Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Supergirl: First Flight

I can’t remember where I read it first, but I’ve seen a similar sentiment from several authors who have written for Wonder Woman and they all say that it’s difficult to write her, because there are so few female characters of her stature, thus she has to be all things to all women, thus she’s really boring because she can’t have any meaningful flaws.

Having seen the leaked first episode of Supergirl, I fear they may be falling into the same trap. It seems like the only flaws Supergirl has are flaws only a protagonist can have.

I had a lengthy exchange with a friend about the trailer, and the conversation evolved into a discussion of first episode after we had each seen it.

My thoughts:

We open with Supergirl expositioning at us in voiceover. She’s thirteen, and her mom is telling her to be brave, because she’s going to have to watch out for Cousin Kal when they land on Earth, because he’s just a baby.

With a spitcurl!

Her escape pod is knocked off course when Krypton explodes, and she spends the next twenty-four years in suspended animation in the Phantom Zone. Exposition, exposition, exposition.

I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, that’s a big chunk of backstory to dump on us all at once, and it’s hard to make it interesting. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of Grant Morrison’s one-page four- panel Doomed Planet/Desperate Scientists/Last Hope/Kindly Couple summary of Superman’s origins. Origin stories are seldom interesting, which is why the second movies in series are most often the best. It lets us hit the ground running.

She lands on Earth, where Cousin Kal is all grown up. She refers to him as the Most Powerful Man in the Universe, but I thought that was someone else.

My friend and I also discussed the merits of including Superman in the show. I think they were damned if they do and damed if they don’t. Don’t include him and he’s conspicuous in his absence, include him and the show becomes about him.

I think that this is probably the best way to go about it, acknowledge his existence, but treat him as a force rather than a character, at least until Kara gets established. He’s only seen in silhouette, and we never hear him speak. I imagine that if we did, he would sound like the adults in Peanuts.


He takes her to live with Helen Slater (80s Supergirl) and Dean Cain (Lois and Clark Superman) and their biological daughter. I like how he holds hands with her on the walk there. It's a little thing, but it probably means the world to a scared little girl.

They raise her and she grows up tall and she grows up right with them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights, and we cut to grown-up Supergirl with glasses, who works as a put upon assistant to media mogul Cat Grant, as played by Calista Flockhart.

It’s a small thing, but I bothers me a little bit more every time I think about it. Cat Grant complains that someone took her private elevator, and now it smells of cheap cologne, but I would assume that it would require some kind of keycard for operation. If anyone can use your private elevator, then it’s not much of a private elevator, is it? I mean, that’s what the word means.

I think they’re setting up Cat as curmudgeon with a heart of gold, the distaff Perry White. If that’s what they’re attempting, I don’t think they’ve quite pulled it off, as she seems capricious in a way that White never did. She tells Kara to handwrite termination letters for a bunch of her employees, but to use the cheap paper, but to get some proofs from the new art director before she starts.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I’m still on the fence about this new Jimmy Olsen. He’s charming, tall, handsome and confident, which are not traits for which the character is known. Maybe he’s the Bizarro World Jimmy Olsen? I think they made the changes because I think they couldn't have Olsen as both the lovable younger brother and the liaison to Superman, so they made him a little more badass, and slotted Kara's costume designing friend in the role that would be normally occupied by Jimmy.I do like Kara’s interaction with him. I hate the word “adorkable”, but it seems to fit here. She’s a bit like a Felicity Smoak with superpowers.

Kara meets with her sister Alex, and talks about how she’s not living up to her potential and then leaves to meet her blind date. He’s goofy looking and a magnificent tool, and he ditches her as soon as he can in order to hit on the waitress. That’s okay, because Kara sees that her sister’s plane is crashing, so she takes to the skies to save it.

The friend with whom I discussed this initially felt that this was a blatant rip off of Superman’s coming out, but as Superman has been rebooted and reinterpreted so many times, that anything they did was bound to duplicate one of his origins. We eventually independently came to more or less the same conclusion about the scene, giving it a pass, because it's a good visual, and it's something that more or less requires the use of superpowers to accomplish.

Kara saves the plane, and I like it so much when she comes out of the water.

Benoist does a great job selling the hope that comes with being Supergirl. I also enjoy her reactions when she sees the news report on TV.

Her sister shows up at the apartment and makes her promise to never do it again. Kara promptly does it again, revealing her identity to her dorky coworker whose name escapes me.

Meanwhile, an alien is gouging the countertop at a diner with his fingertips. He demands a refill, and his waitress apologizes, because she was so caught up with the news report of a female hero. I’ll return to this point later, but A.) “Female hero” is a very awkward phrase, and B.) the series tends to tell us how great Supergirl instead of showing us.

She works with cyber-nebbish to assemble a costume for her, going through several iterations at first, including the 80s hot pants and headband version.

We get a bit of a montage until they settle on the final version, which I happen to really like.

I recall something of a kerfluffle a while back, with some fans becoming upset because a writer established that Supergirl wears bike shorts under her skirt, for the rather obvious reason that she doesn’t want everyone on the ground looking at her underpants. I’m sure that this Supergirl wears bike shorts. It just makes sense.

When she goes to put out a fire, she’s ambushed by DEO agents. Dick move, people! I don’t think they set the fire as bait, so are we to conclude that they did the calculus and figured that it was worth letting a couple people burn to death in order to give Supergirl a scowling at and talking to?

She wakes up in custody, shackled to a table by kryptonite handcuffs. Her sister comes in and unlocks them, and Hank Henshaw, director of the Department of Extranormal Operations explains that a Kryptonian prison was pulled along with her ship to earth, and there are a bunch of alien convicts out there. They’ve been laying low, but in recent years they’ve become increasingly bold, to the point where some of them stop what they’re doing in order to mug for the camera.

Supergirl is pretty mad at her sister, and rightly so. Either Alex ratted her out to the DEO, or she had knowledge of the operation and did nothing to warn her. I get mad when my mom uploads unflattering pictures of me to Facebook. Supergirl storms off.

Back at the Daily Planet CatCo, Kara bursts in at her boss and yells at her for naming this hero “Supergirl”, an my criticisms from the earlier post still stand (Girl is not a phrase a third party should use to label an adult woman), though Cat’s explanation is slightly expanded and slightly more convincing than the one given in the trailer. Cat is in the process of firing her when Jimmy intervenes. I kind of think she deserves to get fired, because that is an awful lot of sass to direct at an extremely prickly boss.

Kara is talking to Jimmy, when she hears a high frequency broadcast. If you enjoyed Gene Hackman doing this trick forty years ago, you’ll love it when a bald alien lumberjack does the exact same thing. Gaw! If this is intended as an homage, it’s a really sloppy one.

She departs to fight him, pulling open her short-sleeved shirt to reveal the long-sleeved Supergirl costume beneath it. They fight, and she’s losing when an attack chopper pulls up out of nowhere and starts firing missiles. What is this, Prototype?

Strike Package Alert! Strike Package Alert!

A masked figure rappels down a rope from the helicopter and removes her helmet, showing herself to be Alex. The two sisters reconcile.

Back at the DEOs underground base, Henshaw mansplains to Supergirl how terrible she is at superheroing. There is some merit to that argument, but as she says, she’s new at this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first time she had thrown a punch in anger.

Back at her apartment, Kara is ready to give up when Alex shows up at her door, with a plan and an alien artifact. Kara notes that the writing on it is “Kryptonese”. I would have gone with the more traditional “Kryptonian”, but whatever. Kara activates it and gets a brief pep talk (in English) from her space mom, and then she’s off to beat up the lumberjack.

She land in the path of his big rig and takes the impact without flinching. They fight, with the DEO watching through their monitors. Henshaw declares that she can’t beat him, and Alex’s response is just short of a sneer. “Why? Because she’s a girl?”

Ugh. No. Never say that again.

Listen, CBS, I know you leaked this episode so you could get some feedback before the premiere, so here goes.

The problem with the girl power aspect is that it doesn’t flow organically, and further, Henshaw’s concerns seem to be justified, and he should have replied "Because she's doing the exact same things she was doing in the first fight, which she lost so decisively that she had to be bailed out."

Alex had analyzed the axe, and now I'm not sure if she's a field agent, a metallurgist or a biologist, but hey, whatever's clever. Supergirl wins the fight by overloading his axe with her heat vision. It blows up and he commits suicide by stabbing himself with a shard, though not before issuing an ominous but predictable threat.

At the end Jimmy meets Kara on the roof and gives her Superman's baby blanket, and while I am ambivalent about Sexy Jimmy, I do have to admit that the pair has quite a bit of chemistry together. As I mentioned in the review of the trailer, I like that Superman inspired Kara to follow in his footsteps without pushing her to do so.

After that, we get a coda with a woman talking to the guy who was giving the space lumberjack his orders. It looks like Laura Benanti is playing two roles? That's corny, but kind of cool at the same time. You really can't go wrong with an evil twin.

Final thoughts: I really like what they're attempting, but the execution needs a little work. I think the show would be ten times better if they would just have a little faith in the viewer. Show us how great Supergirl is, don't tell us. If the show were a tiny bit more understated, I think it would be a vast improvement.

Also, this needs to happen:

Tomorrowland: 'Cause it's gonna be the future soon.

Tomorrowland, well…the trailers promised me a different movie than the one I actually got. George Clooney is the first person we see and he opens the movie in a terrible framing mechanism by awkwardly addressing the camera, but we don’t get a proper introduction to his character until maybe forty-five minutes in. Once we do,  one of his first lines is to tell the protagonist to go home, that her whole quest is a lie, that she’s being manipulated into feeling that she’s part of something incredible. That line right there sums up my reaction to Tomorrowland.

The movie has a lot going for it, and it looks beautiful. I’d even go so far to say that there’s a good movie  hiding in this pile somewhere, but it’s buried under the weight of its problems.

Let’s start at the top. The framing mechanism is awful. It’s fairly well-known that Harrison Ford hated Deckard’s narration in Blade Runner, so he intentionally did a terrible job, in hopes that they wouldn’t use it. Clooney’s monologue makes Ford’s voiceover look like Olivier doing Hamlet.

Additionally, George Clooney is one of the most famous and easily recognizable human beings in the Western World.  At all times, the viewer is aware that he or she is watching George Clooney play a part.

After that unpleasantness, we open at the 1964 World’s Fair, where a kid shows Dr. House his jetpack, but since House graduated from the Dogbert school of management, and the young child is unable to precisely articulate the benefits of a jet pack, House tells him to hit the road.

House’s “daughter” Athena gives the kid a second chance. I put daughter in quotes because it’s obvious that she’s a robot.  In the framing scene, Clooney was talking to a woman off screen, and before we saw her face, I assumed that he was bantering with a female AI. Consequently, AIs were still on my mind when Athena was introduced, and I automatically jumped to the conclusion that she was one, and it turned out to be correct.

Little kid (he's young George Clooney, if you haven't figured that out) gets on the Small World ride, it takes him to Futurama, and he tries out his jetpack again, crash landing right in front of House, after any number of impacts that should have killed him. I joked with my friend that the entire movie was just An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and everything that happened afterward was a comforting hallucination in the last moments of his life.

Cut to modern times, where our hero Casey is sabotaging the decommissioning of the Cape Canaveral launch site.  I assumed it was because she wanted to preserve the site because of its history, but the conversation she has with her dad implies she’s doing this because he’s going to be out of a job once the demolition is done. Her dad is a longtime aerospace engineer. Those are pretty marketable skills right there.  He tells her that it won’t delay the project anyway, because they’re shipping more cranes from Orlando.  I assume that’s pretty expensive.  I figure it would be cheaper for NASA to hire Paul Blart to keep an eye on their site, but what do I know?

He tells her to stop doing it. But she doesn’t listen, and instead rides out of the site again, whereupon she is caught.  She’s released into her father’s custody, and finds a Tomorrowland pin that transports her out into a cornfield whenever she touches it.

I’ll wait while everybody makes their own reference to that Twilight Zone episode.

The cornfield is merely an extremely convincing illusion, and Casey is moving in the real world while she’s moving in the simulation. We’ve been told that she’s some kind of Reed Richards super-genius, but she keeps forgetting this property of the badge, and constantly walks into walls, falls down stairs or wades into lagoons. She’s completely annoying, so seeing her subjected to abuse was amusing at first, but even that got tiresome after a while.

The pin stops working, so she googles it and the only reference she finds is the Geocities site for a collectables store in Texas.  I’m not sure why it had to be in Texas, but fortunately our wunderkind has her kid brother tell her dad that she’ll be camping with friends for the next few days, because of course parents are cool with letting their children run around with unspecified friends a few hours after being arrested.

Fortunately the trip to Texas is accomplished with no difficulty whatsoever, and she’s there in the next scene, about five second of screen time later.  She asks the weirdo store owners about the pin, but they turn out to be killer robots. She’s rescued from the killer robots by Athena, the little girl who is also a robot.

They self-destruct, and more robots pretending to be secret service agents show up. I liked the head robot. His smile was unnerving.

Meanwhile, Casey Newton, super-genius, sees sparks shooting from Athena’s exposed circuitry, and seems unable to comprehend it when the girl tells her that she’s a robot. (Actually, she says "Audio-animatronic", but I'll be damned if I'm using that.)  We get lots of “wh-wh-what?!” from Casey, and then Athena is hit by a truck when they pull over to talk. Casey steals the truck, but then Athena robot superspeeds after her and jumps into the cab.

If you’ll excuse the digression, I hate almost everything JJ Abrams has ever done, and that goes double for Damon Lindelof, his frequent collaborator, and screenwriter for this movie. When Casey asks what’s going on, those in a position to answer avoid the question, even though there is no need to do so. The characters preserve the mystery at the expense of the plot.  It’s a neverending parade of “I can’t tell you that!” or “There’s no time!” I’m reminded of what Hemingway said about the epic: This too to remember. If a man writes clearly enough any one can see if he fakes. If he mystifies to avoid a straight statement, which is very different from breaking so-called rules of syntax or grammar to make an effect which can be obtained in no other way, the writer takes a longer time to be known as a fake and other writers who are afflicted by the same necessity will praise him in their own defense. True mysticism should not be confused with incompetence in writing which seeks to mystify where there is no mystery but is really only the necessity to fake to cover lack of knowledge or the inability to state clearly. Mysticism implies a mystery and there are many mysteries; but incompetence is not one of them; nor is overwritten journalism made literature by the injection of a false epic quality. Remember this too: all bad writers are in love with the epic.

Athena drops Casey off at George Clooney’s house. It’s in New York, and  we're led to believe that Athena has driven all the way there. It’s a red pickup with a smashed rear window being driven by a robot that looks like a twelve-year-old girl. I get nervous when I have a headlight out and it’s three hours before dusk. Anyway, they make cross country without any trouble, and apparently in several hours.

There are actually aspects of this scene that I like.  For instance, when she’s chased by his holographic guard dog, she notices it’s not leaving any footprints.  She says blahblahblah, he tells her to get lost and, um, blasts her thirty feet in the air to land squarely on the base of her skull. Instead of being dead of paralyzed, she instead walks it off and lights a convenient bulldozer on fire, and sneaks into his house when he rushes outside to extinguish it.

I’m not much into steampunk,  I think it’s overdone as a style, but I did like the look of his vacuum tube doomsday clock.  They bicker, but killer robots come to fight them off, and this scene is extremely well done. It’s a bit at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie, but it was some solid sci-fi action.

Teenage girl in bathrub. That's Search Engine Optimization right there.
George Clooney gets into a bathtub with a teenage girl, for what’s certainly not the first time, but it’s his escape tub, and they fly to the woods where he’s hidden a motorcycle. Athena meets them there, and they use a news station satellite dish to transmit themselves to the Eiffel Tower, where Lindelof tries to garner a little geek cred by humping Tesla's leg.

They launch a spaceship out of the Eiffel Tower. Later on, Hugh Laurie observes that this would ordinarily this would be a problem, but since the world is ending in a few months, he doesn’t care. Except, (spoilers) our heroes save the day, and the world does not end, and everyone seems to forget about that.

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. Science in mainstream movies is seldom good, but this was just like High Modernism explained by a Liberal Arts major who learned about the natural world exclusively through I Fucking Love Science posts on Facebook.

"You are saying that if it did pull through, it would hate us. That strikes me as an unfair attempt to invoke the spirit of Sigmund Freud: Oedipus and Electra in one being, out to destroy all its parents—the authors of every one of its tensions, anxieties, hang-ups, burned into its impressionable psyche at a young and defenseless age. Even Freud didn't have a name for that one. What should we call it?"

"A Hermacis complex?" I suggested.


"Hermaphroditus having been united in one body with the nymph Sahnacis, I've just done the same with their names. That being would then have had four parents against whom to react."

"Cute," she said, smiling. "If the liberal arts do nothing else, they provide engaging metaphors for the thinking they displace."

Our heroes wind up in Tomorrowland, because their spaceship is also a dimension hopping device.  Dr. House gives them a hard time, and the third act goes on forever and ever and ever. the gist, though is that George Clooney invented a device that would predict the end of the world. However, just like in Dune, seeing the future locks us into that future.

That's actually kind of an interesting concept, but it's only dealt with very briefly, and in way that's very characteristic of Lindelof's writing. If a villain kicks a dog, for instance, that's shorthand telling us that he's irredeemably bad. Lindelof writes the entire movie like this, sketching the events in broad outlines, drawing on familiar tropes and asking the audience fill in the blanks from their knowledge of pop culture. Before you can say "No Fate but what we make for ourselves" our heroes blow up the machine with Athena's self-destruct.

Her self-destruct is problematic on its own. She was built as an ambassador to recruit imagineers for Tomorrowland. I could buy it if she had some kind of self-destruct that quietly melted her components and scrambled her software. But she doesn't. She has an unavoidable self-destruct that blows her up and kills everyone around her. The fuck?!

Athena is all blowed up, but not before she tells George Clooney that her love is real, but she is not. House dies through convenient misadventure, and we pick up a year later, where George Clooney and Casey have constructed a ton of new Tomorrowland pins and an army of Recruiting Robots. It turns out that Clooney was addressing these kids in the opening sequence. He charges them to recruit dreamers, wishers, liars, hopers prayers and magic-bean-buyers, for he has some flax golden tales to spin.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Supergirl, a celebration, not a subversion

It’s been over twenty-five years since 1986, but with this Supergirl trailer, superheroes have finally come full circle.

1986 was the year Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns were released, two comics that continue to be the overwhelmingly dominant influence on the conception of superheroes to this day.

They gave us heroes who were flawed, and violent and nasty, who fought crime because it gave them an excuse to hurt people. Anyone who believed in anything greater than themselves was a simp or a dupe. (I like complicated characters, but being a jerk doesn’t make you a Byronic hero. Sometimes it just makes you an asshole.)

How refreshing, then, to see this trailer for Supergirl. I like my heroes to be heroes, and that’s what we get with Supergirl, someone optimistic and compassionate and refreshingly free of angst, who acts as a hero because that’s the way she can help the most people. We’ve reached the point where it’s a subversion of the prevailing paradigm to show a superhero acting heroically.


I’ll list the three little things I didn’t like about the trailer, then I’ll return to gush some more about it.

We get a scene where Kara bursts into her boss’s office and exclaims that they can’t call this new hero “Supergirl”. Her boss, Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart, defends the use of the “girl” in Supergirl by self-identifying as a "girl" and listing off her own many admirable traits.

Sorry, no. I don’t buy it. I would never call my women friends “girls”. (I usually say “dudes”, “ladies”, or “lady dudes”) Context matters, but all things being equal, if the male counterpart is named SuperMAN and the distaff version is named SuperGIRL, then it’s a problem. This was largely unavoidable, as Supergirl is a marketable and recognizable name which they certainly want to retain, but still, I think they could have done this a lot better. My friend Greg had the uncharacteristically cogent observation that a better solution would have been to have Flockhart say that they’re going to reclaim the word “girl”.

Jimmy Olsen is right up there with Krypto the Superdog, Beppo the Supermonkey and the Bottle City of Kandor when it comes to iconic parts of the Superman Mythology. I’m cool with Jimmy Olsen being a black guy. That’s fine. I’m less cool with him being a black guy who happens to be confident, self-assured, seven feet tall, super ripped, and incredibly handsome. He doesn’t feel like Jimmy Olsen any more.

And Supergirl goes to work for a government organization at the end of the trailer. I’m hoping that the show subverts this too, because in modern Superhero culture, it seems like any kind of government organization is feckless at best, and actively malevolent at worst. I want an agency staffed by smart dedicated people who are good at their job, and who pit Supergirl against supervillains not because they want to reverse engineer their powers or steal their alien tech, but simply because they want to protect people from those things.

Of course, this is the DEO, which, in the DCU proper, is run by an animated skeleton who kills people with his poisonous touch, so maybe I’ve chosen the wrong hill to die on for this particular element.

Stuff I liked. Everything else. I liked Smallville and Buffy at first, but they each degenerated to a bunch of poor, poor pitiful me, “I’m a poor attractive healthy teen with superpowers, and my life is terrible” wangst at the end of their run. The Legend of Korra did it right, when in first episode, Korra comes right out and says something along the lines of “Yeah, being a bender is pretty much the best thing ever”. I promise you here, but if I get superpowers, I will not mope about it.

 I said this about the piece I got from Rags Morales at the Phillipsburg Comic Con, where Superman looks like he enjoys being Superman. I want to see a show about a superhero who likes being a superhero, and I think we’re getting that here.

The scenes went by too fast for me to see for myself, but I am told by people on the internets that Helen Slater (80s Supergirl) is Kara’s adopted mom, and Dean Cain (Superman in Lois and Clark) is her dad. On some level, I have to chuckle how incestuous the Superman community is (Annette O’toole played Lana Lang in Superman 3, and Clark’s mom in Smallville), but on the other, that’s all kinds of awesome.

I've always liked the "S" Chevron as the crest of House of El.

I like the bit at the end of the trailer where Superman gives Kara his cape by way of Jimmy Olsen. She asks Jimmy James why Clark didn’t push her to become a hero, since it’s clearly what he would have wanted, and he says that Clark wanted it to be her choice. That’s just the best, and it’s a part of what I love about Superman. It reminds me of the framing panels from Superman: Peace on Earth.

I’m fond of saying that the best Superman stories don’t ask if he can do something, but if he should, which is why I like this so much. As a parent, I feel this more and more. Of course he wants her to use her powers for the greater good, but he doesn’t want to force her into it. She’s got to be free to make her own choices and her own mistakes.

I’m feeling very good about this show.

This promises to be the second best interpretation of Supergirl ever!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"I'm a Lion, but really Jesus": Narnia: The Musical

I took Lily to see the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre's production of Narnia the Musical at the Charles Brown Ice House. We had seen Mock Turtle there a few years back, and the Ice House tends to book quality acts.

I have a complicated relationship with Narnia. The only way to make the allegory less subtle would be to name Aslan "Lion Jesus",  A Horse and His Boy seems kind of racist to modern sensibilities, and The Last Battle is just a mess. However, I consider The Magician's Nephew one of the finest Young Adult fantasy novels ever written, placing it ahead of even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is rightly considered a classic.

My phone took me to the PYT headquarters instead of the Ice House, so we had to hustle to get there on time. We got there at 4:45 for the 5:00 showing, and that gave Lily a little time to run around in the playground.

They did the bit you often find in productions of Peter Pan (the same actor plays Mr. Darling and Captain Hook), casting the same performers in the dual roles of Professor Kirke and Aslan, and Mrs. Macready and the White Witch. Consequently, Mrs. Macready had a somewhat expanded role.

Richard Koons, an adult actor appearing as Aslan and the Professor, through an arrangement with the Actors' Equity Association was good. He might have been too good. The kids ranged from good to great (Lucy, Edmund, the Witch  her dwarf and the Beavers were really just outstanding), but the word that jumped to mind to describe him was "overwhelming". He was great, and it's not fair to compare an adult professional to amateur kids, but he tended to dominate the scenes he was in.

The plot was essentially an abridged version of the book. One change was that Susan and Peter arrive in Narnia before their siblings return. This is fine, it streamlines the plot, but it undercuts an exchange that immedietly follows, where Edmund claims that Lucy is crazy because she said she talked to a faun. As the conversation is taking place in a magical forest accessed through a wardrobe, her claim no longer seems as prima facie ridiculous as it would have elsewhere.  Other changes were Father Christmas leaving a present for Edmund (a morning star), and the good army being forced back to Jadis's castle, where Aslan breathed the petrified friendly creatures back to life. In the book, he and the girls took a detour to do this, and then bring them back to the battlefield. I think this change makes for a stronger narrative.

They also called the Professor "Professor Digory" and "Uncle Digory", which might be a change, or simply a term of endearment.

I could take or leave most of the songs, except for "Deep Magic", which I really enjoyed. The kids were solid with their singing and Koons was great. It had some fun details, like Mrs. Beaver using a rolling pin in the final battle.

I liked the whole experience. We both dug it, and it's great to see kids performing. If you're in the area, check out Pennsylvania Youth Theatre website.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The First Annual Phillipsburg Comic Con

We went to the First Annual Phillipsburg Comic Con on Saturday. It was organized jointly by the school’s comic club and the anime/manga club. I think it’s kind of great that the school has both clubs. They certainly didn’t have that kind of thing when I was growing up. (Though, in all fairness, I did graduate from a very small and relatively rural high school.)

For a first time, high school convention, they managed to attract some real talent. Joe Kelly, Scott Hanna, Rags Morales, Adam Kubert. That’s particularly impressive when you also consider that there was another local con this week, as well as Wizard World Philly.

My original plan had been to walk to the high school (it was being held in the gym), and get there an hour before it opened. It later turned out this level of planning was…unnecessary. I eventually decided that we could just drive there and park in the lot, and if they were parked so full that I couldn’t get a spot, then we certainly weren’t going to get inside, either.

The neighbors, wonderful people and fellow fans, were already there by the time we arrived, and their son (in his Batman costume) and Lily (in her Loki Charms shirt) wasted no time in chasing each other around. I’m not sure what Batman was going to do to Loki if he ever caught up, but they were having fun.

We went inside when the doors opened and the artists were still setting up. Lily bought a Jessica Rabbit Funk Pop figure for herself (she’s a sucker for the Veronica Lake look), and an ET figure for Jen for Mother’s Day. We walked the floor, and it wasn’t yet crowded.

I had the chance to talk with Scott Hanna about Dreamscape. He had come in when I worked there (Nick gave comic creators a big discount), and we reminisced about the store a bit, which was neat. He always impressed me as a genuinely nice guy, and it was nice to talk with him.

I picked up two prints from Rags Morales. Morales was the artist for Grant Morrison’s reboot of Superman, where they reimagine his early adventures in Metropolis. They updated him for modern times, but kept his “fighting for the little guy” populist roots.

I picked up this print, and I like it a lot. I’m reluctant to post an artist’s picture’s online, but I figure he must have it for sale on his website, and anyone who likes the pic enough to copy a blurry image from my phone should be willing to pay the ten dollars for a print at his website.

It captures a lot of I really love about Superman.  His neck is a bit weirdly long (and now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll never be able to unsee it), but I think that was a deliberate decision, necessitated by the presence of the girder. He’s just happy, and young and optimistic. He looks like he enjoys being Superman. The art is very different from Frank Quietly’s work in All-Star Superman, but it reminds me of something Morrison, on the writing of Superman for that: "He was perched with one knee drawn up, chin resting on his arms. He looked totally relaxed...and I suddenly realized this was how Superman would sit. He wouldn't puff out his chest or posture heroically, he would be totally chilled. If nothing can hurt you, you can afford to be cool. A man like Superman would never have to tense against the cold; never have to flinch in the face of a blow. He would be completely laid back, un-tense." 

Overall, I liked the convention a lot. A friend asked how it was, and I described it as “Small, but nice.” Sure, it could do with a little more polish, but as a first time con run by high school kids, it was great.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wasteland 2: Damnation Alley or Bust

I played the hell out of the original Wasteland on my Apple clone back in the day. This probably deserves its own post. It was one of my favorites and I'm very sentimental about it. I picked up Wasteland 2 on Steam during a sale, and I'm still deciding if I like it, though so far I'm very favorably inclined. The brought back many of the original team, the atmosphere is very reminiscent of the first, and the early game is non-stop continuity porn.

Also, I came across this little Easter Egg:

Zooming in:

So that was pretty cool. Damnation Alley might not be my favorite Zelazny work, but at least people remember it.

Monday, May 4, 2015