Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Nazz

I am rereading Tom Veitch's and Bryan Talbot's The Nazz, twenty five years after it was published. Bryan Talbot described The Nazz in conversation as "The best of the post-Watchmen comics." I agree with him. The Nazz has two premises:

a group of American law enforcers base themselves on comic book superheroes;

alleged yogic powers are akin to those of superheroes.

Thus, Indian religious art is one source. As with Watchmen, there is a "comic within the comic," as Nazz's artist friend bases a comic strip on Nazz.

Nazz makes the mistake of seeking not wisdom but power. We see him corrupted, emphasizing instead of transcending self. The concluding narration by his former girl friend states that he "...chose the Left Hand Path..." and that "Maybe next time he'll get it right." (The Nazz, Book 4, New York, 1991).

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

A good sense of an on-going movieverse continuity:

Fury returning from retirement;
Banner missing at the end;
some team members leaving;
other superheroes joining.

Not being a Marvel fan, I had to google the Vision. I am not sure why Ultron had to become destructive except that that is what Frankenstein monsters do. A fight scene near the end reproduced the look of the Ultimates fold-out. Good to see the Avengers partying and also to see thanks to comics creators in the end credits.

Friday, 24 April 2015

"Tarry Till I Come Again"

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

Jacques Lacy (really Hanno) tells Cardinal Richelieu about one Seumas Lacy. Because he speaks in the third person about someone with a different first name, I took him to be referring to someone else, maybe an ancestor. However, Jacques then states that Seumas:

"'...took the French form of his Christian name...'" (p. 226)

Of course. "Jacques" and "Seamus" are both "James."

When Hanno/Jacques discloses that he has lived for millennia, Richelieu asks:

"'...Are you the Wandering Jew?'" (p. 227)

He is not.

I know of three other fictional references to the Wandering Jew, one in sf, two in comics.

In Walter M Miller's A Canticle For Leibowitz, the Wandering Jew is Lazarus because "What the Lord raise up, it stay up."

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Morpheus and an immortal Englishmen, meeting once every century, are mistaken for the Devil and the Wandering Jew.

DC Comics Secret Origins No 10 presented four speculative origins of their fantasy character, the Phantom Stranger (a sort of supernatural Lone Ranger). He was variously the Wandering Jew, a man from a remote past, a man from the end of time or a neutral angel. For a detailed, well illustrated review, see here.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Smallville: Phantom

Season Six has ended. Did Lex fake Lana's pregnancy? He seemed surprised at the accusation. If not him, then who? Was he responsible for the bomb in Lana's car? If not him, then who? Is Lana really dead? We know that Clark has to wind up with Lois eventually.

Lionel is definitely a good guy, an emissary of Jor-El, vouched for by the Martian Manhunter, but he needs to learn to use good means towards good ends. The Manhunter worked for Jor-El. Lex is arrested for Lana's murder. Bizarro appears at the end and is loose. What is going on with Lois and Chloe? Chloe's power...

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Smallville: Prototype

Lex is committing murder. He and Lana are lying to each other. He says that he has no secrets. She says, truthfully, that she would never hurt the man she loves. It is a lucky coincidence that Lois knew the man whom Lex has transformed into a super soldier. The coincidence is partly explained by Lois' father being General Sam Lane (who has only appeared once so far in Smallville).

Martha becomes a US Senator, as arranged between Lionel and the Governor. Because of his powers, Clark can address Lionel as an equal. Only one more episode in Season Six. I do not think that this season will end with a major catastrophe but the ending will be yet another turning point.

Smallville: Noir

We get the impression that the actors enjoy playing the noir versions of their characters. Clark really looks like the original version.

Lana's alliance with Lionel is not after all a happy one and who tried to kill her? It is very difficult to keep track of all the levels of coercion and deceit.

It looks like Jimmy is leaving for a while. Does Pete ever come back?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Smallville: Nemesis

Lana has become a Luthor and is working with Lionel against Lex to protect Clark but we did not hear all of the crucial conversation between her and Lionel. Even if Lionel had good motivations when blackmailing Lana, he surely used wrong means. I thought at the time that he was merely protecting Luthor family interests but he seems to have very long term plans to counteract Lex, as does Oliver Queen. Despite Queen's sabotage, Lex seems to be perfecting his super soldier. As yet, Clark seems to play a minor role, except that his dishonesty has motivated Lex.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Smallville: Progeny

Lana's pregnancy was faked and she was shown false pictures of a fetus. That is the single most important development in this episode. But why was Lex unable to continue the deception and what will now happen between him and Lana? Clark is asking what changed Lana's mind about the wedding. Lionel was capable of threatening to kill Clark but is probably not able to do it. He reverts to his old self when it is a question of Luthor interests but becomes a genuinely better person around Martha Kent.

We still do not know what Chloe's meteor power is. Something to do with accessing or controlling computers?

I forgot to mention when posting about "Combat" - Lex knows that Titan was not human and was defeated by someone more powerful than himself. Clark destroyed the cameras in the fight arena but are there not videos of him arriving in the arena before he did that?

Smallville: Combat

Another beautifully filmed episode. The prologue shows a fight between Kal-El and a Zoner, then, after the credits, the action starts a couple of days earlier. The Internet fights to the death scenario is presented really well. Superman does not kill but maybe this is because he did do it earlier and had learned not to? This is one version of that. Titan is a good loser. With something sharp sticking out of his chest, he smiles, says, "Good fight," and dies.

Lana loses her baby. She asks Lex, "Why is all this happening?" Because she married a Luthor. Lex is hiding something about her pregnancy. He has killed her doctor and burned the records. His duplicity is on display (to us) when he pretends to be horrified to hear that the doctor died in a car accident on his and Lana's wedding day. Lionel has covered up well. (Lex accepted Chloe's help at the wedding although he had had her kidnapped, examined and memory-wiped as a meteor freak and then told his staff to keep her under observation.)

The covert battle between Lex Luthor and the as yet unnamed Justice League has begun. Lex watches a video of the green archer shooting out the camera in a Luthorcorp facility.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Smallville: Promise

Very powerful. The episode seems to be contradicting itself, then turns out to be presenting some of its scenes from different points of view. This is a technique more easily deployed in prose fiction. We see Clark receive a phone call from Chloe, then later see Chloe make that phone call. The dialogue is the same so we realize what is happening.

Lex commits murder on his wedding day. He is concealing some terrible secret about Lana's pregnancy. Lionel knows how to blackmail Lana to go through with the wedding, how to detect then cover up the murder and how to collect from Lex later. Lionel welcomes Lana into the family. When it comes to promoting the Luthors' fortunes at any cost, he remains as manipulative as ever. Lionel and Lex can live with a total contradiction between social appearances and reality.

The consistent theme of Smallville is dishonesty and deception, all stemming from the original idea of Superman's secret identity.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Smallville: Freak

Lana has deduced that Clark is super-powered and thinks that it is because he is a meteor freak - but that is a more plausible explanation than extraterrestrial origin. See here. Tobias honestly tells Lana that Clark is normal because he detects meteor freaks, which Clark is not, but Chloe is although we do not know her power yet.

Lana conceals information about Clark from Lex while Lex seriously lies to Lana. Lex has stopped being a good guy while Lionel has become one.

Smallville: Trespass

There is not a great deal to say about this one. It cannot be sufficient for Clark to say, "I wasn't myself. Sorry," about his behavior at Lex's and Lana's engagement party. Why was he not himself? This is part of the mystery about him. Both Lex and Lana know that there is a mystery about Clark but do not know what it is. Does that make any sense?

Chloe and Jimmy are back together. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Smallville: Crimson

How will Clark rectify the fact that he behaved abominably at Lex's and Lana's engagement party?

Chloe seeks the Martian Manhunter and buys a bow tie for Jimmy. Jimmy senses that Chloe has a thing for Clark so he says that they should take a break.

Lois learns that Clark can leap a tall building with a single bound but of course forgets. However, Lana has evidence of Clark's invulnerability.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Moore, Gaiman And Anderson

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

The previous post paralleled four writers of prose sf. The present post adds a parallel to a writer of graphic fiction. In Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow (New York, 1997) by Alan Moore, the AI Brainiac speaks thought the controlled body of Lex Luthor but Luthor momentarily breaks through:

"LUHH...LAA-NAA...BRUH...BRAINIAC...HUH HEEE'S...GOT...ME.
"KUH KILL MEE...LANA...PLEASE...KILL ME...
"KILL ME." (p. 33)

Lana Lang breaks Luthor's neck but Brainiac keeps moving the dead body...

This scene is remarkably similar to the passages quoted from Lewis and Stirling. These comparisons have carried us some distance away from our main subject, Poul Anderson. However, all such fictions are connected and we have now come full circle because it was Alan Moore that taught Neil Gaiman how to write a comic script and this blog has previously found several parallels between Anderson and Gaiman.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Continuities, Crossovers And Crises

After posting about J'onn J'onzz, I googled him. Amazing. It read like a more complicated version of a superheroes summary that I read shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths:

the original versions of the All-American and National Publications superheroes;
their Silver Age revivals;
the coexistence of earlier and later versions on parallel Earths;
the coexistence of other companies' superheroes on other Earths;
the existence of other kinds of characters, like anthropomorphic animals, on yet other Earths;
an Earth where no one has gained any superpowers;
an Earth where versions of DC and Marvel heroes exist;
the Crisis that destroyed most Earths and merged five, revising their histories;
a single DC Universe with new versions of all the characters.

Although each hero is a series character, his or her life and career become a single episode in an all-embracing narrative.

J'onn J'onzz

J'onn J'onzz, John Jones, the Martian Manhunter, seems to have all the Kryptonian powers except the ability to traverse space plus several more:

telepathy;
invisibilty;
impalpability;
metamorphosis.

In a British black and white reprint annual in the 1960's, I saw him exercise the power to extinguish a fire inside a building by liquefying the skylight above the fire with beams from his eyes. In those days, he remained invisible and operated in secret.

Next, I saw him visible, tangible and green in the Justice League of America and in a Detective Comics back up feature. Later, he rejoined his fellow Martians in their extrasolar colony on New Mars, a clear recognition that Mars is in fact not inhabited. Later still, we learned that:

his original Martian form was not as we see him;
he had not only teleported but also time traveled from an inhabited Mars in the distant past, just as Michael Moorcock's Michael Kane had had to time travel pastward to reach an inhabited Mars.

When J'onzz got his own series, his metamorphic power was developed fully for the first time, giving him multiple identities on Earth. In a black identity, he worked on the Kent farm to keep an eye on Kal-El, as he does in Smallville. In The Sandman, he sees Morpheus as a Martian deity.

Apparently it will emerge that he had been an inter-galactic manhunter working with Jor-El. Smallville: Labyrinth alludes to his Martian vulnerability to fire.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Smallville: Labyrinth

In "Mask" by Bryan Talbot, Bruce Wayne wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is told that his costumed crime-fighting career is a delusion. In Smallville: Labyrinth, Clark Kent wakes up in a psychiatric ward where he is told that his Kal-El identity is a delusion.

A fellow patient whispers that he knows that Clark is extraterrestrial because he himself is from Mars. We think that the fellow patient is mad until we remember the Martian Manhunter. A Zoner mental parasite is responsible for Clark's illusion. Clark is relieved to see that his adversary Lex is not in a wheelchair with amputated legs at the end of the episode.

Alan Moore's Tom Strong has a similar experience. It seems that he is a drunk with delusions of super-heroism until the Tom we know sees through the illusion near the end of the story.

Is it possible for such stories to end instead with a hint of ambiguity? Or to be set in an alternative reality - Earth-Prime? - where it is the super-heroism that is the fiction?

The Manhunter shows more of himself but still does not stick around to explain himself. He will clearly be a major influence on Clark. Will he join the JLA or remain in the background?

This is the sort of episode where most of the action didn't really happen so the story-line has not advanced very much except that another Zoner has been eliminated and the Martian has come more into the open.