Wednesday, July 31, 2013


For the original cover to Strange Adventures#75 by Gil Kane & Bernard Sachs, click here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Death Be Not Proud..Of Your Bump In Sales

Ha! Ha! Ha! I, the great and powerful DAVE-EL, shall not be defeated! Here in my fortress that I have named inexplicably I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, I am invincible! I am woman! Wait, scratch that last part. I am INVINCI---

Egad! You're still alive? But HOW? I saw you fall into the volcano! Your robot double? Curse you! I'll get you next time for sure!

The cat and mouse games of life and death in the world of comic book super heroes...there's nothing quite like it in other fictions except for soap operas. The serialized nature of comic book story telling requires a heightened sense of suspense to keep us readers coming back for more and nothing works better to generate that excitement that the idea that the players in our dramas of gaudy costumes and incredible powers may well be in serious danger. Serious mortal danger!

But we know deep down that these colorful heroes and villains who strut and fret their 20 odd pages of adventure are not going to die. Cynically, we understand companies see these characters as assets to be leveraged which means when the Joker falls in the ice depths of Gotham River this month, he's sure to dry himself off and try another insane scheme another day.

Still creators dance close to the edge to bring some degree of doubt and uncertainty over the fate of our heroes and their foes, ratcheting up the suspense that maybe, just maybe, this could be serious? Maybe today, Batman's luck runs out or Dr. Doom has met his final, er, doom!

There are ways to have your death and avoid it too in comics.

The old "It wasn't what it looked like" scenario. It was a dummy, a decoy, a robot, an impostor who went to meet his or her maker.

Playing the classic "there was no body" card. Surely nothing could survive that nuclear explosion! Well, there's no body so all bets are off.

Employing the "it only seemed like he was dead" trick. You see, he only was in a death-like trance. (Conveniently, no one takes time to embalm and bury the poor bastard.)

But as these tricks and more were employed so frequently with a comic reading, genre savvy audience, these tricks have become less effective. The big "Oh no! ______ is dead!" fails to elicit the desired response with the reader when the first thought is, "Yeah, right."

So comics turned more frequently to the "daring" concept of actually killing somebody. Now one way to employ that strategy without severely limiting your story options is to pick the most obscure member of your cast. When Paul Levitz took over writing Legion of Super Heroes the first time, he had the daring idea of killing...go on, guess who....

Oh my God! They're gonna kill SUPERBOY?!

When I read this issue at the tender young age of none of your damn business, I was still quite naïve about a lot of things but not this one.

And guess what? Do I need to alert to spoilers. Hell no! If you've never read this issue and you're only vaguely aware of the Legion, you know this answer by just looking at that cover.

It's the dude on the left in the green suit. He's called Chemical King. He controls...chemicals and other...chemical related shit. It's not going to be the dudes in the back ("Death can't see us back here! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!") It's not going to be the only woman on the cover. (You might think otherwise given the mortality rate of women characters in comics. But this was the 1970's. Unless you were Gwen Stacy or Martha Wayne, you're probably OK.) And HELL to the NO, it's not Superboy. The dude left by elimination looks generic; the "C" on his belt may well stand for "Cannon Fodder".

But the thing is, ultimately, one of those guys DIED and has stayed dead. Sad but true, there was no outpouring of grief and the gnashing of teeth to demand the return of Cannon Fodder...excuse me, Chemical King

So this gives the writer an out: a chance to interject real drama, real threat into the proceedings with a truly deadly outcome without upsetting the status quo. (There were no scenes in later issues of Legion where someone said, "You know who would be really helpful here? Chemical King.")

If I hadn't know better, I would've almost thought CK was created just for the purpose of being killed. Although that too has occurred.

X-Men proved its bona fides as ALL NEW and ALL DIFFERENT by killing off a member of the new team on their 2nd mission. But really, who can't see Thunderbird's death coming...
(Wait, spoilers? Oh the hell with it!)

Who doesn't see Thunderbird's death coming a mile away? Notice whose face is NOT in that little round bubble thingy next to the X-Men logo. If you take the time to read the story inside, Thunderbird is only lacking the words "I'm going to die by the end of this issue" embroidered on the back of his costume. He was whiny and ill tempered and his power set was both redundant and unimpressive. He was created especially to be killed. The reader is thinking, "If Thunderbird isn't dead by the end of this issue, I'm going to crawl into this comic somehow and shoot the bastard myself."

But eventually exclaiming "One of these heroes WILL DIE!" loses its power when all you have to do is look at the cover and dope out who has the most generic outfit, the lamest power or hasn't been in many issues lately but is all of a sudden on the cover.

So it's time to pull out the big guns: ANYONE CAN DIE!

And in the mid-1980's, the standard was set for this approach with this comic book project: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Whole worlds were dying and the very landscape of the DC Universe was changing in new and different ways. But nothing really brought home just how serious this all was like these two issues. 

Crisis#7 saw the death of Supergirl who had heralded Superman's entry into the Silver Age. And in Crisis#8, we saw the end of the Flash who first appeared in Showcase#4 in the first shockwave that revived the dead or dying ideal of the comic book super hero. Both heroes to the end, valiantly giving their very lives so that others would live. This was as real as it could get, folks.

Of course, with the Flash, there was always a back door: there was no body. That Barry Allen stayed dead for as long as he did was extraordinary.

But it does pose quite the dilemma for a writer charged with bringing back a character who was last seen dying in a blaze of glory but was determined to be most sincerely dead?

That's where death in comics began to go wrong.

And this is where I'll pick up....later.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What the Hell Do I Do Now?


What the hell do I do now?

Well, you heard the man!
He doesn't care!
So I'm going to....

 Arm anteaters with machetes, boil cabbages in Ryan Seacrest's hot tub, crash my car into a bridge and I won't care, deliver pizzas to Chinese restaurants, eat my weight in Cinnamon Toast Crunch, fondle myself without my permission, gather curds (but not whey), have a wonderful Christmas time, incinerate all copies of "Having a Wonderful Christmas Time", joust with a pelican, mambo with Mariah Carey (or Drew Carey, I'm not picky), nibble on corn (or Drew Carey), pick a pair of pickled peppers, quarrel with Zachary Quinto, really try to not think about salamanders, salamanders (dammit!), think about salamanders anyway (I feel so dirty), underestimate the power of Pine Sol, vary my routine in order to elude the anteaters armed with machetes, wonder if the cabbages in Ryan Seacrest's hot tub are sufficient boiled, X-ray a set of X-Rays and see if I can go back in time so I can add whey to my curds after all, yodel at the jousting pelican and zip up this body bag before the cops pull me over.

I can do whatever the hell I want because that guy DOESN'T CARE!

Thank you!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Doctor Who: The Nemesis Who Stole Time-Part 3


Hello! It’s Saturday here at I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You and this means that I am either

a) engaged in various domestic activities involving housework, yard work and other such dull things or

b) engaged in various distracting activities NOT involving housework, yard work and other such dull things.

You know, like this blog.

So “B” it is!

Dave-El here and today we have another Doctor Who Saturday post…and on Saturday at that. A lot of times these blog posts are done on the fly as it were but the as I get deeper into this current project, the more I realize I need a bit more advance planning. So if I’m going to post a Doctor Who thing on Saturday, I need to start writing at least on Friday.

The current project is a work of fiction, a script for something I call The Nemesis Who Stole Time and it is a multi-Doctor adventure. 

Here is Part One.

Here is Part Two.

I noted last time a few “behind the scenes” tidbits so before we get on with part 3, allow me to share a few things:

1)    I know how this story ends. What I’ve not worked out in detail is how we get there. This is a writing exercise in which what you’re seeing…well, it is not a first draft, per se. I edit and reconfigure stuff but still, what I’m posting is the story in a form that I would describe as raw. The idea behind this exercise is to force myself to take this idea I’ve had kicking around in my head for a while now and put the damn thing in writing. I’ll worry about a script polish later. (Assuming I have not declared this a complete waste of time when I'm done.)


2)    It is not a multi-Doctor story where the Doctor interacts with himself. Yet. Yes, so far, we’ve seen this mysterious “reverse regeneration” where the 10th Doctor got to return to the spotlight and we’ll see some of that in part 3 with the 9th Doctor.  However, for those who love to see the Doctor interact with himself….and not get along with himself, that IS coming.


3)    You may think “Each installment ends with the Doctor regenerating backward to his previous incarnation”. Well, that is the pattern…so far. I want to make this interesting to myself and have the same plot beat occur at the end of the every installment would get a bit dull. This pattern will be shaken up as we move forward.


4)    This is not intended as any kind of comment on the actual plans for Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special. I trust Steven Moffat and I’m looking forward to the special this fall. (Even though my mind is bent into a pretzel over this John Hurt Is (and Is Not) The Doctor thing.) This is just a writing exercise to play around with some of the toys of Doctor Who’s 50 year history. I’m just having some fun here. (I will say though, I understand Steven’s misgivings about this sort of thing. All the moving parts of The Nemesis Who Stole Time are not easy to juggle.)

 And just one more reminder:

  • This takes place before The Name of the Doctor.


OK, enough of that for now. More background info in our next installment. Let’s get on with the story after this bit of legal business...


And this recap....

Previously in The Nemesis Who Stole Time:


A red laser blast cuts through the air and slams the 11th Doctor right in the chest.

The 11th Doctor looks down at his hand and it starts to glow. He looks at his other hand and it too is glowing.

11th Doctor: Clara, I believe in you, I-

Then his whole body bursts into light.

The regeneration glow is gone and there stands…the 10th Doctor

Clara: Doctor, what’s happened to the TARDIS?

10th Doctor: It’s…changed back? But how? That doesn’t…

10th Doctor: Someone has changed time and it’s cost the lives of two people I held very dear

Mickey Smith (angry): You’ve got some nerve coming back here. After what you did to Rose.

10th Doctor withdraws his sonic screw driver and exposes a Slitheen

Martha: Not sure why it was so important to break cover…for this…

Martha pulls out a piece of broken crystal.

The White Guardian: The Key to Time, Doctor. Once more it is needed.

Clara: This…is going to save the universe? 

White Guardian: Doctor, I’m sure you have heard of…The Great Negation.

11th Doctor: It’s a story.

White Guardian: It is a story that, as we speak, is being…told.

The 10th Doctor is shot by a Slitheen

The 10th Doctor begins regenerating.

Clara (pulling at Martha): Martha! We need to get back!

Martha: But the Doctor…

The 9th Doctor raises his head and proclaims: I KILLED ROSE TYLER! 

The Nemesis Who Stole Time

Part 3

Scene: In space. A planet.

The White Guardian (VO): The planet of the Zocci.

The scene shifts to the surface: The inhabitants of this world, small with bright red skin and spikes, go about their lives. The scene appears to be a kind of market center as the Zocci buy, sell, trade and barter. Then, 1 by 1, they look up with expressions of confusion, then horror. Shadows fall.


The White Guardian (VO): The people there going about their lives with no inkling that the end is coming. There is no warning. Just the darkening of the sky and the shadow that falls over all.


Scene back to the planet view as the world is eclipsed by shadow and then the surrounding stars are black out as well.

The White Guardian (VO): The home world of the Zocci, the first planet to fall. Then the first of the stars. And so the Great Negation begins.

Suddenly there is a flare of white as the scene shifts to the limbo realm of the White Guardian. The Guardian is manipulating an image with her hands of the scene we just witnessed. Standing with her is Clara Oswald.

The White Guardian: And it may not end until all of creation is consumed.

Clara: So what do we do?

The White Guardian: We take a desperate chance, Clara. Doctor?

The 11th Doctor walks into view.

11th Doctor: The good news is we have a plan.

Clara: I assume that is followed by “but there’s bad news”?

Doctor shifts to the 10th (voice going squeaky): Bad news? Noo! It’s all good news! OK, mostly good…you know what, no it’s mostly bad news.

Clara: But we have a plan.

Doctor shifts to the 9th: Which I don’t like. I have to trust in something I don’t believe in.

White Guardian: It’s our only chance, Doctor.

9th Doctor: And that’s the other thing: this chance is worse than slim.

Suddenly changes back to 11:

11th Doctor: On the whole,  I say this chance of this working is…well, let’s say we’re talking about serious negative numbers.

Again, Clara is looking at this constant shifting of the Doctor’s appearance with confusion. Again, the White Guardian gestures towards Clara to keep her silence.

Clara: So…so what do we do…Doctor? Nothing?

10th Doctor (bouncing a cube in his hand): Nah, we’re going with the impossible plan  I don’t like.

White Guardian: Good luck, Doctor!

9th Doctor (walking towards the TARDIS): Guardian, I don’t think there’s enough luck in all of time and space to do what we need to do. Come along, Rose.

9th Doctor stops.

Clara: Er. Doctor?

10th Doctor stands there a moment. Then he whispers: Rose.

Clara: Doctor, it’s me, Cla-

11th Doctor: Clara! Right. Sorry. Clara. Let’s go.

And the blinding white realm of the White Guardian fades to fog: dark, grey, gloomy fog.

Along the docks of Calisto B, a figure wrapped in shadows and a cloak moves furtively through the fog. Then another similarly obscured person approaches.

Man’s voice: Should’ve known I’d find you here too.

Woman’s voice: Of course! Where else would I be, sweetie?

Woman’s throws back the hood of her cloak. It’s River Song.

Man’s voice: Where ever there’s trouble, there’s River Song.

Man pulls back the hood of his cloak. It’s Jack Harkness.

River (smiling): Oh, like the great Jack Harkness doesn’t have the same reputation.

Jack(smiling):  Who, me? A reputation for trouble? I’m a lover, not a fighter.

River (purring): Ooh, I bet you are.

Jack (smirking): I bet you like to find out.

River: I bet you-

Third cloaked figure suddenly appears, female voice: Oh, for crying out loud, you two. Not now!

The hood is pulled back. It’s Martha Jones.

Martha: The Doctor needs our help.

River (serious): Most assuredly. The Doctor called for help…

Jack: And here we are!

Martha: Well, did you find….?

Jack: Yep, I did! (holds out a piece of broken crystal)

River: Same here. (does the same)

Martha: Ditto. OK, back to the TARDIS!

As the three walk away into the fog.

Jack: So I hear you’re quite the screamer.


River: Wouldn’t you like to know?

Martha: River! Aren't you married?

River: Am I? Spoilers, sweetie. Spoilers. 

Scene switch to the TARDIS interior. The 9th Doctor is sitting on one of the seats near the console; he’s rubbing his temples as his expression reveals tension and worry. Clara Oswald is sitting near him.

9th Doctor: This is not right, Clara. Once again, a key moment in my time has been….I don’t know…

Clara: Changed or altered?

9th Doctor: More like…stolen? The moment….

Flashback: the 9th Doctor confronting the Daleks.

9th Doctor (VO): I was alone facing an army of the Daleks. The fate of all humanity rested in the balance. Suddenly, my TARDIS appears and…and…

Back to the present:

9th Doctor to Clara: It was Rose Tyler. Oh, Rose

Flashback: various scenes of Rose Tyler with the 9th Doctor

9th Doctor (VO): A simple shop girl from London.  Yet so much, much more. She  joined me in my travels at a time…at a time….

Back to the present:

9th Doctor (head in his hands): Oh, Clara. I had lost so much. So much. Rose saved me.

Flashback: Rose glowing with energy as she steps from the TARDIS.

9th Doctor (VO): Rose was always saving me. She absorbed the energies of the Time Vortex. With a wave of her hand,, she defeated the Daleks. But the power…the power was going to destroy her unless I….

Back to the present:

9th Doctor: Clara, I think I know…..the moment, the moment I had to save Rose, to take the power out of her, to save her life….

Flashback: Rose Tyler flares brightly and vanishes.

9th Doctor (VO): that moment was stolen.

Back to the present:

9th Doctor stands up with a renewed determination.

9th Doctor: Key moments in time, Clara, are being stolen. Sacrifices I made have been taken and people are paying the price. And the paradoxes being created....there's no telling what the damage is to time itself.

Clara: But who’s doing this, Doctor? And why?

9th Doctor: I don’t know.

Clara: But it has something to do with the Great Negation, right? What the White Guardian warned us about.

9th Doctor (looking serious): Clara, we have no evidence to support that theory. (then smiles)  But yeah, it’s linked, it’s gotta be. And you know why?


Clara: Because you….

9th Doctor and Clara: Don’t believe in coincidence!

At that moment, Jack, River and Martha enter the TARDIS.

9th Doctor: Oh look. It’s Huey, Dewey & Louie.

Jack:  Hey, Doc, you may have grown back the old face but you’re still got some of that cheeky going on.

River (smiling sly): I like this look! Those ears give a girl something to hold on to! Grrrr!

9th Doctor: Down, River! Martha?

Martha: We found 3 more fragments of the Key to Time.

9th Doctor: Good! Did you three have a trouble?

River: Just a couple of guards. I charmed my way past them.

Jack: Same here.

Martha (looking at her futuristic gun, looking glum): I just shot mine.

The Doctor looks at Martha disapprovingly.

Martha: Hey, just stunned them, OK? What, I should seduce the bad guys like these two?

River: You should try it some time.

Jack: I could give you pointers.

9th Doctor: Jack!

Jack: Why do you always have a problem with me being friendly?

River: I don’t have a problem with it.

9th Doctor: River!

Clara: Hello! Can we have the fragments now?

The Doctor and Clara gather the fragments from Martha, River and Jack.  The Doctor places the fragments with the other others in a cube shaped container imbedded in the TARDIS console.  The fragments glow weakly.

Martha: So what happens now?

9th Doctor: The plan is that as the fragments are gathered, they begin to re-assert their power. Plugged in the TARDIS console, the coordinates immediately adapt  to bring us to the nearest location of the next piece. 

River: Doctor, that cube..

9th Doctor: Is a "hypercube”, yes.  Or an adaption of one.

Jack: A hypercube?

Clara: A Time Lord device. Designed to contain a record of a Time Lord’s thoughts and seek out other Time Lords for help.

The Doctor looks at Clara.

9th Doctor: I was going to say that.

Clara: Excuse me for paying attention.

River: So you’ve adapted it to contain and focus the essence of the broken piece of the Key to Time to seek out other pieces.

The Doctor looks a bit put out. He was going to say that too.

9th Doctor: Well. Yes. Fine.

Jack: Lucky break to find 3 of them on one planet. 

Clara: We’ll need every lucky break we can get.

9th Doctor: You can say that again.

Clara: We’ll need every lucky break we can get.

The Doctor looks at her disapprovingly while Clara has an embarrassed smile.

Clara: Uh, sorry?

Martha: Doctor, the TARDIS…

The TARDIS time rotor begins to move.

River: Looks like the TARDIS has found another match.

9th Doctor: Fantastic!

Martha nods to Clara and the two go to a corner of the TARDIS console room.

Clara: Yeah?

Martha: Just wanted to see if you’re OK?

Clara: Oh?

Martha: Before I began the whole “Alien Hunter” stuff with my husband, I was a doctor.

Clara: The Doctor and the Doctor, huh?

Martha: Sort of. So what’s your deal? What brought Clara Oswald aboard the TARDIS?

Clara: You know, that’s a good question. He just plopped out of the sky and into my life. Next thing I know, I’m a..

Martha: A junior astronaut on the Time Lord express?

Clara: Yeah!

Martha: You and me both, girl.

Clara: So, Doctor Martha, what’s your take on him?

Martha: The Doctor? I have no idea. I can only imagine he must be going…

Clara: Through hell?

Martha: Yeah. Through hell. 

The time rotor stops.

9th Doctor: Well, we have arrived. 

Jack: Arrived where?

9th Doctor: Why, wherever we’re going to. C’mon.

Clara: Doctor, perhaps you should…let us go out there?

9th Doctor: What? And stay here? Again?

Martha: Doctor, the last regeneration event was triggered by a scratch on your arm.

9th Doctor: That’s assuming that is what it is.

Clara: But it isn’t, is it?

River: Regeneration doesn’t work backward.

9th Doctor: Exactly. Something’s stealing moments of time which caused me to regenerate. I’m not going to get to the bottom of that while I’m huddled up in here.

The Doctor strides purposefully towards the doors and opens them.

Martha (grasping Clara’ arm): Wait! Clara! What the Doctor said, about stealing time…

Clara: What?

Martha (running towards the doors): Doctor!

River (from outside the TARDIS): Oh no, Doc---

Through the open doors of the TARDIS, we see from the outside a flare of blinding golden light.

Jack, Martha and Clara push outside the TARDIS doors to stand behind a horrified River Song.

Martha: No, not them!

Jack: It’s happened again!

Clara: He’s changed but what are all those….

We’re seeing the Doctor from behind, details of his form are out of focus as regeneration energy falls away from his body.

Martha (fear in her voice): Angels!

Surrounding the Doctor are Weeping Angels.

River: Weeping Angels!

The Doctor turns around to face his companions. The regeneration glow has faded and we see that his clothes and appearance have changed again.



The 8th Doctor: Yes, I know.

-----to be continued-----


 Next time:
  • The Wrath of the Weeping Angels
  • The Great Negation Strikes Again
  • Oh, and while we're in the neighborhood...The Time War

 In part 4 of The Nemesis Who Stole Time    


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