Posts from 26th March 2005

Mar 05

Lame Secret Identities in Superhero Comics

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Lame Secret Identities in Superhero Comics

There are plenty of unlikely villainous names – “You mean the Riddler is really Mr E. Nigma? Holy stupid fucking contrivances, Batman!” – but since a lot of them were probably created as a small joke with no necessary expectation of regular returns, I guess we can just about tolerate those. There are some less forgiveable ones…

#3: J’onn J’onnz, The Martian Manhunter. For those who don’t know, this is an actual Martian, not a human who hunts Martian men. His name, which when a child I tried to pronounce something like Juh-on Juh-ons, apparently actually sounds just like John Jones. To conceal his identity, he hid behind a human identity, and took the name John Jones. Since he could change shape and it is a very common name, he makes only #3.

#2: I’m reading the Essential Doctor Strange vol.2 now, and it was that that inspired this little item. Top surgeon Dr Strange is injured, and in an attempt to regain use of his hands finds the mystical Ancient Cliche in Tibet, and learns magic instead. Oddly, despite needing to throw strange hand shapes all the time to cast spells, he never gets around to repairing his hands. Instead he takes up mystical superheroics, with a maskless costume, hiding his identity behind HIS OWN NAME. My assumption was that he didn’t care about people identifying him, but there is later an “Oh no! I may have given away my secret identity!” moment. Really, Doc? How do you think anyone guessed? Fortunately the cosmic embodiment of the unending flow of time, Eternity, changes his name for him (probably got it notarised by Infinity), but the writers kind of forget about that a few issues later.

#1: Black Bolt is one of my absolute favourite superhero characters, someone much underused on the largest scale, which is where his insanely huge powers belong. It seemed a perfectly good superhero name, if not terribly descriptive – until his real name was revealed. If I ever acquire superpowers (I’ve not given up hope), I shall go by the superhero name Mart Skid, in tribute to Black Bolt, whose real name, it was eventually revealed, is Blackagar Boltagon.

(other nominations welcomed – I must have forgotten some good ones)

TV Diary: everything I watched on 25/3/05

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TV Diary: everything I watched on 25/3/05

Zatoichi is covered in the Blind fighters post below. A very good movie.

Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas: An odd mix of animation styles, making some parts look as if they are in different realms of reality, which is sometimes apposite and sometimes just looks messy. It’s also an odd mix of new elements, bits from the classic stories and swipes from Homer, and has almost no trace of its Middle Eastern origins. Mostly it’s nowhere near as exciting as it wants to be.

The Simpsons: the one where Homer writes a song about how he hates Flanders. I generally like to resist the binary old Simpsons good, new Simpsons rubbish line, but this is very poor. A rotten guest-shot from David Byrne. I like the line “We could do Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus Village?” “And fight the crowds?” They head for a ranch instead, and Lisa does her PC thing, but has no interest at all in the horses, which is out of character. A couple of good gags, but a bad episode.

Girl With A Pearl Earring: precious little happens, and I guess the book has loads of stuff going on in the mind of Scarlett’s character, but instead here almost every word is treated as Portentous. She doesn’t get much to do, and it’s pretty inconsequential, so she works hard on her performance, but I don’t think it achieves much, and Mr Darcy is no use at all, of course. It does look quite nice, but this seems like very empty filmmaking to me, trappings of artistry substituting for substance. Possibly not helped by being quiet, and me therefore hearing out of tune karaoke from the pub below me.

WWE Smackdown: This is at present all about building up for Wrestlemania next month. It’s almost the only patch in the year when the writers seem to be concentrating, these days. I enjoy the simple things: Big Show lifting a 300-pound opponent above his head, by the throat, with one hand, and smashing him down. Girl With A Pearl Earring could have used something like that. Another highlight is a debate between the WWE champ and the #1 contender – heavyweight stuff, though only in the literal sense, of course.

Smilla’s Sense Of Snow: the book had its flaws, mostly to do with the gradual deterioration of the plot in the latter parts, but a bit of action adventure and spectacle probably plays better on screen than in type. I’d watched Ormond playing Guinevere yesterday, and this is clearly a far meatier role, and she handles it well. I don’t think it does a great job of capturing the sundry other characters, though, despite some good actors like Jim Broadbent, Richard Harris. A major one is Gabriel Byrne, which is a problem, as usual. It does the job very well, I think, though there is an obsessive mood that gets a bit lost.

I have never been to a Dr Who Convention, BUT…

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I have never been to a Dr Who Convention, BUT…
It’s time I told you that I once attended something affectionately called an “Olympiad”. In my own head this is much, much less sad than a (say the word while spitting) “convention”. Unfortunately, outside my head, said event was actually 2 days in a pub in Cricklewood playing party games, most with a Dr Who/ “cult telly” theme. I think my team’s worst round was the “do a 5 minute re-enactment of a classic who in the style of the recent TV movie”. I am a terrible actor. We drew “Tomb of the Cybermen” seeing that you asked.

But, and I insist on this, I am not a massive Dr Who fan

– “it ain’t a river in Egypt, honey”

OK, as a kid i did love the show – i even collected the Weetabix cards. And OK yes I did persist with it right to the end. BUT, and this is another big “but”, when it finished, i wasn’t bereft. Ok, not MUCH. And yes, it was also nice to find repeats on UK Gold from time to time, for a warm-fuzzy nostalgia-filled sunday morning. Then, in the mid 90s, something very odd happened to me. The turnover of people living in my shared house in Cricklewood stopped being a trail of expired-visa saffers/kiwis/ozzies/italians, and, one-by-one, people with suspiciously large collections of VHSs (later DVDs), and the occasional “collectable” action figure, started to take residence. Soon it was acceptable to be watching re-runs of The Tomorrow People on the SciFi channel, and before you know it I found myself in the Fitzroy Tavern, attending one of the monthly gathering of the “movers and shakers” (darling) in what passed for a “Who Industry” at that time.

This was all Rebecca’s fault. Rebecca was someone I just about knew from college, and she moved to London to start work as an editor. Of Dr Who books. And she knew about my house and its turnover of residents. So it was a bit galling when we first met at “Tavern” (as it’s known) and she exclaimed “What the fuck are you doing here?”. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, WOMAN. HELP ME, GOD HELP ME.

Why I’m still such good friends with her I’ll never understand. ONLY JOKING OF COURSE. I was happy to be surrounded by people sadder than myself, and they were happy with themselves. The self-hatred of the hardkore Who fan only exists as a shield erected in the moment that “that look” appears in the other person’s eyes.

I still see this crowd from time to time, usually at gay pubs and clubs, but of late I’ve started to see them ON THE TELLY. Yes, the new series is here, and the “Who industry” has graduated from pub-distributed fanzines and one moribund magazine to, er, talking heads in the “Who is back!” docs and between the UK Gold reruns. Which is great for them, but I wonder whether, seeing that the show is back on telly, the acrimony of that tight-knit clique has intensified. They were a bitchy lot when it was just the odd vanity piece for one of the better known fanzines and books that sold 10,000 copies each (the same amount regardless of quality). Now that they will all be jockeying for that one extra rung at the top of the ladder, and the silly money that an episode of telly pays, there could be blood. Relations between Russel Davies and some of the writers have been better than they are right now.

Now, having spent a lot of my 20s socialising with such people, to everyone else, I seem like the biggest Dr Who nerd in the world. I absorbed all manner of trivia – the bit-part actors, the “bloopers” (“look you can see a hand holding down the cushion, HA ha”), the debates about the sexuality of various companions, and even the existence of the tightly-fought “assistants v companions” debate. And I’m happy with this. I’m out and proud as a Who fan – probably more so than YOU.

I tell you what I don’t miss though – I seem to recall one game at the olymiad that involved reciting the names of every planet that the TARDIS visited. In order. Don’t worry though, it wasn’t an official game that involved points.