Monthly Archives: January 2014
by Jeremy DeFatta
Good day, everyone! After a couple of weeks of somewhat tangential diversions, I want to return to the original Batman himself, Bruce Wayne. There have been as many iterations of Bruce Wayne as there have been writers tackling the character and actors portraying him, but what is the real core of the character? Why does he endure and maintain such outrageous popularity?
As I pointed out initially, Batman is a product of the 1930s, one of the very first superheroes—the Dark Knight to Superman’s Sun God. He was created during the Great Depression. I don’t think it is any great leap in logic, and other writers may have commented on this before, to see Bruce Wayne as a thought experiment into what a good and useful rich man should be at a time of not only national, but global crisis.
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(PART I) Introduction to the Moffatocracy
Extremites, I apologize for my lackadaisical posts of recent. Whereas Ben’s posts have taken on a life of their own, and begun to flood the many annals of Image Comics’ social elites, my three series have not figured as heavily on the main walls of the Review. There’s a very good excuse for this, if you care to know, which hopefully you do: my computer, my dear portal to the world, suddenly stopped functioning and after a couple hundred dollars, which is a limb’s worth of cash to an out of work actor and writer like myself, is finally operating at maximum efficiency.
During my forced time off from fan punditry I experienced a shower epiphany, where all great ideas are coined, that Extremis needs another series.
You probably know, having followed many of my posts, that I have an affection for Doctor Who. I know that some of you also share in this affection, judging by the overwhelming feedback to any article that even briefly alludes to Who. Thus, thinking in my shower, I decided to open up a Doctor Who section for this site. To start the Doctor Who section off on a testy point, I thought I’d begin the series with a comprehensive examination of the current state of the show, which I have concluded, is misguided beyond belief.
The reason for this comes directly from the ineptitude of the head writer: Mr. Steven “I-am-God’s-gift- to-Doctor-Who-and-television-as-a-whole” Moffat.
Following the ilk of some my colleagues, who have been going after his distortion of Doyle in Sherlock, which is a topic I do not profess to be an expert at, I thought I’d focus my sardonic eye on his tenure at Who.
Trust me, he is doing a number on it.
This new series of articles will come out in parts.
First, a preamble to the series. What is behind my motives for this sudden veer into Doctor Who.
This past Christmas I was settling into my comfortable recliner, in front of a large HD oriented television, with baited breath for what I surely thought was going to be an important moment in Whodom. Every time a version of the Doctor regenerates it is a moment of great fanfare and one that surely will ricochet culturally for some time. However, after watching Matt Smith jolt into Peter Capaldi, in an episode that not even the most avid Fanboy or Fangirl could say was good, I walked away from the show annoyed and angry.
The Christmas special was more destructive to the most enduring UK institution since, I don’t know, Anglicanism met Oliver Cromwell. (History hyperbole. Look it up!)
The episode was so terribly written and frustrating that I started to accumulate, just in this one episode alone, exactly what it is about Moffat’s style that seems to fail the show.
I have arrived at seven problems, which I call Moffatisms, that are eating away at the integrity of the show, and in the Christmas episode all of which are present. I’ll be sharing them with you in instalments as part of this long serialized one sided discussion named “The Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who.”
For those of you out there annoyed or offended by the use of the word “shitty” I say to you: “go back to drinking your tea with cozies and worrying about the price of stamps.”
This narrative voice will not be for you. Steven Moffat has made me so mad that I have to swear for the first time in my short tenure as a fan pundit. I am that frustrated.
These Seven Moffatisms may also apply to Sherlock and his other work, i.e. his adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but in the course of this series I will only mention those shows in passing — for other, more intelligent, people can better make the argument for the errors in those adaptations. Follow this link for one.
I mentioned Fangirls and Fanboys earlier. Let me speak directly to them. People with lives beyond their Fandoms skip until you see bolded words.
All right, now that we are alone Whovians, let’s talk turkey.
Part of my job as a well rounded Fan Pundit is to hover around the forums and boards where you delightful people share your opinions and anecdotes about Doctor Who. I have seen an alarming trend. There is an extraordinary amount of Moffat love out there.
How is this?
Seriously, Whovians, what show are you watching?
It is not the same one I have sat through.
I see a show that is convoluted, rife with mysogyny, and most egregiously, one that is boring.
However, on these fan walls, many of you seem to think Moffat is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who since CGI. How can I be so off base?
I have concluded I am not. Your blind ‘fanning’ is the reason for the lack of quality in the show. As long as Steven gives you folks sentimental characters, and soppy moments, your lust is satiated. And Moffat knows this. That is why the sentimentality of the show has gone through the roof to the point where it has begun to govern every frame and alienate serious television views.
These articles are primarily for you. They will show you why many are so critical of your beloved “Doctor Who feels.” And, furthermore, why these ‘feels’ come from a place of placation.
I do not write this series to degrade you as fans, fans are great, I write it to explain why a certain group of Whovians think Moffat is a plague.
ALL RIGHT, HERE BE THE BOLDED WORDS.
Thank you for giving me that moment with the fans. It was kind of you.
The final thing you should know about this project is: this is not a Moffat hate manifesto. I will not aimlessly be saying things like ‘I hate Steven Moffat’ or ‘Moffat is a jerk.’ These are empty, inflammatory statements that leave us nowhere. I do not write this series of articles to espouse a personal feeling about Moffat’s tenure but to digest his ‘art’ and its worthiness. I thank you in the comments to remain respectful.
Surely, Steve has done some great things for the show. Somehow as show runner he was able to secure a larger budget. This has helped the show, astoundingly, in production values. Many, in the past, had difficulty rectifying the juvenile British Publicly funded lens of the Davies period. Moffat has fixed this. He has also expanded the market to make the show truly international by securing agreements with movie theatres and multinational cable channels. And yes, he did coin many of these projects as reported by the BBC themselves. This has included viewers who had to wait weeks to see episodes, or some cases, till DVD releases. Steve’s efforts have made Doctor Who a good and valuable business investment and he has further expanded the power of the BBC, which consistently both tests and, in turn, creates very good television. However, a good business man, and Doctor Who enthusiast, does not a good writer make.
And so, with that concession, I end my article here.
Join me, next with Shitty Moffatism Number 1.
Until next time Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
So this is what Peter Capaldi and Doctor Who decided the new Doctor will look like. It’s all right and further shows Peter’s fandom as it has major influence from J. Pertwee’s incarnation. But the act that he reminds me of a cliche magician worries me a ton. This was announced via twitter.
It’s a powerful force, perhaps the powerful force … at least in the present moment. It’s brought us stealthily through the past fifty years right into now, and it appears to be towing us ever forward into the future, drawing us further into its jaws with every turn of its gears. It brings with it interminable, inescapable agony akin to a neverending sequence of paper cuts that inevitably leave us all hemorrhaging – and like those metaphorical tiny slices across our skin, it leaves many of us bloodless. It is the slow death we all fear, and yet can never seem to escape.
I’m talking, of course, about debt.
There’s no beating around the bush at this point, folks. It’s not just individuals who are feeling the sting now: the city of Detroit is officially a ghost town, squeezed dry of every indentured penny over the past decade of combined real estate debacles, oil price fluctuations, and business closures. Europe is a rapidly-spreading wildfire of austerity with no end in sight … at least, as long as things stay the way they seem to be going.
Even here in my own home, my mind is split, half of my thought devoted to writing this op-ed masquerading as a comic review while the other half spins in mathematical circles, adding and subtracting, prioritizing pleasures and necessities to ensure that all of the financial leg-breakers of the world keep their baleful gaze from my doorstep.
But then there’s the other side of the coin (there’s always another side of the coin, isn’t there?). Our eyes and ears are force-fed an unending stream of advertising, bright colours flashing across our vision as loud voices command us to buy this phone or sign for this plan, consolidate our loans with a bigger loan carrying a larger interest rate over a longer period of time. Most of us see it for what it is – trading a bowl of turds for a deeper dish of the same odorous confection – but somehow, those hooks dig their way in and we find ourselves staring incredulously at the bottom of the contract, wondering who signed our names there so nonchalantly.
“He/She was so friendly,” we tell ourselves. “They made it so easy.”
But the smiles and handshakes mask the desperation in their tone – because they’re in it just as deep as we are, and the only way out is on our backs.
The reality, folks, is that this isn’t a race. There isn’t even a finish line. It’s a treadmill, and we – and by we, I mean everybody – have been told that our choices are to run or starve.
And so we run … and starve nonetheless.
As always, however, I can’t help but look forward and consider what’s next. I’m forever stretching my neck to look over that seemingly insurmountable hill to check the next horizon. You see, in spite of the mathematical gymnastics I’m currently performing in my head, I still remember that this isn’t anything new. It’s not fair and it’s definitely not ethical, but looking back over history, this is the prettiest that indentured servitude‘s ever looked. Historically, the current debt crisis is no different for most of us than 19th Century slavery, or the serfdom imposed as a result of feudalism in the Middle Ages. The only real difference between then and now is that now we have a carrot in front of us to substitute the whip at our backs.
But it’s not the seemingly revolving door of servitude we keep reeling around that concerns me the most; what really worries me is that it’s not over yet – or worse, that this is better than what’s coming next.
And it appears I’m not alone. Mark Rucka has seen the dangers of an indebted future, and he’s created a visually-striking new world for us to experience it in.
You may have heard of Rucka. If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve read some of his work: he’s written Batman (Detective Comics), Wonder Woman (2003-6), Wolverine (Vol. 3), and was a co-writer for DC’s pivotal 52 series. Now he’s contributing his considerable talent to Image’s inventory in the form of a new series called Lazarus.
Before I get into the story, I have to give some textual high-fives to artist and letterer Michael Lark, whose list of comic involvement is longer than my introduction. Seriously, Google this guy and try to keep your jaw closed while you read his resume. His work on this series alone has me excited to see what’s next in his future (hopefully more Lazarus!). Santi Arcas’s colouring also adds such an essential element to this comic; like I mentioned in my article on East Of West, a good colourer can enhance the story as much as they add to the art, and Arcas does just that, allowing the blue ambience of underground lighting to permeate the interior and lengthen the shadows of this dark future dystopia, while the washed-out colours of the harvest fields add to the melancholy of the scene.
Alright, enough blabbing – on to the plot!
The world of Lazarus takes place at an undetermined point in the near future, where the world is now split along very different lines. Where once the planet was divided by political or cultural boundaries, it is now under the purview of a select group of families. Each Family owns territory and controls all of its resources – one of those resources, of course, being people.
The families are small but powerful, holding all of the technological advances, transportation services and financial clout of their particular section of the world within their grasp.
Obviously, these families don’t all get along. The interplay between rival Families is reminiscent of mafia-style gangs: there’s an appreciation for power or a mutual respect based on trade, but they’re not afraid to lay waste to each other at the slightest hint of weakness.
But what of the other people?
Well, they (or we, as the case may be) are split up into two groups; the smaller of the two works for their respective Family, born into indentured servitude for their entire life.
The rest? As Rucka puts it in his introduction, “All others are Waste.” The Waste have yet to be introduced to us at this point in the story, but the implication is that they live a life of pure subsistence, barely able to scrape by while under the purview of the comic’s corporate offspring.
Sounding familiar? It should be. The more I read the news, the more I get the feeling that we’re not as far off from this possible future as we may be led to believe.
What I find the most fascinating about this story is the perspective Rucka chooses from which to explore this eerily-realistic future.
The first issue introduces us to Forever, a member of the Carlyle family. Forever isn’t just any Carlyle, though – she is what’s known as a Lazarus (hence the … you get it, I’m sure); a cybernetically-enhanced enforcer whose sole purpose is to defend her Family from any encroachments on their territory. She possesses heightened strength and agility, as well as a ridiculous healing factor. In addition, every Lazarus is remotely monitored by both an engineer and a doctor at all times. She’s also the de facto commander of the Family’s security forces.
What I find so fascinating about Rucka’s chosen protagonist is that she appears, at least at first, to be one of the bad guys. It would be like telling the story of the 2008 real estate crash from the viewpoint of Goldman-Sachs‘ head of security: you feel for the guy, but you also kind of wonder how he sleeps at night.
As the story progresses, however (and it’s not that far along – going on six issues – so sink your teeth in now!), you begin to appreciate Forever’s difficult position all the more. She may be an enforcer, but she’s no less stuck in this mess than the rest of the herd. In fact, she seems to be as much a victim of the system as those who slave in the fields. She wears chains, just like the others – hers just shine a little brighter.
After all, what kind of freedom comes with a killswitch?
Beyond that, for me there is a pervading feeling throughout the story that he’s not telling you a tale from the other side of the fence. As I found myself coming around to respect Forever’s situation, I slowly came to understand the real reason why I related to her, even though we’re such profoundly different people in such different worlds.
You see, ladies and gents, we relate to Forever Carlyle not because she is a tragic hero, but because she is just like us.
She, like the workaday men and women of today, is simply a person trying to do the right thing in a deeply fucked-up situation. She’s desperate, fighting with her own indentured status while she keeps the rest of the slaves in line. She sees the tragedy of her own circumstances, but simply digs herself a deeper hole, blinds herself to the plight of her fellows because it’s “not her concern”. She has her own battles to wage, her own demons to fight. She, like us, is in it up to her eyeballs.
And the only way out is on our backs.
Until next week.
— Ryan Penagos (@AgentM) January 23, 2014
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Originally slated for July 31, 2015, the film’s premiere date has been bumped up to July 17.
Both Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas have recently been announced as playing Hank Pym and Scott Lang respectively. Exciting news all around and further proof Marvel is still cornering the Superhero cinematic realizations.
Teaser footage for X-Men: Days of Future past. Have a view. It’s an exciting piece that was shared out originally by Brett Schenker of Graphic Policy.
A new teaser was posted to Instagram by the X-Men movie account showing off some new footage and giving us a heads up to keep our eyes open for even more this coming Monday, January 27.
I have talked some about the upcoming Fantastic Four film. I am largely quite hesitant about the film. Particularly because of the rather disrespectful way the characters have been adapted thus far, and this new film is from the same company responsible for that.
Read this great article about dream casting for the roles. Sadly, in reference to the real casting, aside from the Human Torch, it is very uninspired. Reed on. (See what I did there.)
It looks like 20th Century Fox is going ahead with their reboot of the Fantastic Four, and many fans are already up in arms over that development. They fear the reboot will be as bad as previous attempts and the negative reaction is so intense that many are hoping it stays in development hell rather than being filmed.
What is so troubling for them and myself included are the casting choices being mentioned in the trade papers. While Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch is an intriguing, though out-of-left-field possibility, some like Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic just left me wondering what the hell is going on with the casting director. Has anyone looked at this actor? He looks like a dweeb! I’m sorry but nothing about Teller gives the impression that he is a gifted scientist type. And given how young he is, it’s pretty clear that the…
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I’ve been away from proper blogging for awhile as my computer has been on the fritz. That being said, I will be returning to proper blogging shortly but first, here’s some news and a trailer for the upcoming Marvel Cartoons.
Where as Marvel has a stranglehold on the cinematic medium, when it comes to cartoons, DC blows old Lee’s work out of the water.
For some reason, Marvel continues to try and compete with DC at animated movies. I never watched that Iron Man/Hulk team-up, but I understand it was an abomination fit only for stupid children. Welp, Marvel is trying again with the laboriously named Marvel’s Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher.
It looks maybe OK. I like the anime idea, maybe. It’s hard to say at this point. The trailer doesn’t really show much. The story is that Punisher gets taken into SHIELD custody after he interferes in a mission. From there, Punisher and Black Widow get sent on a new mission to take down some bad guys named Leviathan. It sounds about as cheesy as that Iron Man/Hulk team-up. And clearly it’s not based on any existing comic book. So really…what the heck is Marvel thinking?
This is a question that I can’t seem to pull from my mind. It’s an inescapable consideration for me, an endless cycle of point-form notes spinning in my mind, like player stats for a fantasy football fan or quantum entanglement equations for a physicist. There are times, I admit, where I find myself writing these blathers (…blatherings? Blatherations? Fuck it) and somehow, without my conscious knowledge, the topic of my choosing is magnetically pulled into this direction – whether it’s Robert Loren and his Think Tank, or the malaise of Jupiter and his legacy, or even my most recent exploration of John Prophet’s Earth Empire.
It’s an addiction. I admit it – the future of our civilization is something so simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating (strange how the two feelings are such common bedfellows) that it almost blinds me to the day-to-day goings-on of my life, and yet I can’t seem to look away. It dominates my thoughts in such a profound way that even when I watch the news, I rarely find myself listening to the talking heads or reading the captions; instead, I’m imagining where it’s all headed, the possible scenarios that could erupt from these events, spiraling us towards destruction – or, just as possibly, pushing us beyond the limits of our imagination and showing us a whole new reality, one where we master our weaknesses and emerge from the chrysalis of today to show that what we once thought was our pinnacle was merely a stumbling step up the ladder of our infinite potential.
But that’s the scariest part, isn’t it? Despite the amazing achievements of the last century, it still feels like we haven’t done a damn thing: we’re still dying of cancer; still filling the air with pollutants and predator drones; still blowing up marathons and embassies, beheading our fellow brothers and sisters in the name of any of the dozens of contagious sicknesses that we call ideologies.
The more things change, the more they stay the same…
And yet, progress is an unstoppable force. The past decade has not been a cascade of horror, but a raising of the veil – it seems on the surface to have shown us the deepest shadows of our nature, but the reality is that this has always been our nature; it is only now that we are coming to grips with it. We have glanced in the mirror many times over the ages, but it is the 21st Century where we have no choice but to stare ourselves right in the face and say, “There’s something seriously wrong here.”
And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.
This is a little heavy for everyone, I’m sure, but it’s these subjects – human nature, ideology, psychology, social and biological evolution – that permeate everything we have created throughout our history; every piece of art, architecture, mathematics, literature, science, music, and so on carries within it a kernel of us, and with so many kernels around … well, we could make one massive bowl of popcorn.
But for me, it’s today that holds the greatest interest; it’s only now that we have the technology, energy and burgeoning creativity to explore these subjects in such profound, diverse ways – and we’re so good at it that it seems like we’re not even exploring them at all. To me, the greatest trick we’ve ever pulled, we pulled on ourselves – hiding the truth about who we are so carefully in our art, music, and literature that it’s taken us all these centuries just to put it together.
And this truth, this giant bowl of unpopped corn that we call culture is why I spend my days and nights reading issue after issue of fifty different comic series. This is why Julian Munds explores the concepts delivered in the Marvel Universe’s favourite children week after week.
This is why people write comics in the first place.
As I said last week, it is in our imagination that we see the possibilities unfold. It is when we ignore the reality of today and consider what could have been, where we could have gone and what we could have achieved if this thing or that person had been slightly different, if we went left instead of right or sat down instead of walked outside, that we unlock our potential.
It’s not opposable thumbs or analytic brains that put us at the top of the food chain folks: it’s our foresight, our ability to consider what’s next and leave a legacy.
Ah, legacy. Such a lofty, almost holy goal … yet, consider the things we’ve done to ourselves – to each other – for the sake of legacy. No offense meant, I assure you; it’s a glorious thing to dream of, canonizing ourselves in history, galvanizing the ideals of an individual in the annals of time. It’s something we all hope for even if none of us are making moves toward it, a dream we all hold for ourselves – to transcend our mortality and achieve some level of greatness beyond our lifetime. To pass beyond being a simple man or woman and become a monument.
Consider it for a moment: if you could hold the future of mankind in your hands, the greatest knowledge, finest tools, and infinite resources at your disposal … what would you build?
More importantly, would you build it for us, or for you?
These questions are the foodstuff (literally) of Manhattan Projects, a story about the greatest minds of the 20th Century – their genius, their hubris, and their humanity … or lack thereof.
Me, I’m a history nut. I’m also a huge science nerd. So this comic is like pornography to me – nothing gets me excited more than watching brilliant men like Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer reborn in cartoonish detail to act out their own greatest fantasies. But it’s not the historical aspect that got my attention, nor is it the cartoonish way that the most notorious think tank of our time is portrayed. To me, it’s the way that writer Jonathan Hickman shows the near-impossibility of these colossal minds to be something more than human.
Each character in the comic is – or was, rather – a historical figure, and for the most part, each had their own part to play in the development of the real Manhattan Project – with a few exceptions, of course. But Hickman has this amazing way of explaining their eccentricities, brilliance and personality in a way that makes them seem both less human and more relatable at the same time.
Take for example Enrico Fermi, a brilliant nuclear physicist who carries the title “father of the atomic bomb”, is an alien from a planet whose intentions for Earth are miles behind the noble mark.
Or Wernher von Braun, renowned rocket scientist who was “inherited” from the Nazis during the infamous Operation Paperclip (if you don’t believe me, please look it up. Fascinating stuff). While still an unbreakable will with a wit to match, he now wields a massive – and dangerous – robotic arm.
Albert Einstein carries a significant role in the story, though it’s not quite the Einstein we all know (you’ll have to read it to find out what I’m talking about…).
Even Laika – the little-known (at least in the West) hero dog of Soviet Russia’s first foray into space exploration – makes a cameo.
And then there’s Nick Pitarra. If Hickman invented the characters, it’s Pitarra’s art that brings them to life. While not quite realistic, the rendering of these historical figures is accurate, almost like caricatures. Fermi’s prominent ears enhance his face – both human and alien – and Einstein’s mustache is, for lack of a better term, perfect. Even Richard Feynman, a man who is almost synonymous with the real Manhattan Project, is drawn in youthful detail to mimic his 20-something years as part of the organization.
But for me, the piece de resistance of this comic is the incomparable J. Robert Oppenheimer, the most legendary personality to walk the halls of the famous Los Alamos testing facility. Historically, he was politically motivated in his later years, even leaning towards Communist at the end of the Second World War; a dichotomous man of intense ambition coupled with an almost contradictory sentimentality. Hickman’s interpretation of the man, however, paints him as a monstrous force of nature, a man who could barely be called a man at all – even more so than Fermi’s alienness or Einstein’s own otherworldy nature. The Oppenheimer of Manhattan Projects is not a great thinker; he does not think of great ideas, he consumes them – literally. Time and again as the story progressed, I found myself staring in revulsion as Oppenheimer ate his opponents – alive if need be, dead if necessary – and, in so doing, absorbed their knowledge, assimilating it into himself to be accessed at any time.
But it’s not just knowledge that he consumes; somehow, his physical consumption of their bodies also carries with it a piece of their consciousness, an aspect of each of their personalities that manifests itself as a slightly different Oppenheimer. While the Manhattan Projects move forward at dizzying speed, battling Communists threats and Chinese invasions, alien encroachment and governmental crackdowns, advancing our species in ways that even now seem to be in the realm of impossibility, a war rages on within Oppenheimer himself. And there is yet to be declared a victor…
I know I keep throwing these real think-piece comics at you guys, and I’d like to say I’m sorry, but I’m just not. If you don’t like expanding your mind through this art like I do, that’s cool – just know that you’re missing out on so much!
I talked at great length this time about the importance of finding ourselves in our art and culture, and Manhattan Projects is exactly that – a combination of history, science and philosophy brought to life through great storytelling and wonderful art.
And permeating all of it is the great question, the conundrum of our age, one that Einstein himself feared even eighty years ago, when he claimed that “our technology has surpassed our humanity.”
What are we becoming?
Until next week.