Thursday, September 29, 2005

Faster than a speeding Winnebago

What's up with all the superhero-mobiles on the streets of Gotham City lately?
First came the Spiderman vehicle. Now it's Superman's pickup truck:

Apologies for the crappy photo, but I took it from behind the wheel of a moving Batmobile--the risks I take for you, dear reader!--and I didn't get a very good look at it myself. Not quite as decked out as the SpideyMobile, but the imagery continued on the side doors and perhaps on the hood.

For a split second I thought it was some sort of marketing stunt, this proliferation of moving advertisements, but then I remembered that DC and Marvel have different owners. Perhaps it's really just a bunch of guys (MUST be guys--what woman would be caught dead in such a thing?) who have enough disposable income at this point in their lives to carry out their childhood dreams? (Hmmm, sounds familiar--except that I've only managed to net the bucks for the outfits, not the wheels. Besides, I was never much of a car geek; no batmobile is half as hot as the man who drives it. I have been known to sprout wood at the sight of a police car or motorcycle, but, again, that has more to do with anticipation of the driver within.)

The funniest thing about the SuperTruck is the very notion of the Man of Steel behind the wheel. If you can fly (or, for that matter, spin a web), what the hell do you need this thing for? I know, I know: helping Lois move. Again.

Any super-mobile sightings of your own? Post 'em here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lycra Lovers Alert

If you're anything like me (and the fact that you've found this blog suggests we have a fetish or two in common), then you just may have a taste for tight-fitting superhero-style clothing (even if you don't quite have the body for it). For my money, UnderArmour is the second skin of choice--and if that sounds like the beginning of a commercial, read on.

One of the things I like about UA, beyond the obvious, is the fact their logos tend to be in places where they can easily be covered up with a cape or cowl. Wearing branded apparel, as they call it, on the field of battle reminds me a bit too much of that running gag in the movie Mystery Men about the costumed crimefighters suited up with more logos than Nascar drivers. True, the Nike swoosh does looks like it would suit some superpowered fellow quite nicely, and I've convinced myself that the UA logo over the right breast of my red tunic is a modified Robin "R," but it's all a bit unseemly.

The biggest problem with UA's stuff is how ludicrously expensive the best of it is. I can't justify paying $60 for a clingy, stretchy top I would never ever wear outside the privacy of my own batcave. (Okay, I confess I have dropped that much, or nearly that much, for an item or two, but I don't feel good about it.) And years of research have taught me that end-of-season clearance sales are hard to come by. They don't seem to phase out one line for another one and pass the savings along to the consumer, unfortunately.

That's why I was surprised and delighted to find that my local T. J. Maxx currently has a healthy stock of UA tops and tights at the moment. I don't know if individual stores tend to carry the same items at the same time or not, but I suspect they do, and it's worth a stop-by to find out. (Obligatory non-adlike comment: the stores are frequently a mess, with clothes strewn all over the place or on the wrong rack, etc.) I feel a bit like Tammy Faye plugging the Maxx, but I wouldn't want you to miss out.

On the other hand, this does leave bitchy supervillains with a new dis: "Where'd ya get your outfit, Captain Amazing? T. J. Maxx?" On the other other hand, it strikes me that "T. J. Maxx" could be the name of one of those short-lived comics that you always find in the clearance bins. "We can't let the Price Gouger get away with this--to the cash register, Checkout Girl!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Knightfall 21: Here we go again

The long gap between updates on the Monk saga does not mean, sadly, that he's out of my life. Would that that were true! No, just because the Joker doesn't show up in every issue of Detective, it doesn't mean he's not still out there, plotting his next nefarious move.

The Monk's most recent move in our ongoing saga has been to sit and wait for me to come calling--and I've done so, I'm appalled to admit, more and more often in recent weeks. I've realized that the main "drug" in his arsenal is adrenaline: I get one charge when I venture out into his presence, and a second, larger one when he contacts me. I invariably come back to my senses after a few seconds of repartee, but each time I risk recapture... and each time it seems to get harder to make my exit before it's too late.

Obviously, there's a big part of me that wants to be caught (you can guess which literal body part I'm referring to). There's something extremely seductive for me about the chain of events that leads from initial failure to imprisonment to helplessness to utter submission. I've already lived through that cycle once with the Monk, and I can't deny that it evoked some powerful sensations for me.

In the process, by the way, I came into contact with lots of other superheroes. Some sought me out through these entries-- and I'm still always delighted to meet fellow travellers that way, BTW--while others I met when M would assign me to help him break them. In almost every case, I discovered that they shared my appetite for destruction at the hands of an unbeatable adversary. Not always to the same degree as me--though some would happily go even farther than I ever did.

Many of these heroes wanted to be able to control the details of their downfall: to come and go from captivity as they pleased; to decorate their cells according to their own desires, as it were. And lord knows there are times when I long for one single afternoon of surrender to my nemesis, after which I could pack up my mask and cape and be on my way. But the deal is, it doesn't work that way: the Monk will be satisfied with nothing less than my complete and irreversible elimination from the ranks of herodom. He vowed, long ago, that he would own me "mind, body, and soul," and there is no time-share option in a proposition like that.

One of the tactics he uses, shared by other nefarious types, is the gentle approach: to encourge me to relax, let my defenses go, and just surrender to the feeling of safety in his presence. Every time I hear this line (and I've employed it on numerous occasions in solo sessions), I want so badly to give in; I usually kick myself later for not doing so, foolish though it would be. But every time, something prevents me from letting go. I stand my ground--even when I feel myself sinking into quicksand.

And that's where I stand right this very minute: aware that I'm in danger of sinking, but not quite over my head just yet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 4 (The punisher)

Listening to this NPR program devoted to the life of Simon Wiesenthal, I couldn't help thinking of this legendary man as a real-life superhero.

Lord knows he's got the right back story: an unspeakable tragedy early on (including death of relatives) compels him to devote the remainder of his life to tracking down criminals and bringing them to justice, a somewhat controversial task he performs tirelessly, sacrificing any and all creature comforts, for decades. He generally works with the police, and always on the same side as them, but sometimes their negligence forces him to resort to other means. He's even got a nifty superhero moniker: "The Deputy."

With his story in mind, I get on an even deeper level the point made in Cavalier and Clay and several recent nonfiction histories of comic books, about the close ties between the Holocaust and the origins of the superhero genre. Many of these books, as we know, were the creations of Jewish immigrants.

They fought their battles in the realm of imagination. Wiesenthal fought his in the daylight world.

Me, I'm thankful to both for making my own life a better one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 3 (The real and the fantastic)

The Hub and I finally made it to Fantastic Four tonight. Both of us were mighty glad we waited till it was at the cheap joint. As H said, "The only good thing about that movie was the costumes." And, yes, it was mighty refreshing to see spandex-clad superheroes actually clad in spandex, or something resembling it (though I also enjoyed the shots of bare-chested Michael Chiklis and Chris Evans).

But this isn't really a post about the movie; it's really a post about what was on the TV in the Mexican restaurant where we ate before the movie: an episode of America's Most Wanted about the "Erie Collar Bomber" who snapped an explosive device on a pizza delivery guy and ordered him to rob a bank, back in 2003. Amazingly enough, I don't recall hearing anything about the case at the time, though the Hub did. (Well, he is in law enforcement.) We couldn't make out most of the narrative over the Mexi-muzak in the restaurant, but we pieced together as much as possible, and then I looked up more online on the way to the movie.

Suffice to say that Fantastic Four could not possibly compete with the Pizza Bomber when it comes to mind-blowing adventure--spandex or no spandex. Turns out several people at the time of the crime in question (like this one and several of these) had the same thought I did: that this whole thing is straight out of a comic book. Joker? Riddler? Clock King? The Puzzler? Could be just about any of 'em...

For the record, the collar bomber/pizza bomber saga also reminds me of this almost equally bizarre (and equally comic-book-like) saga of an online gaming guy and the artists who essentially stalked him as an art project. Once again, an "innocent" bystander is plucked out of his daily routine and plunged into a surreal adventure involving false pretenses, clues, challenges, and the like--only this time the game is not a deadly one (and the "victim" lives to tell the tale in his own words, too).

I find both of these strange tales utterly fascinating, in much the same way that my own bat-adventures with the Monk and various other quasi-fictional but still-real characters blur the lines between fantasy and something more tangible. (Inevitable disclaimer: just as I don't want to end up the prey of a cannibal, I am not interested in tangling with actual master criminals, either.)

Could it be that, as real life feels more and more scripted and predictable, deviations from that script--deviations that resemble actual comic-book-movie scripts--are what keep us going?

Monday, September 19, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 2 (Heroes without tights)

At the risk of trivializing real-life tragedy, I've thought of a few ways that several characters in my "Beginnings" serial will be affected by the Katrina disaster. It's been one of my goals to incorporate real-time events in that story, and this seems like one I can't ignore. (Actually, I've been planning this for a couple of weeks--ever since I heard a real-life friend of mine talk about his plans to lend a hand--but I've been too busy in the daylight world to add any new chapters. Sorry about that. Promise I'll make up for lost time.)

But that's only fiction. In our real, daylight lives, it seems to me that each of us--make-believe heroes and villains alike--have a responsibility to do whatever we can to help our fellow citizens in need. That can take any number of forms, many of which have little to do with costumed crimefighting. I am thinking of not only the people heading down to the Gulf Coast to provide direct assistance, but individuals like...

These two otherwise hilarious gossip-crazed bloggers, who maintain a growing list of Katrina-related charities of all sizes that you may wish to support. It's the best-organized, most coherent, most appealing such list I've seen so far.

This ad-hoc group, holed up in a building with their own generator in downtown New Orleans since the hurricane hit and issuing regular reports, publishing photos and videos of things you probably haven't seen on TV, etc. The earliest entries are the most comic-book-like; I haven't quite pegged the political sentiment of these guys, but at the peak of the crisis they seemed to be functioning like a cross between Sgt. Rock/Blackhawk/GI Joe and some kind of vigilante/survivalist group. Much talk of command stations and patrols and such.

This woman, whose name happens to be Katrina, and who happened to own the "" domain before all the shit went down, who has subsequently turned her personal site into a clearinghouse for information since she's getting zillions of hits everyday anyway. (Though I gotta say, I just visited the site a few minutes ago for the first time in a week or so, and it appears she's gone pretty heavily into the god-and-country stuff lately. But hey--Wonder Woman's all about the red, white, and blue, too, right?)

These folks may not wear spandex (well, not that I know of, anyway), but they look like heroes to me, in a time that desperately needs us all to assume that role in our own idiosyncratic ways.

If you can think of any more examples, please add them in a comment!

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm getting TENSE just thinking about it...

Hooray for the new Google Blog Search, which reveals almost 232,000 blog entries containing the word "Batman." The first of these that caught my eye was this one, consisting largely of scans from a bat-book I'd never heard of: Joe Casey's 2003 two-parter, Tenses. I also found a review of it here. At first I thought it was some sort of fan-generated thing, since it's evidently got graphic violence, S/M references, and gay subtext up the, uh, yin-yang.

Wait, did I say "subtext"? One of the supporting characters is a nosy reporter who is clearly, unmistakably queer, and assumes Bruce Wayne is, too. (BTW, I would clearly, unmistakably want to have sex with the journalist if I encountered him in real life.)

In one of the bitchy queen's later encounters with Our Hero, the flirtation becomes overt, and Bruce doesn't exactly handle it too well.

Looks like textbook homophobia, if you ask me, Bruce--and if you do, I'll say this whole School-of-George-Sanders-style 'mo subplot reeks of something out of some 60s/70s crime film of the sort chronicled at length in The Celluloid Closet. But hey, I'm totally intrigued by what I've read about this book. Anybody out there read it and care to comment?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The imagination of disaster: 1

Like many of you, I spent most of last week glued to the tv and heart-rending websites like this one absorbing all I can about the catastrophe in New Orleans. That city will always occupy a special place in my heart, and everything feels even more (sur)real because for several years the Hub and I headed down there on Labor Day weekend for Southern Decadence. (BTW, you'll be intrigued to learn that the rain of destruction visited upon that poor city is actually God's punishment for Decadence, according to this fucked-up web page. On the bright side, it seems a dozen or so Quarter residents held the parade after all.)

Any time something globally awful happens (9/11, the tsunami disaster, etc.), it seems trivial, if not downright offensive, to continue talking about superheroes. On the other hand, I can't help finding comic-book parallels to real-life events as a way to comprehend the otherwise incomprehensible. Such events aren't really "unimaginable," given how vividly they have been imagined in horror and fantasy fiction for decades. Osama bin Laden is nothing if not a member of the Legion of Doom, and the horrors of New Orleans (flooding, looting, fires, mass casualties, the apparent neglect of the federal government) keep bringing me back to the earthquake that turned Gotham City into a lawless zone a couple of years back during that whole "No Man's Land" saga that I didn't really follow too closely.

In other words, fictional worlds give us ways to envision disasters in the real one. "It's just like a movie" has been the recurring response to both 9/11 and Katrina. I have more to say about this, but I'll save it for a future post.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"The natural shape of the bat man": Turning Japanese, I really think so...

Hey, if you know Japanese you might want to visit the four sites listed in this Animania Blog entry on "Batman Doujinshi". The entry itself is in English, and explains (in a slightly sketchy way) that there are evidently printed slash comics circulating around Japan which involve American characters in compromising situations.

The Animania blogger recommends writing the Japanese sites in English and asking for info. Or you can do what I did, and submit the URLs to a Babelfish translation. The only problem is, when I did, I ended up with ... babble, as these tantalizing quasi-random excerpts illustrate. (The first image goes with the first excerpt; the rest I just find interesting and/or sexy.)

(At last: proof positive that Batman is a Friend of Dorothy!)

1. It is the serious story "of BATMAN." You speak a word from SONIC of the author: "Square Crowe is present. Pursuing the suitable good quality which we is thought, it tried drawing. Please try reading by all means."
Notice: * Note! Sound comes out.*

Don't you hate it when the sound comes out? Okay, moving right along... Not sure what Spiderman is doing at Arkham Asylum, but here he is:

2. "The cameraman who knows the natural shape of the bat man Is, but the photograph does not become the article.As for the cameraman story the which keeps facing to the residence of blues in attaching" … "The extent where when the thinking to we BATMAN does not be plugged too much being plugged, it increases…"

3. It made with the purpose which introduces, you call generally known propagation or, it is the brainwashing book. - it is in the person who knows main part with the contents which are said (?) Being to be, it does, but by some chance, the where one by one interpretation bears difference so! Whether with there is new discovery! (It is not or......)
As for contents the character explanation which it is related to is main. If possible you tried the multitude to introduce however it is, introducing, () pulled out improbable delightfully cruelly. Don't you think? - , for example... is! ! However only the costume it comes out, you drew knight wing what which has love. In addition, you drew in one evening of impact, (the ear, time it was not truly and, the picture material becoming firm, you could not use and), it consists 4 scene cartoons and the like. "Return of the Joker" topic possession.

Ah, the Brainwashing Book. Always a fave. This next cover has a DC logo on it, so I'm guessing it might be something official, but something about it seems suspect to me:

Damn, I loves me a good babelfish!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bat-links, get your bat-links (and one Cap'n America)

These are all odds and ends I've found over the last few days during occasional breaks from unending immersion in the unending horrors currently unfolding in New Orleans (more on that in a later entry). They're all kinda random and kinda interconnected at the same time.

1. I found this extremely handy collection of reviews of Batman (and related) graphic novels, trade paperbacks, etc. while doing one of my characteristically kinky Google searches. (I forget the keywords in question this time, but seeing what emerges from combinations like "Batman+bondage+deathtrap" has long been one of my favorite uses of the world's greatest search engine.) There's nothing even remotely R-rated about this particular page, it just looks like a potentially valuable tool for sorting through the vast array of bat-books on the shelves these days.

2. The same Google search, whatever it was, also yielded this exhaustive Wikipedia entry on slash and fan fiction which should be of interest and use to all who share my close and personal connection to certain masked manhunters.

3. Speaking of which, the world always has room for another Seduction of the Innocent joke...

4.and for another gender-transgressive kid-related Batman reference in another indie comic. A Beaucoup Kevin find. Merci beaucoup, Kevin, indeed!

5. Shifting from sex to politics, here's an interesting collection of links to several reviews and think-pieces arguing that Batman Begins (and/or the title character) has an essentially conservative agenda. (BTW, a neighbor I had a crush on during the Dark Knight Returns era was on the cutting edge of this Batman-as-right-winger notion; as he saw it, the bat mythos glorifies the fabulously wealthy individual who vows to rid his city of crime. I hate to read it that way myself, but then as we know, I do have a soft spot in my heart--or a hard spot somewhere else--for sexy Republican dudes, even though, like Claire Fisher, I detest their politics.)

6. Perhaps I will remember to devote more attention to this one in that upcoming New Orleans post, but in case I forget or it doesn't fit, here's another fruit of that same Google expedition: a student term paper on Batman and postmodernism.The bulk of the essay is a fairly detailed history of the character as he has evolved over time and across genres. The postmodern part is iffy in the way most student term papers tend to be when juxtaposing fun pop culture and dreary critical theory, but I also found a lot of eye-opening stuff I may quote in future entries on various bat-subjects.

Finally, as promised, the non-Bat-related link:
7. I also have Beaucoup Kevin to thank for my discovery of this cartoon that proposes a government-sponsored Captain America clone used to create low-budget patriotic cartoons in the Vietnam era. If you liked Team America as much as I did, you'll dig this, too.