Comics Ate My Brain

July 14, 2014

It’s been ten years, so I’m just saying hi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 7:00 am

With the launch of Comics Ate My Brain on July 14, 2004, I became an official comics blogger. Back then I started out talking about the various Robins, and this past Thursday at Robot 6, I did it some more.

Obviously I haven’t done much with this site in a while, and I regret that. I do feel like I get a sufficient writing outlet over at Robot 6. It gives me a weekly DC soapbox, and if I really want to write about something else, often I can do it through Best of 7 or another group-post forum.

Comics Ate My Brain came out of my time posting on the TrekBBS boards, and specifically the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. I reviewed each issue of “Hush” as it came out, and together with another poster who was a Marvel fan (his handle was The Old Mixer) I tried to spot all the references in JLA/Avengers. Actually, I got on TrekBBS initially on December 6, 2001, which was the 10th anniversary of Star Trek VI, and I wanted to celebrate that particular milestone.

Before that I had been writing fannish analyses mostly to get my own thoughts in writing. It was probably close to twenty years ago that I started what came to be called “The Manifesto,” but which was actually titled “Speculation On Star Wars Episodes I-III: What Did Obi-Wan Know And When Did He Know It?” It was full of all sorts of theories, and it expanded on the notion that Luke was really Obi-Wan and Bail Organa’s backup plan (because Leia was really sent to Tatooine to pick up Obi-Wan so he could train her too, duh). I revised it a couple of times to reflect the plots of Episodes I and II, and while I like the prequels fine, I’m still pretty enamored of a couple of ideas — Aunt Beru starting out as one of Padmé’s handmaidens; and Sidious engineering an ecological disaster on Naboo that would have driven Padmé into exile on Alderaan. Many’s the time I’ve wanted to use this space for Trek or SW essays, but I always wanted to talk about comics first, what with the title and all.

Anyway, the comics were a little different ten years ago. Here’s the July 2004 “Time Machine” page from Mike’s Amazing World Of DC Comics. Overall it’s fairly typical of DC in the mid-00s — Gail Simone writing Birds of Prey (and also guest-writing a Legion arc); Greg Rucka writing Adventures of Superman and Wonder Woman; Aquaman in the “Sub Diego” period; Stephanie Brown as Robin; plus short-lived experiments like Bloodhound and Monolith; and revivals of Firestorm and Doom Patrol. The company was putting out tributes to the late Julius Schwartz, and Identity Crisis was on its second issue.

It was a different time as well for me as a comics fan. Later that month, I went to my third San Diego Comic-Con in five years (2000, ‘01, ‘04) but since then I’ve only been to one more SDCC (‘07) and a WonderCon (‘10).

I put a good bit of effort into this blog throughout the rest of ‘04, and it apparently paid off: I got recruited for The Great Curve group blog in ‘05 and stayed with it through the Blog@Newsarama days (2006-08), and then the move to CBR/Robot 6. I tried to do a podcast related to this site for a few weeks in ‘08, and every now and then I get social on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook; but generally I’ve only had time for Grumpy Old Fan.

Still, although there’s room for improvement in both the social and content areas of my fandom, I’m okay with how things have turned out. Maybe someday I will get back into the more individualized blogging this site allows. Until then, thanks to everyone who’s visited over the past ten years; and I’ll try not to go another ten without giving this space a little more love.

 

February 1, 2010

Note that “favorite” does not necessarily mean “good”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tom Bondurant @ 7:39 pm

One of my favorite Justice League stories is “The Deadly Dreams of Doctor Destiny!” from Justice League of America #34 (March 1965).  It may be one of the worst JLA stories ever.  It is definitely one of the most audacious.

Today the villain Doctor Destiny is a monstrous, skeletal figure, emaciated from the toll exacted by years of channeling mysterious energies.  JLA #34 found him pretty early in his career, though; and he’s just a regular-looking guy without even a supervillain costume.  In a previous story, he had invented a machine (the “Materioptikon”) which could make real whatever he dreamed.  If he dreamed about chocolate, he’d get chocolate.  Thus, he dreamed about a Materioptikon, and got a Dream-Materioptikon.  This allowed him to plot against the JLA from his prison cell, and indeed during the story he never leaves it.

Naturally, his plan involves manipulating the Leaguers’ dreams.  Each of our heroes dreams — sometimes in conjunction with a colleague, which you’d think would tip them off — that during a super-battle, a weird article attaches itself to him or her and imposes some encumbrance.  That’s fancy talk for Batman’s ring giving him super-speed, Hawkman’s gloves only letting him “swim” through the air, Wonder Woman’s mask broadcasting her thoughts, and Atom’s headpiece giving him always-on telescopic vision.  Superman’s device renders him immune to Kryptonite, but makes him susceptible both to fire (a la Martian Manhunter) and the color yellow (like Green Lantern’s power ring).  I haven’t yet mentioned Superman’s device, because it in fact is the ludicrous hurdle which this story must overcome.

Superman’s device is a pair of eyeglasses.

Now, by itself that might not be a problem.  Superman fights his particular opponent (a giant statue) in the Italian countryside, perhaps far removed from anyone who might see his bespectacled face.  The fact that this happens initially in a dream also mitigates a lot of secret-identity concerns.  However, when the dream-devices inevitably manifest themselves in reality, and the glasses are fixed on Supes’ nose, he doesn’t think anything of it.  Furthermore, he apparently doesn’t care that he’s still wearing the things when he and the rest of the Leaguers visit Doc Destiny in prison.  In an era where secret-identity plots were as common as primary colors, I can barely believe that writer Gardner Fox and editor Julie Schwartz passed up such a golden opportunity.

I mean, I wouldn’t be making such a big deal about this if the story had only acknowledged that maybe it might be a problem for Superman to be seen in a pair of glasses.  Supes probably had a half-dozen ways to talk himself out of “say, don’t you look like that reporter?” One line of dialogue addressing just one strategy no doubt would have satisfied a lot of readers, me included.  I can accept a lot — I accept Doc Destiny’s reality-bending powers, especially given his later appearance in Sandman — but I trip over this plot hole every time.

And I do like the story.  It’s one of the first Fox/Sekowsky JLA stories I remember reading (in a ’70s reprint, of course), and it is one of the more imaginative takes on a familiar JLA plot.  There are nice visuals too — Wonder Woman and the Atom fight giant mollusks, Batman and Hawkman fight the Joker and (the terribly obscure) Chac amongst some South American ruins, and Superman’s gladiator-statue foe is convincingly menacing.

Those glasses, though…. I’m still shaking my head.

January 29, 2010

Requiem for an action figure

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tom Bondurant @ 9:00 am

I don’t usually read the biographical information on the backs of action-figure boxes, usually because I know it already.  However, I did glance at the brief bio from the DC Universe Classics version of Green Lantern Katma Tui:

When the Green Lantern, Sinestro, turned rogue, the Guardians of the Universe named Katma Tui as his replacement.  Katma Tui served with distinction for a long time before retiring.  She returned to service at the urging of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth, and trained Jordan’s replacement, John Stewart.  Katma Tui came to love Stewart, and the two of them married, but Katma Tui was murdered shortly thereafter by longtime Green Lantern foe Star Sapphire.

Can you tell which of those data points Mattel might have considered omitting?

I mean, I buy a nominal amount of action figures, and like I said, I don’t often read the bios — but I don’t expect them to say that the figure I just bought is a plastic version of a dead character.  I bet if she comes back in Blackest Night some copywriter is going to be mighty embarrassed….

January 28, 2010

k THX bye

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tom Bondurant @ 9:27 pm

Comics posts are coming, honest, but I did want to mention that I watched THX 1138 recently.  It was the “George Lucas Director’s Cut” version, which meant some CGI inserts a la the Star Wars special editions.  I am not especially familiar with the original THX, although I did tape it (and Lucas’ original student film, also a DVD extra) off Bravo ten-plus years ago, so it’s not like the original is completely lost to me.  The GLDC didn’t despoil my childhood, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, it was an interesting film, very much in the mold of alienated ’70s sci-fi, where everything looks drab, utilitarian, and monochromatic, and all personality has been outlawed. It does have its moments, most of them having to do with the characters LUH (love interest) and SEN (maliciously annoying colleague).*  THX (the character) is heroic in his way, but it’s a slow burn before he finally decides to (as Lucas puts it elsewhere on the DVD) “walk through the open door.” LUH and SEN each have designs on THX, and it’s through their actions that THX is put through his ordeal, so perhaps that’s why they seemed more … well, entertaining to me.  I had forgotten it had nudity — which sounds really strange at this point, doesn’t it?  Nudity in a George Lucas movie? — and either the actors (Robert Duvall as THX and Maggie McOmie as LUH) had great chemistry or Lucas had a much better feel in the early ’70s for directing a romantic scene.  Insert smart-aleck Attack of the Clones comment here.

For paranoid, dystopian early-’70s sci-fi, it’s not especially suspenseful either.  (SPOILER ALERT!)  When Lucas talks about THX walking through an open door, he’s not exaggerating.  The last shot is pretty amazing, though; and it makes a good counterpoint to its sister scene in Star Wars.

Walter Murch’s soundscape didn’t do much for me, probably because I wasn’t watching it in 5.1. I think it’s the kind of movie you have to watch a few times, in order to get a proper feel for the rhythms and themes. I’m not opposed to that, but it may be a while before I revisit it.

* [By the way, I would love someday to chart Donald Pleasance’s various career trajectories. Not long before this he was Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, arguably one of the biggest movies in the world. In 1971 he did THX, in 1978 he did Halloween, and in 1981 he was back with John Carpenter for Escape From New York.]

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.

February 5, 2008

Goin’ to Graceland

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 12:04 am
Well, now it can be told: we’re moving to Memphis. It’s all happened pretty quickly, with the Best Wife Ever jetting back and forth (she’s being transferred) and me stuck here on monitor duty. Everything starts tomorrow — two days’ worth of chaos, two days more driving, and (Lord willing) unloading next weekend. Regular service should resume in about a week.

Although we’ve lived here less than two years, I want to say a little bit about Williamsburg, Virginia. Longtime readers of this blog will remember the Great Move of ’05, which seemed to take forever and got extended into such things as bar exams and job searches. Thus, it seems like we’d only recently gotten settled in here when we learned we’d be moving.

Williamsburg has been fairly good to us. We enjoyed having the Historic Area handy, anytime we wanted a nice walk. Although development took off like a rocket not long after we moved in, it did yield a nice movie theater (lessening the need to go to Newport News for movies), some good restaurants, and a new home for Comic Cubicle, my local comics shop. We got involved in church and made many close friends in what is now too short a time. We felt welcome in our neighborhood right from the start.

So thanks for everything, Williamsburg, from the Bondurants. Don’t grow up too fast!

And thanks in advance, all twelve of you who are still reading, for your continued patience. See you soon!

June 1, 2007

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 10:53 pm


Happy 40th anniversary to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

[Sketch by Alex Ross from the 1997 Kingdom Come supplement, Revelations.]

December 29, 2006

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 2:25 am

Well, obviously, Kadabra’s theme music should be “The Final Countdown.” Just as Bart is the legacy of Barry Allen and Inertia is related to Professor Zoom, now we learn that Abra Kadabra is the descendant of fabled 21st century magician George Oscar Bluth. Come on!!!

[From this week’s The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #7]

October 2, 2006

Night of the Living Book Meme

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 2:10 am
This is an old meme, but Plok got tagged in August while he was on vacation, so he didn’t tag me until last week. Also, just for the heck of it, I’m sticking to print-only books. Enjoy the nostalgia!

One book that changed your life:

Honestly, the Bible — and if you want to hear more about that, let me know — but on a less macro level, it’s a tie. Both Michael Fleisher’s Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Heroes, Volume 1: Batman and David Gerrold’s The World Of Star Trek examine, in different ways, the effects of details on a serial work. (Kind of like a Bible commentary, come to think of it….) I devoured both at an early age, when my brain was eager to make sense of all sorts of things. With the combination of Gerrold’s intellectualism and the Fleisher book’s nitpicking, in hindsight it was inevitable I’d be on a site like this talking about these books.

One book you’ve read more than once:

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe. Man, I love this book, from its epic sweep to its use of language and its undeniable wit. I probably read it every other year, and it never loses any of its power.

One book you would want on a desert island:

I’m probably cheating by counting The Lord of the Rings as one book, but that’s how it was written, right? (The Hobbit would be pushing it, and The Silmarillion would be right out.) Please forgive the nerdiness of this choice. It’s dense enough to withstand multiple readings and back-to-front analyses, so it’d keep me busy whiile I fought off polar bears and looked for that stupid hatch….

One book that made you laugh:

Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In, by John “Joe Bob Briggs” Bloom. I feel certain that most folks reading this are familiar with Joe Bob’s particular brand of redneck criticism, but it was never as potent as in this first book. Blending B-movie reviews with satire, a lurid personal life, and people who just didn’t get the joke, Joe Bob showed that sometimes all you want to know is the amount of boobs, blood, and twitching dead bodies. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but it’s worth the search just for the Terminator review. Tom says check it out.

One book that made you cry:

Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a sappy story, but at the same time Hillenbrand tells it with convincing vigor. Even the high points carry with them the creeping dread of tragedy just around the corner. Those tragic parts didn’t make me misty, though — it was the end. Knowing that the players endured so much, and achieved so much, and feeling their joys and pains, I was sorry to see them just fade away. At the same time, I was glad to have shared, however indirectly, in their amazing stories.

One book you wish you had written:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. Actually, I want to write the Silver Age account of K&C’s lives. Chabon did such a great job fitting their stories to the arc of the Golden Age, I was waiting for the return of the Flash and the birth of the Fantastic Four to breathe new life into their comics careers.

One book you wish had never been written:

I’m not really a hater, so this was not an easy as you’d think. I guess it would be The Bridges Of Madison County, by Robert James Waller. Had it never been written, I would never have been tempted to read it, in a so-bad-it-must-be-good mindset. Actually, this booby prize should probably go to its wretched follow-up, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, which I was sure had to be so bad, etc. No, it was just bad.

One book you are currently reading:

Thunderball, by Ian Fleming. To prepare for every new Bond film, I watch all the existing ones in order; but since Casino Royale is the last Fleming book to be “officially” adapted, I decided to re-read all the Fleming novels (and short story collections) as well. Thunderball is also a kind of nexus of literary and filmed Bond, being (I think) the last book published before the movies hit.

One book you have been meaning to read:

For about ten years I’ve been meaning to finish Godel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It’s a meditation on (probably grossly oversimplifying this) repetitive structures and how they relate to Bach fugues, Escher drawings, computers, and Lewis Carroll. Maybe next vacation, if The Right Stuff doesn’t tempt me first.

I feel like everyone else has been tagged by this point, so if Carla, Marc, Johnny, Vincent, and Iamza are interested (and apologies if you’ve already done it), knock yourselves out!

June 14, 2006

The Real Startling Secret of the New Batwoman–?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 1:25 am
Thinking about it now, it seems kind of obvious, so either it’s kind of dopey or somebody’s already pointed it out, or (as foreshadowed here) both.

Kate Kane is named after Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman from 1956, who in turn was named after Batman co-creator Bob Kane. Now, Bob Kane is the namesake not only for (I think) a building and a bridge in Gotham City, but also for Kane County, in which Gotham sits. Thus, the Kanes must have put the old in Old Gotham. It also makes sense that Kate (like Kathy) is a socialite, and perhaps part of that Old Gotham family.

However…

Before her untimely death, one Martha Kane was a Gotham debutante, socialite and crusader for social justice, who married Doctor Thomas Wayne. If Martha had a sister, or a cousin, Kate could actually be related to Bruce.

I suppose, depending on how you feel about the whole magilla, that would either be kind of cool, or it would make her the Dawn/Sybok/Cousin Oliver of the Bat-verse.

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