Friday, June 28, 2013

Making Sense of Injustice

The video game and the comic book series, not the philosophical topic.  I could try the other one, but we'd be here for a while.  Spoilers below the cut.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Off-Topic: Introductions

Since I'm hoping to be blogging (and that is a weird verb) again regularly, I might as well introduce myself. Also, I'm slammed at work, and I couldn't come up with anything fun and/or thoughtful today, so I'll fall back on one of many crutches for lazy writers:  the origin story!

I'm a 38 (almost 39) year old software developer, living in a suburb of Dallas, TX with my wife and our five-month-old daughter.  I was born in Texas and have lived here most of my life, and I've been enjoying sci fi and fantasy, playing videogames, reading comics, and playing role-playing games for as long as I can clearly remember.  I've always loved the heroic ideal, and the way that superheroes personified that.  That's not to say I don't like other types of comics, because I do.  Some of my favorites have been titles like Preacher, Sandman, Fables, and Walking Dead.

But my first love in the medium is superheroes, especially those that hold themselves to a higher ideal.  While my list of favorites shifts pretty regularly, Captain America and Superman are always near the top.  I've drifted from the medium at times, notably during the dark days of the mid-90s when neither of the Big Two seemed to be able to put out a decent book, but I have a pretty good knowledge of the medium and its stories and characters, along with its real-world history and business practices, even from those dark days. I'm most familiar with books from the late 70s through today, but I'm at least somewhat knowledgeable about comics stretching  as far back as the original Superman and Batman stories, and of pulp heroes that came before them.

As for this blog in general, I plan to keep trying to make the stuff I've made for this first week: a little humor and hopefully some thought provoking criticism or analysis.  If you have any particular requests, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hoedown Breakdown: Ghost

Just so we're clear here, I'm talking about the Iron Man villain, not the Patrick Swayze movie.

Ghost started out as a pretty typical Iron Man villain.  He's an industrial saboteur that made his own powered armor which gives him the ability to make himself and other objects intangible, as well as gain access to and control computer systems near him. He also usually has weapons that fire concussive blasts or electricity, but he's primarily a stealth character and avoids using them as much as possible.  As was typical in the era he was created, his origins were glossed over in favor of a simple "this is a bad guy doing bad things" story, but the thing is that, other than fighting Iron Man, he's basically a vigilante, except that he doesn't fight guys with superpowers.  He fights corporations.

Now, admittedly, he often does it for money, but that seems as much of a bonus as anything.  After all, the Punisher regularly steals from the criminals he kills, but he's not out there shooting drug dealers for the money; it just happens to be how he pays for his expenses.  Ghost (we never learn his real name) has an axe to grind with modern corporate greed and, in particular, the military industrial complex.  He's like that crazy conspiracy theorist who thinks that GE is building spy satellites to control you through the fillings in your teeth.  Given the world he lives in, however, that's not actually crazy.

In the Marvel universe, you've got the military industrial complex building giant robots to kill their own citizens for being genetically different, experimenting on people to try to make super soldiers, and actively engaging in corporate espionage to steal technologies from one company to give them to other, less scrupulous ones.  The Red Skull managed to get himself into a position of power in the United States government using the ridiculously obvious name Dell Rusk.  Shapeshifting aliens have stolen and replaced major players in every field from government to corporate to superpowered heroes and villains.  Tony Stark built a satellite that literally made everyone on Earth forget he was Iron Man.  Ghost isn't crazy for believing that the powerful people, and in particular the corporations, are out to get him and the rest of humanity; he's arguably one of the few sane people in the Marvel universe when it comes to his beliefs.

Ghost is a really interesting and fairly underused character.  He's usually cast as a villain, although he's also been used as an anti-hero in Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers, but none of that really seems correct.  If you really take a step back and look at his actions, he's often more of a hero than the heroes he fights.  In a lot of ways, he's like a superpowered version of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Burn Those Bridges, Kyle Baker!

I was done talking about Man of Steel, I swear.  But then something came to my attention this morning, and I had to make a post.  Kyle Baker is a fantastic artist and writer with a great, cartoony style who has previously done some great work for DC on their Plastic Man comics as well as other properties.  He also just posted a Flash game called Mass Murderer of Steel to his site.  It's not a very good game, but that's not really the point, is it?  Hats off, Mr. Baker.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Great Comics You May Have Missed: The Order

Marvel's Civil War event and its aftermath was problematic on a number of levels.  I'll probably get into all of that in a future post, but for now I'd like to focus on one of the really great things to come out of it:  The Order.  At the end of Civil War, every state had its own government sponsored super team, and California's was the Order.  What made them different from the typical teams was that each team member had powers that were given to them through a process that was designed in such a way that the folks running the program could flip a switch and take their powers away again.

The members of the Order normally had their powers for a year, and then they had to give them up.  If they were caught using their powers improperly, or doing things that could cause a loss of control (drinking to excess, drug use, etc.), they would have their powers stripped and a new person would replace them on the team with a new set of powers.  The core cast was a mixture of people from all walks of life, each with their own reason to want to be on the team.

Everyone on the team was a volunteer, which made it a really interesting idea from the start.  In comics, people that gained their powers voluntarily are very rare, primarily for story reasons, and those who do are usually cast as villains.  Civil War, in the beginning, was supposed to be about the conflict between personal freedom and civil duty, and The Order did a far better job of examining the issue than the main story ever did.  More importantly, it's a great, entertaining book, full of action, humor, and great dialog.  It unfortunately only lasted 10 issues, as Marvel told Matt Fraction he could either continue writing The Order or take over on Iron Man, and he understandably chose the latter, but the characters from the core team still show up from time to time elsewhere.  It's probably in my top ten of new books from the last decade, and it's cheap on Comixology right now.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Doctor Strange Movie Villains... Are Not Really Surprising

According to Latino Review, the Doctor Strange villains are probably going to be Dormammu and Baron Mordo... which is no surprise to anyone that knows the character, at all.  It's like saying, "Hey, Doctor Doom is going to be in a Fantastic Four movie!"  They are literally the only Dr. Strange villains that most most people who read comics but aren't Doctor Strange fans can name.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel: Great superhero movie, bad Superman movie

So, it's been a while.  I'm probably going to post here some more in the near future, but as to why I've started again, Man of Steel made me rage so hard that I ended up writing a dozen bloody paragraphs on reddit about it.  So I'm going to throw it over here for posterity; if anyone actually reads it, awesome.

Away we go.  Tons of spoilers in here, folks.