Monthly Archives: October 2006

Influence of Animal Man on Infinite Crisis

As referenced in my comment on the previous post, here is the relevant page where Buddy Baker sees the cave drawings and realizes “a second crisis is coming”:

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Animal Man #18, December 1989, page 18

Of course it was drawn vaguely enough that it could represent anything (I think Zero Hour used to be theorized as the future crisis it must have predicted), but now in light of Infinite Crisis I don’t see how the central figure cannot be interpreted as Alex Luthor. And those must be a couple of Flahes with Mercury helmets in that upper pictogram.

Then, of course, the moment when Buddy sees us (in Earth-Prime land?):

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Animal Man #19, January 1990, page 11

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I.C. You

As a supplement of sorts to my previous post on the possibility that Earth-Prime will (re)emerge as a (if not the) primary parallel world in the post-IC universe, here is the scene from Infinite Crisis #6 (page 29 in the original issue, page 203 in the hardcover) in which Alex Luthor is searching for Earth-Prime among the newly reconstituted worlds.

I don’t have a scanner so I had to take this with a digital camera, but before he reaches out to the reader, breaking the fourth wall, Alex is saying to himself:

Earth-Prime…

…where are…?

YOU.

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If anybody has a proper scan of this I’d appreciate it.

Earth-Two is dead, long live New Earth-Prime

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Superman #411, September 1985, “The Last Earth-Prime Story”

. . . or is it?

As a nearly confirmed waiter-for-the-trade (Morrison’s Batman and Dini’s Detective being the only titles I can’t wait for) Jim Roeg makes me almost wish I was experiencing 52 in the weekly installments 52-24-small.JPGof its titular premise. His description of issue #24 makes my mouth water at the prospect that DC has promised not to collect the series until all 52 issues have shipped:

Holy collapsing boundaries, Batman. The texture of allusion and metafictional reference in the best series of 2006 reaches a new level in this issue. There seem to be at least three categories of allusion at play here:

(1) allusions to contemporary popular culture (Taylor Hicks, Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow); (2) allusions to Marvel-related comics events and characters (“Just Imagine” [Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe], “Justice is served,” J’onn says, recalling Scourge’s tag-line, a fourth-wall busting Ambush-Bug whose sound effects and costume changes recall those of the Impossible Man—the metafictional Marvel greenie); and (3) allusions to significant DC writers (Elliott S! Maggin, Julius Schwartz).

What does it all add up to? No idea, but it’s fun to guess, and I love Ambush Bug’s “This shirt’s a clue” clue. If, indeed, we are to take this metafictional “clue” at face value, then perhaps all the boundary breaks between our world and the DCU in this issue are indicators that the nature of the new DCU is precisely metafictionality.

Could it be that Morrison’s teased “sentient universe” idea will involve a kind of bringing of the very process of making comics into DC continuity itself, albeit in a somewhat displaced or veiled form? This wouldn’t be a new idea (Marvel was notably playful about this in the 1970s), but certainly integrating it into the very fabric of the continuity as a kind of causal agency would be a daring move (this seems to be the implication of integrating the title of a weekly comic that refers to its publication schedule into some mystery that involves the “Guardians of the Universe”).

More generally, the increased merging of our universe with the DCU in the pages of 52 (a merging that is inherent in the very weekly “real time” concept) helps to account for some of the allusions to Marvel as well, a company that has always emphasized the parallels between its universe and our own. Interesting too that Julius Schwartz was the inventor of the parallel universes concept—is the notion of “parallel universes” being redefined here so that the Universes in question are not Earth 1 and Earth 2, but literally our earth and the new DCU’s?

flash179may68.JPGAfter finally reading Infinite Crisis this weekend I was struck by the fact that Earth-Prime has not existed since 1985, yet was originally supposed to respresent “our” earth, that is, the universe we the readers (and writers, artists, and publishers of comics) inhabit. Since Earth-Prime was invented as the place where DC editor Julie Schwartz lived (Flash #179, May 1968), how could it have been allowed to be destroyed in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths?

My recent reading of Infinite Crisis also confirmed my initial speculation (originally expressed as a comment on Double Articulation in fact) that Superboy Prime and Alex Luthor represent the readers and editors, respectively (if one had to distinguish between them), of DC Comics. Rather than repeat myself I’ll just quote myself from May 16th:

The way Prime sees things in Alex’s heaven is as disjointed scenes replayed simultaneously and endlessly, just like you and I can re-read the same comic books over and over, and also experience different points in the DCU timeline simultaneously. So appropriately it is Superboy, like us generally and the editors in particular, who changes continuity with his punches of frustration.

Furthermore, even though Kal-L has not been active in the DCU for 20 years, it is Superboy Prime who, like us, has continued to live with the Golden Age Superman in his/our consciousness (if not conscience). Finally, I think the most interesting feature on this reading is that Superboy is [i.e., we are] the ultimate, acknowledged villain of the piece. Perhaps a Morrisonian influence?

Still, my theory isn’t airtight yet; for example, who would Alex be? His Machiavellian control over the events in Villains United, OMAC, Day of V., and Rann-Thanagar to create the conditions necessary for his scheme (revealed in IC #4?) naturally resembles the macro-editorial process in the DC offices to set up the event of IC itself, through those very miniseries. Their deus ex machina activities are unavoidably correlative. Alex is also the true editor (in the practical not executive sense, like a copy editor or film editor) who picks and chooses the bits he likes and pastes them together.

. . . Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say that Superboy is only us readers, while Alex is the DC editors who are on our side, trying to fix what we ask them to, but who just screw everything up in the end.

What’s more, Alex Luthor’s machinations turned out to extend beyond the initial publication of Infinite Crisis and also influence its collection in a single volume, which revised its own immediate history by inserting new pages and replacing others.

flash228.JPGIn any case, my interpretation seems to have some pre-Infinite Crisis textual support as well, as noted by Kelson Vibber a couple months ago:

Flash #228 (1974), “How I Saved the Flash,” featured writer Cary Bates traveling to Earth-1 and meeting the Flash. Up until this point, the conceit had been that on Earth-Prime, comic writers would dream about super-heroes’ adventures on Earth-1, just as Earth-1’s writers would dream about heroes on Earth-2. In this story, the connection went the other way, too: Earth-Prime’s Cary Bates was able to influence events on Earth-1 by sheer force of will, which he called “plotting power.”

Now, Infinite Crisis Secret Files (2006) revealed that many of the seemingly random changes in DC continuity over the last 10–20 years were caused by Superboy-Prime trying to escape from limbo. Every time he punched the barrier separating them from the DCU, something would change. The Doom Patrol would appear out of nowhere, Donna Troy would get another origin, Jason Todd would come back to life, Lex Luthor would have grown up in Smallville, etc.

Notice, though: Superboy-Prime and Cary Bates-Prime are from the same universe, and both were able to alter reality in the mainstream DC universe.

To answer Jim’s last question — “is the notion of “parallel universes” being redefined here so that the Universes in question are not Earth 1 and Earth 2, but literally our earth and the new DCU’s?” — might our earth, a new E-Prime, be the mysterious place the Earth-Two Superman, Lois Lane, and Wonder Woman are apparently whisked off to in Infinite Crisis, as reinforced by the dialogue revisions in the Hardcover Edition?

It would keep them truly “dead” while simultaneously granting them an afterlife of the sort described by Grant Morrison when his characters discover their fictional status in Animal Man: “We can never die. We outlive our creators. We outlive our gods! . . . Every time someone reads our stories, we live again!”

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Animal Man #24, June 1990, page 18

The Underworld, Otherworld, Faerielond, and Underland

The Unbridled Warhorse poses a query about The Silver Chair:

Scrubb, Pole, and Puddleglum fall down to the Underworld.

I’ve been struck this go around about the obvious parallels to Hades. It isn’t meant to be a hell I don’t think because the creatures there aren’t damned. There are certainly death-like themes though. The conflation seems not straightforward, but the construction is too obviously classical don’t you think?

The classical underworld, for example in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as told in Virgil (Georgics IV.456 ff.), Ovid (Metamorphoses X.1-85), and even Boethius (Consolatio Philosophiae III, met. xii.49-58) evolves into a mere otherworld in the Middle English poem Sir Orfeo. Rather than subterranean, it is more of a “parallel” world of fairy, and rather than containing shades it is inhabitted by people that seem dead, but aren’t (“thought dede, and nare nought”). This in turn seems to become the “faerielond” of Spenser.

So while the Underland of The Silver Chair resembles Hades geographically, its non-ghost inhabitants suggest an “otherworld” rather than an infernal parallel. But its derivation from Orfeo is clinched, I think, by the fact that Prince Rilian’s mother is killed while taking a daytime nap under a tree, and Rilian himself is later kidnapped from the same location. Similarly in Sir Orfeo, Queen Heurodis is abducted by the Fairy King while she is taking a nap under a tree at midday, an event Lewis merely distributes between queen and prince. Yet Lewis also associates his version with the original myth in that his queen is, like Eurydice, killed by a serpent.

So Narnia’s Underland is related to the classical underworld, I think, largely because Orfeo‘s fairy world is an analogue of the underworld. The Earthmen enslaved in Underland, however, seem more like dwarves, and they come from an even lower world which is very hot and inhabited by fire salamanders and stuff, more like the Norse Muspellheim I suppose. So Lewis’ geography, like the rest of Narnia, is an eclectic amalgam: concentric like the Inferno, but filled with living creatures proper to each realm rather than fit only for the afterlife.

Incidentially, the theme of abduction to an otherworld had been previously attempted in The Dark Tower, Lewis’ abandoned sequel to Out of the Silent Planet, in which (according to editor Hooper’s speculation, pp. 97-98) the girlfriend of Scudamour had been switched with her doppleganger from Othertime. Also according to Hooper, the girlfriend’s surname was originally Ammeret, as in Sir Scudamore and Amoret, who is kidnapped in Book III of the Faerie Queene. The Dark Tower fragment itself ends (pp. 90-91) with Scudamour reading about an experiment in Othertime in which a child is exchanged between the timelines, a twist on the classic “changelings” of fairy stories.

In fact, Saint George himself — the Redcrosse knight — was a changeling, in an explosion of intertextuality that brings us back not only to Spenser but (etymologically) to Virgil’s Georgics, where we began:

From thence a Faerie thee vnweeting reft,
There as thou slepst in tender swadling band,
And her base Elfin brood there for thee left.
Such men do Chaungelings call, so chaungd by Faeries theft.

Thence she thee brought into this Faerie lond,
And in an heaped furrow did thee hyde,
Where thee a Ploughman all vnweeting fond,
As he his toylesome teme that way did guyde,
And brought thee vp in ploughmans state to byde,
Whereof Georgos he thee gaue to name;

Faerie Queene I. x. 65. 6 – 66. 6

Review of Reviews of Tideland

Ryan has drawn my attention to Tideland “getting pwned by the critics. Entertainment Weekly gave it an F! Are they way off-base?”

Now I’m glad I saw Tideland and wrote my review before seeing anyone else’s reaction because I probably would have second-guessed my gut instinct and wondered if I was pretending to “get it” just to seem enlightened.

However, reading a few of the actual reviews (not just their pull-quotes) reassures me that I didn’t have a fluke experience, and none encourage me to revise my opinion.

Some reviewers are clearly insane, complaining that the adults in the movie (i.e., everyone except the POV character) don’t give realistic performances. To such a person I suppose there is nothing you can say.

However, I came across a telling detail — common to both negative and positive reviews — that I think explains the general critical consensus:

Indeed, the Toronto audience with which I saw Tideland last year responded as though being water-boarded—a 15-minute immersion had people gasping for the exits, recapitulating the movie’s plot by leaving poor Jodelle to her own devices.
Hoberman at the Village Voice (a very negative review)

Childhood innocence and its inevitable corruption are major themes here, and scenes that imply a sexualised relationship between Dickens and Jeliza-Rose provoked a critical storm at Tideland’s Toronto premiere.
David Mattin at the BBC (a very positive review)

So it sounds like most of the critics adopted a herd mentality after seeing the reaction at Toronto and are probably just afraid not to pan a movie that “everyone” seemed to hate.

If critics for newspapers see their job as reporting whether or not they think general audiences will enjoy a movie, then the 21% tomatometer (6 fresh out of 28 reviews as of this date) is probably fair . But if their job is actually to be proper “critics” then I think their reviews reflect a failure of their suspension of disbelief, in particular an unwillingness if not inability to consent to the child’s (and therefore the film’s) point of view.

Admittedly Tideland had some disquieting moments, but I still think the movie managed to transcend their incipient darkness through the pure innocence of the lead actress.

There’s at least one review which, though almost counterproductively unrestrained and rambling, also sees in the movie what I did. Though his phrasing is unclear where it counts in the first sentence, I think what he’s trying to say is correct:

Mr. Gilliam is one of the few creative forces working in an almost entirely non-creative industry… who acknowledges that to candy-coat a childhood is to profane it, and also that to render a child a martyr for adult causes is to sully a psyche that doesn’t even know yet how to get dirty. This problematic representation presents one tough rope to walk, but Gilliam and his crew here practically dance along it, deftly detailing the glorious and creepy stuff of which dreams are made.
Gregory at UberCine

As for filmmaker endorsements, supposedly Cronenberg loves Tideland.

However, I doubt Ebert would like Tideland since he hated Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, though I would consider Tideland actually less “exploitative.”

Kneel before the limey

This is a public thank-you to Nate Bell.

Three months ago he sent me a DVD of his latest film, which I enjoyed immensely and we chatted about. But it was not till tonight that I looked in the envelope again and discovered that he also included a photograph of General Zod from The Limey!

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If you haven’t seen the 1999 film, Steven Soderbergh takes the basic plot, pale palette, and remorseless protagonist of the definitive British noir Get Carter and sticks them on an airplane back to the original noir locale, Los Angeles and its sordid Hollywood underbelly.

So I guess the photograph, insofar as it is an icon of the movie, is actually Nate’s subliminal request that I quit my sojourn and return to my birthplace and true home. And considering the choice of image it looks more like a desperate gay threat than a request.

But, whether ominous promise or innocuous wishful thinking, after thinking about the movie for the first time since I originally saw it on VHS (dude!), it would be good to revisit it now that I’ve seen most of the classics of the genre. Thanks for the photo, Nate!

For British Eyes Only

This post is just to announce that Arrested Development is the funniest show I’ve ever seen in my life (and I’ve seen a lot of funny TV). Last night I saw the 5th and 6th episodes of the third season and I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

I only happened to see the show for the first time two weeks ago because BBC2 started airing double-bills of Season 3 after the new series of Extras on Sunday night, but ever since then it’s been the highlight of my week (and not just because Charlize Theron has been guest starring).

I can’t believe it escaped me for so long but I’m a fan4life now. Guess I’ll have to get the first two seasons on DVD. I can’t imagine them being funnier though. I’m still laughing outloud in the library just remembering David Cross as the mole and George Michael as Astroboy.

Intentional Crisis: Original vs. Final

The hardcover edition of Infinite Crisis — originally published in seven periodic issues — presents an intriguing case of textual revision. For some purists it might seem a half-hearted attempt at gap-filling (to be charitable) or sales-boosting (to be cynical) that, if not misrepresents the series’ original state (after all, DC advertised the hardcover’s additions), then perhaps betrays the integrity of its first intended presentation. But I find such a revised edition utterly in keeping with the essence of Infinite Crisis. Why shouldn’t the text’s history of production match its narrative of historical revisionism?

infinitecrisis06prelimcrop.JPGThe first thing that stands out on casual perusal is that the colors on every page are both deep and vivid. This is a beautiful book that I think will prove a satisfying read, especially after last month’s softcover edition of Identity Crisis that I waited two long years to read. In the end, my disappointment with the styles of both Metzler’s writing and Morales’ art wound up justifying my holding out for the paperback instead of being tricked into the hardcover of Identity Crisis twelve months ago.

The Infinite Crisis hardcover, by contrast, looks every bit the worthwhile investment and it will be good to read it in such a format only six months after its conclusion. This edition itself concludes with a couple pages of Jim Lee’s cover sketches and a 12-page interview with Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Eddie Berganza, and Jeanine Schaefer.

One of the nicest things about this single-volume edition is that there are no wasted pages, sometimes required in other collections to align double-splashes onto facing pages. They must have made a concerted effort to regulate advertisement placement in the pamphlet format so that there would be no interruptions when collected as here. [See the note on pages 226-27.] The contents of each issue are separated only by single pages, with the George Perez cover on the recto side and the Jim Lee cover on the verso in each case.

There are 242 pages of consecutive art (paginated 7 to 248 ) which I count as 14 covers, 222 pages of original story, and 6 new pages. Inspired by Collected Editions and using Wizard’s description to guide me, here is what I think are the additions to the hardcover edition of Infinite Crisis. Though I followed along with the basic plot every month I didn’t buy the individual issues (waiting for the trade!) so I don’t have the original text for comparison, but using my memory and common sense I think I can identify the seams of the retailored version.

Pages 140-41: Two-page spread by Phil Jimenez immediately following the first page of issue #5, showing 80 heroes gathered in the cathedral.

The last line of dialogue on page 139 is the Ragman saying to Mr. Terrific, “Wish I could say the same about mine.” Page 141 has a caption of an “off-camera” character saying “God works in mysterious ways”, presumably the voice of Zauriel who on the next page is speaking from the pulpit (bizarrely in the center in place of an altar). His dialogue on this page would be abrupt without the “mysterious ways” line so I don’t think it was added just to fill space on the new page. Because of the room at the top left of page 142 it would seem that the line originally went here, but there is a slightly uneven panel border at the bottom right of page 139 that I’m betting was a touch-up after the overlapping caption had been removed from here.

Page 223: Single recto page by Phil Jimenez following the twelfth page of issue #7.

The last word balloon on page 222 is Hal saying “Guy. It’s Jordan. We got a problem” and the first image of 224 is Batman “WHAMM”-ing Deathstroke’s head against the ground and pronouncing “it’s over”. The inserted page fills in what lead up to Deathstroke getting knocked out, with Batman, Nightwing, and Robin teaming up against him. The dialogue is:

Batman: You joined the Society of Villains. You killed Phantom Lady. You destroyed Bludhaven. Why DO it, Deathstroke?

Deathstroke: Because they’re PAYING me, Batman. [WHAKK]

Batman: No, it’s something else.

[BLAMM]

Batman: You’ve abandoned your code of honor.

[shhnggg]

Batman: WHY? [KRAKK]

Nightwing: Because his family abandoned him. He lost his sons. His daughter.

Deathstroke: Because of YOU. It’s always been because of YOU.

Robin: You need to take some responsibility, Slade. [THOKK]

Batman: We ALL do. [KRAKK]

Page 230: Single verso page by Phil Jimenez following the (originally) eighteenth page of issue #7.

I’m guessing this is the new page because it just doesn’t match the style of the pages surrounding it. The layout of four page-width panels is very foreign to the rest of the book, and the inking (as on page 223) makes Jimenez’ art seem mismatched with the rest of his own art.

The last panel of page 229 is of the two Supermen apparently grabbing Superboy Prime while shouting “For tomorrow!” while page 231 is back on earth beginning with Alex Luthor saying, “We’re not so different, Bruce”, and ending with Batman pointing a gun at him.

Inserted between these two pages is more of the battle in Metropolis, with the top forty percent of page 230 being a single large panel showing about sixteen characters fighting each other. In the next panel down Killer Croc says to his companions, Metallo and Mr. Freeze, “Look what we got here, Robin and Nightwing. Fresh meat”, but in the following panel, eight Teen Titans and the Flash send them tumbling like bowling pins as Beast Boy says “Not with the Titans around” and Flash adds, “Later, guys.”

In the final panel of the new page, Robin is kneeling beside Nightwing, asking, “Dr. Mid-Nite? Is Nightwing–?” to which the Doc replies, “He’ll be all right. I give you my word.” Considering that the very next page (originally 19) features a floating panel of Dick’s bloodied face in a giant pool of more blood, which was the last image of Nightwing shown in the story, it seems that Didio really did intend for Nightwing to die, and that the inserted page is an interpolated explanation for why such a bloody mugshot shouldn’t be interpreted as the corpse it was originally intended to be.

NOTE: I just noticed that pages 226-27 are a two-page spread from the first version (pages 15-16 in the original format) that would have required blank pages or spacers on either side if not for the new pages 223 and 230. Since there are also spreads on 212-13 and 216-17 that work as-is, it was the spread on 226-27 that had to be adjusted with spacers. So I think it’s safe to say it was a desire not to have wasted pages that prompted DC to propose adding two new pages of story.

UPDATE (8 Oct.): I could have just read the interview in the back of the book, in which Anton Kawasaki (Collected Editions Editor) explains:

We’re also adding two new pages to this issue [#7] to “fix” the awkward way the Green Lantern spread originally fell. Damn you periodicals people for not paying attention and making us poor Collected Editions guys work harder! But I’m actually really happy that we could include these pages, and even more happy that they’re not just “filler” and actually add something to the story.

So apparently pages 15-16 in the original issue were published on recto and verso sides of the same page instead of on facing pages to make the spread work. End of update.

But it’s kind of hard to advertise “addtional pages!” when it’s just two, so I think to make it seem worthwhile they decided to find a couple more places where they could squeeze in a couple of double-page splashes, and invite George Perez to do one of them. With a half dozen new pages then DC could feel justified in trying to sell the hardcover on this point. And since the first spread depicts a scene happening in the story, they could techincally count them as part of “four all-new story pages”. The final spread, however, just couldn’t be included with the “story pages” in good conscience:

Pages 246-47: Two-page spread by George Perez immediately before the final page of issue #7.

I can only estimate between 100 and 150 heroes on these pages. Though it is technically before the end of the story, it is more of a poster style image because every character has completely recovered (including Nightwing) and the large disembodied faces of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman hover in the top corners. Its abstractness is emphasized by the caption which is a “voice-over” lingering from Clark’s dialogue on the previous page.

The last line of dialogue on page 245 is Clark saying to Lois, “I’m sure we’ll figure out something. But until we’re back–” which is continued in a caption on Perez’s page 246 that reads “–I’d say things are in good hands.” With only the revised version in front of me it’s hard to tell whether this last fragment of dialogue was moved from a similar caption on the original issue’s ultimate page or a word balloon on its penultimate one, but it doesn’t look like there was room for it on the last page since the caption reading “Oa. The Center of the Universe” is in the top left corner.

So much for reverse engineering the text’s original state!

Then we will fight in the shade

Wow. I was skeptical about this but the trailer suggests that 300 might turn out to be better than both Sin City and Troy!

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