Slayer and many others.

My point is this: seeing positive and strong heroes who look like you is important and they need to be seen on a regular basis. Will and Grace had gay characters in it and, because of the show’s popularity, they are invited into peoples’ living rooms every week. It normalizes meeting LGBTQ folk for straight people who may never have knowingly met one.

In the same way, movies and shows such as Wonder Woman or Star Wars or Supergirl gives us the image of women heroes who are strong, brave, resourceful and are examples to other women and to men as well. You need to see what you want to be, something the black community knows very well.

I’m not claiming that the pop culture examples I’ve given are the main reason that women now are speaking up against the Weinsteins of this world. However, I think they are a contributing factor. No single film or TV show alone but all taken together they contribute to the change. Make no mistake; “pop culture” is a potent force in our society. It entertains and bypasses our brain to reach the heart – and that’s where real change comes from.

Joe Corallo: Save Our Ship!

Last week I talked about my opinions and ended with how I might talk about shipping this week, so I am! No, not that shipping. This shipping.

For those of you not in the know, when all those hip, ironic millennials are talking about how they’d “ship that” what they’re referring to is (mostly) romantic relationships between fictional characters. This is the sort of thing we’ve seen throughout history, and before the advent of the internet fans of soap operas are long-running romantic book series did the same thing just without the cool contemporary jargon.

People ship lots of things in those “will they or won’t they?” situations on TV shows. It’s gotten more attention in more geek centric fandoms like Harry Potter, Xena and Star Trek. It gets even more attention in queer geek circles involving same gender pairings as well as triads and other poly relationships. Kirk and Spock from Star Trek is a prominent and early example of pop culture shipping in queer geek fandom.

Personally, I’d like a Cosmic Boy/Saturn Girl/Lightning Lad triad myself, and maybe one day I’ll commission Kevin Wada to draw them on a date together because he’s incredible and I think he’d nail it.

While shipping is often casually thrown around in fandoms, it sometimes leads to great debate. A recent example of that is with fans of the Supergirl TV show. Many who were shipping Kara and Lena were upset when the cast made jokes about that at SDCC earlier this summer. Last year a Steven Universe artist deleted her Twitter account after she was harassed by fans shipping Amethyst and Peridot. Lauren Zuke had shared art that seemed to support the Lapis and Peridot shippers which initiated the harassment.

There are more examples that exist outside of those two of (arguably) shipping gone wrong, but there are plenty of others and there will be plenty more. So what is a shipper to do? What is someone outside of that aspect of fandom do when things like this happen?

There are definitely a few different ways at looking at these sort of events. We should start by acknowledging that shipping is okay. Hell, it’s often encouraged and teased by people working on these different properties. We also have to understand that for many, LGBT+ representation has been next to nothing for most of these fans lives, including myself. While it’s getting better, it still has a ways to go. Many fans, particularly queer fans, use shipping to fantasize about the representation they’re starved for.

Ultimately, these are properties and franchised owned by corporations or at least owned by people that are not the fans who are shipping in question. Creators need the freedom to do what they would like when they can. It’s often why you like the particular property in the first place.

Fans like the ones in the Steven Universe example are not a majority; they’re a loud minority of fans. In the Supergirl example, people working on a show are not obligated to support your shipping of certain characters. Accusations that they are being anti-LGBT+ by doing so is a little off as there are already characters who are in the show.

Yes, they are side characters, and that’s a big part of the problem when we talk about representation and how much still needs to be done.

Creators and people behind different properties need to avoid alienating fans as well. One of the reasons they still get to do what they love is because of the fans. Upsetting fans isn’t necessarily a great model for continued success. Telling fans what to feel and how to enjoy your property isn’t always helpful either.

Intense fandom can be alienating to people too. I know more than a few people, including those in my fellow ComicMix columnist ranks, who aren’t opposed to things like Steven Universe but the rabid fans that pop up in those situations are what gets reported and it makes them want to avoid it. While I do love the show and think it’s important LGBT+ representation particularly for people a bit younger than me, I can’t say I don’t at least somewhat understand why someone would feel that way.

Shipping is A-OK in my book, and you should have at it. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad about it. However, if the people behind the property don’t agree with or support your ship, getting mad and attacking people on the internet won’t change that. They can’t make you change your mind or want something different though, so don’t worry about what they say; ship who you like!

Mindy Newell: “Flash” Dance

I grew up on Broadway musicals. Once upon a time when going to see a show on Broadway didn’t cost you your mortgage plus the life of your first-born, my mom and dad were avid theatergoers. They saw the original production of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, the original production of Camelot with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet, and the original production of The King and I with Gertrude Lawrence and a then little-known Yul Brynner.

When they were still dating they went into town to see Oklahoma! Over the years they saw Carousel, and Brigadoon, and Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, and Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!, and the original West Side Story with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. My father fell asleep at Cats and my mother said she had a hard time staying awake herself.

Our stereo console was filled with “original Broadway cast” albums from all those shows and more – well, not Cats. When I was kid I would put on an album of, say, South Pacific and pretend I was Mary Martin washing that man out of my hair – oh, and I still do that in the shower some times:

“When a man don’t understand you, When you fly on separate beams,

 “Waste no time, Make a change,

 “Ride that man right off your range. Rub him out of your roll call,

 “And drum him out of your dreams.”

Yes, I am singing as I type.

My brother and I would put on West Side Story and dance around the living room, jumping on and off the chairs and the tables and sofas and getting into a lot of trouble. Later on, my mom often took Glenn and I into town to see revivals of these shows and others. In 1966 my father was laid up with a really bad ankle sprain, so I was privileged to go with my mom to see the one and only Ethel Merman in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun at Lincoln Center.

So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And love them. I have more Broadway soundtracks on my iTunes playlist than anything else – perhaps not cool, but fuck you and your Beyonce and Adele. One of my proudest and happiest moments and one that I will remember on my deathbed is when I played Peter Pan in Peter Pan at Camp Monroe. I have also played Ado Annie in Oklahoma and every single female role in Fiddler on the Roof except for Golde (Tevye’s wife, for those not in the know). I was Miss Mazeppa, bumping with my trumpet and in full Roman centurion regalia, in Gypsy.

So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And that it has continued into adulthood and to the present day. I became mesmerized by Hugh Jackman long before he was Wolverine when John and I went to see him as Curly in a revival of Oklahoma. And I became familiar with Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin and Darren Criss long before any of them put on a superhero costume through my allegiance to Glee. And I knew Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins from Rent, not to mention Victor Garber from Godspell, Sweeney Todd, and the 1990 revival of Damn Yankees.

And of course I knew John Barrowman from his days as Captain Jack on Doctor Who. But I never watched Smash, so I never caught on that Jeremy Jordan could sing and dance until last week…

…which was, of course, the crossover musical episode of The Flash called “Duet.”

It was wonderful.

It started in the epilogue of Supergirl on Monday night, in which Darren Criss pops up as the Music Meister, who does “something” to Kara which places her in a seemingly coma and then pops off to find the “fastest man alive.” Meanwhile, Kara wakes to find herself in a nightclub in what looks like the 1940s, dressed in a gorgeous gold beaded gown with a man telling her that she is the last-minute opening act. She steps through the curtains, and finds herself standing in front of a microphone and an audience. She opens her mouth and…to be continued.

And on The Flash the next night…

A young Barry Allen is watching Singin’ in the Rain with his mother, who is, uh, singing the praises of the musical. Then, in present time, Barry is watching Singin’ in the Rain and other classic musicals to soothe his tormented soul over his breakup with Iris. “Everything is better in song,” he says to Cisco, with whom he has moved in as a temporary(?) roommate.

Called to S.T.A.R. Labs because of a breach in the multiverse, they find Mon-El carrying a still-comatose Kara and J’onn Jonzz, who have come to Barry’s Earth because of the Music Meister’s claim to be looking for the Flash. The villain shows up, puts Barry into the same coma-like state as Kara, and suddenly Barry finds himself in the same nightclub as his Kryptonian friend… and she is up on stage, singing “Moon River.” (One of my favorites – from the not-musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly sings the lovely ballad, composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, while sitting on her fire escape and accompanying herself with a guitar.)

After Kara finishes her performance, the Music Meister pops in and tells them what’s going on – they are actually living this scenario psychically, or “in their own minds,” while their bodies lay undisturbed and inanimate in S.T.A.R. labs. Why the musical setting? Because both are deeply connected to the genre – Barry through his mom, and Kara through her love of The Wizard of Oz. They both must follow the plot of this mind-blowing musical to its end to recover and get back to the real world. Except: “If you die in here, you die out there.”

The episode is full of remarkable performances. Perhaps, at least for me, the best was the beautiful rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls sung by Jesse, Victor, and John. Grant’s interpretation of “Running Home to You” is heartbreaking and glorious. “Super Friend” is a treat to watch, with Grant and Melissa singing and hoofing and having a joyous time. Jeremy, Darren, John, and Carlos (Valdes) swing to “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” And Melissa’s “Moon River” is, just, well, I just have to sing along…

 “You dream maker, you heartbreaker,

 “Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”

 “Two drifters, off to see the world.

 “There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end,”

 “Waiting ‘round the bend, my huckleberry friend,

 “Moon River, And me.”

Brava!!!!

Also… Encore!!!!

 

Tweeks SuperFlash Duet

Musicals are life. And while we weren’t exactly caught up on both Supergirl and The Flash (though we’re told we really need to do that), we couldn’t miss the SuperFlash crossover event. Especially not with Broadway talents like Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, John Barrowman, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber and Glee alums Melissa Benoist & Grant Gustin!

Thing is, Maddy knew a little something about the Music Meister’s first appearance (played by Neil Patrick Harris, who also beat Darren Criss to the punch at playing Hedwig) on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, so we couldn’t help but compare the two musical episodes.

Could this CW musical event stacked with all our favorites be better than an animated episode featuring Black Canary singing about her love for Batman? Watch the video & find out.

Martha Thomases: Adventures On Other Words

When I saw Moonlight, the first thing I said as the lights came up was “school sucks.” And it does.

I think this will be spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen this magnificent movie, I hope you go as soon as you can. Like the best art, it showed me a new way of seeing the world and made me feel emotions that bound me to the characters. Although this is in no way real, for the two hours of that film, I was a self-loathing gay black man, unable to express my personal truth.

My life is privileged, however, and part of that privilege is comics.

Chiron, the boy/teenager/man who is the main character in the film, is not very articulate. This isn’t an unusual trait in a child. We all struggle to learn how to use our words. Unfortunately for him, none of the other adults in his life know how to express themselves either. His mother is a drug addict. The adults at school are overwhelmed with responsibilities that don’t allow them to take the time to notice one kid’s problems. The only exception is Juan, the neighborhood drug dealer, who offers the closest thing to fathering that Chiron gets. Later, his girlfriend, Teresa, offers him a refuge.

I’ve written frequently about how fiction helps me get through tough times. Reading a story about someone else’s reality has been a comfort since I was younger than Chiron at the beginning of the film. My mother turned me on to her favorite children’s author, E. Nesbit, and I felt understood in a way that really makes no logical sense. A Jewish kid in Ohio has very little in common with a bunch of English kids with magical friends, created by a Fabian Socialist. Still, I related to their confusion, to their sense that adults didn’t get it.

In a slightly different way, I found similar comfort in Greek and Norse mythology. I wanted to be one of the magnificent and beautiful gods. I thought they might understand me when reality didn’t. I bet gods never fell down and scraped their knees.

From these tales, I discovered superhero comics. These had the advantage of being new every week, instead of being old stories completed thousands of years ago. I wanted to be all the characters. I wanted to be Robin and Supergirl, Plastic Man and Wonder Woman. Wanted to be a telepath and I wanted to be invisible. I wanted to be Betty and Veronica.

Through these stories, simple though many were, I learned that all humans have hopes and fears, insecurities and passions. And even now, decades (and decades) later, I continue to learn this over and over again. I need to, because it’s all too easy to see people as cardboard stereotypes. It’s even easy to see myself as a stereotype.

For example, if I were the blatant red-neck Trump victim, hating on Muslims and immigrants and elites (a person who probably doesn’t entirely exist, at least not as this stock figure), I might read Southern Bastards and feel like somebody finally got me. And maybe, as I read each issue, I’d see that even the characters that didn’t look like me and how it feels to be them in the same kind of small town in which I lived. And, even if I didn’t get that part, I might enjoy some of the recipes sent in to the letters page.

And if I had strange feelings in my body that I couldn’t quite describe, if I didn’t know what changes were going on or whom I should tell about them, I might feel better after reading The Old Guard. In this case, the odd changes have to do with immortality, not sexuality or gender identity, but I think the quivering uncertainty applies to all of us.

A book that continues to knock me out, perhaps because it touches on so many of my personal obsessions, is The Beauty, about a sexually transmitted disease that makes its victims beautiful before it kills them. Sometimes people try to get the disease so they can be good-looking. A recent storyline had a trans protagonist, and I was engaged trying to figure out how the virus chose which traits were pretty, and if these traits were different depending on one’s gender, and whether that gender was determined by the same criteria demanded of North Carolina restrooms. If you get the disease in a culture with different standards than ours, do you acquire different traits? How is it that the fashion/cosmetics industry hasn’t thrown all their resources into finding a cure, given that the illness makes their products irrelevant?

Is it a blind spot of my white privilege that I don’t see that the solace I get from books wouldn’t necessarily help Chiron? Maybe. Music and dance, poetry, theater and movies, all can provide the same balm to the soul. I’m in favor of all of those. Still, I think books are the easiest to put in one’s pocket.

There are no books in Chiron’s house. If there is a local library, it isn’t part of his world. We don’t even see him watching television. Instead, he is isolated.

In an ideal world, we would all have brilliant, loving parents and other adults in our lives. In their absence, we have books.

Mindy Newell: Homeland, 24: Legacy and Yiannopoulos, Oh My!

Before I get into the meat of today’s column…

Do you watch comedian and political satirist Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, Friday, 10 PM ET)? What I especially love about Mr. Maher’s show is that he invites people on who are from all shades of the political spectrum and that he’s unafraid of calling out bullshit when he sees it, whether it’s coming from the left, the right, or anywhere in the middle. Yes, he can be crass, profane, and occasionally downright rude, but he’s not sitting on the sidelines.

One of Friday night’s guests was Milo Yiannopoulos, a public speaker and a senior editor for Breitbart News, the alt-right news site that brought us such lovely individuals as Steve Bannon. This was my first experience with this guy, and it was incredibly unpleasant and I cannot be-lieve that anyone takes this very sad, very mixed-up little boy seriously. Er iz a meyvn vi a bok af a klezmer, which translates to He’s an expert like a goat’s an expert on musicians.

Homeland has been back for a month, and though perhaps the first three chapters were a bit slow and tedious in the set-up, last week’s episode kicked the series into high gear. To bring you up to date, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is back in the States, living in Brooklyn with her daughter by the now-dead Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) and working for a foundation whose goal is to help Muslims living in America, while secretly advising the new President-Elect on foreign policy and the intelligence agencies motives and games. The foundation’s latest client is Sekou Bah, a teenage convert to Islam who had been arrested by the FBI for terrorist-related activities – he had been posting videos critical of American policy towards Islam and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the incoming President’s policy agenda – she wants to cut down on what she terms “America’s interference with foreign countries” – is antithetical to Carrie’s old co-workers at the CIA, Saul Berenson (Mandy Pantikin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham); they believe that Iran is clandestinely working with North Korea on a “parallel nuclear” project – in other words, Iran is helping North Korea build a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it – and breaking the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a.k.a. the “Iran deal.”

And Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) is one fucked-up ex-spy; no, he didn’t die in that hospital bed last season – as I and just about everyone believed – but he is suffering not only from the lingering physical effects of the Sarin gas, but also one helluva case of PTSD. When we first saw him, he was living in a V.A. rehab center; now he is living in the basement of Carrie’s brownstone. And he has discovered that someone is spying on Carrie from an apartment across the street – only Carrie doesn’t believe him.

Last week’s episode, “A Flash of Light,” saw Saul visiting his sister, who lives in the disputed West Bank of Israel, using her as an excuse to hide his real reason for being there – to meet an Iranian general and ask him to investigate Iran’s [possible] “parallel nuclear program” with North Korea. The general agrees, but as Saul is about to leave for the airport to return to the States, the Israelis pick him. They know that a senior Iranian official was in Palestinian area of the West Bank, and they know that Saul had crossed over the previous night. They detain him.

Meanwhile, Carrie has used her espionage skills to get the FBI to release Sekou and to clear him. There is one warning – that Sekou not post any more videos. But when Sekou arrives home, his friends are suspicious of how he got off, and think he has become an informant. To prove them wrong, Sekou posts a new vid, in which he outs the real FBI informant, a former gang member named Saad Masoud. Carrie is able to eventually convince Sekou to take it down; although she does not tell him she is ex-CIA, she does let him know that not only will the Feds lock up Sekou and throw away the key, she could go to jail if it is discovered that she took what she calls “highly risky measures” to clear him.

That night, Quinn, who is now convinced that the man across the street is spying on Carrie – he broke into the apartment and found a stool placed next to the window; its indentations in the carpet indicate to him that he has been there a long time – takes her car and tracks the man, who has been picked up by a car. He follows him to Medina Medley, a warehouse and distribution center where Sekou works; Quinn takes pictures, until a cop hurries him along for illegal parking.

The next day newspapers feature a story on the President-Elect having information on Iran’s nuclear program and not acting on it. She believes Dar Adal leaked the story. She wants Carrie to give her information on Dar – and by inference, Saul – that the new administration can use against him, but Carrie is reluctant to betray her former colleagues. She leaves to pick up her daughter on the street, where Dar is waiting for her – he makes a nasty crack about the color of her daughter’s hair, a reference to Carrie’s affair with Nicholas Brody – and tells her he knows that Carrie is giving the President-Elect advice. When Carrie denies it, he says, “I’m not Saul.” (Great line!)

He tells her that she has been out of the CIA for three years, and that none of her information is pertinent.

The next morning, Sekou is back at work. He drives his delivery van into midtown Manhattan.  He hears a beeping. The van explodes.

And in Israel, Saul is told he’s being released. “You’re needed back home. There’s been an attack in New York.”

A great cliffhanger. And which today, as you’re reading this, will have been only sorta resolved, because the thing with Homeland is that you still don’t know what’s coming next…even if you think you do.

Which brings me to…

I’ve also been watching 24: Legacy. I don’t know if I’m going to stay with it. For one thing, I’ve been missing Supergirl, which is on the CW the same time Legacy is on Fox, Monday at 8 P.M. ET, and CBS video-on-demand is lagging behind the Girl of Steel’s episodes, and I don’t want to pay for CBS All-Access. But the other thing is that 24: Legacy kinda sucks.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m missing Jack and Chloe and Tony and everyone else at the “old” CTU, or whether it’s because the plotting on 24: Legacy is “eh.” I’m not going to go into an extensive rundown of it, because I’ve already immersed you into my recap of Homeland; but one thing that really bothers me is the “jealous girlfriend,” a trope so old that its gray hair is showing. The other thing that’s really bothersome is that I can see the “twists-and-turns” coming from a mile away. For instance, last week, when the new Jack Bauer – see, I can’t even remember his name – was stuck in a police precinct with every cop and SWAT team member about to blow him away, I knew that CTU was going to ring up in the nick of time and call off the dogs. (And that was the cliffhanger the previous week. That’s a long time to see what’s coming.) I only rarely guessed what was about to happen on Jack’s 24. More important, I didn’t want to. I just wanted to lose myself in the story – and I was.

That ain’t happening with what one of our readers, ReneeCat, calls 24: Light. Nope. I’ll give it one more episode, which is being more than fair. But I’ll watch it later, either on VOD or via streaming.

Because tonight I’m watching Supergirl.

 

My favorite superhero TV show these days is The Flash. Heck, it may be my favorite TV show period. Grant Gustin is doing a great job as Barry Allen/The Flash and the stories have wonderful “Easter eggs” for those who know DC continuity. One of the best is casting John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry/Flash in the earlier TV incarnation of The Flash, is in this version first as Barry’s dad and now as Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-2.

What also is great is the supporting cast on the show. On The Flash, they’ve even increased by one to include Tom Fenton (perhaps best known as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) as Barry’s “frenemy”. He’s also joined “Team Flash” as it’s called, even on the show.

This is where the TV versions of the Flash (and the other superheroes) differs from the comics. In the comics, the hero is usually a lone wolf type; others in his circle don’t know his/her double identity and keeping that secret is considered vital. On TV, however, the superhero needs a circle of friends to help them function. Just as it’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, on TV shows it takes a team to make a superhero. Actually, more than a team – the supporting cast acts a lot more like a family.

This isn’t true just on The Flash – it also holds true on Supergirl and Arrow as well. Legends Of Tomorrow is a team, as is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There are good reasons for this – any TV show needs a good supporting cast for the main character to act with (or against). Those interactions provide drama, comedy, their own storylines and, with a continuing series, that’s necessary. It also lets the lead not be in every scene which can really burn out an actor. As an audience, we invest emotionally not only with the lead character but with the supporting cast. (I’ll be honest – on Arrow I’m not all that invested in the lead actor; often it is the support characters that I like better, especially Felicity.)

On Flash, for example, they have a wonderful conceit; there’s the character of Dr. Harrison Wells, played by Tom Cavenaugh. He’s the same character in each of the three seasons so far but he’s also very different as each season we get a new Harrison Wells from a different dimension. In the first season, he was a villain, in the second season he was something of an asshole, and in the current season he’s a bit of a goof. That must be a lot of fun for Cavenaugh and it creates a different dynamic with the team for each season.

Some comics have family – the Fantastic Four functioned best when the writers and editors realized the FF were not just another team; they really were family. Also, I remember when DC would publish large giant comics for the “Superman Family” or the “Batman Family.” Superman, for example, had his best friend, his girl friend, his cousin, his dog, other super-pets, and the kids from down the timeline, a.k.a. the Legion of Super-heroes. However, it’s not quite the same thing as the TV shows. There’s a central location where they all meet and work out of – S.T.A.R. labs, the Arrow cave (or whatever they’re calling it), the DEO HQ, the Waverider. Home.

Needless to say, the TV shows and the comics are different animals, each with their own needs. It costs less to produce the comic books and the special effects and locations are limited only by what the artist can draw. Yet, I will admit that I’ve come to prefer the TV versions in most cases. I think that, overall, they’re a bit better thought out. OTOH, they don’t have to justify decades of continuity; they’re re-interpreting and re-inventing everything. There’s more freedom in that.

It’s good to keep in mind that no man is an island.

No metahuman is, either.

Martha Thomases: The Superhero Lesson

Everything I need to know, I learned from superhero comics. Not just how to infer the meaning of words I don’t know from context (seeing bullets bounce off Superman while someone said he was “invulnerable”), but also how to be a citizen.

The superheroes I loved were, in large part, immigrants and refugees. Superman and Supergirl (refugees from Krypton), Wonder Woman (immigrant, at least in her initial stories), Martian Manhunter (immigrant, or maybe kidnapped slave), Adam Strange (immigrant to Rann), lots and lots of X-Men and Legion of Super-Hero members.

Immigrants and refugees were characters I admired. When I got old enough to study history, I learned that real-life immigrants and refugees were among the most admirable people ever to live in this country. I also learned that not everyone shared my perspective.

There is a long history of demonizing immigrants here. Over the centuries, people have whipped up hysteria over Italians, Irish, Greeks, Chinese, Jews from anywhere, Catholics from anywhere, even Native Americans – who aren’t even immigrants. We fear those who are different from us, and it prevents us from seeing what we have in common.

Many of the people who created my favorite characters were themselves immigrants or the children of immigrants, people who grew up in neighborhoods filled with people who identified themselves as hyphen-Americans. It’s not a surprise that these men (for the most part) created heroes who were outsiders.

Now our so-called “president” wants to restrict immigrants’ access to the American dream, to shut out refugees who face persecution and, sometimes, death if they return to their country of origin. This isn’t only immoral and un-American. It’s also bad for business.

And it’s bad for those of us who love to read, which I assume includes you, Constant Reader, if you’ve made it this far. Immigrants and refugees write some of our most important (and delightful!) books. We need more people with talent in this country whether they are LGBTQ or non-white or non-Christian or foreign-born or whatever.

And, by the way, my family has been in this country longer than our so-called “president’s” family, so if we’re sending anybody back somewhere, he has to go before I do.

Another thing I learned from comics is that change starts with me. No matter how super-powered a character might be, nothing would happen until he or she got involved. I’m delighted to say that comic book creators and cartoonists are putting this plot into our reality and standing up for immigrants and refugees, and those who protect them. According to this, several cartoonists are sending original artwork to people who donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Think about doing so, too, even if you don’t get any artwork. You might just get an artist.

Dennis O’Neil: Bang or Whimper?

So last Friday, in lockstep, we all walked off the edge of the cliff and began what promises to be a long, long plunge. (Maybe you can feel the wind in your hair but I can’t, due to a scarcity of hair.) The big fall may end early and perhaps abruptly. Others will continue to fall until we stop. Don’t know when that’ll be, or how bad the jolt will be. Remember T.S. Eliot’s lines in his poem, The Hollow Men?

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper

Step right up, ladeez an’ gennelmen, and place your bets What’ll it be, bang or whimper?

Hard call, isn’t it? Bang or whimper? Bang is coming on strong – all that carelessness with nuclear weapons and such, (What kid resists setting off the biggest firecracker on the block and what makes us think that all our leaders aren’t kids?) But my money’s on the whimper. We were recently informed last year was the warmest in history, warmer than the year before which was warmer than the year before that. Yep, three years in a row, each hotter than the last. A meteorological hat trick. Yay?

Ah, but Snarko of the Snarky Squad is saying, in between bites of his toenails, “How do you smartasses know what happened what happened before recorded history? How do you know that every year wasn’t warmer than the one before it back then?”

That darn Snarko! Is he a master of the lightning riposte or what? But never mind. Just know that we are allowed to ignore him, and so we shall.

Where were we? Plummeting, that’s where. So we really don’t know where we’re headed, how this journey will end. Maybe we should simply try to keep ourselves amused until the Big Bump? We read comics, don’t we? So a stack of comic books might entertain us – haven’ they always? – and benefit us further by distracting from thoughts we’d rather not be having.

And – final beneft! – it’s not likely that comic book stories will remind us of those nattering thoughts because you don’t find many apocalypses in the comics. A few, yes, but not many. Didn’t J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, have a whole planet yanked out from under him? And Superman and his cute cousin, Supergirl, also did hasty emigrations from a planet that was becoming space dust. (I will omit discussion of the host of other Kryptonians who somehow survived, some of them by taking refuge in a bottle.)

Anyway, if you’d like to boycott reality, comics might be your reading of choice. As for the other entertainments…just be careful how you spend your disposable income

We don’t want our amusements disturbing us. That’s real life’s job.

 

Martha Thomases: The Living Supergirl

When I’m lonely, I read.

I read at other times, of course. But books, unlike humans, are always there for me. Books don’t move away, die, or vote for Trump.

I bring this up because it’s part of my New Year’s resolution.

All of us, no matter who we might be, occasionally feel like we don’t fit in. We aren’t cool enough, or we have a funny name. We might be too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, too rich or too poor. We could be too dark or too fair. We might speak differently than other people. We might be too butch or too femme, too queer or too straight, too old or too young. We might be too nerdy or too much of a jock. We might feel so different from everybody else that we don’t even have the words to describe all the ways in which we feel different.

There is no doubt in my mind that this has been true throughout recorded human history. However, modern technology makes it easier to track this phenomenon and quantify its dangers.

At the same time, there are ever newer and more technologically advanced ways to bully the kids who are most vulnerable.

When I was a girl, I often felt like the odd person out. I was too much in my head, worrying about how I appeared to other people, if they could see through me and knew what a sham I really was. At the same time, I felt like no one saw the real me, and I might go through life without ever being loved or accepted.

Naturally, I loved Supergirl.

The Supergirl of my youth was not the glamorous character you see on The CW every week. She was a girl with mousy brown braids (like mine!) who lived in an orphanage, with no one to confide in but her cat and her robot double hidden in a tree. When her cousin, Superman, finally revealed her existence to the world and she was applauded, I felt like that applause was a little bit for me.

Later, I would find other comics and books that seemed to understand what I was going through. Whether it was J. D. Salinger or Ray Bradbury or Will Eisner or Trina Robbins or David Sedaris or Caitlan Moran – among many others – I found company in books.

Still, it was Supergirl who really understood me.

Teaching children the value of reading is a wonderful thing. It’s a tool they can use to get them through their entire lives.

I don’t mean “value” in terms of money or career potential, although I am in favor of both cash and jobs. I mean that the entertainment, comfort and contentment that curling up with a book is even more valuable than dollars. Somewhere in the world, there is a novel or a series of personal essays that articulates how we feel. When we find that book, we feel understood.

I resolve to share my love of reading with kids who really need it.

So, how will I carry out this resolution? It would be lovely if each of us had the time and resources to reach out to as many young people as possible and teach them how much pleasure they can get from reading. Alas, that is not always true. Still, there are lots of other things we can do.

Do you have a few free hours? You could volunteer at your local library. What better way to share a love of reading than by directly modeling it in your own community.

Pressed for time and space? You can give your old books to charities that will distribute them to where they are most needed.

For better or worse, the books that are the most comforting to children and young adults are most likely to be the ones targeted by free speech antagonists. If I were the kind of person to believe in convoluted conspiracies, I might think that those in charge don’t want a citizenry that is self-confident, engaged and able to think for themselves. In any case, it is important for people all over the world to find those books that speak to them. Therefore, I’m going to continue to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They’ve done good work for decades, but in the past few years, they’ve really upped their game in terms of making graphic novels available for schools.

In 2017, I resolve to do more of this. I urge you to consider doing the same.