Comics Ate My Brain

December 20, 2009

Fiddle-dee-dee!

Filed under: fanfic, green lantern, justice league — Tom Bondurant @ 2:19 am
Not sure what’s turned my thoughts to fictionalized warfare. Maybe some Avatar osmosis, although I’ve cooled to James Cameron’s directorial charms. Anyway, in trying to get to sleep the other night, I started thinking about a Green Lantern story. (It could easily be a Justice League story, but would center around GL.)

Basically, the initial setup was this: Green Lantern — doesn’t matter who, might as well be John — is patrolling Sector 2814 when his ring detects an approaching starship. It’s an advance scout for a massive armada headed, yes, straight for Earth. Naturally, GL alerts the Justice League and also buzzes Oa for backup. The JLA is prepped and ready for action, but the word comes back from Oa: reinforcements denied. In fact, a Guardian gets on the horn to tell John specifically that he is to offer no resistance to the invaders. Instead, he is to observe and advise them. He can protect the Earth’s best interests, but the Guardians have determined that the invasion must be a success, because that’s the only way Earth can survive.

John then contacts the JLA from aboard the invading scoutship and explains the situation. Obviously John is conflicted, but ultimately he has no reason to distrust the Guardians. Besides, he (and presumably any other Green Lantern in the area) will theoretically be able to influence the invaders in Earth’s favor. Of course, the JLA and the rest of Earth’s super-folk have no such conflict, and while there is some debate over whether to follow John’s lead, eventually the choice is made to repel the invaders.

Thus, the stage is set: hundreds (if not a thousand) hostile starships bearing countless troops, versus the Justice League, Justice Society, Teen Titans, et al. There are pitched battles in orbit and fierce fights on the ground, but the invaders eventually get past the superheroes. The invaders seem to be looking for something, but they don’t know quite where; and they tear the dickens out of several regions in the process. Cairo, Helsinki, Nepal, and Salt Lake City are hit especially hard. Regardless, thanks to John, casualties are amazingly low, including among the superhumans. Indeed, the invaders start ham-fistedly rebuilding the infrastructure of the devastated cities, even advising local leaders on alternative forms of government.

Once the invaders believe Earth has been subdued, though, the JLA and its allies strike back using guerrilla tactics. This is quite successful, in part because the invaders are caught off-guard. Before they know it, they’ve lost half their fleet and most of their infantry has been incapacitated; and they’re ready to retreat. After Green Lantern has escorted them out of the solar system, he gets a call from Oa: the Guardians are pleased.

Pleased?!? John spits. You could have stopped all this before it even started!

Yes, muses the Guardian coolly, but the [invaders] needed to be taught defeat. The Guardians knew that bloodying the invaders’ collective nose was the only way to get them to leave Earth alone, but calling in the GL Corps would have merely turned the invaders’ attention to Oa. It seems the invaders are a particularly thick and brutal race, but one thing they do especially well is fight — so they would have first found a way to eliminate the GL Corps, and then they’d have come after Earth. And make no mistake, John Stewart, intones the Guardian, [the invaders] would have dedicated their very existence to wiping us out. Now, however, they see that even if they defeat an enemy one day, it also won’t stop until it’s driven them off. The Guardian wraps up by saying they regret having to manipulate John and the other Earth GLs as they did, because (irony alert) they normally don’t work like that.

* * *

Now, clearly there are a number of problems with that story. I first thought of it when I was half-asleep, and I fleshed it out on the fly just now. The point, though, is that it is a blatant morality play about the Iraq war, and I’m not sure that something as deadly serious as Iraq (or Afghanistan, or wherever else the U.S. finds itself) should be trivialized, even potentially, by adapting it to a superhero setting. For one thing, it’s designed to leave no lasting scars on the Earth or its people. For another, the invaders are pretty one-dimensional — they’re looking for WMDs because they think someone on Earth attacked them, but that’s never really made clear.

Still, if you declare that some subjects are off-limits to superhero stories, aren’t you shortchanging the genre? Joe Kelly wrote a decent Iraq-related issue of JLA, where President Luthor basically lies to the Justice League to get them to invade an inoffensive country; and Greg Rucka put Lois Lane in harm’s way in “Umec” during his tenure writing Adventures Of Superman.

I actually do like the story, mostly for the moral dilemma it puts GL in. I suppose you could strip out the more obvious real-world parallels and make a passable 2- or 3-issue arc out of it. It wouldn’t have any real-world lessons, but it might be entertaining, and it would definitely explore the relationship between a Green Lantern and his little blue bosses.

Still, on balance I’d like my comics to be open to larger moral concerns. I’d just hope they’d be able to get past all the fantastic stuff.

December 16, 2009

Forbidden Trek

Filed under: star trek — Tom Bondurant @ 3:04 pm
No, I am not just now realizing that Star Trek owes a tremendous debt to Forbidden Planet. Every time I watch FP I imagine that it is the greatest unfilmed Star Trek episode ever. I mean, really: Leslie Nielsen is pretty much a Roddenberry captain, he works for the “United Planets,” and the four main officers are the commanding officer, first officer, ship’s doctor, and chief engineer. The only thing missing is a Spock figure, and I’m not sure that “Doc” wouldn’t fill that role pretty well.

Probably the weakest aspect of the movie is the romance between Nielsen’s J.J. Adams (that name’s oddly familiar too, given who directed the latest Trek) and Anne Francis’ Altaira, and that’s not all bad. I bought it from her point of view, but by the same token Adams knows full well what she’s feeling and to my mind takes advantage of it.

Still, it’s great fun to spot the other elements which would later find their way into Star Trek. The mysterious loner and his female companion figured in “The Man Trap,” “What Are Little Girls Made Of?,” and “Requiem for Methuselah,” the all-knowing computer was a staple of Original Trek, and of course there’s the design of the deceleration devices.

Oh, and Dr. Morbius reminded me a heckuva lot of Dr. Orpheus from “The Venture Brothers.” Now I want to see Dr. Orpheus’ daughter in the Anne Francis role….

December 14, 2009

Re-posting: At least it wasn’t A Wrinkle In Focused Totality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 4:35 pm
[If you think you’ve seen this post before, you have. I deleted the original to get rid of spam comments. No non-spam comments were harmed by this procedure.]

Yesterday [December 2] I finally did something I’d been meaning to do for years, namely re-read Madeleine L’Engle’s classic young-adult fantasy A Wrinkle In Time. I can’t remember the last time I read it, but it had probably been close to thirty years ago. It wasn’t as mind-blowing as I remember, but I do want to read the rest of the series.

AWIT was also a lot shorter than I remember, although it was pretty dense nonetheless. I wasn’t expecting all the Christian references, and I definitely wasn’t expecting them to be so prominent. It didn’t feel like a book written in the early ’60s — more like something from the end of the decade or the early ’70s.

Perhaps most striking, though, was the Chris Claremont sensibility I got from the whole thing. Yes, I know that if anything, AWIT would have been an influence on Claremont, not the other way around. Still, you have a mousy, nerdy teenage girl unappreciated by her peers, who’s part of a family where almost everyone is either hyper-competent, extremely attractive, and/or outright super-powered. They all live in the rural Northeast (close to Westchester County?) where our heroine Meg meets her soulmate Calvin, who almost immediately starts talking about his own special destiny — maybe not in those terms, but close enough. Meg and Calvin and little telepathic Charles Wallace have a series of well-written intergalactic Christian-flavored adventures against an implacable evil, until everything is solved by the power of love.

Now, despite that smart-aleck tone, I did like the book, but darn if it didn’t seem like C.S. Lewis’ Uncanny X-Men.

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