Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Headline News gets more loathsome

Headline News, the cable network that boasts programs hosted by a woman who falsely accused people of rape, a woman who without any evidence kinda-sorta-just-enough-to-not-be-accused-of-flat-out-libel insinuated that a guest had abducted her own son, and the least charming co-host of "The View," has now sunk even lower. They have secured the services of the sleaziest of sleazy VH1 personalities, Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Spring 2011 is bringing a brand-new program to Headline News hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky. Dr. Drew, who made his name in the TV world through the hit series Celebrity Rehab, will be hosting a primetime discussion program which, talking to Joy Behar, he described as a talk show of a similar format to hers.
What does a person have to do to not get a television show? At what point do tv executives look at someone and say, "No, you're just too awful to get your own show"? Because I would think that "Dr. Drew" had  passed that point long ago.

As the Mediaite article notes, "Dr. Drew" made his name in tv through the show Celebrity Rehab. For the channel that brought you Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Daisy of Love, Real Chance of Love, I Love New York, Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair, and Megan Wants a Millionaire, "Dr. Drew's" Celebrity Rehab represents the absolute nadir.

Oh, except for "Dr. Drew's" program Sex Rehab. Remember that one? As one of the show's "patients," Duncan Roy, has written,
Our primary care givers were Dr. Drew and sex therapist Jill Vermeire. My first meeting with either of them happened the evening of the first day of treatment. Jill was telegenic, slightly tattooed, and her breasts fit snugly in duchess satin shifts. Drew was ruggedly handsome and built—a gray fox. It was immediately apparent that while Drew may be an astounding drug and alcohol specialist, he knows very little, or anything, about the precise science of sex addiction. More disturbingly, he does not believe in God, which is a fundamental prerequisite to any 12-step program. (He admitted to me that he is an atheist.)

In the U.S., doctors enjoy a cultural omnipotence, a perception that they do nothing to disabuse. Drew’s role as America’s kindly uncle masks Dr. Omnipotent superhero! He would recycle Jill’s lines when he began to founder—and in the edited broadcasts, we see her thoughts and insights come out of Drew’s mouth. It comes as no surprise that Drew writes about narcissism because he genuinely wrestles with his own.
A narcissist who presents himself as more capable than he really is. Yes,  by all means, let's give him another television show.

And don't forget Celebrity Rehab's spin-off, Sober House. That was the show in which "graduates" of Celebrity Rehab went to Hollywood to live in a house with a scatterbrained, passive aggressive jackass called Jennifer Gimenez. In episode after episode she demonstrated her ineptitude and unfitness for her job, and yet she was kept around  because of her past modeling and acting experience. And the fact that her ineptitude required the frequent interventions of "Dr. Drew."

"Dr. Drew" is a dangerous, loathsome creature who exploits the tragedies of others for the gratification of his own massive ego. As I have already written, "The man is a sleaze, constantly making his "patients" feel like sh*t, placing them in deliberately provocative and dangerous situations, telling them they are "powerless" in the face of their addiction, and the only way they can "improve" (they will be "addicts" all their lives, even if they never take another drink or snort or smoke or whatever-- they always be at least a little helpless) is to submit to his every whim. The guy practically runs a cult on those shows for crying out loud, and his ego is so enormous that he is blind to the fact that he looks like a dangerous cretin."

"Dr. Drew," looking soooo serious when a microphone is placed in front of him.

To him, human beings are just objects to be utilized in the advancement of himself. It doesn't matter who they are. It doesn't matter if he's actually met them. He will offer his "expert" opinion to anyone who will stick a microphone in his mouth (I actually meant write in front of his mouth, but I like the image conjured by my typo so I'm keeping it in).

Remember what he said about Lindsay Lohan?
Dr. Drew Pinsky, who is not treating Lohan, has some candid advice for the people closest to her.
"If she were my daughter, I would pack her car full with illegal substances, send her on her way, call the police, and make sure she was arrested. I would  make sure she was not allowed to get out of jail. I would then go to the judge and make sure she was ordered to a minimum of a three year sobriety program."

Dr. Drew says it's highly unlikely that Lindsay will recognize she has a problem and go to rehab of her own accord, "I would say it's less than a 1% chance of her making the decision to go to rehab. I have said this many times before, I believe that Lindsay will make a wonderful sober person, someday, if she survives this. I absolutely wish no harm to her, but I just have a feeling that something awful is going to happen to her, like she is going to lose a limb. I hope Lindsay gets help before something terrible happens."
He wasn't treating her, and at that point hadn't even met her, and knew nothing about her other than what he'd read in gossip blogs or seen on television, offered his "expert" advice that she be subjected to a capricious criminal justice system.
Maybe they don't cover this in medical school, Dr. Drew, but you should really make yourself aware of the fact that many people have been accidentally shot by drug cops, sexually assaulted in jail, and otherwise mercilessly screwed over by the criminal justice system in ways that you and your massive ego don't have the luxury of predicting.

Planting drugs on anyone is a serious crime that could go wrong in more ways than you can possibly imagine. Anyone who endorses screwing around like this has no business practicing medicine, parenthood or friendship. You can get people killed with this sort of idiocy, and as much as it would reveal about the stupidity of the war on drugs, "Hollywood Starlet Shot in Face by SWAT Team" is a story no drug policy blogger wants to write.
Yes, let's give this man his own national cable soapbox, so that he can offer these pearls of wisdom five nights a week!

He almost seems like a vulture. Circling around, just waiting, hoping, anticipating that this one or that  one will die, so he can get in front of a microphone and offer his "expert" opinion. Like when Michael Jackson died.  And when Corey Haim died.

I'm so tired of this guy. He has done so many despicable things, and I've already written a great deal about him (click on the Dr. Drew Pinsky tags at the end of this post if you're curious and want to be depressed today) but what the hell do I care the world isn't fair and bad people get to do fabulous things and even dangerous people have a lot of power and use that power to harm others for the sake of advancing their own careers. Ugh, I'm so depressed now.

So let's get lower. Here is part of his interview on Joy Behar's show, in which "Dr. Drew" opines once again on Ms. Lohan, and on the recent activities of Charlie Sheen. He does this without knowing them or treating them.

Are you ready, America? HLN is about to get even worse!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark isn't the worst thing Marvel has put on stage in New York

In January 2011, the most expensive show ever to play on Broadway will open. It's based on the comic book Spider-Man.

Apparently, its recent preview show revealed some glitches.
Last night's opening pre view of Broadway's most expensive production ever, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," was an epic flop as the $65 million show's high-tech gadgetry went completely awry amid a dull score and baffling script, theatergoers griped.

Stunned audience members were left scratching their heads over the confusing plot -- when they weren't ducking for cover from falling equipment and dangling actors at the Foxwoods Theatre on West 42nd Street, some said.

At various points, overhead stage wires dropped on the audience, scenery appeared on stage missing pieces -- and the show's star was even left swaying helplessly over them midair during what was supposed to be the climatic end to the first act.
That is just a taste of a review of the show that appeared in the New York Post. You're encouraged to click over and read the review. It's funny, and probably a lot more entertaining than the show itself.

The New York Times was a bit more subdued.
All $65 million of the new Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” took flight on Sunday night at its first preview performance, but not without bumps. The show stopped five times, mostly to fix technical problems, and Act I ended prematurely, with Spider-Man stuck dangling 10 feet above audience members, while Act II was marred by a nasty catcall during one of the midperformance pauses.
Ah, yes. It "took flight." With some "bumps." As for the "nasty catcall":
Act II began shortly after 9 p.m. and unfolded fairly smoothly until about 50 minutes later, when [stage manager] Mr. [C. Randal] White called for a pause. After a few minutes, as some audience members were stretching, a woman in the audience suddenly shouted, “I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I feel like a guinea pig today — I feel like it’s a dress rehearsal.” She was met with a chorus of boos. The performance resumed a moment later; the show ended at 10:09 p.m.
If that's what passes for a "nasty catcall" in New York, those people are a lot less tough than their reputation.

Anyway, the show was directed by Julie Taymor, who directed Titus, which I thought was an entertaining film, and The Lion King stage show, which I managed to resist, although there was a period of about two years when everywhere you looked the Los Angeles scenery was afflicted with its promotional material.

The songs were composed by Bono and The Edge of U2. I was under the impression that those two were involved in charity work or international debt disputes, or something. But, apparently, they write songs, too.
The musical has attracted outsized public and media attention by Broadway standards, in large part because of the money and talent involved: U2’s Bono and the Edge signed on to create the show nine years ago, and have written a full-length score, their first for Broadway, and helped recruit as the director Julie Taymor, a Tony Award winner for one of the last musical spectaculars to open on Broadway, “The Lion King.”

As poorly as the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" preview might have gone, it's got a way to go before achieving the infamy of the January 1972 Carnegie Hall performance, "A Marvel-ous Evening with Stan Lee." Mr. Lee is, along with the great Steve Ditko, one of the creators of Spider-Man, among other classic Marvel Comics characters.

He is also a bit of a character, himself. He is one for the self-promotion. Reality tv fans might recognize him as the host of the show "Who Wants to be a Superhero?"

But back to 1972. Comics were going through one of those cyclical periods in which they're considered "hip," as publications like Rolling Stone and the Village Voice were writing serious articles about them. Writers like Ken Kesey, filmmakers like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Frederico Fellini were praising them in interviews. Musicians like Donovan and Country Joe & the Fish were writing songs referencing them. And Stan Lee was going around the country, giving lectures and making personal appearances.

So, given that comics were so hip, and Stan Lee was the face of Marvel, the hippest company, it made sense to have him appear at Carnegie Hall and do -- well, uh, nobody really knew what he was going to do. And nothing was really planned. A bunch of famous and semi-famous people were set to appear with Mr. Lee, along with some Marvel artists and writers and, well, apparently they all expected some kind of magic to happen, and everyone who'd bought a ticket wouldn't feel like they'd been cheated.

According to the book Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, the evening did not go well.
Stan Lee's night at Carnegie Hall brought with it none of the cultural legitimacy [promoter Steve] Lemberg or Lee had hoped for -- in fact, the event was covered by very few media outlets, and almost nothing written about it at the time or since has been favorable.
That's from page 134 of the book. You're encouraged to at least check out the book from your local library and read the depiction of the event in its entirety. It is excruciating.

But instead of lingering on that description, let's instead get a look at how Marvel's own editorial department described the event in one of their "Bullpen Bulletins" published in Marvel's June 1972 issues. As you read this, think about whether or not you yourself would wish you'd been there:
"ITEM: January 5, 1972! Mark that date in your memory-book, faithful one - 'cause that's the night the batty Bullpen got it all together at Carnegie Hall, in the hectic heart of New york City!

As we told you last month, the whole magilla was called 'A MARVEL-OUS EVENING WITH STAN LEE' - and it was a way-out compendium of music, magic, and madcap Marvel mayhem! Smilin' Stan himself was Master of Ceremonies - presiding over the frantic goings-on while images of mighty Marvel superheroes flitted across a giant movie screen. A trio of our titanic artists got into the act, too, as Jazzy Johnny Romita, Happy Herb Trimpe, and Big John Buscema did sensational sketches of Captain America, ol' Greenskin, and Thor - which in turn were projected onto that selfsame screen. (There was a passel of our cavortin' characters in actual attendance, too, including Spidey, Daredevil, Doc Doom, and even J. Jonah Jameson himself!)

The standing-room-only crowd exploded with applause, also, at the roster of famous names who had gathered to pay homage to the madness that is Marvel: World-famous film director Alain Resnais translated a few of the Silver Surfer's soliloquies into his native French; and there were also a few pungent paragraphs about our heroes which were intoned by radio personalities Alec Bennett and Earl Doud, by actors Rene Aberjonois and Chuck McCann (you've seen the latter a zillion times as the 'Hi Guy' neighbor on the other side of the medicine cabinet in those Right Guard commercials), and neo-journalist Tom Wolfe, resplendent in red, white, and ble as he read about - you guessed it - Captain America.

As for the music mentioned about, most of it was provided by the far-famed Chico Hamilton Players - but some more Marvel Madmen got into the act, too, as Hectic Herbie and Bashful Barry Smith plunked a couple of wild electric guitars while Rascally Roy Thomas belted out a rousin' rocker or two! Then, for the grand finale, just about everybody in the blamed Bullpen crowded onto stage to sing the Merry Marvel Marching Society theme-song - while, not to be outdone, dozens of cheering fans rushed onstage as well, and the show closed amid a revel of handshaking and autograph signing all 'round. And that was that!All in all, it was a wildly successful evening - and not necessarily the last of its kind, either! And, if there were a few bleary eyes and sore throats among the Bullpenners come the morning of the 6th - well, that's show biz, people!"
I copied and pasted the entire thing because this was the Marvel editorial department putting a positive spin on the show.  A French film director read Silver Surfer soliloquies -- in French! Tom Wolfe talked about Captain America! Artists stood on stage and drew pictures! Artists and editors played guitars and sang! Actors read some paragraphs!

That is a truly damning review, far more damning than the Post's review of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark." Would you rather have seen that, or some actor get stuck on a wire, suspended above the audience, for ten minutes?

Evening with Stan Lee at Carnegie Hall by Atomic Kommie
Evening with Stan Lee at Carnegie Hall by Atomic Kommie

Bruce Wayne and the superhero-industrial complex

At When Falls the Coliseum, I wrote a little parody/satire piece in which I assumed the identity of a concerned citizen of Gotham City, reacting the the recent news that Bruce Wayne has been financing Batman's activities. A small portion:

When I look at my children, I shudder.

They have lived their entire lives in the so-called “age of superheroes.” They are too young to remember a time before the likes of Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman forced us to accept their “protection.” They didn’t ask to live in this world – they had it forced upon them.

The rest of us should have known better. We should have seen this coming. We have given up our sovereignty to people (if in fact they are “people;” many of them are not even of this world) who, by virtue of their enormous physical strength or possession of amazing weapons capable of mass destruction, believe they have the right to decide what is best for the rest of us.

At what point did we, the average and non-superpowered individuals, decide to just let this happen? When did we become sheeple, just placidly accepting the notion that because some people have the ability to destroy things efficiently they can make the rules for all of us?

Earlier this month, Gotham City’s wealthiest and most powerful resident, Bruce Wayne, held a press conference in which he revealed that he has been financing the extra-legal activities of the vigilante known as “Batman.” If there were any sense to our world, Mr. Wayne would have been immediately arrested and brought to trial. Taking the law into our own hands is a crime.

All of it can be read here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Will Anne Hathaway's nude scenes make audiences sick?

Earlier this month, moviefone had a blog posting headlined Seven Movies That Made Audiences Sick, in which are described seven movies that made audiences sick. Supposedly. Actually, the posting is about seven movies that allegedly made one or two people each ill at ease. Or, dead.

The impetus for the list is reports that the latest film from frequent masturbator James Franco, 127 Hours, contains a scene which is causing some audience members distress. As the moviefone posting states:
Some viewers have been so disturbed at the movie's climactic amputation scene that they have fainted from shock.
But there's no link to anything that might provide any proof that statement. It turns out there have been reports of people fainting at screenings for the film. But if you follow the links and read the stories, you find that all of those are based on hearsay. There's a lot of "people reportedly have fainted," and "I heard people being sick behind me," etc.

Where is the proof?

Movies can make people ill. I know because it's happened to me, personally. When I saw The Rock, I was made nauseated by the herky-jerky camera movement. That feeling lasted a few minutes, and then I got used to it. Just a few years ago, at an IMAX theater screening of Beowulf I had a much worse experience -- I became so nauseated that I could not drive home, and remained so for most of the night, and I had a headache that lasted for a day or so.

Beowulf made audiences sick! There were reports that The Rock nauseated audience members!

But back to moviefone: Links. That is a basic of blogging, or of online reportage of any kind. It takes a few extra minutes, but it's easy.

Unless, of course, your entire posting is just BS conceived for the sole purpose of driving traffic. For instance, the first of the "seven movies that (unquestioningly, stated as fact) made audiences sick" is Avatar.
Everyone knows that James Cameron's 'Avatar' killed at the box office, but you may be surprised to find out that it did so in a very literal way: A 42-tear-old Korean man fell ill while watching the 3-D epic and later died. His doctor's official verdict? "Over-excitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms." An unfortunate footnote for the biggest smash in Hollywood history.
I retained the link from the original moviefone posting so that you can see what moviefone does. They offer no proof whatsoever that a "42-tear-old Korean man fell ill" while watching that film. Their sole link takes you to moviefone's own James Cameron page.

As for Avatar "killing" someone, I debunked that when the story first broke. Only, back then,  it was a Taiwanese man identified only by the surname Kuo. But maybe this moviefone blog posting refers to another incident? A google  search reveals that the only reference to a 42 year old Korean man becoming ill and/or dying from watching Avatar comes from this very moviefone blog posting. All other stories about a man falling ill while watching the film reference the Taiwanese man.

And none of those stories have any proof.


The rest of the moviefone blog posting continues in a similar vein. Generalizations and hearsay offered as proof, with absolutely nothing to back them up. The whole things reaches its nadir with the final movie that "made audiences sick," the classic Tod Browning film Freaks:
[O]ne viewer from the first, full-length test screening threatened to sue the studio claiming the movie had caused her to suffer a miscarriage.
One viewer threatened to sue because she made a sad and ridiculous claim that was unverifiable.  And from that, Freaks is labeled as one of seven movies that made audiences sick.

With that kind of proof being all you need to show that a film makes audiences sick, let's take a look at what some prude wrote over at newsweek.com. Under the headline "Who Wants to See Anne  Hathaway's Breasts?," (apparently changed from the even more juvenile "Anne Hathaway's Breasts are Way Distracting"), we get complaints about the human body's presentation on film, specifically the new film Love and Other Drugs.
According to the logic of today’s Hollywood, the fact that [Anne] Hathaway and [Jake] Gyllenhaal flash so much flesh is an indication of the film’s artistic intent. Not so long ago (think Porky’s era), gratuitous nude scenes were pretty much de rigueur for American actresses until they became big-enough stars to say no. But increasingly, nudity has become a self-congratulatory indication of European-style seriousness, an interruption of the narrative to remind the audience we are watching A Work of Art.
Gratuitous nude scenes were pretty much de rigueur for American actresses?  What a stupefyingly stupid statement. It's so incredibly mind-bendingly nonsensical that I don't even know where to start with it. During the "Porky's era" (Porky's was released in 1982 -- was there really a "Porky's era" of American cinema?), it was necessary for American actresses to appear in gratuitous nude scenes? If all you ever watched was the type of films Joe Bob Briggs reviews, you might be forgiven making such an assumption. Maybe.

But all the author has is one film, Porky's, to back up her blanket statement.

As for the rest of it, the bits about nudity increasingly becoming "an interruption of the narrative to remind the audience that we are watching A Work of Art," we get this in the next paragraph:
This is not to say nudity never works on screen. Brokeback Mountain, a film in which Gyllenhaal and Hathaway also partially disrobe, deals explicitly with the characters’ shame and vulnerability, so the nudity feels not just natural but necessary. On the other hand, it can be just as jarring when an otherwise realistic film goes to absurd lengths to pretend the actors never see each other in less than their underwear or strategically wrapped sheets.
So after decrying the fact that there is an epidemic of pretentious nudity invading American cinema, the author cites an example of what she feels is appropriate cinematic nudity -- then mentions some phantom "otherwise realistic" films that show the "actors" nude or partially so.

That use of the word "actors" in that last sentence is telling. What the author is really getting at is she doesn't like seeing actors nude. It has nothing to do with the art itself; she can't even cite any examples to back up her case. So instead she makes another one:
The problem is, we know too much about the level of calculation leading up to those moments to suspend our disbelief. What is often meant to imply a character’s casual attitude about nudity in fact represents the most tensely negotiated moments of the film.
So that's the problem. This prude spends too much time reading gossip blogs, and has so little imagination that she can't just sit down and enjoy a film without thinking about all the great "insider" stuff she learned while reading Perez Hilton.

Apparently, the author of this article wants only unknown (and mostly powerless) actresses to appear nude in films. When they're too famous, and she knows who they are, well, their nudity is distracting.

Love and Other Drugs has clearly made at least one viewer upset -- upset enough to write an illiterate blog posting about it.

Love and Other Drugs is making audiences sick!

Anne Hathaway is apparently too famous to do nude scenes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Green Lantern is lame

Not to brag, but I collected comic books for about 20 years. By that I mean I bought at least 20 comic books a month, and I ended up with around 10,000 or so. I bought just about every kind of book there was, but, being an American child, superheroes were my favorite.

In that time, I bought exactly three "Green Lantern" issues. I don't think I read any of them all the way through.

I bought comics in which Green Lantern appeared, such as Justice League America or Justice League International. But only thrice did I ever buy any "Green Lantern" books -- and one of those was the 200th issue, and that only because I was a collector and bought just about anything that had the word "Anniversary" or "Special Double-Sized Issue!" on it.

The reason for this lack of enthusiasm for GL is simple. GL is lame. He is the lamest comic book superhero ever. He's more lame than Ant-Man,  the guy whose superpower is that he can shrink down to ant-size. He's more lame than Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, the guy whose superpower is that he can turn into a flying saucer. He's more lame than Birdman, the guy who dresses like a bird (not the rapper). He's more lame than any of these characters.

All of those characters at least had charm. GL is utterly charmless.

I should clarify that I am speaking of the Silver Age version of GL. There was an earlier, Golden Age version, and he might be alright, but I don't know and I don't care. The modern GL, who started as test pilot Hal Jordan, and is now the freelance artist (!) Kyle Rayner.

It is Hal Jordan that will be depicted in the upcoming film, the trailer of which is embedded here:

It is Hal Jordan I will be discussing here.

GL's lameness begins with his origin story. Hal Jordan is a test pilot at Ferris Aircraft Company. He is well-known for his lack of fear. So far, pretty cool. But while Hal is in a wingless test pilot trainer, he is abducted by an alien creature named Abin Sur. Mr. Sur is the Green Lantern of sector 2814, which includes, among other planets, earth.

Mr. Sur is dying, and he needs to quickly find a replacement for himself -- someone to take over as the sector 2814 Green Lantern.

The Green Lanterns are a group of intergalactic police appointed by the Orwellian-sounding group called The Guardians, or, later, The Guardians of the Universe. These little blue men from the planet Oa have, for some reason, been appointed or appointed themselves as arbiters of justice throughout the universe. The Green Lantern Corps is their "muscle," enforcing their rules of righteousness. They take creatures from various parts of the universe and have them fight "evil." There are lots of different GLs, made up of different species from different planets.

You can see where this is starting to get lame.

Who the hell are the Guardians? Who appointed them? How do they choose who is "good"? Hell, on the planet earth if you pulled someone from America, someone from China, someone from Egypt, someone from France, someone from Afghanistan, someone from Mexico, and had each of them tell you what was "good," and what was "evil," or what constituted "bravery," you'd get six different answers. (How do the Guardians feel about vegetarianism? Veganism? Free range chicken? "Puppy mills"? Rodeos?)

Now, consider that the GL of sector 2814 isn't just "policing" earth -- he's policing several other planets (I neither know nor care how many). Each of those planets has, presumably, as rich and varied a tapestry of life as our own planet. So how could one human (and why not have a dolphin represent earth? or a cockroach? there are more cockroaches than humans) have the arrogance to patrol them all, and do "right" by each one?

But back to the origin, which is incredibly lame: Mr. Sur is dying because he has crash landed in his spaceship, and is mortally injured. He explains to Mr. Jordan that he has been deemed worthy of taking up the GL mantle, and is given his power ring, and the "green lantern," which is actually a power battery used to recharge the ring every 24 hours. Abin Sur tells Jordan that it is "given only to selected space-patrolmen in the super-galactic system...to be used as a weapon against forces of evil and injustice."

That's a pretty broad statement. But then, Mr. Jordan has been found to have been "born without fear!"

And what does Mr. Jordan, a man "born without fear!," do with this power ring? Well, he uses it to avoid the romantic pursuits of Ms. Carol Ferris, daughter of the owner of Ferris Aviation Company:

Yes, in this story, a man who is supposedly "born without fear!" is so afraid of a beautiful woman's marriage proposal that he creates a giant monster that menaces an entire town, knocking over buildings, just to distract her. Also, there's this:

Hal Jordan uses the power of "space-patrolmen in the super-galactic system" to distribute fliers for his own brother, who is running district freaking attorney for crying out loud. If the political party my own brother is running against isn't evil then I don't know what is! This opens a whole new can of worms, which will be opened in about ten years, as we'll see.

To be fair, GL does use his power ring to help him deflect meteors and to shrink down to microscopic size and rescue people trapped on atoms, but that only brings us back to Mr. Jordan's GL origin. If the power ring can do almost anything, then why was Abin Sur traveling in a space ship? And why did he die when he crashed? Those questions were answered, completely unsatisfactorily, in GL issue number 16. The story makes absolutely no sense, but it turns on the facts that the power ring needs to be recharged every 24 hours, and that the ring is powerless against anything that is yellow.

Yes, there's an impurity in the power battery recharger that makes the wearer of the ring powerless against anything that's yellow. It turns out that Mr. Sur needed to fly a spacecraft because his power ring wasn't fully charged, or something, and that when he went through the radiation bands of earth, he couldn't use his ring because those radiation bands are yellow.

But, why couldn't he just wrap himself up in a green force field after his ship had passed through the radiation bands? Don't know; don't care. This is all lame, by which I mean to say it makes no sense.

Those black and white scans above are taken from Showcase Presents: Green Lantern volume 1, which was published in 2005. It was a mere $9.99, and full of beautiful Gil Kane/Joe Giella artwork, so I bought it. It has taken me almost five years to work my way through it. Reading these boring, nonsensical, contradictory, charmless stories is a real chore. I had roughly the same feeling reading this book as I had reading Billy Budd in high school. It wasn't that long and shouldn't have been so difficult, and yet, the entire time I was reading it, I was wishing to pick up anything else.

Around that same time, I also picked up Green Lantern Green Arrow Volume One, by Dennis O'Neil and  Neal Adams.  This book reprints stories that appeared in Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics from 1970-1971, in which the galactic super policeman was teamed with Green Arrow, who was sort of a cross between Batman and Robin (Hood), who used trick arrows to capture criminals (seriously -- he's a lot less lame than Green Lantern). These are hailed for being among the first "socially conscious" comics, in which GL and GA took on crooked landlords and crooked mine owners.

In other words, what Superman already did when his comics were first published, back in 1938. I have already written about that.

Oh, but these stories were original,  because they talked about race! In one of the most famous scenes in comic book history, a black man lectures GL about his lack of attention to the problems of "black skins":

It's difficult to criticize these comics. Certainly their hearts were in the right place, but this opens up a whole new can of worms, and therefore I'm going to criticize.

First of all, GL, a man who was "born without fear!" cannot bring himself to point out that by, say, deflecting meteor showers and preventing Sinestro from taking over the earth he was doing something for every single human being on the planet, regardless of their race. That's a petty point in the grand scheme of things, but I am making it to show just how pathetic Hal Jordan is.

Second, what is GL supposed to do about the "social injustice" on the planets he patrols? He hasn't done anything about honor killings or female circumcision. He hasn't done anything about people starving in Africa. Or ethnic cleansing. GL's "social consciousness" doesn't extend past America's shores. And on other planets, are there children starving?  Not getting a quality education? Does GL have to get involved in the policy of every country on every planet in his sector (he did once distribute fliers in a local district attorney election, after all)?

Yes, there's a lot that GL could do. So what does he do? Well, in the issue from which the above panels were taken, he takes on a crooked landlord who is threatening to evict people who haven't paid their rent.

That's what GL decides to do for "the black skins." He doesn't attempt to change the institutionalized racism and injustice that contributed to low employment levels and high incarceration rates for black people. He goes after one tenement owner who actually might have been within his legal rights to charge people a fair market value for their apartments (the story is fairly vague on that point).

It's true that the landlord does attempt to kill GL and GA, but they are superheroes who are harassing him. He deserves it, but superheroes with newly-found social awareness should have bigger fish to fry.

In the next issue, things get even worse, as GA and GL head into "the heart of America" to fight a crooked mine owner. They bring along one of the Guardians of the Universe, who have chastised GL for attacking that loathsome landlord in the previous issue. So, to better understand how bad some humans can be, one of the Guardians assumes human form and takes a road trip with GL and GA.

Along the way, GL, who has been suspended, has some of the power of his ring taken away.

Bear in mind that Hal Jordan is the GL for all of "Sector 2814," which includes not only earth but several other planets. So, while this GL is exploring his new social consciousness by meeting Bob Dylan-like folk singers and taking on sexism, there are who knows how many worlds out there being threatened  by mad scientists, bug-eyed monsters, and Sinestro.

What? You other planets can go suck it, because the earth GL wants to sing folk songs around a campfire with some Native Americans.

Again, in all this time, when GL and GA are making all these great claims to social consciousness, real problems are going unaddressed. But that will change with one of the most famous comic book storylines of all time.

Yes, an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow will deliver "The Shocking Truth About Drugs," which is "Youth's Greatest Problem"!

And they will do -- absolutely nothing meaningful. There is a great deal of lecturing about "the evils of drugs," which have managed to make an addict of Green Arrow's "ward," who is unfortunately called "Speedy." There is some nonsense about why a "Speedy" might turn to drugs.

And as for "the black skins," well:

What is that black man doing in panel 3? Making a drug deal?

There is some lip service paid to how racism turns an Asian man and a black man to drugs, to dull the pain of their lives. But there's absolutely nothing said about how drug laws disproportionately target people of color, or how they are used as a bludgeon to harass people. There is nothing said about the fact that very often in poor neighborhood there is no other way for people  to make money, other than selling drugs.


The thing is, maybe the "war on drugs" (declared by Richard Nixon in June 1971, just a couple of months before these issues hit the stands [oh and by the way, we still haven't officially declared "war" on Iraq or Afghanistan yet]) is moral and just --

By the standards of the Guardians of the Universe.

This brings us back to the heart of the problem with Green Lantern. Who are the Guardians? Who is the Green Lantern Corps? Who appointed them? How would you like to live on a planet that has been occupied by foreign entities? How would you feel about the members of your own species who willingly joined those occupiers, to help them enforce their ideas of justice and what is "right"?

So what if that person was "born without fear!"? For crying out loud, we're all born without fear. What the hell do babies have to be scared of? It's what happens to you after your birth that makes you who you are. And if you're someone who can't even bring himself to say "no" when a woman asks you to marry her, well,

You are lame.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perverted Movie Classic: Leave Her to Heaven

Tomorrow, November 22, 2010, at 11 AM EST, TCM will be airing a classic of perversion called Leave Her to Heaven. Those with an interest in the disturbing are very much encouraged to watch.

LHTH is the story of an amazingly beautiful woman, portrayed by the soul-achingly beautiful Gene Tierney, who is completely and utterly bonkers. The film begins with a drippy author named Richard Harland having just been released from two-year prison term. He gets on a canoe and heads out to -- an island, or something. We don't know yet. But not before he's stared at and whispered about pityingly by the locals. Their pity does not stem from the fact that the actor who portrays the character, Cornel Wilde, is stiff as a board -- rather it has to do with the fact that he was railroaded into prison. His attorney, Glen Robie, relates the story of how Richard came to be sent to prison. (Robie is portrayed by Ray Collins, supporting player in another perverted movie classic, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.)

Mr. Harland first encountered Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train that was taking both of them to Robie's estate in New Mexico. Richard is a novelist, and Ellen just happened to be reading one of his novels.

Also, she is soul-achingly beautiful, as I've already suggested. Well, as would happen with any writer who met a soul-achingly beautiful woman who just happened to be reading a novel he wrote, Richard falls in love with her. But she happens to be engaged to someone else. The two exchange some semi-charming banter and suddenly Ellen decides to take off her engagement ring -- for good.

 Yes, this is a photo of the astonishingly beautiful actress Gene Tierney -- but the word "YANK" in the corner is not intended as advice for the viewer; "YANK" was actually the name of a US Army magazine.

She now wants to marry Richard. About two days after they've met. Richard gets the news when Ellent's former fiance (played by a very dapper, elegant, and just-slightly oily Vincent Price) shows up. When they're introduced he says something like, "So this is the man you're going to marry?" and then Ms. Berent says something like, "Yes, it is!" and Mr. Harland stands there looking slightly more dazed than usual.

Price's character, Russell Quinton, takes Ellent into another room and asks her to wait to announce her engagement until after the election -- he's running for Attorney General. Ellen tells him no, she can't wait, she and Richard are getting married tomorrow. If he doesn't like that, he can get stuffed.

Ellen Berent always gets what she wants. For some reason she wants Richard Harland. They get married, and Richard brings Ellen to Warm Springs, Georgia, to meet his little brother Danny. Danny has polio, and he's been there trying to recuperate. This kid is one of those upbeat, gee-whiz-ain't-it-swell kind of kids you sometimes in meet in movies from this era, but he is also charming, sweet, and sincere. You really root for him.

So does Ellen, it seems. She spends a lot of time encouraging Danny to use his crutches. Her attention seems to pay off, as Danny's condition improves, and when Ellen and Richard are about to leave for Richard's remote lodge, "Back of the Moon," Danny's doctor tells Ellen that Danny is well enough to accompany them.

But Ellen doesn't want Danny to go. She tries to convince the doctor to tell Richard that Danny isn't well enough, and should remain in Warm Springs. The doctor won't lie. "But  he's a cripple!" Ellen blurts. She wants Richard all to herself; she doesn't want to share him with his little crippled brother. And yet, when Richard enters the doctor's office, Ellen goes from cold to hot in a flash, telling Richard about the wonderful news that the doctor says it's okay for Danny to accompany them to the lodge.

At the lodge, Ellen's mask begins to crumble. The lodge is too crowded (in addition to Danny, the young couple is saddled with a family friend/handyman), the walls are too thin, Richard won't stop writing long enough to spend time with Ellen -- who in addition to doing the cooking and cleaning also wears elegant makeup and clothes every single day (and in a home with no running water, either!).

Richard invites Ellen's mother, Ruth, and her cousin/adopted sister Margaret to come and visit. He thinks it might cheer her up. More people at the crowded lodge, but they're "her" people. Oh, it only makes her angrier.

Ruth, by the way, is played by the absolutely lovely Jeanne Crain. What a family.

 Jeanne Crain in Leave Her to Heaven. And she was only the SECOND most attractive woman in that film.

Anything that might draw Richard's attention from her makes Ellen absolutely crazed with jealousy.  Even that likable, crippled brother of his. The one she's been encouraging. Since getting out to the lodge, Danny has been practicing his swimming, and hopes to one day soon impress his older brother by swimming the entire length of the lake. His partner in this has been Ellen, who paddles along beside him in the canoe.

One day, out on the lake, Danny gets a stitch in his side. Ellen encourages him to keep swimming. "You're right, I'll get my second wind," Danny gamely declares. But a few seconds later, he's calling for help, he's too tired, he can't swim anymore.

He goes down. Ellen just sits and watches. She just sits and watches this poor kid drown. Think about that. The going under the surface of the water, desperately holding your breath as long as you can, your weakened muscles struggling to propel you back to the surface, the panic in your mind as fight with everything you've got to not take that gasp of breath that your body is pushing you to take---

What a miserable way to die. This has got to be one of the most disturbing scenes ever, in any film.

When she notices Richard walking near the lake, she screams and jumps into the water, but it's too late. Little Danny Harland is dead.

The two leave "Back of the Moon" and join Ruth and Margaret. From there, Ellen just gets worse. There is more murder. More deceit. An abortion is committed onscreen (first time ever?). Someone is framed for murder in a particularly devious manner. I don't want to give away too much, just in case you're one of those people who won't watch a new production of "Romeo and Juliet" because you know the ending, but trust me, this is one perverted movie.

The screenplay was written by Jo Swerling, who wrote another perverted movie classic, It's a Wonderful Life. That screenplay was based on a novel by a man named Ben Ames Williams, who has got to be one of the very few people to have ever died while curling.

In addition to starring in the great perverted classic A Letter to Three Wives, Jeanne Crain also had seven children, kept a pet lion and possibly a bear cub, and cast an Irish on her husband, and might have beaten him up in a car.

Cornell Wilde was apparently a genius linguist who qualified for the 1936 Olympic fencing team, but he quit just before the games.
Wilde was hired as a fencing teacher by Laurence Olivier for his 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet and was given the role of Tybalt in the production. His performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract.
Gene Tierney was the star of another perverted movie classic, Laura. She also had some serious mental health problems.
Tierney married twice, first to costume and fashion designer Oleg Cassini on June 1, 1941. She and Cassini had two daughters, Antoinette Daria Cassini (born October 15, 1943) and Christina "Tina" Cassini (born November 19, 1948).

In June 1943, while pregnant with Daria, Tierney contracted rubella during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Daria was born prematurely in Washington, D.C., weighing only three pounds, two ounces (1.42 kg) and requiring a total blood transfusion. Because of Tierney's illness, Daria was also deaf, partially blind with cataracts and had severe mental retardation. Tierney's grief over the tragedy led to many years of depression and may have begun her bipolar disorder. Some time after the tragedy surrounding her daughter Daria's birth, Tierney learned from a fan who approached her for an autograph at a tennis party that the woman (who was then a member of the women's branch of the Marine Corps) had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with rubella to meet Tierney at her only Hollywood Canteen appearance. In her autobiography, Tierney related that after the woman had recounted her story, she just stared at her silently, then turned and walked away. She wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favorite actress." Biographers have theorized that Agatha Christie used this real-life tragedy as the basis of her plot for The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. The incident, as well as the circumstances under which the information was imparted to the actress, is repeated almost verbatim in the story.

During 1953, Tierney's mental health problems were becoming harder for her to hide; she dropped out of Mogambo and was replaced by Grace Kelly. While playing Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955), opposite Humphrey Bogart, Tierney’s long string of personal troubles finally took its toll. She said that “Bogey could tell that I was mentally unstable.” During the production, he fed Tierney her lines and encouraged her to seek help. Worried about her mental health, she consulted a psychiatrist, and was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York. Later, she went to The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. After some 27 shock treatments, Tierney attempted to flee, but was caught and returned. She became an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy, claiming that it had destroyed significant portions of her memory.

In 1957, Tierney was seen by a neighbor as she was about to jump from a ledge. The police were called, and she was admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas on December 25. She was released from Menninger the following year, after a treatment that included - in its final stages - working as a sales girl in a large department store (where she was recognized by a customer, resulting in sensational newspaper headlines).
Ms. Tierney's life story rivals any of the fiction portrayed in any of her films.

The movie was filmed in bright, almost syrupy Technicolor which, considering the bleakness of the subject matter, is at times disorienting. It adds an extra layer of unease to the whole thing.

Gene Tierney Yank pic source.
Jeanne Crain pic source.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Daisy California: America's best seven year-old superhero

My niece created a superhero alter ego for herself called Daisy California. I believe she has the proportionate strength of a daisy. Also, she can fly (she manipulates the molecules around her body so that they lift her and carry her). She is often forced to rescue her Uncle Ricky, who is a sort of inept sidekick.

Anyway, I am making a comic for her; the first adventure, in which she battles the nefarious villain Stranger Danger and his ice cream truck of doom, can be read here, if you are so inclined.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shooting your tv is never the answer

Bristol Palin, the sexual abstinence advocate who is the daughter of the titular star of the new television show "Sarah Palin's Alaska," has been a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" this season. I do not watch the show, myself, and I am glad that I don't. Because the show is apparently driving people insane.
According to a criminal complaint, [Steven] Cowan’s wife called police Monday evening to report that her husband had blasted the TV and was threatening to kill himself. Cowan, who had been drinking, became angry while watching Palin, 20, perform on the ABC program.

As Palin, pictured at left, was dancing, Cowan “jumped up and swore, saying something to the effect of, ‘The f*cking politics.’ Steven was upset that a political figure’s daughter was dancing on this particular show when Steven did not think that she was a good dancer,” the complaint notes.
I don't care how upset you are, shooting your tv is never the answer. I believe in this so strongly that I actually made it the title of this post.

Whether it's "Dancing with the Stars" results, or a shabby "Larry King Live" interview, or a poor episode of "Life Unexpected" (seriously, the will-they-or-won't-they-back-and-forth between Lux and her teacher has been old for weeks, but the two of them getting "stuck" in a hotel room alone, are you serious? please don't get me started), there is no reason to shoot your tv. That is literally "killing the messenger," because your poor tv is merely the friendly means of information transferal. If your neighbor came by to tell you that Ms. Palin was still a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars," would you shoot him?

Probably not. And shooting your television is the same as shooting your neighbor. Worse, it's like shooting the person with whom you spend ten to twelve loving hours per day.

But back to the Smoking Gun article. In the quote I copied and pasted above, I cleverly left out much of the "attitude" and "editorializing" of the author, because I wanted to address those aspects separately. Here is the full opening:
Like most Americans, Steven Cowan has been perplexed by Bristol Palin’s curious ability to keep advancing in TV’s "Dancing with the Stars" competition.

However, unlike other viewers, Cowan, 67, allegedly became so enraged by Palin’s success that he actually fired a shotgun round into his television, triggering a 15-hour standoff with Wisconsin cops.

According to a criminal complaint, Cowan’s wife called police Monday evening to report that her husband had blasted the TV and was threatening to kill himself...
Please note that the author states as fact, in the very first sentence of the story, that "most Americans" are "perplexed" by the young Ms. Palin's "curious" ability to remain on the dancing "competition." DWTS gets about 20 million viewers per week. In a country of more than 300 million, that is a mere fraction.

But, according to at least one survey, 64% of Americans "get at least some of their TV content online." (Although that particular article doesn't reveal how that survey was conducted -- if it was an online survey, for instance, the results might be a bit skewed. Results might also be skewed if people didn't want to admit to someone on the phone that they're not "hep" to the "new technology.")

 Bristol Palin performs her perplexo doble on "Dancing with the Stars."

Anyway, even assuming that 64% of Americans watch some tv online (it's probably true), how many of those people are watching DWTS? Even if it's just clips of the young Ms. Palin's dancing?

But let's just assume that all of that 64% has watched Ms. Palin dancing (I get a lot of my tv content online, and I have never watched a clip of her or anything from this season of the show). Let's assume also that every single one of those people also thinks that the young Ms. Palin is not a very good dancer, and doesn't think she should have advanced over someone like, let's say, Brandy, who is the most recently eliminated DWTS contestant.

Are those people genuinely perplexed by Ms. Palin's continued advancement? Merriam-Webster online defines "perplex" as:
transitive verb
: to make unable to grasp something clearly or to think logically and decisively about something
: to make intricate or involved : complicate
DWTS is a reality competition show in which the show's judges and viewers vote to determine who remains from week to week. If you are perplexed by that, then you are probably perplexed by a lot of simple everyday things, such as finding things in a grocery store (ask a clerk if you can't find something!) or tying your shoes (go here!). So that takes care of the first part of the definition.

As for the second part, making intricate or involved, I suppose you could say that those people who are suggesting that there is some kind of "conspiracy" to keep Ms. Palin around are making the show intricate and involved, and complicating it. As USA Today puts it:
Bristol Palin in the finals of ABC ballroom competition Dancing With the Stars? Shocker!

Conspiracy theory. The Palin Effect. Tea Partiers and other grassroots conservatives gaming the vote.
But the back-biting, rumor-mongering and media storm surrounding speculation over Bristol's surprisingly long run on TV's top-rated show reached a fever pitch after she bested entertainer Brandy Norwood Tuesday night to advance into next week's finals (Monday, 8 ET/PT). There she'll face Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey and Disney Channel star Kyle Massey.

Palin and pro partner Mark Ballas have been ranked near the bottom of the dance teams a half dozen times; TV prognosticators have smelled something fishy for weeks.
"TV prognosticators"? Really?

Anyway, I added the emphasis in the above because two of the suggested theories for Ms. Palin's success are that her mother's fans are voting for her in large numbers because they like her mother and want her entire family to be successful, and/or members of the "Tea Party" are voting for her in large numbers because, I suppose, they like her mother and want her entire family to be successful.

In other words, there isn't really anything "perplexing" about this. People are voting for a contestant on a reality show competition. They are apparently doing so in large numbers. Large enough that Ms. Palin has made it to the "final three."

Are you still "perplexed" by this, "most Americans"?

 Does this man look like he represents "most Americans"?

Back to USA Today:
Palin and Ballas — a two-time DWTS winner — scored their first triple-9 scores Monday for their pasodoble, and finished the evening with a combined judges' score of 53, just four points behind Norwood and partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy's two-dance score of 57. But judges' scores count for half of the results, and can be offset by a celebrity's fan base and popularity among viewers.
Emphasis added because it probably helps that Ms. Palin has been partnered with someone who has won the show twice before. Perhaps he has his own fan base that is "gaming the vote"? Or, did the producers partner Ms. Palin with him because they are part of the conspiracy?

My point is, I don't think that most Americans are perplexed by young Ms. Palin's success. I, for one, could not care less about how she does. I have a lot of other, more important things going on in my life. Most of the people I know also don't care. Of course, that might just show how comically out of touch I am. Even if I did care, it wouldn't take me very long to figure out how the voting for the show works -- no way would I be "perplexed" by it.

Regardless, if most Americans really were "perplexed" by Ms. Palin's success, we'd see an epidemic of tv murder. So far, we've only got one. And although one is clearly one too many, there is no reason for us to become alarmed.

Perplexo doble pic source.
Steven Cowan pic source.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Special 3D post! How Marvel Comics turned me into an atheist

Kids today have got it pretty good. Much better than I did as a kid. For one thing, the technology today is such that superhero movies are actually well-made.

For another, the 3-D technology is nauseatingly real. When I was a kid, these were cutting edge 3-D technology:

If you've got a pair of those old-thyme red and cyan 3D glasses, you can thrill to the amazing 3D effects of these Marvel comics characters origin strip covers. If not, you can just pretend.

Actually, I'm exaggerating. We also had the View-Master, and 3-D movies like "Comin' at Ya!" But nothing like what the kids have today, like "Jackass 3-D" and "Piranha 3-D."

Anyway, back to the Marvel Comics origin strips. Those were the prizes that accompanied kid-meals sold at (I believe) a fast food restaurant called Hardee's. It might have been Burger Chef. As I recall (although I might be confabulating this), the strips came with a 3-D viewer built into the box in which the food came, so that the whole apparatus was like a bulkier yet less substantial version of a View-Master. And all without the color.

Yet I insisted that we return to this restaurant every week to pick up the newest Marvel origin story. Going back over these things and re-reading them today, it's clear that I was starved for entertainment. Or, I was just an inveterate collector.

I think that I got every single one of the strips, although today I might be missing one of them -- Firestar, who wasn't really a Marvel character, being created solely for the television show "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" (apparently, the Human Torch was unavailable. seriously). The Iceman origin strip features a cameo by Firestar and Spider-Man, so I assume at least part of the reason for these mini 3-D comics was to promote that goshawful show.

Anyway. The origin of Spider-Woman. Thrill to the beautifully complicated absurdity:

Oh, yeah. Spider-Woman might seem similar to Spider-Man, but they're just so different (irony).

That is all nonsense. The real origin story is actually a lot more straightforward. Spider-Woman was created for the sole purpose of Marvel Comics filing a trademark on the character's name:
Filmation had a cartoon show called Tarzan in the mid-70s. They found that the show was even MORE popular when they combined it with Batman the next season to form the Tarzan/Batman Adventure Hour. Seeing that this arrangement was working, Filmation’s next move was to expand the show to include five other superhero characters, this time, NEW characters (so Filmation would not have to pay licensing fees, like I presume they had to for Batman). Well, one of those new characters was to be called, you guessed it, Spider-Woman.

When news of this came down the grapevine, Marvel knew they had to respond quickly, for fear that Filmation would have something published before them. So Archie Goodwin had to quickly come up with a Spider-Woman character for Marvel. With the help of Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney, Marvel rushed production of Marvel Spotlight #32, starring Spider-Woman.

The filing for trademark protection was almost instanteous[sic]. The comic was released in very late 1976, and Marvel was awarded trademark protection in early 1977.

As for Filmation, they changed their character’s name to Web-Woman.
So perhaps the script for that 3-D comic should read, "It all began when a Marvel editor, Archie Goodwin, discovered that another company had created a character called 'Spider-Woman'! Deciding they liked the name, Goodwin and the other Marvel officials decided to create their own Spider-Woman character and publish it before the other company had a chance!"

"Later, the character was injected with a legal serum that made it impossible for another company to use a character with her name!"


Spider-Woman has overcome her cynical origin to develop very large breasts.

Spider-Woman wasn't the only "cynical female character" that Marvel created around that time -- there was also She-Hulk.
She-Hulk was created by Stan Lee, who wrote only the first issue, and was the last character he created for Marvel before his return to comics with Ravage 2099 in 1992. The reason for the character's creation had to do with the success of the Incredible Hulk TV series at the time. Afraid that the show's executives would suddenly introduce a female Hulk, resembling the popular Bionic Woman, Marvel decided to publish their own version of such a character to make sure that if a similar one showed up in the TV series, they would own the rights.

Hard to believe that a female version of the Hulk with the uninspired name "She-Hulk" could have been created as a rush solely to pre-empt the possible creation of another character in a different medium -- at least "Spider-Woman" was an actual, forthcoming character.

But I always wondered why Marvel didn't do this with all their male characters. Someone might have brought out a female version of Thor -- better do a comic with Femme Thor! How about a Silver Surfette? Maybe a Wolvherine? Woman-Thing?

Anyway. To She-Hulk's origin. It was one of the more lame origins ever inflicted upon any character. She-Hulk became She-Hulk through a blood transfusion.
Jennifer Susan Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner (Hulk), is the small and somewhat shy daughter of Los Angeles County Sheriff William Morris Walters and Elaine (née Banner) Walters (who died in a car crash when Jennifer was seventeen). Operatives of Nicholas Trask, a crime boss who had crossed paths with her father, shot and seriously wounded her on a day that Bruce Banner happened to be in town for a visit. Since no other donors with her blood type were available, Banner provided his own blood for a transfusion; as they already shared the same blood type and DNA, his radioactive blood, combined with her anger transformed Jennifer into the green-skinned She-Hulk when the mobsters tried to finish her off at the hospital.

As She-Hulk, Jennifer possessed powers similar to those of her cousin, though at a reduced level. She also possessed a less monstrous, more amazonian appearance.
So the cool, established male character -- The Hulk -- gives a superfluous part of himself (a little blood) so that a female can be given life. In the process, she becomes sort of like the male character, but her "powers" are "at a reduced level."

I was a tiny little kid at the time, but even I could tell this was sexist.*

What also struck me about She-Hulk's origin (and of course at the time I didn't know anything about the "protect a potential copyright/trademark" angle) was just how similar it was to another famous origin story -- the story published in a book called The Bible, in Genesis Chapter 2.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
So the doctor inserted the needle into the arm of the man, and caused to be drawn from there some of his blood and closed up its place with flesh; and the blood which the doctor had taken from the man made the woman again whole, and the man said, 'This at last is blood of my blood and she shall be called She-Hulk, for her powers derive from the man.'"

I was never a religious kid. My parents never took me to church -- I went on my own, to see what it was all about. Being a comic book fan, a lot of the religious stories struck me as "superheroic" in nature, but I just assumed that the creators of the comics were using old material. Didn't really think a lot about it.

 Over the years, She-Hulk has developed a pair of breasts to rival Spider-Woman's.

But the absurdity of She-Hulk's origin story crystallized in my mind the absurdity of the stories I heard on those rare visits to church. Moreover, it caused me to realize that a great deal of what people were being taught in those religious institutions made sense only if you viewed it as a way of keeping people down. In particular, women.

Imagine being a girl, and hearing that your entire species exists because a wholly unnecessary part of a man's anatomy was pulled from his body and formed into a woman (and I haven't even mentioned all the stuff about God first creating other animals as mates for Adam). Wow. And if one story from The Bible could so clearly be shown to have been written for the sole purpose of explaining why one group should be kept subservient to another, then the whole enterprise came in for questioning.

So, yes, as the title of this post suggests, I think that Marvel Comics had something to do with my skepticism of the existence of a "god." Not going to church kept my weekends free to read comic books.

*Also note that both Spider-Woman's and She-Hulk's origins involve men injecting them with some kind of serum or bodily fluid. How is that for metaphor?