Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is the J.J. Abrams novel S a rip-off of Whimsical Doctor Shoe?

The answer to the incendiary and crackpotty question in the title of this post is, "Probably not. I'd be shocked if it was."

But. From the Mulholland Books website:

At the core of this multilayered literary puzzle of love and adventure is a book of mysterious provenance. In the margins, another tale unfolds—through the hand-scribbled notes, questions, and confrontations of two readers. Between the pages, online, and in the real world, you’ll find evidence of their interaction, ephemera that bring this tale vividly to life.
Sounds an awful lot like Whimsical Doctor Shoe to me. Kinda. I mean, the book of mysterious provenance, literary puzzle, hand scribbled notes in margins, confrontations of two readers, ephemera, evidence searching, etc. All of that's in Doctor Shoe.

Even the title of the book, S, could be a reference to the Spitnode twins in Doctor Shoe. Or it could be a reference to Shoe himself.

I'm just wondering.

Just like this guy, who suggests Mr. Abrams ripped off Star Trek II in making his latest Star Trek film. Also, this guy. This guy, too. And this guy. You can find all kinds of stuff with Google.

So, if Mr. Abrams's latest film is just a big rip-off, why not his first foray into publishing?

J.J. Abrams, probably thinking "What can I rip off next?"

Obviously, J.J. Abrams isn't ripping me off. But if the next Star Wars movie has a bounty hunter who murders by enema, I'm going to be really suspicious.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine!

A story I wrote with Big Ed Gorman, "Real Life, Real Death," is in the current (double-sized!) issue of the renowned Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Please pick it up now!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My first attempt at a mashup

Featuring the Michael Zager Band's song "Let's All Chant," and the "We Accept Her/One of Us/Gooble Gobble" scene from "Freaks." It was really hard to do.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Will "Man of Steel" be the superhero movie that finally wins a Best Picture Academy Oscar? 6 reasons why this movie will break the streak of superhero movies not winning Academy Oscars

Even though the best movies are superhero movies, and everyone knows it (which is why they're so successful, see "Captain America," "Amazing Spider-Man," "Avengers"), superhero movies have yet to experience the thrill and prestige that comes from winning the coveted Best Picture Academy Oscar.

That may be about to change, and the upcoming "Man of Steel" Superman movie is the movie that will do it, finally bringing artistic legitimacy to the superhero genre, which has propped up the ailing movie business. Here is why I believe that "Man of Steel" will win the Best Picture Academy Oscar:

First of all, it is about Superman. Superman is the first superhero of all time. His first movie, "Superman," was the first superhero movie that many people ever saw, from the 1970s. Today it is an acknowledged classic, and all superhero fans love it, including many Academy voters.

Second of all, my first inkling that I am right in my theory has come lately, as the first reviews of the movie are starting to come in. And the reviews are awesome, perhaps even as awesome as the film itself:

So, to summarize...awesome! Now, it's a bold claim to call it the "best movie of the year," especially this early on, but everything else is golden. To me, having tons of action was the biggest requirement, because we haven't really seen Big Blue do some serious damage since the 1970's and that's with some seriously antiquated effects. The CGI cape hasn't really been a secret and we can see as much in the trailers already. Personally, I'm totally down with it and have no qualms.
Positive reviews are important to ensure that everyone understands just how good a movie is, that is why people get so upset when some troll posts a negative review and ruins a movie's perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. And the reviews have been almost all positive, except for one negative review:
However, there was one negative response. Twitter user Jenn Murphy was adamant about her dislike and wrote, "There's a reason why they told us not to tweet about the movie we just saw: IT'S TERRIBLE!!! Also it definitely fails the Bechdel Test. Seriously can big budget movies create a decent role for a woman? It's getting pretty ridiculous."
I don't know what the "Bechdel Test" is, but it's funny that a person would wonder why can't movies have "a decent role for a woman," when the very movie she's talking about has Lois Lane in it, the best woman character in all of Superman comics and therefore a great role for a woman! So, the one negative review is just someone trolling.

If it's not a good role for a woman, then why is she standing in front of Superman in this picture? 

Third, the romance between Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane is one of the great love stories in all of popular culture, and love stories win big at the Academy Oscars (*ahem* "Titanic" *cough*). 

Fourth, currently at Rotten Tomatoes, 97% want to see it. That is almost 100% (3% are obviously trolls).

Fifth, the movie is produced by Christopher Nolan, the greatest filmmaker of the modern era. Despite his greatness, he has not yet won a Best Picture Academy Oscar, and until he does, the Best Picture Academy Oscar will be a joke, and everyone will know it. Everyone knows that the Academy is embarrassed that they didn't reward his Dark Knight Batman movie with even a nomination, and not even his last Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," was nominated, even though it's the third best comic book movie of all time, and everyone knew it even a couple of weeks after it had been released. The Academy will be anxious to reward Nolan, who is a producer of "Man of Steel," so look for it to win big.

Sixth, Superman is the first superhero of all time, and superhero movies are the only movies that make any money anymore. The Academy knows this, and they have to reward superhero movies by giving one of them this coveted prize. Not even the latest Will Smith movie could make any money, because he wasn't playing a comic book character ("Men in Black"), or was he playing a superhero ("Hancock").

One of the biggest problems right now is that no superhero movie has ever won the Best Picture Academy Oscar. Rectifying this injustice clearly "Looks like a job for Superman!" And it will be, too, when "Man of Steel" wins the Best Picture Academy Oscar next year!

This is kind of what it's going to look like when Superman walks down the Academy aisle to pick up his Best Picture Academy Oscar.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Max Allan Collins Seduction of the Innocent review

I wrote a review of Max Allan Collins's new novel, Seduction of the Innocence, which can be read over at Unleash the Fanboy. Here's a sample:

As the superheroes that commanded so much of the market during the late 1930s- late 40s lost their appeal to readers, comic book publishers shifted their focus toward other genres. Romance, westerns, science fiction, crime and horror all rose up to supplant the superheroes as sales leaders.

The comics, which had seen record sales, especially during World War II, became an easy target for crusaders of the political right and left, and those same readers who enjoyed consuming stories of Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel suddenly came to realize that they'd narrowly avoided being nefariously influenced to commit the extreme acts of violence and sodomy portrayed within their pages. They also realized that their own children might not be so lucky.

At the forefront of the crusade against the comics' despicable influence was a venal glory hound called Frederic Wertham. In 1953, Wertham published a hilariously ill-written, alarmist, and dishonest book called Seduction of the Innocent, in which he claimed the juvenile delinquents with whom he supposedly worked, and with whom he'd supposedly spoken, were avid comics readers, inspired to commit criminal acts by the lurid images and stories they read in comics.


Sneaky Frederic Wertham, looking for naughty pictures.

Wertham's book has long been considered a failure as scholarship. But as it turns out, new evidence has just emerged that shows that Wertham wasn't just a sloppy researcher who mangled the interpretation of his work to prove his own hypothesis: He was a fundamentally dishonest charlatan who lied about his research:

Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History. “Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”
In the interest of equal time, here's Michael Chabon, author of the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, on Wertham:
"No one who does even the most rudimentary research into Wertham's career and accomplishments can fail to admire him for his compassion, his intelligence, his desire to help children, and his fairly snappy prose style.... [but] It was Wertham's boneheaded inferences about the direct causal connection between...comics and 'deviance' in children, [and] the hysteria his inferences helped to foster (along with a counter-hysteria among comics fans) that have tarnished his admirable legacy."
(That quote was taken from this website, which is where I got the hilarious photo of Wertham "reading" a comic book.) The problem with Wertham is that, as we now know, it wasn't just that he made "boneheaded inferences." It's that he flat-out lied about his work. His entire character-- his so-called "compassion" and "intelligence" and "desire to help children"-- are called into question.

For the rest, go here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Taylor Swift is one of my top 20 favorite current celebrities

Taylor Swift is a "country" singer -- I put the word "country" in quotes (ironic quotes) because first of all I don't know if she's still pretending to be a "country" singer and second of all, her music always sounded more "pop" to me (or at least "soccer mom country," a term I put in sneer quotes as opposed to ironic quotes) -- whose music I do not care for. Her song "Mean," for instance, a whining and petulant "anti-bullying" song (please note the platitudinous quotes) made me root for the bully, and her song about the "Kanye West MTV Awards incident" (a term I've chosen to surround with melodramatic quotes) led me to believe that Mr. West didn't go nearly far enough in interrupting her.

But Ms. Swift is one of my favorite celebrities. She is a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person. She has opportunities that the vast majority of people can only dream of. And she takes advantage of them. She does what young people should do, which is date lots of different people. She travels. She seeks out new experiences. She attends fabulous events. She wears fabulous clothes. She does these things on a scale that is worthy of her position as a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person.

Young people are supposed to take full advantage of their youth. It's a time to date around, to make spectacular mistakes, to be overly emotional. Ms. Swift does this.

In his essay "Writing as an Art," the great Charles Willeford wrote

The novel is the case history of the writer. Look Homeward, Angel, Ulysses, The Trial, A Farewell to Arms are great novels. They are also case histories of the men that wrote them, and they are written with the heart. Each is an account of what happened to the writer and also what might have happened to him. Fact and fiction cunningly combined.
Even though I don't personally care for what she creates, Ms. Swift is an "artist" (those are sincere quotes), and as such she draws upon her own personal experiences in her creative process. Often this includes writing about her ex boyfriends. For some reason, this seems to bother some people.

Maybe it's that Ms. Swift's personal life is so much on display. Sure, we expect artists to use their own lives as inspiration, but do we expect to know so much about those lives? It turns us all into annotators -- we can't just appreciate and relate to the art in question, we have to (or, if you prefer, "get to" [optimistic quotes]) interpret the art, thereby creating an almost scholarly buffer between us and the art we consume:
When Taylor Swift releases a new single it's inevitably an opportunity to carefully dissect the lyrics and determine just which of her past romances left her jilted, heartbroken, and full of seemingly endless material for her hit songs. 
The fact that we know so much about Ms. Swift's private life is perhaps off-putting to some people. And it probably doesn't help that Ms. Swift can afford to hire a private jet to fly her boyfriends to her when she misses them so much. We can all relate to the pain of a long distance relationship. But how many of us can actually fly our romantic partner to us when that pain gets to be too much?

Whatever the reason(s), some people don't approve of Ms. Swift's mining her own life for artistic material. One of those people is the actor Michael J. Fox:
"But Taylor Swift writes songs about everybody she goes out with, right?" Right! "What a way to build a career."
Mr. Fox was asked about Ms. Swift in the context of an alleged "joke" (critical quotes) told by Golden Globes host Tina Fey, something about keeping Ms. Swift away from Mr. Fox's son, who was this year's Mr. Golden Globe, or something, who cares, the point of the "joke" (grumpy quotes) was that Ms. Swift is a little tramp who dares to use her own life as fodder for her art.

Mr. Fox's implication is that somehow the ex-boyfriend of Ms. Swift is victimized by her act of creation, presumably because Ms. Swift is so famous and her private life is so well-known and covered that there's no anonymity for the ex boyfriends who gave her material. But if that's the case, then no art should be created, ever. Especially today, when everyone with a Facebook profile is famous.

Would Mr. Fox tell Michaelangelo to "back off" from Biagio da Cesena? Or tell Victor Hugo to leave poor Henry Sibson alone?

The Charles Willeford quote is taken from the book Writing and Other Blood Sports, which is well worth your time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

When will Vice President Joe Biden start investigating the influence of the novel on our society?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've got a new post up about the current anti-video game wave. A sample:

On April 21 and 22, and June 4, 1954, the US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held public hearings at which certain experts in juvenile crime were invited to testify along with artists and publishers of comic strips and comic books. Comic books as a medium did not fare well in the proceedings, as this Reductio ad Hitlerum testimony by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham suggests:

“It is my opinion,” Wertham told the senators and the cameras, “without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” The child most likely to be influenced by comic books, he said, is the normal child; morbid children are less affected, “because they are wrapped up in their own fantasies.” Comic books taught children racism and sadism—“Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry,” he said. In his book, he said that “Batman” comics were homoerotic and that “Wonder Woman” was about sadomasochism. He was even critical of “Superman” comics: “They arouse in children fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune,” he testified. “We have called it the Superman complex.”
Note that the above quote, from a New Yorker review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, says that Dr. Wertham was speaking to senators and cameras. That's because these hearings, set up to discover the causes of the epidemic of juvenile delinquency, were televised. Today, of course, we've evolved beyond such nonsense. Today, when elected officials hold investigations into how the media is responsible for horrific crime, those hearings take place in secret.
Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday he was “shooting for Tuesday” to get President Barack Obama his recommendations on how to battle an epidemic of gun violence and warned “there’s no silver bullet” to stop the killing. Biden was meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House with executives from video game companies whose products have often been blamed for making players insensitive to real-world violence.
Just like the comic books of the 1950s, when Superman "arouse[d] in children fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while [readers remained] immune," the video games of today have "often been blamed" for making players "insensitive to real-world violence." And the federal government is on the case.

Read it all here if you want.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How a Wonder Woman comic from 1942 led to the Great California Cow Exodus of 2012

Recently, Bill Frezza at Real Clear Markets published a story about cows fleeing California for other states because California's state-minimum pricing of milk is too low to turn a profit.

The crisis in California stems from Golden State cheese makers carrying more political clout than dairy farmers. As a result, the minimum legal price of milk in California is 2 ½ cents per pound less than the average minimum legal price in other states. Two and a half cents may not sound like much, but in a business in chronic oversupply, that's larger than typical profit margins. With feedstock costs skyrocketing due to the diversion of corn to make subsidized ethanol-another brilliantly managed business- California dairy farmers are on the ropes. Meanwhile, California cheese makers enjoy a competitive advantage because it is illegal for out-of-state cheese makers to buy cheaper California milk.
Milk is apparently a very special product that requires the intervention of federal and state government to ensure that its market is properly managed. Supply-and-demand won't work. Which is why the state of California has set a minimum price that consumers have to pay in order to get their milk at a price that is fair to cheese makers. And if the milk producers can't sell enough of their product at that fair-to-cheese makers- price, then the government (i.e., "taxpayers," i.e., "you and me") buys the excess milk and turns it into cheese that we can't eat. It's the circle of life. It turns out that this started a long time ago:
Around the time of the New Deal, guaranteeing the milk supply joined life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as one of the cardinal responsibilities of government. While this may be ascribed to a desire by politicians to always have enough babies to kiss, some suspect that buying the votes of dairy farmers had something to do with it.
Maybe it was vote-buying that originally motivated the program, but I have a feeling Wonder Woman might have had something to do with it. Back in July 1942 ("around the time of the New Deal"), Sensation Comics #7 ran a story in which Wonder Woman battled an evil milk magnate who was charging so much for milk that children were literally dying:

Wonder Woman, in her Diana Prince alter ego, goes to the offices of International Milk to investigate. There she meets the oily Mr. Alphonso De Gyppo, a man so transparently awful that he has a thin mustache and a racially insensitive name. As it turns out, his business plan is not entirely different from the current government milk subsidy program:

As Frezza points out, the minimum legal price of milk inflates the cost of milk so that everyone, even "poor children," are forced to pay more. They just can't tell exactly how much more:
Estimates put the cost to consumers as high as $5 billion a year. But since this tax is hidden, legislators get to enjoy the gratitude of dairy farmers without having to face the wrath of consumers, who remain in the dark about how much they are individually paying.
But because International Milk is a private business, and not part of the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, what they're doing is wrong. Wonder Woman is not so subtle in her critique of Mr. De Gyppo's business practices:

With the help of a trap door in the floor of his office, De Gyppo manages to capture Wonder Woman and, as so often happens in these wonderful old William Moulton Marston-Harry Peter stories, the heroine is tied up. The twist in this story is that after she's tied up, she's thrown into the back of a truck, which two semi-literate thugs slowly fill with milk:

Wonder Woman escapes (she was just toying with them, anyway-- for crying out loud, she's Wonder Woman!), and leads a protest march against Big Milk "The Milk Racket":


Just like Michelle Obama using her position as "First Lady" to pressure Walmart to sell less poisonous food, and to pressure Mars to stop selling disgustingly delicious "King Size" candy bars, Wonder Woman seeks to shame International Milk into adopting business practices that she deems appropriate. For her trouble, she is again captured, and again tied up, this time to the front of a tank truck filled with (what else?) milk. And here she finally discovers the truth about International Milk and its real leader and motives:


Yes, it's all part of the evil Baroness Paula Von Gunther's nefarious plan to weaken the bones of American children so they won't be able to defend the country from future blitzkriegs. Something else that Michelle Obama has been warning us about, by the way: the obesity epidemic is a national security crisis. As an aside: You'll note in the panels above that The Baroness mentions that she has invented an apparently fictional "electrical machine" that raised her from the dead following her execution. This subplot allowed Marston to slip in a plug for an apparently real device he helped develop, the so-called "lie detector test." While investigating Diana Prince's disappearance, Major Steve Trevor gives a "lie detector" test to the doctor who officially declared The Baroness was dead:

Anyway. Wonder Woman escapes from the milk tank, and uses her "magic lasso," which is an apparently fictional device, to compel The Baroness to confess her plan. She also takes a moment for a photo op with a group of adorable young children who will no doubt benefit from the effects of cheap access to "milk, the perfect food," assuming none of them are lactose intolerant:

Although it's not specifically spelled out anywhere in the story, it's implied that The Baroness's plan was then used to help draft the original legislation that has led to the current cow exodus that Frezza described in the Real Clear Markets editorial. Or, perhaps I should more accurately state that it's inferred, by me, right now, today, that The Baroness's plan was used to help draft that original milk-protecting legislation. Like most superheroes of her era, the original Wonder Woman was a rah-rah FDR-loving New Dealer with the best of intentions. However, sometimes good intentions can lead to actions that have unintended consequences. In the world of comic books, this is called "the law of unintended consequences." I'm not sure what they call it in social sciences, or in economics, or whatever discipline it is that studies these things. But perhaps if the people who write the dairy market laws would read Wonder Woman comics, the cows wouldn't be leaving California, and milk wouldn't cost quite so much.

The scans from this post were taken from the wonderful Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume 1, which is well worth your time.

Originally posted at When Falls the Coliseum. Re-posted here because I'm lazy. And, also, I do like Marston's and Peter's original Wonder Woman comics.

Friday, November 30, 2012

James Gunn's "Superhero Sex" post

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've written a post on the controversy surrounding director James Gunn's "superhero sex" blog post. Here's a sample:

From that title alone, two things should be immediately apparent: The first is that Gunn has a broad, absurd sense of humor. The second is that this is a poll that is so completely unmoored from reality that it is no way meant to be -- nor could it be -- taken seriously. Superheroes are fictional characters. They are not real people. Actual, living, breathing human beings -- such as those who presumably took part in this completely unserious and over-the-top bizarre poll -- cannot, by definition, have sex with them. Because they are not real.

I repeat, because some people have trouble understanding this point: Superheroes are not real people.
Gunn's post isn't about Olivia Munn or Megan Fox. It's not about cosplayers. These are fictional characters about which he's waxing sleazy. And not even fictional characters, really -- they're Intellectual Property that big corporations use to make billions of dollars by exploiting passionate fandom. And sometimes, the fans who have spent entire lifetimes following the adventures of these characters have trouble understanding that they aren't in fact flesh and blood real people, but fictional characters. Case in point, this post from The Mary Sue, titled "SO HERE'S THE SLUT-SHAMING, HOMOPHOBIC POST ON SUPERHEROES BY… THE DIRECTOR OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY," which contains the following paragraph:
The screenshot at the top of this post is the entirety of what he has to say about Batwoman, which is both a reference to the idea that lesbians just need a good (read: streotypically masculine) man to have sex with them and they’ll be “cured” of their homosexuality, a delusion at the heart of an innumerable number of rapes; and a dig at Nightwing, one of the few male characters in comics who has actually gotten away with being drawn for the female gaze. Apparently, having been depicted as a female sex fantasy occasionally (and still with nowhere near the frequency that any given female character is drawn for the male gaze) instead of a male power fantasy literally makes him a woman.
Look at what the author of the post, Susana Polo, writes there. She states that Nightwing is a "character" who is "drawn" in a specific way, but in the next sentence claims that Gunn's sophomoric joke "literally makes him a woman."

Nightwing isn't a human being. He doesn't literally exist. He can't be made literally a woman. He can't be made "literally" anything. He doesn't exist in reality. Gunn's post isn't an "insult" of Nightwing, because Nightwing can't be insulted. He is a fictional character.

But look at Gunn's original post regarding Batwoman, pasted above. He starts out with an observation about the constituency that voted for Batwoman as one of "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With." The actual people who voted for this were voting for the Intellectual Property they most wanted to have sex with. Batwoman is a lesbian fictional character. Gunn notes that mostly (actual) men voted for her. It's probably a safe assumption that most of those men who voted for Batwoman are straight men (although I'm not entirely sure what would be the sexual orientation of an actual human being who desires to "have sex with" fictional characters -- "Fictionsexuals"?). Then, in the very next sentence, he feigns ignorance by subtly noting the absurdity of the idea -- what are these straight men thinking, exactly? He claims he doesn't know. In the third sentence he makes an ironic, over-the-top joke that shows in fact he does know what they're thinking, and it's ludicrous: "I don't know what they're thinking, but I know I'd like to write a story about Iron Man 'turning' her." This sentence is also a subtle dig at "crossover" comics, which invariably follow the same pattern: the heroes meet, there's some misunderstanding, they fight, and then they join forces. In this case, the joining forces would involve getting Batwoman to "cross over." But, given the fact that Iron Man and Batwoman are both pieces of Intellectual Property owned by two different and competing corporations, that's not very likely, is it? I'd say it's about as likely as "turning" a lesbian "straight."

Batwoman isn't real. She is Intellectual Property. She's only as lesbian as the writers in charge of her "adventures" make her.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some justice for Wonder Woman?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I wrote a review of a book about the Wonder Woman TV show, called Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. Here is a brief sample:

Somewhere, on some other of the Infinite Earths, the pilot script was re-tooled, and "Wonder Woman" became a smash hit, propelling the character to pop culture superstardom. She surpassed even the success of Batman, who was largely forgotten by the mainstream. (DC Comics made several attempts to revitalize that character, and turn him into one of the "Big Three," but they were to no avail. On this particular earth, no one could fully get a handle on the dark, violent, masculine ethos that animated him.)

Wonder Woman stole his thunder.

But the character suffered for this fame. In the eyes of the general public, Wonder Woman was pure camp. A joke. Even though comics fans knew her from storied runs by creators like Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, and Steven Englehart and Marshall Rogers, it wasn't really until Frank Miller's groundbreaking Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess Returns mini series event in 1986 completely revitalized the character, paving the way for Tim Burton's 1989 classic film. "Breakfast Club" and "Short Circuit" star Ally Sheedy was cast in the title role, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High's" Jennifer Jason Leigh won the role of The Cheetah, and Kevin Costner was cast as Steve Trevor. Warner Bros poured tens of millions of dollars into producing and marketing the film. Teenagers all over the world wore T-shirts emblazoned with her famous eagle bustier and had the stylized "WW" shaved into their heads.

The movie broke multiple box office records, and spawned three sequels. Recently, "Memento" director Christopher Nolan offered a brand new trilogy of films, "Wonder Woman Begins," "The Amazon Warrior," and "The Amazon Warrior Rises," to great acclaim and success.

That, mind you, is on some other Earth. One that was destroyed in the Crisis. On this earth, it seems everybody's afraid of Wonder Woman. But in the mid-1970s, Wonder Woman did manage to get herself into a couple of TV movies, a couple of one-hour specials, and then eventually into a series that, despite multiple obstacles (including changing the setting from the 1940s to the 1970s between the first and second seasons, and a change of networks), managed to last three seasons. It's mostly faded into obscurity, but it does retain a small but fervent cult following. Among the show's most devoted fans is Mike Pingel, author of the book Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman.

It's obvious that Pingel has a lot of enthusiasm for the TV iteration of the character, and Lynda Carter, the dazzlingly beautiful actress who portrayed her. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm isn't contagious; in fact, the book is actually alienating for a number of reasons. For one thing, you will note that in the paragraph above I gave the title as Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman. That is the title as it appears on the cover. However, at the heading of each page of the book, the title is given as Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. It's never a good sign when a book is unsure as to its own title.

You can read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New novel: The Fabulous Fanboy

Update: Read the first two chapters on Wattpad.

My new novel, The Fabulous Fanboy, is now available in ebook form. It's a rather dark and humorous examination of an obsessive fanboy whose attempts to drive the cultural narrative through the posting of vitriolic comments on the internet -- among other things -- causes him to lose, well, his perspective. Here is the description I posted on amazon:


The world as we know it is changing. Once relegated to the fringes of society, the geeks now control all aspects of culture, and its means of consumption. At the forefront of this revolution is Geeker Media programmer Brendan Kidd. As the World's Greatest Champion he remains tireless in the struggle for quality entertainment! Whether it's spending hundreds of hours a month reading comics and playing video games, or posting thousands of snarky comments on websites like Reddit and Rotten Tomatoes, Brendan will stop at nothing ensure that the good is praised, while the bad is viciously and mercilessly mocked!

But when Brendan's free pass to a screening of "The Avengers" is threatened, he'll have to face down the greatest challenge anyone has ever faced! Then, with barely any time to catch his breath, Brendan also must deal with the so-called artist who is stealing his girlfriend and using his life as the inspiration for his completely execrable self-published comic book (which stinks)! Can Brendan maintain the courage and focus necessary to deal with these senses-shattering events? Will he be able to narrow down his list of favorite season-three episodes of "Community" to just ten entries? Will he discover the shocking secret of the German amateur star of his favorite pornographic video? Who are the mysterious 50K? Will someone please explain to him why "The Big Bang Theory" is so popular?


Now that it's all written and done, I'm thinking it maybe resembles A Confederacy of Dunces, as written by Patricia Highsmith and Kevin Smith. Or, something like that.

Again, if you're interested, you can purchase it from amazon.com for a measly $2.99. Or, you can purchase it from Barnes & Noble for the same measly price. Print edition coming soon!

And here is the artwork for the forthcoming print version: UPDATE: 12-5-12: Print version now available, with a slightly different spine. You can purchase it here.

Here's a link to the first two chapters on Wattpad.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've written a review of the entertaining and informative new book THE LAW OF SUPERHEROES. Here is a small piece:

 In his essay "The Embarrassments of Science Fiction," the late great writer Thomas Disch offers a diagnosis of SF that seems to apply even more to mainstream superhero comic books. His thesis is that SF is a branch of children's literature, and, as such, is emotionally and thematically restrictive. The taste for SF is acquired during adolescence, and only the most hard-core stick with it as they age chronologically. As a result, SF is escapist literature that is meant to appeal to our adolescent side; stories are simple, without examining the real-world implications of the concepts explored:

The emotional limitations of children's literature are even more restrictive. There are, here and there, children bright enough to cope with the Scientific American or even the Times Literary Supplement, but crucial aspects of adult experience remain boring even to these prodigies… Other subjects commonly dealt with by mainstream writers are also presumed not to be of interest to sf readers, such as the nature of the class system and the real exercise of power within that system. Although there is no intrinsic reason (except difficulty) that sf should not venture into such areas, sf writers have characteristically preferred imaginary worlds in which, to quote Sprague de Camp, "all men are mighty, all women beautiful, all problems simple, and all life adventuresome." (ON SF, page 5)
When comic books were first published in the early 1930s, they were regarded as ephemeral juvenilia, to be read and thrown away, long forgotten before dinner time. The earliest comic books were collections of newspaper comic strips, but even when material was finally being produced specifically for the format, the stories presented concepts that were not thought through. They weren't supposed to be -- they would fall apart under too much scrutiny.

Take for example the simplistic tale of Superman tearing down tenements in order to fight the problem of youth gangs in Action Comics #8. Superman's logic is that if he destroys the decrepit buildings in which these disadvantaged youth live, the government will come in and build all-new, shiny apartment buildings that will automatically change their lives for the better. In the story, the government does -- in just a few weeks. And, presumably, everyone whose home was destroyed by Superman (where were they staying while the apartments were being built?) get to move in, at the same rental rates.


 At best, you could call this story a metaphor. Or, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment fantasy. At heart, that's what mainstream superhero comics are. And things haven't changed all that much in the years since. Superheroes are still knocking down buildings while making simplistic moral and political statements -- Marvel's Civil War miniseries being a notable and popular example. Superficially, the latter miniseries seems more sophisticated and nuanced. Really, it's just longer, and has more splash panels and two-page spreads. The comics of the earliest years packed just as much story into 12 or 22 pages as modern creators cram into six issue, paperback collection-friendly arcs.

You can read the rest here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Actually, Tom Hanks, that "Good Morning America" F-bomb wasn't the worst moment of your professional career

Recently, America's sweetheart Tom Hanks inadvertently dropped an "F-bomb" during an episode of "Good Morning America." It was all over the internet. You can watch it here if you insist.

At the premiere of his latest movie, the Wachowskis' Cloud Atlas, Mr. Hanks called that inadvertent slip,

"Worst moment of my professional career," he told Access, referring to the F bomb. "Absolute worst."

"You looked so mortified the minute it [happened]," Tom's wife, Rita Wilson, who accompanied him on the red carpet, said.

"Oh... I was," Tom added.
Tom Hanks, you will recall, was caught yukking it up with a man in blackface at a school fundraiser in 2004. When the video of that surfaced (he had no comment on the topic until a video of the incident was produced), he had this to say:
"In 2004, I was blindsided when one of the parents got up on the stage in a costume that was hideously offensive then and is hideously offensive now," Hanks said in a statement to TheWrap.  "What is usually a night of food and drink for a good cause was, regrettably, marred by an appalling few moments."
Just so we're clear: In Mr. Hanks's mind, spending a good 15-20 minutes telling bestiality jokes with a guy in blackface was "hideously offensive," but inadvertently dropping an "F bomb" on a morning entertainment show was the "Worst moment of my professional career." And of course, as his wife points out, he looked so mortified the minute the F bomb was dropped.

You'll note also that he doesn't even mention Extremely Loud Ampersand Incredibly Close.

Just so his priorities are in order.

Interestingly, it turns out that the Media Action Network for Asian Americans is protesting Cloud Atlas because, um, it casts white people in Asian roles.
"You have to ask yourself: Would the directors have used blackface on a white actor to play Gyasi’s role?” asked [MANAA founding president Guy] Aoki, referring to David Gyasi, the freed slave in the film.  I don’t think so: That would have outraged African American viewers.  But badly done yellowface is still OK."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Honey Boo Boo puts that cretinous jerk Dr. Drew Pinsky in perspective

I loathe Dr. Drew Pinsky. I think at some point I probably promised to never post about him again, but I couldn't resist posting this clip of Honey Boo Boo, the star of the TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, offering a delightful and precocious commentary on that dangerous narcissist:

How much better off would we all be if everyone just fell the hell to sleep when Dr. Drew appeared?

Related, from the Daily Beast: The 'Celebrity Rehab' Death Trap. Seriously, keep Dr. Drew Pinsky away from people. He is dangerous.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Superman ruling paves the way for a new JUSTICE LEAGUE movie

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've got a new post up about the Superman Copyfight Crisis. Here's a sample:

The Los Angeles Times (via Unleash the Fanboy!) is reporting that the recent judgment in favor of Warner Bros and DC Comics in the ongoing fight for the rights to certain aspects of the Superman mythos might help speed along the long-rumored Justice League movie.

Whew! I guess we can all breath easier, huh? Justice served, and all that? The good guys won, and we can enjoy seeing real live human actors portray the characters we've long enjoyed as drawings in comics and in animated films. Hooray. From the story:

Had Warner lost its case against the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, it would not have been able to make "Justice League" or any other movies, television shows or comics featuring key elements of the Man of Steel's mythos after 2013 unless it reached a new agreement with the estates of Shuster and co-creator Jerry Siegel. That uncertainty made it difficult for Warner to move ahead with "Justice League," which the studio's motion pictures group president, Jeff Robinov, has long wanted to make as a pillar of its big-screen superhero strategy.
I don't know about you, but I was feeling a lot of pity for the poor megaconglomerate Warner Bros, thinking that they might have to actually give a few extra bucks to the heirs of the two men who created one of the most important pop culture characters of the 20th century, so that they can make billions more dollars off that character.

And when I say "character," I of course mean "piece of intellectual property."

Read it all here.