A Bizarro Kind of Love Feb01

A Bizarro Kind of Love...

If Superman turned on us, we’d be toast. “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…” This old timey description doesn’t really do justice to what we have come to know of the hero’s capabilities. Back in the 1940s, mistaking a superhero for a bird or a plane was the best they could do, because that was pretty much what they had. Nowadays, Superman’s pantheon of villains and intergalactic foes has progressed far beyond human technology, requiring Superman to exceed his previously known limits—after all, he has to be a match for whoever attacks the earth. And he is. His powers (unless you throw kryptonite into the mix) are nearly limitless. So what would happen if he was to turn evil? He’s only human, after all. Well, actually, he’s not, but you know what I mean. Earth would face the most powerful villain it has ever seen. But I’m not scared. Because Superman’s not real, you say? No! That’s just crazy talk. I am not afraid of my hero turning bad because he constantly reveals his gentle nature and compassion for the small, the weak, and the needy. To me, Superman is the embodiment of love because he wills the good of all others—even though he really doesn’t have to. He treats Bizarro, not like the monster that everyone else sees, but like a child who needs assistance. Superman’s encounters with Bizarro are my favourite examples of this. I like to think I’m kind of a niceish person, but if I was faced with a warped clone of myself who had all of my ninja powers but lacked my even temper and responsible conscience, I’m not sure how kindly I’d react. More to...

The Rorschach Test: Watchmen, Truth, and Lies Jan18

The Rorschach Test: Watchmen, Truth, and Lies...

I first got into comics when I was in junior high. It was a good time for comics, the simpler days before Marvel’s Ultimate complicated the continuity of the Marvel Universe, before upstart companies like Image and Valiant further challenged what it meant to be a superhero. The additions to my collection were based primarily on my interest in individual superheroes rather than the quality of the narratives. I was an undiscerning reader: I read The Amazing Spiderman, The Uncanny X-men and a few other Marvel titles because I liked those characters. I bought various Batman titles because Batman’s cool and Superman titles because… well, I don’t know why I bought Superman titles. I have never understood why anyone liked Superman. And then someone told me about Alan Moore and I picked up Watchmen.  I wasn’t prepared for what I read. It was so many different genres all wrapped into one: mystery, revisionist superhero narrative, political treatise, alternate history. Watchmen was my first exposure to a comic raising deep moral, ethical, and philosophical questions, often questions without clear answers. And it remains one of the few comic I return to again and again because of how Moore treats those questions. When all the conspiracies within Watchmen have been uncovered, when Ozymandias’s plot to create world peace in an alternate 1985 has been revealed, truth and deception remain powerful thematic elements. Once the truth that Ozymandias has framed Dr. Manhattan for nuclear attack on New York in order to unite the United States and the USSR is revealed, the heroes must wrestle with the information they possess in the light of the new-found peace that could stabilize the world. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see the dangers of Rorschach’s black and white perspective....

Oh, the superhumanity Nov09

Oh, the superhumanity...

The second that we got to the train station—before we even parked—I spotted some co-attendees for my first-ever Comic Con. The red cloak and Thor’s hammer were the first things to clue me in. Costumed folk were everywhere on the way to the convention, and as I walked the streets of New York with my husband, we played many rounds of “Cosplay or Everyday?” Some I was able to figure out and some remain inconclusive for me. My husband and I met the first Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima, and got his autograph for my son, who has wanted to be a kaiju actor since he was four. Doing that for my son made my day, but seeing the cosplayers, the merchandise booths, the life-sized TARDIS, and the exhibits was amazing—I’d like to do that every year. But my favourite part was attending a presentation by Scott Snyder (Batman writer), called “DC Entertainment Spotlight on Scott Snyder.” Snyder shared the challenges of writing and all of the rejections he faced before he got anywhere (that was great for me to hear). However, his best insight was when he shared about his vision of Batman. Much of the discussion focused on the villains that plague Batman, because no hero can be discussed independently of his or her villain(s). While a true hero isn’t defined by his villains (try as the villains might to make it so), he is, in part, shaped by them. Snyder pointed out that the villains totally outweigh the heroes—the hero-to-villain ratio favours villains almost exponentially—making the defeat of evil an insurmountable task.Batman’s awareness of his weakness makes him stronger and a better hero. In the Batman universe, the most formidable villain is Gotham itself. The city is the embodiment of evil;...

Certain doom Aug14

Certain doom

Sometimes I forget that villains consider themselves to be the heroes of their own stories. Take Dr. Doom, for example. He believes he’s the hero of everyone’s story. In Doomwar #3, Dr. Doom faces a mystical arch that blocks his path, inscribed with the words “Only Through Purity Unencumbered by Pretense May You Pass.” Dr. Doom has killed untold thousands in his conquest to gain power, so purity isn’t exactly his namesake. I mean, his name pretty much says it all. He removes all of his armour—something he has never done up to this point in history—and walks through the arch naked and totally vulnerable. He is transported to the mysterious cosmic lair of Bast, the Panther God of Wakanda, an incredibly powerful deity who could destroy Dr. Doom in a moment should he be found of impure heart. Bast recalls the decades of death and destruction Dr. Doom has caused and asks him why he would think for a moment he is pure enough to pass through alive. Freedom and security exist in a precarious balance. Dr. Doom genuinely humbles himself before Bast, and explains the justification for his actions. He says that he’s looked into tens of thousands of possible futures and in every one the human race is enslaved or destroyed by an alien power; every future, that is, except the one where he rules humanity as an absolute dictator. Every attempt he made to overthrow the world’s governing powers, every time he fought to destroy the Fantastic Four or the Avengers? He did it for the good of humankind. Bast sees that Dr. Doom is telling the truth, deeming his intentions “pure.” He allows him to pass. This is why Dr. Doom will never admit defeat. If what he’s seen...

What Would Punk Rock Jesus Do? Jun25

What Would Punk Rock Jesus Do?...

A reality TV show executive clones the DNA of Christ, implants that clone into the womb of an 18-year-old virgin and videos her life so it can be watched by the world, The Truman Show style. How’s that for a solid premise? I’m hooked. Every ounce of me wants to review this comic, aptly named Punk Rock Jesus, but according to the Managing Editor (i.e. the Commander), I am “not supposed to be writing reviews.” I hope you read that in a snarky tone because, despite snark being completely foreign to her speech, it is how I falsely remember the conversation. Without giving much away about the story, Punk Rock Jesus explores a powerful question: can people’s religious beliefs be exploited for profit? The answer, which should be to no one’s surprise, is an absolute yes. I mean, if we can exploit people’s desire for marriage (The Bachelor and its affiliates), spiritual exploitation isn’t so surprising. Money complicates every situation, in the church and outside of it. Years ago, I was listening to a podcast that featured Scott Kurtz of PVP Online fame; I recall him telling a story about his encounter with The Christian Plumber. This legit plumber would come to his house, do the work he was hired to do, offer prayer, and leave a Bible verse on the table as he left, written on a card. The weird thing is—he wasn’t a Christian. It was all a marketing gimmick and, while I don’t appreciate the dishonesty, I can admire the ingenuity of it. In North America we have Christian schools, Christian bookstores, Christian fast food chains, Christian plumbers, and even I work at a Christian radio station. As customers and clients, Christians are fiercely loyal, so there is a lot of...

Why the knight stays dark Jun11

Why the knight stays dark...

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This question is the engine that drives the battle between Batman and his arch-est of arch nemeses, the Joker. Batman’s story is one of tragedy. Bruce Wayne was a boy when his parents were shot and killed in front of him. They were the victims of a desperate criminal in a desperate city. Wayne is an orphan left in the care of the family butler, and he is heir to Wayne Enterprises and its massive fortune. He decides that as long as he draws breath, he will do whatever he can to make sure no one else has to feel that pain and loss. He decides to become a symbol. He decides to become Batman. Wayne spends the rest of his life training every part of himself to fight against injustice and those who would prey on the vulnerable. He closes himself off to everyone but a handful of people whom he trusts with the hope that no one will ever get hurt because of his actions. The knight stays in the darkness so others don’t have to. Over a long period of time, Batman starts to make a positive change in Gotham City. Crime is lowered and the streets are safer. Batman even takes in a protégé to ensure that his legacy of protection will not end with him. Things are looking up until a criminal shows up on the Gotham scene with seemingly no regard for human life. The word on the street was this guy called himself the Joker. Batman had dealt with all sorts of dangerous criminals in the past, but this one is different. The Joker is the human embodiment of madness. He has no cause. He has no vendetta. He acts as an agent of pure chaos....

Be thou my Vision May20

Be thou my Vision

There’s nothing science fiction loves more than a saviour. All our favourite stories seem to depend on the chosen one who will come and defy the otherwise unconquerable odds, leading the good guys to a lasting victory against the dark and sinister group against whom they fight. Never tell me the odds. Sometimes these saviours are unlikely heroes, thrust into the spotlight, left to rely on a colourful cast of friends to survive the first two acts before discovering who they were meant to be all along. Sometimes they emerge from the womb a certified badass and leave a trail of blood, brass and bodies behind them on their way into the heart of darkness. No saviour ever made a difference without giving their life, literally or figuratively. But every once in a while, a saviour is born into a story as an unexpected hero. A saviour like Vision. Whether you believe the stories about him are true or not, Jesus—as a character—was the perfect and archetypical saviour. A poor child born connected to the king’s bloodline, but with no money or political power. He was nothing like the priests of the time wanted or expected, and in fact, Jesus basically told them they were doing everything wrong. Replace first century Jerusalem with twenty-first century New York City, and Jewish priests with a murderous, all-knowing artificial intelligence, and Vision is Jesus. He is created as a combination of the pinnacle of technological achievement, and the closest thing Tony Stark has to a son, Jarvis. Ultron’s dream for Vision was as his right hand—a sword of judgement to be wielded from the throne over the world. But when Vision awoke as the very embodiment of an Infinity Gem, he was something else entirely. He was the...

Deadpool: Flirting with death Mar24

Deadpool: Flirting with death...

The fear of death serves as an agent for many stories, especially within the Marvel universe. From the death of Uncle Ben to Bruce Banner’s constant state of panic about the monster lying in wait ready to reap death and destruction on the world, death is something to be feared. Most characters do whatever it takes to not die. But not Deadpool. Deadpool does not run from death; in fact, he’s fallen in love. Born as Wade Wilson, he made his living as an assassin. His motivations were unclear, but we know he was very good at what he did, and what he did wasn’t very nice. While at the top of his game, Wilson developed an aggressive form of cancer. He voluntarily entered the Weapon X program (which, you may remember, is how Wolverine got those fancy metal upgrades to his bone claws) in the hopes of preserving his life. Weapon X infused Wolverine’s healing ability with Wilson’s DNA, but at a supercharged rate. What if we were to love death? Wilson flirted with death while he was being experimented on. Literally. He was so close to dying most of the time that he would often see Death (in the form of a woman) looming over him. He eventually fell in love with her, and she found herself irresistibly attracted to him. It was his time with Death that made those torturous days of experimentation bearable for him. Wilson’s cancer interacted with the increased healing factor and made it even more powerful (according to comic book science). Thus, Wade Wilson was reborn as Deadpool, and as much as he wanted to die to spend eternity with Death, he became virtually unkillable. During his adventures, Deadpool has his head cut off, half of his body liquefied, and...

Swinging a mile in Spider-Man’s tights Feb02

Swinging a mile in Spider-Man’s tights...

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This six-word sentence, said first in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) by Ben Parker to a young Peter Parker, has become one of the most iconic sentences in all of comic book history. This statement condenses Marvel’s purest sense of heroism into a balanced and understandable concept: those of us who have the ability to do good are charged with the duty to do so. Peter Parker is the hero who most comic fans wish they could be. Wolverine is indestructible, but lonely. The Hulk is the ultimate power fantasy, but lacks self-control. Iron Man may be a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, but he’s not exactly well adjusted. Marvel is no stranger to heroes with grey-area morality.Kids grow up pretending to shoot webs from their wrists and swing from lampshades because something about Peter Parker and Spider-Man has resonated with them for over 50 years. In 2012, Marvel shook things up by ending 50 years of Amazing Spider-Man and starting up Superior Spider-Man to run in its place, with a surprising twist. Otto Octavius has swapped his mind with Peter Parker’s and left Peter to die in his own deteriorating body. For two years, Otto becomes Spider-Man. Having inherited all of Peter’s memories, he believes that, unshackled by Peter’s concrete morality, he can be a better hero, and—you guessed it—a superior Spider-Man. To New York City, Spider-Man is still Spider-Man—he’s still spinning webs of any size and catching thieves just like flies. The first time anyone notices something is off is when Superior Spider-Man corners a murderous villain named Massacre. Spider-Man turns Massacre’s weapon against him and publicly executes him by shooting him in the head. Though Massacre deserved to pay for his crimes, this is not something...