Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Playing catch-up

Some bat-odds and bat-ends I've been stockpiling for a while:

1. Welcome to the Dollhouse, a blog--or perhaps a semi-random collection of stray bits--that covers a variety of subjects, including funny books. Good writing, nice beefcake sketches. Of particular interest to you, I'm guessing, is the multi-part "ComicArt Chest Fest,' a celebration of semi-naked fictional characters baring flesh. Me, I happen to find this sketch incredibly enticing:

2. On Scans Daily, "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker," featuring one of the all-time hottest deathtraps in comics, presented in its entirety. Behold its awesome cover!

3. Finally, a fun little Spanish-language music video I stumbled upon (though not via StumbleUpon) :

I've got more stuff for ya, but I'm falling asleep in my chair at the moment, so this will have to do for now. Stay tuned, boys and girls.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The horror! The horror!

I come late to the web phenom which is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog--my first exposure came not through any viral campaign or bloggery but this "oral history" of the project in Entertainment Weekly and this interview with Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, on Fresh Air. And yesterday I finally tracked the thing down and watched all 45 delightful minutes.

I've never gotten the whole Joss Whedon cult--I'm sure he's very clever, but the concepts behind Buffy and Firefly didn't do much for me. Now, you do a musical about a budding supervillain's quest for acceptance by his peers (one of whom is a horse, another a Thomas Jefferson impersonator) and I am there. (Is it possible I have never written about my affection for The Tick here?) No lycra, sadly (the low-rent outfits are fetish-free for me, aside from Captain Hammer's studly leather gauntlets), but the songs are catchy and the cast--particularly Harris--is a joy to watch.

I particularly enjoy Whedon's reversal of the good guy/bad guy dynamic; you totally root for Dr. Horrible, while ostensible hero Captain Hammer is an arrogant, self-obsessed bully. (I never got around to seeing Hancock, since the reviews were all so mediocre, but Hammer seems like a variation on the same basic concept.) Perhaps it's the musical-comedy aspect of the project that made the connection in my mind, but I couldn't help thinking of Broadway's Wicked, in which all the "good" folks in Oz are exposed as bubbleheads (or worse--far worse) and the "evildoers" are tragically misunderstood. (War on terror, anyone?) The fact that moral ambiguity can still do well at the box office bodes well in the era of you're-either-with-us-or-you're-with-the-terrorists.

PS. All the press suggests that your chance to watch for free is done and that you must now purchase the thing via iTunes (or wait for the promised DVD), but that's not true as of yesterday. Look, it's right here!

Friday, August 22, 2008

High and dry

I often think of the Olympics as high holy days for lycra fetishists, but sadly--after gawking at that mind-blowing opening ceremony (which was both dazzling and the purest expression of a fascist aesthetic I've ever witnessed)--I've paid little or no attention to the actual games. I'm not much for sports in general, beyond the outfits. And frankly, every single time I've tuned in to try and catch some men-in-lycra action, I've ended up with women's beach volleyball, which is so not my game on so many levels.

This is disappointing, because I kept hearing about the amazing new swimsuits--the ones detractors compare to steroids as an unfair supplement to the human body--and wanted to see them in action. (Let me repeat: I have no particular interest in the sport of swimming; I only wanted to see men wearing skin-tight, full-body lycra. That's all I ask.) In my attempt to find visuals to accompany this post, though, I did come across a truly funny Mo Rocca bit, featuring some guy named Phelps, maybe you've heard of 'im:

Meanwhile, if you ever needed any further evidence that we already live in a creepy sci-fi-movie future, behold this Italian promo for the "Aqualab" where kinkwear is developed and modeled:

Got between $290 and $550 to burn? Never mind overpriced leather fetish wear or simulated movie batsuits; just buy your own Olympic gold!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gay spies wanted

Stumbled across an interesting story in Time about the British secret service's new quest for out gay people to serve as spies this morning. I had no idea! Apparently the old reason for not wanting 'mos to serve their country (they were bad security risks because they led double lives and therefore could not be trusted) has been flipped on its ear (because they lead double lives, they have developed an excellent skillset for spying).

Nor had I ever heard anything about this before:

Until gay sex was decriminalized in 1967, Britain's gay community protected itself against potential prosecution by conducting conversations in a special argot, Polari, a mixture of Italian, Romany and London slang.

What's Polari for "You learn something new everyday?"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

OK, OK, I finally saw it...

The Hub and I celebrated his return to town tonight with a long-delayed trip to the movies (our first in weeks, maybe months) to see The Dark Knight. Kinda wish I hadn't waited so long, because all the glowing reviews from press and friends alike had my expectations way up, and thus it came as a shock when I found it ...

*kinda slow, because it was
*really, really unnecessarily complicated, and thus
*WAY too long.

(Insert obligatory spoiler alert here, although I am keeping this all as vague as I possibly can, mainly because I couldn't follow 70% of it anyway.)

Throughout the film I kept getting seriously lost, thanks to jumps in time (wait a sec--I thought Character X was in Location A, but now he's on the other side of town and it's tomorrow, and now he's back where he was a second ago--I ... think), baffling plot turns (let's all go to Hong Kong for five minutes!), and--more than anything else--highly improbable, uh, coincidences. (Where exactly does Joker get the time and personnel, and money for that matter, to run all over town planting devices on boats, in skyscrapers, INSIDE PEOPLE, FER CHRISSAKES--devices whose single function is based on his flawless grasp of human nature? And let's not EVEN get into that whole hey-look-what-I-can-do-with-every-cellphone-in-Gotham-City business.)

I felt like it was a mix of a James Bond movie (the labyrinthine plot, the globetrotting, the gadgets, the discussion of the gadgets, the revelation of the new gadgets, the requisition forms for the new gadgets), a Die Hard movie (the endless sequences of people being held hostage in buildings or other public spaces that were about to be blown up), a Hannibal Lecter movie (does NO ONE ELSE feel a strong sense of deja vu during the Joker-in-a-cagelike-cell-conveniently-located-in-the-center-of-the-jail sequence?), and one of those police-corruption movies that Sidney Lumet specializes in. I have enjoyed each of these subgenres now and then, other than the police-corruption one, but they have little to do with what appeals to me about the Bat saga. I appreciate the fact that Nolan and company have taken that saga to previously unexplored places in their two films, and I am impressed by the way they've worked in things from the comics that haven't appeared in earlier movies or tv series, but those things only slightly interest me; they certainly don't excite me.

As for the much-ballyhooed Heath Ledger performance, I basically enjoyed it, but I'm not really sure I get what's so amazing about it. It is different from any previous interpretation, but that's not necessarily a plus in my book. I spent the first hour thinking: That voice he's using ... I recognize it from somewhere .... --but it wasn't until he became a more prominent player, oh, about FOUR HOURS IN, that it hit me: Dear lord, he's channelling Al Franken!

At various points I wondered: if this movie were my first exposure to the Batman character, would I have found his story anywhere near as significant as I do? I think I can pretty easily answer: no. I don't see any bat-blogs, bat-roleplay, bat-slash, or bat-anything else coming out of me if this were my sole, or primary, sense of the masked manhunter. It's a smart action film that hints at deeper moral issues in a post-9/11 world (though I'm not sure I get the point), and that's all nice, but no more so than, say, a Bourne movie. It's also, I'm tempted to say, the least erotic rendering of the Bat I've ever seen, and that's including SuperFriends and the current WB incarnation of Bruce Wayne as a 30something GQ subscriber.

On the bright side, I think it's a real testament to Bob Kane's creation that the character can assume so many radically different forms over so many years and still basically read as "the Batman." This version doesn't seem to fuck up anything too seriously. It's as much a product of--and representation of--the early 21st century as Kane's early comics were of the late 1930s, or the Adam West series was of the 1960s, or Denny O'Neill's comics were of the 1970s, or Burton's movies were of the late 1980s, and so on. There were plenty of little moments here and there that I enjoyed, and I'm very intrigued by the setup for the third film, which may well be the most radical rethinking of all.

Your thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The ecstasy of Saint Adam

A quick tip o' the cowl to my new buddy Daredevil for tipping me off to Helpless Heroes, a Japanese site devoted to images of the Bat, Spider-Man, Ultraman, and miscellaneous other tights-clad crimefighters in various states of distress.

I don't know the language, but I get the basic idea, and I particularly appreciate this recent collection of stills of an open-mouthed Adam West, which for some reason takes me back to my grad school days and an essay by Jacques Lacan about the true nature of the, wink wink, nudge nudge, "ecstasy" of St. Theresa. Even if you're not particularly versed in French post-modern psychoanalysis, I have a feeling you'll get the idea from just two images:

Open wide and say, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Superhero or Sidekick: Which one are you?"

Needless to say, that teaser on the cover of the Hub's copy of the August Instinct caught my eye, so I had to turn to page 56 right away. I'm not a particularly big fan of the magazine (and there goes my shot at a plug in its pages!)--the models, Photoshopped pictures of which constitute the bulk of the "content," are almost all twinks, the articles are generally glib if not mindless, and would it kill them to hire a proofreader? Even so, I was hooked, and it seemed a good sign that the story was written by a psychologist rather than a staff writer.

The page-and-a-half article itself is basically a Reader's Digest-style paraphrase of Dr. Keith Swain's theory (expressed at greater length in his book Dynamic Duos: The Alpha/Beta Key to Unlocking Success in Gay Relationships) that long-lasting gay couples tend to unite alpha males with beta counterparts. One tends to lead, the other to follow; one takes care of the finances, the other nurtures the emotional bond ... not unlike an idealized 1950s style heterosexual marriage, in fact.

It's hard not to chuckle when Swain begins a sentence, "If we think about this idea on a gut level, it makes sense, like Batman and Robin seem natural" -- one can hear old Doc Wertham spinning in his grave -- but he continues "If we put Superman with Captain America, less so." And it's true, I have never been that interested in the whole Clash of the Titans dynamic, often seen in comic book crossovers, like the one pitting Batman against Captain America or the Punisher. Even the banter and clashing egos among Justice League members (and all other superhero teamups) bores me.

For Swain, this comic book metaphor has its parallels in other "variations in masculinity among gay men--we have even developed our own terminology for this: daddy and son, bear and cub, even, to a degree, top and bottom." To a degree?! That last one seems to me the ultimate example of the dynamic, taken almost to the point of parody.

A natural-born skeptic, I don't want to buy into the theory, or any formulaic approach to human behavior for that matter, but Swain's premise does seem to make sense--not as a surefire recipe for happiness or "key to success," but at least as a potentially useful way to deal with male/male interactions. (Butch/femme archetypes aside, I don't see this operating as blatantly in lesbian relationships, nor does Swain bring up women in the article, but then maybe an actual biological female might want to weigh in here. You reading, Teresa?)

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that, taking the 5-obvious-question quiz in the sidebar ("A or B ... Or Somewhere In Between?: Test Your Inner Superhero!"), I was a 5-for-5 Sidekick and the Hub is a 5-for-5 Superhero. Well, maybe not 5-for-5: a true Sidekick, I suppose, I took the test for him, and thus I don't know for sure whether his second and fourth fingers are the same size or not. That question was kinda wacky anyway, given the others, which were easier to guess the "correct" answers to. ("Which is more attractive to you, a man with a rugged, masculine face or one with a fresh, youthful face?" Well, duh! But hey, I know my answer and I'm stickin' to it.)

The reason that's embarrassing is that I prefer to think of myself, in bat-land, as a lone Batman, with no sidekick myself and no use for one, and 90% of my roleplay adventures pit me against a villain, mano a mano, and it's a bit of a blow to my ego to be revealed as the underdog. I have no interest in playing Robin to someone else's Bat. That said, I should point out:

1. When the '66 tv series was first airing and subtly creating the pervert that I am today, I totally identified as the Boy Wonder. I was 6 and my older brother, 10 years my senior, was clearly Batman. (More on that relationship--one of the most important in my life--in future posts, the kind I keep meaning to write here but have never quite gotten around to.)

2. There is a Robin in my own personal mythology (or rather was, for years ago he hung up the yellow cape in a favor of his own batsuit). Ironically enough, while I was working on this entry we had a bit of a scene together, during which he totally topped me for the first time. Didn't see that coming, but totally enjoyed it--way more exciting to me than the standard mentor/mentee dynamic, though Doc Freud might point out that this latest twist is entirely within that "standard."

No matter what, real life, even real fantasy-life, is a lot more complicated, and therefore more interesting, than any theory. But bring capes and cowls into your theory and I'm bound to pay attention.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


A bat-friend of mine tells me he's custom-ordering a cape from this costume maker. He sends the photo above as a rough example of what he's getting. Out of my price range at the moment, mind you, but it looks great. As does the model!