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.

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December 31, 2008

Crossovers, conclusions, and Cooper

Filed under: fanfic, twin peaks, x files — Tom Bondurant @ 9:47 pm
Just finished watching the last episode of “Twin Peaks” (but not Fire Walk With Me … not yet, at least). Naturally, I’ve got some ideas about how to revisit the series, but — can your mind handle it? — with a different set of FBI agents. It’s a fanfic crossover, sure; but appropriately enough I think we’ll be speaking more about the metatextual implications.

SPOILERS FOLLOW, if by chance you don’t know how “Twin Peaks” ended.

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I am surely not the first person to think that Mulder and Scully should help free Cooper from the Black Lodge. It just seems like a good fit, especially considering the connections between the shows. Mysticism and magic in the Pacific Northwest, with a Project Blue Book connection thrown in for good measure, seems like an “X Files” episode already. Plus, Mulder would naturally be mistaken for the cross-dressing DEA agent Duchovny played on “Peaks.” (However, tempting as it might be, connecting Major Briggs directly to Scully’s dad seems a bit much.)

Looking closer, though, I see more tension. “Twin Peaks” played a particular game with its mysteries: its characters took them very seriously, but the show itself did not. In hindsight the show — which at the time I took very seriously, don’t get me wrong — was a parody of soap operas, if not movies and TV in general. Knowing that Laura Palmer’s murder was never meant to be solved, all the hoopla surrounding the mystery now seems like a grand game of misdirection. Even after her killer is revealed to the audience, he gets in on the act, feeding the cops clues he’s making up on the spot. “X Files” got twisted around its own continuity as well, but that was more a function of the show’s longevity; and it may offer some insight into its predecessor’s hypothetical fate.

But I digress. “X Files” was a lot more skeptical about its paranormal elements. I picture Scully rolling her eyes at the town of Twin Peaks pretty much from the moment her rental car crosses the county line. Moreover, “XF’s” mysteries were the kinds of legends one might have found in 1970s-era explorations like “In Search Of” and Chariots of the Gods. Whether an episode was a standalone “monster show” or a “mythology show” which contributed to the overarching plotline, “The X Files” reassured viewers that there were answers.

All this is to say that the final fate of Dale Cooper would be just another week in the woods for Mulder and Scully … so we must then ask ourselves whether the character of Cooper, and by extension the “Twin Peaks” mythology, benefits from an intervention by “The X Files.” The latter show wrapped up plotlines for two of its cousins, “Millennium” and “The Lone Gunmen,” but in both cases I daresay that the guests played by the home team’s rules.

I suspect the same would be true for “Twin Peaks,” unless our hypothetical fanfic writer elects to change the rules subtly as the story progresses. Actually, that wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for a “Peaks” storyline; and it would give Cooper the chance to save the day, after first being rescued himself.

See, if I were to write such a fanfic, I’d want it to be more than creative onanism. Sure, it’d be fun to watch Scully giggle at her partner’s mistaken identity; or to give Mulder pause over the thought of entering the circle of sycamores. There are more logistical concerns too, like the fact that “Peaks” takes place in 1989, two years before Mulder and Diana Fawley stumbled upon the X Files. However, these things are like equations (I almost said “solving for X,” ha ha): plug values into variables and see what comes out. What is missing, inevitably, from any fanfic is the unique element of creativity which only a David Lynch or Chris Carter can provide. In a very real sense, Lynch substituted Cooper’s fate for Laura’s killer. There are clues throughout (including in Fire Walk With Me), but putting them together ourselves yields only the sum of those parts. Involving “The X Files” would help acknowledge the deconstruction any outsider would have to perform in order to avoid something Mary Sue-ish and insubstantial. I’d have to think pretty hard about even the bare bones of such a story (which, naturally, I’d share with you-all).

Aw, who’m I kidding? Alan Moore could do it….

See you in 2009!

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